Monday, July 3, 2017

Trump Must Hate Hunters and Anglers

Theodore Roosevelt on the River of Doubt Expedition.  The river was re-named Roosevelt in his honor.
By Bob Ferris

I have been engaged in a particular dialogue about predators and prey for far too long on Eastmans' (sic) Official Blog an electronic hunting publication (see here from 2013).  I do this to keep a hand in and also because I do not want silly arguments to go unanswered for then they tend to ferment and only get worse. During one recent exchange the closing argument was that I had no credibility in this hunting community because I was anti-Trump ergo anti-sportsman.  Hmmm, how exactly does that work?

Now  I will have to admit that when I look at pro-sportsman politicians I tend to think about Theodore Roosevelt and use him and his actions as my yardstick.  So how does Donald measure up to Theodore?  Roosevelt was a consummate outdoorsman with a huge interest in all things natural.  It is hard in this analysis not to compare Roosevelt’s experiences on the River of Doubt (see here and here) in South America with Donald Trump’s resistance to spending weekends at Camp David because it is "too rustic" for his tastes.  Granted the great out-of-doors appeals to some, but is not for everyone.  Fine.   And a lack of affinity for things wild does not automatically mean Trump is ignoring or hurting hunters and anglers so let’s look at other elements.
"There is a delight in the hardy life of the open. There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy and its charm. The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets which it must turn over to the next generation increased and not impaired in value. Conservation means development as much as it does protection.” Theodore Roosevelt president and conservationist
According to most interpretations of the US Constitution, wildlife is owned by each individual state so is primarily affected on the federal level where federal lands are involved or multi-state, systemic issues arise.  The federal lands issues are mainly about quantity and quality of habitat.  On the quantity side what we are seeing from the Trump Administration is quite removed from something Rooseveltian in nature.    Far from aggressively adding to the conservation inventory of the federal estate as Roosevelt did, Trump’s Administration is reviewing the status of 27 national monuments and considering a reduction in protections for these federal holdings (1,2,3,4).  This seems counter-intuitive as logic would demand that we increase federal conservation holdings in the face of US population increases (about 0.7% annually) to maintain our current quality of outdoor experience.  A "friend" to hunters and anglers would know that and pursue that path, Trump is not.
Excerpt from Trump's Transition Team Energy Independence statement.
In terms of habitat quality science tells us that oil, gas and coal development on public lands and elsewhere negatively impacts elk, deer, grouse and other hunted species as well as frequently reducing water quality for fish (1,2,3).  So how exactly is opening up more federal public lands (1,2,3) including national parks to these types of extractive industries going to help hunters and anglers in this generation or those to come?  But this has been the the position of this Administration time and time again.  There is nothing in this that is Rooseveltian either.

Trump's approach to the systemic aspects fails to emulate Theodore Rosevelt as well.  For instance, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was set up in 1965 as a tacit agreement that basically traded the impacts of off-shore oil development for enhancing natural assets elsewhere for the benefit of the community that enjoys outdoor pursuits.  It was also a mechanism that was a first step in looking forward to future public land needs as the US population grew.  Trump’s budget proposal includes massive cuts to this program as well as others to manage public lands.  This too is not helping hunters or anglers.
Theodore Roosevelt created 51 wildlife refuges, 16 national monuments and 5 national parks.
Another tradeoff of subsidizing industry via low prices for public resources and letting them externalize environmental impacts now and in the past is that the government sometimes take steps later to clean up the resultant messes.  This particularly true when the impacts get too serious to ignore.  Three areas important to hunters and anglers where that is being undertaken are the Chesapeake Bay, the Great Lakes and Puget Sound.  Trump’s budget proposal cuts all three programs drastically (1,2,3).  What’s more, programs pushing the use of coal or not dampening fossil-fuel use will add more damaging nitrogen, sulfur and carbon dioxide to the Chesapeake and other waterways.  All this on top of removing the restriction on coal companies dumping wastes into streams hurts wildlife.  While I can see why industry might like these actions, they are a slap in the face to those who have worked long and hard to recover waterfowl, fish, shellfish and water quality in these regions and others.  

