I have been thinking about certain conservation groups lately and how they sustain themselves with volunteerism and, also financially.
Let me speak specifically about two groups that I have supported for many years, based on the organizations history, mission statement, and the actual work they do that is rational, I believe, and benefits all of mankind.
The first would be Trout Unlimited. An organization that originated here in the great state of Michigan and stands at the forefront of promoting cold, clean water.
Let me say this up front (and then explain) if you care about cold, clean water and hope that generations from now will enjoy the benefits and aesthetic privilege and basic human right to enjoy what's left of this essential ingredient of life itself, you should join this group! Today there are more than 150,000 members supporting this conservation organization that looks out for you and your family's interest in clean water stewardship.
This doesn't mean that you have to fish for trout or salmon to be a member, or fish at all for that matter. It could mean that you care about the future of maybe our most valuable natural resource and can afford to spend $35 a year to help support a proven and reliable group of dedicated people that make decisions associated with real science.
There are very real threats to water today that most people don't take the time to consider. Modern agriculture today is something that everyone should be aware of as a direct threat to a resource that in fact, belongs to us all, and T.U. (Trout Unlimited) is not the only group that is fighting for strict enforcement and new regulations to hold those that might abuse the resource accountable.
In the southern part of Michigan, and many other states that use modern farming practices, this is a huge undertaking that takes vigilance and determination to negotiate solutions to all involved that respect the rights of the farmer to make a living that doesn't infringe on the rights of all people that also have a right to expect a conscientious use of a jointly owned resource.

Irrigation wells are popping up all over the Midwest, and water withdrawal issues are a hot topic along with fertilizer run off issues. Look at the algae bloom situation with Lake Erie, for example. The truth here is that TU is in fact, mostly a group of people that fish for trout. Most, statistically speaking, fly fish. To some this may appear to be a snobbish group involved in lots of expensive gear and gadgets that don't make sense to the uninitiated masses. Some of this generic perception and judgement probably has a small vein of truth running through it. But for the most part,TU is made up of conservation minded people that are looking out for the interest of all of us to protect Michigan's most valuable resource that not only works to protect water that can sustain trout, but ALL aquatic life forms that deserve to exist for generations. Head over to http://www.tu.org/ for information on membership.

The second organization I support is the Ruffed Grouse Society.
This conservation group has somewhere around 20,000 members throughout the U.S. and Canada. The foundation of their mission statement is in part; "Dedicated to preserving our sporting tradition by creating healthy forest habitat for Ruffed Grouse, American Woodcock, and other wildlife."
Incorporated in the early 1960's to support research that explores the dynamics of forest growth, this organization, not unlike TU, helps to keep an eye out for how our public land forests are managed for diversity for many forms of wildlife.
Stable populations of grouse and woodcock are healthy indicators of a properly managed forest. The same way that trout and other fish species, along with aquatic insects living in a stream represent a healthy cold water environment. In keeping with that concept, many other forms of wildlife reap the benefits of properly managed public forest lands that create diversity and habitat for a variety of songbirds and plant life along with grouse and woodcock.
National Forest lands, (land that belongs to you) are 'ground zero' for management philosophy conflict that doesn't necessarily have species diversity in mind, especially when logging is required to facilitate habitat diversity. Keep in mind that these are federally controlled forests that are run by that well oiled machine known as the federal government. It seems that nature tends to suffer when bureaucrats with agendas are drawn to lobbyists with the deepest pockets. Most conservation groups do not have deep pockets and rely on dedicated volunteers that take a stand on principals that benefit nature.
Another way to explain a forest management plan would be to simply consider a woods full of mature trees that have a canopy that blocks out the sunlight that otherwise would serve to support an under story of plant growth. Simply put, diversity in plant growth means diversity in wildlife.
This is not to say that a mature forest is completely void of wildlife. It is about managing a forest for diversity. A "be all you can be " sort of philosophy .
If you do not hunt grouse or woodcock and live in the southern part of this great state, these issues can seem far removed from being of great importance. But if you are someone that hunts, is a bird watcher or a mushroom picker and spend time on public land in northern Michigan, realize that there is a group of dedicated conservation minded people fighting the good fight that is in the loop of how our public lands are managed, with maximum diversity being the goal. For a mere $35 dollars a year, you can help out a great cause and feel as though you personally contribute to help monitor forestry management that left unchecked, could leave public lands to the fate of bureaucratic lobbyists that don't always have promoting nature and diversity as a goal.
For more information go to www.ruffedgrousesociety.org/

Mark Karaba
The Fly Factor