Tomorrow is Pennsylvania’s primary election day and before you stand in front of the electronic voting screen take a moment to contemplate how your vote will affect Pennsylvania’s rich outdoor traditions. Our votes have a lasting impact and affect far more than 2nd amendment rights but I’ll get to that in a moment.
For over 100 years sportsmen’s organizations have successfully supported wildlife, hunting and fishing in Pennsylvania. You will get no argument from me when advocating that sportsmen speaking with one voice in the voting booth.
However, to tackle the 21st century challenges facing Pennsylvania’s wildlife, its habitat, and our opportunities in the field, we must unite on issues beyond our constitutionally provided right to keep and bear arms.
Not all sportsmen and women pursue the same activities but we all share the common goal that our traditions be passed on to the next generation.
In order to do that we must first come together and support a political agenda that allows all sportsmen and women, no matter their chosen pursuit, the ability to access and enhance their outdoor heritage.
Hunters and anglers must unite with hikers, campers, horseback riders, ATV and snowmobile enthusiast, canoe and kayakers, and yes, even those damn bird watchers, if we are going to stand a chance in the political arena.
We fail miserably at unifying and allow our ranks to be reduced to one issue (2nd amendment) voters who cant figure out why more and more of our public land is being leased for resource extraction or why in god’s name anyone would stand for our streams being threatened or contaminated all while our state government sits idly by refusing to intervene and happily approving general permits faster than knife fight in a phone booth.
When an environmental disaster occurs that threatens wild trout streams, migrant bird habitat, deer or elk habitat, or public drinking water our elected officials are suddenly shocked and outraged by the liberties taken by big business in their efforts to squeeze a buck during the extraction process.
Yet these same political “leaders” gladly pad their campaign coffers with the energy industry’s money and support legislation that allows for the big gas, oil, or coal to take those very liberties with our most wild and natural areas.
Not surprisingly, these politicians have no qualms when they were voting to remove local government control to set limits on industry activity within their communities in favor of rubber stamping state governing agencies.
This type of political hypocrisy has no place in Pennsylvania’s government if our outdoor traditions are to survive.
It is no secret that I am a President Theodore Roosevelt fan. Teddy lived and governed as a sportsmen conservationist. Researchers and college professors will tell you President Roosevelt believed deeply that a balance between our fierce pursuits for the rod and gun and an equally strong environmental conservation conscience was key to the promotion and expansion of our outdoor traditions.
Wildlife and environmental conservation faces many of the same threats today and we should response as Teddy did in the late 1890’s and early 1900’s.
For a united outdoor community to transform the political landscape we need to be vocal take a strong stance on issues beyond the 2nd amendment. We must engage in conservation policies based in strong science. This includes acknowledging the existence of man made global warming and supporting policies that begin to address climate change.
We have to recruit and train the hunters and anglers of tomorrow by supporting programs that increase access for our youth.
We must vigorously protect our 2nd amendment rights while understanding that our inherent rights are accompanied by inherent responsibilities. Responsible gun owners should work to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the dangerously mentally ill by supporting thorough background checks. We do not need to perpetuate the a negative stigma the anti’s bestow upon gun ownership.
Remember, hunting and angling is conservation. Since the late 1800’s, all across the country sportsmen have been investing in conservation through a variety of licenses fees and hunting stamps that buy public land, improve habitat, and support wildlife. It’s time sportsmen join efforts in fighting for issues that are threatening our hunting and angling traditions. It’s time we fight to preserve our outdoor traditions for future generations.
It’s time we vote beyond the 2nd amendment and once again become leaders in conservation.
As always, if you have any questions email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.