By Carlee Frank
The news is covered in flashes of record-breaking storms, exposes on poaching and endangered species, major damage to rainforests across the globe and hundreds of cities predicted to be consumed by the ocean in the next 80 years. But sadly, it doesn’t end there –the news also covers heart wrenching mass shootings and gun violence cases every day. So, where does it all end? It ends when ‘we the people’ become informed on our environment and society and take proactive steps toward change.
The Springville Field and Stream Club, Inc. is dedicated to conservation, gun safety and empowering the community to understand both. Founded in 1934 as a men’s hunting and fishing club of 20 members, the Field and Stream now has over 300 members and offers a plethora of programs to those members and to the public.
This past weekend, the club hosted the New York State Hunter Education course for certification before receiving a hunting license.
“It’s for safety reasons,” Rich Wells, president of the Field and Stream, said. “The number of hunting accidents have gone down dramatically since the hunter training program started 50 or so years ago.”
Jim Schweikert, chairperson on the board of directors, agreed, saying there is a proper way to hunt and handle a gun and it is important to learn those skills. Schweikert said the club especially helps its junior members become confident in those areas.
Junior members are children below the age of 18 who want to fish, learn about the environment and –at a certain age –hunt. Membership fees for junior members is $5 a year.
“The kids learn good sportsmanship –how to obey the rules and regulations which are set up to protect the animals,” Wells said.
In order to further protect our local wildlife, the Field and Stream builds nest boxes for wood ducks and blue birds. Wells also bands American kestrels and builds nest boxes to track the species’ health and maintains hives of honey bees.
“There’s a lot of stress being put on our wildlife. The human population keeps expanding and eating up more and more natural habitat and these animals are losing their homes,” Wells said.
He added that our environment is an interconnected system which includes the human population, so as the natural world is affected we, too, will feel those effects.
On April 7, the Field and Stream will be hosting JAKES Day through the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF). JAKES stands for Juniors Acquiring Knowledge, Ethics and Sportsmanship. All day long, youths ages 12 and younger get to practice shooting clay birds, targets and shot gunning in a safe environment, and afterwards receive prizes during a cookout. The NWTF also said, “JAKES is dedicated to informing, educating and involving youth in wildlife conservation and the wise stewardship of our natural resources.”
This coming summer, in hopes of rehabilitating the Trout Pond –a vital natural resource in our area –the Field and Stream will continue dredging and rebuilding the pond.
“Long term, we want to get a handicap ramp in there for handicap fisher persons, and then possibly a building for educational purposes,” Wells said.
Field and Stream Treasurer Rich Zifra said this project, while very important, will be an expensive endeavor, so the club needs the support of the community. The Field and Stream is a nonprofit organization, and he is working with the state to become a 501 C3 nonprofit so any donations made to the club are tax deductible. Ways for the community to support the Trout Pond project will be announced on their Facebook page.
The Trout Pond is also an important resource for our community. Each year the Field and Stream hosts a children’s fishing day and an elderly fishing day, each with a cookout provided at the end. Zifra said they work in conjunction with the local Boy Scouts on the elderly fishing day, and added, laughing, that the boys do most of the work.
Field and Stream meetings occur on the first Thursday of each month at 7 p.m., and community members are encouraged to stop by.
“We want to be a part of the community and we want the community to be a part of the Field and Stream,” Zifra said.
To learn more about this organization, check out their website (www.springvillefieldnstream.org) and Facebook (acebook.com/SpringvilleFieldAndStreamInc).