Time To Call a Halt (August 1922)

Will Dilg, the Izaak Walton League’s first national president, was determined that the League should have its own publication to inform and inspire every member. He approached some of the nation’s best known writers and asked them to provide articles and editorials for the new publication. Dilg was particularly taken by an editorial submitted by Emerson Hough, a well known author of western novels and histories who was also an early advocate for conservation of western lands.

When Volume I, Number 1, of the Izaak Walton League Monthly (later re-titled Outdoor America) appeared in August 1922, this explosive editorial was featured on the front cover. Hough died less than a year later in April 1923.


Time To Call a Halt
By Emerson Hough

In this year, 1922, the lovers of outdoor America for the first time began seriously to realize that outdoor sport in this country soon will be a thing of the past.

Scrambling for the last remnants of our great heritage, we have been so busy as to be blind. Now the truth comes home. Now for the first time a sudden consternation comes to the soul of every thinking man who ever has loved this America of ours.

It is time to call a halt. There is not left one honest, disinterested, unselfish agency devoted to the preservation of outdoor America. Of the great bureaus of our National government, the National Park Service, the Forest Service, the Biological Survey, there is not one which has not proved itself an agency of destruction and not of preservation of outdoor America. With them, always the record shows the bureau first, America last. It is time to call a halt.

Of these journals ostensibly devoted to the preservation of outdoor America, there is not one that does not show itself devoted to commercial gain; not one which, for that reason, is not rather an agency of destruction than of preservation of outdoor America. It is time to call a halt.

Of the alleged protective leagues there is not one which does not have commercial or personal gain or aggrandizement under it as its real basis, which is not rather an agency of destruction than of preservation. It is time to call a halt.

Of the alleged true sportsman of this country, those who use rod and gun, not 10 percent have practiced the creed which hypocritically they profess. Claiming self denial, we practice self indulgence. Which shall first cast a stone? And yet, my brothers, it is time to call a halt.

Never has transportation been so cheap, so rapid. There is no longer any wilderness. Betrayed by its guardians, forgotten by its friends, the old America is gone and gone forever. Never again shall we have more than fragments. If even these be dear, THAN SURELY IT IS TIME TO CALL A HALT.

These are not harsh words, or thoughtless words, or bitter. They are only unwelcome words. They are unwelcome because they are true. But no man ever gained anything by deceiving himself. We have been doing that. It is time to call a halt.

Can any human agency work the great miracle of giving the ages a part of the America that was ours? I do not know. I dare not predict.

Can this weak, new, little journal, openly established as a pulpit of heresy to the orthodox selfishness and commercialism in sport, work that vast miracle? I do not know, I dare not predict. But may we not all at least join in that clean hope? Surely, if it also shall fail, then all hope of outdoor America also has failed and failed forever.

By the fruits, judge. The result of these other agencies has been ruin and despair. IT IS TIME TO CALL A HALT.

We have been on the wrong path. The farther we go, the more we leave truth behind. Let us halt, retrace, go back and get into some new path, hoping it may at last be the right road, with success and not failure, happiness and not despair, at its end. THEN WE SHALL NOT NEED TO HALT.

Spirit of the great angler; all spirits of patriots and gentle men, look down upon us and have pity upon us! We are weak. Give us your calm and serene strength, your eternal youth, your cleanliness of soul, your lofty aristocracy of thought. Help us set aside material motives. Help us work out the great miracle, in a land now almost beyond the aid even of miracle.

When one unclean hand touches the management of this experiment, then it fails. When one commercialized motive comes into its thought, then it fails. When it becomes the organ of any man’s vanity, the tool of any man’s selfishness, then it fails.

At the suspicion of any one of those things, at least one name will never again appear on any of its pages. I willingly lend it here after fifty years of love and labor in and for outdoor America – fruitless labor, myself no better than the next – nonetheless with an undiminished love for this America of ours, and a hope not yet wholly faltering that the needed miracle EVEN YET MAY COME.

 
 
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