Editorial-Opinion April 2005

Sportsmen ask "Why Did They Do That?" An inside look at policy and decision making.

Steve Burch | April 2, 2005

“Why did they do that?”

I keep hearing it. Sportsmen ask this question all the time.

Most recently, it has been asked about the planned increase in the season bag limit on does from 10 to 15.

Enough sportsmen objected often enough that WRD has retreated. Doe limits will be unchanged for the next two years.

There is a lesson to be learned here. If sportsmen make our voices heard, we can fashion our own future. If sportsmen become more aware of what is going on in the outdoor decision-making world and take a larger  decision-making role, then we won’t have to ask “Why did they do that?”

We already recognize that we are a part of the decision-making process. But the way we are currently asking the question stymies our participation. Asking “Why did they do that?”  makes sportsmen feel out of touch, unempowered, disenfranchised.

The question indicates that “they” did something that sportsmen were unaware of. It suggests that “they” don’t need to inform sportsmen about plans that could affect us.

Sportsmen need to stop asking “Why did they do that?” and start asking “Why did we do that?”

We are paying the bills. We ought to have a say in the process, and we should be getting public recognition for our efforts and accomplishments.

Instead, we are paying the bills and getting lip service. Our programs are getting hijacked; turned against us and away from what we would do.

Let me give you a concrete example that occurred this past month. There is a group interested in protecting and planning for future use in the Ocmulgee River corridor, including much of the Oconee National Forest and all of Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge. I have joined that group because I believe sportsmen should be a part of any planning team that presumes to guide future policy makers.

One committee in this group is focusing on cultural features in the river corridor. The committee chairman, in an email introducing his committee members to the broader group, wrote this about one of his members…

(Name withheld)  represents private citizens concerns for cultural resources, including the aesthetic side of things like not getting shot at by hunters while she enjoys nature or trails. She has a broader interpretation of “cultural” than those of us employed in the field. 

In reading this introduction, I was obviously concerned that citizens of the state would be shot at, so I wrote the following to this chairman…

I would like to further investigate any instances where (Name withheld) has been shot at by hunters. Could you please provide information regarding these instances?

He wrote back…

My understanding is that she was not necessarily shot at, but that she was disturbed by hunters shooting at game while she was enjoying some wooded area. I am copying her on this message for you.

The individual in question never was shot at. Instead, only hunters were shot at by the disparaging remark of a committee chair. Sportsmen take note, this chairperson is a policy maker.

Now comes the part that should really burn you up. The group was formed was to address a Resolution by the Georgia House and Senate to conserve land along the rivers. The stated purpose of the Resolution is to promote hunting and fishing in the area.

Committee members would change the purpose of the group to suit their own purposes, and disenfranchise sportsmen. Had I not been there to raise the question, there would have been an uncontested claim that sportsmen shoot at people. That equals justification to exclude sportsmen.

Somewhere down the road, out would have popped a corridor plan that likely would have severely curtailed hunting opportunities in the corridor.

And sportsmen would have looked at each other and asked, “Why did they do that?”

Of course, the answer is that “they do that” because sportsmen aren’t engaged in the process of looking after sportsmen’s interests.

We can do better. We can show up and stand up and be engaged in these planning processes. We just have to see ourselves doing that. Join me in  changing from “Why did they do that?” to “Why did we do that?” Or better yet,  “Why don’t we do that?”!!!

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