Opinion by Clark Ramsey
USA – -(Ammoland.com)- Something stinks in the hunting community, and it smells like big government
Gun owners and sportsmen are predominantly political conservatives. Unfortunately, they have a weak spot. Like most people, these folks think they’re principled. Until you threaten to take away or reduce protections for something they have a personal interest in. For many gun owners and sportsmen their personal interest is public land, the environment, and the game they pursue.
Recently the Trump administration issued guidance to federal wildlife law enforcement on the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The Trump administration will no longer be seeking to prosecute “incidental take” of birds protected under the Act.
Protections still remain for birds intentionally killed, but no longer will someone be prosecuted for tearing down a vulture’s nest to build a man-made structure.
Specifically, the guidance provided, “all that is relevant is that the landowner undertook an action that did not have the killing of [protected birds] as its purpose.” Some contend that this removes vital protection for catastrophes like Deep Water Horizon, but those fears are misplaced. The federal government still retains avenues of reimbursement from companies responsible for such catastrophes.
Ducks, geese, and other migratory game birds like mourning doves and woodcock also fall under the Act. The response from many sportsmen has been rife with condemnation for billionaires and “greedy corporations.” If there is one issue in this country that carries vast bipartisan support it is a hatred for the wealthy.
I have one simple question for you hunters and conservatives who believe a massive federal government is the answer to game management and the environment. Where does the money that supports private conservation groups and all the habitat they protect come from?
Since migratory birds are at issue, let us examine where Ducks Unlimited’s annual budget of more than $220 million comes from. Their 2017 annual report reveals nothing surprising to me, but it will be a big surprise to those who rage against the wealthy.
Only 25% of their funds come from membership dues, but events and sponsorships are tied into that figure. They don’t reveal the income distribution of any members or contributors. No doubt at least some of that money comes out of rich people’s pockets.
19% comes from donated conservation easements. In short, a binding legal covenant not to develop the land, thus preserving habitat. This of course reduces the value of the land in perpetuity and likely prevents heirs from subdividing it or developing it. Generally, only the wealthy could afford such a reduction in value.
12% comes from “major gifts and endowments.” Yet again, those filthy rich bastards. The audacity of contributing significant funds to conservation for the benefit of others.
Lastly, 39% comes from federal and state habitat support and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Where does that government money come from? First, a massive portion of federal income taxes are paid by the wealthiest 1%. They paid 39.5% of federal income taxes in 2014, the most recently reported year. Second, corporations in America, until this year, were taxed at one of the highest rates in the world. Lastly, NGOs are those evil corporations we all love to hate. Despite all the money they already shell out in taxes, they’re still giving away money for free to conservation groups like Ducks Unlimited.
Principles don’t move because we have a personal interest in a particular benefit. Nor do they move because of emotional outcries about “the environment.” We cannot be for big government in one avenue of our lives and staunchly oppose it in another.
Many self-proclaimed conservatives and moderates love to throw around quotes about the environment from Teddy Roosevelt. Most of what he thought about conservation a century ago is completely irrelevant today. We have long surpassed the low information conservation age of Teddy Roosevelt.
In his day, there were next to no game laws. The man thought killing sow bears and their cubs was a perfectly good idea. He thought nothing of killing every animal in sight. Please stop circulating his progressive ideas about a need for a massive federal government because he tied it to your pet issue of wildlife and the environment.
Some still cling to the idea that unethical and harmful practices of Roosevelt’s time will somehow return. That view ignores the fact that we’ve evolved a great deal on conservation and environmental practices. We understand migration of waterfowl. We have seasons and bag limits, which are and should be determined by the states.
Market hunting for instance is in no danger of returning. Systems are already in place. We have domesticated sources of venison, buffalo, waterfowl, and all manner of meat. I consider myself a pretty skilled hunter, but you’d have to be far better than me to compete with the domestic market with your shotgun or rifle.
We cannot be authentic proponents of a Constitutionally limited government if we cry for big government on any issue.
We claim we will be prepared to exercise the power of the 2nd Amendment at some point down the road when the government becomes too oppressive. Yet, some of us demand an ever-expanding federal power in the name of environmental protection and the game we pursue. What will there be to hunt when we are no longer free?
What’s the answer, absent a massive federal government? Advocate and teach. Think of the days when catch and release fishing and “if it flies it dies” hunting were the norm. That didn’t change because of regulation so much as it did a concerted effort by advocates and private conservation groups. Most of us have learned the consequence of that behavior. In short, if you don’t want the federal or state government to regulate then you’d better regulate yourselves.
About the Author Clark Ramsey
Clark Ramsey is the host of “The Ramsey Revival” on YouTube. He is a former Infantry Marine and a service-connected disabled veteran. Clark holds a Juris Doctor from Michigan State University College of Law and a Bachelor's degree in Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness. He has thousands of hours in a variety of shooting related disciplines from hunting to tactical fieldwork. If he could, he'd spend all of his time hunting and fishing with his wife and three kids.