Not all sportsmens' groups created equal

Jan 13, 2012
by WLJ

While many advocacy groups and organizations claim to support protecting wildlife populations, improving habitat and preserving land access for the future in their publicity and fundraising campaigns, which all sound good to anyone who enjoys the outdoors, they are not always showing their true colors.

“Many so-called sportsmens’ groups are actually working against the interests of hunters and fishermen as well as landowners and managers,” said Bert Ancell, New Mexico Cattle Growers Association (NM- CGA) president, Las Vegas. “While some are out there actually doing good work that makes a positive difference on the ground, others are working behind the scenes to put policies and regulations in place that restrict multiple use, which includes hunting and fishing, threaten the second amendment, and negatively impact both wildlife and New Mexico’s rural economies.”

All of these groups depend on public support, but sportsmen who want to contribute to causes they care about should look carefully at what these groups are actually doing with their time and money. “Groups like the Center for Biological Diversity and WildEarth- Guardians use the courts to push their radical agenda. They used the Mexican spotted owl to destroy the logging industry in New Mexico and Arizona, and are now using the reintroduction of the Mexican grey wolf to decimate the livestock grazing industry,” he continued.

“When you look at multiple use of our federal and state trust lands, how far behind is the elimination of hunting and fishing?” Introduced wolves have had a significant negative impact on deer and elk herds in southwestern New Mexico, which means fewer hunting opportunities and tough times for businesses that depend on those hunts, like hunters, outfitters and local businesses. “With the ‘help’ of these groups, the quality hunts that once were available in the Gila are becoming a thing of the past,” Ancell noted.

Another example is the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, which recently led an effort to significantly rework pronghorn antelope hunting in the state claiming to be working on behalf of hunters. “Had they succeeded, far fewer hunting opportunities would have been available because of the harm and headaches the suggested changes would have meant for private landowners and ranchers, who provide most of the antelope habitat in the state,” according to Ancell.”

“Additionally, New Mexico has way too many bears and mountain lions, which not only impact human health and safety and livestock production, but they are also seriously depleting wildlife populations including deer, antelope and elk,” he continued. “But we didn’t hear a word out of the Wildlife Federation about balancing predator populations to benefit hunters and hunter opportunities.

Other groups, like the Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife, the Wild Sheep Foundation, The Safari Club, and the Trappers Association do good work for wildlife and sportsmen on the local and national level and should not be confused with activist, environmental groups, Ancell said. “Many of our members are also members of these organizations. We just want people to be conscious of exactly who and what they are supporting when they send in that check. Most times, the efforts of activist groups are just as bad for us as ranchers as they are for the sportsmen.”

In an effort to truly protect habitat, wildlife populations and hunting opportunities, NMCGA has joined forces with several other groups in a Sportsmen & Landowner Coalition to present the real picture of what is happening on the ground and what needs to happen, Ancell reported. Included in that coalition are the New Mexico Sportsmen For Fish & Wildlife; New Mexico Wool Growers, Inc.; the New Mexico Trappers Association; the New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau; New Mexico Houndsman’s Association; Safari Club Southeast New Mexico Chapter; Safari Club Northern New Mexico Chapter; New Mexico Council of Outfitters and Guides; New Mexico Chapter of the Wild Sheep Foundation; Southwest Coursing Hounds; and Farm Credit of New Mexico. — WLJ