For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

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chris_mcmartin
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For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by chris_mcmartin » February 4th, 2013, 2:34 pm

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“Join, or Die”
By Chris McMartin, 01 February 2013

NOTE: This commentary is not directed at a specified individual, group, forum, or organization. The author knows people and participates in groups representing “both sides” of many ongoing differences of opinion and chooses not to take sides, because that is exactly the concern this commentary is intended to address.
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Benjamin Franklin first published his depiction of a snake cut into eight pieces in 1754 to symbolize the futility of the then British Colonies attempting to survive on their own. This is purported to be America’s first political cartoon. Franklin apparently had a soft spot for serpents and found utility in their imagery when inspiring others to action. One of his quotes from 1775 compares the Colonies, at the time agitating for independence, to a rattlesnake’s rattles: “…how firmly they are united together, so as never to be separated but by breaking them to pieces. One of those rattles singly, is incapable of producing sound, but the ringing of thirteen together, is sufficient to alarm the boldest man living.”


It is only appropriate, then, to use Franklin’s flowery prose and powerful imagery to call members of the larger herping community to action—not armed overthrow of a government, but action nonetheless. The analogy is an apt one, and more than superficial. The Colonies faced external threats—primarily England. However, a bigger, or at least more immediate, threat of which Franklin wrote and caricatured was the internal threat—division amongst the Colonists on the best way forward. We can draw parallels today to describe the herping community.


Perhaps the greatest concern is that we are hardly a community at all. What exactly constitutes the “Herp Nation?” Is it the same as the “Reptile Nation” espoused by USARK? Not quite—USARK is focused on herpetoculture, because it’s better to stick to tenth-generation captive-bred animals instead of treading devil-may-care through pristine environment just to get that perfect photo to impress their friends. Is Field Herp Forum or NAFHA (yes, they are separate), then, the rightful leader of the charge? That doesn’t fit everyone either—even though adherents may say it’s better to take photos only, rather than be a “deli cupper” collecting everything in hopes of exploiting the latest morph for profit. Maybe hobbyists can reasonably be both keepers and field herpers, and leave academia to advocate for policy reform—but then, nature is best left undisturbed completely unless one has the proper degree, supervised by someone else with an advanced degree, right?


The extent to which the preceding paragraph employs hyperbole is left to the judgment of the individual reader. Rest assured there are individuals in each camp who espouse those very beliefs. But there are likely equal numbers, if not a majority, who feel there is room for everyone as long as a large, national- or international-level organization doesn’t get too specific in its interests and purpose.


“What the world…needs now…is more herping organizations.”—Jackie DeShannon

OK, she didn’t really sing those exact lyrics. Yet that’s exactly what we have today. It seems a new discussion group or Facebook page, if not an entire organization, pops up every few days. Some are broad in scope, while others are very specific, such as forums for morphs of ball pythons or crested geckos. Some organizations are species-focused; others are city, regional, state, or nationally oriented.


What is the net result? On one hand, an individual interested ONLY in kindred spirits who share their passion for scaleless bearded dragons may indeed find a group to suit their needs, but in so doing they have limited their network to a very small pool of both resources and talent. Conversely, if an individual is interested in a cross-section of all the herping pursuit has to offer, they now must check multiple, sometimes dozens, of online forums, and probably pay dues toward, and attend meetings of, numerous societies. In effect, this individual must now parcel out his or her time, talent/effort, and in some cases, money to multiple organizations, some of which may be working toward common goals—terribly inefficient.


In both cases, it is clear that the herping community can potentially be its own worst enemy. How can it present a united front with the appropriate level of resources and talent against those who wish to see some or all facets of herping destroyed at the stroke of a pen? Fragmentation of these resources and talent hurts the entire community, though it may not be immediately apparent. Now is not the time to specialize, when it comes to preserving our ability to keep doing what we enjoy.


Why, then, is there such fragmentation? Part of it may be attributed to naiveté. Newcomers may have come into the hobby through an impulse purchase, or received a young animal from a friend, or accompanied a friend on a field trip; their little “slice” of the hobby to which they were initially exposed may be all they know of it. This can be forgiven, but these newcomers should be encouraged to expand their involvement. It is difficult to do so when inundated with innumerable new clubs/societies, forums, and Facebook groups almost daily—including pages closed to the public and accessible by invitation only, even though said newcomers may have valuable information or talents to contribute. A person can’t help if they don’t know a page or club exists—or are excluded from participation.


What cannot be forgiven are those who know of the many facets of the herping community and choose to isolate themselves just because they don’t particularly care to participate in certain facets themselves. This only hurts the community as a whole, for the division-of-resources reasons cited above. Restrictions pertaining to certain species, whether the ability to keep them or to handle them in the field, often grow to include additional species, or entire families of reptiles and amphibians, because those who didn’t concern themselves with species outside their interest chose, for whatever reason, not to assist their fellow enthusiasts in their hour of need.


Not knowing enough to get involved and choosing not to get involved can be remedied through education and encouragement. More egregious are those who are involved, but actively splinter the herping community through personality conflicts. Each wants, consciously or subconsciously, to be the savior of the community; moreover, salvation must arrive under only their terms. These are the people who remove themselves from discussions when the discussions diverge from their point of view; the people who falsely accuse others of actions they didn’t do. It seems to happen at every level of involvement, from the most localized herp society to the largest organizations.


Even if a newcomer, or someone wishing to get more involved in the community, wishes to do so, how would they view the aggregate herping community? Too many special interests to have to choose where to throw their weight of effort? Too much infighting to want to enter the fray? Both are problematic, but both have the same solutions, the first being: before speaking or acting, ask oneself if the comment or action is to the benefit of the individual, the specialized group, or the greater community. While there may be times when an action, or forum post, may bring short-term gain to an individual or even a particular group, if it doesn’t sufficiently align with common shared values and goals, it will inevitably be perceived (often rightly so) as throwing another individual or group within the community under the bus.


The second solution is perhaps counterintuitive, but is as important as the first: reduce the level of specialization as much as possible. There are two basic methods with which to approach this solution. One is not to start new, stand-alone organizations, especially if they duplicate effort. This extends not only to dues-paying clubs or societies, but even to Internet forums. The second method is to consolidate smaller groups into larger ones, primarily for the economies of scale. Multiple forums on one web host can be cheaper. Clubs can be subsumed as chapters or working groups within larger societies, with dues being pooled for greater effect with less administrative overhead. But besides the savings in money, reduced demand on individuals’ time and talents is afforded—fewer organizations require fewer officers, legal assistants, and so on. This may free up more people to spend more time organizing legislative-issue campaigns rather than focusing on keeping the organization afloat for its own sake.


Even the oft-cited rift between the academic and hobbyist side of the community is healing rapidly. Academia is coming to realize the value of citizen-science initiatives as a multiplier for research. This is a monumental positive evolution and it should be encouraged. With perhaps the greatest difference of opinion moving towards a mutually-beneficial relationship, that leaves the hobbyist community to resolve its problems within its own ranks.


This article is only one person’s opinion, based on over 30 years of observing the goings-on; from the sidelines for most of the first half, but as an ever-growing participant. Feel free to disagree. Is there more to the equation than merely that which has been presented here? Most likely; but this is, in the author’s opinion, a large component of the overall dilemma herpers now face.


We need resources and talent…currently we’re dividing both to the point that crises which demand large quantities of both go unanswered. A blow dealt to one segment of Franklin’s distressed serpent will certainly be felt by the entire body, if not right away. Regardless of minor differences in approach, we need each other’s support for the larger benefit.


Herpers of every inclination: Join or Die.

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by Berkeley Boone » February 4th, 2013, 3:01 pm

Very interesting Chris. Many good thoughts in there. I'm going to marinate on them for a while and join in the conversation in a little bit.
--Berkeley

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by chris_mcmartin » February 4th, 2013, 3:06 pm

Berkeley Boone wrote:Very interesting Chris. Many good thoughts in there. I'm going to marinate on them for a while and join in the conversation in a little bit.
--Berkeley
Looking forward to it...I didn't write this in one sitting, and I don't expect people to respond without reflecting for a bit first.

