*Editor’s Note* Through email communication with George Dovel, author of the below article, about the changing agendas of state fish and wildlife agencies, Mr. Dovel suggested I reread a previous article he had written in 2008 in The Outdoorsman, which he is editor. What once was a more traditional management of fish and game by state agencies, has evolved into more of a non consumptive, non scientific paradigm. Dovel’s article explains how this has transpired and how outdoor sportsmen dollars have been used to take away our hunting, fishing and trapping opportunities.
The article on Page 1 of this issue briefly mentioned that Hunting & Fishing Editor Dave Rice was President, Treasurer and Lifetime Member of the Association for Conservation Information, Inc. (ACI). That organization’s website describes itself as a non-profit association of information and education professionals representing state, federal and Canadian agencies and private conservation organizations.
ACI does not communicate direct to sportsmen or the general public. Instead, it trains its members, who are
communications specialists, in sophisticated techniques to sell nongame agendas such as “Teaming With Wildlife” and the State Wildlife Grants (SWG) Program to state, federal and provincial officials, and to others who are in a position to assure the success of these programs.
When the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (IAFWA) was organized back in 1902, and when ACI was formed in 1938, their common agenda was restoring North America’s wild game to provide a sustained annual harvest for hunters. Although the influence of predator protectionists (Allen, Mech, the Craigheads, Hornocker, Nelson, etc.) was very strong by the early 1970s, sustained wild game harvest remained a priority of IAFWA until game populations throughout the West peaked a second time around 1988-1989.
Meanwhile bird watchers and other non-hunting wildlife advocates lobbied these two organizations, and others like the Wildlife Management Institute and the USFWS, to have non-game non-consumptive wildlife recreation given a special priority. They pointed out the increased game populations and said it was time to put forth a similar effort “to preserve the many non-game species for enjoyment by everyone.”
IAFWA hired “birder” Naomi Edelson as its Wildlife Diversity Director (nee “Teaming With Wildlife” [TWW] leader) and in 1990 made nongame wildlife “the biggest priority” of state wildlife management agencies (Edelson 2002 – emphasis added). This resulted in the creation of – and funding for – Partners in Flight (PIF) and, a decade later, PARC (Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation) and a similar group to promote bats.
IAFWA and the non-government organizations (NGOs) and government agencies it is associated with, lobbied Congress for non-game funding and Congress obliged by giving IAFWA the SWG funding program to administer. It appointed Sara Vickerman, West Coast Office Director of Defenders of Wildlife (DOW), to the three-member “SWG Working Group” that established the criteria for state wildlife agencies to receive the money.
Two reasons given by some Congressmen who voted for the SWG program were: 1) it would prevent species from being listed, and 2) no sportsman dollars could be used to fund it. Emboldened by its success IAFWA quickly asked for, and received additional funding from a Multistate Conservation Grant Program (MSCGP).
But unlike the SWG funding, IAFWA could award up to $6 million of P-R AND D-J federal excise tax dollars paid by hunters and fishermen to private entities whose avowed purpose was to end all sport hunting, trapping or fishing. To receive the grant anti-hunting groups were only required to submit a statement agreeing not to spend those specific dollars to oppose sport hunting, fishing, etc. (see http://www.fishwildlife.org/multistate_grants/04.06/MSGP_Fact%20Sheet_3.1.07.pdf )
Without the knowledge or approval of most Fish and Game Commissioners who are lawfully charged with managing the wildlife in each state, Information and Education (Communication) Bureau employees were given a mandate by IAFWA and ACI to use sophisticated highpressure sales techniques to sell the nongame agenda to the public and their elected officials.
For example, in a Sept. 15, 2003 memo to Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) officials from the TWW/SWG Working Group, it was suggested they have their TWW contact attend “The Institute For Participatory Management and Planning” training sessions to learn their “Systematic Development of Informed Consent Methodology.” The memo explained that the Institute would teach its “inform-consult-involve-collaborate-empower” strategy.
During his presentation to the Idaho Fish & Game Commission in March 2004, IDFG Communications Bureau Chief Roger Fuhrman casually told the Commission he had taken courses in how to obtain public approval of Department programs, and had assigned his staff to re-design the IDFG website to accomplish that end. The “Department programs” he was referring to were the nongame agendas of non-hunters and anti-hunters who
were calling the shots at IAFWA.
In December 2004, IAFWA hosted a summit on “Conservation Education” at the National Conservation Training Center operated by USFWS in West Virginia. Six months later, after each state had developed a conservation
education strategy, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (IAFWA) teamed up to give a “Train the Messenger” workshop to sell the SWG program throughout the U.S.
