April 9, 2015
This is long. Be warned. If you suffer from short attention span… well, you probably blew this blog off long ago. So there it is.
When I hear someone blaring on with the negative stereotypes and generalizations about high fence hunting, I want to remind the speaker that these caricatures were first planted in our consciousness by the likes of Cleveland Amory and Ingrid Newkirk. In a classic demonstration of propaganda, they took the very worst examples of the industry and used the ignorance of the general public to portray them as the norm.
The ironic thing is that while the propaganda was fairly impotent at the time, at least as far as shutting down the high fence industry, the same stereotypes are being leveraged today by hunters to carry on the work that PETA was unable to achieve.
It has been my experience that many of the most vocal critics of high fence hunting are hunters who’ve never actually seen a high fence operation… at least not outside of the television screen. It has also been my experience that most of the commonly expressed opinions about high fence operations are based on ignorant assumptions about what it “must be” like, rather than what it’s really like… because, again, the speaker has never actually experienced it.
Seriously, if you’re opposed to the idea of high fence, that’s fine, but you need to be hyper-aware that you’re opposed to an idea that may or may not have any basis in reality. If you’ve never experienced a hunt (or even a tour) on a high fence ranch, then the basis of your negative opinion comes from your imagination. That should be reasonable cause to take a deeper look at your own attitudes, but at the very least, you ought to consider that before you go spouting off your hatred for something you really know nothing about and perpetuating false stereotypes.
The overwhelming majority of the non-hunting public know even less about it than hunters do. A pretty large contingent (maybe a majority) don’t even know there is such a thing as high fence hunting. And why would they?
However, their total ignorance makes them sponges for information from “reliable sources.” Guess who they think is reliable. Here’s a hint. The majority of non-hunters I’ve spoken to feel the same about PETA as we do… it’s a bunch of fringe, nut jobs. For the most part, the non-hunters turn a deaf ear to the noise from that front. But when a hunter talks about hunting, then there’s a reasonable expectation that the information is reliable.
Consider that, the next time you or someone you know is involved in a conversation with non-hunters about “canned hunting” or “shooting tame deer.” Neither of those cliches is remotely close to the reality of most high fence hunting, but not only is your non-hunting audience unaware of that, they’re not likely to bother to go find out for themselves. They’re going to take you at your word. You’re doing the work of PETA and Friends of Animals for them, and you’re doing it well.
This isn’t about ethics. Outside of some vague notions about fair chase, your non-hunting audience really doesn’t begin to grasp the esoteric concepts that wrap around hunters’ ethics. Sure, you can differentiate yourself from the guy who hunts high fence. You can make yourself look “evolved,” and you can be the “exception” to the non-hunter’s general idea of hunters. You can puff yourself up like the perfect peacock by running down everyone who doesn’t hunt like you do. I see hunters do it all the time. That non-hunter is going to have a pretty high opinion of you, because what does he have to compare it to? It’s sort of like convincing a toddler that his dad is the strongest man in the world. They just don’t know any better.
But what did that do to all the hunters who aren’t exactly like you? What does your non-hunting audience think about them? Odds are, he still feels the same about them as he did before. You’re an exception. They are not. Or worse… you’ve made them look so bad in that non-hunter’s eyes that his opinion is lower now than it was before. Have you ever spoken to a non-hunter, and had them say something like, “I’d feel better about hunting if all hunters were like you?”
Here’s the thing. If you got that response by running down other hunters who don’t hunt the way you do, or by perpetuating negative (and wrong) stereotypes about practices you don’t actually know anything about… high fence, bait, tree stands, crossbows, long range… well, I would hope like hell that all hunters are not like you, because you, my friend, are a far larger threat to the future of hunting than any number of high fence hunters will ever be.
I know that image is important. I know that, regardless of where their attitudes are shaped, non-hunters carry those attitudes to the polling places and vote accordingly. If they think poorly of hunters, then the poll results will reflect that. But why do they think poorly of hunters?
