This July 4th holiday marks the 236th anniversary of our country’s founding fathers gathering in Philadelphia to deliberate and chart a new course for the American colonies. Pushed to the limit by a king who imposed unfair economic sanctions and refused the colonists a voice in the decisions affecting their lives, the delegation made a difficult and dangerous choice. They risked everything to declare their vision of a nation founded on freedom and governed with the consent and participation of the people.
On July 4, 1776, the founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, a singular document outlining a revolutionary, world-altering vision that laid the very foundation of our great Nation.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.— That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
It actually took 15 years of war and turmoil to realize those words and the constitutional democracy we enjoy today. And in many ways, the Declaration’s vision would not be fully realized for nearly two centuries, until every American enjoyed the same rights as citizens. The path has not been easy but the constitutional framework that was forged has enabled this country endure and conquer numerous challenges through the years.
I won’t pretend to equate the gravity and historical significance of today’s issues in the realm of natural resource conservation with the American Revolution, but I strongly believe there is much we can learn from it.
Faced with enormous wildlife management challenges, the Fish and Wildlife Service is altering its course and beginning to revolutionize how we approach these challenges as well as our basic conservation mission. By linking strategic, science-driven biological outcomes to funding decisions and performance measures, we can rise to the global challenges we face. Our partners, the state wildlife agencies, conservation organizations, and indeed, everyone interested in the preservation of wildlands and wildlife must work together and play a key role in this endeavor.
We are all in this together and we need to address the needs of fish, wildlife and plants at a landscape level. By taking a broader look at the land, its inherent resources, and the wildlife it supports, we can join with our partners to more efficiently manage all our activities. Coordination and communication will be critical to its success and as with any ambitious vision, our goals for the future of wildlife, its habitat, and the outdoors in general will take time to realize. True, revolutionary change is disruptive - and never easy to achieve.
On Independence Day, as you enjoy the fireworks, picnics, the beach or just a little extra family time, I hope you will remember the sacrifices of those who came before us, and understand that we are all called upon to help make this country great. We are the guardians of our shared vision for America, and have much to say about whether that vision endures.
Thank you for all you do for conservation and our country. Have a safe and enjoyable holiday.