Hunting and fishing politics - Say goodbye to the good old days
By Steve Jones, Outdoor Guide Conservation Editor
Missouri hunters and anglers have coasted on the efforts of some forward thinking Conservationists all of our lives. We stand on the shoulders of giants, who in 1936 shocked the world by winning the battle to wrest control of conservation away from politicians. With the strong support of Missouri voters, they made history by turning it over to a volunteer Conservation Commission with full and independent constitutional authority to restore and manage our fish, forests and wildlife.
We've had a great 78 year run. But many of us have forgotten that nothing lasts forever. Unless something changes it looks like 2015 could be the end of our good run.
Why? A perfect storm of effective lobbying by special interests such as a radical core of the Farm Bureau, a desperate deer breeding / fenced hunting lobby, and a newly strengthened legislative supermajority of the Missouri Republican Party.
In 2014 the legislature overwhelmingly passed a farm bill with sweetheart language snuck in without debate at the last minute, which would have gutted MDC authority to protect our wild deer from the threat of Chronic Wasting Disease. Thankfully Governor Nixon vetoed that bill.
His veto was easily overridden in the Senate, but in the Housethe override failed by the narrowest of margins - just one vote.
So disaster was averted, but maybe just postponed.
After Republican gains achieved in the November 2014 elections, it is unlikely a similar veto would survive the 2015 legislature. There has always been a simmering hatred of the MDC in the legislature, but lately it has reached a boiling point. There is no reason to expect anything but a full on assault on the MDC starting in January when the legislature is seated in Jefferson City.
Look for bills seeking to:
- Shift management of deer breeding and canned hunt facilities from the MDC to the Department of Agriculture.
- Remake and politicize the structure of the Conservation Commission, likely by seeking 8 regional commissioners rather than 4 statewide commissioners. This would indirectly but greatly increase the influence of the Farm Bureau (a long time MDC foe), and likewise greatly reduce the influence of Missouri citizens, most of whom reside in only two of those 8 districts. The commissioners would represent those who own the most acres, not the citizens that pay the bills.
- Create a constitutionally protected legislative committee (JCAR, Joint Committee on Administrative Rules), which would gut the power of the executive branch and upset the traditional balance of power which is the hallmark of American democracy. It is no coincidence that this committee will also pervert conservation policy by restoring legislative authority to dictate conservation law.
- Revise the 1/8 of 1% "Design for Conservation" sales tax, forcing periodic elections to re-approve it. This funding, coupled with relative political autonomy, is what has made Missouri a national and even global beacon for good conservation policy.
Don't believe me? Just watch.
To be sure, the Republicans stormed the Capitol the old fashioned way, running on a platform that Missouri voters clearly prefer over the alternative. And good on them for that. Not that it matters, but I am a life-long Republican myself. I support the key things the party stands for. At least the things they say to voters while waging campaigns.
But watching them operate their strong majority the last couple of years, it seems they stepped in something rotten on their way into the building, and the stench is pervasive. Not one of them got elected by being honest about their goals regarding the MDC.
If you doubt my claim that this attack is partisan take a peek at http://NoMoCWD.org/senate
. The numbers don't lie.
I am not optimistic about the future. Only committed and focused political will could turn this looming disaster around. But we Missouri hunters and anglers are deep, deep in our 78 year slumber. We take good conservation policy for granted. It's human nature.
Maybe the next generation will turn things back around, or maybe the generation after that.
But maybe the spell will be broken for good. Maybe hunting and fishing regulations will be decided for our kids and grand kids by term-limited politicians jockeying for position and favor from special interests, rather than by professional researchers and scientists who serve only the public interest in healthy fish, forests and wildlife..
I know, you think I'm exaggerating.
All I ask is that you pay attention while the Missouri legislature sits next January through May. Grade me then. I'm sad to say I expect straight A's. [post-publication note: See my February 2015 sequel to this article to see how my predictions are faring.]
On the off chance you decide to communicate with your legislators as you see my predictions come true, visit http://nomocwd.org/contact
for information about how to do so.
Some content stored on this website may be the property of other parties. If any content owner feels their material is insufficiently attributed or should be removed, please contact info@NoMoCWD.org and and it will be handled promptly. The license statement below applies only to content originally produced for this site and in no way alters the rights held by any other owner of content available on or linked to by this site:
Original content from this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License