The NRA and hunters: friends in the good fight

By Larry S. Moore

Outdoor writer Pat Wray has authored a story titled, “NRA is no friend of hunters: Members’ dues fed to political machine”. Whether the sensational title is Wray’s or his editor’s, it certainly grabbed my attention.

The article, which makes some valid points, is not nearly as sensational as the headlines. It basically accuses the NRA of selling out hunter rights and environmental concerns to politicians who are strong on the gun issue and weak on environmental issues.

This dilemma is certainly an example of the classic chicken and egg problem. The basic problem is I can’t go hunting without my gun. But I also can’t go hunting without good habitat and I can’t go hunting without access to that habitat. Most knowledgeable sportsmen understand that the loss of habitat is the number one issue facing sportsmen and wildlife managers across the nation.

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The author blasts the NRA and Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho) for supporting President Bush’s move to remove federal protection for many inventoried areas in national forests. This removes federal protection from the national forests and returns control to the states. Environmentalists are alarmed that this will open up national forests to roads and the devil itself of logging.

As a conservative, I like state control. I have more input into decisions and more access to decision makers at the state level than I do at the federal level. Besides forest management should not be a one-size fits all. The problems of the western United States and the challenges of management there are somewhat different than Ohio. Admittedly, I am not well versed on the management of forests in the west. However, if Mr. Wray is willing, I am certainly available for an expense paid educational tour.

The devil of logging is not necessarily the devil many thought it to be a number of years ago. Properly managed selective logging operations, even some clear cuts, bring a diversity of forest plants and habitat to the forest. Not all forest creatures prefer mature trees. The canopy of the mature trees results in less sunlight to the forest floor and less undergrowth. This is good for some species and bad for others. Forest managers now recognize the importance of select logging for a diversity of habitat and wildlife.

My real problem is not whether Mr. Wray, the environmentalists, or President Bush is right or not. The forest and nature will survive in spite of them. My real problem is that Mr. Wray is attacking a friend in the NRA. Mr. Wray has penned a second column that ran 1/28/06 that identifies how to get involved and solve the problem. In my opinion, this is a much better approach than his first column. Still, I am deeply suspicious of the Sierra Club’s position on hunting.

Certainly, friends don’t always agree on specific issues. Some hunters or trapshooters never saw the threat of handgun control or assault weapon bans as a threat to their sport. Some traditional bow hunters don’t like cross-bow hunters. Some traditional black powder shooters don’t like in-line muzzleloaders and powder pellets. Those are great private debates. The NRA has a convention where visitors can be treated to displays better than anywhere else. But that convention also has a business side to elect board members and set policy. Take the argument there. Have the healthy debate inside the meetings.

Friends don’t need to throw daggers at friends in public and in the media. We all have enough opposition from PETA, Humane Society of the United States, the Brady Campaign or Toby Hoover’s Ohioans Against Gun Violence. Save our public fights for fending off the common enemies. In my view, the sportsmen and gun rights movements are all different branches of the same great tree of freedom. When one part of that tree is sick and starts to die, the entire tree is not as healthy. Let’s all do our part to keep our tree healthy.

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