Over the years, my friends in Gun-control Nation have been trying to figure out how to talk to Gun-nut Nation about the risk of guns. They do surveys on ‘reasonable’ gun laws, they proclaim themselves to be in support of gun ‘rights,’ sometimes a couple of the more adventuresome folks will wander around a gun show here or there. With all due respect to these activities, I have a better idea.

The truth is that one of the most cherished notions in the liberal-advocacy universe – conservation – happens to have been started in this country by gun owners who, by the latter part of the nineteenth century, found themselves running out of wild animals to hunt. When Teddy Roosevelt went out to the Dakotas in 1883 to hunt buffalo, the species was so close to extinction that he had to travel out to Montana to find an animal he could shoot.

Several years later, Roosevelt formed the Boone & Crockett Club for the purpose of promoting hunting regulations that would insure survival of wild animals out on the range. Another member was George Bird Grinnell, America’s first naturalist who was instrumental in the creation of National Parks; another early member was Aldo Leopold, who basically started the whole wilderness movement in the United States.

This alliance between hunters and conservationists has somehow gotten lost in the raucous debate about guns and gun violence. The NRA claims that it wants to “promote hunter safety, and to promote and defend hunting as a shooting sport and as a viable and necessary method of fostering the propagation, growth, conservation and wise use of our renewable wildlife resources.” But when was the last time you heard Wayne-o get up and talk about conserving anything other than the so-called ‘right’ to bear arms?

As for my friends in the gun-control movement, for all their talk about the joys and virtues of ‘responsible’ gun ownership, I have never heard any of them ever say anything about hunting as a sport or a way to help preserve the natural outdoors. They would rather remind you about all those gun injuries that happen when hunters mistake a human for Bambi out in the woods.

There is, however, a very interesting group that is trying to overcome the antipathy between hunters and conservationists by utilizing ranch lands as laboratories to study the genetics of wildlife reproduction, a field which is opening up all kinds of new ideas about how to preserve the wild animals who depend on the existence of open space.

Next time you go to a zoo, you’ll notice a plaque on many cages indicating that the animal lying there waiting to be fed is an ‘endangered’ species whose existence is being maintained by living in that zoo. Unfortunately, the idea that wild species can maintain the genetic strength and diversity required to survive is simply not possible without having enough space to roam and naturally produce offspring rather than doing some artificial propagation in a zoo because zoos just don’t have enough open space.

Take a look at the website of the Source Population Alliance, an organization formed by scientists, conservation centers, zoos, safari parks and owners of private ranches, who work together to study the migratory and mating patterns of wild species in their natural habitats. To date, this research has provided significant understanding about what is needed to conserve wild species both in the open as well as enclosed spaces. You can read details of this remarkable effort right here.

Why am I writing about the Source Population Alliance on a gun blog? Because the folks who own those ranches that are used as living laboratories happen to be hunters, that’s why. So if you’re really serious about finding a way to bring the two sides together in the gun debate, take out your credit card and send the Source Population Alliance some of the money that you still can’t spend this week at the mall.

Please help this wonderful collaboration of scientists and gun owners who are working together to preserve what nature is really all about.  DONATE HERE.