In America, domestic violence remains a serious problem. The violence I speak of does not relate to woman, children or the elderly, rather it involves wildlife and it has been an issue for more than 200 years.
One of the stories we have been told for generations is the efforts of sportsmen to save and allow wildlife to prosper. While certainly there is truth to some of this, we must remember the number of species lost from the Plains Grizzly to Passenger Pigeons to Merriam Elk, the list is long and heartbreaking, but these animals were lost to hunting.
We can extend that list if we include the use of traps, which in the case of the beaver, was a species pushed to the brink. It’s not just the species that we lost, but many sub-species of wildlife that were uniquely adapted to a specific region or micro-climate whose life ended in a trap or on the receiving end of a bullet.
Fast forward to today, we are witness to a media driven renascences of the sportsmen’s world, where shows glorify those that kill predators, that make some crave the chance to kill a grizzly, or travel abroad to kill even larger predators. Even trappers have allowed television to push their agenda of self-reliance that somehow makes such gruesome killing legitimate.
Now born of such fantasy, comes legislation and government intervention designed to allow the killing to continue. The first is the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act, a bill that seems straight out of the 19th century, one that allows trapping to be greatly expanded, that makes hunting and gun ranges a priority on all federal public lands, destroys the Wilderness Act and the Marine Mammal Act and is designed to make sportsmen, not the vast majority of Americans, the rulers of wildlife and our public lands.
It’s ironic that we just watched the takeover of a wildlife refuge by a group of gun toting thugs who made clear that they would not support our government or the sacred nature of our protected lands. Their sage brush rebellion was roundly criticized by sportsmen and conservationists alike. The sense was how dare this small group take control of a refuge and litter and destroy its core. Somehow the 6% of Americans who hunt and trap missed the irony of their situation.
The 93% of us that do not hunt are not interested in them becoming the controlling faction of our public lands. This legislation that is so strongly endorsed by the NRA should never see the light of day.
The other directly related decision comes from US Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe. Under his leadership, if you can call it leadership. The Service in what can only be described as a political decision to appease a select group of western senators has agreed to end endangered species protection for grizzly bears that are in the landscape that borders Yellowstone National Park. The reason, so people can kill them for trophies. Has anyone heard of sportsmen who oppose this action? Any who have said this is not sport, but slaughter? The answer is no.
What is next from Fish and Wildlife, will they allow a trapping campaign for grizzlies? Perhaps construct a gun range in Yellowstone? Maybe there will be a push to allow hunting in all National Parks.
The reality is there seems no end to the push to kill. As I have said before it seems to be part of the DNA of many of our own species, but like domestic violence it does not mean we can sit by and allow cruelty to be endorsed by congress, or that we can somehow justify the killing of a species for trophies that just a few years earlier was on the brink by an agency that for years has shown no ability to fight for wildlife, but has repeatedly from wolves to grizzlies catered to those who want them dead.
Our nation is at a serious cross road where it comes to wildlife. Sportsmen are vanishing from our landscape, yet they are fighting to maintain their strength. Legislation such as the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act is designed to maintain their control for generations to come. If we want the killing to stop, if we really want to change our historical relationship to wildlife from killing to mutual respect and co-existence, we must make sure this legislation is stopped. Likewise in the next Administration we must make sure that whoever takes the helm at US Fish and Wildlife Service is committed to an agenda of life for wildlife, not pain and suffering in the name of politics. Agencies such as this should operate free of political concerns.
Perhaps most important is that sportsmen themselves should begin to be a voice for change. Many sportsmen I know love wildlife and hunt only for food, yet they sit by quietly as some of their peers trap, kill for trophies and enter into killing contests. It’s not acceptable to allow this to continue and remain silent. If such actions are to end, it must be sportsmen, who no matter how uncomfortable must begin to speak out and shame and disassociate from their peers who hunt and trap without conscience.
When this happens, we will really be on the road to change, respect and a maturity as a people and wildlife will finally find a place in our modern world.
Let US Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe know that no grizzlies should be killed:
Tell Senator Heinrich No to the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act: -------------