Under Fire

Is the NRA shooting itself in the foot? By Alix Shutello

Historically, the National Rifle Association (NRA) hasn’t been too keen on conservation. Recent evidence: The group supported the Bush Administration in 2005 overturning the 2001 Clinton-Era Roadless Rule, which provided blanket protection to all remaining roadless areas in our national forests. (The ban was reinstated in September.)

But after years of aggressive oil and gas leasing on federal lands in the Rocky Mountain West outdoor sports enthusiasts have become fed up with the disruption of wildlife habitats and increased air pollution. And last month the NRA openly criticized the Bush administration’s energy policies that opened public land to oil and gas drilling and limited access to hunters and anglers.

Ron Moore, an NRA member and hunter from California, feels that wilderness destruction is not the issue—the issue is keeping hunters out of prime hunting land.

“I don't mind oil and gas leases or lumber leases where appropriate. I only have a problem when the leases then shut out everyone else,” he says.

The NRA is being pressured by its members to distance itself from President Bush's energy policies, which causes a dilemma for the 4.3-million member organization that often sides with the Republican Party.

The emerging alliance between environmentalists, hunters, anglers undermines one of the NRA’s main lobbying criesthat environmentalists, backed by liberal Democrats, are trying to advance anti-gun policies. 

As a result, lower-profile groups may win more attention in Congress. The Union Sportsman’s Alliance, for instance, is a partnership between the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (a hunting and fishing group) and labor unions that was developed with the specific goal of advocating for protection of federal lands in Washington.

As hunters and anglers reevaluate their values, some wonder whether the NRA will be able to listen to its members—and respond to their changing needs.

“The NRA has been silent for six years as the White House has done everything in its power to toss public lands into the hands of oil and mining companies so they can strip it or develop it in just about any way they want,” said Mike Anderson, a hunter from Georgia. Wilderness preservation is vital, especially to hunters.”

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I think its a useless effort for environmentalists to try to form alliances with hunters and trappers, who I see as part of the problem. They harm the ecosystem with their off-road vehicles, they litter and often don't follow the regulations, often taking "game" out of season, trespassing on private property, and more. They often introduce non-native species and kill off predators so they can have more prey. They lobby against increased Endangered Species Act protection for a number of species. I doubt that hunters are ever going to be vocal for environmental values on a large scale, so environmentalists should stop wasting our time.

Get over it! I'm a long time environmentalist - age 35, never owned a car, became vegetarian for environmental reasons 15 years ago, etc. Last fall, my long-time-NRA-member brother-in-law invited (a.k.a dared) me to go deer hunting with him. I accepted. It was interesting, eye-opening, and yep, he values stewardship of the state land on which he has hunted since he was 12.

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