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Center for Biological Diversity Suit Seeks to Kill Off Hunting on 2.3 Million Acres of Public Land…Because Science!


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By Larry Keane

The anti-hunting Center for Biological Diversity is once again trying to eliminate hunting on public lands within National Wildlife Refuges under the guise of “protecting endangered wildlife.”

The activist organization’s latest lawsuit seeks to kill hunting activities on more than 2.3 million acres of public lands overseen by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) even though USFWS’s own website promotes hunting as a wildlife management tool. No matter for the Center for Biologic Diversity. For them, it’s eliminate hunting or bust.

The Good

The Center for Biological Diversity’s newest challenge is a whiplash attempt to curtail public hunting opportunities on federal lands. The Center for Biologic Diversity is attempting to roll back progress of expanding hunting opportunities that was expanded under the administrations of both Democratic President Joe Biden and former Republican President Donald Trump.

In 2020, former Secretary of the Department of the Interior David Bernhardt announced the single-largest expansion of hunting on public lands in U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services history. Praising the expansion, Sec. Bernhardt said, “The Trump Administration has now made an additional 2.3 million acres accessible to new hunting and fishing opportunities. We continue to take significant actions to further conservation initiatives and support sportsmen and women who are America’s true conservationists.”

The announcement meant more than 850 hunting and fishing opportunities across more than 2.3 million acres at 147 national wildlife refuges for the American public.

Hunting isn’t a partisan activity and the Biden administration followed up four months ago with their own announcement allowing public hunting opportunities on another 2.1 million acres, including on seven refuges that did not previously allow it. President Biden’s Interior Secretary Deb Haaland added, “Increasing access to outdoor recreation opportunities is essential to advancing the Administration’s commitment to the conservation stewardship of our public lands.”

Coupled together, the bipartisan expansions of public hunting opportunities have come at a time when record numbers of Americans are taking up or returning to hunting traditions.

The Bad

The newest lawsuit isn’t the Center for Biological Diversity’s first backdoor attack on public hunting. They’ve made several previous attempts, through both lawsuits and petitioning for federal rules to restrict hunting. One tried to restrict transporting harvested game across state lines. If a visiting hunter wanted to take a deer on public land in a national refuge but would instantly become a criminal for bringing it home, they’re unlikely to go hunting in the first place.

This lawsuit, filed in a Montana federal district court, alleges hunters using traditional lead-based ammunition could harm wildlife on the public lands even if they aren’t directly shot with it.

“The Fish and Wildlife Service is shrugging off the many risks that sport hunting and fishing pose to endangered animals, particularly from lead ammunition and tackle,” the Center for Biological Diversity suit argues. “We’re going to court to ensure that our nation’s wildlife refuges actually provide refuge…”

The irony and absurdity of CBD’s lawsuit wasn’t lost on Field & Stream magazine, which noted, “The lawsuit ignores the long-standing contributions of hunters and anglers to conservation.” They continued by highlighting the backwardness of the challenge, saying the lawsuit is, “taking issue with hunting and fishing altogether, despite the fact that sportsmen helped pioneer the national wildlife refuge system in the first place and contribute millions of dollars towards their preservation each year.”

The Ugly

If the Center for Biological Diversity is successful in their attempts to eliminate the largest opportunity for Americans to hunt on public lands, they would be biting the hand that feeds wildlife conservation.

Firearm and ammunition manufacturers have contributed more than $14 billion since 1937 to conservation through the Pittman-Robertson excise tax, supported by hunting and recreational shooting purchases. This means that as more hunters enjoy hunting on National Wildlife Refuges and other public lands, more money is steered toward conserving those lands, wildlife management and conservation efforts.

USFWS keeps it simple on their own website, noting, “As practiced on refuges, hunting does not pose a threat to the wildlife populations – and in some instances it is necessary for sound wildlife management.”

Hunters are America’s original conservationists and if the Center for Biological Diversity was truly about supporting conservation and wildlife management, they’d support expanded public hunting opportunities on national refuges as well. Their track record, however, shows they aren’t really about conservation and healthy wildlife populations – they’re about eliminating hunting.

 

Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

 

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