Maybe it’s our fault. Perhaps the shift in the public perception of hunting that’s occured in the last half-century could have been prevented if back then we’d had the foresight to aggressively market ourselves as “environmentalists” instead of quietly allowing groups like the Sierra Club to co-opt the term and define it in their image. Perhaps we as a group should have taken a more high-profile public approach in addressing the environmental issues that emerged in the latter half of the 20th Century.

But we didn’t, and as a result we have news stories like this:
_A federal judge is allowing wildlife officials to rebuild two watering tanks for endangered bighorn sheep at the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge outside Yuma.

The ruling by District Court Judge Mary Murguia rejects issues raised in a suit by environmental groups. They argued that federal and state officials couldn’t rebuild the tanks using motorized equipment because the area is classified as wilderness._

The lawsuit, brought by the group Wilderness Watch and with the Sierra Club as a co-plaintiff, sought to stop the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from constructing water tanks on the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona. The tanks’ purpose was to help out the refuge’s population of desert bighorn sheep.

But the group’s lawsuit claimed the FWS violated federal law by constructing the structures on a part of the wildlife refuge designated as a wilderness area. While this logic may leave readers scratching their heads (after all, don’t environmentalists like wildlife, too?) in reality lawsuits like this seem to be less about protection and more like attempts to set the legal framework for limiting and eventually eliminating wildlife management – including hunting – on federal lands.

The Fund for Animals has already used this very strategy to stop hunting opportunities on dozens of wildlife refuges. And a look at the Wilderness Watch homepage reveals the group apparently doesn’t like guided hunts on public land. See this, this, and this.

This press release from the U.S Sportsmen’s Alliance sums it up nicely.
In a major victory for sportsmen and conservationists nationwide, a federal court has ruled to protect hunting and wildlife management on an important parcel of federal land. The ruling reiterates that wildlife management takes precedent over protectionism on the nation’s National Wildlife Refuges.

Judge Mary H. Murguia of the U.S. District Court for Arizona decided in favor of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in a case brought by environmentalists seeking to block wildlife management in the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. The decision preserves the principle of active wildlife management within national wildlife refuges, even those that have had part of their land designated as “wilderness” under the National Wilderness Act

This case had nothing to do with using motorized equipment in a wilderness area. Rather, it was the latest chapter in the constant political and cultural struggle between a view of nature that includes and accepts the role of human interaction versus the viewpoint that excludes and rejects it as unnatural and harmful. The modern American environmental movement views nature as something to be protected from any human interaction they deem harmful or unworthy. To them wildness and all it entails is an external phenomenon to be observed while hunters view the concept of wildness as an internal, individual process to be participated in. Romance versus Reality.

And therein lies the fundamental difference between us and most modern environmentalists, and why we will continue to see lawsuits that to us make no sense at all. To them mythologizing, romanticizing and waxing poetic about nature is OK. But the idea that we’re a part of it and can actually help it out now and then? Forget it.