What shapes non-hunters’ attitudes about hunting?
Besides personal or family experience, non-hunters derive their ideas about hunting from media sources (including social media). Of course to us, hunters, we’re pretty sharply attuned so it seems like there’s always something out there, and it’s not usually positive. But fortunately, from the perspective of the non-hunter, hunting doesn’t make much news and it doesn’t really get all that much coverage in movies or television either.
What’s even more important in the context of my topic, is that non-hunters don’t really spend much time looking for hunting issues in the media. Unless something really significant happens, like an accidental shooting, the non-hunter is unlikely to even give it a second glance. It’s sort of like me and the US Cricket Association (and yeah, I had to look it up to see if there even was such a thing). There could be any amount of uproar and hullabaloo, but I don’t care about cricket. Why would I follow it in the news?
It strikes me that, when I talk to non-hunters (particularly in urban or suburban settings), they really have no concept of what hunting actually entails. They’re often shocked to learn that we don’t kill animals every time we go afield. Seriously, they think we just go out and shoot stuff. What I find even more surprising is how many of them never even considered that we actually eat the animals we kill, and gawk at me in disbelief when I tell them that we do. They often have no idea about seasons, limits, or even licenses… much less wildlife conservation or the weapons and methods we use. (And yes, I know there are many non-hunters out there who are more informed. My anecdotes are hardly a statistical model.)
And yet, despite the fact that they think we just go out and kill piles of animals with no intent to eat or utilize them, polls show that about three quarters of Americans view hunting favorably (and other polls show even higher acceptance when they know we plan to eat our kill).
Think about that.
That’s an important thing, I think, particularly when we (hunters) start talking about how our ethics are important to shape and manage public opinion… to protect our sport.
I don’t think it’s about our ethics at all. I think the real threat to our sport today is the people, often in influential positions within the hunting “community” (if it can really be called that), pouring down condemnation on their fellow hunters over arbitrary ideals. I think it’s about individuals who don’t really know what they’re talking about, spreading PETA’s lies and fabrications as if they were truth.
I’m not completely sure how this ripple became a groundswell, but if we don’t take a step back and pay attention to what we’re doing, it’s soon going to become a tidal wave.
July 22, 2014
Maybe this is lazy, but I’m going to share a link to someone else’s post about a topic I have never directly addressed. HSUS and their alleged campaign to “curb the most inhumane and unsporting abuses”
In the column, Mallicoat responds to a challenge to his criticism of the HSUS and their anti-hunting agenda. The commenter raised the argument that HSUS is not anti-hunting, but only seeks to promote ethical and humane hunting practices. As Mallicoat points out, HSUS’s record speaks for itself… efforts to ban mourning dove hunts, bear hunts, and other popular hunting practices.
But it was something else that I saw in the HSUS response to Mallicoat’s original column that I think deserves attention… and that’s the statement that “rank and file hunters” are in agreement with the HSUS efforts.
Where do they get that sort of idea? It doesn’t take a research expert to find examples of hunters attacking hunters over issues from high fence hunting to predator hunting. The HSUS can take its pick of hunters’ arguments that support their platform… or at least as much of that platform as they’re willing to disclose. And the hunters just keep feeding them.
I’m not using this as an opportunity to argue that hunters need to stand together regardless of our opinions, or that we have to support methods and practices with which we disagree. I think an open and ongoing discussion about ethics, safety, and conservation is valuable and good.
At the same time, I really wish more hunters would take a little more care in their criticisms of other hunters. Are you perpetuating a stereotype with your comments? How much do you really know about the practice with which you disagree? Consider your motivation for taking a stance against a practice, and ask yourself who is doing more harm to the future of our sport… the participants, or those who vilify them?
Just something to chew on. You can spit it out if you don’t like it.
