Bill Hilts Jr.: Conservation Building at Erie County Fairgrounds Marks 100th Anniversary | Outside

Bill Hilts Jr.

Western New York sportsmen will celebrate 100 years of conservation at the Erie County Fair.

The fair is more than just special events, carnival rides and tasty food. It is also an educational lesson for attendees for those browsing the many displays and exhibits, including in the Conservation Building which emphasizes the important role that hunters, fishers and trappers have played over the years.

A century ago, the Erie County Society for the Protection of Fish and Game lobbied fair officials to construct a conservation building as part of the Hamburg complex. Part of the argument at the time was that there was already a conservation exhibit at the Syracuse State Fair, as well as an exhibit in Rochester and a fair in Chautauqua. How about the Erie County Fair?

In a May 7, 1922, Buffalo Morning Express article, then-president JC Brennan of the Erie County Society noted that there were more hunters in Erie County than in any other county in the United States. ‘State. He underlined “how an example of this kind would encourage the spirit of cooperation between the farmers and the sportsmen of the department”. An exhibit would demonstrate the need for reforestation and the role forests and woodlands play in the spread of fish and wildlife, according to the article.

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Brennan also promoted a “battery of aquariums” which would contain a long list of native fish species and also house a working trout stream. Additionally, there would be a collection of wildlife that would be “blacklisted”, birds and animals known for their negative impacts on other wildlife. Other exhibits would include several exhibits of local taxidermist wildlife, gun racks, old and modern fishing tackle, and more.

“Everyone should be interested in this conservation and reforestation movement, whether it’s athletic or not,” Brennan said then. “Reforestation has been shown to control flooding in addition to protecting fish and wildlife. The municipal council has been instructed by the company to study the possibility of such a project.

The project was approved and became a reality later that same year. According to George Rockey, current president of the Southtowns chapter of Ducks Unlimited, this 100-year milestone should be duly recognized by the conservation community. The Conservation Building, which is now called the Environmental Sports Building this year for the first time, plays a vital role in creating greater awareness of what conservation is for all participants in the fair – whether you are an outdoor enthusiast or not.

“I remember attending the fair years ago and being impressed with the conservation exhibits and presentations,” Rockey said. “There was still a functioning trout stream in the 1960s. I can’t say as I agree with the name change and we are working to try to retain the name of the conservation building. Athletes are the true defenders of the environment.

Exhibits and presentations expected this year include the Erie County Federation of Sportsmen’s Club (representing over 50 clubs in the county), the State Department of Environmental Conservation, the County Conservation Society of Erie, Erie County Trappers, Southtowns Walleye Association, Erie County Parks, US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Buffalo Kennel Club.

In a letter to the Buffalo News a few weeks ago, Charlie Metz Jr., president of the Erie County Conservation Society, wrote:

“One of the great things about living in Western New York is our proud history of conservation activities. We are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the construction of the Conservation Building on the Erie County Fairgrounds. Sportsmen from the Erie County Conservation Society built the structure themselves, demonstrating their commitment to the goals of conservation and education for future generations.Celebrating the construction of the building honors these pioneering men and women.

“As families and children roam the building this summer and celebrate the 100th anniversary of this institution, built by our ancestors, a new generation will pledge to preserve our water, land and wildlife. It is now our duty to preserve what they imagined for us. Join us at the Fair to celebrate our role as stewards of our water, land, air and wildlife. »

Rockey couldn’t agree more. It is something special, an education and awareness that must continue for another 100 years and beyond.

“Thank you to the Erie County Conservation Society who saw the need for an organized conservation movement,” Rockey said. “Who knows where we would be if they hadn’t stepped in to get things started?” The ECCS was formerly the Erie County Fish and Game Conservation Society.

The Erie County Fair continues through August 21. Rockey invites everyone to stop by the conservation building for a lesson on conservation and natural resources. Don’t be confused by the new name of the building.