by Mary-Beth Baptista
Spurred by blatant congressional attacks on America's
natural resources, environmentalists are setting aside past
differences with hunters and anglers and working together to
defend wild lands and habitat from timber and oil companies,
mining conglomerates and irresponsible developers.
More than 100,000 Sierra Club members - better than one out
of six - are active hunters and anglers dedicated to
continuing the sporting tradition through public land
conservation. Considering that more than 50 million
Americans fish and 15 million hunt, such a coalition makes
sense. Most recently, alliances such as Rocky Mountain Elk
Foundation, run by elk hunters, and the National Fish and
Wildlife Foundation, run by a former National Audubon
Society lobbyist, have protected or restored 1.8 million
acres north of Yellowstone National Park.
Trout Unlimited has been another powerful force in not only
conserving public lands from the threats of grazing reform
and irresponsible forestry practices, but preserving the
Endangered Species and Clean Water acts. "What has made
Trout Unlimited so successful is that it is run by people
who are not just sportsmen or environmentalists, but both, "
wrote Ted Williams in the September/October issue of Sierra
"Whenever sportsmen combine with environmentalists, you have
60 to 70 percent of the population, an absolutely
irresistible coalition," Chris Potholm, professor of
government and legal studies at Bowdoin College in Maine,
told the magazine.
In August 1995, in Greensboro, N.C., a diverse group of
hunting and angling organizations, environmental groups and
federal wildlife management agencies sat down to rejuvenate
the century-old alliance. Over a year later, the Sierra Club
is a leading member of the new Natural Resource Summit of
America, whose mission is "to inform Americans of the need
to make our natural resources a priority and to hold elected
leaders and candidates accountable for their positions on
With a combined membership totaling 11 million, the alliance
aims to educate the public about congressional attacks on
the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act and our
"The foundation for this alliance has always existed," said
Dan Smuts, of the Sierra Club's Land Protection Program.
"Our partnership has flourished because of the effort put
forth by all parties to maximize and highlight common
ground, rather than to try to overcome differences."
Since that first meeting in Greensboro, Club activists
nationwide have linked arms with local hunting and fishing
organizations to get the message out. When Bucks County
Group activist Ed Zygmunt heard Interior Secretary Bruce
Babbitt was coming to his town, he worked with the
Pennsylvania Federation of Sports Clubs Incorporated to
organize a canoe trip down the once-polluted Susquehanna
River, a Clean Water Act success story. Additionally,
Zygmunt has worked with the federation to produce a joint
radio ad in defense of the Endangered Species Act. Similar
ads ran in Georgia and Delaware.
Club members in Washington and Oregon worked with the Save
Our Wild Salmon coalition to reach fishing enthusiasts at
major angling shows. They circulated fact sheets describing
trout and salmon habitat loss caused by clearcutting and
mining waste runoff and encouraged anglers to mail
educational postcards to Congress.
Among other coalition efforts, the Club has designed a
traveling display booth to be used at outdoor shows across
the country. Volunteers from the Houston Group staffed the
booth at a hunting and fishing show for four days.
"They assigned our table next to a hunting guide service,
with stuffed things hanging all over their display," said
activist Diana Stevens. "Both groups were initially
apprehensive, but we soon discovered that they hunt at the
site of a proposed airport, an endangered wetland where we
birdwatch. I don't think you could have much more common
ground than the preservation of habitat. We made new allies
in our battle that day, but we wouldn't have if we hadn't
been open-minded enough to be there."
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