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by justinm » February 5th, 2013, 6:08 am

Chris,

I've read this twice now, so that I think I understand the gist of it. I agree with most of what you're saying. I don't think that it's unforgivable to get involved though. I've tried getting involved in herp groups online, and the fighting that occurs is what drives me away. Everyone is an expert online. I know I'm guilty as anyone of getting involved in online frays, but I've taken a step back and realized that it's not worth it to me anymore, to argue.

As far as herp clubs... Well I was Vice President of one locally. The issue there is one person. He has managed to drive off nearly everyone. If you disagree with the smallest thing he says it's over for you. He mis'IDed a snake once. I was the person who corrected him. This person then asked where I received my Ph.D. in herpetology... He has no degree beyond high school himself. So because of altercations like this, many people have been discouraged from our local meetings and events.

I think the only way to bridge these gaps is to get professionals involved in these smaller meetings. People that bring that level of credibility with them. Being a successful breeder or importer doesn't seem to cut it for most people. The ego get involved. So my thought is that if someone can say well I'm a such and such researcher who has dedicated my life to working with wildlife, that will lend some credibility to them. Is that going to work for every situation, and every problem? No it won't Frank Retes is a shining example of someone who thinks that he knows more about an animal because he has bred them, and scoffs at people with years of field experience.

As far as USARK, I don't know much about it. I don't know the names of the former or current leadership. Where are these people active in the community? If it's KS.com I'm not into that site, we all know it's just a big flame war.

I don't have the time to collect my thoughts as well as Chris has, but I'm trying to make some sort of convuluted point.

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by chris_mcmartin » February 5th, 2013, 7:44 am

justinm wrote:I agree with most of what you're saying. I don't think that it's unforgivable to get involved though.
I might not have been clear--it's unforgivable to have any combination of time, resources, and/or talent, but consciously NOT get involved. If nobody gets involved, we get to the point we have in various locations, to varying degrees, where a child cannot pick up a snake, or I cannot move a turtle off the road, or someone else cannot maintain a corn snake in their home.

Your point is well made that the personality conflicts are a huge turnoff to new people hoping to, in fact, get involved. It's not limited to just herp organizations, though I also have seen it happen in a couple of societies in the past. You can hope for a strong, yet benevolent, leader for the organization who knows his or her role and doesn't overpower the rest of the club, but without sufficient checks and balances (some organizations, especially smaller ones though larger ones aren't immune, fail to see the benefit of agreed-upon rules and bylaws, to their detriment) you can end up with someone who "doesn't work well with others," molds the organization in their own image, and when sufficient opposition forms, takes their ball and goes home.

I think the only way to bridge these gaps is to get professionals involved in these smaller meetings. People that bring that level of credibility with them. Being a successful breeder or importer doesn't seem to cut it for most people. The ego get involved.
"Professionals" (by which I infer you mean academically credentialed people) are not immune to the ego thing either. ;)

As far as USARK, I don't know much about it. I don't know the names of the former or current leadership. Where are these people active in the community?
That's part of the problem...too many organizations, insulated from one another so nobody knows exactly what Organization X is doing.

I don't have the time to collect my thoughts as well as Chris has, but I'm trying to make some sort of convuluted point.
I don't really have the time either, but I carved it out and will try to keep doing so. Conversations like this are much easier to have in person, but then in what venue does the conversation take place? Local herp society monthly meeting, field meetup, expo...? If not in person, where online? So many forums to choose from. And what is the outcome? Everyone is in violent agreement that "we should move forward on Initiative X and opposing Proposition Y," but the enthusiasm seems to peter out...other priorities spring up.

My main point was that it doesn't help that efforts which should be unified seem to be spread in so many places that we have unnecessary duplication of effort and waste of individual and collective time, resources, and talent.

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by squinn » February 5th, 2013, 9:14 am

From my perspective it all went to hell as soon as the term "investment grade ball python" was uttered for the first time, followed shortly by the publishing of the book "The Lizard King" after which those outside the hobby suddenly realized how much money was in fact changing hands among the social misfits and pariahs that make up the reptile hobby and wanted to make sure the appropriate agencies were getting their cut of it.

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by RCampbell » February 5th, 2013, 11:22 am

An important piece Chris, thank you for taking the time, energy and putting in the thought for it.

The rampant division among any group of people isn't new as the intro to this small conversation starter illustrates.

In the late 70's and early 80's I had converstaions of this same subject matter with many people, problem was most "herp societies" were "snake clubs" and despite their intentions really did little for the furthering of education and united fronts to help offer guideance or education. Not even thinking about protecting rights or abilities of individuals to keep and propogate herp species, the usual ego issues arise and society meeting become reminiscent of high school dances with little groups together fighting amongst themselves.

There are trends happening and attacks against herpetoculture on a level not seen before. The current laws introduced into New York if passed as introduced will make felons of families with leopard geckos. Seriously. Look at the stunt pulled by the state of FL with its Python hunt.... people got to talking about an issue that had faded from the media... and not in terms of science or accuracy but in terms of propaganda and psuedo-science.

I know how hard it is to find time to put in articles, and help out. Life gets in the way of that sometimes and I am guilty of not making time to contribute due to issues in my personal life. We should all make some time however, myself included. We need to unite as a group of people who wish to protect not only the ecosystems and world around us, but our rights to pursue herpetologically oriented goals, whether it be hands off or sound managed collecting and propagation. We need to help direct and guide the making of sound laws through science, and sound leadership in our fields of expertise..not sit by arguing amongst ourselves while law makers and politicians make laws with zero comprehensive fundamentals guided solely by money, or private interest groups who are sadly misinformed and have agendas counter to our goals.

We do need to come together, I want our sons and daughters to be able to enjoy field herping, to enjoy captive husbandry, or any other avenue they choose to responsibly pursue. If we do not unite as a cohesive, responsible group of individuals with common goals our children may very realistically not have those abilities.

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by Dusty Rhoads » February 5th, 2013, 11:42 am

I posted my response on Facebook, but thought I should do so here as well:

Not sure where the best place is to provide feedback on this would be, but I can say I have felt EXACTLY this way for a good while. Chris, you wrote what I’ve wanted to write but for whatever reason or excuse, didn’t. If groups as large as NAFHA, USARK, and even smaller ones like Chondro Coalition, all united under one banner, there would be no stopping said mother group.

As it turns out, the people and friends who I connect with the most in the “herp world” have their hands in academic research, love to go out and field herp with a camera and notebook, and are “deli-cup” herpers too. In other words, they are interested in ALL things herp! I think people of my ilk have felt a bit abandoned by this or that interest group.

Moreover, any academic herpetologist who thinks that herpetoculture has nothing to offer science is a fool — Darwin himself used aviculture (specifically, the selective breeding of pigeon “morphs”) and several other aspects of artificial selection in captive animal husbandry to support his BIG idea that is now the centralizing theme of biology and all the natural sciences. There are MANY examples of researchers using various aspects of herpetocultural knowledge to aid in their research, published on a regular basis. Likewise, any herpetoculturist who thinks academic herpetology has nothing to offer their hobby is just as big a fool — from designing natural vivaria, developing new husbandry products, deciding on temperatures/humidity/ventilation/substrate etc., learning genetics, or getting that rarely kept taxon to breed for the first time ever in captivity, you’d better believe that pure research by a scientist was what got you there. Not knowing what your captive charges’ conspecifics are (or were) like in the wild and not knowing who their closest living relatives are is, in my opinion, the biggest retardant to progress that could — and should — be made in herpetoculture. Good husbandry should always be informed by good natural history. (Now, that’s a whole, huge topic in and of itself!)

Also, i’m guessing that most deli-cup herpers and breeders don’t know that they now have a peer-reviewed publication that will accept articles and captive notes under the heading of “Herpetoculture” — the Herpetological Review (a news journal published by the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, which is the world’s largest academic herpetological society) recently added that section for authors about a year ago. This, to me, is monumental, in its importance and power to (a) unite all herp peoples and (b) spread new knowledge gleaned from keeping and breeding herps to a worldlwide — and largely — academic audience. You couldn’t ask for a better place to publish an article on how to breed x or y species, or publish an interesting note on a captive behavioral observation or genetic anomaly. Make no mistake herpetoculturists, the academic world wants to hear from you! And this new section in ‘Herp. Review” is a BIG indicator of such.

