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July 31, 2008

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Special Report: Hunting Gets A Boost from The White House

*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.

"It's not an electronic screen," he said." "There are beautiful things in the outdoors.

"There is a trend line that is down on entry-level hiking, biking, hunting and fishing," he continued. "We want to reverse that. This effort by the President is one of the major steps forward with that. It's intended to lay a foundation for the next 10 years, " said James Connaughton, Chairman of the CEQ.  "Whoever comes into the Presidency, whoever comes into the Congress will be given a strong set of recommendations from the community as to how we carry this work forward."

That's the beauty of the plan: It's bi-partisan, with the head of the CEQ calling for at least one mandatory follow-up meeting of the group every year.

"The most important thing is the ongoing measurement and assessment of our progress. This is really about generating real results over a meaningful period of time."

When questioned about specific plans that might be presented in September, Secretary Ed Shafer of the Department of Agriculture cited one that is already underway. "One of the recommendations is to put together a web page of all the different departments that shows available and accessible land--public land.  "And there are other projects. One of the efforts is the coordination of state, local, federal and tribal agencies. "Every state has trust lands that are available for public access, " he continued. "Often, we don't even know where they are. And often, landowners around them don't tell you, either.  "We need to make sure that we inventory the land, get it available, and get the public educated as to where the information is so they can go find the public land," Shafer concluded.  When I asked the group if they foresaw the day when hikers and birdwatchers and others who use our public lands might also be taxed, there was general agreement that that is inevitable, especially with the recent enactment of recreation fee legislation by Congress. Theodore Roosevelt once stated that "It's not what we have that will make us a great nation, it is in the way in which use it." The September recommendations will go a long way toward that goal.

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Hunting heritage and wildlife conservation recommendations will be posted on fieldandstream.com/heritage as soon as they are available this month.

Comments

Mike Diehl

Shrub could show some real support for hunters and rescind his directive to expedite all forms of mineral extraction on public lands.

I'll believe someone in the capitol is taking sportsmen seriously when OUR use of the "Land of Many Uses" is given equal standing with mining.

Jason

This is good thing for a start. However Bush has a history of getting these good reconmendations from simular groups and ignoring evrything they say. I will wait and see what he does once the talk is over. Being that it is into his last six months of office. I will wager that he will do nothing. This would have been really great if he showed interest in hunters 8 years ago.

jack

Sounds like a wonderful thing, if indeed it is a meaningful attempt to achieve the stated goals.

The skeptic whispering on my shoulder says beware of all government initiatives inside 100 days of an election. Bold promises in the weeks leading up to elections often lead to equally bold memory lapses the day after an election.

Chris

Its funny how they are making a website to encourage people to get away from their computer screens.

Scott

Bunch of BS beauracracy thats going to lead to more stocking of trout, and many more mineral expidetions on "public" land, with BS Govt. science telling us that what they are doing is having the most minimal effect to the enviroment around them. In short a huge waste of money and time, Bush is Grandstanding On the Potomac again trying to rally any persons of the right leaning sort to remember to vote republicrat again because the democan'ts aren't goin to do a damn thing with it, but "kill" any sort of hunting legislation.

Matt M

Bush doesn't give a damn about the land I hunt on, but he cares about hunting? Sure.

da truth

feild and stream should have a couple pages for how to hunt muleys in eastern washinton

Gregory Gallagher (SATW)

Greetings one and all. I am wondering if everyone knows about the great 16-year outdoor achievement recently completed by Bart Smith?

For those who do NOT, here is the announcement:

http://www.prweb.com/releases/2008/10/prweb1388654.htm

Happy Trails

Gregory B. Gallagher




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