Now that the gun debate in Congress has died down, I wanted to address those questions that we got along the lines of “why hasn’t the TRCP taken a position?”

The TRCP was created in 2002 with a very focused mission: to guarantee all Americans quality places to hunt and fish. Our mission has been reaffirmed over the years and is being done so again this year.

Gun owners are very effectively represented in Washington, D.C.; what was lacking before the TRCP was a single organization to pull together the disparate voices of the hunting and fishing community to work together on issues related to conservation and access.

Very simply, others know far more than we do about the Second Amendment, not to mention school safety, the mental health system, weapons trafficking and other key components of the gun-violence debate today.

Mission drift is a concern for all organizations. That is why they create missions, visions and strategic plans to guide their actions.

The range of conservation issues in which the TRCP does engage is diverse and represents the interests of the millions of hunters and anglers in this country. From water quality, private lands conservation and marine fisheries management to responsible energy development and conservation on federal public lands, the TRCP works collaboratively with our partners to develop smarter natural resource policies–policies that promote the conservation of fish and wildlife and their habitat, increase funding for responsive resource management and enhance public access for sportsmen.

There are a few issues important to sportsmen (in addition to the Second Amendment) that fall outside our organization’s charter. We do not engage in youth education efforts, in large part because so many of our partners, from the National Wild Turkey Federation to the International Hunter Education Association, do such a great job at this work.

We don’t do on-the-ground habitat conservation projects. That’s already being done by Ducks Unlimited, Trout Unlimited, Pheasants Forever and many others. And we don’t do electoral politics–we don’t have a political action committee and we remain fiercely nonpartisan. In short, we focus on what we do best: advocating for habitat, funding, and access.

It is worth noting the important role that hunters and anglers play in funding conservation in America. For more than 75 years, the Pittman-Robertson Act, which created an excise tax on guns and ammunition sales, has thrived, providing more than $6.5 billion to state fish and wildlife agencies.

As sportsmen, our priority should be to ensure the successful continuation of funding for key conservation programs. Not only are such programs critical for fish and wildlife habitat, they make good economic sense. This is a point we have stressed to Congress and the administration since the TRCP was created, including during the gun debate.

While the gun control debate has dominated the recent news cycle, conservation, funding, and access continue to demand our attention and advocacy–and will do so well into the future. The TRCP will remain at the forefront of these issues and will persevere in our efforts to uphold opportunities to hunt and fish for this generation and those that follow.

Whit Fosburgh joined TRCP as President and CEO in June 2010. Prior to working at the TRCP, Fosburgh spent 15 years at Trout Unlimited, playing a critical role in that organization’s evolution into a conservation powerhouse. Fosburgh grew up hunting and fishing in upstate New York and was a member of team USA in the 1997 World Fly Fishing Championships. He brings a wealth of experience centered on conservation policy, fundraising and program development as well as a passion for the outdoors.

Image courtesy U.S. Library of Congress

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