Wildlife Magazines in a Wireless World

In January, Chris Madson, the editor of Wyoming Wildlife magazine, surveyed state wildlife magazines nationwide to ask when their publication began. Twenty-eight responded. Seven more magazines that are strongly believed to still exist were queried but did not respond.

The oldest state wildlife magazine still in operation is Nebraskaland, which began in 1926. It’s one of four magazines that reported a start date in the 1920s. Many more began in the 1930s and 1940s. That result didn’t surprise me. In those years, interest in wildlife conservation was so high that hunters (and, in 1950, anglers) supported a federal excise tax on their sporting equipment, solely to support the activities of state wildlife agencies.

Can you imagine people today, supporting a new tax so government could provide a service they wanted? But, I digress.

The response to Madson’s survey indicates that at least 35 states have, or have had, something like a wildlife magazine. Of course, their content varies widely, from promotion of state parks, tourism and wildlife watching to hard-core hunting and fishing, and covering a whole spectrum in between.

Arizona Wildlife Views, the magazine I work for, is an in-betweener. Arizona Highways magazine has long covered the state’s tourism-promotion needs, and the Arizona Game and Fish Department does not manage the state’s parks. So, mirroring the state agency that publishes it, Views magazine does all things wildlife and outdoor recreation, and that’s it. Basically we cover natural history, hunting, angling, department programs, and places and techniques for watching wildlife.

Arizona Wildlife Views began in 1954. The relatively late start date is explained by the fact that, from the 1920s up until that time, a statewide “game protective association” had published a newsletter that carried information from the state’s wildlife management agency to those most interested in its activities. In the 1950s, as funding for that printed product faltered, the Arizona Game and Fish Department started its own magazine.

I feel proud to be part of a magazine that has a strong 50-year tradition plus 40 or so more years of heritage behind it. But more and more, I hear the questions being asked: What is the purpose of state wildlife magazines today? What place do they have in a world of smartphones and social media and instant communication, 24/7? Do magazines in general, and magazines about wildlife in particular, even make sense in such a wired — or wireless — world?

I don’t have the answers, but I plan to keep exploring the questions in my next post.

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