Environmentalists vs. Hunters- A Misguided Enmity
You cannot fight the system by remaining outside the system. You must BECOME the system.
I'm a little weary of the constant criticism by hunters of the environmental movement. So often, projects seen as sponsored by environmental groups, "enviros", seem to be inconsiderate of hunters' desires or needs. There is a sudden distrust of the goals of these projects, and the generally misguided suspicion that there is an anti-hunting agenda behind them. Yet when hunters are offered the opportunity to work with the environmentalist groups, that distrust creates an immediate roadblock. So the environmental groups proceed without hunter input. The politicians who enact these projects promote themselves as environmentalists themselves, alienating hunters but winning great public support.
Isn't it time for this to end?
Enviro's alone do NOT control the politicians nearly as much as the public acceptance of the environmentalist agenda. That's where hunters are missing out. You can rail and piss and moan about the enviros all you want, and it's going to get you no closer to an acceptable solution than you already are. And shouting out to other hunters isn't going to help a whole lot either.
There are two things that are going to absolutely have to happen if hunters are going to continue to have places to hunt. First of all, there needs to be coordinated work with environmental groups, rather than this schism that exists now. And yes, I'm saying, "You can't beat them..join them."
Does this mean simply send the environmental groups your money and figure you've done your part? "I joined the Sierra club, so now I'm an environmentalist!"
After all, isn't this how most hunters figure they're being active... send a few bucks to DU and CWA and then declare, "I support our hunting traditions!"
Of course that's not going to help. You send in your money, that's great. The organizations will take it and use it to support whatever programs they want to use it for, thank you very much. And you'll continue to have no say in what is being done.
Sure it helps a little... but that's not where the battles need to be fought. What I'm saying is hunters need to get inside the environmental organizations, become ACTIVE members and start to drive some of the agenda. For that matter, it wouldn't hurt more hunters to get actively involved inside their own hunting organizations as well.
It's easy to do, if you're willing to work at it. Most organizations are controlled by a vocal minority. A few folks supportive of hunting, and prepared with organized, sustainable plans that provide benefits to hunters as well as the environment can make a world of difference in the environmental agenda.
You're not going to make drastic changes, such as opening up national parks to unlimited hunting and ATV access. But you can make sure that when these organizations take a plan before the politicians, the plan takes hunters' needs and desires into consideration. This is simply not happening enough right now.
Being on the inside of these environmental groups will have another effect as well. It will help provide some understanding of the rationale that drives many of the environmentalist causes. The majority of true environmental activists have a pretty good understanding of ecology and natural science. There are a fair number of extremists, of course, and some with an unrealistic perspective. There are the anti-hunters and the anti-humanists. And that is the reason that pro-hunters need to be there too. We need to be there to help keep the true "fringe" groups out there in the fringes.
The second thing that hunters need to do is simple, old-fashioned PR. In a current national survey, about three quarters of the respondents supported the idea of recreational hunting, even though they didn't participate in it themselves. My interpretation of that response is that those people don't really care, one way or another. Those people can be our biggest boon, or our biggest downfall...depending on how hunters choose to use them. If you give those people a reason to think hunters are wrecking the environment, that approval rating will drop pretty fast... and vice versa.
The environmental organizations are pretty much the fulcrum in a "battle" for hunting rights. Their main agenda is to preserve the environment... to keep viable ecosystems from being thrashed, and potentially to restore some systems which have already been overrun. You'd be blind, as a hunter, not to see that their agenda fits ours to a tee! We need those viable ecosystems too! If we allow development and abuse, the game we pursue is going to go right down the drain. If we allow the destruction of habitat, then where will we hunt?
The problem is this traditional distrust and even confrontation between hunters and environmentalists. For some reason, enviros have been long equated with anti-hunters, and this is simply not a true paradigm. But since hunters distrust the enviros, they will generally not work together. This opposition is seen by the public as an anti-environmental stance by hunters.
The reason the environmental movement has so much support is quite simple. Everybody wants their children, and their children's children to have green grass and blue skies. That's the promise of the environmental movement. On the other hand, the only thing pro-hunters represent to the general public is that we want to kill animals. This does not represent their goals at all. Non-hunters do not understand hunting, either the practice or the mentality. Nor do they want to.
Now when the public sees hunters railing against the environmentalists, what do you think they infer? "Oh, these selfish hunters just want more animals to kill! They don't care about blue skies and green grass. They don't care about my children's future!"
Now the politicians look at this picture. What do you think they see? Where's the big voting block? Who do you think is going to have influence? Not the environmentalists themselves, because the true activists are still a tiny minority. Likewise, the hunters are only a small fraction of the voter pool. No, the politicos are going to be gunning for that "general public" block, and anything that makes them look good to the general public will become part of their platform. So if the promise of "blue skies and green grass" gets those voters, then that's where the politicos are going to put their support.
At this point, even truth and science become unimportant. Hence, you saw the closure of your CA mountain lion seasons. At this point, it's too late to salvage what hunters have lost. The politicos are dancing to the enviros' drum, and the small handful of vocal activists driving the environmental organizations are calling the tune. Hunters are relegated to the fringe.
That's the picture as I see it, and that will not change unless hunters become more willing to work with and within the environmentalist's efforts. That's going to mean some compromise. It will mean some sacrifice, and that some hunters may find themselves left out in the cold. But it will also mean the opportunity to be seen as part of the voice of reason, supportive of blue skies and green grass, as well as of the animals that thrive on them.
Bottom line is, the environmental movement is not going away. We need a healthy environment simply to live. With the exception of tiny enclaves of subsistence hunters, we do not need hunting at all. Even if hunters choose to stand united, we still only represent a tiny fraction of the populace, and we will stand alone. On the other hand, if we can join our forces with the environmentalists to work for mutually satisfying goals, we will have the strength and public support necessary to keep the sport alive.
And if we choose to stand alone, then there is no one but ourselves to blame when our interests are trmpled into the mud.