March 18, 2014
A couple of weeks ago, the US Sportsmen’s Alliance (USSA) announced that they were opening a West Coast office in Sacramento. The USSA is an organization devoted to protecting hunting and fishing, and they’ve grown a lot since I first got involved with them several years ago. Most of their activity has been focused back east, and there’s been plenty for them to focus on, but this expansion promises (I hope) to bring some organizational strength and coordination to west coast sportsmen… particulary in California.
It sounds like they’re off to a good start.
California Sportsmen’s Coalition Formed
The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance (USSA) is excited to announce the formation of the Al Taucher Conservation Coalition (ATCC) developed to educate and inform California citizens on conservation issues. Coalition members comprise the leading conservation organizations in California whose collective memberships contribute more than $3.7 billion to the state’s economy.
“Members of this coalition represent the leading conservation groups throughout the state,” said Michael Flores, a former California Fish and Game Commissioner who is leading the USSA’s Western U.S. office in Sacramento. “I am happy that USSA’s newly formed west coast operation will provide a proactive platform for the ATCC to succeed.”
Al Taucher was a California Fish and Game Commissioner who wanted to protect California’s natural resources and preserve hunting and fishing opportunities by forming a committee of sportsmen and women who would provide policy input to the Fish and Game Commission. However, recent legislation directed the Commission, along with the Department of Fish and Wildlife, to implement the Wildlife Resources Committee (WRC). The WRC now includes groups whose sole purpose is to abolish hunting and fishing in California.
“We feel that too often now there is not enough balance in the discussions concerning wildlife and the best conservation practices,” said John Carlson Jr., president of the California Waterfowl Association. “We welcome USSA’s formation of a united coalition through the ATCC.”
Other coalition members echo that sentiment.
“It is next to impossible to work on issues important to my constituents when groups opposed to my very existence sit across the table from me,” said Jerry Springer, president of the California Deer Association.
ATCC coalition members include: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, California Waterfowl Association, Trout Unlimited, California Deer Association, California Houndsmen for Conservation, California Rifle and Pistol Association, National Wild Turkey Federation, Wilderness Unlimited, The Sportfishing Conservancy, Mule Deer Foundation, California Coalition of Diving Advocates, NRA Members Council, The Hunt for Truth Association, California Bowhunters Association, California Farm Bureau, National Open Field Coursing Association, Quail Forever and Pheasants Forever.
The ATCC will meet monthly and embark on an effort to educate the state’s policy makers and engage its members. It will form an executive committee with the ability to respond rapidly to the day’s issues. In addition the ATCC will work closely with USSA and its staff in helping create and keep a united coalition.
“Recreational fishermen and hunters are the original conservationists and it is critical that these responsible voices for the outdoors be heard,” said Tom Raftigan, president of the Sportfishing Conservancy. “I welcome USSA to California and the formation of the ATCC.”
About the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance: U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance (USSA) provides direct lobbying and grassroots coalition building to support, protect and advance the rights of hunters, trappers, anglers and scientific wildlife management professionals. The USSA is the only organization exclusively devoted to combating the attacks made on America’s sportsman traditions by anti-hunting and animal rights extremists. USSA is a national organization which recently announced the opening of a Western U.S. office in Sacramento. USSA is a 501(c)4 organization. Stay connected to USSA: Online, Facebook and Twitter.
February 16, 2014
It’s only fair to follow up on last week’s post in regards to comments made by Fish and Game Commission President, Michael Sutton. If you didn’t read that post, or other articles on the topic (it was hardly mainstream news), Sutton said in a web conference, hosted by the animal rights organization, HSUS, that legal hunting in CA might be a bigger problem than poaching.
Along with some other outdoors writers, and (hopefully) many CA sportsmen, I took Sutton to task here on the Hog Blog. I also sent a harshly critical email to the Fish and Game Commission. In response, Sutton wrote a letter to Sonke Mastrup, Executive Director of the CA Fish and Game Commission that purports to “set the record straight” about Sutton’s views on legal hunting. You can read Sutton’s official statement on the Fish and Game Commission website, but I’ll save you the effort and copy the body of it here:
Earlier this week, my quotes in a press account of a webinar in which I participated on the illegal wildlife trade gave rise to confusion regarding my attitude towards legal hunting in California. I’m writing to set the record straight.
