“Respect. Conservation and Preservation of the Hunt”
In a world becoming increasingly urbanized and disconnected from the natural world, the efforts of a conservation minded organization to actively support a specific species of animal has never been more appropriate. The Arkansas Black Bear Association (ABBA) is a group of a people dedicated to biodiversity, conservation and the use of sound wildlife management principles to manage black bear. The ABBA has three goals as an organization. The first is to create an overall greater cultural respect for black bears in the state of Arkansas. The second, is our dedication to long term conservation efforts that will produce a thriving and well managed bear population in the state. Thirdly, we are dedicated to the sport of hunting and see it as an ethical, responsible and effective tool for managing black bears in Arkansas. Let’s discuss the three pillars of the Arkansas Black Bear Association in more detail.
There is no dispute that the sight of a black bear in its natural habitat is a unique experience that embeds a sense of awe in the heart of the beholder – even more so the harvest of a black bear. Most people that have seen bears in the wild can recount in with great detail the events of the sighting and will most likely never forget it. The black bear has long been a time honored symbol of wilderness and represents an image of strength and power. Indigenous people from all regions of the earth have long honored the bear and often viewed them as supernatural animals that demanded respect. In our context of the twenty first century, a similar respect must inhabit a people who live in bear country and want to see them thrive. Bears can be controversial animals and if people do not respect bears, they will not be willing to put forth the minimal sacrifice necessary to live in bear country.
Respect cultivates tolerance. This idea is the core driver of the first pillar of the Arkansas Black Bear Association, which is ‘Respect’. If we are to conserve bear in our state we must first learn to respect them. Respect is ultimately a decision that is birthed from understanding. As people learn more about the black bear they will in turn appreciate and respect them. At the core of ethical hunting must be an authentic respect for the harvested animal. The unique biological characteristics of bear, their size and strength, their ability to persist throughout history, their intelligence and cunning, and their beauty in their natural habitat all demand respect. Respect is the foundation of good conservation and is consequently the first pillar of the ABBA.
The second pillar of the ABBA is conservation. Conservation is the act of conserving or preventing injury, decay, waste or loss of a certain thing. In our case the object of interest is the majestic black bruins that have roamed these hills since the last ice age. The second step in conservation, behind respect, is becoming more educated about the black bear and what they need to thrive. There are many different aspects of conservation that come into play when we set out to conserve the Arkansas black bear. Black bears are opportunistic omnivores with wide home ranges. They need vast remote areas of unfragmented wilderness to thrive. Conservation issues in the future could be related to habitat loss and fragmentation. As human’s expansion continues across the state, bear habitat can needlessly be lost. Our goal would be to promote sound habitat management practices through the state.
The primary thrust for conservation in the ABBA is education. As people become more educated about bear they will be able to make more educated decisions that relate to bear. For instance, there are many different positive things that can come from timber harvest if it’s done correctly. Bear thrive on secondary growth that results from timber harvest but they also need mature stands of timber for hard mast production. Timbered drainages, creek and river bottoms are also necessary travel corridors to connect fragmented sections of bear habitat. The vast home ranges of bear (20-50 square miles) mean that they are nomadic animals that need remote humanless pathways to get from one place to another to sustain a healthy population. Perhaps the most important thing that bears need is vast remote areas that are primarily void of humans and roads. The remote areas that Arkansas has needs to be preserved through the voice of a group of people committed to the Arkansas Black Bear.
Alongside efforts to aid Arkansas land managers in futuristic decisions about bear habitat, the ABBA would also seek to educate the public about bear and bear hunting. This will take place through our education program. At this stage of development education will primarily take place through the ABBA website and “Project Cub”. Project Cub is an initiative designed to go into the public schools with a science based conservation presentation about Arkansas black bear. Through this program, the ABBA intends to promote wildlife conservation and hunting of all game species in Arkansas. Most people interested in black bear are going to be interested other game species as well. The ABBA will seek to be a voice for wildlife conservation and hunting of all types in Arkansas.
Preservation of the Hunt
The third pillar of the ABBA is hunting. Hunting black bear while adhering to the laws and legal season dates set by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is the most responsible, ethical and effective way to manage black bear populations. Hunting gives landowners a tool to manage nuisance bears on their property and gives Arkansas hunters a unique recreational hunting opportunity. Baiting bear on private land has been key for Arkansas’ bear management issues and is strongly supported by the ABBA. To maintain a stable population the AGFC wants to see 10% of the bear population harvested annually. This harvest number can only be achieved through hunting bear over bait
At the core of the ABBA are hunters that have a deep respect and appreciation for black bear. This respect is manifested as hunters harvest bears to aid the AGFC achieve in their harvest goals. At the heart of most every wildlife conservation movement you will find hunters. The ABBA has been built to first of all conserve black bear and secondly to reap the fruit of that conservation through hunting. The ABBA strongly supports black bear hunting as a viable, responsible and ethical black bear management tool. The ultimate goal of the ABBA is to see black bears and bear hunting be pasted on the next generation.
The ABBA will seek to be a resource of information about bear hunting here in Arkansas. The education thrust of the ABBA also is directed towards bear hunters. At a functional level the ABBA’s intent is to create a statewide community of Arkansas black bear hunters. Through online forums, annual hunting publications and our annual statewide meeting our intent is to create positive camaraderie among the bear hunters of Arkansas. As iron sharpens iron, bear hunters will sharpen one another through online forums, articles, stories and communication. The very word association means an organization of people with a common purpose having a formal structure. The word also implies friendship, companionship and connection. The core of ABBA is built upon the relationship of people with a common interest and connection. The heart, soul and strength of the organization is built upon human relationship.