CAMOUFLAGE:The Original Green
By Lacey Biles
NRA-ILA Hunting Policy Liaison
The experiences of watching antlers emerge ghost-like through the dawn`s white fog or witnessing cupped mallard wings darting sharply through a glassy cypress slough are in jeopardy. They are at risk of becoming nothing more than scenes in stories that we one day tell our children and grandchildren when harkening back to the "good ol` days"--the days when we could experience raw intimacy with wildlife through hunting.
Hunting and the unique natural experiences that come with it must be defended from anti-hunting zealots who might call themselves naturalists, environmentalists or whatever other "green" label is in vogue. There are groups that are genuinely "green" and that understand the vital benefits hunters bring to the table, but some of the most vocal groups use deception and have ulterior motives, placing wildlife in great peril. It is the hunter`s obligation to know the difference between the good and bad organizations and educate their fellow sportsmen.
In addition to the more commonly known battle for Second Amendment freedoms, the NRA`s mission is to enhance hunting opportunities and advance conservation efforts of the game animals we hunt, something that benefits all wildlife. This often involves fending off the attacks initiated by so-called "green" groups that claim to promote the environment, while lacking any real connection with the land or any comprehensive understanding of sustainable environmentalism. This radical anti-hunting ideology has unfortunately penetrated every level of local, state, and federal government.
As the newest member of NRA-ILA`s Hunting Policy Division, I am excited to take up the mantle and look forward to working hard every day to protect our hunting heritage from brazen attacks leveled at it by those who unjustly call themselves "green." Together, we are poised to help preserve our hunting legacy while wearing camouflage. It is, after all, the original "green." It is a great privilege to work for the country`s oldest civil liberties organization, which takes a back seat to no one in our commitment to America`s hunters.
Hunters are the original environmentalists-- the true stewards of the land.
Hunters have acted as wildlife`s primary guardians all over this country and across the span of time. This is what some "green" groups just don`t get or dishonestly refuse to acknowledge. They cherish the millions of acres of habitat restored and protected by hunters; they reap the benefits of billions of dollars pumped into conservation by hunters; and they marvel at hunter-driven wildlife recovery and enhanced biodiversity. Yet, some shamelessly try to abridge hunters` rights and close access to the land and wildlife with an ever-increasing barrage of radical legislation. This agenda flies in the face of the "green" movement`s own heritage.
The father of modern environmentalism, Aldo Leopold, said, "Harmony with the land is like harmony with a friend; you cannot cherish his right hand and chop off his left." Leopold would counsel modern-day environmentalists to cherish hunters as friends because of all that hunters do for the land and its inhabitants. But some members of the "green" movement don`t understand the interconnection between themselves and hunters. It seems that they forget that Leopold was a lifelong hunter.
To end hunting is to end conservation and the environmental health of the land. The NRA understands the symbiotic relationship as illustrated by the conservation issues it has advanced in the past while protecting the rights of hunters. One example of some "green" groups exhibiting a deceptive anti-hunting campaign is their push to designate millions of additional acres of federal public lands as wilderness.
It sounds positive on its face, but the restrictions that these groups deceivingly impose on wilderness areas, such as shutting down access and denying any form of forestry management, actually harms wildlife and the overall health of these public lands.
There are more than 110 million acres of wilderness areas in the U.S.
today with many wonderful attributes, but radicals are now using a Trojan horse approach to target huge swaths of traditional hunting and recreational land. They`re using a "wilderness designation" to systematically attach their aggressive, anti-gun agenda, evidenced by their stern unwillingness to compromise or listen to sciencebased facts. Such facts clearly show the benefits of hunting and providing adequate access.
The public lands targeted for new designation boast an abundance of wildlife, such as Colorado`s White River and Gunnison National Forests. These areas have been cared for and used by generations of hunters and have offered a host of recreational activities to families across the country. While these "green" groups masquerade as guardians of pristine land, they uncompromisingly reject access to hunters--and millions of conservation dollars--by closing entire road and trail systems, where not a single road leading to the backcountry is accessible. Through their lobbying efforts, they ban all mechanical means of transportation (including bicycles and game carts).
What about access for the elderly, disabled (many of whom are our country`s war heroes) or the parents who work six days a week and simply do not have the time or resources to walk or ride horseback into the backcountry with their child? As practical access is denied to more and more public lands with the conversion to wilderness, hunters will stop buying gear and licenses. While this is the goal of organizations like HSUS, it seems that some "green" groups have forgotten that it is hunters who subsidize conservation efforts through fees and excise taxes and practice valuable wildlife management based on science.
In addition to prohibiting access, the "preservationist" groups, as opposed to conservation groups, insist on forbidding proper forest management practices in the proposed wilderness areas. Modern forest management science boosts biodiversity, enhances wildlife habitat, and strategically mitigates devastating forest fires that could decimate entire ecosystems.
Wilderness designation stops all of this dead in its tracks and leaves "nature to run its course." The NRA is working hard to bring science and common sense back into the policy-making realm, defending hunters from unapprised attacks and misleading schemes aimed at ending hunting one step at a time.
Many policy makers fail to recognize the consequences of blindly following some proposals that contain a stealth anti-hunting agenda wrapped in an "environmental package." If adopted by policy makers, these deceptive proposals would actually result in negating legitimate environmental and conservation efforts. The NRA has confronted these misinformation campaigns and has provided science-based facts to policy makers in order to advance conservation and increase viable wildlife habitat.
Examples of some of the enormously successful conservation efforts the NRA has engaged in include: No Net Loss of public hunting lands legislation; Open Fields Programs--whereby private landowners receive incentives to open their lands to the public; the 34 million acre habitat-enhancing Conservation Reserve Program; and legislation protecting traditional hunting areas from publicly funded development. Efforts to pass legislation to recruit and retain hunters may be the NRA`S greatest conservation success story. Hunters are undoubtedly the largest contributors to conservation in both dollars and in essential habitat acquisition and restoration. Supporting hunters and increasing their ranks means advancing conservation.
The vast majority of hunters take their inspiration from leaders and lifelong hunters like Teddy Roosevelt, continuing his passion for conservation and deep respect for all wildlife. There are a few controversial and emotional issues that divide hunters today, softening their voice against a backdrop of biased media, but the common ground is overarching. Ardent hunter and conservationist, Fred Bear, stated, "If you are not working to protect hunting, then you are working to destroy it." Extending a hand to all in the hunting world has become paramount in order to preserve a way of life that has been the ultimate defender of wildlife. With hunters at the helm, true friends of the environment need to unite and address a growing apathy toward nature and confront those groups who deceptively showcase the green label on their shirts, be it ignorantly or deliberately, while working to destroy the very thing they promise to protect.
What can you do to make a difference? Take kids or adult novices into the woods and introduce them to the joys of hunting. Shake hands with a "green-labeled" individual who is willing to listen and explain the conservation leadership that hunters provide. Educate your friends, families and policy makers about the radical organizations that hide their true intent behind a green flag in contrast to those organizations that truly want to protect and improve Mother Nature and its inhabitants.
Continue to support your NRA so we can work effectively to expose falsehoods and fight those who defy reason and sound environmental science. There is no other group with more respect for nature than hunters. As my father taught me, the essence of hunting is the interaction with the wildlife, a delicate dance with the natural environment, and the camaraderie with those who have been fortunate enough to truly experience the great outdoors.