by Mark Chesnut - Thursday, January 4, 2024
The National Rifle Association, the country’s foremost defender of our right to keep and bear arms, is also the nation’s biggest defender of hunters and hunting rights. Consequently, here at the NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum website—NRAHLF.org—we try to keep readers updated on the latest issues affecting hunters and hunting, along with other hunting-related news of interest. So as we usher in the New Year, let’s take a look at some of the most important stories we brought you in 2023.
Efforts to ban lead ammunition were once again among the biggest topics all year long. It seems that many government agencies at many levels just can’t stop themselves from trying to ban conventional lead ammo for hunting, despite the fact that there is no solid proof that it has a detrimental effect on any wildlife populations.
In March we explained how the Biden administration announced plans to open a few new wildlife refuge lands to hunting, but in the next breath announced that lead ammunition would be banned on those properties. Oddly enough, just a couple of months later an attempt by an anti-hunting organization to persuade the federal government to ban lead ammo and fishing gear on the more than 500 million acres of federal lands by next year was thwarted by the administration.
By June, Biden’s cronies in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Department of the Interior were back to proposing a lead ammo ban at eight national wildlife refuges. That move prompted some in Congress to take direct actions to oppose such shenanigans. In July, a key U.S. House committee approved an important measure that would prohibit the ban of lead ammunition on federal land or water that is under the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Interior.
In late October, the NRA ratcheted up its opposition to the proposed lead ban, speaking out strongly against the Final Rule. “Once again, the Biden-Harris administration is giving sportsmen a bad deal,” said Randy Kozuch, Executive Director of the NRA Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA). “The NRA will continue to fight against sweeping bans that ignore science and pander to anti-hunting extremists.”
During this time, the NRA also joined with two other powerful hunter-backed conservation groups to intervene in a court case involving a scheme that could lead to a ban on hunting with lead ammunition on the entire National Wildlife Refuge System.
Attacks on hunting by anti-hunters were also much in the news in 2023. In late January we reported how a coalition of hunting advocacy groups in Washington state was suing the governor for appointing anti-hunters to the state wildlife coalition. Less than a month later, pro-hunting forces in Wyoming were promoting a legislative measure to stop private landowners from blocking access to public hunting lands.
The NRA fought hard for hunters throughout the year, both in state legislatures and in the courtroom. In March, NRA filed an appeal in a lawsuit challenging a state law that essentially made it illegal to market hunting and the shooting sports to California youth. The NRA was among the groups that challenged the law in federal court and asked for a preliminary injunction to prohibit it from taking effect.
In other anti-hunting stories we reported, Kansas joined a handful of other states banning trail-camera use on public lands, and Colorado introduced a ballot initiative that would ban mountain lion hunting with no scientific basis to do so. In fact, Colorado has a well-thought-out mountain lion management plan in place, but that fact is ignored by anti-hunters.
President Biden also got in on the anti-hunting activity in 2023. In July, the Biden administration launched a battle against the very future of hunting by announcing it would withhold federal funding for public schools that offer hunter education and archery programs in their curriculum. The administration claimed the move was authorized under the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA), an anti-gun measure that narrowly passed Congress. Not surprisingly, most Americans were against the decision. Congress quickly passed a bill rolling back the move. President Biden later signed Congress’ measure, marking an end to the ludicrous attempt, and made no further statement about the matter.
Of course, anti-gun politics are also anti-hunting politics since guns are critical to our hunting heritage. In March we reported on how a gun-control measure under consideration in Colorado could greatly damage hunting and wildlife conservation efforts in the state. And in May, we chronicled how a move by the Department of Defense (DOD) to restrict gun sales on DOD property could affect hunters who are in the military.
Large predators remained a contentious topic as animal rights groups continued trying to take their management away from wildlife experts. Three federal measures putting predator management back into the hands of state wildlife agencieswere proposed in Congress. In other wolf news, a major hunting group in Minnesota refused to attend the annual governor’s deer opener because of his support of wolf hunting bans. On a brighter note, though, toward the end of the year, Michigan officials announced that the state may consider reinstating wolf hunting in the state’s Upper Peninsula if the species is delisted federally.
In grizzly bear news, NRAHLF.org covered how the USFWS is considering delisting the species in two ecosystems in the Lower 48. The website also reported on the latest fatal grizzly bear attack in Yellowstone National Park and its ramifications, and widespread opposition to a new scheme to release grizzlies in northern Washington state.
Lastly, the animal rights movement continued to receive considerable coverage. And that’s for a good reason as these organizations hate hunting and want to ban our way of life. Top stories in 2023 detailed how extremist group PETA’s slaughter of dogs and cats had topped the 45,000 mark, how the war on meat is also a war against hunting, and how the much-heralded American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) spends only 36 cents of donors’ monthly $18 contributions to help animals live a better life.
Please stay tuned in the new year as we continue bringing you news and updates on the issues of interest to American hunters.
Managed by hunters for hunters, the NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum website (NRAHLF.org) has been the leading news source for hunters since its unveiling by NRA Publications in 2016. Eight years later, the site has numerous professional media awards to its credit as it remains on the front lines 24/7, delivering state, national and international news on the issues impacting the future of hunters, hunting and wildlife conservation.—Karen Mehall Phillips, Director of Communications, NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum
About the Author
NRAHLF.org contributor Mark Chesnut is the owner/editorial director at Red Setter Communications LLC in Jenks, Okla. An avid hunter, shooter and bird dog field-trialer, he has been covering Second Amendment issues and politics on a near-daily basis for almost 25 years.
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