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.
Jewell has served on the Board of the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) and been a strong supporter of the group. Unfortunately NPCA has been a thorn in the side for hunters. In Florida, the Big Cypress National Preserve (part of the Everglades and managed by NPS) has been open to hunting since its creation in 1973 and the law establishing the Preserve provides for hunter access via traditional means (e.g., airboats and swamp buggies). NPCA has sued NPS repeatedly to limit hunter access and bear hunting in keep large areas of the Preserve. These antics have prompted some environmentalists, who remember the promises made to hunters about continued access to the unit, to accuse NPCA of bad faith. Does Jewell back NPCA’s anti-hunter campaign in south Florida?
Some 5000 miles to the northwest, NPCA is taking the same tact in Alaska. There it has become the leading force in pressing to impose hunting restrictions in National Preserve units (expressly open to hunting in law). The group is also pushing the Interior Department and NPS to disregard hunting regulations, to facilitate hunting opportunities, set by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Federal preemption of the State’s primary authority over hunting is contrary to settled law and policy. Does NPCA board member Jewell support Federal preemption of state primacy over hunting (and fishing) in Alaska and elsewhere?
The problems don’t stop here. Wilderness advocates have been strongly supported – verbally and with large $$ donations – by Ms. Jewell. These are the same zealots who have sued US FWS and Arizona Game and Fish to block beneficial wildlife management programs on Interior Department lands. These activists have sued to stop the maintenance of water catchment basins that benefit Desert bighorn sheep arguing that lands within the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge (created to conserve the sheep) are “Wilderness” first (meaning no management allowed) and wildlife lands second. Hence the catchment basins must be barred – even though the sheep populations will decline as a result. Does Jewell believe that Wilderness values are more important than wildlife?
Fishery conservation has been targeted by the same groups. In Alaska, they sued to stop the State agency from stocking baby salmon in a Wilderness lake. Even though the stocking program predated the Wilderness designation, no one objected to the program when the designation occurred, and US FWS continued to approve the stocking for more than a decade, the Wilderness bunch got the US Court of Appeals in San Francisco to stop the program because “management” is not “necessary” in Wilderness areas. And in her home state of Washington, NPCA and Wilderness types pushed NPS to terminate traditional fish stocking programs in the Cascade Mountains. Will Sally Jewell promote this anti-management point of view as the new Interior Secretary?
USSA will try to get these questions, and others about our hunting, angling, and trapping heritage, asked during Jewell’s confirmation hearings. If she continues to support the activists she has stood with previously, we would have no choice but to ask the Senate to stop her confirmation. If Ms Jewell provides assurances that as Secretary she intends to respect our heritage, redeem the promises made to hunters about continued access to federal lands, recognize state primacy over hunting and fishing, and support wildlife management, USSA will be glad to endorse her confirmation and work with her at Interior. Stay tuned.