One major outdoors organization in New York State functions in almost total anonymity.
Ask any group of sportsmen and women around this state, "What is the New York State Conservation Council?" and most would answer with a shrug. Yet the NYSCC has been in place for 66 years, serving the needs of sportsmen on issues from local to statewide concern.
From double-crested cormorants to the flowage of Oak Orchard Creek waters, NYSCC gathers and deals with information on problems and their solutions.
Too often, sportsmen rely on someone in Albany or Washington to protect our basic rights to hunt, fish, trap and keep and bear arms. Statistics on sportsmen's unified efforts can be frightening. In New York State, county federations of sportsmen's clubs represent, on average, about 6-10 percent of the licensed hunters, anglers and trappers of each county. Chautauqua, Erie and Niagara County federations are closer to the 10 percent range, but more than 90 percent of the state's sportsmen do not attend gatherings and converse with fellow sportsmen and women on a regular basis.
The NYSCC strives to fill that gap and serve the interests of all sportsmen through its monitoring and information sharing efforts. Howard Cushing of Poestenkill, president of NYSCC for the past three years, said, "We will go anywhere to further the needs of our sportsmen."
Cushing pointed to a Constitutional Conservation Caucus meeting held in Washington on Sept. 13. "For the first time ever, NYCCS had a representative as part of this caucus, meeting with Representatives Collin Petersen (D-Minn.) and Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) and Senator Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska). They discussed acid rain legislation (critical for New York State), migratory bird studies, trapping issues in some states and pro-hunting constitutional amendments." NYSCC will be represented in this caucus each year hereafter.
Cushing also pointed to the NYSCC Fall meeting held in Utica Sept. 14-17, where issues such as Adirondacks outdoors educational programs focus on area conservations concerns. Of local interest, Region 8 and 9 councilmen looked at the need for consistent water flows from the Erie Barge Canal into Oak Orchard Creek. This issue has been a major concern for Western New York anglers for many years. The NYSCC meets with Department of Environmental Conservation and other state agencies to address these and other problems.
"Sportsmen have not yet learned the significance of pending legislation called Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA)," Cushing said. NYSCC is lobbying congress to pass this bill, which would return $80-100 million back to New York State for conservation programs: Habitat improvement, game and non-game species management, coastal erosion programs, water quality efforts and conservation education in general. Cushing sees CARA as more important than the Pittman-Robinson Act for money spent to further conservation efforts.
NYSCC overlooks the state's Conservation Fund, recently forming a Stewardship Committee to repair launch and camping sites and upgrade facilities statewide. About $14-16 million has been budgeted for these improvements and NYSCC wants to see that sportsmen get the best accesses and outdoor recreation areas possible.
Western New York is represented well in NYSCC. Dan Tone of West Falls is first vice president and he, along with Joe Fischer in Erie County and Chris Schotz in Niagara County, serve as regional councilmen.
Tone heads a committee that visited John Reynolds Game Farm in Ithaca, the state's only pheasant rearing facility. Tone reported pheasant stocks will be down this year but should be at 1999 levels by 2001. He was impressed with the DEC upgrades and scheduled improvements at this game farm.
"The NYSCC is our voice in Albany," Joe Fischer said. Council members check on DEC camps to safeguard that hunting and fishing are taught and experienced by children attending. They also watch personnel numbers to assure environmental conservation officer numbers are up to sufficient levels. While statewide quotas remain low, both Fischer and Cushing see staffing in Western New York's Region 9 is at a sufficient level, after ECOs graduated from an academy this past summer.
In August, NYSCC joined the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Alliance, a national group dedicated to recognizing the compatibility of hunting, fishing and trapping on public lands.
"New York State will become the anchor in the Northeast as a TRCA-supported voting block advocating and furthering sportsmen's issues," Cushing noted.
Area sportsmen have an opportunity to help further the council's causes and needs by attending the 6th Annual NYSCC Fund Raising Banquet Saturday evening at Dock at the Bay in Blasdell. Area, regional and statewide NYSCC representatives will be there to explain the issues and directions of this organization. Enjoy a prime rib dinner while watching the sun set on Lake Erie. Tickets, at $25 each or $45 per couple, can be obtained from Dan Tone (655-0975) or Bob Fuller (937-9040).