For internationally renowned conservationist Shane Mahoney, “the beauty of conservation is that every individual can make a contribution.”
Mahoney, founder and president of Conservation Visions, was recently on the MSU campus to deliver the annual Boone & Crockett Lecture, hosted by the MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. I spoke with him a few hours ahead of his talk, “Conservation Matters: The Secrets of Leadership,” during which he drove home the importance of a personal commitment to a conservation ethos.
“Conservation leadership takes place at the individual level, and without each individual taking to some extent a leadership role, the entire fabric falls apart.”
Encouraging and supporting that personal commitment is central to the mission of Conservation Visions, Mahoney explains. A private company, Conservation Visions provides a broad array of services to stakeholders in the international conservation community. These services include education, research, policy advice and “fusing science, collaborative management, and a passionate concern for nature with speaking, writing and filmmaking . . . to advance conservation and the idea of stewardship in the 21st century.”
“A salient truth is that [conservation organizations] are a community of interests, but we are often disconnected and disjointed, and our mission is to bring these entities together through programs that better link these international organizations to try to keep wildlife first and get us to work together.”
The importance and urgency of this unifying mission grows each day, Mahoney says, especially given the trajectory of world population growth and its impact on wildlife.
“Nine to ten billion people will bring incredible pressures across the globe, and these pressures are leading to massive depletions of wildlife species. For many of these species it is really the last chance.”
And for Mahoney, the endangered condition of wildlife is directly linked to humanity’s fate. “We share one natural world with wild species, and we have one chance to conserve all that we share. That is why conservation matters.”
Mahoney also discusses his Wild Harvest Initiative, an ambitious and unprecedented effort to not only quantify the amount of wild fish and game taken in North America, but to assess the ecological, social and economic impacts of hunting and angling.
“There are 40-45 million Americans and Canadians who hunt and fish. How much do they actually harvest? And what would be the cost to society if hunting and fishing were to go away?”
“Not only are hunting and angling key components of our food security system, but they are linked to all other aspects of food production equally engaged in sustainably harvesting the bounties of nature.”