In a perfect world, Earth Day — celebrated worldwide each year on April 22 — would remind hunters and anglers, as well as those who are more generally described as "environmentalists," that only by working together can today's manifold threats to land, water, air, fish and wildlife be effectively countered.

The 1970 brainchild of Gaylord Nelson, then a U.S. senator from Wisconsin, Earth Day was initially organized as a "teach-in'' to be held on college campuses. April 22 was chosen because it marked "a weekday falling between spring break and final exams to maximize the greatest student participation.''

Initial Earth Day gatherings were successful because they capitalized on the revulsion many Americans felt following multiple environmental catastrophes, including the 1969 Santa Barbara, Calif., blowout that spewed oil into the ocean for 11 consecutive days.

It's unlikely the first Earth Day would have gathered much attention, or participation, if Nelson hadn't leveraged the tactics and rage of 1960s-era anti-Vietnam War protests.

"I am convinced that the same concern the youth of this nation took in changing this nation's priorities on the war in Vietnam and on civil rights,'' Nelson said, "can be shown for the problem of the environment. That is why I plan to see to it that a national teach-in is held."

Nelson had served in the Wisconsin Legislature for 10 years and was that state's governor for four years before beginning an 18-year U.S. Senate career.

Growing up in Clear Lake, Wis., not far northeast of the Twin Cities, Nelson knew firsthand the popularity of hunting, fishing, canoeing, camping and boating.

These pastimes and the lifestyles of many Americans who enjoyed them were threatened, Nelson believed, by pollution and other environmental hazards. In 1963, he convinced President John F. Kennedy to barnstorm the U.S. speaking about the importance of conservation and the environment.

The whirlwind trip, Nelson hoped, would include "major speeches on water, on all aspects of conservation, explaining that every magazine in the country concerned about these issues, whether it's boating or fresh water or fishing or hunting, would run extensive pieces about the president's interest and it would arouse great and needed public concern about this matter.''

Accompanying Kennedy and Nelson on the national tour were Interior Secretary Stuart Udall and U.S. senators Hubert Humphrey, Gene McCarthy and Joe Clark. Such an important group preaching such an important message, Nelson thought, would propel environmental stewardship into the forefront of the American consciousness.

It didn't happen.

Instead, Nelson learned a lesson that Minnesota natural resource advocates have had to learn and relearn, namely that most politicians don't "get it'' about conservation, and among those who do, most rank the topic low on their list of political priorities.

Nelson also learned the media also often don't understand the importance of conservation.

"I had assumed the President's tour would focus national attention on the environment, but the reporters and editors had no understanding of the issue, thus no interest in it,'' Gaylord said. "It should also be said the President's speeches did not dramatically outline the profound implications of continued environmental deterioration.''

Fortunately, Nelson circumvented these roadblocks by founding Earth Day seven years later.

Unfortunately, American hunters and anglers have generally played no role in the celebration of, or even recognition of, Earth Day.

Which seems counterintuitive, because sportsmen and sportswomen have been at the forefront of conservation activism and funding since the nation's founding. Without them and the billions of dollars they've generated for land and water preservation and reclamation, the U.S. would appear a mere shadow of its original self.

Yet, in truth, many of these efforts have been initiated to ensure that enough habitat exists to support game and fish populations for hunters and anglers to pursue and harvest.

What's needed now is for American sportsmen and sportswomen, and their progeny, to recognize that present-day threats to land, water, air and other natural resources are so pervasive the simple purchase of a hunting or fishing license, and the conservation management and funding that flow from it, are no longer enough to provide the habitat that fish and wildlife — or people — need.

Similarly, those with greener concerns should align themselves more often with hunters and anglers.

It's been done before in Minnesota, with benefits.

In 2008, a coalition of "Guns and Greens" — hunters, anglers and environmentalists — defeated a decade's worth of legislative inaction to place a constitutional amendment on the statewide ballot that would dedicate a fraction of the state sales tax to conservation, cultural heritage and the arts.

Given the opportunity to vote on the matter themselves, with legislators finally out of the picture, Minnesotans overwhelmingly approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment.

That success should be a reminder on the eve of Earth Day 2023 that the only way we're going to conserve enough natural resources for each of us to enjoy and utilize is by working together.