January 09, 2012

Why the NRA is Wrong on Public Lands

You would think that a magazine called American Hunter would be interested in preserving high-quality wildlife habitat. But you would be wrong.

American Hunter is published by the National Rife Association. Now generally I support the NRA, or I would not have paid for a life membership.

Not only does the NRA support 2nd Amendment issues, although not always as quickly and nimbly some would ask, but it works in the background in many ways for the shooting sports. They make insurance affordable for small local shooting ranges, for example.

But when it comes to public lands management, you have to wonder who they are working for.

Example: an article in the December 2011 by J.R. Robbins, managing editor of their hunter's rights department, titled "NRA Backs Bill to Increase Hunter Access."

Now reading that, you might think that Robbins was talking about areas to which hunters did not currently have access. But you would be wrong, again.

Hunters have access to these Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands. I hunt them. My friends hunt them.

So what is the NRA's problem here? Simple, these are Inventoried Roadless Areas. They are managed as wilderness areas.

Here in Colorado, for example, those are good spots for elk. All kinds of studies show that the more roads you have, the fewer elk will stay in the area (see p. 4). (Here is one for Roosevelt elk in Oregon—PDF download.)

And what the NRA wants is motorized access. Rmmm rmmm roar!

Why? Look the advertisers. Back cover: Cam-am ATVs. Inside: a full-page add for Yamaha ATVs, and a third-page ad for Moose ATV batteries, plus a 1.5-page gushing "advertorial" review of the Ford 150 pickup truck.

The NRA Is a very top-down organization. They don't have boots on the ground. There are scores of members in my little county, but no one asks our opinion on roadless-area management. Nor do they have a volunteer network following these issues the way that many conservation groups do.

Ducks Unlimited knows that you can't hunt waterfowl without wetlands. Trout Unlimited knows that you can't fish for trout without cold, clean waters.

Evidently the NRA knows that you can't sell ATV advertising unless you are consistently anti-roadless area.

I will never forget the time that I attended a senator's public meeting on one roadless area in Chaffee County. The NRA's state representative, some guy from Denver who looked like he did not get outdoors very often, got up and gave the official line: roadless bad.

He was followed by a number of local hunters who all said some varietion of the same thing: "I'm an NRA member too, but I am in favor of the proposed wilderness designation because it is good for wildlife — and I don't mind walking."

Who do you think impressed the senator more?

So you might think that a hunting magazine would want to protect the future of hunting through the protection of wildlife habitat—public-lands habitat which can be hunted right now and which does not need "increased acess."  But not when it's the NRA's magazine.


Mark Bailey, Utah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Absolutely spot-on. I have never understood why organizations such as the NRA seem so anti-wilderness. I want more wild lands, more game (of al kinds) and more spaces for everyone, including hunters. The NRA will never get my money until they change.