Kirk Deeter recently posted on Field & Stream’s Fly Talk Blog, “I get angry when a discussion about a conservation concern — like oil and gas drilling in Wyoming or Utah, or maintaining roadless areas in Idaho or New Mexico, or a proposed pit mine in the headwaters of the world’s largest wild salmon fishery — degenerates into a “political debate.”
Cultural not Political
Deeter goes on to write that he believes conservation is a cultural issue not a political issue. He points out that if you fish you have a vested interest in the places you fish (same goes for hunting in my opinion).
He also notes that conservation challenges are complex and the correct way to address those concerns is routinely subject to debate.
Take a look at Hal Herring’s excellent blog The Conservationist on Field & Stream’s website. His post, “Are There Any Politicians Who Really Understand Sportsmen’s Concerns?” and the follow up from Rep. Heller and Herring’s response certainly reinforce Deeter’s point.
Who is doing the “heavy lifting?”
I am not writing to take issue with what Deeter is saying. In fact I want to amplify one of his more important points.
Deeter writes “I think those doing the real heavy lifting to protect wild places for fishing and hunting aren’t so much “green” as they are “camo.”
A previous blog post responded to Herring’s title question and named elected federal officials who understand sportsmen’s concerns.
Here are four groups that are doing the “heavy lifting.” Click on the name to learn who they are and what they do.
TU’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project – works to protect and enhance important fish and game habitat in the West.
Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development – is conserving habitats for hunting and fishing on public lands.
Bull Moose Sportsmen’s Alliance – focuses on conservation, recruitment and retention of hunters and anglers, and 2nd Amendment rights that apply to sportsmen.
NWF’s Our Public Lands provides a gateway to information about the public lands and some of the challenges facing them.
So when debates about the right approach to tackling the vexing conservation challenges facing our country get started, these groups are the one’s I look to for workable, durable solutions, not heated political rhetoric.
Conservation = Opportunity = Economic Activity
Like Deeter I wish our elected officials would figure out that conservation is not a political issue. Unfortunately my years as a lobbyist have made me skeptical (or worse even cynical).
Politics is a fact of life. Hunters’ and anglers’ concerns about conservation are discounted because our elected officials consider us hobbyists and without political clout. We need to do a better job of establishing our relevancy.
By pointing out to our elected officials that conservation creates recreational opportunity that leads to economic activity and jobs we can make them understand that our concerns are not some “feel good” wish list.
That is a heavy lift but it is one we all need to lend a hand to make happen.