2017-04-29 / Outdoors

Wolf Tracks

Outdoor Columnist
Dave Wolf

This year’s Earth Day observance included the usual politicians’ news releases on the ugliness of littering. Obviously, that’s just one of many ways we humans have found to foul our planet and intrude on nature’s beautiful landscapes.

Years ago, my eight-year-old son had taken a ride with a neighbor. She had snacks in the car, and everything was fine until she pulled off the road, stuffed all the trash into a bag, and prepared to throw it out.

At the time, my son knew how we felt about littering, but he had also been taught to respect his elders. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for him to say, “Don’t do that! You know it’s littering!” She promptly suggested that he mind his own business.

I had never lectured him on littering. Apparently, he was observing me closer than I thought. Whenever we went fishing or hunting, I would ask him to gather any pieces of litter we saw. When he mildly complained that a certain piece of trash wasn’t his, I told him to pick it up anyway.


Leading by example is the most effective way to instill an appreciation of environmental stewardship and outdoor recreation to future generations. 
Karen Wolf photo Leading by example is the most effective way to instill an appreciation of environmental stewardship and outdoor recreation to future generations. Karen Wolf photo I had always stuffed my fishing or hunting vests with other people’s garbage. My grandmother had taught me that it was my job to clean up any trash others left. When hunting with my father, I watched as he carefully collected all the uneaten contents of his lunch bag. How could I ever do anything different?

Unfortunately, we have all seen it. How can people be so thoughtless?

As adults, we have an obligation to model environmentally friendly behavior.

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Many of you have bird-feeders in your backyard. Ours is within easy view of the kitchen window, where we get a kick out of observing avian parents bringing their fledglings to the feeders.

At first, the young want to be fed and flutter their wings until an adult puts a seed in their mouth. Later, as some of the sunflower seeds fall to the ground, parents fly down to collect the remains, making sure their offspring follow them.

In time, the parents allow the young to dine on their own. They no longer need to demonstrate these important lessons, because they have led by example.

The birth of the next generation of wildlife is coming full circle. Each parent will eventually teach its young how to fend for themselves. But, before they do, they will impart the important lessons of where to locate food, how to avoid enemies, and other survival skills.

When dispersal time comes, those that remain will have survived the rigors of youth. Some will endure and some will perish. Whatever characteristics the parents pass on will be taught time and again.

With that in mind, those of you who appreciate the blessings of nature might want to consider passing that along to generations who will follow.

If the “environmental ethic” that is the foundation of Earth Day is to endure, it will be because those of us who care have recognized the responsibility we have to pay it forward.

(Dave Wolf may be reached by email at wolfang418@msn.com.)

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