Funded by the Doris Duke Foundation, the workshop included a presentation by experts in polling and public opinion strategies concerning results of nationwide focus groups and a nationwide poll of 1,000 voters. The object was to see which terms and strategies reflect a positive image in the campaign to make the public accept SWGs. For example, the public did not like the sound of “Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy” but had a favorable opinion of “State Wildlife Action Plan.”
According to ACI’s quarterly newsletter, “The Balance Wheel,” during the following months over 400 communications people in 47 states were given polling and messaging information and the state wildlife agencies were provided with “State Wildlife Action Plan Message Kits.” This allowed them to present the following “consistent and tested statements” about the wildlife action plans:
• Clean air and water
• Healthy wildlife and people
• The conservation of wildlife and vital natural
areas for future generations
In addition to repeating these pleasant sounding but misleading claims about State Action Plans, the state agencies were told to emphasize to Congressmen, state Governors and others in a position to influence funding, that the plans would prevent wildlife species from being listed under the ESA and save the states millions of dollars in expense associated with listing.
Congress Believed Lies, Appropriated More Money
With the exception of Senator Larry Craig, Idaho’s Congressional delegation bought the lie and signed letters in 2004 supporting an increase in SWG funding to the states. They did this despite the fact that such funding would require a 100% match rather than the original 33% match, so sportsmen license dollars are now being used unlawfully to make up the nongame funding deficit.
Even if it were possible, attempting to restore ecosystems that existed more than 500 years ago ignores the reality that ecosystems are dynamic – constantly changing as a result of weather and climate over which man has virtually no control. Yet nongame advocates admit that is their sole plan to “protect” native animal and plant species from extinction (see “A New Solution To Non-Game Program Funding” in Jul-Sep 2007 Outdoorsman).
Additional $Millions for Birds, Global Warming
In 2002, IAFWA Wildlife Diversity Director Naomi Edelson authored a paper entitled, Finding Our Wings: The Payoff of a Decade of Determination,” explaining how, since 1990, IAFWA and bird advocacy groups have worked together “getting our agenda to be a state agenda, a Federal agenda, a non-governmental agenda and even a Congressional agenda.” President Bush’s FY 2009 budget request included additional appropriations of $35.9 million to enhance migratory bird habitat on federal refuges, plus an extra $9 million for bird monitoring and assessing the impact of global warming, deforestation and urban development.
After several Outdoorsman articles published the fact that the IAFWA represents not only state F&G
agencies but also represents and lobbies for the governments of Canada and Mexico, the Washington, D.C based NGO dropped the word “International” from its name and is now called AFWA. At the same time, Interior Secretary Gale Norton signed a new initiative with her counterparts in Canada and Mexico, which meant spending even more money on migratory birds outside the U.S.
Congressional passage of the “Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act” (NMBCA) in 2000 and Norton signing the “North American Bird Conservation Initiative” in 2005 resulted in FWS providing an additional $25.5 million in NMBCA grants (plus $116.5 million in matching funds) to 36 countries from FY 2002-FY 2008. By law, 75% of that funding must be spent outside the U.S.
Like a snowball rolling downhill, bird watchers and other non-hunting interests have virtually engulfed the North American Conservation Movement. In a Feb. 8, 2008 news release titled “Working With America To Prevent a Silent Spring,” Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne stated, “Last year, annual surveys conducted by the Audubon Society documented the alarming decline in populations of common birds, which have plummeted 70 percent on average since 1967.”
Kempthorne continued, “The Birds Forever Initiative,” a joint effort of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Geological Survey, would expand and improve the health of wild bird habitat, strengthen educational outreach programs and work in partnership with states, local communities, conservation organizations and other bird-loving partners to reverse this precipitous decline in wild bird populations.”
The survey claiming a 70% loss of our common bird species during the past 40 years might well have included pheasants, mule deer and most other game species throughout the West. Yet Congress did not authorize FWS to send an extra $50 million to the western states to protect these valuable species from further decline – or even acknowledge that decline.
Because the $6 million in annual funding for the MSCGP grants “comes from the Sport Fish Restoration Account and the Wildlife Restoration Fund, “projects must benefit sport fish, wild birds, or wild mammals” (see FWS MSCGP Fact Sheet). Acquisition or improvement of habitat for waterfowl has always been a legitimate use of P-R money but FWS and AFWA now include “Climate Change” as a legitimate use of MSCGP funds.
