Thursday, January 27, 2011

Adversary of the Sporting State

I thought I'd start a new feature at the Political Sportsman, largely because ethical hunters and anglers all over the country are faced with real threats from some of the folks who purport to defend our rights to fish and hunt, all the while working with special interests to erode our opportunities, often right under our noses.

And, rather than stoop to Tea Bagger rhetoric or place a "surveyor's symbol" over the district of the politician who, through his or her actions, is harming our hunting and fishing way of life, I just decided to go with something respectful, yet blatantly clear to both the hunting public these people impact, and to the politicians and agency officials themselves, who by word or deed, diminish the uniquely American pastimes of hunting and fishing on land belonging to every citizen of the state. Hence, the title Adversary of the Sporting State.

I thought about "enemy" rather than "adversary," but in the spirit of a kinder, gentler political discourse, "adversary" seemed more respectful.

And our first Adversary of the Sporting State?

Idaho state Sen. Tim Corder. The P.S.'s very first A.S.S.
Congratulations to Idaho Sen. Tim Corder, a Republican (in Idaho? Shut the front door!) from Mountain Home. Sen. Corder, clearly caving to the neanderthals in Idaho's rabid off-road vehicle community, introduced a bill this session amending existing state laws that allow the state Fish and Game Department to regulate ORVs on public lands during hunting season.

See, for all the backward, right-wing, out of nowhere politics in Idaho, its Fish and Game Department is ahead of the curve. Sadly, although it's funded solely by sportsmen, its oversight is given to a governor-appointed commission (which isn't so bad right now, because Gov. Butch Otter, while a little backward himself, isn't a complete right-wing sell-out), and the state Legislature has the ability to interfere frequently. Which it does.

Let's start with the good things about hunting in Idaho. Here's the most obvious–it has oodles of quality habitat. That's due to the fact that Idaho can boast over 9 million acres of roadless lands within the U.S. Forest Service system alone. And, as well all know, (and feel free to say it with me) habitat makes for opportunity. Because the state has such good game habitat, many of its hunting units are available to over-the-counter hunters, and some seasons stretch five weeks or longer, giving sportsmen a lot of flexibility.

Idaho also has relatively healthy big game herds–there are some issues with elk numbers in the northern third of the state, and the foam-at-the-mouthers blame those issues on wolves. Truth be told, much of Idaho's north country is the unfortunate beneficiary of timber harvest management–a good fire is about half a century overdue, and a good fire would open up the canopy in key areas and provide the needed habitat to improve game populations. Wolves will be wolves, of course, but blaming wolves for the decline of elk is like blaming sea lions for the decline of salmon as they bump their noses on the dams that stop them from moving upstream (which, like Sen. Corder, is also an Idaho problem).

Idaho's home to the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, the new Owyhee Wilderness and some of the West's best backcountry landscapes, especially when it comes to hunting and fishing.

But it's also home to the Blue Ribbon Coalition, a motorhead advocacy group that couldn't care less about your or my right to hunt unmolested by some moron on a four-wheeler. Their mantra is pretty simple. They want more. More access, more acres, more ... opportunity. For the rest of us, that simply translates into ... less. And having to put up with dillweeds in the backcountry.

Well, Sen. Corder has taken up the torch for the BRC, whose members believe the Idaho Department of Fish and Game shouldn't be allowed to govern the use of ORVs on public lands during hunting season. In other words, in hunting units identified by educated and experienced game managers as sensitive and subject to diminished return if impacted too heavily, hunters on ORVs should be given free rein.

And you know how I feel about ORVs. "Hunters" on these damn machines don't do the rest of us, who like to see game when we venture into the hills, any favors. But I digress.

The point is, here's a state lawmaker who thinks he and his ORV-riding cronies know best when it comes to game management in Idaho. That's pretty bold, huh?

I got word yesterday, though, that the Idaho Sportsmen's Caucus Advisory Council opposes Sen. Corder's bill. That's the good news, and probably unwelcome news to Sen. Corder, who might like to think that hunters and anglers are his kind of people (he's a bold supporter of Second Amendment rights, you know... says so on his website). You know, politically conservative and environmentally ill-informed.

I'm telling you, hunters and anglers in this country are making progress–slow, painful progress. We're starting to see the writing on the wall. Just as some left-wing PETA freak might oppose hunting because of the necessity to actually kill an animal in the process, an equally egregious offender exists on the right–like the kind of politician who'd be brash enough to usurp control from biologists and game wardens in favor of awarding it to rip-snorters on their four-wheelers.

You can read Sen. Corder's bill hereORVs almost always impact big game herds negatively–that's a fact. Stripping the power from game managers to regulate these machines during hunting season doesn't do real hunters any favors.

In fact, just the opposite. And that's why Tim Corder is The Political Sportsman's inaugural Adversary of the Sporting State.

– RC

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