Produced by: Madison Bess
Cosmo Genova is an activist himself, as he runs a group called the Ithaca Area Hunting and Conservation Meetup Group, which gets people involved with hunting and fishing and to give them space to learn and congregate.
First, Genova contacted an organization called “Get Your GreenBack Tompkins,” which deals with sustainability. Genova said he reached out to them to start a mentorship program and community meetup group.
“Part of their idea of sustainability is the idea of people hunting and harvesting their own game and fish,” Genova said.
Genova was selected to be the moderator of their forum as a hunting and fishing expert.
“Through talking about my own goals, this group spread as a way to expand the scope of that, whereas on the forums you have to wait for people to respond and interact. With this, it is a little more active and trying to get people involved,” Genova said. “It creates a meeting space for people, we have expert presentations from people who are either local experts or nationally known experts.”
Genova said that hunting and fishing is becoming relevant to a new kind of demographic that it hasn’t been in the past, as many women are members of the group.
“The main goal of the group is to connect these people with these resources, answers their questions and gives experienced mentors the ability to give back to their community and give back to the activity and the passion of hunting and fishing,” Genova said.
Ryan Miga, a former Ithaca College student, said he joined the group because he has zero hunting experience, and he joined in hopes of learning from others in the group.
“I think hunting is an important part of environmental conservation and resource management. From an ethical point of view, as a meat-eater, I’d like to have some direct experience with harvesting animals,” he said. “Hunting and fishing are also necessary skills for resilient communities in an uncertain future.”
Michael Lenetsky, an Ithaca, New York resident and fly fisherman, said the Ithaca Area Hunting and Conservation Group is a ground level, grass-roots organization that allows hunters, fishers and other outdoor sports enthusiasts to get together and talk.
“From that point, it is possible to share knowledge, disseminate information and identify various issues that can allow for various types of environmental activism,” Lenetsky said.
Additionally, the group’s Facebook page makes it helpful for those who can’t attend every meeting, or even for those who do not live in the area.
Lenetsky said his current involvement with the group is limited to awareness and participation in electronic social media.
“I am familiar with the group and have taken the time to follow many of the posts placed on the Facebook Group Page. I have looked at links, taken the time to understand some of the issues and posted some comments,” Lenetsky said. “So far, actual meetings have conflicted with other commitments. I hope that one day, I will have the opportunity to attend the physical meetings and participate in that forum.”
Since some of the topics are controversial, Genova said the group gives people the language to talk about these topics.
“There are a lot of misconceptions out there when it comes to hunting and fishing. There are a lot of things that people believe about it that is untrue. A big part of the group is to give people the tools to have conversations about these things,” he said.
Genova said that in today’s day in age, anyone thinks that you can just beat a drum and march around and that’s activism. He said that to some extent that’s how change happens.
“For me, my view of activism is kind of the one-on-one conversations, the grassroots, small conversation to conversation type deal,” Genova said.
Genova explained that everyone loves wildlife and wild places, and in order to protect those, you need to have certain laws and regulations.
“Hunters were really the first people to do that,” he said. “If we look back at market hunting, the fur trade and all of these types of things, and even just commercial fishing, we really destroyed a lot of our natural resources because we thought they were just this limitless resource.”
Currently, the Meetup.com group online has about 88 to 90 people in it. There are people from all over the place that are members of the group through Meetup.
The group meetings tend to have a mixture of people, as some will have complete newbies, and some will have mentors.
“I will come up with a topic and we will sit down for our monthly meeting. I will give a presentation or someone else will. The other experienced people will chime in if I miss something. It’s a very nice mixture of people,” Genova said.
Genova said the first meeting had over 30 people attend from all different walks of life.
“Pretty consistently we have had over half the group be women, which is awesome, and I think that is really great,” he said.
In terms of goals, Genova plans to chase opportunity rather than chase the dream.
“I am hoping that this can mushroom into something bigger that I can pursue full time. I am making all the presentations and pouring money into it. I hope it becomes something more,” he said.
He said he is going to keep making content and spreading the word as much as he can in order to get his group to grow and expand.
“When the opportunity comes and I am able to capitalize on it, then that is kind of where we are going to go with it,” he said.