Friday, June 08, 2018

Dan Ashe On the Self-Sabotage of Hunters

Dan Ashe, former national director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, writes about the need for white, male hunters to join the environmental movement and to embrace diversity rather than division:

Today, we share the planet with 7.3 billion other people. By mid-century, we will be approaching 10 billion. And it’s not just our growing numbers, but our expanding affluence. More of the world’s population will be more like us, with increasing access to things like electricity, education, transportation, and health care. We will demand more fuel, more fiber, and more food, and we will consume more of the planet’s ecological space. And though we would wish it were not so, that means less and less for the rest of what we collectively call biodiversity.

So, continued success will require that we become smarter, faster, and stronger. Better focused. More unified. Collectively determined.

Unfortunately, we’re headed in the opposite direction.

And that’s a good transition to my second point:

As a community, we have a significant, growing, and disabling dysfunction. We are increasingly viewing ourselves as an island in a rising and roiling sea of social transformation. We are attempting to armor ourselves against its tremendous tides of change. We are reflexive, defensive, and increasingly angry, at the proportion of the population that just doesn’t get it.

The inconvenient truth is that the "don’t-get-it-crowd" is a lot bigger and growing, while we and our island culture are, again, moving in the opposite direction.

So, easy things have become hard. Hard things are now impossible.

Case-in-point is what we call a "Sportsmen's Bill." And this is not a criticism of the Congressional sponsors, because they are responding to us. We are the problem. This is our dysfunction.

Rome burns ... prairies are in crisis ... Asian carp assault the Great Lakes ... Burmese pythons strangle the Everglades ... Elephants, rhinos, and other wildlife are decimated by a global epidemic of trafficking ... state and federal refuges in California (anchors of the Pacific Flyway) are starved of water ... mule deer are disappearing from large expanses in the West ... every native trout species is imperiled ... grassland birds are declining precipitously ... and on, and on.

And we ask Congress to address the import of 41 polar bear trophies, killed in 2008, in the name of sportsmen.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund expires. But, in the name of Sportsmen, we ask Congress to exempt lead bullets from Toxic Substances Control Act regulation, well knowing that lead bullets are not being regulated by TSCA.

And then, just a few years ago, we witnessed the armed, illegal occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by extremists who deny the legitimacy of federal and state government, and the entire concept of public lands held in trust for the American people.

I’ll pause here to recognize the national conservation organizations who stood up and spoke out publicly against the occupation at Malheur: the National Wildlife Federation; National Wildlife Refuge Association; Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership; Trout Unlimited; Backcountry Hunters and Anglers; Defenders of Wildlife; Center for Biological Diversity; and the Audubon Society.

Read the list of groups again. If your favorite national conservation organization is not listed here, it's because they chose to do nothing at that crucial moment.

The great parliamentarian Edmund Burke said: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

.... But fewer and fewer people are fishing, hunting, and spending time outdoors. Wildness in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and the people who enjoy and appreciate it live in a rare bubble that is not mirrored in the rest of the country. More than 8 in 10 Americans dwell in urban and suburban environments. And urbanization is accelerating. The nation will soon be made up of a majority of minorities.

We—you, me, our organizations, our profession, our community—do not look like broader America. We do not, therefore, think like broader America. How then can we even understand, let alone achieve what is important to the matters at hand in a changing America?

.... We have to break out of the disciplinary silos that we built, and that served us so well, in the 20th century. We can't do 21st-century conservation if we see the world divided into fish, wildlife, range, and forestry. We have to unite these great disciplines and see conservation in a larger context, and design conservation on a larger scale.

We have to have zero tolerance for politicians, at all levels of government, who support divestiture of public lands or who try to politicize hunting and fishing. No candidates should be able to call themselves sportsmen or expect the vote of sportsmen unless they defend, loudly and at every turn, the benefits and importance of public land ownership and professional stewardship.

Read the whole thing.

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