Keck caught up with the councilmen at the annual Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation fundraiser, held at Childress Vineyards in Lexington, N.C. Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior Ryan Zinke had made it clear, as only a former Navy SEAL can, that he wanted actionable objectives—concrete measures that could be implemented to improve success for game species and hunters. To that end, the council was broken down into subcommittees to hammer out the 10 recommendations that were submitted in the form of letters to Secretary Zinke. The actions of the advisory council are open to the public and therefore monitored, and the government in eliciting the council’s support is compelled to respond, either acting on recommendations or explaining why not. In other words, the communications from the advisory council cannot be ignored and are often implemented to the benefit of sportsmen and women.
Keck wanted to discuss a number of these recommendations in detail with his guests, starting with chronic wasting disease. The urgency surrounding this issue could not be overemphasized. Decades have gone by with little being done to arrest the condition. Unfortunately, because whitetail deer especially is a driver of hunting in general, along with other ungulates, this disease could wipe out the species and hunting along with it. You’ll be glued to the program, learning about the disease and how little we actually know about how it’s transmitted. Recommendations include involving scientists within the U.S. Department of Agriculture and their knowledge of livestock illnesses and their transmissions, along with the department’s shared interested in putting an end to the scourge.
Next Keck inquired about the progress on public access to hunting grounds. French noted that not only have 281,000 acres of federal land been opened to hunting since President Donald J. Trump took office, but the council is working to counter the efforts of anti-hunting, animal rights extremist organizations that tie up exchanges of private and federal lands in court for years. Private-public land exchanges are pivotal for making access a reality and not something just granted on paper. One has to be able to enter and egress the federal land in order to hunt it.
The conversation then moved into invasive species and critical habitat. Concrete management suggestions, including harvesting predators through scientifically controlled hunts, were offered as a means to cutting down human-predator interactions and re-establishing fear in animals that cause damage to property and livestock, as well as to life and limb.
The topic of wildfires wrapped up the in-depth explorations of the council members’ advisory letters. Again, management tools are not being utilized to curtail these increasingly more intense fires that not only kill game animals but destroy habitat for years to come. Continued education of the public is only one part of the solution, along with sound forest management practices, including the harvesting of timber, and finally, the laws need to be reformed.
All three men emphasized that learning to tell our hunting stories will be essential for the survival of our hunting heritage and our shared American values. That is exactly why French has been so committed to the work being done at the NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum. We constantly strive to celebrate the hunting tradition, while going on the offensive to correct misconceptions about hunters and hunting amid the general public and combating anti-hunting organizations in the public sphere and in the courtroom.
Editor’s Note: If you are unable to listen to the radio program when scheduled, check back here at 6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 14, and we will provide the link to the program so you can listen at your convenience.