By the way, for anyone interested, I have a PDF of an article called "Herpetoculturists vs. Herpetologists: Cooperation or Competition?” It was written by three stellar herpetologists (James B. Murphy, Kraig Adler, and Joseph T. Collins) comprising and representing these three interest groups: keeper, field, and academic herpetology.
PM me with an e-mail address, and I will be glad to forward the document.

Chris, thanks for taking the time to do this, and if I can write this response better (take more time to expound), or submit my thoughts on this elsewhere, please let me know.

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by muskiemagnet » February 5th, 2013, 3:37 pm

chris, good stuff. well said. i will classify this as a rant. you speak your mind. i have always admired you for this, as well as your witty comments.

i think this can be used to streamline the organization as a whole. i will point this out where needed.

one giant hurdle is trying to maintain focus on the over-all good. beast made a great comment to this. it's no different than the cycles of democracy. the people must maintain vigilance to keep things from getting out of hand. easier said than done.

-ben

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by gbin » February 5th, 2013, 4:19 pm

I reckon you know that I'm a strong advocate of taking the community view and focusing the community on performing good work, Chris. I don't agree with everything you said in your essay, but I agree with more than enough - and I heartily applaud the effort in any case. :thumb:

Gerry

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by hellihooks » February 5th, 2013, 5:57 pm

I just don't feel like talking about foundational problems like apathy, ect, right now... :crazyeyes: but soon... :D jim

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by justinm » February 6th, 2013, 5:44 am

Jim,

Thanks for the warning so that I know to avoid this topic... soon.

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by hellihooks » February 6th, 2013, 8:27 am

justinm wrote:Jim,

Thanks for the warning so that I know to avoid this topic... soon.
Seriously dude... :shock: One of the most important and serious topics ever posted, and you try to derail it, with personal BS? You owe Chris (and everyone else) an apology.
You don't see that your ill-thought post in fact, makes you the very problem of which you spoke?
Chris... Very well-written summation of a critical overarching problem, that I'm still thinking about, before I decide if I can bring anything constructive to the conversation... :beer: jim

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by hellihooks » February 6th, 2013, 6:37 pm

The basic underlying problem with uniting all herpers, is that there are SO Many sub-sets of 'herper', each one believing themselves to be fully justified in what they do.
The 1st step would be identifying every 'type' of herper... next, establish 'codes of conduct' for every type/group. Finally... have enough foresight, wisdom and intestinal fortitude to establish a venue in which every group has the option to remain 'who they are' while guaranteeing each group freedom from scorn, derision, disrespect, and all-out attack from the other types/groups that don't agree with their brand of 'herping'.

This would likely take (no offense to anyone) a real organization... with real rules/codes of conduct, ect, that would need to be taken seriously.

Several years ago, Scott suggested that a conversation along these lines was needed, and I, full of vim and vigor (and not yet disillusioned :roll: ) took it upon myself to start that conversation, with this thread, as a start for step one.
http://www.fieldherpforum.com/forum/vie ... s+that+guy
I humbly and politely suggest that it's worth re-reading... if for no other reason than to provide a 'common starting point' for the discussion, should you find my 3-step paradigm coherent. You might be surprised at who had what, to say... ;)

As for 'why' each group thinks themselves 'justified' in their behaviors/actions... that's a whole nother can-o-worms (and 'philosophical' in nature) which I will at this time decline to explain, unless repeatedly requested to... 8-) jim

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by dery » February 6th, 2013, 7:31 pm

I was never much a fan of wig cartoons. Atleast they rarely exagerate like Paul Revere's Boston Massacure engraving. I'd say I think the art w/ the theme of the rebellion of 98, in general, were more historically accurate.

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by Jeffreyrichard » February 7th, 2013, 1:05 pm

Chris ... I don't know you and probably never communicated with you ... I am more of a lurker here than an active member (due to time restrictions), and when I visit I enjoy the field pictures and the stories from those that field herp. My interests are occasional field herping, with some (vey limited) pet keeping. I am willing to bet I represent a material number of members here ...

You wrote a very interesting and engaging piece ... extremely well thought out and written. But here is my problem ... I don't know the issue you are trying to resolve. I have become lost in the prosaic nature of the message such that I cannot understand what it is you want of us ... I think this is largely because I am not familiar with the problem.

It would be extremely helpful to those of us not substaintially involved in the underlying organization of the herp communitee if you (or someone else) could summarize the problem (background), and state your recommendation. I would like to understand, and take the appropriate action.

Thanks

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by Don Becker » February 7th, 2013, 1:40 pm

People I know who are aquarium enthusiasts are not out actively working to protect fish. Dog and cat enthusiasts are not out actively working to protect the wild canines and felines of the world. Even among birders, the separation between the "Birder" who goes out to observe them in the wild, and may work in conservation seems to have little overlap among the bird keepers. Herpers seem to have a much larger overlap though. There are people on either side of the spectrum who are either solely into herpeculture, or only into field herping and/or conservation, but a very large part of our community is involved with both aspects. While the conservationists and the "deli cuppers" fight, I think the majority of the community doesn't to know what side to take. I mean, we have to protect animals and habitats right? But almost all of us has collected something out of the wild at some point in our lives. Where are we supposed to stand on this argument?

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by chris_mcmartin » February 7th, 2013, 1:43 pm

Only my opinion:

The "herping community" is ill-defined, yet external pressures will affect all aspects of the larger community. If we can't peel back the layers of nuance to arrive at some sort of common ground of shared interest at the most basic level, overlooking personal squabbles, we will not be able to withstand the multiple attacks on "herping" in its various forms. We are our own worst enemy.

Part of the problem is people not "playing nicely" with one another. Ironically, it has happened within this very thread to a (small) extent. The other part of the problem is that we've self-segregated thanks to ever-increasing affiliation groups and sources of information (herp societies, internet forums, Facebook pages, etc). We can't possibly coalesce into an effective counter to the external threats if we can't organize ourselves coherently.


I think that's a decent "executive summary" of my point. 8-)

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by Mike VanValen » February 7th, 2013, 2:54 pm

I had a period of time in the 90's where I got heavily involved in herpetoculture. I kept varanids and several other lizards, turtles, and the occasional kingsnake. Also worked at a zoo with captive crocodilians, constrictors, and turtles. Eventually I faded away from it and focused solely on field herping.

Although I still occasionally take a peek at what's going on in herpetoculture, I am not interested and am turned off by captive discussion leaking into our discussions on the Forum.

I am not against it, I just am not interested anymore. I think many of us here feel the same.

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by gbin » February 7th, 2013, 3:00 pm

psy, you're mistaken about other kinds of animal enthusiasts. I've always been at least as much a fish head as a herper, and I'm aware of numerous efforts by various fish hobbyist (and even more sportfish) organizations to contribute meaningfully to conservation; I was even lucky enough to be at the right place and time to help one such organization create and run a small competitive grant program targeting graduate students and junior scientists with a particular interest in North American native nongame fish species. I've been much less directly involved but am nonetheless also aware of numerous conservation efforts by various groups of birders (and of course bird hunters), as well. I've always thought that folks who work with wild canines and felines should do a much better job of organizing and fundraising among dog and cat lovers (they already do at least some), too, as they're missing out on a huge potential source of help; instead, not knowing what else to do, an awful lot of dog and cat lovers waste their charitable donations on groups like HSUS. All of these communities have great interest in conservation, and all of them are acting to at least some extent on that interest - but at present I'd say none of them have really reached anywhere near their full potential for such action.

And recognizing that one is not just an individual or member of a clique but is instead a (potentially active) participant in something much bigger, a community, is clearly the first step toward reaching that potential. Consciously guiding that communty's organization toward productive ends is a close second.

Instead, here in the herp community, we seem to value our independent thoughts and feelings so much that we resist organizing in large enough ways to use more than a very small fraction of our potential.

