The December 18, 2013, Santa Fe Reporter, featured a profile of James Lane recently fired as director of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. While no public reason was given for Lane’s firing, it seems likely that it was due, at least in part, to his public derision of the nonhunters as “tree-huggin’ hippies.” The department, sometimes known as “Maim and Squish,” manages wildlife on behalf of hunters and ranchers. Even after Lane’s ignominious departure, Scott Bidegain, a board member of NM Cattlegrowers Association, continues as chairman of the Game Commission, which supervises the department’s so-called professional wildlife managers.
What has been the reaction of New Mexico’s environmental and animal protection lobbyists? The supposed protectors of wildlife sheepishly sent a letter to the hunter-rancher-in-chief, begging Bidegain to replace Lane with a professional wildlife manager dedicated to the principles of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.
This model is aptly summed up by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:
Man has hunted since he walked the Earth. Every early culture relied on hunting for survival. Through hunting, man forged a connection with the land and learned quickly that stewardship of the land went hand-in-hand with maintaining wildlife – and their own way of life.
In the first half of the 20th century, leaders like Theodore Roosevelt and Aldo Leopold shaped a set of ideals that came to be known as the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. They articulated the philosophy that all wildlife belong to all of us. . . .
The Pittman-Robertson act was passed in 1937, through which hunters voluntarily imposed a tax on themselves, ensuring that a portion of the sale of all firearms and ammunition would be expressly dedicated to managing the wildlife entrusted to the public. The Pittman-Robertson Act generates $700 million annually, which is distributed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to state fish and game agencies across America.
The federal tax on firearms and ammunition is collected by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). As its name suggests, TTB also administers federal taxes on alcohol and tobacco. No one expects these tax revenues to be used to promote smoking and drinking, yet hunters expect firearms taxes to be used to promote hunting.
RMEF is, however, correct to point out that hominids have been killing wildlife since they first learned to walk upright. In North America, hunting dates back to mass extinctions of the Pleistocene, which corresponded with the arrival of humans on this continent. Well before the establishment of “Native” American cultures species such as saber-toothed cats disappeared from the North American landscape. Species which were able to survive centuries of hunting with spears, bows and arrows, proved little match for European firearms technology.
Only when hunters began to fear an end to their gruesome blood sport did wildlife managers like Aldo Leopold begin to rethink the idea of hunting without limit. Along with the establishment of the US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, the Pittman-Robertson Act attempted to protect ranchers and hunters from destroying both their own livelihoods and their ability to indulge in sadistic blood sports. Thus was born the myth that ranchers and hunters, who had come close to totally destroying the land and the wildlife who live on it, were the “true conservationists,” codified by the North American Model of Conservation.
In spite of the best efforts of the “hunter-conservationists,” hunting continues to decline in the United States. According to the latest  National Hunting Survey, only 6% of the U.S. population hunts. When broken down by region, there has been a 45% drop over the last decade in the Mountain States from 11% to 6%. Correspondingly, the New Mexico report shows a 47% drop in expenditures by hunters.
The drop in hunting is a threat not only to hunters and ranchers, but also to conservation and animal protection lobbyists who have been collaborating with them. In their letter to the Game Deparment, Animal Protection of New Mexico, the Rio Grande chapter of the Sierra Club, the New Mexico chapter of the League of Conservation Voters and Wild Earth Guardians expressed their support for the hunters’ North American Model of Conservation.
Many of the organizations which signed this letter have had a long history of collaboration with hunters. Hunter Jon Schwedler headed APNM’s wildlife program before leaving to form the short-lived Sierra Sportsmen, the Sierra Club’s failed attempt to organize hunters in support of conservation.
Now it is the turn of Wild Earth Guardians to join the ranks of hunters masquerading as environmentalists, with the hiring of Erik Molvar. According to his WildEarth Guardians profile, Molvar has a degree in “wildlife management” and “enjoys antelope hunting.”
This profile reveals not only the sadistic pleasure Molvar takes in killing animals and watching them die, but also the difference between a wildlife manager and a biologist. State game departments and other wildlife managers use the cowboy term “antelope” to describe pronghorns. The last of their family to survive the Pleistocene extinctions in North America, pronghorns are not related to antelope, which are native to Africa. “Wildlife management” might be considered a “science” similar to economics and political science, but it is not a natural science like biology and geology.
In any case, contrary to the propaganda of the conservation lobbyists, there is no “pure science” which can guide the protection of wolves, prairie dogs, pronghorn, and other wild species, whether or not they are legally endangered. As the career of Jon Tester, Rancher-Democrat of Montana, demonstrates, the U.S. Congress retains the right to determine what animals can be legally killed without limit. Tester, after using funds from the League of Conservation Voters to defend his seat against the notorious “evil Koch brothers,” authored the law which removed endangered species protection for the grey wolf. A belated attempt by conservation lobbies to petition the Department of the Interior to restore wolf protection in violation of Tester’s law may succeed in raising funds, but it will not succeed in protecting wolves.
Rancher-Democrat Tester has now been joined in the Senate by New Mexico Hunter-Democrat Martin Heinrich. Heinrich & Tester’s Sportsmen’s and Public Outdoor Recreation Traditions Act (SPORT) Act (S. 1660) would open all federal lands, including National Park Service land, to hunters.