Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Truly Conservationists

Durham NC, the community where I live is not the only place struggling with a damaged culvert, the pipe that permit waterways including those that allow stormwater to pass under roadways instead of over them which leads to flooding, etc.

However, poorly designed, placed or maintained culverts can also create hurdles.  Earlier this month, Trout Unlimited (TU) and Orvis jointly announced an ambitious plan to replace or repair poorly constructed culverts across the United States over the next 10 years to reconnect 1,000 miles of fishable streams and wetlands.

Orvis is a 150-year-old, family-owned, mail order business selling and often innovating outdoor adventure and sporting clothing and equipment, especially fishing, hunting and birding.  The company has long partnered with conservation groups such as TU, a 53-year-old, 140,000 member conservation organization for fishing enthusiasts.  A 2011 study showed that 91.1 million Americans over the age of 16 fish, hunt or watch wildlife.  More people fish and hunt than play golf and tennis combined.

Growing up along the banks of the famed Henry’s Fork(voted the best trout stream in America by TU members) on the Idaho side of the Teton mountains  I naturally learned to fly fish and hunt, although I was never much of a hunter, preferring to reach first for a camera or to just target shoot.

During college I still fished up a canyon along the Lower Provo River (voted one of the top ten trout streams in the Rockies) but left those interests behind when I graduated.  Today it is a joy to watch my grandsons fish off the dock, with Orvis rods of course.

Research today shows more people who fish and hunt live in the South than in the East and West combined.  Half are either ideological moderates such as me or liberals.  More than half are Independents such as me or Democrats by party affiliation.

Nearly 60% of fishing and hunting enthusiasts live in cities and towns and nearly 40% are now women.  But perhaps the most impressive fact is that more than 8 out of 10 self-identify as conservationists.  Those who are strongly so outnumber those who aren’t by 3 to 1.  Those who are conservationists also outnumber NRA members by more than 3 to 1.

Even though half are conservatives and 42% are Republicans, hunters and anglers want their needs on public lands to be given consideration before oil and gas leases.  The majority want mining royalties to be used to clean up abandoned mines.  Predominantly they believe we should confront global warming and restore Clean Water Act protections to wetlands and waterways.

Overall, those who hunt and fish believe that conservation is as important or more important than gun rights.  Clear air and water isn’t just a top three trait that liberals, moderates, conservatives and libertarians share for the places they select to live.

Ideologues and partisan politicians should study the moderate undertones shared by the 33 million people sixteen and older who fish each year and the 13.7 million people who hunt as well as the even more moderate positions held among the 71 million Americans who engage in wildlife viewing each year.

So how can so many in Congress seem dismissive of or oblivious to more than 80% of the US population who fall in that age group?  The answer is political rent-seekers.

Rent-seekers is a term describing special interests with powerful lobbyists who while they may be representative of those who vote during periodic elections, are sure to walk the legislative halls each day misrepresenting or seeking to subvert the popular will for their own pecuniary gain.

To me they should be fair game for anyone who believes in a return to truly representative government.

No comments: