Sandia Mountain BearWatch Principles

SMBW founder
Jan Hayes.

SM Bearwatch operates on a set of guiding principles. These principles keep the organization focused, strong and efficient.

Set a clear goal: BearWatch’s goal is to ensure a stable NM bear population. We do this by advocating reasonable hunting dates and practices, by informing mountain residents how to co-exist with black bears and by advocating bear proofing of all food related dumpsters and home garbage receptacles.

Adopt positions for the organization and stick with them: BearWatch doesn’t take extreme positions, i.e. anti-hunting, feeding stations, etc. For instance, although we do not take an anti-hunting stance, we do come out strongly against bad hunting policy and unethical hunting practices. Most importantly, we do not have a creeping agenda. This helps establish trust. After a decade of following these principles, NMG&F and the Forest Service have come to know where we stand on issues and therefore trust us.

Work with responsible government agencies: We work hard to establish and promote positive interactions with local government agencies. Let these agencies get as much credit as possible for our part of the work. We give good press when actions deserve it.

Be respectful of appointed officials: We always treat Commissioners with respect and courtesy even if we disagree with their positions. We try to have as much interaction with game Commissioners as possible in order to educate them on bear biology, stats from the NMG&F bear study, updates on depredations, etc.

Speak with one voice: BearWatch members that represent us must adopt the "party line." We do not allow loose cannons to speak on our behalf or represent us.

Stick to your knitting: BearWatch is monolithic; we advocate for just one species, the black bear and avoid temptation to get heavily involved in other issues.

A large membership is important to get your position heard: BearWatch does not spend lots of time raising money. No one is paid for their time except Al LeCount, our consulting bear biologist. Our small membership dues of $5/year are spent for printing, postage and bear biologist, Al LeCount. A large membership (about 600) is more important than money (about $3000/year). That’s why we keep dues low.

Use science: BearWatch uses science. We are extremely careful and always brutally honest. We do not exaggerate or cook the books to make a point. If we have slip-ups, we address them immediately. From the beginning, we’ve had a paid professional bear biologist to vet all major biological positions. We use emotional arguments sparingly.

Use experts where possible: As the main spokesman for BearWatch, I do not try and sell myself as the bear expert. Rather I cite bear biologists and other experts.

Compromise sometimes: BearWatch tries to be reasonable in negotiations and has compromised on some issues.

Stick with it: In wildlife conservation, governors and state game commissions change over the years, we’ve found that there is progress and regression in wildlife conservation. You have to constantly educate the newcomers. Tenacity seems to be the formula that has worked BW.

Be personally tough: When you are winning the argument, your adversaries may turn on you. We steel ourselves for such personal attacks. Our response is cool-headed using fact and logic.

It’s all politics: every major gain in bear conservation has had political aspects. You must play the political angle. You must understand the pros and cons on every issue for everyone with a vested interest: conservationists, hunters, outfitters, game and fish, politicians, taxpayers, etc.

Shine the public spotlight on important issues: The press has been our largest supporter for bear conservation. This has been our big stick and we use it as often as possible. When speaking with the press, we measure words carefully. We try not to appear strident. Shrill, strident statements turn off the general public. When the authorities do well, we are first to publicly congratulate them.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate! I find that most people don’t communicate well, especially men! (p.s. My husband wrote this page.)