California Waterfowl Steps Up Their Advocacy Game

November 8, 2016

Let me start with this.

Many years ago, when I first got involved with Ducks Unlimited, I stayed with the organization because they were focused.  Waterfowl habitat preservation and management were the name of the game.  The organization did not veer off into the divisive politics of the 2nd Amendment, or involve itself in hunting topics that were not directly related to waterfowl or habitat.  “It’s for the birds,” was not just the axiom, but the reality.

Later, when I moved to California, I joined the California Waterfowl Association for similar reasons.  They were focused on waterfowl, specifically CA waterfowl.  It made sense to me, to belong to both DU and CWA, since California is such a huge state, with very localized issues that are critical to the Pacific flyway.  Like DU, they were seldom involved in political issues that did not relate directly to the mission.

But that may be changing…

This morning, in my email, I saw the following press release:

CWA Establishes Legislative Action Fund

The political climate in California for hunting, guns, water supply and land management issues is dire.

That’s why California Waterfowl formed the California Waterfowl Legislative Action Fund. With your help, the CWLAF will protect waterfowl interests and sportsmen from this ever-worsening erosion of our rights.

Our Goals:

  • Better educate officials, particularly state and federal legislators, about water conservation, wetlands and hunting heritage issues.
  • Improve access and influence for waterfowl interests and sportsmen at the State Capitol and Washington D.C.

California is becoming more urban, and a greater number of state and federal officeholders are elected who do not understand the important role hunters play in wildlife conservation.

Meanwhile, animal rights and anti-gun organizations are increasing their influence at the state and federal levels.

On top of all that, competing demands for water continue to increase, while waterfowl habitat is threatened by urban growth.

The California Waterfowl Legislative Action Fund was formed to fight these trends through political advocacy, education and public outreach efforts.

It is critical that we be as effective as possible in informing legislators and the general public about sportsmen’s important contributions to society.

By supporting us, you will make those necessary education and outreach efforts to decision-makers more successful.

You will also help us fight back against anti-hunting and anti-gun extremists threatening to take our outdoor heritage and rights away.

So donate today! Visit

At first glance, I was a little bit disappointed to see this.  While the goals stated above appear to maintain the focus on waterfowl and habitat, I saw it veering into the murky realm of defending “gun rights”, and possible entanglement in the sucking morass that is the battle against anti-hunters in Sacramento.  While I’m not a member now (I don’t live in CA anymore), I don’t think I would have been happy to see my membership fees diverted from habitat protection, acquisition, and management.

In comparison, this is generally ground that Ducks Unlimited does not tread, and I think they have benefited from keeping clear.  DU funds go to the specific mission, and nothing else.  Bypassing the divisive political issues, like 2nd Amendment or broad ethical fights that have nothing to do with waterfowl or habitat, has allowed the organization to keep a fairly diverse membership across the country.  Of course, their position has not come without criticism, but the results have been largely positive.

Still, Cal Waterfowl is not DU, and California is not the whole country (plus Canada and Mexico, where DU is also engaged).  There are very real and specific, localized threats to all hunting in the state, including waterfowl hunting.  The more I thought about it, the more I recognized that this change is probably necessary.

Most of the organizations in California that profess to hunter advocacy have morphed, in one way or another, into gun rights organizations.  The focus has shifted to fighting gun policies, which is mostly justifiable, but the platforms are verging on NRA-level extremism.  The fact is that many hunters do not agree with these extremist positions, and as a result, they withdraw both their support and their engagement… and with them goes a critical degree of political strength.    In California, of all places, hunters need all the political clout they can get.

With the exception of the Sportsmen’s Alliance, Golden State hunters really have no organization committed to fighting the myriad threats to hunting, whether it’s misguided legislation or threats to hunting access on State and Federal lands.  And no other sportsmen’s organization is taking on the water issues that are wracking the state right now.  CWA is generally respected and well-positioned to take up that banner.

Like I said, I’m not in CA any more, and if I’m completely honest, I’ve sort of surrendered much hope in changing the political direction of gun and hunting policies in that state.  It’s one of the reasons I chose to move away.  But for those who are still living there, by choice or by necessity, I think it’s worth giving the Cal Waterfowl Legislative Action Fund a close look… and maybe giving them a few of your hard-earned dollars as well.


5 Responses to “California Waterfowl Steps Up Their Advocacy Game”

  1. California Waterfowl Steps Up Their Advocacy Game | on November 8th, 2016 08:37

    […] California Waterfowl Steps Up Their Advocacy Game […]

  2. Holly Heyser on November 8th, 2016 17:04

    Thank you, Phillip!

    You know this is something near and dear to my heart. One of the reasons I quit a state job with plush benefits and 4 months off each year to join California Waterfowl was *precisely* because the organization understands that habitat work alone is not enough.

    Hunters are the ones who fund the lion’s share of habitat restoration and improvement, so CWA works to train the next generation of hunters and conservationists with some amazing education programs (just did one this weekend – the Novice Women’s Duck Hunt), and it works to support laws and regulations that help keep hunters in the game (and to fight measures that would suppress hunting participation).

    I’m pretty proud of our policy team. They’ve helped extend junior hunting license eligibility by two years, secure water for drought-stricken wetland areas, and minimize the unintended consequences – where possible – of gun legislation on hunters. And since you and I are FB pals, you know I express this pride on my private FB page, not just as a spokeswoman of the organization.

    Supporting candidates and officeholders is the next logical step, but I don’t think it’s going to lead to the extremism you fear.

  3. Phillip on November 9th, 2016 04:52

    Holly, I know you’re there and why you’re there, and I support all of it. I do believe that CWA can steer around the extremist political positions, as long as good, even-headed folks like yourself are in the fight. I also believe this can be a good thing for CA waterfowl, as well as CA waterfowl hunters.

    Lots of potential here. I wish you all the best in realizing it!

  4. Steve Langdon on November 8th, 2016 22:34

    Good points.
    Unfortunately some of the worst anti hunting propaganda comes from California and this change is probably a serious necessity
    California is long past due for Hunters to step up and make their voices heard. Some have for years but not enough. Hopefully this new path will help. I wish them all the luck!!

  5. Phillip on November 9th, 2016 04:53

    Thanks for dropping in, Steve. And yes, it’s definitely past time for CA hunters to step up and get actively involved in protecting their interests. Too much has been allowed to happen already.