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I received this email from a Ruffed Grouse biologist. Send me a private message if you want his email address.

This post will disturb some. Now they want to stop P-R funds and public access for hunting. Long story below, but interesting.


Sierra Club lawsuit only widens gulf between sportsmen and environmentalists

Sunday, March 24, 2002 : It has always been a source of consternation to me that this great divide exists between sportsmen and the environmental community. Together we could build coalitions fomenting better natural resources policy that would pay dividends for everyone.

But the gulf continues to widen. The federal court's recent dismissal of a Sierra Club lawsuit against state and federal resource management agencies illustrates why.

That suit, which argued against the way the Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service administers a federal aid program, was, to quote the Dubya, "not helpful."

Now stay with me -- this thing involves enough attorneys to make Mother Theresa cuss. But to make a lengthy story brief, the feds collect an excise tax on firearms, ammo and archery gear and redistribute it to state agencies. The Pittman-Robertson Act (P-R) largely funds wildlife restoration activities in the states.

The P-R Fund, which dates to 1937, was initiated at the behest of sportsmen, who sought a method to fund natural resources protection and restoration.

The Sierra Club suit charged that the agencies were ignoring the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) by allowing certain P-R activities to occur without appropriate review.

To cut to the chase, Judge Richard A. Enslen largely agreed with the agencies. Enslen ruled that three of the four P-R activities under attack were based on well-accepted management practices and that they did not have to be reviewed and re-reviewed ad nauseum.

Enslen determined the fourth point was moot.

Mackinaw Chapter Sierra Club director Anne Woiwode called Enslen's opinion "badly flawed." But Woiwode also claims a degree of victory because Enslen ruled that the P-R program must comply with NEPA.

This is a "moral victory" at best for the Sierra Club, which actually received none of the relief it sought. It appears that Enslen's ruling will allow the continuing exemption of certain management practices endless review, which is what the agency sought.

Still, after reviewing a pile of documents as thick as a five-borough New York city phone book, I am struck by one overriding impression: This is another example of the Michigan Sierra Club's anti-hunting campaign.

Woiwode challenged the DNR's Hunter Access Program (HAP), which leases land from private owners to allow public hunting. Woiwode argues that as a non-hunter, she is being denied value from the expenditures of these funds because she is "prevented from legally entering these lands."

Horsefeathers. The HAP requires that hunters obtain landowner permission before hunting. (In many cases, this is done via a simple sign-in station, but not always.) There is nothing in the HAP agreement that says landowners shall deny non-hunters access to the property. All Woiwode has to do is ask.

Woiwode's argument is akin to saying state parks discriminate against non-swimmers by maintaining beaches or hiring lifeguards. She chooses not to hunt; there is no discrimination here. If she wants in, she can go buy a hunting license.

Besides, there is no requirement that every dollar the P-R Fund expends be used to benefit every individual. From a pure business standpoint, the HAP program is an excellent idea: If the state loses hunters, P-R loses money. This is a common-sense reinvestment in natural resources funding that causes no environmental fall-out.

But lawsuits like this cause significant damage to natural resources management by widening the gap between sportsmen and environmentalists. With all the critical issues surrounding natural resources, the Sierra Club has to pick a fight over a tiny program that not only benefits wildlife (by preserving habitat) but also rewards those who put up the money?

My late buddy Rick Jameson, who ran Michigan United Conservation Clubs, used to tell me what made coalition-building so difficult is the environmentalists resented and envied sportsmen, who not only had more political clout, but also had funding because they arranged to tax themselves.

This lawsuit seems to validate that assessment.

Contact Bob Gwizdz at (517) 487-8888 or e-mail him at [email protected].

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I can't stand the Sierra club. PR fund exist because of hunters...plain and simple. I can't believe that they're upset that money raised by hunters, was used for more access to hunting. I don't see the Sierra club doing anything for hunters? Why should we care about them? Sportsmen have, and always will be, the best conservationists this country will ever see. Look at all we've done for wildlife and habitat. There isn't a single group out there who's even done 1% of what we've accomplished.

What really irks me is that we are essentially for the same cause when it comes to habitat. They don't realize that more public land for hunting means more public land for all the bunny-huggers to enjoy to. I would like to see all lands that were paid for by hunters (WPA's, federal refuges, WMA's, etc...) be closed off to non-hunters just for a year. Then the public wouldn't take for granted all we've done to benefit their lives.
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