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President Obama`s Election and the Future of Hunting in America

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hunters and true conservationists must unite to defeat radical preservationists.

Obama’s voting record as it relates to gun ownership is an open book for all to see. Regardless of the lies told by Fact Check, American Hunters and Shooters Association (AHSA) and other partisan front groups during the recent presidential election, his votes were more extreme than the most radical gun banners in American history—Ted Kennedy, Chuck Schumer, Hillary Clinton and Dianne Feinstein.

To review, Obama voted to ban virtually all centerfire rifle ammunition, supported closing almost all gun stores in his home state of Illinois, voted to hold lawful gun manufacturers liable for the acts of criminals over whom they have no control, supported a massive increase in the federal tax on all firearm and ammunition sales and voted to classify all single shot, over/under and side-by-side shotguns larger than .410 as so-called “assault weapons.”

The recent explosion in gun and ammunition purchases by freedom-loving Americans is a clear indication that people “get it.” In the cause to preserve our freedom, the days ahead will prove the most challenging in the long history of our great country.

What is not as well known is the threat to hunting in America posed by an Obama administration and its most vocal supporters. It is time that all sportsmen realize what’s at stake, because we will need to stand ready to respond when the assaults come. It was no accident that the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), a $127 million-a-year lobbying organization that advocates a complete ban on all hunting, endorsed Obama. No doubt, it expects some return on its investment.

Abuse of the Endangered Species Act

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) will continue to be abused by interest groups, courts and administration officials in order to eliminate and reduce hunting opportunities. For instance, the wolf populations in the Rocky Mountains will continue to expand unabated and well beyond the goals originally set for their de-listing. This will result in over-predation on species such as elk, moose and mule deer. Hunters will see diminished hunting opportunities.

Anti-hunting radicals will seek the listing of abundant species like the black-tailed prairie dog (a process that has already begun) in order to stop their hunting. We’ve seen global warming used to justify the listing of robust polar bear populations because of what might happen to them in the distant future. The terribly troubling precedent has been set and the Obama administration will likely attempt to follow it.

Proposed Bans on Lead Ammunition

Pretending to care about the well-being of wildlife, HSUS has finally gone public and called for a complete ban on the use of lead ammunition in all firearms. Of course, its real goal is to eliminate hunting and shooting by making it prohibitively expensive. We’ve known since the beginning that HSUS doesn’t really care about wildlife populations. That fact has never been more evident than when it stood by quietly on Capitol Hill while its allies, such as Senators Feinstein and Boxer, blocked NRA’s efforts to preserve the hundreds of majestic elk and mule deer living on Santa Rosa Island, off of the coast of Santa Barbara.

In the case of Santa Rosa, HSUS and its allies were willing to kill the entire population of elk and mule deer in order to ensure that a few aren’t hunted. If it sounds extreme, it’s because it is—but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s true. Similarly, lead ammunition bans will ultimately hurt America’s wildlife because they will discourage hunting and diminish the conservation funding it generates. Under the Obama administration, a serious run at a lead ammunition ban—unsupported by science—is more likely than ever.

Open Fields Program Funding

In last year’s Farm Bill, an NRA-backed provision provided for $50 million over five years to enhance state “Open Fields” programs that promote public access to private land for hunting and fishing. In October, the Bush administration announced that landowners with land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) could be eligible for an additional payment of $3 per acre if the land is also enrolled in a state “Open Fields” program. We need to keep a close eye on this funding to ensure that it is not eliminated. Anti-hunting radicals both outside and inside the Obama administration will apply great pressure to strip this funding that promotes the hunting and fishing they oppose.

Wilderness Expansion

Virtually all of the radical preservationist groups (as opposed to conservationist groups) endorsed Obama. They expect that his administration will do everything in its power to keep people out of the country’s public lands. The majority of wilderness proponents seem to be motivated by a desire to discourage people from “trampling” these areas by responsibly using the very public lands they help fund. The absolute prohibition of mechanical forms of transportation in the wilderness (including bicycles and carts) makes it virtually off-limits to the working class hunter who is looking for a convenient place to hunt for a day or two.

Wilderness designation, as a practical and legal matter, also prohibits wildlife and habitat management by state game officials. The country’s hunters need more accessible public lands, not less. There needs to be more active habitat and wildlife management. The radicals know that the wilderness designation effectively posts “keep out” signs on the boundaries of millions of acres of public land, and they’ll be pushing the Obama administration to continue the postings by approving more wilderness areas.

Road Closures on Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management Lands

One of the issues we hear about most often from NRA members is the closure of the roads their families have used for generations to access their traditional hunting areas. Unfortunately, based on the constituencies that supported Obama’s election, the trend toward dramatically increased road closures is likely to continue. Hunters must engage in the public input process on proposed closures in order to minimize the harm done to reasonable access for hunting.

Recreational Shooting

Recreational shooting on public lands is essential to the preservation of hunting. It allows hunters a place to sight-in their rifles and practice real-world scenarios that make them more efficient and ethical hunters. Some public land managers have engaged in a campaign to close millions of acres to recreational shooting. Public safety is most often cited as the reason for closure despite the fact that recreational shooters have a truly remarkable safety record that makes the activity one of the safest in America. Hunters and shooters need to stand ready to engage in the debate over any land management decisions that contemplate closures.

National Wildlife Refuges

HSUS and other groups have filed lawsuits to stop hunting on millions of acres of national wildlife refuge lands. They have used sympathetic courts to misinterpret federal law, despite Congress’ clear declaration of hunting as a priority use of refuge lands when it passed the NRA-backed 1997 National Wildlife Refuge Improvement Act. It may be necessary to seek amendments to federal law to negate the harm done by the courts—but Obama’s most vocal supporters during the election will be among our most vocal opponents.

Expansion of Federal Lands that Forbid Hunting

The anti-hunting radicals will actively push to designate millions of acres of additional federal lands as national parks, trails and scenic rivers. As most hunters know, the vast majority of national park service administered lands prohibit hunting, so any expansion will result in lost hunting habitat at a time when more public hunting land is badly needed.

Fire Suppression and Active
Habitat Management

Most wildlife biologists will tell you that science-based cutting of trees is essential to sustaining healthy wildlife populations. It promotes successional growth and fires of moderate intensity instead of the catastrophic fires that plague unmanaged lands. An Obama administration dominated by radical preservationists will oppose this commonsense approach. Wildlife, along with the hunters who depend on it, will be the losers.

It’s clear that gun owners throughout the country can see the attacks coming on the not-so-distant horizon. Hunters, and all other true conservationists, must similarly be ready for the fight that is percolating in the agendas of America’s most radical interest groups. Rest assured that your NRA is prepared to meet this challenge head-on.

NRA Hunting Contacts

NRA Hunter Services Department
(703) 267-1503

Manager, NRA-ILA Hunting Policy
(703) 267-1207

For more information on any NRA program, call (800) 672-3888.
Political or legislative questions should be directed to (800) 392-8683.

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.