Zinke Signs Pivotal Order for Sportsmen and Conservation

Zinke Signs Pivotal Order for Sportsmen and Conservation

Great hunting news travels even to the most remote locations as I sit here typing from an Idaho elk camp. But the latest news is no surprise as NRA Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) Executive Director Chris Cox has advised hunters and NRA members repeatedly to have faith in fellow sportsman and U.S. Secretary of the Interior (SOI) Ryan Zinke since being confirmed to his position in March.

Following through on his promises to sportsmen, on Friday, Sept. 15—just days before America celebrates National Hunting and Fishing Day on Sept. 23—Secretary Zinke signed landmark Secretarial Order 3356 directing those who manage millions of acres of Federal lands to begin expanding access for hunters and anglers. The ground-breaking order follows Secretarial Order 3347, which Zinke issued on his first day in office, citing the actions needed to restore the American sportsmen conservation ethic established by U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt.

SO 3356 comes on the heels of the recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service survey showing there are 2.2 million fewer hunters in America now than in 2011, making the order that much more critical. Set to move full speed ahead, SO 3356 expands hunting and fishing opportunities, enhances conservation stewardship, improves wildlife management and increases outdoor recreation opportunities nationwide. It also underlies the need to engage youths, veterans, minorities and other communities that traditionally have had lower participation in outdoor activities.

“The more people we can get outdoors, the better things will be for our public lands,” Zinke explained in an official DOI news release. “As someone who grew up hunting and fishing on our public lands—packing bologna sandwiches and heading out at 4 a.m. with my dad—I know how important it is to expand access to public lands for future generations. Some of my best memories are hunting deer or reeling in rainbow trout back home in Montana, and I think every American should be able to have that experience.”

Demonstrating Zinke’s staunch commitment to sportsmen, SO 3356 is one of numerous positive changes resulting from the tireless work of NRA-ILA, millions of NRA members and other like-minded sportsmen’s organizations during the 2016 elections to put new government leadership in place. As noted in his recent Fox News article, NRA-ILA’s Cox continues to applaud President Trump’s appointment of Zinke, marking the end to a hostile era toward American hunters and sportsmen.

"On behalf of the five million hunters, recreational shooters and members of the NRA, we commend Secretary Zinke for continuing to follow Teddy Roosevelt's sportsman legacy by opening more land and water to hunting and target shooting," said Cox, following the DOI announcement on Friday. "In the past, management plans for federal lands have been put in place to ban hunting and shooting. Sportsmen and women can now breathe a sigh of relief that those days are over. This administration values access to public lands for sportsmen and we commend them for it."

As explained on the DOI website, SO 3356 directs bureaus within the DOI to do the following:
  • Within 120 days produce a plan to expand access for hunting and fishing on BLM, USFWS and NPS land.
  • Amend national monument management plans to ensure the public's right to hunt, fish and target shoot.
  • Expand educational outreach programs for underrepresented communities such as veterans, minorities and youth.
  • In a manner that respects the rights and privacy of the owners of non-public lands, identify lands within their  purview where access to Department lands, particularly access for hunting, fishing, recreational shooting and other forms of outdoor recreation, is currently limited (including areas of Department land that may be impractical or effectively impossible to access via public roads or trails under current conditions, but where there may be an opportunity to gain access through an easement, right-of-way or acquisition) and provide a report detailing such lands to the Deputy Secretary.
  • Within 365 days, cooperate, coordinate, create, make available and continuously update online a single “one stop” Department site database of available opportunities for hunting, fishing and recreational shooting on Department lands.
  • Improve wildlife management through collaboration with state, Tribal, ​territorial and conservation partners.

As touted on, making sure America’s hunters and anglers enjoy access to our federal lands has been a priority of Zinke’s since day one. In case you missed it, on the same day he signed SO 3347 to begin the process of expanding hunting and fishing opportunities on public lands, he also reversed an order that would have banned lead ammo and tackle on National Wildlife Refuge lands. In August he announced a proposal to expand hunting and fishing opportunities at 10 national wildlife refuges followed by making recommendations to President Trump on 27 national monuments calling for changes that would protect the land while also expanding access to them for all Americans. More recently, on Sept. 7, the Migratory Bird Conservation Committee, where Zinke serves as chairman, approved $21.9 million in grants for the USFWS and its partners for wetland conservation projects.

Clearly, American sportsmen and America’s fish and wildlife resources remain in very good hands.