Jeffrey, if you need a clear and recent example of the problem that Chris has been speaking to, you need look no further than how people are behaving on the various message boards here at FHF. The NAFHA subchapter forums were created by FHF's owner to help folks get NAFHA off to a running start by providing them a place where they could work on various business-related issues relevant to their particular regions, as regional subchapter organization is integral to the way that NAFHA has chosen to proceed. But from the very start people used them more to clique up by region, not just for NAFHA business but for all things herp-related, and people from elsewhere (you know, "outsiders") were decidedly unwelcome. So FHF's owner stepped in and said he was considering closing the subchapters for the good of the main message board and the community it serves. A great hue and cry arose, in small part because some people legitimately feared it would slow or even harm the NAHFA effort, but mostly because people didn't want to lose their exclusive clubs. There was much (and still is some) talk among these people about taking things to Facebook or elsewhere so they could run their own little show and pretend that the rest of the herp community doesn't exist. (Indeed, the herp community's history is littered with such small regional internet forums that have arisen, lasted a few years and then failed.) FHF's owner acquiesced and allowed the subchapter forums to remain and even for people to continue to use them for non-NAFHA business, but asked that everyone post their non-NAFHA business threads here on the main board as well as on their regional board. Seems pretty accommodating, right? Some folks said "Sure, of course!", some offered still more complaints and some said nothing at all to this request.

But regardless of how folks responded at the time the request was made, if you look today (which is not very much later at all), you'll see that the great majority of the people who participate in the subchapter forums - including those with some kind of leadership position in NAFHA (who one might think would be most appreciative of FHF's owner for all he is doing for NAFHA with his website) - are blatantly ignoring this request, continuing to use the subchapter forums as regional herp clubs and pretending that the main message board doesn't exist. If you look closely you'll even see instances of one or another of those NAFHA leaders trying to gently coax FHF newcomers away from the main board to their subchapter board instead. Now most of what appears on the main board, meant to be the place for all of us with an interest in field herping to come together, share each other's interests and possibly further each other's goals, are field-herping posts from outside the U.S. (as they don't have regional subforums here into which they can segregate). And examples still abound of folks being made to feel unwelcome because they chose to participate in a discussion in a subchapter forum that serves a region other than where they live. (Heaven forbid their daring to participate in a debate in such a forum if they haven't agreed to be NAFHA members at all!)

In the herp community, it's long seemed to me that so far as organizing goes we don't just take two steps forward and one step back, but sometimes two, even three steps back, making it impossible for us to actually get anywhere. I don't know what it will take for things to genuinely improve in this regard. I still make the occasional effort to coax people to unite and applaud when others such as Chris do so as well, but I'm afraid I've come to think that things will simply have to get a lot worse yet - i.e. for herpers, herps and their habitats - before enough of us will put away our petty egos and squabbles enough to allow us to pull together in any truly meaningful way.

Gerry

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by gbin » February 7th, 2013, 3:11 pm

Mike VanValen wrote:I had a period of time in the 90's where I got heavily involved in herpetoculture. I kept varanids and several other lizards, turtles, and the occasional kingsnake. Also worked at a zoo with captive crocodilians, constrictors, and turtles. Eventually I faded away from it and focused solely on field herping.

Although I still occasionally take a peek at what's going on in herpetoculture, I am not interested and am turned off by captive discussion leaking into our discussions on the Forum.

I am not against it, I just am not interested anymore. I think many of us here feel the same.
And here's yet another example, Jeffrey, the growing field herper versus herp keeper (or handling verus hands-off field herper, or you name it...) divide.

Mike, nobody needs to be interested in all things nor to hold the same viewpoint toward all things, but why should you or anyone else care if discussion of herp keeping appears now and then on the main board? An awful lot of people here combine their interest in field herping with their interest in herp keeping, no matter what you, I or anyone else thinks. Even for that minority here who have come to think of herp keeping as something flat-out wrong and to be discouraged, can't such people simply express their opinion and then let it go at that, for the good of the overall community? Instead, way too many of us treat people here with whatever opposing views/practices as if they were enemies, when in reality they're people who share a good deal of interest with us (think of all those people who have not the slightest interest in anything herpetological!) and who we could and should work together with on the biggest issues, e.g. pertaining to conservation.

It's very frustrating, depressing even...

Gerry

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by Don Becker » February 7th, 2013, 5:52 pm

psy, you're mistaken about other kinds of animal enthusiasts. I've always been at least as much a fish head as a herper, and I'm aware of numerous efforts by various fish hobbyist (and even more sportfish) organizations to contribute meaningfully to conservation;
I didn't mean to imply that I thought there wasn't efforts at all, just that there is less overlap between keeper and conservationists with other animals. I have never met a birder who ever wanted to catch a sparrow and bring it home, and very few of the birders I know have pets birds at all. On the other hand, how many of us have caught a local herp and brought it home? I have plenty of non-herpers come to my programs and tell me about the snake or toad they caught in their yard, and that they keep as a pet.

To add to my thoughts on this, pretty much everyone I know who does classes about herpes has at least one live animal. The classes about birds at my local nature centers don't include live native birds. You might go out and try to see some, or have some stuffed birds on hand, but there aren't many people who have a collection of live birds for use in programs. The same with fish. They show plenty of pictures, and they may do a fishing outing, but not many places have aquariums full of native fish to teach about. Mammals you tend to get fur samples and stuffed animals, but again, mostly pictures. It is not uncommon though for nature centers and other educational institutions to have a collection of live animals that includes snakes, lizards, turtles, frogs, or salamanders.

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by Hornemadness » February 7th, 2013, 6:43 pm

Its interesting how people can be about things that dont interest them. I belonged to a (for the most part now dead) forum. We were discussing the laws in regards to large contrictors. There were alot of people that flat out basically said "Why should i care or write letters to whomever about it? I dont keep large constrictors". I guess its like that poem goes:

They came for the big snakes,
but i didint have any so i said nothing.
They came for the large monitors,
but i did not have any so i said nothing.
They came for the frogs,
but i had none so i said nothing
When they came for my geckos,
no one was left to say anything.

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by Kelly Mc » February 7th, 2013, 7:05 pm

Overspecialization can be deceptively self limiting. Instead of knowing much about one thing it can have the opposite effect of positioning ones scope from a vantage point of a non existing monotypic reality.

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by chris_mcmartin » February 7th, 2013, 7:07 pm

Hornemadness wrote:There were alot of people that flat out basically said "Why should i care or write letters to whomever about it? I dont keep large constrictors".
You're right. I write those letters, even though I don't personally keep (whatever species is the ban du jour).

I also write those letters for places I don't currently live. I write them because I HAVE lived there previously, or am planning to return there, or at least visit there, and I make it known I can just as easily spend my dollars in other communities.

This is a big, fascinating hobby. Who knows where our individual interests will take us in 5 months, or 5 years? We'll never know if we let opportunities disappear.

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by hellihooks » February 8th, 2013, 8:08 am

IMO Nafha could have (and possibly still could be) the one group capable of uniting the diversity of 'herpers'. Look at it's Purpose Statement:
Our mission is dedicated to uniting amateur, private and professional herpetologists from Canada, the United States and Mexico toward the common goal of better understanding, conserving and managing native North American reptiles and amphibians.

MOST types of herpers hit the field... whether for work, to take pics, to collect data, or to collect herps. Whatever they take from, or leave intact, in the field... they CAN record/note what they saw... enter data towards the greater goals of better herp/habitat management, and are left free to pursue 'their' brand of herping (Nafha recognizes the right to legally collect, outside of official Nafha functions)

The recent changes to the Nafha/FHF relationship are great for FHF, but IMO a huge step back for Nafha. If in fact the herp-related content of the Nafha/FHF forums are IDENTICAL, and all forums are moderated by one person... how are they not in fact, one in the same? Or at best.. how is Nafha now not (quite) publicly a sub-set of FHF. We gone from a data-collecting organization to FHF's data-collecting club. If you were one of the professionals we (Nafha) was trying to unite with... which group would you have been more likely to work with/join?

The sad part is... it was the lack of leadership, and lack of willingness to act like a 'real organization' (self-moderate) on Nafha's behalf, that precipitated the loss of our (arguably false) sense of autonomy and self-direction.

If and when it comes about that Nafha separates from FHF/Herp Nation... and becomes a 'real organization' (LLC/non-profit) and acquires ownership of the Database from Don... it has the potential (more than any other type of group) to become the great uniting force for herping.

