I recently had the opportunity to interview Nelson Freeman of Safari Club International (SCI) about the organizations dedication to protecting the freedom to hunt, lobbying and advocacy work, and the new Super-PAC, Hunter Defense Fund (HDF). He was kind enough to answer questions on the subject.
Question: With hunting increasingly under attack, what is Safari Club International doing to help keep hunters in the field?
Answer: Safari Club is the only pro-hunting organization with an office in Washington, D.C. On a day to day basis, we speak with members of Congress and their staff to outline the threats we see to hunting in North America and internationally. Anti-hunting organizations like the "League of Conservation Voters," the Humane Society of the United States have a well-greased political operation where they work to influence policy makers. We see it often in the current executive administration where back-room deals are cut with the anti-hunting special interests.
What sets SCI apart from every other hunter-conservation NGO is the organization's full time staff of policy experts, in-house legal counsel and certified wildlife biologists dedicated to the protection of hunting both in the U.S. and abroad. SCI's staff of professionals and lobbyists works with members of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus and the International Conservation Caucus to protect the millions of U.S. and international hunters. SCI advocates for necessary legislation to guarantee hunting on U.S. public lands, to reform the Endangered Species Act, and to protect all sporting firearms.
Question: SCI is taking an unprecedented step to form a Super-PAC. For many in the hunting community, we will have only heard of Super-PACs on T.V. What are the advantages of a Super-PAC?
Answer: The newly formed Super-PAC is called the Hunter Defense Fund. Many in the hunting community will recognize this name because it has been a singular message of SCI's advocacy and lobbying mission for the past 10 years. The Hunter Defense Fund Super-PAC, does more than a traditional PAC, and does more for the individual hunter than most traditional NGO's can provide.
Every two years in Washington there are elections, and each year environmentalist organizations like Sierra Club, the League of Conservation Voters and others, attack many of the pro-hunting legislators, Republican and Democrat. These organizations attack the legislators who are one of us, sportsmen and women who stand up each Congress to protect our hunting freedoms. To date, no hunting organization has had the financial backing to do direct media campaigns to protect the legislators who protect us.
The Hunter Defense Fund is going to be the voice of all hunters, standing up for the legislators who support hunting, calling out anti-hunting organizations for what they really are. We hope that every hunter, business that supports hunters, and other NGO's recognize that the Hunter Defense Fund is the First Line of Defense for Hunting.
Question: With the 113th Congress beginning this January, what plans does SCI have for the leaders of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus?
Answer: The Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus (CSC) is a bi-partisan and bi-cameral group of legislators, over 300 members in fact, last congress. We are sure this number will be achieved again in the 113th Congress. SCI will work with the leadership of the Caucus which consists of two members of each party, from both the Senate and House of Representatives. Without both parties working together, the average hunter will be left unrepresented.
SCI's policy goals remain consistent from last year. The House of Representatives passed a bi-partisan bill that among many things guaranteed hunting, fishing, trapping, and sport-target shooting were required recreational activities on Forest Service and BLM lands. This was a major win for all hunters. It demonstrated that hunting should be a protected heritage for all Americans. Though the U.S. Senate never took action on this legislation, SCI and our colleague will continue to the fight to protect our hunting heritage for the next generation of public land hunters.
Question: Besides the halls of Congress, where else has SCI's lobbying and advocacy helped to improve hunting opportunities?
Answer: As recently as November, SCI pressured U.S. Airways to reverse very anti-hunting policies. U.S. Airways had arbitrarily decided to not allow firearms to be transported to Spain. Though this may seem to be an organization specific problem, once one airline makes an anti-hunting decision, it is only a matter of time until the next one does too. Since 2008, SCI has pressured American Airlines, United Airlines, and Hawaiian Airlines to all reverse luggage restrictions that were negatively affecting hunters.
Question: It sounds like the SCI is deeply involved on all levels protecting hunters' rights. How can people support the Hunter Defense Fund?
Answer: The Hunter Defense Fund is the strongest way for the average hunter to influence legislators who support hunting. The campaign efforts that the Hunter Defense Fund will undertake ensure that anti-hunting organizations like the League of Conservation Voters, the Humane Society of the United States and others are effectively defeated. These organizations and others are active in limiting hunting opportunities at every juncture.
As long as there are threats to hunting, no matter where they are based, the SCI Hunter Defense Fund will continue to fight for hunter's rights. Anyone interested in the Hunter Defense Fund should attend the inaugural luncheon at the 41st Annual SCI Hunters' Convention in Reno, Nev. on Jan. 26 at 11 a.m. The event's special guest is world renowned hunter Jim Shockey and you can purchase tickets to hear him speak at www.ShowSCI.org.