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3452 Years of Conservation


By: Chris Hitzeman
UGUIDE South Dakota Pheasant Hunting

Much controversy has come about recently from the nation's fuel issues, Iraq war and transition out of the 2002 Farm Bill and into the 2007 Farm Bill.

We all want national security, low fuel prices and our boys home from the war. Some of us also want a limit of pheasants. Some aren't too concerned about pheasants. Where do pheasants or other wildlife rank in respect to the larger national and world issues? Where does the preservation and maintenance of our soils rank in respect to these larger issues? Who will care for our soils as the evolution of large corporate farmers and short-term leases continues in the advent of increasing grain prices?

As a private land owner for some 10 years now, I have had the opportunity to observe how these larger issues historically are linked together. The visualization that best describes its impacts is similar to that of the world's shifting plates. When one plate shifts, it causes an impact on it's surroundings. Who can deny this principle and its outcomes in light of the recent world disaster from the Indian Ocean Tsunami. The Tsunami was caused by a shift in the ocean's floor miles out in the middle of the sea.

While recently attending a worship service at our church, I received a handout on how to go about reading the bible in a year. I determined to adopt a plan to work it into a morning regimen. About 2 months into the plan, I came across some scripture that astounded me in how close it parallels today's issues on conservation of land, farming, personal use and wildlife issues.

I'd never been all that motivated to pick up the bible and open to the Old Testament let alone Leviticus, a book of the Old Testament. The times of its writings were from 1446-1406 B.C. and it's author, Moses. Fortunately the reading program had led me to some passages I found very interesting, applicable and timely.

God had just delivered his people from the hands of the Egyptians and He was leading them to the Promised Land. Before they would go into the Promised Land they would inhabit the desert for 40 years. God taught them how to live, serve and take care of what had been given to them and also what would additionally be given once in the Promised Land. The following are some of the scriptural passages that were given to help the caretakers of the land to balance and "manage" the use and productivity of the land. In essence, our first "Conservation Plan" 3,452 years ago.

Leviticus 19:9-10 (and stated again in Leviticus 23:22)
9 " 'When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. 10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God.

Leviticus 25 - The Sabbath Year
1 The LORD said to Moses on Mount Sinai, 2 "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'When you enter the land I am going to give you, the land itself must observe a sabbath to the LORD. 3 For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. 4 But in the seventh year the land is to have a sabbath of rest, a sabbath to the LORD. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. 5 Do not reap what grows of itself or harvest the grapes of your untended vines. The land is to have a year of rest. 6 Whatever the land yields during the sabbath year will be food for you-for yourself, your manservant and maidservant, and the hired worker and temporary resident who live among you, 7 as well as for your livestock and the wild animals in your land. Whatever the land produces may be eaten.

18 " 'Follow my decrees and be careful to obey my laws, and you will live safely in the land. 19 Then the land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill and live there in safety. 20 You may ask, "What will we eat in the seventh year if we do not plant or harvest our crops?" 21 I will send you such a blessing in the sixth year that the land will yield enough for three years. 22 While you plant during the eighth year, you will eat from the old crop and will continue to eat from it until the harvest of the ninth year comes in.

I don't know about you but I certainly feel there are some lessons in these historical passages we can learn from and apply as principles to our current plight. Lord knows we have come far in maximizing the yields of our lands with the invention of genetics in agriculture, Round-up Ready seeds, no-till, etc. Some might add that we also exceed our limits on ground that shouldn't be cropped and would be better suited and managed with other yields like grasses or other perennials.

We've all heard farmers talking about "leaving a little", "giving back", and "resting the land". Who would of thought these concepts had their roots in scripture? I suppose it's not all that surprising when you stop and think about it. In the end it's all about balance. Simple. Just not easy. Don't stop fighting for what you think is right, important and principally centered. It's the American way. My hope is that the American spirit and the principles of land management prevail in the 2007 Farm Bill. It's our future and heritage.

Happy and safe hunting! Do something for conservation today!