There was a time—in my lifetime, actually—when anyone wanting firewood for winter simply drove a few miles from town and cut a full season's supply; no permit necessary. But not anymore.
There was a time when anyone could hunt, fish, hike, pedal a bike, drive a motorcycle or snowmobile anywhere they wanted. Not anymore. There was a time when anyone could hike the entire Cascade Range without worrying about where to camp, where to build a fire—or whether he or she had a permit. But you can't do that anymore either.
There also was a time when there was no limit on the number of ducks and geese you shot during hunting season, or the number of fish you brought home to feed the family.
Dean Hollinshead, a Deschutes County pioneer, told me that when he came to La Pine in 1910, his dad took him fishing with a case of dynamite at Pringle Falls. Dean and his two brothers, Chet and Cecil, would wait at the bottom of the falls with dip nets, while their dad went to the upper end and began throwing sticks of dynamite into the water that exploded with a roar, killing hundreds of fish.
In moments, hundreds of dead Dolly Varden trout came floating by and the Hollinshead boys scooped them out with their nets. In about a week there were 20 or so barrels of salted trout put up that would get the family through the winter at the Hollinshead claim near Dorrence Meadow. The only place you can see wild Dollies today is under the bridge at Camp Sherman.
The days of "no end to it all, it'll last forever" are gone. Our forests have been exploited for almost all the big trees. Dead trees that once supported abundant cavity-nesting birds, and kept a lot of homes warm in winter, are carefully managed so that some can be used for wildlife and others for firewood.
In the mid-1800s, no one had the slightest inkling that passenger pigeons would someday be extinct. But when tons of pigeon meat was shipped to restaurants in New York and Philadelphia year after year, passenger pigeons vanished forever.
A few decades later, the millinery trade convinced ladies that feathers in their hats would make them more attractive. The result was a mass killing of herons, egrets and other waterfowl that brought several of them to the brink of extinction. Here, in the Central Oregon marshes, Western Grebes were slaughtered by bird-shooters by the tens of thousands, only their breast skin and feathers cut from their bodies and marketed as "Oregon Sable."
In the '50s and '60s you would have been hard-pressed to see a wild bald eagle or peregrine falcon soaring overhead, because of DDT and its byproduct DDE. But not anymore. We have rebuilt their populations through habitat conservation and other management considerations. (Last year, though, in a reminder of the lasting devastation of these chemicals, scientists found that DDE was still present in the Columbia River ecosystem, leading to thinner bald eagle eggshells and nest failure. This despite that DDT was banned in 1972.)
Sure, it costs money now to hike the Cascade Crest; you have to purchase a permit. You also must purchase a woodcutting permit to harvest dead trees that keep us warm over winter. But, thanks to the Migratory Bird Act of 1918, it's also illegal to place feathers of protected birds in your hat, or disturb the nests of native birds.
"Conservation" has taken the place of "Exploitation"; "Management" has taken the place of "No Management" of our natural resources.
There's a strict limit on what species of fish, waterfowl, upland game birds and game animals may be harvested—how many you can take home during hunting season. And you can only hunt during the season, not any old time you want to. You cannot use explosives to harvest fish either.
(But I can recall hearing booms of dynamite east of Bend in the '50s when people used blasting powder to harvest trout trapped in the irrigation canals when the water was shut off to Alfalfa. One year, some dimwit went out with his shotgun to shoot the trout. After spending a half-day shooting at them speeding by, he stuck the barrel of the shotgun in the water and pulled the trigger. I can't remember if he survived or not.)
The answer to saving species boils down to three key factors: Habitat conservation, natural diversity and species protection. Without a place to call home, a roof (of some kind) over everyone's heads, enough food to eat and a place where they can find safe shelter, trying to save wildlife is a lost cause.
Yes, the passenger pigeon and (perhaps) the Ivory-billed woodpecker are gone, but we are working hard to save the snowy plover, northern spotted owl, American bald eagle, California condor, the golden eagle—and now—Man.
We're close to exciting and challenging changes of true conservation of our natural treasures. We're (hopefully) learning from our mistakes. We know what it takes to ensure the safety of nesting eagles. We know what it's going to take to save what salmon we have left.
We also know that whatever we do won't be easy, or inexpensive. And as we soar into a new century of conservation there is one overwhelming fact we must keep uppermost in our agenda: "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch."