NRA, CRP, and Zumbo

Tony Dean Outdoors Articles NRA Could Hold Trump Card in CRP Battle By Tony Dean For the Argus Leader Published: February 21, 2007 The Bush Administration and the push for ethanol have teamed up to tank the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) - at least for now - endangering a $153 million South Dakota industry. Conservation groups will put on their war paint in an effort to save the program which supports pheasants, ducks and countless other ground nesting birds. But the good guys could have an ace to play. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns dropped the bomb last week when he announced there would be no CRP sign-ups this year, which could mean as many as 3 million acres of wildlife habitat lost this year. Conservation groups agree Johann's announcement could sound a death knell to wildlife, especially pheasants, and they are fighting mad about the decision. However, they need an ally, a strong one, one with a crack lobbying force to turn things around. That ally exists, if they will join the fray. The National Rifle Association is one of the most powerful groups in America, and they have a unique opportunity to serve America's hunters if they'll turn loose their troops to lobby the Congress and administration to save CRP. I've been critical of the NRA on numerous occasions, but they have the muscle to turn things around. We should remember that the Bush Administration owes the NRA a lot, since the group was responsible for delivering many votes that resulted in George W. Bush occupying the White House. And by working to save CRP, the NRA would gain support from many gun owners who like the NRA effort to protect their second amendment rights, but have withheld their financial support for a variety of reasons, including the belief that the NRA does not adequately represent hunters. If the gun rights organization joined in the effort to save CRP, they would deserve thanks from shotgun-toting hunters, and many, including this writer, would join the group. When you think about it, perhaps only the NRA has the political muscle to win on the CRP issue. Such an effort would make significantly more political sense than fighting to open roadless areas to ATV travel. That decision is up to the NRA, though they've shown an indication lately, that they are listening to grass roots hunter members in opposing the habitat destruction caused by willy-nilly energy development in western states. Just as hunting drives gun sales, the NRA supports gun manufacturers, and I can't think of a better way toward insuring financial success for the makers of firearms. By the same token, conservation programs such as the CRP drive wildlife production, and that results in better hunting. The NRA could get involved in no finer effort to serve their constituency and all hunters. If they were to accept the challenge of restoring the CRP program, it would create a win-win scenario. This is an opportunity for NRA members to help swing the NRA into action. If they do so, it could become one of the most positive efforts the organization will ever make. SD Isaac Walton President to testify in D.C. Jerry Schlekaway of Pierre, President of the SD Isaac Walton League will go to Washington in late February to talk to Congress about CRP and other conservation issues. South Dakota should also consider sending Chris Hesla and Dave Nauman of the state Wildlife Federation, who did a superb job of lobbying the South Dakota legislature on behalf of sportsmen. Hesla and Nauman won on every single issue they lobbied, including the Open Fields bill and legislation that would have allowed big game license transfers. Eating Their Own Jim Zumbo, hunting editor of Outdoor Life magazine, is under fire today from the magazine, Remington Arms and the National Shooting Sports Foundation. His crime? Zumbo wrote on his Outdoor Life blog that "terrorist weapons have no place in hunting and that hunters should distance themselves from such imagery." Remington promptly cancelled their sponsorship of his TV show, and OL has taken down the Zumbo blog. NSSF President Doug Painter said, "Jim's comments are as unfortunate as they are inappropriate. No one should divide firearms into good gun-bad gun." Comments such as this provide good arguments for the anti-gun crowd. Zumbo's right; Painter, Remington and Outdoor Life just don't get it. Now, I'm going to please that group and rush out to buy my AK 47 in time for the next deer season.