A Vote For Hunting And Fishing Should Be A Vote For Conservation

by Christy Goldfuss

With gas prices rising and many Americans concerned about getting jobs, it may come as a surprise that members of Congress are starting a new work session by focusing on hunting and fishing.

However, you don’t have to look far to explain why H.R. 4089, the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act, introduced by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), is at the top of the to-do list.

There are key Senate races in New Mexico and Montana that will determine whether Republicans or Democrats are in charge of the upper chamber of Congress. In these states, sportsmen make up significant portions of the population. A Colorado College State of the Rockies Project poll published earlier this year shows that in New Mexico 26% of respondents identify as hunters and anglers. In Montana, the number is even more significant, with 44% of respondents saying they are hunters and anglers.

Rep. Miller says the bill would open up hunting opportunities. In fact, it would open up protected lands to commercial activities such as road building and off road vehicle use — lands that are open to hunting, but not mechanized activities.

A Congressional Research Services report found that H.R. 4089 would essentially gut the Wilderness Act, which has protected more than 100 million acres in the U.S., much of it prime hunting and fishing lands.

That is why some sportsmen actually oppose this package of bills designed to court their political support. The Nevada state coordinator of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers recently said, “sportsmen and women who enjoy the challenge and opportunity of backcountry hunting will lose those experiences if this bill becomes law.”

The balance between environmental protection and hunters rights can be tenuous, sometimes creating unexpected political alliances. For example, you can find many sportsmen willing to talk about climate change, when most Republican candidates avoid it.

The Sportsmen’s Heritage Act of 2012 is supported by the National Rifle Association and many off road vehicle groups.  It is even rumored that the NRA will track member’s votes on this bill so they can use it as a political messaging opportunity this election season.  This seemingly puts any member of Congress who supports conservation in a difficult spot.

However, some numbers from the State of the Rockies Project poll, show that conservation is extremely important to the hunting and fishing community. In Montana and New Mexico, approximately 70% of sportsmen identify as conservationists.

Christy Goldfuss is the Public Lands Project Director at American Progress.

5 Responses to A Vote For Hunting And Fishing Should Be A Vote For Conservation

  1. todd tanner says:

    There are 35 – 40 million hunters & anglers in the United States. Most of them are conservatives who don’t realize that red state politicians frequently vote against their interests on climate change, conservation and public lands issues.

    Our group, Conservation Hawks, is focused on educating sportsmen about the threat of climate change and turning our hunters and anglers into climate activists. Other grassroots sporting groups are hard at work on energy issues while they fight to protect our wild lands.

    If we want to break through the status quo on climate and energy, then we need to stop preaching to the choir. It’s time to support innovative organizations like Conservation Hawks.

  2. Zimzone says:

    Here in MN, fishing is a sport our 10,000 lakes readily provide. Many of us are also conservationists. I’m also a Progressive politically.
    Don’t push people into ‘compartments’ based on life activities. I’m as likely to chat out on the lake with a conservative as I am a progressive. But…we both share a goal of preserving our wilderness, as well as our right to catch & release the fish we catch.
    Republicans are adept at ‘catchy names’ for legislation. That fools most in their party. DON’T be fooled by names. This legislation would essentially allow unlimited corporate rape of our pristine wilderness areas.

    Drill a Republican, not our beautiful land!

  3. Mike Roddy says:

    Thanks for this, Todd. In the West, hunters and fishermen are definitely conservationists, because they see the damage up close.

    I used to be a steelhead fisherman in the Northwest. When a creek watershed was hammered by the loggers, we could forget about fish for at least a few years. Cutover creeks get muddy and warmer, and there is little egg survival for either salmon or steelhead.

    You and Zimzone are right that climate campaigners need to reach out to them. Some of them are more aggravated about what’s going on in our forests and streams than we are.

  4. Exactly. Whatever happened to Teddy Roosevelt republicans? Hmm? Now they’re trying to kill Teddy’s progressive tax policy and they’re trying to gut his national parks. Should the new symbol for the republican party be a Moai?

  5. M Tucker says:

    Just as with Lincoln’s principles the Republican Party shucked off TR’s principles as well. Too progressive! No modern Republican can say that regulations, laws or limits on business and industry are a good and necessary thing…but that is exactly what TR said. He is not that popular with modern Republican’s.

    Can you possibly imagine Romney, or McCain, or any current Republican uttering these words?

    “There can be no effective control of corporations while their political activity remains. To put an end to it will be neither a short nor an easy task, but it can be done.

    We must have complete and effective publicity of corporate affairs, so that the people may know beyond peradventure whether the corporations obey the law and whether their management entitles them to the confidence of the public. It is necessary that laws should be passed to prohibit the use of corporate funds directly or indirectly for political purposes; it is still more necessary that such laws should be thoroughly enforced. Corporate expenditures for political purposes, and especially such expenditures by public-service corporations, have supplied one of the principal sources of corruption in our political affairs. ” (TR New Nationalism speech)

    TR was the best that party produced since Lincoln but not even Eisenhower could get elected by the new “let ‘em die” Republicans. A national highway system! Sounds like socialism to me!