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American sportsmen spend countless hours every year looking for the perfect fishing hole, the perfect location for their deer stand, or the perfect swamp to spend opening day of duck season in. But what if something were to irrevocably change water quality, flight patterns, and populations in such a way that even the perfect deer stand or the perfect hunting spot never bore fruit? Unfortunately for our hunters and anglers, climate change is doing just that. 

I grew up duck hunting in the swamps, lakes, and wetlands of South Carolina, but changing weather patterns up and down the flyway threaten that. Ducks Unlimited, one of the largest waterfowl and hunting organizations in the country, suggests that climate change could threaten both the breeding grounds for ducks and their migratory patterns. This would be devastating to hunting communities from the Chesapeake Bay to Florida.

It’s not just migratory bird hunters who stand to see major change in their hunting activities. When winters aren’t as cold, tick populations grow. When tick populations grow, deer populations are killed off at alarming rates (so are moose and elk, for that matter). That means those countless hours in the deer stand may never pay off. 

Forty-nine million Americans fish recreationally every year, and freshwater fishing has an annual economic impact of nearly $40 billion. As the population grows, these numbers will grow too. But as water temperatures rise, bacterial infections like Columnaris and parasites such as the sea lamprey have the potential to devastate fish species like the smallmouth bass, one of the most popular freshwater fish for anglers. And these dangers aren’t just limited to coastal areas, either; almost half of all trout habitat America’s western states is expected to be depleted by the year 2080.

Along with deer hunters, duck hunters, and anglers, small game hunters stand to be heavily impacted as well. Forty-one percent of insect species have been in decline in the last decade, and these insects are critical for the life cycles of rabbits, squirrels, and other popular small game. 

When we know that 35 percent of hunters cited their primary reason for hunting as being “for meat,” we know that these changes are going to have a dramatic impact on the lives of countless Americans. 

We know this is a problem. So what’s the solution, and where do sportsmen fit in?

All too often, sportsmen have been left without a seat at the table during the crafting of environmental policy. All too often, this has resulted in myopic policy that is harmful to both the environment and the hunters and anglers who love and depend on it.

That’s what makes the American Climate Contract so unique and exciting. 

Sportsmen have been at the forefront of consideration at every step of the process, and leading groups like Trout Unlimited and the National Wildlife Federation have endorsed it for this very reason. They know that real, beneficial environmental policy includes sportsmen, and the American Climate Contract reflects this reality. 

As a lifelong hunter, a fisherman, and a farmer, I’m grateful that the American Climate Contract considers the interests of people like me and gives us a seat at the table. I would encourage you to consider signing on to the contract as well.

This is the sixth installment of “My Contract Story,” an ongoing series on the ACC Blog to tell personal stories of ACC team members and allies about why they support the American Climate Contract. Read previous editions here.

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