These are my opinions only... as a Nafha/FHF member ONLY, and does not represent Nafha as a group. Nor am I necessarily advocating any such separation... just calling it as I see it. jim

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by justinm » February 8th, 2013, 8:36 am

I can't wait until NAFHA exits the FHF forums, and stops dragging things down. It's not cool to see a great post and instead of kudos, compliments or accolades you get "make sure you put your data in the NAFHA database". FHF isn't a club, it's a community.

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by hellihooks » February 8th, 2013, 8:50 am

justinm wrote:I can't wait until NAFHA exits the FHF forums, and stops dragging things down. It's not cool to see a great post and instead of kudos, compliments or accolades you get "make sure you put your data in the NAFHA database". FHF isn't a club, it's a community.
I agree. And I would continue to frequent FHF, for cool herping posts. And focus on the data collection aspect, when at Nafha. jim

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by chris_mcmartin » February 8th, 2013, 10:50 am

hellihooks wrote:IMO Nafha could have (and possibly still could be) the one group capable of uniting the diversity of 'herpers'.

MOST types of herpers hit the field...
I disagree. Perhaps most of the herpers WE tend to associate with are field herpers to varying extent. There are plenty of people out there with a leopard gecko named Rango, their own or bought for their kid(s), who don't even realize cool herps exist mere miles from their home. This is a potential vast untapped resource for getting people involved.

Pet stores need to allow herp societies of all kinds to post ads (some do, some don't). "New herper" memberships at reduced rate could be offered with each sale. Get these people involved who might not have the slightest clue their simple enjoyment of a little piece of nature, perhaps the only exposure they'll get, is in danger of being curtailed.

I'm not quite sure NAFHA is the single unifying organization for "the herp community," if one exists...the very name of the organization--Field Herping--automatically segregates it from a national-level organization like USARK, which is similarly exclusive (Reptile Keepers).

But I DO agree that NAFHA needs to become a more formalized organization. I don't speak for anyone but myself when I say that money talks, people need to pay dues, and a new methodology of organizing the various fractured clubs/societies into a coherent "Force to Be Reckoned With" needs development.

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by gbin » February 8th, 2013, 12:32 pm

hellihooks wrote:These are my opinions only... as a Nafha/FHF member ONLY, and does not represent Nafha as a group. Nor am I necessarily advocating any such separation... just calling it as I see it. jim
Frankly, if I were the owner of this website I would immediately close down the NAFHA subchapter forums. And if I were a NAFHA member or especially leader, I'd be fighting hard to make sure everyone used my particular subchapter forum only for NAFHA business so long as it continues to exist. As I mentioned, most people in NAFHA (including those among its leadership) continue to blatantly ignore Scott's request that non-NAFHA business threads appear here on the main board, and to instead use those subchapter forums as exclusive field-herping clubs.

I've chosen not to join NAFHA, but I'm not by any means against the organization or its goals. On the contrary, I wish it well and more or less hold the same goals, myself. But my opinion has always been and remains that a single, diverse message board for field herpers is the best way to draw and keep this half of our community together, and the subchapter forums and the tight cliques they foster clearly work against that. I understand that they're a recruitment tool for NAFHA subchapters, but I suspect ultimately they'll do more harm than good to NAFHA itself, too, by keeping it a house divided. Break up into usefully sized groups for work, absolutely, but then make sure everybody comes back together in one big group to play; that's the way to maintain a broader view and the cohesiveness necessary to bring that view to life.

What I'd like to see (preferably here at FHF, if it survives what NAFHA is doing to it) is a thriving board for field herping and another thriving board for herp keeping, serving someday as draws for an organization that endeavors to unite our entire community (not just one side of it, foolishly treating the other side as some kind of enemy) and put that community to good use for herpers, herps and their habitats. (That's what I hoped for Barringer's unmentionable website from the first day I came across it, too, until I was ultimately forced to recognize that his greed and megalomania precluded it from happening there. At least Scott hasn't yet succumbed to the allure of becoming a web god here.) No, we're never going to reach a point where each and every person in the herp community will be willing to put their time and effort into a single organization and its endeavors. But by some point we should be able to come up with a single organization where everyone of reason and good will could feel welcome and useful. I'm fine with more, smaller organizations (e.g. NAFHA) only so long as they don't foster further division in our community, pitting us against one another. All of that "thou shalt not touch/collect/keep herps, but only look at them or maybe take their pictures in situ" or "thou shalt not share information about wild herps with others in a public venue" (etc.) stuff is just fine for someone's personal creed, and of course I understand the compulsion some feel to proselytize their personal beliefs throughout our community, but it's actually way beyond foolish for people to carry any such personal belief as a banner into war against other members of the community. The associated attacks/flame wars that occur so commonly here nowadays can only hinder rather than help our community in reaching its potential.

Gerry

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by Reptiluvr » February 8th, 2013, 3:19 pm

I read the OP once and scanned through all the comments. I am not at fully mental capacity right now, so I will be brief but try to avoid repeating things.
1) Bridging the gap between herp keepers and field herpers is probably going to be the biggest obstacle. This idea of self-segregation runs rampant in our country. Freedom allows us that. Now extrapolate the self-segregation from the herping community to the nation and you might catch a glimpse of the same problem that I presume our federal government has. It's hard to let everyone do what they want but be efficient. That's as political as I want to get in this post, ok people? Just an analogy.
2) We might just have to realize and come to terms with the fact that herp conservationists and herp keepers DO have two different agendas. Another analogy: bird conservationists and hunters. Both want to save wildlife, but for different reasons and therefore with different methods. Herp keepers want to save the "cool" or valuable species. The very populations they hope to destroy, they want to "conserve". Herp conservationists tend to want to save everything involved in the ecological community with their herps and sometimes more broadly than for just one species. This is the same issue happening with birders and bird hunters. 'Bird' Unlimited groups want only to save that species from going extinct so that they can continue killing them. It's ok to those groups if non-game birds have to suffer the consequences of unnatural habitats or what I will call "inflated" habitats where something (ie: food source) is boosted for the benefit of another focus species. The world can't afford that.
3) I've said this several times before: NAFHA could get more data if they would make it easier to submit it. eBird is the perfect example. Learn from them.

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by gbin » February 8th, 2013, 4:08 pm

Reptiluvr wrote:... We might just have to realize and come to terms with the fact that herp conservationists and herp keepers DO have two different agendas... Herp keepers want to save the "cool" or valuable species. The very populations they hope to destroy, they want to "conserve"...
Sorry, but that's just utter nonsense. Likewise the statements about hunting groups only being interested in conserving the species they want to kill. Likewise the idea that non-animal collectors/hunters are one and all interested in conserving whole ecologies rather than just certain species. A broad or narrow view of wildlife conservation - or no view of wildlife conservation at all - can all be found among field herpers, and herp keepers, and bird hunters, etc. A lot of amazing and important conservation work, and by no means aimed at just this or that favorite species, has been done by various hunting groups in the past, and will continue to be done by them in the future. Some of the biggest conservation groups that exist have plenty of hunters among their members, and even among their leadership. Check out the professed outdoor interests of Sierra Club executives sometime - or do you think of them as a hunting club that's really only interested in maintaining stocks of animals so they can catch or kill them? :roll:

And in the herp community in particular, there is one heck of a lot of overlap between people who field herp and people who keep herps. Certainly some outspoken posters here have tried hard in recent years to make it seem otherwise, to demonize anyone who dares to admit having collected or keeping a herp, but that doesn't change the fundamental fact that just about all of us have kept herps at one time or another, and a great many of us still do. And that includes more than a few career wildlife biologists/conservationists (such as myself, though I no longer keep any herps simply because I no longer care to do so), too.

This is exactly the kind of divisive nonsense that constantly confronts us. It's really time for some of you folks to grow up and/or get educated about the reality of the herp community. Before you put out any more bigoted posts denigrating hunters, you should learn more about them as well.

The truth of the matter is that herp keeping, bird hunting or whatever very often serves as an entry point for a lifelong interest in and commitment to the conservation of wildlife and wild lands, just as does a less extractive hobby pursuit such as bird watching or herp photography. Becoming interested in the preservation of a favored taxon or taxa is a common step along the path, too. Every single one of us, hands-on or hands-off, can play a meaningful role in a community that's united to fight for conservation rather than divided by foolishness.

