TRCP’s “In the Arena” series highlights the individual voices of hunters and anglers who, as Theodore Roosevelt so famously said, strive valiantly in the worthy cause of conservation
Karl J. Findling
Hometown: Bend, Ore.
Occupation: Owner of Oregon Pack Works
Conservation credentials: Conservation Director, Oregon Hunters Association
Born and raised in eastern Oregon, Karl is a retired paramedic and worked as a professional firefighter for more than 37 years. In 2010, he co-founded Oregon Pack Works, a manufacturer of hunting-specific backpacks and binocular harnesses designed to offer the type of versatility required for backcountry experiences. Karl currently serves as conservation director for the Oregon Hunters Association, a 10,000+ member non-profit organization dedicated to “protecting Oregon’s wildlife, habitat and hunting heritage.”
Here is his story.
I grew up the son of an outdoorsman in far eastern Oregon. My father was a gunsmith and boat-builder.
My hometown was perfectly situated at a confluence of four rivers, between the mountains and the high desert, where outdoor adventures were found at every direction of the compass.
Since the age of nine, I followed many relatives afield to fish, camp, and hunt, or to gather berries and mushrooms, often on scouting trips. These experiences were all made possible by the vast public lands and many waterways just out my backdoor. It was the perfect place to grow up.
In the 50 years since, those opportunities have declined in my home state of Oregon. I’ve witnessed the loss of large tracts of habitat for upland birds, mule deer, and the greater sage grouse, as well as a collection of tributaries that were once great trout fisheries. Time is running out for many of our waterways and landscapes, and for the flora and fauna that we love. Human impacts from population growth, urbanization, the overuse and abuse of our public lands, and a huge number of other threats mean that our hunting heritage could disappear.
When I was young, I used to think that conservation was for someone else to handle. I learned in my mid-20s, however, that there weren’t enough of us doing conservation work. Hunters and anglers must do more than purchase licenses, fly rods, and ammunition to fund our state fish and game agencies. We each must give back to the land—whether with our money, our time, or both—to restore the things lost in the places we love.
In 2002, I was lucky enough to experience a DIY caribou hunting float trip down a major river on Alaska’s North Slope, just adjacent to the National Petroleum Reserve. It was a cherished experience with friends both new and old, full of fabulous wildlife encounters, and I will remember it for the rest of my life.
These two weeks opened my eyes to the immensity of true wilderness, and also to the fragility of this incredible ecosystem, which is changing quickly. There are very few places like that left on earth, and the wildlife, landscape, and pristine waterways there should be protected.
The biggest challenge facing us as conservationists is educating people about the realities of climate change. It threatens to alter or eliminate the things that bring us joy as hunters and anglers. We cannot afford to take what we have today for granted.
Opening people’s eyes to their impacts on our natural resources, no matter how small, requires constant effort. Whether that means explaining how travel management plans and seasonal road closures benefit our fish and wildlife or teaching the “Leave No Trace” philosophy, spreading this message is critical if we hope to leave what we love better than we found it.
Instilling this conservation mindset is what fuels my work. I hope that by sharing these ethics we can restore what has been lost, protect our landscapes and waterways, and pass along our sporting and hunting heritage to the next generation.
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