I fully support legal, well-regulated, science-based hunting in California. As you know, I’ve been an active hunter and fisherman most of my life and I recognize the vital contributions hunters make to wildlife conservation. Further, I believe that hunting in California is well managed by our Commission and the Department of Fish & Wildlife, using the best available science. I am unaware of any legal, managed hunting today in our state that contributes to the decline of our native wildlife. Both the Commission and the Department continually strive to improve our stewardship of wildlife in California.
Thanks for the opportunity to clarify my position and clear up any misunderstandings that may have arisen as a result of my comments during the webinar earlier this week. I apologize for the confusion and hope that this letter serves to forestall any misinterpretation of my position on hunting. You are welcome to circulate this to anyone who may inquire.
How you interpret Sutton’s words here is up to you. But what I see is… well, nothing. There are three paragraphs of empty words, none of which either explain or excuse the statement he made in the conference. In fact, what he says here is in direct contradiction to what he said in the conference. So which is it, Mr. Sutton?
Michael Sutton has demonstrated an antagonistic attitude toward CA sportsmen since he was named to the Commission in 2007. In fact during one of his first interviews as a Commissioner, in Cal Waterfowl magazine, Sutton explicitly stated that he doesn’t care much for big game hunting.
Sutton: My stint as a federal game warden soured me on big game hunting. Today I’m involved mainly in wing-shooting and fly-fishing. Each year I hunt chukars in Idaho, pheasants in South Dakota, and fish trout, steelhead, and salmon throughout the American west.
Now I suppose you could take that in other ways, but given the negativity and even comptempt he has shown in dealing with hunters and fishermen through discussions about the MLPA, the lead ammo ban, and the railroading of former Commissioner Dan Richards, it’s pretty obvious to me that Sutton’s negative attitude is reflected in his actions on the Commission. When you combine this with his questionable (at best) role in the passage of the MLPA regulations and the lead ammo ban expansion, it seems clear that this man is not suited to be part of the CA Fish and Game Commission.
It’s up to you, CA hunters and fishermen. Turn your back, get on with your own affairs, and let this fall where it may. Hell, it’s just politics, right? But if you take that path, you’ll have no one to blame but yourselves when you see one hunting or fishing opportunity after another stripped away. The CA Fish and Game Commission is almost completely made up now of bureaucrats with little or no involvement in hunting or fishing (the exception being Commissioner Jim Kellogg). They have no stake in the future of either pursuit, and as such they are subject to the constant ministrations of HSUS, Audubon, and other animal rights/anti-hunting organizations.
Or you can take an active role. Contact Sonke Mastrup, Executive Director of the CA Fish and Game Commission. Use email, phone calls, and snail mail. And contact your state representatives in Sacramento. Demand fair representation for hunters and fishermen on the FGC.
February 13, 2014
… with a 9-pound sledge.
I’ve mentioned before how California’s wildlife management decisions are falling more and more victim to the influence of animal rights organizations, like HSUS. The lobbying group has gone beyond just showing up at occasional meetings, and has managed to embed itself in both the legislature and the Fish and Game agencies (Fish and Game Commission and Dept. of Fish and Game). And the venom is slowly seeping in… infecting the whole organism.
To the uninformed, the whole thing probably seems fairly innocuous. In fact, on the outside it looks like HSUS is doing good things, such as working with the DFG to enhance their abilities to fight poaching. They even convened a nice little showcase of their efforts recently in a web conference on the topic. The panelists in the conference included representatives from DFG and the Fish and Game Commission, notably, Commissioner Michael Sutton. And, of course, they said all the right things to show what a huge problem poaching is in CA, and how their mutual efforts to apprehend and punish the perpetrators are paying off.
