In the Arena, by Rich Jefferson
My parents taught me to enjoy the great outdoors.We camped our way across the country and back. We still chuckle when we remember theraccoons in the Okeefenokee Swamp that clambered into the back of the station wagon andswiped our cereal. We are still awestruck by our first glimpse into the Grand Canyon. Andthe memory of balancing on top of Beacon Rock in the Columbia River Gorge can still giveme vertigo.
Now I have a family of my own. We live close to the Appalachian Trail.As we hike, we note the seasonal changes in the woods. We are making memories that willstick with the children until they can recount their adventures for their children.
One of our favorite quotes comes from “A Sand County Almanac”by Aldo Leopold. He wrote: “People who depend on natural resources for recreation oreven for survival have a different view from those who think all their needs can be met bya trip to the store.”
My children understand that the wood with which we heat our home comesfrom a renewable resource. We have a videotape with separate clips of President Clintonand Vice President Gore each saying that when old growth forests are gone, they are goneforever. The children get a good laugh from those sound bites. What’s the matter? the children ask. Don’t these important men know that trees grow from seeds? Trees grow,mature, and are either cut for good purposes or die and create fuel for a fire. Theydon’t last forever.
My children understand that. Our political leaders do not.
Unfortunately for those of us who buy fishing or hunting licenses, theU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has been run for several years by a gaggle ofappointees put there by leaders who do not understand simple facts of nature.
These are people who think all their needs can be met by a trip to thestore. And they’ve been spending the sportsmen’s money on trips and otherprojects for which there is no justification. The situation has gotten so bad that theNational Wilderness Institute has called for the resignation of FWS director Jamie Clark.
The National Wilderness Institute bills itself as the “voice ofreason on the environment.” It is “dedicated to using science to guide the wisemanagement of natural resources for the benefit and enjoyment of people.” Theinstitute recognizes “that renewable resources such as wildlife, fish, wetlands,wilderness, forest, range, air, water and soil are dynamic, resilient, and respondpositively to wise management.”
Why is the institute demanding that Jamie Clark resign? Read on. Andthen call your Senators and Congressmen and tell them why you agree with the institute.
Among the programs administered by the FWS are two that are vital tohunters and anglers. Under the Pittman-Robertson Act, excise taxes are collected at thefederal level from the sale of hunting equipment. The funds are then reapportioned back tothe states for managing game species. The Dingell-Johnson Act does the same thing forfishing.
What do you think about the FWS taking money that is legally earmarkedfor game and fisheries management and spending it on the spotted owl, the fairy shrimp,the Mexican Wolf, the wolf reintroduction program, native American education, as well astrips to Japan, Brazil and Italy?
It doesn’t matter if Jamie Clark and her con-conspirators spent $5or $150,000 on the spotted owl. What she has done was highly unethical and, as oneCongressman has said, it was probably illegal. And don’t you know that some of theloggers out of work in the Pacific Northwest because of the spotted owl are hunters andanglers who paid their fair share in federal excise taxes on hunting and fishingequipment?
How could anyone rationalize abusing the public trust and misusingpublic funds in this way? It’s obviously too tempting for the current FWSadministrators. According to the National Wilderness Institute, 8% — or more than $30million a year — is used for administering these funds. That’s a lot of money toplay with.
Jim Streeter, a spokesman for the National Wilderness Institute and aU.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee during the Bush Administration, explains.”For a long time the typical fish and wildlife employee went to work for the agencybecause they liked hunting and fishing. They often went to school for wildlife biology onthe GI bill. Over time, as the influence of environmentalism has grown, the feeling hasgrown that we’re too tied to the hook-and-bullet mindset. An institutional interestin expanding the FWS mission has developed in recent decades.”
An expanding mission. But the conservation programs carried out by thesportsmen worked. They were based on science. Maybe that’s the problem Clintonappointees have with the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson programs. Science andeffectiveness.
“The current leaders of the Service have abandoned science andsubstituted in its stead the political agenda and the big government programs of urbanenvironmentalists. Their programs may be politically correct but do not work in thefield,” Streeter says. “Conservation should be based on sound science, notpolitical sloganeering.”
However, the legal reasons for Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnsonfunds have not changed. These dollars can only be used to manage game species. So when theGovernment Accounting Office (GAO) reported that the funds are not “adequately”managed — typical government understatement — and that it is unable to”track millions of dollars in program funds,” then we should all demand directorClark’s resignation. They have co-mingled our conservation funds with other money andused it any way they wanted.
As NWI reported, Clark and company even tried to divert some of the ofthe sportsmen’s dollars to an animal rights group for anti-hunting propaganda. When abrave FWS biologist with 30 years of federal service refused to approve the impropergrant, they tried to force him out of government.
Remember when Clinton said seven years ago that his would be the mostethical administration in history? I’d hate to see what they would have done withPittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson funds in an unethical administration.