When I was 19 years old, a doctor told me I should only eat wild meat. He said it would be much easier to digest.
What the doctor didn’t tell me was the pursuit of the wild meat would be hard and the challenge would be good for me too.
I have been a conservationist since I was young, learning catch-and-release, learning to preserve places where fish and wildlife thrive. What I didn’t know until later was the money I spent on fishing and, later, on hunting, also supported local jobs and conservation.
This week I felt betrayed to learn the outgoing administration undercut hunters and anglers with a ban on traditional ammunition on federal lands and traditional fishing tackle on federal waters. With all eyes on the new president’s inauguration, the outgoing U.S. Fish and Wildlife director Dan Ashe placed the ban which took immediate effect in national parks, wildlife refuges and all other lands and waters administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
What lands and waters are we talking about? As I read Director’s Order 219, the Department of the Interior oversees the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Reclamation, refuges and other divisions.
In my corner of Oregon, Prineville Reservoir is managed by the Bureau of Reclamation. Imagine an angler on Prineville Reservoir fishing through a hole in the ice on January 19. He lowers down a skirted jig. Maybe he caught a fish or two or a bucketful. By the time he pulled his jig out of the water at the end of the afternoon, he was fishing illegally.
Now imagine a traditional blackpowder hunter going for a hunt on BLM lands. The muzzleloader has historic value, it employs technology that was state-of-the-art in the 1840s when the pioneers filtered into Oregon Territory. By law in the state of Oregon, a muzzleloader, to be legal in a muzzleloader hunt, must be loaded with a lead projectile. Thanks to Director Ashe’s last act in office, it is illegal to use it on BLM land.
This underhanded order, issued while no one was paying attention, undercuts hunters, anglers, small businesses and conservation across our country. If Director Ashe cared about environmental protection he would have considered these factors.
Hunters and anglers pay for conservation via licenses and stamps and voluntary taxes. Hunters in particular, through the Pittman-Robertson Act (levies an 11-percent tax on guns and ammunition), lobbied for these taxes and fees. Order 219 mandates more expensive bullets and more expensive fishing tackle on many public lands and waters.
Some people won’t be able to afford to replace all their tackle or all their ammunition — to hunt on public land they own in common with all other Americans. I see it as another barrier to participation. Whenever it costs more to participate in an activity, we lose the people on the lower end of the economic scale. It hurts kids most because their parents can’t afford to participate in the activity.
Fewer hunters and fewer anglers means fewer dollars for conservation and for wildlife habitat.
Why would an unelected, appointed bureaucrat issue such an order on the last day of his job? If it was so important, why didn’t he issue that order earlier in his administration?
In my view this is a cheap shot from an anti-hunting, anti-conservation bias. The legal hunter and angler, who pays a voluntary tax to help wildlife becomes the scapegoat.
If this order is allowed to stand it hurts hunters and anglers and harms what it claims to help — wildlife habitat and populations across the United States.
Gary Lewis is the author of Hunting Oregon and host of Frontier Unlimited and a columnist for The Bulletin in Bend.