Hunting and fishing are more than just a way of life in South Carolina; they are also a huge economic driver.
In fact, over one-third of South Carolinians participate in fishing, hunting or wildlife viewing, and these activities generate a direct economic effect of over $1.62 billion and a total effect of $2.74 billion, resulting in nearly 32,000 jobs in the state, according to a 2016 Clemson University study.
While population growth and increased urbanization are putting pressure on South Carolina’s wildlife habitat and hunting culture, a new collaboration between Clemson University and the Boone and Crockett Club – North America’s oldest wildlife and habitat conservation organization – aims to blunt that pressure.
The Boone and Crockett Wildlife Conservation Program at Clemson University will establish an endowed professorship to lead an effort focused on educating the next generation of conservation-minded land management professionals, researching innovative and effective practices in land management, and imparting those research-based practices to South Carolina landowners through the Clemson Cooperative Extension Service.
Clemson and Boone and Crockett will join forces to raise $5 million to support the program, which will include student scholarships and fellowships, hands-on learning opportunities and youth wildlife and hunting programs. The program will also coordinate with Clemson’s shooting sports program and be housed in Clemson’s Department of Forestry and Environmental Conservation within the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences.
“CAFLS is excited to partner with Boone and Crockett, one of the most respected wildlife conservation organizations in the world. This partnership will give our students even more opportunity for collaboration and professional development and leverage Clemson’s academic, research and Extension programs to develop and deliver science-based conservation solutions that support South Carolina’s hunting economy and culture,” said Keith Belli, Dean of CAFLS.
Clemson joins seven other universities with Boone and Crockett partnerships.
Rebecca Humphries is executive director of the National Wild Turkey Federation, a 250,000-member strong conservation organization headquartered in Edgefield; she is also a professional member of the Boone and Crockett Club. Before her time with NWTF, she had a long career with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. While there, Humphries joined former Boone and Crockett president and East Lansing businessman Bill Demmer in the effort to create the Boone and Crockett Quantitative Wildlife Center at Michigan State University. She believes that Clemson is well-positioned to lead a successful Boone and Crockett Club program.
“Clemson is a great university with great academic programs, both in forestry and wildlife. The Boone and Crockett partnership will build an opportunity for students to get hands-on experience and in-classroom experience that is going to supplement traditional academic programs. We think the program has tremendous merit to help create those future students who have a good understanding and background with policy issues that affect those private lands issues,” Humphries said.
The program will focus particularly on helping and encouraging private landowners in South Carolina and the Southeast to manage their land effectively for wildlife. Ninety-two percent of South Carolina land is owned by private landowners.
One of those landowners is Johnny Evans, a lifelong hunter from Cameron in Calhoun County and Boone and Crockett board member.
When Evans was a boy, he and his father used to hunt on private land but a change in ownership caused him to lose access to the land. While a college student at Clemson (’75, construction science), he bought land in Calhoun County and began managing it for duck hunting. His success managing his land led to an invitation by former Gov. Mark Sanford to serve on the board of the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, which he did for 10 years. In 2017, Evans was instrumental in founding the South Carolina Wildlife Partnership, which works with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources to provide ethical hunting opportunities for the public on private lands.
Evans was a driving force behind the new program at Clemson. In addition to Clemson’s strong academic programs in wildlife, Evans sees Clemson Cooperative Extension, with offices and agents in all 46 South Carolina counties, as a linchpin for the future success of the Boone and Crockett Program.
“I think this program is going to have a huge impact on the state of South Carolina. With Clemson Extension being in all the counties, there’s a conduit there for getting out science-based information to landowners,” Evans said.
“Doing research for research sake is wonderful, but I think this program is really focused on changing and improving how we actively manage for wildlife on private lands. And Cooperative Extension is a critical part of that,” Humphries said.
Evans expects the program to assist and encourage South Carolina landowners to manage their land for wildlife in ways they might not have ever considered.
“For example, when you look at how farmland is laid out in squares and farmers have center-pivot irrigation systems. There are thousands of acres in the corners of that farmland that can be managed for wildlife habitat,” Evans said.
Humphries and Evans also point to opportunities for Clemson students and faculty to collaborate with Boone and Crocket Club programs at other universities as a benefit for both the students and the state of South Carolina.
“The students and professors will get exposure to other university programs and do reviews of each other’s research. They will get to know those other working professionals across the country and get to know some of the industry leaders and CEOs of nonprofits that are out there. This will provide opportunities for internships that are more hands-on and applied. There also might be classes that aren’t offered at Clemson that are found at other universities,” Humphries said.
“It’s really good for Clemson because you have all these other elite universities that they will meet with annually, and it’ll be a collaborative effort discussing different issues going on in the conservation world across the country. And they wouldn’t have that opportunity if they weren’t part of it,” Evans said.
While both agree that funding will be paramount for creating student scholarships, fellowships and other opportunities, the program’s success will also be be based on other factors.
“These programs are most successful when they expand beyond just one college. For example, Clemson has tremendous programs in political science and industry and business communications and those elements help us solve problems in natural resources. The more that you can network with various departments across the university to create those interdisciplinary, problem-solving courses, it helps in natural resource management. It’s about the university as a whole embracing the program and realizing the benefit of it and having a much more robust well-rounded program that can tap expertise in various departments to help bring with problem solving in wildlife management,” Humphries said.
About the Boone and Crockett Club
Founded by Theodore Roosevelt in 1887, the Boone and Crockett Club promotes guardianship and visionary management of big game and associated wildlife in North America. The Club maintains the highest standards of fair chase sportsmanship and habitat stewardship. Member accomplishments include enlarging and protecting Yellowstone and establishing Glacier and Denali national parks, founding the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service and National Wildlife Refuge System, fostering the Pittman-Robertson and Lacey Acts, creating the Federal Duck Stamp program, and developing the cornerstones of modern game laws. The Boone and Crockett Club is headquartered in Missoula, Montana. For details, visit www.boone-crockett.org.
About National Wild Turkey Federation: The National Wild Turkey Federation is an international non-profit organization whose mission is ‘the conservation of the wild turkey and the preservation of our hunting heritage.’ It currently has more than 250,000 members in the United States, Canada, Mexico and 14 other countries.
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