But Sutton let something slip that wasn’t the “right thing” at all. Here’s a snip from from independent public television station, KCET’s coverage of the conference:
As Fish and Game Commission president Mike Sutton pointed out during the panel, California’s wildlife face other threats in addition to poaching. In some cases, said Sutton, actual legal hunting or harvesting of wildlife may cause greater overall problems. “I actually believe legal hunting that’s not sustainable may be a more pervasive problem in California,” said Sutton.
Now, I’m just not even sure where to start with this.
First, and to be as fair as I can, I didn’t participate in the web conference and I haven’t spoken to Mr. Sutton to find out what he meant by that statement. As far as I’ve been able to find, no one else has either. Maybe he was misquoted. Maybe he didn’t mean that to come out the way it did. Those are possibilities.
But if we take this at face value, which I think is as fair as anything else, it looks pretty bad.
First of all, let’s look at the argument that there might be unsustainable, legal hunting in California. What does that look like? I think that, with the exception of anti-hunting organizations, it’s generally recognized that regulated sport hunting is, by nature, sustainable. In fact, I’d argue that it’s better than sustainable… it presents a net benefit for the resource. If it’s true that CA allows unsustainable hunting practices to continue under the law, then there is a problem. And that problem lies at the feet of the CA Fish and Wildlife Commission. They are, after all, the rule-makers. And Michael Sutton is the Commission’s president.
But, if this were the case, then I’d like to clearly understand what those unsustainable, legal practices are. What proposals are in place to curtail them, and ensure that the Golden State’s sportsmen aren’t unwittingly (or not) doing more harm than poachers?
But, since this is my blog and I get to hypothesize, my money says the “unsustainable” practices trend more toward those activities with which HSUS tends to take issue… bear and bobcat hunting, the use of hounds, etc. There’s no question someone in the Commission has bent a sympathetic ear to Jennifer Fearing and Co., and Michael Sutton is one obvious choice.
The problem, as I see it, is that Sutton’s comment was more reflective of his personal antipathy toward sport hunters than any quantifiable wildlife management challenge. It was an antagonistic statement, and in light of it, I think it’s valid to question his objectivity in the decision-making process. Given previous challenges to his impartiality, including allegations of conflict of interest in both the lead ammo ban regulations and the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) regulations, it’s worth arguing that Sutton’s continued presence on the Fish and Wildlife Commission would only serve as a distraction to the completion of business from this point forward.
I’ve said it ad nauseum, and I’ll do it some more… California hunters need to take the CA Fish and Wildlife Commission by the horns. The animal rights concerns are gaining ground because they’re doing what CA sportsmen haven’t done… getting directly involved in the process, making noise without stop, and never giving up. They’re putting their money on the line, funding poaching hotlines and rewards, and the non-hunting public is buying it all with wide-eyed ignorance. Hunters and fishermen need to start doing the same.
A good start would be to contact your representatives, as well as the Fish and Wildlife Commission, and demand that Sutton be removed from the Commission altogether. Then stay involved, and make sure that his replacement is someone who CA sportsmen can count on to support their interests. That’s not enough, but it’s a start.
Hat tip to Jim Matthews of the Outdoor News Service (ONS) for alerting me to this topic.
April 8, 2013
OK, I don’t know if this is a good idea or not, but this somehow found its way into my email and I couldn’t think of a better place to share…
There are so many things I could say here, but so few of those things are constructive. So I’ll leave it at face value, unedited and unremarked… for now.
