Glen Wunderlich

America’s successful wildlife conservation model was shaken Jan. 19. On that day — the final day of the Obama Administration’s power to impose its will upon those that hunt and fish — the Secretary of the Interior tossed one final fire bomb: Director’s Order 219.

Former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) Director Daniel Ashe mandated severe ammunition and fishing tackle restrictions on all 81 million acres of FWS lands and waters with an edict that would phase out traditional lead-based ammunition and fishing tackle. And, he did it without input from the American people, states and ammunition and tackle manufacturers.

It was a maneuver to manipulate the system without fear of accountability. Ashe ignored the very mechanism that fuels genuine wildlife conservation and habitat management programs stemming from sales of firearms and ammunition in the form of excise taxes.

And, since the previous administration’s inception eight years ago, the amount collected by the federal government escalated three-fold to more than $200 million annually. These 10 to 11 percent excise tax dollars collected since 1937 under the Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act are specifically designated to be used by state wildlife agencies for conservation.

Fortunately, the U.S. Senate confirmed Congressman Ryan Zinke of Montana to serve as the Secretary of the Interior with a vote of 68-31. Zinke will serve as the 52nd secretary for the department in charge of managing and conserving public land and natural resources in the United States.

Zinke came to Congress in January 2014 after a 23-year career with the U.S. Navy. In 2008, he was elected as a state senator and led the chamber’s Education and Cultural Resources Committee.

During his tenure in Congress, he has served as a member of the House Natural Resources Committee and has been a strong advocate of keeping public lands open to public use, as well as funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, an important conservation program.

America now has a hunter, angler, and conservationist who understands the principles of sustainability of our natural resources and it didn’t take long to prove it.

On his first official day on the job, Zinke issued his first two secretarial orders benefitting the sportsmen and outdoor communities. Zinke invited various members from the sportsmen’s community for the signing ceremony of the secretarial orders that help expand public land access, as well as opportunities to hunt, fish and recreate across our vast nation.

With a stroke of the pen, Order 3346 overturned the lead ammunition and fishing tackle ban on FWS lands, waters and facilities.

The second order, No. 3347, advanced conservation stewardship, improved game and habitat management and increased outdoor recreation opportunities by directing bureaus and agencies to immediately identify areas where recreation and fishing can be expanded.

The order also requested the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council and Sport Fishing and Boating Partnership Council to provide recommendations on enhancing and expanding access on public lands and improving habitat for fish and wildlife.

It’s heartening to know Zinke understands American sportsmen and women are the true conservationists, and even more so, that we have been granted our collective voice, once again.

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