LAST UPDATED: May 1st, 2015
In my younger years I always looked at organizations that said they were protecting our rights with a hefty dose of skepticism. The first thought that always went through my mind was that these organizations were just looking for money to fund their operation and not really concerned with protecting the rights they proclaimed. It seemed very easy for me to make the decision to not donate even the smallest sum of money to these types of groups. Although I had no problem dropping untold sums of cash on the latest gadgets that promised to make me the greatest hunter ever, and in all cases those promises went unfulfilled.
I guess because hunting had been such a part of my life it was very easy to take that right for granted. Whether it was my Father, Grandfather or Great Grandfather the hunting heritage had been passed down from generation to generation without thought that it may ever disappear. I really started to think about the ramifications of losing our rights to hunt about the time my son was born. I realized how important it was for him to have the opportunity to experience all of the same life lessons that I learned as a youngster while hunting with my father.
Although I live in a state that has preserved our right to hunt and fish within our state Constitution, there are other of our fellow outdoorsman that have not been so lucky. It seems at any given time somewhere in this great country our rights to hunt and fish are under attack daily. It would be very easy for me to turn a blind eye since my rights where I live have been secured, but what about that Mother or Father who lives an area of the country that does not show the same respect for our hunting heritage? Should we not help support organizations that are fighting for their rights? What would happen if any of us had to move to support our families, and found ourselves in a location that did not honor the right to hunt and fish?
It would very quickly go from someone else’s problem that is easy to ignore to a life altering scenario that has far reaching effects for us and our families. That is why I try my best to support groups that are diligently working to preserve or rights and our heritage. I recently had the opportunity to spend some time with Zac Lemmon who is the Associate Director of Field Services for the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance. He was able to give me some insight into their organization and how they work tirelessly defending our rights.
Q: How did U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance get started?
A: The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance (USSA) began in 1978 after a group of sportsmen leaders successfully worked to defend trapping on the Ohio ballot. After that victory, it was apparent to those leaders that the threat to sportsmen’s rights was so great there needed to be a national organization to defend and advance hunting, fishing and trapping for sportsmen and women across the U.S. Hence the USSA was born.
Q: What is the main focus of U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance?
A: The USSA provides direct lobbying and coalition-building support to protect and advance the rights of hunters, trappers and anglers. The USSA is the only organization exclusively devoted to combating the attacks made on America’s sportsman traditions by the anti-hunting and animal rights extremists. Our companion organization, the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation (USSAF), is responsible for legal defense, education programs and research. The USSA and USSAF work in all 50 states, in Congress, at the ballot box and in the courts, all to defend and advance our outdoor heritage of hunting, fishing, and trapping.
Q: What has been the biggest obstacle your organization has had to overcome?
A: The biggest obstacle is lack of name recognition (and the corresponding struggle for funding) despite our tremendous record of success in fighting for our hunting, fishing and trapping heritage. Part of this is due to how we historical worked. Our operational plan when we were formed over 35 years ago and until recently, was to send staff into a state to tackle an issue, help build an infrastructure and utilize our expertise to win the issue. Then we would move on to the next fight, leaving nothing behind to remind sportsmen of who helped them protect their heritage. Where that has been very successful in winning battles, we have not built up the name recognition nor the membership that should have been built. We now have a plan in place to organize states starting with key volunteers at the local level and building a grass-root network from state to state.
Q: How is your organization funded?
A: The USSA is a 501(c)4 organization and the USSAF is a 501(c)3 organization funded through memberships, grants and donations from numerous sources such as individual sportsmen, foundations, local, regional and national sportsmen groups, and businesses from coast to coast.
Q: Tell me one thing about your organization that the general public does not know, but should?
A: We defend conservation principles across the U.S., from each locale to the nation’s capital. Ultimately, our work protects the science of wildlife management that makes it possible for hunters and non-hunters to enjoy the most abundant wildlife populations than any time in our history.
Q: What is the one accomplishment that you are most proud of at U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance?
A: We have enjoyed many accomplishments throughout our history from being the key group behind hunter harassment laws in each state, reducing barriers through the Families Afield partnership allowing more than one million new hunters to enter the field, helping many states enact and keep dove hunting seasons, protecting bear hunting from coast to coast, being on the front lines on every trapping issue to protecting sportsmen’s ability to own and use dogs. The one issue of note that has helped the most sportsmen across the country , and that certainly includes bowhunters, is our work on the 1997 Refuge Improvement Act. This federal legislation, which we championed throughout until it was signed into law, makes hunting and other wildlife- oriented activities a priority use of the 100 million acre plus National Wildlife Refuge System. Basically, this protects hunting from lawsuits and other actions brought by the antis as well as setting the stage for literally hundreds of refuges being opened to hunting since it became law.
Q: What is the single greatest threat to Hunters rights today?
A: The anti-hunting movement and animal-rights activists are targeting hunters and our outdoor traditions like never before. Threats to sportsmen and their families are being made every day as well as anti-hunting groups are raising millions of dollars to push anti-hunting legislation. It will take an all-out effort by all sportsmen to win the war against the anti-hunting crowd.
Q: What areas of the country seem to hold the greatest number of threats to our hunting tradition.
A: Historically, the west coast and neighboring states as well as the New England states held the greatest number of threats to our hunting and other outdoor traditions. To help combat those attacks, the USSA has opened a Western U.S. office in Sacramento, California to lead the effort in that part of the country. It’s important to remember though that no state or region is immune to anti-hunter attacks. One only has to think of Maine and Michigan who are both facing ballot issues brought by antis to understand that fact.
Q: What areas of the country seem to protect our hunting rights the best?
A: In most areas of the Midwest, southeast and the plains states the demographic makeup keeps politicians and other decision-makers aware of the tremendous importance of our traditional lifestyle. How well your state is protected ultimately comes down to how organized sportsmen are when facing an issue and the resources available to fight that issue. That’s where the USSA comes in. Our strength lies in our ability to build coalitions of sportsmen, all working toward a common goal.
Q: What politicians seem to help you the most in the protection of our hunting Heritage?
A: There are politicians in every state that understand the importance of hunting, fishing and trapping to the conservation of game and non-game species. Those who represent more rural districts would generally be the most supportive but hunters have great political allies in every district of every state across the U.S. It gets down to an education process for any official about a particular issue.
Q: How can our readers help support your efforts?
A: As a non-profit organization, the best way to support the USSA is to become a member. Without the loyal support of our members, our efforts would not be possible. All funds are used to combat the anti-hunting movement and defeat legislation that would threaten our outdoor heritage. You can become a member by visiting www.ussportsmen.org or calling 614-888-4868.
Q: How can average sportsmen get involved and make a difference in preserving our rights as hunters?
A: Besides becoming a member, the USSA and USSAF rely on volunteers from coast to coast to carry out important programs all designed to protect and advance our heritage for today and tomorrow. To find out how just a few hours of your time can make a tremendous impact on protecting our outdoor heritage, contact us at 888-930-4868 or email us at [email protected]
If you enjoy hunting, fishing and trapping as much as I do and want to help preserve these rights for all Americans to enjoy you can join the USSA by visiting their website at usspsortsmen.org.