by Erin C. Healy - Thursday, April 9, 2020
As this NRAHLF.org website reported last week, the NRA, along with the Dallas Safari Club, Hunter Nation and Safari Club International, sent a letter to each state governor urging them to open public lands for “America’s most traditional form of social distancing:” hunting. This week, the National Rifle Association Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) reported that a similar letter has been crafted and signed by a wide and varied group of organizations, including the NRA, America’s largest hunting organization. The distribution has been extended to mayors, state wildlife agencies, county leaders and others, in addition to governors who still have not added hunting, fishing and other outdoor sports like shooting to their list of essential activities during the worldwide health crisis.
The letter gives respectful deference to the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic and the added burdens of balancing medical, economic and social concerns for leaders during such an event. The signatories then offer their help in relation to outdoor pursuits. They urge “keeping managed-use facilities, boat launches, hunting and fishing areas, and viewing areas open to the general public,” and offer their services in spreading the word about recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as they evolve going forward to their social media audiences utilizing the hashtag #ResponsibleRecreation. The letter wishes people in every community good health but stresses the need for outdoor access.
“Nature is an ideal place to keep safe distances among people while simultaneously allowing citizens educational and recreational experiences that provide health, and hope,” the letter reads. “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.”
Some governors have already added hunting, shooting, fishing and outdoor pursuits to the list of essential activities. For instance, on Mar. 31, avid sportsman and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott officially declared that gun rights and hunting rights are essential to the people of Texas by signing Executive Order No. GA-14 protecting Texas citizens’ right to engage in hunting during the “COVID-19 disaster.” Similarly, on Apr. 2, Georgia Outdoor News reported that Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s shelter-in-place order does not extend to outdoor activities and specifically lists hunting and fishing as essential activities. Georgia Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Mark Williams emphasized, “It’s good to get outside and enjoy our state’s natural resources, but you have to do it very responsibly. Our officers are strictly enforcing the governor’s social distancing guidelines at boat ramps, WMAs (Wildlife Management Areas) and PFAs (Public Fishing Areas).”
Hopefully, after receiving this additional letter, signed by a coalition of Second Amendment, hunting, wildlife conservation and outdoor organizations, along with sporting industry leaders, holdout governors, mayors, county commissioners and other leaders who have closed hunting seasons and shuttered gun stores will follow suit. In light of reports from Fox News that COVID-19 cases are showing signs of leveling off in COVID-19 hotspots, that predicted death rates being adjusted downward and that President Donald J. Trump is mobilizing an economically-focused task force to begin addressing reopening sections of our nation’s economy, there is no reason to deny hunters the chance to put meat on the table and to find solace for their souls in the woods and fields across our great nation.
The full letter follows, including the complete list of signatories.
April 8, 2020
Our hunting, fishing, recreational shooting, and other outdoor recreation organizations are writing to offer our help and ideas for maintaining safe and appropriate access to nature during the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the entire country, we are concerned, careful, and committed to effective responses to the COVID-19 virus in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations. We deeply appreciate your current burden of leadership and efforts to find and implement solutions medically, economically, and socially. Our organizations will help however possible and hope for good health for you and your communities.
The outdoors is where we are most able to help. At parks, wildlife management areas, lakes, and other places, we ask for your consideration in keeping managed-use facilities, boat launches, hunting and fishing areas, and viewing areas open to the general public. Barring localized situations that may justify closures, we urge a general policy of maintaining open access which will help families through this challenging time. Nature is an ideal place to keep safe distances among people while simultaneously allowing citizens educational and recreational experiences that provide health, and hope. 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.
In particular, please consider maintaining the openness of opportunities for the hunting of spring turkey and bear, and other in-season species, as well as fishing and recreational shooting opportunities that are timely right now. The spring hunting season is upon us, and if your state’s wildlife management areas and other public lands remain open, this will provide an opportunity for the solitary and safe pursuit of hunting. Fishing also keeps people at a safe distance apart and can help sustain the economy if tackle shops remain open as essential businesses. Several states have temporarily waived fishing license requirements (but not limits), or withheld trout stocking announcements (which attract crowds), or opened seasons early (to reduce risk of crowding). Recreational shooters are practicing social distancing at ranges that remain open and also play a strong economic role by generating the federal excise tax revenue that drives the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF).
In recent weeks, many of our organizations have communicated with our members, as well as federal and state policy makers, to encourage safe social distancing practices while enjoying the outdoors. As such, a social media campaign known as #ResponsibleRecreation is underway to encourage the public to act responsibly as they enjoy the outdoors. Similarly, we can support your efforts through our webpages and social media channels by distributing information on available points of access and guidance on safety.
Thank you for your consideration of this matter and diligence in facing the crisis.
American Sportfishing Association
American Woodcock Society
Archery Trade Association
Bass Anglers Sportsman Society
Boone and Crockett Club
Campfire Club of America
Center for Sportfishing Policy
Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation
Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports
Dallas Safari Club
Delta Waterfowl Foundation
Fishing League Worldwide
Houston Safari Club
International Game Fish Association
Izaak Walton League of America
Marine Retailers Association of the Americas
Masters of Foxhounds Association
Mule Deer Foundation
National Association of Charterboat Operators
National Association of Forest Service Retirees
National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative
National Marine Manufacturers Association
National Professional Anglers Association
National Rifle Association
National Shooting Sports Foundation
National Wildlife Federation
National Wild Turkey Federation
North American Grouse Partnership
North American Falconers Association
Orion – The Hunter’s Institute
Pheasants Forever, Inc.
Pope and Young Club
Professional Guides and Outfitters Association
Quality Deer Management Association
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
Ruffed Grouse Society
Safari Club International
Texas Wildlife Association
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
Wild Sheep Foundation
Wildlife Management Institute
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
Erin C. Healy is the associate editor of the NRA Hunters' Leadership Forum. She edited a lifestyle magazine on Cape Cod for 14 years and provided marketing services for her local guntry club prior to working for BLADE magazine and a regional recreational fishing magazine. She served in the U.S. Army, is an NRA Life Member, a National Wild Turkey Federation member and sends her Jack Russell Terriers to ground as often as possible.
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