Public Lands & Waters photo

This just in: If you’re a hunter or angler, your U.S. Senator probably doesn’t care much about you.

I can say that after watching how the Sportsman’s Act was effectively killed last week.

That vital package of measures needed to help fish, wildlife and sportsmen arrived on the Senate floor with bi-partisan support of 45 members, and little, if any, opposition. It included funding for absolutely critical habitat programs for fish and wildlife, as well as laws that would help guarantee sportsmen they could have access to hunting and fishing on federal lands. And your senators almost certainly told you they were in your corner. After all, they love sportsmen–they tell you that every chance they get.

But this is an election year, and the Senate floor has been a sniper’s alley for partisan concerns.

This is how it works: Once a bill makes it to the floor, senators from either side introduce amendments on controversial subjects unrelated to the measure at hand. They hope to force their opponents to cast a vote that they can then use to blast them with in the fall.

This is how The Washington Post reported the development:

_“The possibility of a new, mostly partisan debate on gun control likely would upend debate on a bipartisan measure to expand hunting rights on federal lands that is considered a potential political lifeline for about a half dozen Democrats seeking reelection in Republican-leaning states.

“Senators of both parties are readying gun-related amendments and are poised to introduce them this week.”_

The amendments didn’t just deal with guns but spanned the realm of politics, from funding the Palestinian government to selling off public lands. It was a feeding frenzy of partisan spite, with the real victims being fish, wildlife and sportsmen.

Now, do you think this would have happened if the bill concerned, say, Wall Street bankers, or the energy industry, or military contractors? Probably not.

In choosing this bill for this tactic, the senators were sending a very clear message to sportsmen: You don’t count.

Don’t take my word for it. Whit Fosburgh, president of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, had this analysis:

“[The Act] failed due to political infighting, a dysfunctional amendment process, and the extreme wings of both parties, who are more interested in scoring points than legislating on behalf of America’s hunters and anglers and the values of the population at large,” he said. “We are deeply disheartened that a bill with 45 bipartisan cosponsors and the support of the national sporting community could fall victim to a fundamentally broken Senate, where some legislators’ support for sportsmen is only a talking point.”

Remember all that wonderful praise your senators showered on you when invited to your banquets, especially during election cycles? Remember how they said hunting and fishing were important to the nation, and they were going to Washington to protect your traditions and future?
Well, many of them lied.

And regular readers of this blog will recall this isn’t the first time they’ve used this bill to throw you under the bus. It happened back in 2012 as well.

It doesn’t take a genius to understand that the sportsmen’s lobby–including the industries that rely on outdoor sports to pour billions into the state and federal economies each year–don’t carry a very large stick in Washington any more.

To be sure, there were some who walked their talk, including the major sponsors – senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Jon tester (D-MT). But most quickly tossed sportsmen aside.

So, what now?

Well, two years of hard work by sportsmen’s conservation groups has been thrown down the drain, again. I’m certain the dedicated men and women working on these issues will try again next session. But each month that passes without these programs in place damages the future for our traditions.

President Obama has been using executive orders to by-pass the log-jammed congress. Maybe it’s time for sportsmen’s groups to begin knocking on that door.