By TRACY TRUMAN
Wildlife management by sporting groups in Nevada has enjoyed the enviable status of being largely nonpartisan. Whether sportsmen were re-seeding fire-ravaged rangeland in the northern end of the state, building waterfowl nestboxes, or constructing a water development (i.e. guzzler) in southern Nevada, they didn’t care if the person standing next to them was Republican, Democrat or Libertarian. But all that has recently changed. Even the most politically naive sportsmen have been astounded this legislative session at the rapidity and thoroughness with which Democrats have assailed sporting families.
For example, despite overwhelming opposition by sportsmen, the Assembly passed ABl01, which will no longer allow money from the $3 predator fee (collected from each hunting tag application) to be used for sensitive species or for lethal control of predators.
Within a week, Democratic leaders declared SJR 11 to be dead on arrival. As you may recall, SJR 11 was the proposed constitutional amendment that would make it a right to hunt, trap and fish in the state. This resolution was originally proposed to the 2013 legislature, but Democrats wouldn’t even let it get to a vote. It was again submitted to the 2015 legislature, which was controlled by Republicans. The measure passed in 2015 by a 76% margin in a bipartisan vote. Since it must be passed by two legislatures before being sent out for a vote of ALL Nevadans, SJRl1 arrived at the 2017 legislature, this time finding a hostile welcome from a now-Democratic controlled Senate and Assembly. After one hearing, which again was dominated by support from the sporting families of Nevada, Senate Democrats have signaled they intend to kill the measure. Apparently those who were concerned that future legislatures could eliminate hunting, trapping and fishing were one legislature too late.
Within hours of the death of SJR 11, Senate Democrats introduced SB364 and SB365, which would eliminate trapping on public land in the state. Since Nevada is roughly 87% public land (the remainder being comprised mainly of metropolitan and residential areas), the message is clear to this group of sportsmen -get off the land! Oh, and under these bills, those trapping on their own private land would be required to post signs advising others that traps had been placed there (apparently to give trespassers a heads up there were free traps for the taking).
So why the blatant animosity by Democrats toward the sporting families of Nevada? One explanation may be that Democrats perceive sporting groups as more conservative (read: Republican). However, that doesn’t seem to be born out when one considers the diverse membership of the sporting groups across the state. Another possible reason is that Democratic leaders tend to be … well, urbanites. They have never had the contact with the land that sportsmen and -women have had, and therefore don’t mind seeing them dismantled.
But I think there is another reason. Money. After all, most wars are fought over land or money. This one appears to be about both. Decades ago when the legislature was made up of more amicable folks, they got together (at the request of sportsmen) and established the Heritage fund and other accounts, derived from the sale of specialty hunting tags. These funds are to be used for only specific wildlife management-related purposes. Now, however, these funds have grown into multiple millions of dollars and have caught the attention of legislators who feel this money could be put to better uses. Of course, these same legislators would have to eliminate or greatly weaken the sporting groups that advocated setting up the accounts in the first place.
No problem. Just start whittling them down. The death of SJR 11 was a clear signal that hunting, trapping and fishing are not “rights,” but merely “privileges” that can be revoked by legislators at their whim. AB 101 told sportsmen that the legislature knew better how to spend sportsmen’s dollars. And SB364 and SB365 are major steps toward complete cultural genocide. Never before has the legislature been so clear in telling one user group, they can no longer use public land. Hearkening back to the Native American experience, trappers (and soon hunters) are being told, get off the land. Ironically it was trappers who discovered, explored and settled this great state, making way for the railroad, ranching, mining, gaming and a whole host of other industries. In a previous day, Nevadans honored such pioneers by naming their cities, towns and streets after them (i.e. Kit Carson=Carson City; Jim Bridger=Bridger Avenue, etc.). But now, they are despised by the very beneficiaries of the hard work, courage and adventure these great men displayed in establishing our state.
The North American model of wildlife management is being usurped by a Democratically controlled legislature who has signaled to wildlife groups -”we not only don’t need you, we don’t want you.”
Tracy Truman is an avid outdoorsman who lives in Las Vegas, Nevada.