Conservation Through Education and Legislation: Kansas State Fish and Game, 1920-21
Written by Donna Casement, State Library of Kansas
KGI Online Library Blog-November 27, 2020Bulletin no. 7, Kansas Fish and Game Department
Conservation Through Education and Legislation: Kansas State Fish and Game, 1920-21
In the early twentieth century, the national wildlife conservation movement had an enthusiastic advocate in the White House. His name was Theodore Roosevelt, who became president after the assassination of William McKinley and served from 1901-1909. President Roosevelt was an avid hunter and outdoorsman. Throughout his two terms, he used his authority to establish 150 national forests, 51 federal bird reserves, four national game preserves, five national parks, and 18 national monuments on over 230 million acres of public land. (“The Conservation Legacy of Theodore Roosevelt”, U. S. Department of Interior)
Wildlife conservation became a priority for the Kansas Fish and Game Department under state game warden Alva Clapp. Before his appointment by Governor Allen in 1919, Clapp was a hardware dealer in Atchison and an avid sportsman. Carl Brown, writer for the Atchison Weekly Globe, wrote high praise for the newly appointed Clapp.
“Alva Clapp is supremely happy as warden of the state fish hatchery, three miles west of Pratt, the county seat of Pratt county. And within a few years Kansas will be supremely happy, for Alva Clapp has entered on his duties as custodian of fins, furs and feathers with unbounded enthusiasm and admirable common sense, and eventually will restore Kansas to a place of prestige as a commonwealth well stocked with fish, animals and birds. Alva Clapp is more than an officeholder. He is putting sense, soul, and enthusiasm into this work at Pratt and throughout the state. He believes in conservation of game for practical reasons-and also because he loves the creatures that have more instinct than reason. (#1-“Fins, Furs and Feathers” by Carl Brown, The Atchison Weekly Globe, April 7, 1921)
In 1920 and 1921, the Kansas Fish and Game Department released two bulletins titled “Save Wild Life by Education”. The bulletins highlighted the scope of the department’s infrastructure, mostly the Pratt Fish Hatchery, and described its goal for managing the fish and game population in ways that would couple the needs of wildlife with land owners and sportsmen. The bulletins were made available to newspapers throughout Kansas and numerous articles and facts were published from the bulletins in their entirety.
In the introduction to Bulletin, no. 6 (1920), Game Warden Clapp wrote, “This little pamphlet is in no sense the biennial report of this department. It contains facts, a few figures, and some suggestions. Its primary object is to arouse interest and promote discussion. If it suggests anything that you approve, act on the suggestion, and tell your neighbors about it. If you disagree, discuss the subject with others and write the department, giving your views. Your honest criticism will be worth more to us than placid acquiescence. Above all, take an interest in the Kanas Fish and Game Department. Demand to know what it is doing and that it does something.”
Warden Clapp wanted an open dialogue between the public and his department about the need for upholding game laws. “Stand out boldly for rigid enforcement of the game laws in your community and work for better laws. Remember the fellow who shoots unlawfully is simply stealing from you the cream of your rightful sport. Do something for the birds and boost for the Game Department. If you cannot honestly boost, criticize-make a noise, and keep it up.” (Alva Clapp, State Fish and Game Warden, Bulletin no. 6, Kansas Fish and Game, 1920)
In 1920, The Wichita Daily Eagle sent a news correspondent to the fish hatchery in Pratt, “for a description of the hatchery, its history, the work it is doing, and its outlook for the future”.
“The State Game and Fish Warden receives his office by appointment of the governor and to the warden’s keeping is committed to protection and conservation of the game within the state. His duties are not only arduous, but numerous, and if he consistently follows the spirit of the law, he can feel assured that in addition to the salary and emoluments of his position, he will be a close second to his chief for being a thoroughly cussed official.”
