by Jim Zumbo - Friday, July 14, 2023
Born of necessity, the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA) became a reality in 2005. At the time, there was a demand for an outdoor media group that would embrace the needs of the nation’s outdoor enthusiasts, especially hunters and shooters. Several hundred qualified media members joined POMA, establishing the group as the most prestigious outdoor media alliance in America. The NRA was one of the first primary supporters and remains so today.
Each year, POMA hosts a conference in various U.S. locations. The Pinnacle Awards are presented at the conference to members in a highly competitive contest that includes eight categories. Because she’s modest and unpretentious, I’m proud to announce that Karen Mehall Phillips, Director of Communications and founding editor of the NRA’s Hunters’ Leadership Forum (HLF) website (NRAHLF.org), won an Outstanding Achievement Award at the recent 2023 conference in Broken Arrow, Okla.
Her article in the Newspaper/Web category is titled, “U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Expands Hunter Access While Restricting Use.” Totally transparent, Karen is never hesitant to draw a line in the sand. Here are some excerpts from her article.
“Hunters and shooters welcomed last week’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announcement regarding its final rule to increase hunting and fishing access on 18 national wildlife refuges for 2022-2023—until they got to paragraph No. 6. This is where it slipped in its other new rule: a ban on lead ammunition and fishing tackle at some or all of these refuges beginning in 2026. So, while the USFWS’ final Hunt Fish Rule for 2022-2023 increases access opportunities by providing 38,000 additional acres for public recreation within the federally managed National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS), sportsmen are calling it as they see it: a back door phaseout of traditional products.
“On June 13, the NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum (HLF) posted a story noting how the USFWS claimed the lead ban proposal was ‘based on the best scientific data available,’ yet there is no data that shows traditional ammunition is causing population declines for any wildlife species at any wildlife refuge. As the NRA Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA) noted, ‘Anti-hunters and anti-gun extremists ignore the science and misinform policy makers and the public on the effects of extremely small amounts of lead.’ Many of them also say that alternative ammunition is inexpensive and readily available, which also is not true.”
NOTE: As a Wyoming resident, I know firsthand that for years Yellowstone National Park anglers have been restricted from using lead in any form, whether it’s a split shot, weight, thin lead wire wrapped around a fly or even lead core trolling line. This is taking the no-lead rule to an extreme, which is so typical of federal environmental rules that are quick to prohibit products that have little or no credible science behind them.
As regularly noted in NRA HLF website material, Karen goes on to explain that the ban on lead ammunition would negatively affect ammo sales because of the impact on excise taxes imposed by the profoundly important Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937, which has resulted in state fish and wildlife agencies receiving more than $15 billion in funding since the Act was signed. In 2022, the states received $1.5 billion alone. That’s a monumental plus for wildlife.
The following is a message to Karen from one of the contest judges who is not acquainted with her. “The article by Karen Mehall Phillips was very timely and informative and something that every hunter should read and be concerned with. States such as California and some in the federal government work behind the scenes to limit our rights as hunters, making it harder for new people to become hunters.”
This comment ties into why it is so important for the NRA and other hunter-backed groups to push ongoing R3 programs to recruit, retain and reactivate hunters while at the same time reaching out to the public to communicate about legal, regulated. In fact, in 2014 the NRA established the NRA HLF specifically to address the cultural, political, demographic and social challenges to hunting’s future. Then in 2016, Karen worked with NRA Publications to launch the national award-winning NRA HLF website to report on the issues while telling the story of hunters and hunting. Also in 2016, it was the NRA that hired the internationally known research firm Responsive Management (RM) to conduct America’s first groundbreaking study gauging public attitudes toward hunters, hunting, animal welfare and dominionism. Karen was involved in this research project and the resulting book, How to Talk about Hunting: Research-Based Communications Strategies, that was written by RM and published by the HLF in December 2020. Fittingly, the first printing of 3,500 copies was reserved for wildlife conservation and hunting professionals at the USFWS, state wildlife agencies and hunter-backed conservation organizations.
As for the importance of the NRA HLF website, I’m a big fan. It’s where I get my updated news about hunting and wildlife conservation issues, and I’m proud to be a contributor. That news can be about the devious work being perpetrated by anti-hunters, the latest in new laws and litigation that negatively affects hunters, reports on wildlife issues such as the devastating epic winter that killed thousands of big game animals in the Rockies, instant news about maulings by long-since recovered grizzly bears, updates on hunters giving back to their local communities through NRA-backed Hunters for the Hungry programs, and much, much more. Karen stays on top of all the issues with a stable of credible writers around the country as well as her own writings. She’s a superb advocate for America’s hunters and a critical ambassador for the NRA.
Karen has served in several positions within the NRA over the past 30 years. In addition to her role on the frontlines with the NRA HLF, she is also the senior editor of the NRA’s American Hunter and is the founding editor of two other NRA official journals: America's First Freedom and Woman's Outlook. She has hunted for decades and is passionate about hunting with both bow and rifle. Amid multiple national writing awards, including others from POMA, she is the only woman to have been named Carl Zeiss Outdoor Writer of the Year.
With 30 states and various Canadian provinces to her credit, she has also hunted abroad extensively, including in Italy, Finland, Germany, Spain, New Zealand, Greenland and Africa, where she hunted two of the Big 5. Her most recent hunt in a foreign country was in Turkey where she hunted ibex with her husband, Phil, who also has won POMA awards for NRAHLF.org material. Interestingly, animal rights extremists were able to close the season prematurely, cutting their hunt to only a few days—but they scored. This underscores a key fact. In protecting hunting’s future, we hunters must recognize how well-organized, well-funded extremist groups are working hard to destroy our way of life, which is why we must work just as hard to protect it, promote its cultural acceptance as the NRA’s 2016 research shows, and point out what would happen to wildlife if there were no hunting or hunters’ dollars.
With credentials such as Karen’s and her experience in telling the story of legal, regulated hunting and the role hunters' dollars play in wildlife conservation, she perfectly augments the NRA’s powerful role as the country’s top supporter of firearms and hunting. I’m pleased that she’s on our side. Her leadership within the NRA and her ability to instantly report on vital issues of interest to hunters is an enormous asset.
About the Author
An icon in the hunting community, Jim Zumbo is a noted Western big-game hunter who also has hunted deer in all 50 states. Backed by two degrees in forestry and wildlife, he has had more than 2,000 articles published in outdoor publications, written 23 hunting books and conducted hunting seminars nationwide, including for the NRA. In addition to serving as a full-time writer/editor for Outdoor Life magazine for 30 years, most of them as hunting editor, he was the host of “Jim Zumbo Outdoors” on the Outdoor Channel. A Benefactor Life member of the NRA, Zumbo has won numerous awards for his writing and remains active with conservation groups, including serving three terms on the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Board. His biography, Zumbo, Based on the True Story of Jim Zumbo and His Blog Heard Around the World by K.J. Houtman, was released in November 2016.
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