Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is leading a revival. It’s not the kind that occurs under a big tent full of folding chairs, fiery sermons, and hallelujahs, but the kind that occurs when hunters, fishermen, and outdoorsmen in general feel liberated from the shackles of an overbearing federal government; when they experience anew the freedom to take their guns and gear into America’s wild places and fish and hunt the way their fathers and grandfathers fished and hunted before them.
Zinke set the tone for this revival on his first day as Interior Secretary. He did so by repealing the Obama administration’s lead ammunition ban—a ban which served as a last slap in the face to hunters and fishermen everywhere.
The Obama-era ban was contained in National Fish and Wildlife Service’s Director’s Order 219. The order came from Director Dan Ashe and required regional directors to work with state-level agencies to begin phasing out the use of lead ammunition on federal land. This included requiring the “Assistant Director, Migratory Birds, in consultation with National Flyway Councils and individual states, … [to] establish a process to phase in a requirement for the use of nontoxic ammunition for recreational hunting of mourning doves and other upland game birds.”
The Obama administration avoided calling the order an all-out ban by fashioning it so that its implementation occurred over a period of time rather than all at once.
On March 3, 2017, Breitbart News reported that Zinke had repealed the ban and that the repeal was one of his first actions as interior secretary.
The reason Zinke made this one of his top priorities upon taking office is that he understands that hunters and fishermen are a crucial part of wildlife conservation: They preserve a balance in nature whereby fish and wildlife are kept at sustainable levels, rather than being able to overpopulate and ruin food supplies and habitat. And he also understands that hunters and fishermen bring a tremendous amount of money into the U.S. economy annually.
On Sept. 1, 2017, Fox News published a column by NRA-ILA’s Chris W. Cox, in which Cox observed:
Zinke knows that America’s hunters and anglers are the backbone of successful fish and wildlife management in the United States. In 2016 alone, $1.1 billion in hunter and angler excise revenues was invested by the 50 state fish and wildlife agencies to fund wildlife projects benefiting all wildlife—game and non-game species alike.
Crucially, Zinke also acknowledges the role hunting and fishing play as traditions in America. For example, a childhood in a state like Kentucky is marked by the time a son and his father spend getting ready for hunting season. They plan the hunt, tend the food plot, build the tree stand, study the movement and habits of the deer, then go out on opening day intent on bringing home food the family can eat and stories the father and son will share for the rest of their lives.
Cox put it this way:
[Zinke] also understands … within our own local communities, hunting and angling is an important tradition that’s often passed down through the generations and enjoyed by the entire family, helping to forge lifelong support of wildlife conservation and the full appreciation of our fish and wildlife resources.
In short, Zinke’s convictions about the importance of hunting and fishing mean more opportunities for outdoorsmen. This is seen via announcements like the Department of the Interior’s Aug. 9, 2017, announcement that Secretary Zinke was expanding “hunting and fishing opportunities at 10 national wildlife preserves.”
This expansion will result in responsible conservation practices, money for the U.S. economy and traditions that link generations together over time.