The change in emphasis from hunting, fishing and trapping to environmental activism is evident in the subject matter being taught to state fish and game communications specialists (now called “Wildlife Communicators”). The following quotes from summaries of ACI presentations to these wildlife communicators published in recent issues of its newsletter, “The Balance Wheel,” provide three examples of this change in emphasis:
1. Our Professional Shift, From the Sports Page to the Front Page – Instead of being the decision maker on trivial decisions like deer seasons, our primary responsibility must be to be the trusted source to the people, media and political decision-makers on incredibly important decisions like land use, water quality, biodiversity and global climate change. The great challenge for the future will be the collision of rapid development and climate change…and wildlife will be caught in the squeeze.
The good news is that people care about nature and wildlife. The bad news is that they don’t understand the choices. Our job is to explain and recommend sensible conservation strategies.
2. Teaming with Wildlife: A Natural Investment – Did you know the average person needs to hear the same message seven times before they will remember it? As communicators, we work to get our messages out in a clear and memorable manner. One simple and powerful way to achieve this is through repetition. People lead busy lives, and remembering what is on the grocery list, much less what we just heard on the radio or read in the news, can be a struggle. Communicating a message takes persistence and dedication.
With your help, Teaming is now in the midst of a national outreach initiative to educate key decision-makers and the public about the state wildlife action plans. A persistent, unified message is one of the key ingredients to
making this a success. It’s like wack(sic)-a-mole. When the mole sticks its nose out of the hole, you’ve got to hit it with your hammer. When people stick their nose into a newspaper or turn on the TV, you’ve got to hit them with your message.
A national press event with Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton in early November provided an opportunity for
many states to get out their “hammers” and set to work spreading the message. Secretary Norton was joined by Fish and Wildlife Service Director, Dale Hall and IAFWA President, John Cooper in announcing the submission of wildlife action plans by all 56 states and territories. “These plans represent a future for conservation in America that is rooted in cooperation and partnership between the federal government and states, tribes, local governments, conservation groups, private landowners and others with a commitment to the health of our land and water, fish and wildlife,” said Norton.
Outreach to new partners in 2006 will help support the implementation of the state wildlife action plan and strengthen advocacy efforts. “Each state has a goal of 100 members by Labor Day, which would result in a national coalition of 5,000 organizations,” says Bill Geer, of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Such an impressive array of diverse interests coming together to prevent wildlife from becoming endangered will be a true accomplishment.”
3. Public Tolerance Toward Predators – The Coyote Story – Coyotes have captured people’s attention and emotion for years. Depending on your viewpoint, coyotes are considered a value or a conflict. Some of the perceived values of coyotes are ecological and as a furbearer resource. Conflict with coyotes arises when
property damage occurs, such as taking unsupervised pets and livestock.
In recent years, a new ecological paradigm (standard) has emerged…the view that the balance of nature is more important than humanity over nature. Ninety-three percent of people think that predators are an essential part of nature.
In dealing with coyotes, Massachusetts has adopted the following goals: 1) public education about the values and conflicts; 2) preventing conflicts; 3) regulating harvest as a furbearer resource and 4) targeted removal of
In the first example, the lecturer went on to say, “Agencies are like a person with one foot on the dock and one foot in the boat….we are stretched between our sportsmen’s responsibilities and our general public responsibilities.” His claim that establishing deer seasons is a “trivial” decision illustrates what ultimately happens when non-sportsmen with special agendas infiltrate and then take over game management agencies.
The second example – teaching state game management agencies to “hard sell” the SWG wildlands biodiversity agenda by falsely claiming it will preserve healthy wildlife populations and prevent ESA listing – illustrates the dishonest tactics that are necessary to sell the non-game program. The lecturer could have added that repeating a lie at least seven times allows it to become embedded in the average person’s brain as if it were a fact.
The alleged “commitment to the health of our land and water, fish and wildlife” is in reality a commitment to lock up millions of acres of public and private land to restrict or eliminate harvest of renewable natural resources such as forage, timber, water and wild game.
Implying that only unsupervised livestock or pets are killed by coyotes and perpetuating the “balance-o fnature”
myth further reflect the dishonesty of those who claim to be promoting “healthy” wildlife populations. Allowing protected carnivores to roam the continent in a network of “wildlife corridors” will continue to decimate the species that humans value for food or aesthetic reasons.
But like lemmings racing into the sea to drown, the public and their elected officials are buying the propaganda
– which is supported primarily by hunters’ license dollars. If sportsmen, farmers, ranchers, loggers and other natural resource users don’t expose the radical plan, who else will?