Wednesday, March 23, 2005

International Hunter In Charge of Endangered Species 

During last evening's Environmental Law class we were covering the Endangered Species Act, and a few times during the session I surfed over to the home pages of the US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) (aka NMFS). Oddly, NOAA Fisheries also has a detailed page over at the NOAA website, and it also includes a link to take you to the separate NMFS page. Why does NOAA Fisheries maintain two separate sites? Was it a gesture to accomodate their being subsumed into the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration? Anyway, that's not the point here.

The point is that the FWS homepage has a prominent announcement that Interior Secretary Gale Norton has named Matthew J. Hogan as Acting FWS Director. President Bush has yet to nominate a candidate for the position. Full news release, dated 3/16/05, here. The news release mentions that he has been deputy director for three years, and:
"Before joining the Service in 2002, Hogan, 37, spent four years as conservation policy director of the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation, serving as a liaison between the hunting, fishing and conservation communities and the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus. Prior to that, he was government affairs manager for Safari Club International and legislative director for Congressman Pete Geren of Texas. "
I pondered momentarily what impact his background might have on his endangered species protection, given the emphasis on "Sportsman" and a safari group in his experience. But I was in class, after all, and it wasn't a good time to do such digging. Instead, I clicked back to the Endangered Species page to which I was originally headed, and got back to the task at hand.

This morning I discovered via the Pacific Views post "Fox, Meet Henhouse," that yesterday afternoon there was a detailed post on the subject over at Daily Kos, titled "Slipping an extremist appointment under the radar..." Turns out that Safari Club International is just what it sounds like - a group that promotes global hunting, and which gives out awards to its members who successfully hunt and kill various set lists of species, such as elephants, leopards, sheep, bison, caribou, etc. More gory details over at the Daily Kos post. More sanitized details at Safari Club International.

I took a look into some of Hogan's other affiliations, such as the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation, which assures its members that "The Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation is an organization you can depend on to make sure you always have places and opportunities to hunt, fish and trap." I was unable to find any sort of official site for the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus, but through various references, such as this editorial from Women & Guns magazine, it appears that this is a caucus composed of a whole lot of US Representatives and Senators who enjoy hunting, shooting and fishing, and who work in Congress to promote and enable these activities. The Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation is their "educational arm."

Okay, I try to be a realist. Some of the most powerful forces behind habitat and wilderness preservation and other conservation efforts are in the "sporting" industry and community. I applaud the changes that have been made by anglers in positioning catch and release as the expected norm that is to be upheld. I have been known to be dedicated in my fishing pursuits (haven't been out years, though - I decided it was just an excuse to be out on the water, and I didn't need to fish to do that). If only a similar program shift could be developed within the hunting culture. Is it really necessary to go out and kill for sport? It's hard for me to develop a sense of kinship with the people whose aims of preserving wilderness are motivated by a desire to destroy part, perhaps the essence, of what makes it wild. But I also understand that there is a spectrum along which people fall, with some people who hunt actually to feed themselves, out of necessity, and with some people who will support what they perceive as the right for each person to get out there and kill any and all animals who cross their path simply because that is the right of man, and to "violate" that right on any level jeopardizes all such activity. And everyone in between.

Unfortunately, it seems that Acting Director Hogan is more likely one of those folks who fall at the extreme hunter end of the spectrum. I see from his Deputy Director bio that he supports the previous director's "emphasis on traditional partners of the Service, including hunting, fishing and sportsmen's groups." What about other logical partners, who don't support hunting? Are they dismissed out of hand? Is this really the best person to put in charge, even if temporarily?

On a side note, I see that the Fish & Wildlife Service is cross-promoting drilling in ANWR by posting a link to the Dept. of the Interior's (of which FWS is a part) ANWR promotion page. 'Cause, you know, that makes sense for the department charged with protecting threatened and endangered plants and wildlife.

Posted by Beth Henderson at 10:39 AM