*A special report by Jay Cassell
If you're concerned about the future of hunting in this country, then you might want to pay attention to what's going on in Washington later this month, when a group of government agencies and conservation organizations will meet to issue far-reaching blueprints for hunting and wildlife conservation. It's called the 2008 White House Conference on North American Wildlife Policy, and it will impact hunters across the country for at least the next 10 years.
The wheels for this policy initiative were put into motion on August 16, 2007, when President Bush issued an Executive Order, "The Facilitation of Hunting Heritage and Wildlife Conservation". The purpose was to direct Federal agencies to 'facilitate the expansion and enhancement of hunting opportunities and the management of game species and their habitat.' This is a good thing for hunters, intended to preserve one of our nation's most deeply rooted traditions.
At the President's direction, the policy recommendations will be put together by the Secretaries of the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture and the Council for Environmental Quality (CEQ), with consultation provided by the Sporting Conservation Council (SCC) and other concerned groups. Many of the policies will be based on scientific white papers that were presented last April and which cover such topics as hunting access, wildlife management on Federal, state and tribal lands, funding for conservation, habitat management, and how to perpetuate hunter traditions. It will be called the Recreational Hunting and Wildlife Resource Conservation Plan. If you hunt, it will affect you.
"We will ultimately have one action plan that will have an effect for the next 10 years," Dirk Kempthorne, Secretary of the Interior, told me in an interview on the Hill this past May. I was there to attend a reception commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the 1908 White House Conference on Conservation, when President Theodore Roosevelt called the nation's leaders together to discuss natural resource conservation. "Part of it is to reconnect Americans with the outdoors," Kempthorne said. He went on to explain that plans will be made to not only get Americans back into the outdoors, but also to get young people out there.