To move forward for conservation, resistance can’t be the only tactic
Add “alternative facts,” fake news, and #resistance to the major trust issues that Americans have with government, and it’s easy to see why D.C. politics is one big gray area.
An example: Rep. Ryan Zinke has been clear that he cares deeply about public lands and funding for outdoor recreation access, especially as a lifelong hunter, and he is absolutely opposed to selling off or transferring national public lands to individual states. He’s on record supporting the expansion of our public lands—and access to them—by fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund. We based much of our support for Zinke as Secretary of the Interior on his track record of crossing party lines to vote for support of public lands.
Then, he didn’t. He voted along party lines on a House rules package that, among dozens of other proposed changes unrelated to conservation, would devalue federal public lands being considered for sale or transfer. The vote was procedural, and there is no indication that this action will be taken up by the Senate, but many began calling for Zinke’s head.
Critics ask how we can sit back and support him now. We’ve also been criticized for being optimistic about the nominee for Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, an avid quail hunter who instituted statewide conservation plans and funding programs during his tenure as Governor of Georgia. No, we don’t think that prayers for rain are good agricultural policy, but there’s more good than bad in his track record.
They won’t side with us on every issue, but we’d like to see true sportsmen (ones with actual conservation accomplishments) lead the agencies that are responsible for conservation in our country. There are many difficult choices ahead, and we want the opportunity to be heard by those who have walked in our boots and share many of our values.
I don’t believe that Congressman Zinke’s actions were nefarious in that vote. But I can understand why hunters and anglers are frustrated with the games we see in Congress. Games like pretending that sage grouse conservation will undermine national defense readiness. Games like using obscure congressional authorities to reduce public input on land management decisions. Games like silencing scientists on climate change, yet decrying policies made by the last administration based on politics—instead of science.
It’s our job to see through the smoke screens, but our work will never be as simple as black and white.As sportsmen, we have an opportunity to hold a middle ground and be reasonable in a time of upheaval Click To Tweet
We need to know how to work with D.C. insiders in order to reach and educate the decision makers who hold your hunting and fishing opportunities in their hands. It is incumbent on us to make sure sportsmen and women are heard by the new administration and Congress, and we can do this better in their offices than we can shouting outside their windows. As sportsmen, we have an opportunity to hold a middle ground and be reasonable in a time of upheaval and extreme resistance.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t go on the defensive when we need to. That’s why we’ve come out in opposition to a congressional attempt to roll back your say in public lands management. That’s why we continue to provide you with opportunities to oppose public land transfer proposals in your state and in Washington. And as long as sportsmen and women put their trust in us, we’ll always be transparent about our actions.
We can be optimistic and remain vigilant. We can shake hands and shake our fists. It’s not a political game—it’s our duty.