For Immediate Release:
April 8, 2013
Kaitlynn Kelly 202-540-2202; KaitlynnK@peta.org
PETA TO ACQUIRE DRONES TO STALK HUNTERS
Group Will Go High-Tech This Fall to Bust Lawbreakers Who Leave Animals to Die and More
Norfolk, Va. — PETA will soon have some impressive new weapons at its disposal to combat those who gun down deer and doves. The group is shopping for one or more drone aircraft with which to monitor those who are out in the woods with death on their minds. PETA aims to collect video footage of any illegal activity, including drinking while in the possession of a firearm, a common complaint from those who live near wooded areas; maiming animals and failing to pursue them so that they die slowly and painfully; and using spotlights, feed lures, and other hunting tricks that are illegal in some areas but remain common practices among hunters. PETA currently has its sights on Australia-based Aerobot and its state-of-the-art remote-controlled CineStar Octocopter.
“The talk is usually about drones being used as killing machines, but PETA drones will be used to save lives,” says PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk. “Slob hunters may need to rethink the idea that they can get away with murder, alone out there in the woods with no one watching.”
Hunters, using high-powered guns and bows and arrows, slaughter and maim millions of animals every year, and by some estimates, poachers kill just as many animals illegally. It can take weeks for some animals who are merely wounded to succumb to their injuries. And research shows that for every animal killed by a bow hunter, another is maimed, never to be found again. Furthermore, the slaughtered animals aren’t the only victims, because weak or young family members are left to starve or be attacked by predators.
PETA also intends to fly the drones over factory farms, popular fishing spots, and other venues where animals routinely suffer and die.
August 8, 2012
Well, this shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone with a lick of imagination, but Dan Richards has apparently been voted out of the office of President of the CA Fish and Game Commission. I don’t have all the details, but apparently some of the other four board members were able to manipulate the Commission rules to hold a vote and replace Richards with commissioner Jim Kellogg. The position of President was initially based on seniority, but in a vote in May, the Commission changed the bylaws so that the Presidency would be decided by simple majority.
For those with short memories, Richards was at the center of a crapstorm earlier this year for participating in a mountain lion hunt over in Idaho. After photos of his success were circulated on the Internet, calls came swiftly from anti-hunting organizations for him to step down from the Commission. Richards’s reactions to the criticism were, to say the least, not very diplomatic. Whatever support he may have had in Sacramento is certain to have backed off a step or two during the flameout, and odds are very good that when his term expires in six months, Governor Brown will not reappoint him to the Commission.
The bright side is that, until then, Richards is still a voting member of the Commission. He and Jim Kellogg are the only voices in the group of five commissioners who have demonstrated any appreciable consideration for the concerns of California’s hunting and fishing community. His loss may well be the killing blow to any semblance of common sense in hunting and fishing regulation in CA unless the state’s sportsmen get active and lobby the Governor to either reappoint Richards, or find another pro-hunting Commissioner. Two other commissioners, Richard Rogers and Mike Sutton have demonstrated minimal support for hunters or fishermen on key regulatory issues, including the lead ammo ban (Sutton is the executive director of Audubon California, a strong proponent of the lead ammo ban) and the closures of fishing areas along the coast.
The newest commissioner, Jack Bayliss, has so far not shown his colors… at least to my knowledge. But then, I haven’t paid quite as close attention to the FGC since moving to Texas, and haven’t actually followed the meetings (they post the meeting agenda, discussion topics, and videos on the FGC website). Nevertheless, I don’t think I’m reaching when I suggest that the loss of Richards, without an equally outspoken proponent of common sense, hunting and fishing regulations, will give the environmental and anti-hunting organizations a dangerous level of power in the Commission. The HSUS has already demonstrated their ability to manipulate the regulatory process and drive their agenda on the backs of CA politicians and lawmakers.
Eternal vigilance, folks. California hunters, you aren’t going to be able to sit back and expect Sacramento to carry your best interests, and you’re not going to be able to rest on your laurels when you think you’ve defeated the anti-hunting agenda. As you saw, the hound hunting legislation went right by you while you were celebrating your “victory” only a few days earlier. The huge outpouring of support for Dan Richards was nowhere to be found at the subsequent FGC meetings, and this ouster came with only one individual on hand to speak in favor of keeping Richards in place. The agenda of organizations like HSUS will continue to advance if hunters are not providing constant, and vocal, opposition.
