For Pickens, Conservation is the Means to Recreational Ends
Equally comfortable leading a corporate boardroom or following a brace of pointers through quail country, T. Boone Pickens brings a new kind of perspective—and audience—to his role as honorary chairman for National Hunting and Fishing Day 2011.
The annual commemoration is set for Saturday, Sept. 24, 2011.
Pickens joins a long list of mostly entertainers and athletes, including Hank Williams Jr., Terry Bradshaw, Jeff Foxworthy, Arnold Palmer and many others, who over the years have lent their name and fame to help build public appreciation for traditional sporting pursuits. Founded by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Congress formalized NHF Day in 1971 to officially recognize hunters and anglers for their leadership in fish and wildlife conservation.
Since then, NHF Day honorary chairs have annually espoused the recreational enjoyment of hunting and angling—along with the ancillary, yet all important, benefits of those family activities to the general health of fish, wildlife and habitat. After all, America’s 34 million hunters and anglers fund nearly 75 percent of the budgets for all 50 state fish and wildlife agencies. Through license fees and special excise taxes on sporting equipment, hunters and anglers contribute $1.7 billion per year for conservation. Nobody does more for America’s great outdoors!
But Pickens is a bit different from many NHF Day honorary chairs in that, for him personally, conservation isn’t a supplemental benefit of hunting and fishing recreation. Rather, conservation is the means to those recreational ends.
Pickens is one of America’s most prominent and influential businessmen. He is a top authority on world energy issues, president and CEO of the investment firm BP Capital Management and founder of Mesa Petroleum. Pickens also is a noted philanthropist with gifts to charitable causes exceeding $800 million. But when he isn’t making or giving away money, the Dallas resident can be found mapping out the next conservation efforts to improve habitat for quail and other wildlife on his 68,000-acre ranch.
His passion for good land management—and the improved hunting and fishing quality that follows—was borne early on while hunting with his father on farms near his hometown of Holdenville, Okla.
“My father and I didn’t talk about conservation. It was just considered routine that you harvest only the legal limits, and only take what you plan to use. There were plenty of times I can remember going on hunting trips with friends where we only ate what we could trap, catch or shoot. There were some pretty hungry nights, but I learned what it meant to enjoy the outdoors,” said Pickens. “Over the years, I came to understand that game animals and fish alike rely heavily on us to take care of their surroundings so I make an effort to observe and manage the habitat on my property very closely.”
Pickens’ ranch is considered one of the best quail hunting properties in the nation due to his continuous efforts to rotate livestock enough to keep grass and other vegetation from overgrowing, while not allowing overgrazing.
Pickens hopes to use his NHF Day position to help generate increased awareness of diminishing quail habitat due to inadequate land management.
“Quail populations are dwindling in many areas. They just aren’t where they used to be, and I don’t think it can be attributed to overhunting. I think it’s a loss of habitat that we are noticing, and habitat can be improved through practical conservation efforts such as managed cattle grazing,” said Pickens.
A just-right balance of grazing and other land management techniques, he says, can still pay handsome dividends on Saturday afternoons with good buddies and good dogs.
“I love the time that I get to spending hunting birds with friends, or even sitting on a pond bank with a fishing pole. I’m thankful that I have those activities as an escape from my business life,” said Pickens.
He added, “Hunting and fishing have been such a great part of my life. That’s why it’s truly a privilege to be selected as an honorary chairman for NHF Day. It’s a simple way that I can give back to something that I have loved, and I hope future outdoorsman can learn to appreciate everything that I was able to enjoy growing up as a kid.”
Wonders of Wildlife is the official home of NHF Day. The Springfield, Mo., museum coordinates public education and awareness campaigns to promote traditional outdoor sports. A newly constructed Conservation Education Center in late 2011. The museum itself is undergoing extensive renovations and will reopen in 2012.
The growing list of sponsors for NHF day 2011 includes Wonders of Wildlife, National Shooting Sports Foundation, Bass Pro Shops, Sportsman Channel, Realtree, GunBroker.com, Academy Sports and Outdoors, Cabela’s, Smith & Wesson and Yamaha.