Group promotes sportsmen's agenda in Washington
DENVER (AP) — A fledgling outdoorsmen's group released a broad agenda Wednesday aimed at giving conservation-minded sportsmen's groups a united voice before federal policy makers.
The Bull Moose Sportsmen's Alliance's 18-point agenda, announced as the group's members visited leaders in Washington, centers on promoting habitat conservation, access to public land and development of public shooting ranges.
The Denver-based group consulted with Trout Unlimited, Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever and others in their effort, alliance co-founder Tim Mauck said.
Bull Moose co-founder Gaspar Perricone, a Colorado wildlife commissioner, said the 2011 agenda comes as Congress has tried to slash funding for conservation programs to help balance the federal budget, even though a survey for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that people who hunt, fish or watched wildlife in 2006 spent a total of about $122 billion on license fees and other expenses for those pursuits.
"It's the greatest attack on the sportsmen's community in the last 100 years," Perricone said.
"There's no doubt in my mind, conservation is at a crossroads right now," said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who received an award Wednesday from Bull Moose for his work with public lands. "The weeks and several months ahead will determine whether we have a legacy of conservation we're proud of or if the voice of conservation will be silenced" as Congress deals with the federal deficit, Salazar said.
The Bull Moose agenda includes pushing for enhanced water protections, removing the risk of lawsuits for those who step in to clean up abandoned mines, energy development that takes steps to protect wildlife and water, and developing more public shooting ranges. On Wednesday, Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., reintroduced legislation aimed at making it easier for states to build and maintain public shooting ranges.
The sportsmen's agenda also supports protecting Bristol Bay and Chesapeake Bay, restoring Louisiana coastal wetlands, funding for conservation programs, and the development of strategies for managing public lands with wilderness characteristics, among other issues.
"It's about jobs," Salazar said. "We know hunting and fishing and outdoor recreation have a huge economic contribution to this country."
Perricone was once the Western Slope director for Udall, and Mauck formerly was a legislative liaison for the Colorado Division of Wildlife. Their group draws its name from the party that nominated hunter and conservationist Theodore Roosevelt for a third presidential term in 1912.
The alliance is just under two years old. It had about 550 members last year when its separate action fund endorsed Colorado political candidates, both Democrats and Republicans. The alliance itself now has a presence in Colorado, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Minnesota and Montana and roughly 2,700 members, Perricone said.
The 2011 agenda is aimed at driving bipartisan action on policies that can affect hunting and angling, he said.