July 2, 2012
As mentioned here and other places last week, there is no time to rest on the laurels of success after stopping the passage of SB 1221. The bill to ban hunting bear bobcats with hounds narrowly failed to make it out of the Assembly last week, thanks to the calls and presence of CA hunters. But it ain’t dead yet… the bill is being heard again soon.
This, from the US Sportman’s Association:
California Senate Bill 1221, banning the use of dogs to hunt bear and bobcats, is scheduled to be heard in the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks, and Wildlife on Tuesday, June 26th at 9 a.m. in Room 4202.
The bill, sponsored by the nation’s largest anti-hunting organization –the Humane Society of the United States– has already passed out of the California Senate.
Bear and bobcat hunting with hounds is a humane and effective means to hunt bear and bobcat, helping control the state’s growing bear populations. Nearly 60 percent of the states that have bear hunting seasons allow the use of dogs and 70 percent of states that have more than 2,000 bears (like California) allow them.
“This bill is just the latest assault on hunters by the anti-hunting lobby’s biggest player, HSUS,” said Evan Heusinkveld, U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance director of state services. “The bill ignores sound science and only serves to further the group’s ultimate goal of banning all hunting. California sportsmen need to do all they can to try and stop this bill.”
Take Action! California sportsmen must contact their state assembly members today and tell them to vote NO on Senate Bill 1221. Visit USSA’s Legislative Action Center to find your state assembly member’s contact information.
June 28, 2012
This is a couple of days old, and I apologize for not keeping on top of it. I expect ya’ll don’t rely on me for breaking news anyway, so I don’t feel too bad. However, I’d be totally remiss if I didn’t at least mention the successful efforts of CA hunters to band together and fight this bill. This is what we need more of, both in CA and across the country. We may not all be houndsmen, but we are all hunters.
The reason this is a “cautious congratulations” is that the bill only failed by a single vote. It’s far from dead, as it can easily be reintroduced for another vote. Don’t lose focus now in the rush to pat one another on the back. Maybe the CA hunting community is finally generating a little synchronous momentum. Let’s keep it going!
June 14, 2012
There’s been a lot of press lately concerning HR4089, AKA The Sportsman’s Heritage Act of 2012 .
In a nutshell, the act is intended to ensure continued opportunities for hunting, shooting, and fishing on federal lands. The act is, in part, a response to multiple recent efforts by environmentalists and anti-hunters to close some federal lands to hunting and target shooting under the arguments that these activities infringe on the experience of non-hunting visitors (backpackers, bird watchers, etc.), present a safety hazard to other visitors, or that they present a danger to protected species (such as the desert tortoise or California condor).
I’ve been following the story, sometimes casually and sometimes quite closely because I’m honestly trying to understand both sides of the argument.
On the one side, we have opponents of the bill. Their arguments boil down to:
- The bill would open “all” federal lands to hunting
- The bill would open wilderness areas to vehicular traffic
- The bill would create a dangerous environment for non-hunters
- The bill would open wilderness areas to logging and mining
On the other side, the arguments focus on things like:
- The current loss of access for hunting, shooting, and fishing
- The decline in the number of hunters, shooters, and fishermen
- The potential loss of tax and fees as less people hunt, shoot, and fish
- The efforts by non-hunting and anti-hunting organizations to close more public lands to hunters, shooters, and fishermen
There’s a lot more going on in the debate, but these seem to be the key discussion points.
So where’s the truth? Personally, I’m pretty cynical any time politicians start cooking up laws with attracive names (Sportsmen’s Heritage Act… really?). I get even more suspicious when they start trying to sneak the bills in on the coat tails of other bills (in this case, they’ve attached it to the new Farm Bill… which is a monstrosity in its own right). At the same time, I’ve lost all faith in organizations like Center for Biological Diversity and others who call themselves “conservationists”, but tend toward the extremes when it comes to environmental and animal rights issues. The CBD, in particular, has really stooped to new lows in misinformation and even downright lying to fatten the donation coffers and push their various agendas.