Clean, clear pollution-free water is essential for many waterfowl and fish species.  Recent attacks on Obama-era Clean Water Act rules and lax consideration of pesticides should be very troubling to those interested in fish and wildlife (1,2,3).  But we knew some of this was coming as many in the hunting and angling community have been critical of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt both before and after his appointment to the agency (1,2,3,4).  It is clear that Pruitt has taken science and dumped it under a figurative slag heap of ignorance and short-sightedness.  But Pruitt is not an administrative outlier as Trump has not seen fit to staff the science office at the White House or bring on-board a science advisor.  
"The numbers are going up in most states gradually," said Schulte, "simply because as we have more global warming the snakes can do better further north.”  Dr. Joann Schulte epidemiologist in CNN piece on increase of venomous snake bites.
The lack of science advisors in this Administration leads us to climate change where the EPA under Pruitt has recently launched an effort to challenge climate science which seems surreal when you consider that the courts are currently hearing lawsuits on whether Exxon Mobil lied to their stockholders about climate change risks (1,2,3).  Of importance to hunters and anglers is that some of the earliest scientific evidence of climate change had to do with observations of seasonal behavior changes (phenology) and range adjustments for plant and animal species.   Some of these are obvious like that of venomous snakes moving north mentioned above or the change of timing for maple sugaring and some are multi-factorial and complicated like moose population reduction as a result of parasite loads (1,2,3) or wildlife disease prevalence.  

One even more subtle and un-noticed by most is the timing of the stop of nutrient migration from plant roots to blades or leaves in some food species that is altered by climate change induced draughts.  Grasses and similar vegetation turn brown as summer progresses signaling this stoppage.  In the West this is referred to as “brown-up” and climate change shortens the time between the most nutritious first sprouts and brown-up.  This shortening likely reduces winter survival and reproduction.  

Duck hunting with my father, brother-in-law and uncle in South Carolina back when hunting was about hunting not fashion and the mornings were nearly always frosty.  
But if you need something a little less abstract and experiential, I suggest that you try early-season duck hunting on the coast somewhere in the Deep South with the expectation of a little frost, fast teal and whistling widgeons.  That used to be nearly always a sure bet but what you frequently get now are a few gators swimming by your blind, some still-active snakes of the fanged persuasion and saltwater mosquitos leaving dime-sized welts on your face and hands.  It brings belief to you in a tangible way.  

Theodore Roosevelt reading.
In recent years I have written a good bit about Theodore Roosevelt (1,2,3,4) because, though not perfect, he was certainly someone deserving respect particularly when one looks at his legacy and what he has provided hunters and anglers.  It should also be noted that Roosevelt was a student of nature with a bachelors degree cum laude from Harvard and an author and authority on birds, hunting and rugged outdoor life (for a list of his books see here).  Moreover, he founded the Boone and Crockett Club, maintained friendships with John Muir and other conservationists, and set the course for land conservation in the US.  His family too maintained interests in this area and I remember meeting his great-grandson Theodore "Ted" Roosevelt IV at an event when I was working on the Louisiana black bears of Teddy Bear fame and he was on the board of the League of Conservation Voters.  
"The big joke at Christmas this year was that the only job in government that I would want is with the Department of Interior," Trump Jr. told Wide Open Spaces. "I understand these issues. It's something I'm passionate about. I will be the very loud voice about these issues in my father's ear. No one gets it more than us." Donald Trump Jr. quoted on CNN 
I mention all of the above about the Roosevelts because I look at Trump and his family for hints of the same.  There simply are traces but nothing of true significance.  Certainly the boys went on safari and Don Jr. hunts a lot and is a member of the Boone and Crockett Club.  My sense is that he talks a good story, but he also (in)famously shot prairie dogs during a political campaign stop which seems less than "fair chase" in practice (he might stop to read Boone & Crockett's statement on "long range" shooting).  I don’t get the sense that either of the boys is very comfortable in the field without support staff in the way that many of us are.  
My younger self fishing with "Aldo Leopold" on Maryland's Honga River.  The first dog I trained totally by myself.  He was a little crazy but I almost cried when he did a triple-blind-retrieve just with hand signals.  Aldo loved to hunt and also obviously liked his comfort too. 
And try as I might, I cannot think that my set of hunting or conservation ethics and those of the Trump sons occupying the same space: Too much posing in brand new clothes near big dead animals on guided trips to make me comfortable. Yet there is still this illogical notion that Don Jr. and Eric (1,2,3,4,5) helped create that a president who does not hunt nor fish and does not camp or even own a dog has some special connection with or obligation to those who do and have.   In spite of Donald Jr's protestations there seems utterly no discernible link or commonality.  

On a more recent fishing trip to Oregon's Drift Creek.  Three miles down and three miles back up a steep trail.   

And although it is amusing to think of the Donald trudging sweating and smiling up a slope with a load of elk meat on his back or with soggy wadders, we are stuck with a president who seems to need a golf cart on a short walk and becomes awkwardly adrift when not sleeping in his own bed.  There is nothing in this or his actions that indicates friendliness to hunters and anglers but much to indicate that he is poised to do much damage to our interests in this generation and the next.  We need to wake up and become more active.

Some Groups Working these Issues on Behalf of Hunters and Anglers:

Backcounty Hunters & Anglers 
Conservation Hawks
National Wildlife Federation
Trout Unlimited

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