Last week we took some time out and got to know the new Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell.
Secretary Jewell has called sportsmen “critical partners” in assuring the responsible management and conservation of the nation’s natural resources. Whether it be fly fishing in a backcountry stream, waterfowl hunting in the Chesapeake Bay, stalking big game in the Rockies or bass fishing in Oklahoma’s Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees, our nation offers a diversity of outdoor opportunities that is unequaled.
Like most people, I became passionate about the outdoors because of my family. My father had a profound love for the outdoors, hunting, fishing and for Idaho’s natural beauty. He instilled that passion in my brother and me. I have carried that passion with throughout my life – and into my service in Congress.
What is a favorite memory of a trip afield?
My favorite memories of outdoor trips involve my favorite memories of outdoor trips involve family vacations to Redfish Lake. To this day, I love returning to that lake, enjoying its natural beauty and basking in the memories that are so important to me and my family.
To this day, I make it a priority to join the Idaho Conservation League each summer in Redfish Lake and engage in dialogue about the importance of protecting Idaho’s outdoor heritage.
What is your go-to piece of hunting or fishing gear?
The hunting-related possessions I treasure most are the rifles and shotguns passed down to me by my father. I also cherish his wildlife mounts which are now on display in my Washington, D.C. office.
What led you to a career in Congress?
I never set out to be a member of Congress. I ran for the Blackfoot City Council hoping to serve a community that had been very good to me and my family. I chose to run for the State Legislature and eventually for Congress because of the opportunity each office provided for serving the people of Idaho.
I’m not sure anyone knows what they are signing up for when they run for Congress, but it has been among the greatest honors of my life. Serving Idaho in Congress allows me an opportunity to work every day on the issues that are most important to the people and the state I love.
What role do you see sportsmen playing in the conservation arena?
Sportsmen play a critical role in the conservation community because they are arguably the most diverse subset. Sportsmen and -women know firsthand the value of the collaborative process that holds the greatest promise for finding long-term solutions to conservation challenges.
What are some ways sportsmen can become involved in public policy?
Sportsmen can go individually or in groups to meet with their elected officials and impress upon them the importance of their cause. They can also work through the many conservation organizations dedicated to impacting public policy and advancing the cause of sportsmen.
It is critical that sportsmen and -women take the time and get involved in the public policy arena at the local, state and federal levels and make sure that politicians clearly understand the size and passion of the sporting coalition that exists in this country.
What do you think are the most important issues facing sportsmen today, and how do you hope your work in Congress will resolve these issues?
The federal budget crisis is the single most important issue facing everyone who has interests in Congress – including sportsmen. The need to reduce federal spending naturally puts pressure on many of the programs most important to the sporting community. These include the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the North American Wetlands Conservation Program, the Conservation Reserve Program and many others.
I am working to preserve these programs because I understand their importance, not only to our nation today, but to future generations.
In the simplest terms, why do you care about conservation?
Countries throughout history that have ignored or betrayed their natural treasures have always come to regret such decisions. I greatly respect the cultural, artistic, historical and natural diversity of our nation and believe we are duty bound to protect it and pass it on to future generations.
Any conservation leaders or heroes you look up to?
Idaho Senator Jim McClure had a significant impact on my view of conservation and collaboration. Senator McClure was a conservative republican, Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and icon to Idaho’s ranchers, loggers, miners and multiple-use advocates.
He was a leader who understood the value of natural landscapes, was a strong supporter of sportsmen and -women, and believed strongly in the importance of collaboration and dialogue in advancing public policy.
Take Action: Stand up for Backcountry in the Beaver State
Oregon offers some of the best public upland game bird hunting in the West. Chukar season ended in January, but die-hard bird hunters already are thinking about next season. Last fall, I shared a particularly fine hunt with Walt Van Dyke, retired Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist, and Pat Wray, author of “The Chukar Hunter’s Companion.”
The weather was warm, and the heat of the day penetrated our bones. By noon sweat dripped from our brows. Nelly, my shorthaired pointer, was unaccustomed to the heat and had drunk almost all the water I was carrying. Van Dyke, Wray and I covered territory that hadn’t seen human footprints in weeks. A breeze was blowing, and the coveys of chukar flushed wild. But hitting a bird was a bonus compared to the remarkable views and solitude we found that day in southeast Oregon.
Along with supporting populations of upland birds, Oregon’s semi-arid mountain ranges hold key habitat for mule deer, bighorn sheep, pronghorn and elk. Small streams provide unique fisheries. As a sportsman and a mother, I want to return to these special places with my daughter and see that the landscape hasn’t changed. Better yet, I want to see to it that the habitat has been improved.
To maintain the high-quality fish and wildlife values of these lands, hunters and anglers are calling on the southeast Oregon BLM to implement a new, locally conceived land allocation called a backcountry conservation area, or BCA. As proposed, BCAs would protect public access, honor existing rights and conserve intact fish and wildlife habitat while allowing common-sense activities to restore habitat and protect communities from wildfire.
Under the BCA allocation, the BLM would uphold traditional uses of public land but allow wildlife managers to restore the rangeland and habitat. The proposed plan enables vegetation management to control noxious weeds, restore bunchgrass to benefit wildlife and livestock and reduce the risk of wildfire. BCAs also would allow ranchers to maintain agriculture improvements and continue their operations.
In the last two years, policymakers have committed to significant investments in conservation, infrastructure, and reversing climate change. Hunters and anglers continue to be vocal about the opportunity to create conservation jobs, restore habitat, and boost fish and wildlife populations. Support solutions now.