By Jessica Goad, Manager of Research and Outreach, Center for American Progress Action Fund.
This afternoon presidential contender Mitt Romney’s campaign announced the endorsement of Rob Keck, the Director of Conservation at Bass Pro Shops and a “conservationist and renowned hunter.” In his statement, circulated by the Romney campaign, Keck said that:
Mitt also understands the importance of wildlife conservation, as well as hunting and angling’s economic and political engine that powers America. He will ensure that this tradition continues and is strengthened.
“He will fix America and lead the way in helping protect and preserve our rich hunting and fishing heritage,” Keck concluded.
But just two weeks ago, Romney admitted in an interview with the Reno Gazette-Journal that he doesn’t know ‘the purpose’ of public lands, which are incredibly important to hunters, anglers, and western economies.
As Dietmar Grimm of Trout Unlimited wrote recently in response to Romney’s unfamiliarity with public lands:
Unfortunately, it seems there is a fundamental misunderstanding among the candidates of what public lands do for us beyond their extraction values. In contrast, we as sportsmen and women know that public lands are much more. Every time we go into a fly or tackle shop before we go out on the water, we see the value we’re creating as sportsmen conservationists. Every time we head out to our jobs in our local communities, whether it is in the gas field, a local restaurant, or at a local community college, we see the value we’re creating as sportsmen conservationists.
As a money man like Romney should know, hunting and fishing on public lands provide enormous economic benefits. In 2006, hunter and anglers visiting Interior Department-managed lands spent $2.4 billion in equipment expenditures plus even more in hotels, gas, and food costs. However, the connection that hunters and anglers have with public lands goes far beyond their economic value. As Sean of the hunting and fishing blog Up the Poudre wrote:
Political winds blow hard during election years, and seldom align perfectly with the values of the people for which speech writers and pundits entertain. Red, blue, green, or other, it doesn’t matter. Common sense needs a place at the table. It was disheartening to listen to Mitt Romney last week, discuss his idea of value as it pertained to public land in the west.
In his endorsement, Keck also says he is “very concerned about the future of America and the ability we have to pass along our rich hunting and angling heritage to the next generation.” But Romney has not shown any indication that he is willing to make tough decisions to preserve hunting and fishing for the next generation. In fact, he has gone so far as to deny the greatest generational threat to this uniquely American tradition -– man-made climate change. As Todd Tanner of Climate Hawks, a group founded to “harness the power of sportsmen to address climate change,” told Field and Stream recently:
Let’s say you are walking down a trail in the wilderness with your wife and kids, and you come upon a grizzly sow, standing on a carcass. She charges, flat out. You’re in front of your family. What do you do? Just give up? Pretend it’s not happening? Let her maul you and everything your care about? Of course you don’t. You take action. That is how I see climate change. It’s real, it’s threatening everything we love. Not taking action is not an option.