Snakes in the Grass

Every political season, politicians try to engage with hunters and anglers to convince them that they’re worthy of their vote. This year is no different and in fact, it’s probably even more pronounced than in years past. I’ll be up front and clear here at the beginning. I don’t care who you vote for, or what party to ascribe to. I won’t tell you who to vote for or what to think. I won’t endorse one candidate or another here. What does matter is that you do cast a vote, and do so in an informed manner.

Rob Chaney had an article in the Missoulian [B1] that was both fascinating and frustrating the other day.

There’s a lot of truth in what Rob has written in this article, especially how hunters and anglers aren’t easily pigeonholed. We’re not strict NRA supporters, nor are we tree-huggers. We’re somewhere squarely in the middle. We want healthy public lands, and we want abundant wildlife. It’s not difficult to see how these things are mutually beneficial. And it’s not hard to see how without both of these things, hunters sit at home watching football rather than go spend countless hours in the woods, fields and streams.

But that’s where the politics of hunting and fishing come in. Some groups want to focus on one thing, and let others slide. Other groups don’t want to acknowledge that there’s anything wrong, and still more just want to be left alone and never get involved in the difficult discussions and decisions necessary to have healthy wildlife, and healthy habitat.

Historically, Hunters have self identified as conservative. That shouldn’t surprise anyone of us. But this quote from Tom Opre of Kalispell really tells the truth: 

“But when it comes to outdoors, hunting and fishing, we’re out-and-out crazy liberals when it comes to protecting it.”

Well, we used to be.

There’s a growing cancer in hunting policies and politics and its hit Montana. States like Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and others have programs that lead to the privatization of wildlife under the banner of conservation.  Ranching for Wildlife in Colorado has closed of thousands of acres of public lands in Colorado to public land hunters like you and I. Utah’s model literally hands wildlife over to landowners and lobbyists like bushels of wheat, or other commodities to be sold to the highest bidder. New Mexico Resident Hunters have to fight tooth and nail to restore some semblance of balance in the allocation of Pronghorn tags so that the people who live and work in New Mexico have the opportunity to hunt in New Mexico.

The common, average hunter is under assault. The assault is coming from within. Some groups tout their work on wolves to gain your membership and money, but their record is horrible when it comes to access, and wolves. One group in particular fought to keep wolves listed in order to further bolster their coffers. They sold out Utah anglers when the fight to access rivers and streams was on at the legislature, and now that they’re in Montana, they've made sure to politicize every aspect of wildlife management regardless of the truth. Last session, they tried to eliminate over $24 million in Federal funds for access and wildlife management. Their signature bill, SB 414 from the 2011 Legislative session would have kept wolves on the Endangered Species Act and derailed the Simpson/Tester delisting rider.

Other groups have gone down the same road.

In 2010, one prominent sportsmen’s organization hired an Oil and Gas lobbyist to represent hunters. This is the same industry that has tried to keep hunters and anglers from being at the table when public land management decisions are being made. This lobbyist immediately set to work trying to eliminate the Roadless Rule, keep wolves listed, and generally turn the sportsmen’s movement into another arm of the Petroleum cartel.

They’re winning, by the way.

Bills like HR 1581, HR 4089, HR 1505 and the assault of funding conservation programs at the Federal Level, and bills like SB's 414, 255, 303, HB's 309, 607, 361, and others from the last legislative session are coming at hunters in full force. George Orwell would have been appalled at how well the proponents of these bills have adopted his double speak in order to fool hunters and anglers into believing that they’re good for you. The use the key words like access, opportunity and yes, wolves, to lie and cheat their way into degrading laws designed to actually increase your access and opportunity.

A tiny fraction of public lands remain unroaded, undeveloped and wild. That’s an affront to a lot of folks in congress, and it’s clearly an affront to the anti-hunters masquerading as our friends.

When you vote this November (and for the love of all that is good and holy, do vote), make sure you know where candidates really stand on important issues. Don’t just buy the first thing that sounds good when it comes to where a candidate stands. Ask the tough questions, and do a little homework.

Al Gore invented the internet after all, let’s use it.


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Hellgate Hunters and Anglers
Our Mission is to conserve Montana's wildlife, wild places, and fair-chase hunting and fishing heritage.