The article went on to discuss conservation measures, “Talking on the subject of game conservation, Mr. Clapp remarked: Only imperfectly can the law for the preservation of game be made effective; too many of the older sportsman-and the young too, for that matter, shoot on the adage ‘If I don’t get him, someone else will.’ To overcome this drawback, the spirit of respect for law must be taught the young. The hope for wild game lies in the wholesome effect of education and with the coming generation. The fish hatchery is not a hatchery alone, but a game preserve as well. Wild ducks, geese and a goodly number of pheasant are finding an asylum on the grounds. Wild ducks and geese are impounded upon a plot of ground and seem to be well contented as state wards.” (#2-The Wichita Daily Eagle, May 2, 1920)
R. P. Holland, vice president of the American Game Protection Association, wrote an article for the Fish and Game Department’s sixth bulletin titled, “Does Conservation Pay”. He wrote, “Game is not only of value to the sportsman, but it is distinctly an asset to the other classes of citizens. Not only does the pursuit of game improve both the physical and mental health of the nation, but the livelihood of thousands of our people depends directly upon the hunting of game.” The article went on to describe the economic impact and value of the sport of hunting. (Page 25, “Does Conservation Pay”, Bulletin no. 6, Kansas Fish and Game, 1920)
Congress passed the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. This law made it a crime to pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill, or sell a migratory bird or any of its parts, including nests, eggs, and feathers. “The act eliminated the necessity of watching the legislation of every state and of combating the numberless attempts to legalize the destruction of birds for private gain, according to famed ornithologist Frank M. Chapman, also the founder of Audubon magazine.” (www. audubon.org)
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 was also treaty between the United States and Canada and was upheld by the United States Supreme Court in 1920. In Missouri v. Holland, a landmark case in environment protection, the court maintained that the federal government had a right and responsibility for environmental protection and conservation. (Bird Treaty Act of 1918, wikipedia.org)
Following the Supreme Court decision to uphold the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, the Kansas Fish and Game Department stated, “The new migratory bird treaty has now been declared constitutional by the supreme court of the United States. There is no longer any doubt or question as to its validity, and it will be rigidly enforced. In my judgement the thing for Kansas sportsmen to do is to loyally support the act; live up to the letter of it and ask the coming legislature to make the Kansas laws regarding migratory birds to conform to the Federal laws and to automatically change therewith.” (Pages 19-20, Bulletin no. 6, Kansas Fish and Game, 1920)
In 1921, a bill introduced in the House of Representatives by Kansas Congressman Dan R. Anthony, Jr., furthered the protection of migratory wild fowl, established game refuges and breeding grounds, and provided shooting grounds for use by the public through the requirement of a federal hunting license.
In a letter written by Secretary of Agriculture Wallace to the chairman on the Agriculture House Committee, Secretary Wallace wrote, “According to the terms of this bill, it proposes to accomplish two main objects:
First. The purchase, or rental, and maintenance of marsh and water areas especially suitable for migratory wild fowl, which shall be used as a free public shooting grounds in the open hunting season and safeguarded as breeding and resting places for these birds in the close season.
Second. The administration of the migratory bird treaty act in order to more adequately maintain and increase the supply of migratory birds, including not only the ducks, geese, and others classed as game, but the great host of smaller species which are vitally essential to the agricultural interests of the country through their unceasing war on injurious insects. (#3-The Leavenworth Times, July 5, 1921)
In an article in the newspaper Square Deal, “Sportsmen for Public Shooting Grounds”, the Public Shooting Ground-Game Refuge bill is claimed as having great merit. “This measure provides that every gunner who hunts migratory birds shall first take out a federal hunting license costing $1 per year. Every cent of the money received from the sale of such licenses is to go into a special fund known as the ‘Migratory Bird Protection Fund.’ Forty-five per cent is to be expended for the purchase of suitable areas for use as public shooting grounds and migratory bird refuges. . . . Under the federal migratory bird law the waterfowl are increasing in numbers. It is claimed that this bill, if enacted, will admirably supplement the present law.” (#4-The Square Deal, Atwood, Kansas, September 15, 1921)
During the 1921 Kansas legislative session, Senate Bill 343, “An Act providing for the establishment of state game refuges and providing for their regulation and control by the state fish and game warden”, was signed into law. The law stated that if a landowner, who had between 120 and 640 acres, desired to have their lands set apart as a game refuge, they shall petition the state fish and game warden for that use. (#5-Senate Bill No. 343, The Topeka Daily Capital, March 30, 1921)
The Kansas Fish and Game Department determined that the establishment of wildlife refuges would have a positive impact for landowners and sportsmen. “The last legislature provided for the establishment of state game refuges by voluntary agreement between the owners of lands and the State Fish and Game Department.
It is hoped that this plan to create game sanctuaries on which the birds are never molested and from which they will eventually move to the surrounding country, thus gradually restocking the state. It is obvious that this is a slow and quite expensive proposition for the department. The markers alone for 160 acres of land cost about $14. Birds, whether we rear them or buy them, are very expensive. Thus far we have established fourteen of these refuges, for twelve of which game birds have been supplied.
I cannot say too much in commendation of the fine spirit of cooperation given by the landowners who have declared their land state refuges. They have cheerfully complied with every demand of the department, and I can see no reason why this shall not become one of the greatest benefits to the game birds of Kansas.” (Page 18, Bulletin no. 7, Fish and Game Department, 1921)