“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt, Man in the Arena
By Dan Eichinger, Executive Director
While you happen to be reading this at the beginning of summer here in Michigan, I sit at my computer on this summer-like April day, the 23rd to be exact, and find myself reflecting upon the greatest conservation hero our nation has known, Theodore Roosevelt. As it happens, he delivered a speech in France, exactly 108 years ago today, often known as the “Man in the Arena” speech.
As I reflect upon these words again, I am filled with a sense of awe and energy at what we have accomplished together in this great organization of ours: An organization made up of members who are, individually and collectively, in the arena for conservation. If you are new to MUCC as a member, have picked up this magazine off the racks at one of our numerous newsstand locations or have been around for years, it should be known to all of us just how impactful our organization is.
Many recognize MUCC for its impact in the advocacy and policy field, where our volunteer leadership and staff are known quantities and have had great success in driving vital conservation advocacy efforts on issues like Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), Great Lakes restoration, invasive species, and protecting our freshwater fishery resources. We have also won important advances in easing the process of getting young people involved in the outdoors by spearheading the change in the law resulting in the mentored youth hunting program.
But beyond this recognizable work, we have evolved recently to become hugely impactful in direct, on-the-ground habitat work. Through our wildlife habitat program (called MUCC OTG, for on-the-ground), we have planted thousands of trees, built hundreds of brush piles and provided vital habitat improvements for big game and small game in hundreds of projects with thousands of volunteers all across the state of Michigan. And, we have done it all on public lands, lands that you and I can freely prowl this fall and winter.
We have also partnered with the DNR, Quality Deer Management Association and Pheasants Forever to build one of the most active private land habitat programs in the nation through our work with wildlife cooperatives all over the state. To date, we work with more than 200 cooperatives that are improving wildlife habitat on more than 300,000 acres of land. Primarily focused in Southern Michigan, these cooperatives provide essential habitat connectivity to public lands and increase the quality of habitat for both game and non-game species. This year, we have begun a new focus through our cooperatives to provide habitat across the footprint of the program for pollinators, which are vital to fully functioning ecosystems that support wildlife.
Securing a future for our outdoor heritage is work we are also heavily invested in. In addition to our Youth Camp, which is gearing up for its 72nd year, we have begun to open pathways for others to become involved in the work of conservation and taking part in our outdoor traditions. Our Gourmet Gone Wild Program and Learn To Hunt programs are creating avenues for adults to reconnect with outdoor experiences from their youth, or, in many cases, is creating an interest, excitement, and support for hunting, fishing and the outdoors that never existed in the first place
Lastly, we maintain a variety of communications vehicles that allow you to stay connected to the work we are doing through our website and social media platforms. Here, on the pages of Michigan Out-of-Doors Magazine, we try to tell the story of Michigan’s outdoor experiences, by being a home for long-form writing that celebrates this lifestyle and provides rich, in-depth reporting on important issues.
We win often, and occasionally we lose. We have known great success and bitter defeat. Few organizations, perhaps none, are able to do as much as we do within the limits of our staff, volunteers and budget. Nevertheless, we find ourselves exactly where we want to be: in the arena. If you are in the arena with us, thank you. If you are not, join us.