Gerry

P.S. I edited this post because I thought I had time to add the second-to-last sentence, as I deemed it relevant there. Apparently Jim got in with the next post faster than I could type it, though. No other changes were made to the original.

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by hellihooks » February 8th, 2013, 4:10 pm

Read this section of Nafha's Purpose Statement very carefully:
To unite amateur/private herpetologists and professional herpetologists in the collection of data with the goal of conserving North American herpetofauna, with a greater goal of species management. A highlight of this group is to provide state or provincial and national game agencies with sufficient data to assist in the development of more educated decisions on how to better manage reptile and amphibian populations

A major goal of some of the charter members of Nafha was to provide data to reduce the precautionary principle were it was over-applied. In other words... get stupid herp laws changed, so breeders could collect, breed and sell, certain herps they currently can not. That comes under the heading 'better manage reptile and amphibian populations' and also falls under 'greater goal of species management'.
This is what most people fail to comprehend... that Nafha was formed as much (if not more) for herp breeders/keepers as it was for 'true conservationists'. That said...'species management' can just as easily mean providing protection, where it is needed.

And granted...Native herps only comprise a relatively small percentage of the 'keeper trade'... but... Nafha is not as divorced from 'herp keepers' as many believe... we work FOR Herp keeper rights as much as we work for 'wild herps/habitat preservation'
As a 'unifying force'... Nafha ALREADY has a size 12 herping boot in the door... we just need to do a better job letting the 'keeper community' know that.

Gerry... what 'unfulfilled potential' do you see FHF, as a group, having? I frankly do not see any, other than being a LARGER community than they currently are.
Nafha, on the other hand, has the potential to become the Audubon Society for herps... a true political, activist force, to be reckoned with. jim

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by gbin » February 8th, 2013, 4:32 pm

Jim, I know you have this wonderful vision of what NAFHA could be, and I think it would be absolutely great if things turned out that way. But what's happening here at FHF and more importantly to our larger community (FHF is actually just a tool that serves the herp community, though it also defines a fairly large part of the community that's online these days) because of a number of NAFHA members and leaders and the mindsets that they are apparently promoting (e.g. ignoring Scott's request concerning the main message board and sticking instead to cliquish behavior in the NAFHA subchapter forums, attacking people here for the possibility that they might have legally collected a specimen, or just handled it for a photograph, or even just shared "too much" information about it afterward, etc.) seriously belies your hope. As you know, when you were part of NAFHA's leadership I even called you out on this message board more than once for pretending that collecting herps was really only for the as-yet uneducated or the unreachable, and that it was really no longer a legitimate part of (field) herping. (I can dig some relevant posts out of the archives if you want to try to contest this.) Let's all be honest, here.

As for the unfulfilled potential of the herp community, that's another and much longer post. The subject probably deserves its own thread, too.

I repeat, I have no desire to criticize NAFHA or any of its members (or you whether or not you're still a member, Jim). But I will continue to stand up for FHF and the community it serves, even against harm brought by an organization with such lofty goals and hopes for the future as NAFHA.

Gerry

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by hellihooks » February 8th, 2013, 5:17 pm

Not exactly what I was asking... let me try to be more clear. What do you perceive FHF to be, other than an online community, that shares stories, pics, and 'pats on the back'? I think FHF has achieved it's full potential as exactly what it is. Most herp-related content on FHF is for people....'look at my great pictures... read my great story... congratulate me on my great find, ect' At the risk of crudeness.. it's a big circle jerk... :shock:

And while those basic human demands are certainly in play, on the Nafha forums as well... it's not the ONLY reason we are there. What brings us together is a commitment to produce real results in the real world, through data collection. Like the 62,000 acres of conserved habitat in Tejon Ranch our data was key in procuring.

I don't ever see FHF, as an online forum, producing those types of concrete results... nor should it. Nafha, as an outgrowth of FHF, should be the group with tons of potential... to go further and do more than an online forum ever will, could, or should.

There's more I could (and would like to) say, regarding parenting/children (metaphorically, of course)... but I'm going to leave it at that, out of respect for Scott. jim
Besides... I don't think it was the OP's intention that this thread become a debate about FHF/Nafha... but rather, herping groups in general. :thumb:

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by gbin » February 8th, 2013, 8:36 pm

Jim, from my perspective you're muddling things.

I've spoken about the herp community's potential as being hugely unfulfilled. The herp community is everyone with an interest in herps, not just field herpers, let alone just field herpers online, let alone just field herpers online who make use of this particular website.

FHF can be thought of as a community all by itself, but from my perspective it's best thought of as simply a tool serving a portion of the much greater community. I've already said pretty near everything I have to say about FHF's potential: ideally it could be a place, probably best divided into two main message boards, where field herpers and herp keepers can come to interact within and across these two groups. You apparently see that interaction in a rather dim light, as "a big circle jerk" as you say, but I see it in much more positive terms. Field herpers come to this board to brag, sure, but also to entertain or be entertained, to educate or learn, to share and hopefully even to bond based on a common interest in field herping. Hopefully more and more herp keepers will similarly head for the Herpetoculture Forum for an obviously similar reason. This website serves as an important communication medium for part of our community (that being the overall herp community, remember), and it could potentially serve in that capacity for a much larger part than it currently does. (There are still other field herping internet forums that are fairly active, and herp keeping forums that are much more active than this one.) It helps to unite us. And with that union comes the potential to foster an organization that could do great deeds, just as it has already fostered NAFHA.

My criticism of NAFHA, despite whatever good the organization is accomplishing, stems from the harm that NAFHA members and leaders are causing FHF and the overall herp community FHF serves by dividing us into regional cliques via those NAFHA subchapter forums and dividing us even further by waging wars within the herp community based on individual differences in beliefs. That's it. If folks kept to business on those subchapter forums and came here to play with everyone else, and tamped down the superiority complex that belonging to NAFHA seems to give some of them (e.g. "The NAFHA way is not to collect, and that's the right way to herp - and to do otherwise is to do wrong and justify my attacking you!") then I'd have no complaint but only praise for the organization. I'd think it was at least a good first step toward the kind of organization that FHF could ultimately foster, one that would have the potential to unite all of us (not just field herpers) and put all of us to good work.

I don't think it was Chris' intention to make this thread a debate about FHF and NAFHA, either, or at least not just that. I strongly suspect that issue played more than a small part in his thoughts on the topic of this thread, though. And well it should given its profound relevance to what's going on here at FHF at present.

Gerry

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by Mike Waters » February 8th, 2013, 8:56 pm

Gerry, I love reading your posts. Keep up the good work! :thumb:

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by Shane_TX » February 8th, 2013, 9:00 pm

-it's unforgivable to have any combination of time, resources, and/or talent, but consciously NOT get involved.
Just think about it and you're covered. Interesting idea.
we get to the point we have in various locations, to varying degrees, where a child cannot pick up a snake, or I cannot move a turtle off the road, or someone else cannot maintain a corn snake in their home.
Everyone worries about different things. I do not worry, not even a little bit, about moving a turtle off of the road or my son picking up a herp, anywhere. Maybe if I lived somewhere else I'd get a bullet through the head and unwillingly donate my liver in the process. It's not that bad.

No father/mother in the world has ever been cited because their child picked up a snake, and no one has ended up in court because they moved a turtle off of the road, and I highly doubt that someone has been nailed for keeping one cornsnake in their home.

Herp organizations: difficult to defend and manage. I donate to TNC and otherwise just consider herps a primary target on my end.

