Eye on the Antis – February 2007

Daryl Kirby | January 26, 2007

Spill hot coffee, sue the fast-food establishment. Slip and fall, sue the department store. Not getting your way with a federal or local bureaucracy? Take ’em to court.

The litigious nature of our society is amazing and often repulsive. For sportsmen, lawsuits have been extremely harmful. Court actions by anti-hunting and environmental groups have stopped hunts, harmed wildlife and degraded the science of wildlife and forestry professionals.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is currently involved in 44 court cases. A lawsuit filed by HSUS against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could ban bear hunting in Florida and south Georgia, another could end hunting on dozens of refuges, including two in Georgia. HSUS is suing the state wildlife agencies in Oregon, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Indiana. They’re suing federal and state agriculture departments over how chickens are killed. They’re suing the circus. Makes you wonder what is next.

Yet, as of late, a precious few sportsmen’s groups have stopped playing nice. They are using the same card played so successfully by the antis, the courts, to try to protect the future of hunting, fishing and trapping.

The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation (USSAF) is involved in court actions in Maine, New Jersey and Minnesota.

In Maine, an animal-rights group’s lawsuit argues that trapping of any species should be banned to prevent the possibility of catching federally protected Canada lynx, bald eagles and gray wolves. USSAF is joining with the Maine DNR to fight the antis.

“Our goal is to prevent the animal-rights movement from manipulating the Endangered Species Act to ban hunting, fishing and trapping,” said Rob Sexton, USSAF vice president for government affairs. “If antis can stop all trapping in a place where there is a risk of catching a Canada lynx, they can just as easily try to stop fishing in bodies of water where there is a risk of catching an endangered species of sturgeon.”

Closer to home, the GONetwork recently filed court papers to overturn a Marion County ordinance that would have made it very difficult and expensive for hunting camps to exist in the county.
The GONetwork took some heat from a vocal few for what was characterized as a “bullying” of the local government of Marion County. Others worried that the expense was too great for the fledgling organization.

Although surprising to some, the willingness of the GONetwork’s bold action may have far-reaching affects. Two weeks ago I attended a meeting requested by two executives of one of the largest landowners and lessors to hunting clubs in the United States. The topic was the Marion County court action, and the potential for other counties and municipalities to pass ordinances that would restrict hunters or hunting.

“It’s the chipping away at hunters that’s going to kill it,” one of the executives said. “Each step isn’t necessarily a big thing, but over time hunters are just going to say, ‘The heck with it.’”

After passage of the Marion County hunting-camp ordinance, his company was contacted by other Georgia counties requesting information on hunting clubs in their counties, which he saw as the initiation of efforts to pass their own hunting-camp restrictions. Since the GONetwork’s court action, those counties have gone silent, he said.

For years, sportsmen have played nice, and we’ve lost ground to the antis. Sometimes it’s nice to have a big stick in your corner.

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