by Karen Mehall Phillips - Friday, April 3, 2020
While it’s the week of April Fool’s Day, this news is no joke. Hunters must be advised that certain states are announcing cancellations of their spring hunting seasons due to COVID-19—despite that hunting is an ideal way to maintain social distancing while recreating and hopefully putting much-appreciated game meat in their freezers during tough economic times. The good news is that as the nation’s largest organization of hunters, the National Rifle Association (NRA) again is acting on hunters’ behalf. Earlier today the NRA, in conjunction with the Dallas Safari Club, Hunter Nation and Safari Club International, sent a letter to all state governors respectfully urging them to open public lands for “America’s most traditional form of social distancing.”
Of course, while the NRA and like-minded groups support the need to prevent the spread of the coronavirus through social distancing in compliance with Centers for Disease Control guidelines, they do not support the closure of all remote public lands and parks. Among the states announcing restrictions and/or closures are Alaska, which is closing its spring bear hunting season except for subsistence hunting; Illinois, which has suspended all hunting and fishing on state land for as long as a “Stay at Home” order remains in effect; and Nebraska, which has closed spring turkey hunting to nonresidents to discourage travel.
Hunters can do their part by contacting their governors and urging them to please keep public lands open. As we mainstream all-Americans work to get through the weeks ahead, we need to be able to savor the opportunity to take a breath of fresh air and safely hunt, fish and enjoy the great outdoors.
Following is the full text of the letter.
We, the undersigned organizations, representing millions of American hunters, anglers and conservationists who utilize public lands for hunting and fishing, ask you to please keep these lands open to the public. Now, more than ever, Americans need to have the ability to access these lands for a variety of reasons, including hunting and fishing to provide food for their families.
Many states and the U.S. Departments of the Interior and Agriculture have waived fees to parks and kept access open to millions of acres of public land to encourage distancing in America’s vast wide-open spaces. Public lands can remain open and still facilitate the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) guidance while also providing a much-needed source of food and recreation for American families.
Closing these areas significantly limits the ability of our nation’s millions of sportsmen and women who take to our woods, waters and wild lands every year to pursue their passion for the outdoors—an activity that is, at its core, America’s most traditional form of “social distancing.” Further, given the economic effects of COVID-19, it is more important than ever to allow hunters and anglers access to healthy and inexpensive sources of food to support their families.
For these reasons, we respectfully urge you to immediately open any non-developed public land or fish or wildlife area outside of high-population areas and in compliance with CDC guidance so that Americans can continue to safely hunt, fish and recreate. We also ask that you keep this in mind when considering any decision to restrict access to public lands.
Dallas Safari Club
National Rifle Association
Safari Club International
The NRA Hunters' Leadership Forum website covers news relevant to hunters on the local, national and international fronts. We track how hunters' dollars are spent and we celebrate our long and rich hunting tradition, exposing those who seek to destroy it. Follow NRAHLF.org on Twitter @HuntersLead.
About the Author
Karen Mehall Phillips is the director of communications for the NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum and senior editor of NRA’s American Hunter. An avid rifle and bow hunter, she has hunted for 30 years and in 29 states, Canada, Italy, Finland, Germany, Spain, New Zealand, Greenland and Africa, including for two of the Big Five.
Karen draws on her experience to educate non-hunters on the critical role that hunters play in wildlife conservation worldwide and to inform them of the dangers anti-hunting extremists present to the future of wildlife conservation. She is invested in fighting America's culture war on hunters and hunting and works to shed light on anti-hunters’ blatant attempts to tout emotion and misinformation over scientific facts.
An NRA Endowment member, Karen worked in the NRA public relations arena prior to joining NRA Publications in 1998. She is the founding editor of two NRA official journals: America's 1st Freedom and Woman's Outlook. National writing awards include being named the 2015 Carl Zeiss Sports Optics Writer of the Year. She actively promotes women and families in the outdoors. She is also a member of the Washington metropolitan area's Fairfax Rod & Gun Club, a founding member of the Professional Outdoor Media Association, a member of Safari Club International and a Life member of the Dallas Safari Club and the Mule Deer Foundation.
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