Hunters and anglers are viewing with apprehension and concern President Obama’s nomination of Sally Jewell to be the new Secretary of the Interior. As the steward of hundreds of millions of acres of public lands – held by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the National Park Service (NPS), and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) – the Secretary plays a critical role in managing these lands including policies impacting access, hunting opportunities, and wildlife management. Jewell’s close association with interests hostile to hunters, hunting access, and traditional wildlife management has USSA watching her confirmation closely.
It’s common this time of year for political pundits to speculate how the new 113th Congress will impact the lives of everyday Americans. Sportsmen are no different. We also wonder how a newly constituted government made up of a confidently re-elected, lame duck President Obama, a Senate where Democrats increased their majority, and a House where Republicans held fast to their strong majority will make a difference to the future of hunting, fishing, trapping, recreational shooting and more.
The most important thing that the government can do for American sportsmen and women is nothing. Much like the Hippocratic Oath physicians takes upon becoming licensed to practice medicine – “Do No Harm” should be our first wish from the new Congress. However, an increasingly urban country – and urban-based politicians – demands that hunters and anglers emerge from our defensive bunkers, and try to put in place laws that will protect our precious heritage for generations to come.
On December 5th, the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation along with its partners in the case (Safari Club International, Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association, and United Sportsmen of Wisconsin) filed our final arguments in the Wisconsin lawsuit seeking to ban hunting wolves using dogs.
We made several arguments why Judge Anderson should dismiss the case and allow wolf hunting with dogs to move forward. But here’s the best one – Wisconsin law does not permit the Department of Natural Resources to create the unreasonable restrictions on hunting wolves using dogs that the anti-wolf hunting groups want. Here’s why:
Earlier this month, the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation reported on an anti-hunting lawsuit aimed at stopping Wisconsin’s wolf hunt. The lawsuit, filed by a coalition of Wisconsin humane societies and several individuals, against the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), claims that the use of dogs to hunt wolves violates the state’s animal cruelty laws and seeks to block the issuance of all wolf hunting licenses. Despite the fact that the State’s animal cruelty laws do not apply to hunting, the groups claim that hunting wolves using dogs will result in dog fighting and that it violates the animal cruelty law.
Apparently worried that their case could be thrown out, the anti-hunting groups have filed an amended complaint with some new allegations about wolf hunters and hunting. The claims are so outrageous that I’m not sure whether sportsmen should be furious or just laugh. Here they are:
The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance has long been concerned over provisions within the Endangered Species Act that anti-hunting groups are using more and more to get large government payouts for filing lawsuits that do not help the recovery of threatened or endangered species. Many of these lawsuits even threaten to stop hunting, fishing, or trapping.
Documents provided by the U.S. Department of Justice to the House Natural Resources Committee show that our federal government is giving millions of taxpayer dollars to anti-hunting organizations. Anti-hunting groups like the Center for Biological Diversity, the Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Sierra Club are cashing in – on your dime.
In a July 23rd memo titled “Greening Headquarters Update” the United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) encouraged its employees to participate in “Meatless Mondays” where employees would forgo eating any meat on Mondays.
The USDA’s “Meatless Monday” memo (see page 3) reads like it could have come straight from an animal rights organization’s website. Here are some quotes:
If you hunt with dogs, know someone who hunts with dogs, or might want to own a hunting dog someday, you need to be aware of a focused campaign by animal rights organizations to regulate dog owners—and dog breeders—out of existence.
The animal rights folks’ idea is simple – bury sporting dog and hobby breeders under a mountain of unnecessary and costly regulations until none are left. Why? Because many of them want to eliminate hunting with dogs, breeding purebred dogs, and all dog breeding.
Generally, we see most of their efforts at the state level. Already this year, more than 90 bills have been introduced across the country that could be harmful for sporting dog owners. Recently, the animal rights lobby persuaded the federal government to propose new rules that would expand the number and types of dog owners the federal government regulates. Here’s why sportsmen should be worried:
For many sportsmen and women the summer months are spent staring at a calendar and crossing off days until the fall hunting seasons start back up. Online sportsmen forums are filled with posts titled “100 days till deer season” or “Only 60 more days till the dove opener” and posts on Facebook or Twitter by your hunting friends often read “Going out to shoot the bow, is it November yet?”
Although the summer can be a dull time for sportsmen it is an excellent opportunity for sportsmen to work to protect their hunting rights. Here are a few easy things you can do to help protect your hunting rights.
Yesterday, the democratic system worked in California. For months sportsmen have been waiting for this moment. For months they’ve been calling their legislators. They’ve driven thousands of miles to the state capital to overwhelmingly pack hearing rooms with opponents of SB 1221. They’ve answered every false charge with the facts about hunting with hounds. They’ve exposed the real agenda of the proponents of the bill.
They watched as anti-hunting Senators added the hunting ban language to a bill that was originally about air quality standards. They watched anti-hunting groups lie to members of a Senate Committee without being challenged to back up their false claims. They watched formerly pro-sportsmen legislators with the opportunity to kill SB 1221 switch sides “so that debate could continue.” They watched as a Republican Senator, recently endorsed by the Humane Society of the United States for his Congressional race, supplied the deciding vote on the Senate floor.
They watched and wondered. Were their efforts making any difference at all? Many of them contacted the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance to search for new methods of attack. A new strategy. Something.
Their Efforts Paid Off
In March and April, bi-partisan majorities in the House Natural Resources Committee and the full U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 4089, the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act of 2012. The most significant fishing, hunting, and shooting legislation passed in the last 15 years, the bill included two primary features: (1) confirmation of federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rulings that the agency does not have authority to ban lead in ammunition or fishing gear and (2) game changing new law establishing that Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service lands (totaling more than 700 million acres of public lands) are open to fishing, hunting, and shooting unless and until the agencies take specific action to impose closures or restrictions. And closures and restrictions must be necessary and based on sound science and evidence.