The politics of modern hunting, fishing, and conservation

I spent Sunday morning doing some dog training with a new friend. At the end of the session, his wirehair and my shorthairs fell asleep quickly in their kennels as we sat on the tailgate and reflected on the morning. As with most tailgate conversations, we bounced from topic to story to laughter. By Monday morning, one of my buddy’s observations was still ringing in my ears.

“I’ve been following Pheasants Forever on Twitter (@Pheasants4ever) and I can’t believe how much politics is a part of conservation.” 

I recall making a similar observation early on in my career at Pheasants Forever. In fact, on my third day as the organization’s public relations professional I was asked to write a press release about “PF signing an MOU with NRCS to deliver CRP.” (Pheasants Forever signing a memorandum of understanding with the Natural Resource Conservation Service to deliver the Conservation Reserve Program.) While it took me a few hours to decipher the acronym soup of this release, it has been far more complicated understanding the politics of conservation policy.

This spring has proven to be the most volatile political season for conservation of my 12-year career with Pheasants Forever.  Consider the following national and state-specific conservation issues currently under debate as highlighted by these links.

  • NATIONALLY: While a vote was symbolic in nature, the U.S. Congress has at least paved the way for the sale or transfer of 640 million acres of federal public lands, with many representatives indicating they don’t have wildlife interests in mind. Please read Outdoor News Managing Editor's Rob Drieslein’s blog “A bitter public lands fight for sportsmen . . . brought to you by the U.S. Congress.”
  • MINNESOTA: In an effort to improve the state’s water quality and create wildlife habitat, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton has introduced a Water Quality Buffers Initiative.  While the measure has been widely supported by individual farmers, the plan has met stiff opposition from “Big Ag” lobbyists. Outdoor News has covered this in depth, or read Pheasants Forever’s Minnesota Buffers Action Alert.
  • WISCONSIN: Governor Scott Walker has proposed extreme cuts to the state’s DNR and suspension of land acquisitions for critical habitat and public hunting. Read Tim Eisele’s excellent Wisconsin Outdoor News article.
  • MONTANA: The state’s House of Representatives passed a measure to remove $12.4 million from wildlife habitat programs in the state.  That’s a tragically disheartening message and one Pheasants Forever vehemently opposes.  Read Pheasants Forever’s Action Alert.
  • IOWA: The state legislature is discussing an increase to the state’s sales tax which would automatically start funding of the Iowa Water and Land Legacy fund passed by voters in 2010 (a permanent and constitutionally protected funding source to ensure natural spaces are preserved for generations to come).  This would put in place a mechanism similar to Minnesota’s Outdoor Heritage Fund.

As a kid who grew up able to walk out my back door to hunt and fish, I view my love of the outdoors today as a direct link with my ability to escape the constant chatter of my urban adulthood. Unfortunately, my career at Pheasants Forever has opened my eyes to the reality of our collective future as hunters and anglers.  If we continue to avoid the politics of conservation, our fields and forests will be taken away from us, quite literally. We must start small with calls and emails to our elected officials demanding better for our wildlife, water and way of life.  We must also think big about turning conservation into a platform issue in the next presidential election.  And even bigger about creating an “Environmental Revolution” in which we protect the foundation upon which America’s freedom has been built – our natural resources.  

Bob St.Pierre is Pheasants Forever & Quail Forever’s Vice President of Marketing. Follow Bob on Twitter @BobStPierre or listen to him every Saturday morning on FAN Outdoors radio on KFAN FM100.3.

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