Leadership

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B&C Member Spotlight — Frederic C. Walcott

Explorer, legislator, public servant, duck lover, and businessman, Frederic C. Walcott was an early member of the Boone and Crockett Club who served as Club president. His conservation achievements still resonate today, especially when it comes to waterfowl and wildlife refuges. 

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The Humanitarian Sportsman 

By PJ DelHomme 

In mainstream conservation circles, Walcott is not a name you hear often—certainly not with the frequency of Roosevelt or Grinnell. And yet, Walcott is a name worth knowing. He was born into a very wealthy New York family. His grandfather had established the first cotton mill in the state. At Yale, he was a member of the secretive Skull and Bones society, and he graduated in 1891. He worked as an investment banker and in the cotton business in the early 1900s. 

Walcott was elected to the Boone and Crockett Club in 1905, but it would take a number of years before he would use his connections in the finance and political spheres for nationwide conservation efforts. Until then, he and Starling W. Childs began a partnership in 1909 to dabble in small-scale conservation on 400 acres of barren land around Tobey Pond in his home state of Connecticut. Over several decades, they dedicated themselves to restoring and managing the land and reintroducing wildlife to the area. Over the next several decades, they secured several thousand additional acres to manage and experiment with native species to see what would thrive in the abused woodlands. Today, that reserve is now 6,000 acres and is known as Great Mountain Forest.

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A trail through the Great Mountain Forest Reserve established by Walcott and Starling W. Childs in 1909.

As a bird lover, Walcott traveled to Laguna Colorada in southern Bolivia in 1924. He had heard reports of a brick-red lake in the center of the desert in southern Bolivia. He went there to satisfy his own curiosity and at the behest of the American Museum of Natural History to study the bird life of the region. There he recorded sightings of up to 20,000 flamingos, the eggs of which were used as commerce and food by the locals. 

Keeping Politics Out of Wildlife Management 

Walcott was an active and vocal member of the American Game Protective Association, which was created in 1911 by Harry Leonard and William Clark of the Winchester Arms Company. The goal of the group was to promote wildlife restoration on a national and international scale. And the group’s list of accomplishments is even longer than its name. It advocated paying game wardens a salary and creating wildlife refuges open to the public. The group pushed real consequences for those who violated game laws, and Walcott himself lobbied for teaching conservation in schools. 

To truly understand the progressive ideas of Walcott and the association, excerpts from his 1921 article “The Necessity of Free Shooting Grounds” in the group’s newsletter are worth a read.  “We believe that a man is a better man if he longs to go afield with rod and gun and dog, and the camera should be included; and that the realization of that longing brings him into close contact with the best, the most uplifting things in life,” wrote Walcott. “The sportsmen of America are our best citizens—clean of mind and body, resourceful, strong and courageous….The love of nature—of clean, vigorous sport in the open—is the antidote to the softening, weakening influences of modern civilization.” 

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In 1921, Walcott published an article in which pitched the idea of a federal license system for hunters. Fellow Boone and Crockett member and artist Belmore Browne sketched out the first Duck Stamp to accompany Walcott's idea. 

And consider this: “Above all things politics must be kept out of the conservation department or nothing can be accomplished.” This article is a century old! Walcott called for more research and science in regard to wildlife management—before wildlife management was considered a science. 

A pragmatic businessman, Walcott understood that if recovery of our nation’s wildlife was going to have a place to recover and to call home, waterfowl in particular, those efforts were going to need money. “A very practical side to this question of free shooting grounds is the financial one,” he wrote. “There are approximately 7,000,000 sportsmen in the United States, and I sincerely believe that a Federal license is the best way of making possible a national movement in this direction. Did you ever stop to think of the proportion between the money you spend to hunt game and what you devote to game protection?”  Not only was Walcott proposing a federal license system for hunters, but he was calling out hunters for spending too much money on gear and not enough on the resource. That’s where the Duck Stamp enters the picture. 

Father of the Duck Stamp 

Walcott was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1929, and he stayed there until 1935. With this role, “Walcott kept the club advised of conservation work on Capitol Hill and often sought the active aid of club members in legislation he was promoting in the Senate,” wrote William Sheldon in A History of the Boone and Crockett Club: Milestones in Wildlife Conservation.


“There are approximately 7,000,000 sportsmen in the United States, and I sincerely believe that a Federal license is the best way of making possible a national movement in this direction. Did you ever stop to think of the proportion between the money you spend to hunt game and what you devote to game protection?”  


Walcott, along with Boone and Crockett member J.N. Ding Darling, and the American Game Protective Association favored the sale of a one-dollar federal stamp, which waterfowlers would need to purchase prior to hunting. The proceeds from the stamp would be set aside for the purchase, development and management of wildlife refuges. The bill was introduced in the Senate by Walcott, and the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act became law on March 16, 1934. While Darling certainly drew public attention to the Duck Stamp idea, it was Walcott who, decades prior, wrote about the idea. And it was Walcott who guided the legislation through until the very end. 

“He [Walcott] was instrumental in having the Senate Special Committee on the Conservation of Wildlife Resources organized and became its first chairman. As such, he aided in the passage of the Duck Stamp Bill,” wrote Albert Day, former chief of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.     

A Humanitarian Life 

While we still reap the benefits of Walcott’s foresight and leadership in conservation, he is perhaps best known for his humanitarian work. At the request of John D. Rockefeller, Walcott investigated the conditions of refugees in German-held Belgium during WWI—years before he worked in politics. He worked with Herbert Hoover to bring relief to refugees in Belgium and Poland. On assignment, he was accompanied by fellow Boone and Crockett member Caspar Whitney, director of the Commission for Relief in Belgium. When Walcott returned home, he called attention to the plight of refugees by publishing articles in National Geographic. Once the United States entered the war in 1917, Walcott would work for Hoover in the newly created United States Food Administration. 

There is little doubt that Walcott’s service-oriented personality played a role in his later conservation work. He served as a U.S. Senator from 1929-1935 and would later serve as president of the Boone and Crockett Club from 1940 until 1948. One year later, the “Father of the Duck Stamp” would die in Stamford, Connecticut, at 80 years old. 

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"The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak. So we must and we will."

-Theodore Roosevelt