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Sportsmen's Groups Boost Conservation Agenda

On January first, not far from the Mexico border, a father and son chased bird dogs through the south Texas brush, flushing coveys of quail in the early morning mist. Although many families rise before dawn to hunt on New Year's Day, this scene was different; this father and son were both Presidents of the United States.

Earlier that morning, President George W. Bush had boarded a plane in misty rain and foggy weather and traveled south to Falfurrias, Texas, to go hunting with his dad. Both Presidents were participating in a tradition that has protected American wildlife and wildlife habitat for nearly a century, and is again gaining recognition as a force for conservation.

"Hunting is a tradition that's been passed down from father to son dating back to the country's original settlers, and today mothers and daughters are also becoming a part of this tradition," said Rob Keck, National Wild Turkey Federation CEO. "Many people take up hunting for the sport, but after they've been in the woods a few times, they find themselves becoming equally committed to conserving wildlife and wildlife habitat. That's why our hunting heritage is important, not only to hunters, but to all Americans."

One of the longstanding, though often overlooked, examples of hunters' contributions to wildlife conservation is the Pittman-Robertson act. Passed by the U.S. Congress at the request of hunters in 1937, this tax on license sales and hunting equipment established a dedicated revenue stream to aid states in wildlife restoration.

In December, this commitment to conservation was recognized by the nation's highest office. Leaders from 20 sportsmen's organizations, including the NWTF, the Boone and Crockett Club, the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance met at the White House with President Bush to discuss important conservation issues involving hunters and anglers.

The sportsmen's groups spent more than an hour with the president in the Roosevelt Room, named after Theodore Roosevelt, the first conservationist president. Secretary of Agriculture Anne Venneman, Secretary of Interior Gayle Norton, Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation Executive Director Melinda Gable and Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Steve Williams also attended.

A portion of the meeting was spent discussing concerns over administration officials' plans to rewrite the 1972 Clean Water Act. These revisions could have damaged millions of acres of wetlands and millions of miles of streams - valuable habitat for the wildlife that sportsmen hunt and fish. It was a productive discussion. Only four days later, Bush ended the plan to rewrite the Clean Water Act.

Reporting on the recent meeting, Elizabeth Shogren of the Los Angeles Times wrote, "The unusually lengthy meeting - followed by a major decision in its favor - shows the `hook and bullet' crowd, as the anglers and hunters call themselves, to be a powerful new force on environmental issues in Washington."

"The President told the conservation leaders that he and his administration are committed to preserving the hunting heritage," said Keck. "He assured us that he supported hunting and realized the positive economic impact hunters and anglers have on communities throughout America."

In 2001, hunters spent over $20 billion on trips, equipment, licenses, and other items to support their hunting activities.

During the meeting, Keck had the opportunity to present the President with a limited edition turkey call crafted by callmaker Dale Rohm and thank him for "answering the call."

"To be able to sit down with the President and tell our story is just an extraordinary opportunity," said Keck. "The meeting was an official stamp of recognition for hunters across the nation and the efforts they have made on behalf of wildlife and wildlife habitat."

For more information about the NWTF, call (800) THE-NWTF.

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