Did you know that this past Saturday was National Hunting and Fishing Day in the United States?
From our rugged peaks and mountains to our shining seas, our Nation is blessed with remarkable natural treasures. These magnificent landscapes are places where families and friends can create lasting memories and enjoy the outdoors. On National Hunting and Fishing Day, our country honors the many contributions of America’s hunters and anglers, who add to our heritage and keep our wildlife populations healthy and strong.
Isn’t that special? I had no idea that this once proud nation had set aside the fourth Saturday of September to recognize the alleged environmental awareness of hunters and anglers. Apparently, it has been this way since 1972, when President Nixon signed the first proclamation of National Hunting and Fishing Day, writing, “I urge all citizens to join with outdoor sportsmen in the wise use of our natural resources and in insuring their proper management for the benefit of future generations.”
Now don’t get me wrong. True, hunting has never been my thing and I haven’t dropped a hook in the water for years. But my beef isn’t really that “outdoor sportsmen” are honored for the collateral conservation thrown off by their enlightened self-interest. No, what gets me is that the only conservationists that we so honor are the violent ones. Where are the birders?
This story is nothing new. The hook and bullet club, as the combined hunting and fishing special interests are called, have considerable influence in American policy and politics. Birders, I wrote years ago, should also have a seat at the table. Alas, we do not. In fact, this paragraph from the White House 2008 Presidential Proclamation implies exactly how much credit the birding bloc gets for national conservation efforts:
Our Nation’s sportsmen and women are among our foremost conservationists. They care deeply about our wildlife habitats, and they have contributed billions of dollars to wildlife restoration through the Pittman-Robertson Act, which is a levy on certain sporting goods. This investment has helped restore many species, including the American elk, black bear, and wild turkey. Through the Federal Waterfowl Stamp program, the conservation of habitats for migratory birds has been greatly improved. By protecting our Nation’s wildlife, we can continue to advance the values of good stewardship.
The Pittman-Robertson Act taxes handguns, rifles, shotguns, ammunition, and archery equipment, and thus, does not impact traditional birding activities! The Federal Waterfowl Stamp program, on the other hand, is one that I’ve seen a lot of birding organizations and blogs promote. Yet, and it pains me to point this out, there is no National Birding and Wildlife Watching Day in the U. S. of A. There are observances like Bird Day, National Bird Day, and International Migratory Bird Day, but these are clearly focused on the quarry as opposed to the “hunters.”
All nature lovers can appreciate the enormous contributions hunting and fishing organizations have made to habitat conservation and environmental policy. Sure, valid disagreements about how to best interact with beloved species will arise but the point may be moot without concerted cooperation of all parties involved to protect as much critical habitat as possible. However, I am not comfortable with the idea that all of the support birders and wildlife watchers contribute to the Federal Waterfowl Stamp program inadvertently lends greater power to the hook and bullet lobby.
I will not be buying Duck Stamps nor will I recommend their purchase to others. It just doesn’t make sense. While some of our respective constituents share dual citizenship, the scope and field guide set is a separate bloc from the hook and bullet club. While birders may not want their day on the national calendar, they may one day want their day in court. It’s probably not a stretch to say that “our Nation’s bird watchers are among our foremost conservationists. They care deeply about our wildlife habitats, and they have contributed billions of dollars to wildlife restoration.” But based on the kind of treatment birding organizations get, who would know?