Earlier this week, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced the appointment of members to the Hunting and Shooting Sports Conservation Council, which was created on January 9, 2018. Former SEAL Zinke has repeatedly described himself as a “Teddy Roosevelt guy.” However, in contrast to Roosevelt’s conservation efforts, Zinke has been actively rolling back public land protections. Now, with the creation of this council, we have to ask exactly what its purpose will be. For now, here are the facts gleaned from the press release and a few conversations with those involved.
“We have assembled here some of the best conservationists in America,” Secretary Zinke stated in the government press release before making the expected Roosevelt reference. “Over a century ago, Teddy Roosevelt established the American conservation ethic — best science, best practices, greatest good, longest term. These sportsmen carry on the American conservation ethic in the modern day. Bringing these experts together will be key to ensuring the American tradition of hunting and shooting, as well as the conservation benefits of these practices, carries on.”
The NRA’s Chris Cox, who is listed as a member of the newly-formed council, had this to say: “America’s hunters and recreational shooters have a champion in Secretary Ryan Zinke. Zinke is fighting for our sportsmen and women to have greater access to our public lands. I am pleased to work with the Trump Administration’s new Hunting and Shooting Sports Conservation Council to make it easier for Americans to enjoy our public lands.”
Interested to hear from a fellow hunter I know and respect, I reached out to Jana Waller of SkullBound TV. Jana is listed as an alternate for the council and I can only hope her involvement will be made permanent before too much time passes.
“Hunting as well as shooting sports are critical components to wildlife management in this country. I’m passionate about our country’s hunting heritage and protecting its public lands for all to enjoy,” Jana told me. “For those reasons I’m very honored to be an alternate member of the Hunting and Shooting Sports Conservation Council in hopes of bringing my perspective both as a 30-year plus hunter as well as an avid conservationist to help the federal government in making decisions that will benefit wildlife and its resources. The Council represents a mix of State fish and wildlife management agencies, conservation and land specialists as well as individuals from the hunting and shooting industries in hopes of building strong partnerships with the federal government to address hunting and wildlife conservation issues.”
A statement was also made by Kristy Titus of Pursue the Wild who said she feels “Secretary Zinke is working with sportsmen and women to move forward with carrying on American conservation efforts. I look forward to being part of the greatest conservation movement in the world as our efforts will benefit the coming generations.”
The press release stated the Council will make recommendations to the Secretary of the Interior and Secretary of Agriculture including, but not limited to policies and programs that:
- Conserve and restore wetlands, agricultural lands, grasslands, forests and rangeland habitats;
- Promote opportunities and expand access to hunting and shooting sports on public and private lands;
- Encourages hunting and shooting safety by developing ranges on public lands;
- Recruit and retain new shooters and hunters;
- Increase public awareness of the importance of wildlife conservation and the social and economic benefits of hunting and shooting;
- Encourage coordination among the public, hunting and shooting sports community, wildlife conservation groups, state, tribal, territorial, and federal government.
According to the press release, the council will meet twice a year. Additional meetings may be called by the Designated Field Officer. The council has a set termination date of two years from its inception unless its charter is renewed in accordance with the provisions of Section 14 of the FACA.
Officially, the council exists to “further the provisions of the Fish and Wildlife Act of 1956 (16 U.S.C. 742a), the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (43 U.S.C. 1701), the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 (16 U.S.C. 668dd), other Acts applicable to specific bureaus, and Executive Order 13443, ‘Facilitation of Hunting Heritage and Wildlife Conservation.’ The Council is regulated by the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), as amended, 5 U.S.C. Appendix 2.”
Named members of the council include Mike Budzik, Retired Chief of Ohio DNR; Chris Cox, executive director of NRA-ILA; Jeff Crane, President of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation; John Devney, Vice President of U.S. Policy for Delta Waterfowl; Dan Forester, Vice President and Chief Conservation Officer for the Archery Trade Association; Ward “Trig” French, Chairmen of the Hunter’s Leadership Forum; Julie Golob, Captain of Team Smith and Wesson and co-host of Love at First Shot; John Green, board member of Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation and former policy advisor for Senate Majority Leader; Dale Hall, CEO of Ducks Unlimited; Blake Henning, Chief Conservation Office for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation; Graham Hill, board of directors for the NRA; Larry Keane, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation and board of directors for Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation; Bob Model, former President of the Boone and Crockett Club; Collin O’Mara, President and CEO of the National Wildlife Foundation; Donald Peay, founder and former CEO of the Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife; Eva Shockey, co-host of Jim Shockey’s Hunting Adventures; and David Spady, President of the Liberty and Property Rights Coalition.
Alternates named include Jack Atcheson, board member of the National Wild Sheep Foundation; John Banks, Director of the DNR for the Penobscot Indian Nation; Becky Humphries, CEO of the National Wild Turkey Federation; Rob Keck, Director of Conservation for Bass Pro Shops; Paul Phillips, President, Founder, and co-owner of Pac/West Communications; Keith Tidball, Professor at Cornell University of Natural Resources and Environment; Jana Waller, host of SkullBound TV; Kristy Titus, host of Pursue the Wild; Dianna Muller, Captain of Team Benelli; Wayne Hubbard, co-founder of Urban American Outdoors TV; and Mark Williams, commissioner of Georgia’s DNR.
The mix of named members and alternates is interesting. As a seasoned hunter I want to believe this council will not only preserve our hunting heritage but promote the inclusion of new members; as a longtime gun owner, I’m curious how gun rights will fit into this.
You might have noticed the mention of ranges being built on public lands – public lands such as Bears Ears, which has been identified as having acreage developable for oil, gas, and uranium. Thanks to Zinke, Bears Ears has had its boundaries adjusted and now qualifies for expedited leasing. What will become of public lands like Bears Ears?
I hope the council makes a positive difference. There is certainly potential here and heaven knows our public lands need preserving and our Second Amendment rights are under siege. Only time will tell.
What do you think?