Writers on the Range: A hunter goes lobbying
February 26, 2008
A few weeks ago, I set out with a small group to lobby Oregon’s Republican Sen. Gordon Smith. The visit was set up by the National Wildlife Federation, and our goal ” a long shot ” was to convince the senator to sign on as a co-sponsor of the Lieberman-Warner bill to control greenhouse-gas emissions in the United States.
We hoped to convince him that this bipartisan bill is our best chance to reduce pollution to the levels necessary to avoid catastrophic effects on our planet. If enacted, the law would reduce pollutants 70 percent by the 2050. It targets not just power plants but all major pollution emitters, and the bill’s lever is “cap and trade,” meaning the government will set a cap on the tons of pollution each company can release into the environment.
Companies that exceed their limits will have to purchase credits from companies that have reduced their pollution below allowed levels.
Sitting in Sen. Smith’s comfortable office, one by one we told him why we cared. Buzz Ramsey, a legend in Northwest fishing circles, explained that glacial melting on Mount Hood has released hundreds of thousands of tons of sediment into the Sandy River, filling 25 foot-deep holes to within six feet of the surface.
When spring chinook arrive from the ocean in the spring, they spend months resting and waiting in deep holes for fall, when they spawn. But if the deep holes are gone, gone too is the chinooks’ ability to escape from summer heat.
Increased water temperatures lead to diseases and death, and the few that survive to spawn may lose all their eggs to the suffocating sediment.
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Jack Glass, a fishing guide in the Portland area, gave up an $800 day with clients to tell why he feels so strongly about the Lieberman-Warner bill.
Jack’s 24-year-old son is also a guide, and Jack worries about his son’s future in the business. He put a face on the people likely to be economic victims of global warming.
Liz Hamilton, the executive director of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, reminded the senator of the courage he’d shown in previous contentious issues. More than once, he has taken unpopular stances against the Republican Party. She asked him to do so again, explaining this bill is something we all need. Liz is a tough, savvy operator, and it was obvious he valued her opinion.
I was there as a hunter. Historically, we hunters have been a Republican choir, but we are reading more, learning more, and becoming more and more aware of the threats facing the habitats on which hunting depends. We recognize the peril facing our future in the outdoors. I told the senator that many hunters no longer blindly follow the voting guidance of the National Rifle Association (NRA), which bases its political stands on adherence to the Second Amendment.
We have watched the NRA recommend election of environmentally bankrupt politicians just because they supported the right to bear arms; then we saw those same politicians attempt to sell our public lands to the highest bidder. Now, we’re not just going to “vote our sport.”
We’re going to vote our consciences and our environment, too.
I said hunters are looking for people with vision who can see beyond temporary economic impacts to a world where our grandchildren can thrive and where the outdoors is still great. We’re looking for someone who will stand up for the Lieberman-Warner Bill. “We’re hoping you are one of those people,” I concluded.
The senator smiled and said the best he could promise was to vote for cloture, meaning he would vote to place a time limit on the length of time senators who oppose the bill can filibuster.
Sen. Smith’s smile was bright and his manner friendly. But it was clear to us that he would not co-sponsor the bill and would probably not even vote for it. All he would do is vote against letting it die by filibuster.
The members of some 700 hunting, fishing and sporting groups who care about wildlife and the West are still looking for people to lead us.