The interests of rank-and-file members of prominent U.S. sportsmen’s groups are being steadily undercut by the increasing influence over those organizations by the oil and gas industry as it seeks to push development into protected wildlife habitat and privatize public lands.
Last week, a $1 million donation by a large Texas oil company to the NRA became an issue in New York City, where the city comptroller asked Clayton Williams Energy Inc. to explain the purpose of the contribution. Comptroller Scott Stringer, who oversees the city’s $150 billion pension fund that has $3.2 million worth of Williams stock, asked the company to provide a full disclosure to shareholders of its political contributions.
Since 2008, the oil and gas industry has sought aggressively — and successfully — to exert greater influence over the National Rifle Association (NRA) and Safari Club International (SCI), according to a new report by the Center for American Progress published Tuesday. At the same time, the industry has poured funding into the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, bolstering access by energy companies, and the two big sportsmen’s groups, to members of Congress and the public lands policy debates there.
The report, “Oil and Gas Industry Investments in the National Rifle Association and Safari Club International: Reshaping American Energy, Land and Wildlife Policy,” is a revealing portrait of how a powerful lobby can undermine two bedrock principles that have united American sportsmen for more than a century: public access to wildlife and the protection of wildlife habitat. The report was written by Matt Lee-Ashley, director of the public lands program at the Center for American Progress.
“The oil and gas industry’s growing investment in conservative sportsmen groups is already yielding ever-great influence over legislation and policy decisions that benefit the industry’s financial interests at the expense of hunters and anglers,” the CAP report concludes. “Understanding and tracking this powerful lobbying alliance is of increasing importance to those who believe that American sportsmen can and should continue to be the standard-bearers for our nation’s conservation tradition and champions for those who wish to defend the principles that have guided North American land and wildlife stewardship for more than a century.”
The report cites three areas where the oil and gas industry investments in the sportsmen’s groups is fundamentally shaping the public debate: how public lands that harbor threatened and endangered wildlife should be managed; whether to reverse protections for roadless areas and wilderness study areas; and the movement to privatize lands and wildlife that are currently managed for the public by federal agencies.
In each of these areas, the positions that are being advanced by oil- and gas-funded sportsmen groups appear to be out of step with the basic principles for wildlife and natural resource management that American sportsmen have been advocating for more than a century,” the report argues. “Instead, these groups’ efforts align with the oil and gas industry’s longstanding campaigns to expand drilling activities in national forests and public lands; sell off federal public lands with high mineral value to private interests; block efforts to protect public lands for their backcountry or wilderness characteristics; and fight the nation’s most effective wildlife recovery law, the Endangered Species Act.”