Shane

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by regalringneck » February 9th, 2013, 5:38 am

.. uughh, so why am i feeling loathe to respond :p how many times do we have to dance to this horrible tune, a "song" as worn out as the stones; i cant get no ... satisfaction! Thnx Chris!
Some excellent points Dr. B, as usual, but i think you made a mistake blowing thru reptiluvers response & her reference to ebird & likely several other good points.
Where to start for the umpteenth time ... divide & conquer is a time honored strategy, indeed it is thee fundamental strategy for those in control to keep others from taking control. Think; football, war, even chess!
Shane, youre wrong, we already have a "songbird mnmt" for herps in Georgia, much like they reportedly do in Australia; that is the "prohibitive" mngmt strategy many of us see as looming, as it is an attractive strategy to control & power freaks (most homonids w/ limited to average faculties). Secondarily it is attractive because its comparatively easy to do.
If you really want a voice for herp conservation & mngmt; you'd better join & make your reasons for joining known to the mainstream conservation orgs such as audubon/sierra club/wildlife federation and forget delusional thinking that your "club copperhed" has a voice, ... understand even these big corporate organizations are but a mere whisper in the howling wind! For the delicuppers; its probably the bigger pet industry organizations to support.
I've concluded the best protection for herp enthusiasts is the general desire of the unwashed public to kill snakes w/o legal repercussions (why we here all otta love our red-states), & i submit one of the few intellectual refuges ... is for collectors to assert the logic of "minority rights" and to mitigate urban "nature deficit disorder".
Nuff4now / rxr

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by Berkeley Boone » February 9th, 2013, 6:23 am

psyon wrote:To add to my thoughts on this, pretty much everyone I know who does classes about herpes has at least one live animal. The classes about birds at my local nature centers don't include live native birds. You might go out and try to see some, or have some stuffed birds on hand, but there aren't many people who have a collection of live birds for use in programs. The same with fish. They show plenty of pictures, and they may do a fishing outing, but not many places have aquariums full of native fish to teach about. Mammals you tend to get fur samples and stuffed animals, but again, mostly pictures. It is not uncommon though for nature centers and other educational institutions to have a collection of live animals that includes snakes, lizards, turtles, frogs, or salamanders.
Herpes? Yikes! I may not want to get involved with this discussion....
Just kidding Don, I know it was a typo.

To respond to your statements here, I think part of the reason you so frequently see herps for presentations and rarely other animals is because of their ease of care and portability. Think about it- you can't just pick a robin up (hand-raised or not) and expect it to sit on your hand while you are doing a presentation. Likewise, how does one hold an otter or a white footed mouse for an audience to see? Or even a small mouth bass? There are few examples from the categories of birds and mammals that make good educational animals simply because of how you can carry them. Frogs, toads and salamanders can be put into deli cups and stacked into a larger bin. Snakes and lizards can be put in bags and put into a larger bin. For a program, let's say I just put 20 herps into 2 average sized Rubbermaid bins. Now, if I want to take one crow with me, or a screech owl, and an opossum, they each have to go into their own cat or dog carrier, which is the size of the Rubbermaid bin containing 8 or 10 animals each. I have effectively doubled the space taken up now, just to add two more animals.

Another reason I think herps are the go-to education animals is because of the lack of extensive permitting in place for their captivity. Yes, there are laws in place regarding herps in captivity, but they are much more relaxed than for the birds and the mammals. The permits that have to be in place to use a native bird or mammal for exhibition are pretty intensive and time consuming. Their standards for care are ridiculously more in depth, and they are rigorously inspected by multiple agencies on the federal AND state level, everywhere. For many places (read that as nature centers or individuals) it just is not worth it, or even possible to get those permits in place. Thus the reason that so many pelts or mounted animals are used in the bird and mammal category.

And fish, they cannot even be transported easily. At least not when you are hoping to keep them alive long term. That's why you almost never see traveling fish exhibits, but when you do, they are MAJOR undertakings! I have however, seen plenty of places that have very nice displays of native fish for their visitors to see. You are correct though, nowhere near as many fish set ups as for the herps though. It's just how it goes.

I think that is part of the argument here, at least in my eyes. We need to be able to work together as people who enjoy reptiles and amphibians as a WHOLE, so that the laws and regulations that are so limiting for working with and/or educating about fish and mammals and birds don't get put into place and limit us even further in our pursuit of happiness and enjoyment.

--Berkeley

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by hellihooks » February 9th, 2013, 8:35 am

Let me try this... What unites us all? Love for herps. Keeping/breeding...observing in the wild... photographing... All these things we do, satisfies OUR desires.
Collecting data is (chiefly) done FOR the herps, for (ultimately) their future protection/survival.

None of the self-serving avocations can unite us, as we all feel fully justified in how we serve ourselves, and stand ready to defend our positions as (at the very least) as good as any other position.

From personal Moral mandates to enlightened self-interest... only 'giving back' to the herps we all love, has the potential to unite us all.

Data collection, for the 'good of the herps' can dovetail into every other avocation, as a secondary action, as well as a primary avocation, in and of itself. It alone has the potential to unite us all.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it... 8-) jim

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by gbin » February 9th, 2013, 9:08 am

You may be right about my coming down too hard on Reptiluvr, John, I don't know. If so, I apologize and ask that she and everyone else consider that my criticism is leveled not at any particular individual, but rather at the mindset expressed all too often around here these days that animal collectors and hunters - anyone with an extractive element to their hobby pursuit, really - are fundamentally flawed people who care only for harmful, selfish pleasures. I'm afraid that the most charitable thing I can say about such a mindset is that it is incredibly ignorant and divisive. Keep in mind, too, that I've been fighting that same fight now for some 30 years (talk about dancing to a worn-out tune!), and repetition has made me less rather than more patient in dealing with it.

A lifetime of academic, personal and professional experience has left me no doubt whatsoever about these things:
  • - There are a lot of people of reason and good will, and there is correspondingly a lot of desire to contribute meaningfully to the conservation of wildlife and wild lands, among animal collectors and hunters just as among those who enjoy less extractive animal-related hobbies.

    - Folks who work at dividing animal lovers based on whether or not their hobby pursuits are extractive (or on some other foolish personal bias, such as the purported "need for secrecy" that some herpers have become quite militant about) rather than seeking union or at least cooperation among all interested parties are in fact ensuring that we never reach our full potential for achieving good.
We don't have to treat everyone we meet in the herp community as a friend, but we really need to stop treating so many of them as enemies just because they hold a different viewpoint on one thing or another.

On the argument that folks should just give their money, time and/or effort to an already extant organization such as Audubon, the Sierra Club, the Wildlife Federation or the Nature Conservancy and leave it at that, I have to disagree. There's plenty of evidence to suggest that a more targeted organization (e.g. focusing primarily on herp conservation) will often draw in people who have a particular affinity for the targeted taxa/area and would participate in such an organization even if they won't participate in something broader. Sometimes these more targeted organizations just serve as a stepping stone for people to eventually come to an understanding of the broader need (my first contribution was a donation to a "Save the Eagle" program when I was a child, by the way, and I did it as much to get the membership card and spiffy button as to help the birds ;) ) and sometimes they're as far as people get; both results are obviously worthwhile. Too, people often end up giving more overall when they identify more than one organization whose work appeals to them, rather than just divvying the same-sized contribution up among more groups. I've no doubt that there's considerable overlap in the memberships of the aforementioned big conservation organizations, and that many of those same people also give to much smaller concerns as well.

So I keep hoping for a much more united herp community, and a much more effective organization through which to channel its desire to do good.

Good points on the topic of herps versus other kinds of animals used in educational efforts, Berkeley! :thumb:

I simply disagree with your semantic twist on things, Jim. The folks in our community who collect field data on herps still do so because in some way it satisfies them to do so (it's not pure altruism), and those who don't collect field data on herps still have the desire and ability to do good by them (they're not purely selfish), so your distinctions don't amount to much more than personal bias so far as I can see. (For one example, herp keepers could in some instances make a solid argument that by breeding and maintaining a disappearing species of herp, they too are "giving back.") Much more importantly, even if y'all in NAFHA are collecting your data points in the millions, a sound argument can be made that far more conservation work could be done simply by instead fundraising among herp keepers who never set foot in the field. Herp keepers are an awfully big pool of people with an awful lot of discretionary money in their pockets, and no herp organization without them will ever be as effective overall as one with them could be.

It is our interest in herps, in whatever form that interest may be, that holds the potential to unite us, and to a very large extent our capacity to do good by herps is directly correlated with our success in forming that union.

