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You get what you vote for

May 25, 2012

I wrote not so long ago about my general wonderment at the fact that hunters continue to vote against their own best interests and the interests of their hobby time and time again by voting in conservative politicians who proceed to gut funding for public land procurement and management and assault protections that seek to keep that land as pristine as it can be under the circumstances.  It’s a position I never could understand.  We birders understand the importance of public land for our hobby, it’s nothing sort of crucial, and I go so far as to say that the vast majority of us trend left because of that.  I come down on the liberal side of the political spectrum for several reason, but not least of which is the fact that they’re the only party in the period of my life where I’ve been politically aware, who has given more than simple lip service to the idea that we need clean, protected, open spaces.

Hunters know this too, or at least they should.  But hunter advocacy organizations have done the rank and file a disservice by placing a greater importance on the non-existent issue of gun rights (the left has long since ceded that battle to the right) rather than the issue of having a place to use those guns.  And when the eye is off the ball and the organization is on the take, this is what happens.

According to Wisconsin’s White-Tailed Deer Trustee Dr. James Kroll, people who call for more public hunting opportunities are “pining for socialism.” He further states, “(Public) Game management is the last bastion of communism.”… James Kroll (also known as “Deer Dr.”) was appointed to the Wisconsin “deer czar” position last fall. He was hired by the Department of Administration and instructed to complete a review of the state’s deer management program.

People who call for more public lands are “cocktail conservationists,” [Kroll] says, who are really pining for socialism. He calls national parks “wildlife ghettos” and flatly accuses the government of gross mismanagement. He argues that his relatively tiny acreage, marked by eight-foot fences and posted signs warning off would-be poachers, is a better model for keeping what’s natural natural while making money off the land.

Now, I’m not a hunter.  I’m not even particularly sympathetic towards hunters (particularly waterfowlers), but I do care about science-minded management and opportunities to access public lands.  And this seems to be a gross perversion of the ideals that make public lands in this nation a cause worth fighting for.

Take, for instance, the state of hunting in Texas since this Kroll character took over.  Due to heavy lobbying from the fenced deer and game park industry, deer hunting is not allowed on public lands anymore.  In order to hunt, the hunter must secure a lease from one of these farms, a lease which, even when shared, can run up to $10,000.  So this is what Wisconsin’s hunters may have to look forward to, all in the name of profit or freedom or something.  It’s not entirely clear.  But isn’t it funny how those two proud justifications always seem to require the same actions?  And I don’t think for a second this would mean more opportunities for birders.  The goal here is to make that which is public private.  So the beleaguered Wisconsin State Parks and game commission, whose budget has been decimated, would first need to be relieved of the responsibility of managing this land, at which point it’s put up for auction and sold to the highest bidder.  And in this way your local patch becomes just another game park behind an eight foot fence.

I suppose I could ask the hunter advocacy groups to take an interest in all this but I wouldn’t want to take away from their busy lobbying for recreational surface to air missiles.  Those things don’t legalize themselves, you know.

  1. dendroica permalink
    May 25, 2012 6:15 pm

    Democrats ought to make more of an issue of this, especially Democrats that run in red (or reddish) rural districts. Then again, Democrats who do run in those districts seem to be “business-friendly” types rather than populists, so maybe it wouldn’t resonate. A lot of times when environmental organizations talk about hunting it sounds condescending, to both hunters and birders, so I’m not surprised they haven’t gotten more traction. That said, there are some common interests, so maybe a different approach would get better results (as long as both sides are interested in cooperating).

  2. May 26, 2012 11:42 am

    Thank you for yet another thought-provoking and eloquent post. It’s now winging its way to family and friends. Two of the latter are former hunters and former Republicans aghast at how the GOP has tried to gut environmental protection. One will then no doubt use your crystal-clear points on her “privatize everything/I’ve got mine” friends (likely without success).

    Sadly, there is a kind of internal logic to the fenced-in-hunting scenario, at least in the minds of those supporting privatization. Many of them will have plenty of money to pay — and all of them will admire the entrepreneurial spirit and cleverness of the owners.

    Dendroica is right; environmental groups (and many of us wildlife-lovers) do have a tendency to speak condescendingly and/or judgmentally with reference to hunters — a sure way to slam doors. I’ve encountered a similar problem in dealing with the issue of keeping domestic cats indoors. I strongly believe that that it needs to be done, and it’s all too easy for me to “demonize” recalcitrant cat-owners. I encounter them all the time; most are simply ignorant about the devastating effects on birds and wildlife (and the dangers to their pet), while others resent being told what to do. A soft, understanding approach is generally called for if one hopes to induce change.

  3. June 25, 2012 2:17 pm

    Sorry, but your (admittedly) left -leaning blog entry is based upon an “urban legend:”

    Just Ask the Governor (as in Governor SCOTT WALKER)

    Question: There have been rumblings in the Chippewa Valley Area that your long term plan for state land (Public Hunting) areas would be to turn them over to private organizations for deer management. Furthermore, it was suggested that these management organizations would charge a fee to use these lands that the state already owns. Can you please address this and ease our minds once and for all?

    Answer: As long as I am Governor, hunting on public land in Wisconsin will always be open and accessible. I will not allow private organizations to take over deer herd management – and I would certainly not allow fees to be levied that would decimate Wisconsin’s hunting heritage.

    These rumors started because the independent deer trustee, Dr. Kroll, will be coming out with a final report on the Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) deer herd management practices in the near future. Dr. Kroll dispelled this rumor directly – you can hear from him by clicking here:

    I look forward to reviewing Dr. Kroll’s independent, science-based analysis of the DNR’s current deer herd management policies. I am optimistic that his recommendations could help improve current policies and ultimately help restore the trust of Wisconsin’s sportsmen and sportswomen.

    • Nate permalink*
      June 27, 2012 8:55 pm

      Thanks for the clarification, Walker Backer. We all know how trustworthy and not at all misleading Scott Walker has been in the past, so I’m glad we can take him at his word this time. And as for Dr Kroll, I have no doubt that the man who believes small game parks marked by 8 foot fences are the best model for game management has the best interests of Wisconsin’s sportsmen in mind.

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