Barrett Community Dialogue: A conversation focusing on land conservation with Michael Cravens from Arizona Wildlife Federation

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October 7, 2021

Care for and conservation of public lands in the United States should not be the exclusive concern of people who hunt, fish, hike trails or climb mountains. Public lands are just that – they belong to the public - and so anyone can take action to protect them. 

Michael CravensThat was one of the messages shared by Michael Cravens, advocacy and conservation coordinator for the Arizona Wildlife Federation in a Community Dialogue hosted by Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University on September 28. 

The Barrett Community Dialogue series brings community members to campus for conversations about timely, impactful, and relevant topics. 

The dialogue with Cravens focused on conservation, the environment, policy and advocacy and was moderated by Honors Faculty Fellow Alex Young.

“Engage with a conservation non-profit. Of course join and give your money, but also show up” and contribute your time, skills and talents, Cravens told an audience of honors students, faculty and staff. 

The conservation movement needs people of diverse backgrounds and there are a number of organizations to suit various interests, he said. 

For example, in addition to the organization he represents, Cravens said there is the Arizona Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, an organization dedicated to preserving access to public lands; Ducks Unlimited, which focuses on waterfowl and wetlands; and Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO), which works to strengthen Hispanic voices and visibility in public lands decision-making and advocacy. 

Cravens, an avid outdoorsman, hunter and angler, said he subscribes to the North American Conservation Model and its seven principles:

  1. wildlife resources are a public trust to be managed by governments for the benefit of all citizens; 
  2. unregulated commercial markets for wild game that decimate wildlife populations are eliminated; 
  3. allocation is by law, meaning that laws are developed by citizens and enforced by government agencies to regulate the proper use and management of wildlife;
  4. opportunity for all, which means that every citizen has the freedom to view, hunt and fish, regardless of social or economic status; 
  5. wild game populations cannot be killed casually, but only for a legitimate purpose as defined by law;
  6. wildlife will be considered an international resource because wildlife migrates across political boundaries;
  7. science is the proper basis for wildlife policy and management, not opinion or conjecture, in order to sustain wildlife populations.

Cravens said he takes a bipartisan approach in his job as advocacy and conservation coordinator for the Arizona Wildlife Federation.

“We have doors open to us on both sides of the aisle,” he said. 

However, sometimes there are “bad land bills” that are detrimental to conservation, such as those emanating from the Land Transfer Movement that would seek to revert federal public lands to state ownership and management. 

The problem with devolving control of public lands to the states, Cravens said, “is that states are mandated to profit off of their lands by selling them to fund schools and other things,” making those lands subject to development and decreasing the amount of accessible public lands. By protecting the federal system of public lands, Cravens argued, we are protecting wilderness for the recreational use and the ecological well-being of future generations.