Time for a little outreach

  In your Feb. 6 editorial, you provide a great example of one common misunderstanding: "These days, hunters seem to rarely assert their political power toward conservation ends" (HCN, 2/6/06: Time for a little outrage). I would be the first to agree that some hunting groups let their reluctance to criticize Republicans get in the way of using their political power, just as some environmentalists do with Democrats.

But for the last 75 years, excise taxes on hunting and fishing gear, now at about $1 billion per year, have supported wildlife and habitat protection — for both game and nongame species. Somehow, for some environmentalists, this conservation act by sportsmen does not count?

Imagine what a similar $1 billion excise tax on backpacks and other outdoor gear used by environmentalists would do for endangered, threatened and declining species. Yet, many environmentalists have opposed establishment of a fund to do this.

In 2005, hunters were fundamental to stopping a stupid proposal to do away with tax deductions for conservation easements. Hunters continue to be key to wetland protection and farm conservation, and they were pivotal to stopping the proposed sale of mining lands. They figured out these issues on their own, only to have some environmentalists take credit for "getting them involved."

Both sides would benefit from really investing some time to understand each other. Both suffer from their more radical members polarizing issues unnecessarily. A little outrage may feel good, but I am not sure it would be as effective for conservation as a little outreach.

Paul W. Hansen
Executive Director, Izaak Walton League of America
Gaithersburg, Maryland