Washington, DC — The iconic cartoonist Walt Kelly first penned “We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us” for an Earth Day poster in 1970. In an ironic echo of these words from his puckish possum Pogo, a Bush-appointed sporting panel convened to promote hunting has identified an array of administration policies as the biggest threats facing wildlife, according to a series of official “White Papers” released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
Back on August 17, 2007, President Bush issued Executive Order 13443 directing national park, forest, range land and refuge systems to write “a comprehensive Recreational Hunting and Wildlife Conservation Plan.” This plan was to be developed under the guidance of a Sporting Conservation Council made up of groups such as the NRA and Safari Club International, named by outgoing Interior Secretary Gale Norton.
In April 2008, the Sporting Conservation Council created a series of “White Papers” to aid federal agencies in “development of a comprehensive ten-year Recreational Hunting and Wildlife Conservation Plan called for in the EO” wrote Council officer Phyllis “Twinkle” Seitts in her June 6 transmittal letter.
While politely phrased, the White Papers unambiguously identify a series of Bush policies as the major “challenges” or “problems” facing hunters and wildlife, including –
- Loss of wetlands due to actions “in 2001 and 2006 by the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers [which] have had the effect of removing wetlands protections that have been in place for more than 30 years”;
- Oil and gas drilling on federal wild lands which has become “a major wildlife concern in significant parts of several western states…”; and
- Politicized science and underfunded wildlife management, causing declines in biodiversity. “Federal land management planning decisions continue to hamper the ability …to effectively implement wildlife management projects” and conservation efforts.
The White Papers also cite the anemic response to climate change, border policies (such as walls) which inhibit “trans-boundary” wildlife management and deteriorating agency culture and capabilities.
“Even the hunting groups that the Bush administration perceives as allies view his policies as a disaster,” stated Southwest PEER Director Daniel Patterson, an ecologist and hunter who formerly worked with the Bureau of Land Management. “It is unlikely that any of these critiques will be incorporated into the Bush ten-year plan, a perverse legacy that will likely be abandoned almost as soon as it is birthed.”
Significantly absent from the White Papers was any discussion about negative effects of the massive influx of off-road vehicles on wildlife and hunting opportunities, a topic which Rangers for Responsible Recreation, a PEER-sponsored network of former public lands law enforcement officers and managers, urged be considered. Participation in all of the meetings for composing the hunting plan was limited to groups selected by the Bush administration, but White House officials have so far refused to invite the Rangers, despite several requests.
“Principles of ecosystem management are the exact opposite of the Bush approach, which reduces natural resources to the special interests dedicated to their exploitation,” remarked PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “A genuine dialogue about conservation of wildlife and their habitats will have to wait until 2009.”