To begin my personal quest for elucidation, I read HR 4089. I recommend this course of action to any interested parties. The actual text provides a pretty solid baseline from which to launch into interpretation and dissection. I’m tempted to post the bill in its entirety, but I think it’s probably more reasonable to provide a link directly to the US Government Printing Office, where you can review a certified (unadulterated) copy. This way, you can be sure that I haven’t made any alterations to support my own arguments.
Let’s be clear here, in case there’s any doubt. I am not a lawyer. I am not a politician. I’m just a guy with reasonable intelligence and a lot of questions. I am a lifelong hunter, shooter, and fisherman, so I admit that I may have a bias in this issue. However, I think people who know me, and maybe those who’ve read my writing over time, would agree that I usually take a pretty balanced point of view when it comes to sorting out this kind of thing.
Also, I recognize that documents drafted by lawyers and politicians can carry layers and layers of nuance. It can be dangerous to take these things at face value, and that a layman’s read of these documents may have little relationship to what it’s really saying. But then again, words can only be twisted so far. I believe a logical and careful reading can expose most of the sneaky stuff.
So here’s my take, after reading through the document a few times.
First of all, the bill’s language takes pains to make two things clear. One is that nothing in the bill changes existing laws, regulations, or policies that relate to the prohibition or allowance of hunting, shooting, or fishing on federal lands. If a place, like a national park, is closed to recreational hunting due to existing rules, then it stays closed. If a wilderness area is closed to vehicular traffic in order to preserve the habitat and wilderness environment, it will stay closed to vehicular traffic. No matter how I tried to twist the language, I couldn’t make it spell out a requirement to build roads, quad trails, or anything else in existing wilderness areas. It does, however, clearly state that providing access for hunting, shooting, and fishing should be a priority on lands where such activities are not otherwise prohibited. That is, indeed, the stated purpose of the bill.
The second thing it clarifies is that any new changes to prohibit or restric hunting, shooting, or fishing on federal lands that are currently open must be justified by legitimate considerations such as safety, scientifically proven environmental sensitivity, or national security. These restrictions must then be revisited and approved on a regular basis.
The bill also makes clear that management of the public lands, whether National Parks, BLM, or National Forest remains in the hands of the current managers. These managers are still authorized and charged to develop and implement land management decisions… including hunting, shooting, and fishing access. However, decisions that restrict those uses must meet the above requirements, and must be reviewed regularly. It’s clear, by the way, that public safety is both a legitimate and reasonable rationale for restricting hunting and shooting in some places. It is also clear that the bill will require the land managers to justify their decisions to prohibit hunting, shooting, or fishing and that future management plans must address these uses. After the issue in the Los Padres National Forest last year (or was it 2010?), I have to agree that this level of accountability and oversight is necessary and good. It may place a little additional burden on the land managers, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
There were a couple of points in HR4089 that I found intriguing. The first was the stipulation that, even on public lands closed to hunting, volunteers could be utilized to manage populations (e.g. elk, deer, and feral hogs). This is already in practice in some places (Rocky Mountain National Park, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, etc.), and if I understand the bill correctly, this would extend to any federal land where such a program could be safely utilized. I don’t think that’s a bad idea at all. The other interesting addition was the section that apparently seeks to clarify the language in the Toxic Substances Control Act that prohibits the EPA from regulating lead ammunition and fishing tackle. This is clearly an effort to head off the assault by the CBD and associated organizations to force the EPA to ban lead ammo and fishing tackle. I don’t know if it’s really warranted, but I don’t see it as a harmful addition.
What I really don’t see here is anything that specifically does any of the things the bill’s opponents are claiming. In fact, to my eyes, the bill addresses most of these concerns directly.
Am I missing something? I don’t think so, but I’m open to other perspectives.