According to some, the Department of Environmental Conservation's official magazine should change its name from"The Conservationist" to "The Environmentalist." Why? Because a growing number of readers say there's little in the form of conservation themes in the issues these days, but rather almost all environmental and preservation - or as some call it, "green" themes. And they say they miss the once well-balanced format the publication had for decades before the change crept in
When the then New York State Conservation Department, the DEC's predecessor, introduced it in 1946, the magazine primarily addressed such then popular themes as hunting, fishing, trapping, forestry and conservation-related subjects. But once DEC was born in 1970, the themes gradually drifted away from those and more toward non-consumptive resource activities and preservation issues. Today, about 90 percent of the magazine is devoted to preservation and environmental themes and issues.
The drift away from the more once traditional themes became quite clear during Tom Jorling's commissionership (1987-94) when the magazine was published with the sub-title, "New York's Environmental Magazine." That sub-title was removed with the appointment of the next DEC commissioner, Mike Zagata, reportedly because subscriptions had declined, and Zagata faulted the sub-title and overabundance of green themes for the drop. He was apparently correct in that assumption, because subscriptions rose afterwards.
I know the magazine's current editor, Dave Nelson, and he maintains that the publication will continue to run features on hunting, fishing, trapping, and fish and wildlife management as they relate to New Yorkers. But he also hedged this a bit by indicating the themes would reflect the diverse outdoor interests of all New Yorkers, both rural and urban. OK, but how many hiking, biking, jogging, wildlife watching, and rock climbing licenses did the State sell last year? Conversely, how much money was generated by fishing and hunting licenses? A subscription to the magazine is included in the all-encompassing Conservation Legacy license, which I doubt many non hunters and anglers purchase each year I understand Nelson's dilemma, especially considering the preservationist platform of the past and current administrations he has to answer to. But what impact will these theme changes have on the magazine's circulation and readership figures? Although the State doesn't offer the data, I'd hazard a guess that the majority of subscribers fish, hunt or even trap, or at least have an interest in how these activities support conservation management. While I enjoy informative features on the environment, I also want to be kept abreast of conservation issues. Such as how the State will manage the increasing deer, bear and coyote densities in populated areas, what are the plans for habitat improvement and forestry management for declining species such as grouse and varying hare, and how and where my sporting licenses and sporting gear tax dollars are being spent? Learning about the sex life of blue mussels may be informative, but how many readers, aside from aquatic biologists, are all that interested in such subjects.