It's appropriate, this being the first post on this blog, that it be something of a rant. A guy's got to let off a little steam, you know? Vent ... spew. Perhaps, after I get this out of my system, we can resort to more civil discourse, more agreeable discussion. More respect.
But respect, at least among those of us who hunt and fish, is an earned commodity. We take care to hone our skills, to learn our crafts. We take pride in becoming the best we can be at the quick, humane kill or the decision, should it be the right one, not to kill. And we take care to pass these endeavors down to our children and our children's children so they, too, might come to respect the wild places we visit today in search of fish and game. We have a deep, intimate relationship with the lands we use to harvest our game and to catch--and sometimes kill--our fish. We understand the impact we have on the environment, and work to minimize it or, if at all possible, leave things better than we found them. We're sportsmen and women--not camo-clad dilettantes who take our sporting heritage lightly.
Certainly, there are many of those around. But, because they lack the respect for the land and for the fish and the game they pursue, they're slowly migrating to the high-fence game farms and the stocked ponds where they can prop their asses in a lawn chair and never move farther than an arm's reach from the cooler. I'd like to think they'll eventually wink out, like the passenger pigeon, but we're enabling this lazy sect of our fraternity by providing go-anywhere off-road vehicles that can get into the backcountry and back to the heated Winnebago in time for dinner.
But make no mistake. Once one of these obscene, lazy cretins punctures the wild with a gas-powered, knobby-tired ORV, the backcountry ceases to exist. And I suppose that's the first sore spot that led to the decision to create this blog and share these views that might seem a bit over the top, but upon reflection, represent the only path to protecting our real sporting heritage.
ORVs. I hate 'em. With a passion. Unless they're working a farm or trashing land that belongs to the fat ass on top of the machine, they have no place on land belonging to you, me and every other American. Nothing galls me more than working my tail off to get to my fishing spot, or my ridgetop only to find that somebody has managed to take the motorized shortcut--often illegally--to my destination.
So who enables these "sportsmen" who would rather be quick and comfortable than stealthy and successful? Let's take a quick look at the political landscape and determine who's to blame for the eroding fish and game habitat on public lands in this country.
As a gun-toting sportsman, I'm supposed to kiss the foot of every conservative politician who puts "defending the Second Amendment" on his or her campaign brochure, right? Get real people. Nobody in this country will ever be able to successfully take our guns. Not Barack Obama. Not Hillary Clinton. Nobody. Go ahead. Get all worked up. Talk about the crazy blogger who's not afraid of the big, bad liberal wolf out to take our guns and make us submit to some socialist agenda. I'm the rational one, not the dillweed who flashes his NRA card like some badge of earned honor. Here's why:
If we don't first protect the places we go to fish and hunt from some of the same politicians who prop up their platforms on the Second Amendment, no amount of guns are going to do us any good, unless we plan to you use them against the people who took not our weapons, but the places we go to use them. Chances are, the same politician who tells you you can have his gun when you pry it from his cold, dead fingers is also supporting all kinds of activities that are trashing your opportunity to hunt and fish. They're supporting Big Oil as they drill for fossil fuels on land (or under water) better left alone. They're taking campaign contributions from industry and from God knows who else (No, thank YOU, Chief Justice Roberts), and in return they're turning over access to our land, to our water. And when it's tarnished, penetrated, polluted and ruined, they're not holding anyone accountable.
They take campaign donations from Yamaha, Honda, Exxon-Mobil, Encana, Shell... millions of dollars every year to ensure they are bought and paid for and our opportunities are diminished as they allow the places near and dear to us to be turned over to simply allow for more natural gas to hit the already-glutted market, or for Bubba and his band of sadly obese kids he had to pry away from the PS3 to ride across public lands until the wheels fall off their damn ATVs.
Sportsmen need to wake up. I can't count how many "Sportsmen for So-and-So" campaign stickers I saw this last election season, and most of the time, those "sportsmen" were supporting conservatives who have little or no interest in protecting what's really near and dear to hunters and anglers. In many cases, by voting for conservatives (and notice I've taken care not to label all conservatives Republicans, because that's not entirely accurate), sportsmen are voting against themselves and their own best interests. They've been coopted. Willingly.
And, just in case you think this is some kind of partisan smear effort, let's talk about the party that just got it's ass handed to it, shall we? The administration and Congress did next to nothing over the last two years to help protect habitat and opportunity (you'll hear that a lot from me--the two are linked together like Siamese twins). They voted to support an omnibus public lands protection bill in early 2009, but not until after it was loaded down with so much bacon that it could still be serving breakfast in the House cafeteria nearly two years later. And, let's not forget the bill got its genesis in 2008, under George W. Bush, perhaps the worst president ever when it comes to handing the keys to our public lands over to industry.
You bet. We got anemic health care reform, and the suddenly fiscally responsible Republicans decried the stimulus package. Seems Obama and the Dems in Congress thought it wise to go right to the top of the apple tree and find the hardest fruit to pluck rather than accomplish anything of substance on the natural resources front.
And make no mistake about it, my fellow hunters and anglers--you're on the front lines in the battle to protect our natural resources. You may not have to be as shrill as the green weenie enviro groups out there, but you better be every bit as devoted to protecting public lands as the crunchiest of the crunchy are, because, whether you know it or not, you're fighting the same fight. And you're on the same side.
Yeah, I know this week's election was a referendum on the economy and immigration and health care and all sorts of pet social project the Democrats rushed to put in place once they got their guy in the White House. But that's our fault. We sat back. We hid under the radar, not as the administration worked to safeguard the places we love and the pastimes we cherish--because they didn't. In fact, these last two years could well be "the lost opportunity," simply because, when Sara Palin jumped up and energized an electorate that would rather be spoon-fed its politics than to actually do its own research, we suddenly had a Congressional majority that was more interested in saving their jobs than actually doing their jobs.
That worked out well for them, didn't it?
OK... rant over. Time for discourse... if you happen to stumble on this and have something to add, please do. No need to be polite--as you can see, I certainly wasn't. Maybe, by the time the next election cycle rolls around, we can actually accomplish something.