Last week I was back in Washington and had the chance to join in celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. There were two events, a lunch and then the annual banquet and auction that night. In 1997 and 1998 I served as the president of the foundation and it was a special treat to help mark this important milestone.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation was started in 1989. The foundation created a link between the sportsmen’s community and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus. The Caucus had been started earlier that year by a small group of liked-minded legislators who wanted to protect and promote the outdoor traditions of hunting, trapping and fishing in the U.S. Congress.
“This year’s banquet is sort of the culmination of a year-long celebration of our 20th Anniversary,” said CSF President Jeff Crane. “We were able to recognize and thank everyone who has contributed to the 20-year success of the organization including current and former Caucus members and all those who have contributed to our cause.”
The lunch was a small gathering of past members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus and Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. Many of the past board members and the five of us who had run the foundation all were there. It was a great chance for all of us to swap hunting, fishing and legislative stories.
The two original co-chairs of the caucus, Congressmen Dick Schulze and Lindsay Thomas both made it back for the lunch and banquet. Schulze has served on the foundation’s board of directors and Thomas currently sits of the board.
“This was a very special event and I am honored to have been invited back to witness the tremendous growth of this caucus and foundation since we founded it in 1989,” said Schultze.
“It was wonderful to be able to visit with and recognize publicly my founding Caucus leadership colleagues,” said Thomas.
Today there are 200 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and 52 Senators in the caucus, making it one of the largest in Congress. Twenty-one of the original caucus members are still in Congress.
The Valley’s own representative Bob Goodlatte is a member and has been since he was elected to Congress. There are five additional members from the Virginia congressional delegation — unfortunately neither of our senators is a member of the caucus.
I enjoyed my time at the foundation and have been especially excited to see them take the success of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus model and expand on it in the states.
In 2004, the foundation replicated its model of raising awareness of sportsmen’s issues by creating the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses. There are 38 states with bi-partisan caucuses, including Virginia.
The Virginia Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus was formed in 2004. It is currently co-chaired by the Valley’s own Senator Emmet Hanger and gubernatorial candidate Senator R. Creigh Deeds.
According to the Caucus’ Web site, “The caucus has been very successful since its inception, working towards the passage of the ‘No Net Loss’ legislation in 2007 and the creation Virginia’s Migratory Waterfowl Conservation Stamp (Duck Stamp) program in 2005.”
The latest development in expanding the caucus model has been the formation of a bipartisan caucus of governors. The Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus was launched at the National Governor’s Association Annual Meeting in this summer. The goal is to increase communication and information exchange between states to promote and protect hunting and fishing.
America’s nearly 40 million hunters and anglers contribute more than $70 billion annually to the U.S. economy. The economic contribution that hunting and fishing makes in Virginia is significant. Sportsmen contribute over a billion dollars and account for more than 20,000 jobs each year.
Having a voice in our nation’s capital is great, having one in the state capitol is even better.
You can read more of my columns at the News Virginian.com.