Gerry

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by Hornemadness » February 9th, 2013, 11:40 am

I dont think ill ever understand why there are those in the herp community that are dead set against people collecting from the wild. Everyone here for the most part has had a pet herp they have taken from the wild. Why would you seek to deny someone else that pleasure? Besides it has been well established that the biggest threat to herps is habitat loss. There is no way in hell that people can take every single mountain king snake in the Santa Monica mountains. At best people can only take the ones that are easy to get to. It almost seems like the strict field herpers are much like hunters of elk after the introduction of wolves to an area, lazy.
People need to just let all this stuff go. With the exception of certain species (like box turtles) most herp species are not going to suffer much from collecting. And even so, there are examples of animals that are no longer found in the wild or no longer have viable population in the wild that have for lack of a better term "survived" in captivity.
The herp keeper is your friend field herper. He is the one that wants to breed those "fill in the blanks". The more people breed and sell them the more people will opt for a captive born animal, thus leaving your precious wild populations alone. Is he doing it for money? Perhaps, but even if he is the wild populations in the long run are the ones that are going to benefit.
Why is it so hard to live and let live? Has it ever occurred to you that if people have an animal they get to have a bit of nature in their home. They like and care for their animal, and thus may like and care about were it came from. They might be more likely to donate to some organization that is trying to protect habitat for the kind of animal. Its pretty obvious logic. People need to get off their soapboxes and get real.

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by azatrox » February 9th, 2013, 1:07 pm

Interesting topic Chris....Long overdue and definitely worthy of discussion! Thanks for posting it!

For my part, when I was younger, I kept tons of animals....Mostly snakes, but occasionally turtles, frogs, etc....I was lucky enough to have parents that embraced my love of all things wild...Now that I'm a bit older, I still maintain a small collection of animals but 99.9% of my interest in these creatures lies in field herping. Nowadays, usually the only things I bring into the field are water bottles and my camera equipment....If I bring a hook with me, it's usually used more as a walking stick than an actual tool to manipulate or collect animals.

All that said, I think it's imperative that the deli cuppers work to protect the rights of the field herpers and the field herpers do the same for the deli cuppers. Both sides offer things of value to our understanding of these animals we love, and as such they both have a place and vensted interest in any discussions pertaining to our rights and responsibilities regarding them. The primary issue (at least as far as I can tell) isn't herp related at all....it's individual related....Unless and until a person or group can facilitate each individual "connecting the dots" and seeing for themselves how protecting the rights of one subset helps all subests, then we're likely to run into this issue again and again. If people don't see how supporting a cause benefits them (either directly or indirectly) then they're much less likely to support it, and whatever support they do throw towards the cause will likely be half-hearted and fleeting.

Sadly, I think we're far away from this "connection of the dots" occurring....With so much division, manipulation and downright bickering amongst herpers of all subsets, very little time and attention is left to devote to things that matter to us all. I think gorups/clubs/etc. can play a pivotal role in focusing the discussion along constructive lines, but if those facilitating the groups or clubs are more interested in self promotion than community rights, issues will quickly arise and likely mean the eventual ineffectiveness of the club or organization.

I look forward to the day when people are able to responsibly keep what they wish and also be able to go anywhere they want and observe these animals in the wild responsibly. Sadly, I doubt such a day is anywhere near the horizon, and "herpers" of all ilks and subsets are largely to blame for that.

-Kris

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by muskiemagnet » February 9th, 2013, 3:06 pm

good stuff guys/gals. now, get involved. there has been much strife based on this sort of stuff. i personally believe that stepping back at this point to evaluate the overall is much over-due. it needs attention and tweaking. what that might be, i don't know. i highly encourage people to get involved because if no body does, this will fail. their are complaints of cliques. yes, it has happened, but keep in mind one thing. maybe it just seems this way because they have taken an initiative to move forward on a smaller scale. could it be that they got fed up with what chris is talking about, and realized that they could DO something while the community just sat back and did nothing. has it created separation and potentially impending fracture? yes. so get involved, and keep it from happening. i agree that restructuring may be a good idea at this point. go back to simple, and start over if need be. unfortunately, many leaders keep wanting to press forward when we clearly need to step back. this will not change, and will most likely get worse if NAFHA cannot find unification. i urge you all to get involved. the members forum is a perfect place for this. for those who are not members, consider it.

great discussion.

-ben

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by Kelly Mc » February 9th, 2013, 6:52 pm

What would be some criteria for what a herp organization to include? What should it not include? What are ideals everyone can agree are healthy and what we want to present to the world, herpers and non herpers, opposing forces, other disciplines of nature enthusiasts and animal husbandry/culturists?

Has anyone ever investigated other nature/animal/science enthusiast formats and saw examplification of stuff they wish or thought would be good for us?

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by muskiemagnet » February 9th, 2013, 7:09 pm

great start. lots of stuff there. i would focus on gaining unity within the organization first. the other "ideals" should definitely follow. this organization is about you all. without you, it may become too controlled, and or fall apart from lack of leadership. if you all want this to thrive, you will all have to become more involved. there are chapters that have little to no leadership right now. it's crumbling as we speak. if this is what you want, you will have to work for it. make it better.

-ben

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by Kelly Mc » February 9th, 2013, 7:27 pm

Ideals in parentheses instead of bold italic is a sign of the times.

Perhaps if ideals excited people they could have the power to unite them. It would be a thing very true and good - albeit "outdated" made New and different and vital. Maybe all the rest would follow stronger.

Somehow, in an involvement with animals and the living world, it perhaps is more important than we think.

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by hellihooks » February 10th, 2013, 7:59 am

muskiemagnet wrote:great start. lots of stuff there. i would focus on gaining unity within NAFHA first. the other "ideals" should definitely follow. this organization is about you all. without you, it may become too controlled, and or fall apart from lack of leadership. if you all want this to thrive, you will all have to become more involved. there are chapters that have little to no leadership right now. it's crumbling as we speak. if this is what you want, you will have to work for it. make it better.

-ben
Ben,
This is on FHF, and addresses the question... what can unite all the different 'types' of herpers... hobbiests, keepers, fieldherpers, citizen scientists, ect. No offense... but this is the wrong venue for a Nafha pep talk, or a commentary on it's condition.
That said... I'm just a member now, with no IBM access...nor knowledge as to how things are going.
So... I guess I'll have to amend my position to "Nafha WAS the group with the most 'crossover' potential." :roll: jim

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Re: For Discussion--the Future of Herp Organizations

Post by gbin » February 10th, 2013, 9:25 am

Some people have a very hard time seeing beyond/thinking larger than NAFHA, it seems. :?

Kelly, trying to approach this stuff from another angle, somewhat of an attempt at coming up with a group essay (maybe we should call it a white paper?) on ethics for field herpers was made at FHF a while back. It got absolutely nowhere due to lack of organization, excess of personal ego and agenda, and in particular dishonest manipulation by a few of its main participants to have the end product cast herp collecting and keeping in a bad light. Some of us argued repeatedly and at length that the herp keeping side of our community should be fully accepted and incorporated in such an effort, at least via bridge statements aimed at reaching out to them (leaving them to come up with a complementary document representing their own side), but the game was clearly rigged against this from the start. So I and others ultimately walked away from the attempt.

I'll say now as I repeatedly did then, it shouldn't be all that hard - ok, it shouldn't be impossible, anyway ;) - for us to make a good start simply by 1) coming up with a list of priorities that most of us agree exist for our community, and then 2) somehow evenhandedly (by vote, maybe?) ranking those priorities. Quite likely we could indeed cover a lot of ground merely by revising what some other animal-related group has already come up with, too. An ordered list of priorities would provide the bones for an organization, a guiding document or whatever to be built upon. And so long as the system used for coming up with that list is truly fair, no one could meaningfully object that their personal views weren't properly taken into account (i.e. a person might still refuse to accept it as representing him/her in the end, but s/he wouldn't be able to honestly deny that it represents our community, at least as well as our community can be represented at this single website - it would have authority well beyond what one or a few powerful personalities could muster by themselves).

I'm still up for working on such a list, or for doing whatever else I can (as allowed by my current home repair/remodeling efforts) to further our community's union, organization and activism. But only so long as it's an open and honest attempt that deals fairly with our overall community (e.g. not one that denigrates the herp keeping side). I'm not interested in playing anyone's game meant just to boost his/her ego or manipulate members of the community into adopting his/her pet beliefs (which can only entrench folks in their divided stances).

Gerry

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