The underlying problem, and it's painfully apparent with the direction of the Obama administration, is that anglers/hunters have been silent for far too long. This administration, along with some members of Congress, don't seem to take us seriously anymore. We (representatives of the sportfishing/hunting community) can only inform the administration or the Hill about our issues so many times claiming we represent 60 million anglers or 27 million hunters, unless we are backed up by letters, phone calls, e-mails from those constituents that we are claiming to represent.
We are collectively going to have to focus on and push over the coming months/years that anglers/hunters were the first conservationists. We continue to open our wallets, roll-up our sleeves and work to protect the resource. Yet, today's bureaucrats and many politicians are surprised when they learn of our efforts since Teddy Roosevelt.
We're often surprised to learn high-level, federal employees have never heard of Wallop-Breaux, Dingell-Johnson or Pittman-Robinson legislation. These are high level, federal employees that were COMPLETELY unaware of the most successful model of fish and wildlife management in the world, which we started and support today.
Anglers and other outdoor sportsmen have done more for our natural resources than all the well-known environmental groups combined. We have contributed more than $5 billion for sportfish and wildlife management alone since the passage of those acts, that's not counting the in-kind from millions of angler hours of fixing stream banks, sinking fish habitat , removing invasive species, removing trash or planting native plants The public and our elected officials need to hear that message over and over.
Letters to members of Congress are always the best avenues on national issues. Even when sportsmen are commenting to a federal agency on a particular issue, they need to copy their members of Congress on their input.
When any member of Congress gets enough letters on a particular issue, and it doesn't take very many these days, they start calling us as representatives of the outdoor community to find out what's going on and how they can help.
The Oceans Policy Task Force Interim Report and the outdoor community's call to action is a great example. We had a meeting on very short notice with the White House CEQ Thursday. Thus far they've been very good about meeting with us, but the fact that a couple of thousand anglers got the message and sent letters (about 2,800 through the Keepamericafishing.org site in two days), along with the outdoor press coverage, certainly helped.
I think they see us a small blip on their radar screen. Hopefully, over the coming months, they'll see us as the major constituency that we represent.
Ultimately, we're all on the same page. As outdoorsmen and women, we all want to see the same thing — healthy oceans, healthy lakes and healthy streams. We just want to make sure we can continue to access those resources so our kids and grandkids can appreciate the need to conserve those resources into the future - just as we have.