Outdoors column: Conservationist magazine celebrates 75 years in New York state
Clayt Seagears worked for the New York State Conservation Department for more than 25 years.
You might say he left his mark.
And it’s still there.
Trained in zoology and journalism at the University of Michigan, Seagears began as a sportswriter and outdoor writer who illustrated much of his own work. He did that for years before he returned home to New York state in 1937 to work for the Conservation Department, the forerunner of today’s Department of Environmental Conservation.
Seagears did a good deal of artwork for the department – posters and maps and such – wrote books – “The Fox in New York” – and his stories appeared in magazines like Collier’s, the Saturday Evening Post, and Field & Stream. In 1953, he won the annual Federal Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp.
Old-timers will remember Seagears for all of that, but his most enduring achievement was and is the Conservationist, the DEC magazine he founded in 1946. It’s still going strong and is celebrating its 75th birthday this year.
Seagears is the subject of a tribute by his grandson, Steven L. Arbaugh, in the current issue, August-September, which is largely given over to the celebration of the magazine’s significant milestone. Some of Seagears’ artwork is presented, including a couple of covers he painted, including a sharp one of a curious pine marten.
The covers, by the way, are a hallmark of the magazine and there have been some truly eye-catching examples over the years – a stunning portrait of Mohawk chief Joseph Brant gracing an issue devoted to the history of the Iroquois; a photo of an almost-kittenish bobcat to go along with a story on the increasing numbers of that species.
My own familiarity with the Conservationist goes way back. My grandfather had stacks and stacks of them in the cellar, along with tons of old Field & Streams and I couldn’t get enough of them. The magazine then was packed with column after column of small, dense type that was hard to read even for young eyes and seemed overwhelming in the amount of information presented, so maybe I mostly looked at the pictures, at least early on.
The magazine has evolved over the years and not everyone was happy with what some perceived as a de-emphasis on hunting and fishing. However, the original mission statement from the editors included a promise to try to make the magazine “as well-rounded and feature-full as possible.” It has been. You’ll read about hunting, fishing, winter and summer recreation, hiking, canoeing, wildlife, plants and animals, and the activities of state personnel like environmental conservation officers and forest rangers. Readers submit questions and/or photos of unusual wildlife.
Outdoors: Beavers showing up everywhere now
In any issue, you’re likely to see something you’ve never seen before and maybe read about something you never knew. It might be about fish or game or air or water pollution or invasive species or winter hiking or urban birding. Anything to do with conservation and the outdoors.
I remember a story on the grasses of New York. The grasses of New York? Grass is grass, isn’t it? Well, yes and no. You have orchard grass and timothy and poverty grass and now I’m forgetting what others, but they are different and have their particular uses, for both people and wildlife. I always figure that if you spend a lot of time in the outdoors, you ought to try to know what is out there with you. It’s easier said than done, of course. I know a lot of the trees in the woods, but there still are a lot I don’t know. There always is something more to learn, and the Conservationist helps you do that.
I am a bit prejudiced because I have written for the magazine. Former editor Dave Nelson asked me to write something for what is now the final page, “Back Trails,” after I retired. I detailed how I became the outdoor writer at The Observer-Dispatch back in late 1979, and related some of my many adventures and misadventures over the years. I’m sure many of you remember some of those mishaps, and the more than a few errors that have been committed on the way to writing, I don’t know, something like 2,000 columns.
The current issue, in addition to celebrating the magazine’s birthday, includes a “Species Spotlight” on the northern Harrier, one of my favorite birds; a story on striped bass; another on the protection of public drinking water; another by standout angler Roy Bilby on the wisdom of keeping a fishing journal, and much else.
The Conservationist is a good investment in developing your outdoor knowledge and sensibilities. It’s $18 a year, $24 for two years, $30 for three years. You can call 800-678-6399 or visit www.dec.ny.gov to subscribe.
• Increased walleye limit proposed for Oneida Lake
The Department of Environmental Conservation is proposing a five-walleye limit on Oneida Lake, up from the current three.
Old-timers remember when the walleye bag limit was 10. Really old-timers remember when it was 20.
The proposal is in response to the large adult walleye population on the lake, estimated to be 1.2 million. That is up from a low of about 300,000 a little more than 20 years ago. The DEC’s rationale is that the large population of walleyes could have a negative effect on the forage in the lake, yellow perch in particular. The department says most anglers who responded to its angler survey on the subject support the change.
• Special goose hunt for youth and women available
Oneida County and Madison County sportsmen and Region 6 and Region 7 Environmental Conservation Officers again are teaming up to sponsor a Youth and Women’s Goose Hunt.
The hunt will take place Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 18-19. It is open to those 12 and older. You must have a valid small game hunting license, and those 16 and older must have purchased a federal duck stamp.
Those interested are asked to contact Scott Faulkner (315-225-0192), ECO Ric Grisolini 607-316-2574 or ECO Steve Lakeman 315-734-0648 or go to cnymyhunts.org.
Write to John Pitarresi at 60 Pearl Street, New Hartford, N.Y. 13413 or firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 315-724-5266.