Middle River Dispatches is a gumbo of posts about fly-fishing, conservation, politics and days afield.

Politicians and Sportsmen

Hal Herring posed an interesting question a few days ago on Field and Stream’s The Conservationist blog. Herring asked “Are There Any Politicians That Really Understand Sportsmens’ Concerns?”

Wild Lands

Herring starts off by looking at the reaction to the recent announcement by the Department of Interior regarding the Bureau of Land Management’s new guidance on wilderness. I covered that subject and won’t belabor the point. It will be interesting however to read the comments to Herrings post in context of my post.

So are there any politicians that really understand sportsmens’ concerns?

This is a highly subjective question. Politician is a broad moniker. In this case I am going to refine my search to elected federal officials. I will further refine it to those officials I have had first-hand experience with either directly or with staff.

Here is my list of favorites off the top of my head:

Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) Unquestionably the dean of sportsmen legislators in the US Congress.

Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA)

Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA)

Sen. John Tester (D-MT)

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)

Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID)

Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID)

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)

Sen Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO)

President Obama (I have not dealt directly with him but he tried fly-fishing and has surrounded himself with some excellent Cabinet members – Salazar and Vilsack being notable – appointed officials and staff.)

These officials are not always on the side of sportsmen but by and large, they have better understanding of and appreciation for sportsmen’s concerns then many of their colleagues.

Understanding our issues but not us

There are certainly many more who understand the issues that sportsmen are concerned about but are not necessarily looking at those concerns from a sportsmen’s perspective. This is a real challenge for the sportsmen’s community. We need to do a better job of establishing our relevancy. For those of you who have read this far and know me, here comes my economics refrain.

Economic talking points

According to the American Sportfishing Association “60 million anglers generate over $45 billion in retail sales with a $125 billion impact on the nation’s economy creating employment for over one million people.

In 2008, $720 million of these excise taxes were distributed for fisheries management and recreational boating enhancement. In addition, fishing license sales generated $600 million in revenue for state fish and wildlife agencies.”

According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation “Sportsmen contribute $7.5-plus million every day, adding more than $2.7 billion every year for conservation. Hunters and shooters have paid $5.93 billion in excise taxes since the inception of the Pittman-Robertson Act in 1937. Hunting in America is big business, generating 600,000 jobs in the United States. For more than 80 years, sportsmen have paid more than $12.1 billion for on-the-ground projects in every state, protecting our natural environment and our fish and wildlife. The $4.95 billion in annual federal tax money generated by hunters’ spending could cover the annual paychecks of 150,000 U.S. Army Sergeants.”

Conservation = Opportunity = Economic Activity

The economics message is pretty simple.  Conservation creates recreational opportunity and that leads to economic activity. There are plenty of facts and figures to back the message up and more are on the way.

Secretary Salazar made the point in his announcement on BLM’s wild lands guidance.

“The wild backcountry here in Colorado, and across the West, is also a huge economic engine for local communities. Outfitters, guides, hotels, restaurants, and retailers like this one all have a stake in the protection of America’s great outdoors.

Wise stewardship isn’t just the right thing to do, it’s good for business and it’s good for jobs,” said Salazar.

We need to do a much better job of educating our elected officials on the significant impact fishing and hunting have on our economy, not just in habitat protection, but in the ripple effect it has for local economies. Now more than ever this simple economic message needs to be delivered to as often as possible.


  1. If President Obama is a “sportsman” I’m a pickled herring. I thought this was a serious blog post, until I got to that point. Enjoyed it!


  2. Tom Sadler says:

    Owl, thanks for the comment. You have no fear of being seen as an hors d’oeuvre by me.
    Couple of points. It is a serious post. I was trying to answer Herring’s title question.

    I can see where you might think I consider the President a sportsmen. Frankly I have no direct knowledge except what I read or what my friends in the Administration tell me. He enjoys golf as do I and I hope he gets a chance to fly-fish again.

    Maybe we can even get him to try tenkara in the GSMNP. You game?

    My reason for including the President was because he does have some outstanding people in his Administration who do “get it” when it comes to sportsmen’s concerns. I named two cabinet secretaries but there are many more in various departments, agencies and bureaus. Frankly a longer list then elected officials. That was my reason for putting him on my list.

    BTW loved your tenkara video. The head shake when you snagged the tree is priceless!

    Keep in touch.

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