by Mark Chesnut - Monday, April 5, 2021
While few in the so-called “mainstream” media made note of the fact during confirmation hearings, the Biden administration’s brand new Secretary of the Interior (SOI), Debra Haaland, could be an issue for hunters.
A former chair of the New Mexico Democratic Party, Haaland became a member of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2019. Among her committee assignments, she serves on the House Natural Resources Committee and is the chair of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands. Now as the SOI, Haaland is responsible for managing the nation’s public lands and wildlife, a job that includes overseeing agencies critical to hunters including the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
As this NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum website reported continually during the previous administration, President Donald Trump worked tirelessly to open more public lands to hunting and shooting. But according to a Montana senator who attended a recent confirmation hearing for Haaland, “She refuses to commit to maintaining hunting, grazing, timber harvest and trapping on public lands.”
During that hearing, Sen. Steve Daanes (R-Mont.) voiced similar skepticism. “I’m not convinced the congresswoman can divorce her radical views and represent what’s best for Montana and all stakeholders in the West,” Daanes said.
In fact, Daanes’ concerns have been echoed by others in much of the Western part of the United States, where public lands provide much of the available hunting opportunities. A DOI secretary who opts to not work in the best interest of hunting could negatively impact the time-honored tradition.
Those hunter-backed groups who backed Haaland’s nomination pointed to her Native American background and history as a hunter as proof that she’ll work in the best interest of those who recreate on our nation’s public lands. However, it is important to keep in mind that in most cases, DOI secretaries toe the party line of their boss in the White House.
In fact, at one committee hearing Haaland said she would do just that. “If I am confirmed as secretary,” she said, I would be serving at the pleasure of the president and it would be his agenda that I would move forward.”
Will that be problematic for hunters? President Biden has long leaned more toward the “preservation” than “conservation” side of the equation and, as this website reports, there is a big difference. Such a stance is despite the fact American hunters and anglers are the nation’s true conservationists since they foot the bill for most wildlife and habitat enhancement projects. Biden has never acknowledged that truth.
In fact, just about all Biden has ever said about hunting or hunters was during last year’s presidential campaign when he went on record at a town hall meeting to oppose the importation of animals hunted legally outside the United States. Such a ban is intended to stop America’s outdoorsmen and women from hunting abroad—a longtime goal of the anti-hunting groups Biden was pandering to at the time.
One of the few other times Biden has mentioned hunting was when trying to make soundbite quips about semi-auto rifles with magazines that hold more than just a few rounds. Concerning that, Biden said, “If you need more than 10 rounds to hunt, and some argue they hunt with that many rounds, you shouldn't be hunting. If you can't get the deer in three shots, you shouldn't be hunting. You are an embarrassment.”
Of course, most ethical hunters cleanly and efficiently take their deer with a single shot. But since Biden doesn’t know anything about hunting, he can say what he wants—and the media will never question him on it.
Not encouragingly, Haaland already follows Biden’s firearms position and has supported bans on so-called “assault weapons” and other gun-ban schemes currently pushed by some in Congress. By supporting a semi-auto ban, people ignore the many models of semi-automatic rifles used by hunters to take game species from small to large.
As this website reported, President Trump’s first Interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, was quick to issue a secretarial order that expanded “access to public lands and increased hunting, fishing and recreation opportunities nationwide.” After Zinke left his position, his replacement, David Bernhardt, made similar advancements, even signing a secretarial order that directed the BLM to “adequately weigh public access for outdoor recreation—including hunting and fishing—when determining the appropriateness of the disposal or exchange of public lands.”
With SOI Halaand leaving many unconvinced of her long-term support of hunting and other recreation on public lands, the millions of hunters who use those lands will have to wait and see how she chooses to handle the issues that matter to them most.
About the Author
Freelance writer and editor Mark Chesnut is the owner and editorial director at Red Setter Communications LLC in Jenks, Okla. An avid hunter, shooter and field trialer, he has been covering Second Amendment issues and politics on a near-daily basis for the past 20 years.
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