That would be the “Sportsmen in Name Only” – those hundreds of politicians you keep sending to Congress who claim to love you, but betray you when it suits them. And they struck again this week.
SINOs continually attack almost every national program critical to outdoor sports. Their targets have included Farm Bill conservation programs, wilderness and roadless designations, sensible regulations on oil, gas, mining, grazing and timbering operations on public lands, almost every budget that enhances fish and wildlife.
On Tuesday, SINOs in the House (262 Republicans, 35 Democrats) passed a bill that would prevent the Obama Administration – and any that follows it to the White House – from restoring some of the wetlands protections the Supreme Court removed nearly 10 years ago.
Since 1972, the Clean Water Act has provided protection for wetlands. Congress wisely agreed these habitats served such a vital role to a healthy environment that they should be considered part of the public trust. Included in those protections were lands that might be wet only part of the year or were distant from navigable waterways. There was enough science to show that, while temporary or isolated, these wetlands served a vital function for fish, wildlife and entire watersheds.
Among other things, that decision meant the stream banks critical to trout populations could not be ripped apart by development, and the prairie pothole nesting grounds that keep waterfowl populations large enough for hunting, could not be drained.
For 30 years, those protections helped fish and wildlife populations, while American agriculture and development prospered. The number of millionaires skyrocketed, cities expanded, bread and breakfast cereals crowded supermarket shelves.
But in 2001 and again in 2006, developers and agriculture concerns said they wanted that slim slice of America’s public trust back in private hands. They convinced the Supreme Court that the 1972 Congress never intended the Clean Water Act to protect those types of wetlands, that the policy was a horrible burden on their wallets.
The court didn’t rule these wetlands should not be protected. It simply ruled the law had been misinterpreted. At the same time it gave various interpretations of what could be included as a protected wetlands, leaving regulatory confusion in its wake.
So, 20 million acres of wetlands that had been protected for 30 years were now exposed to ruin – and federal agencies were unclear just what should be protected.
A solution to the court’s action was obvious: Congress could pass a law saying these temporary and isolated wetlands should be protected. Sportsmen’s groups across the nation supported that move, including Ducks Unlimited and Trout Unlimited.
Then the SINOs struck. They killed any measure trying to work its way through the House or the Senate.
Sportsmen finally found a friend in the White House when the Obama Administration ordered the EPA to draw up a new definition of what could be regulated. The result wasn’t a perfect gift to sportsmen: While it would restore almost all protections to stream sides, it would leave the potholes at the mercy of case-by-case decisions by local offices of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Sportsmen’s groups hailed the action, and DU pledged to make its case with science that the potholes should be included.
The SINOS – those politicians who attend your DU and TU banquets, and swear how much they love hunters and angers – were not happy.
Some farm and development lobbies are using SINOs as their mouthpieces crying the rule imposes new restrictions, or is a “land grab.” Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the new rule leaves out some wetlands that once were protected!
But one thing is clear: This latest attack strips the SINOs of their “I-Love-Sportsmen” camo pattern. That’s because they know the bill has no chance in the Senate. And they know President Obama has promised a veto if it makes it to his desk. And they all received a letter signed by almost every sportsman’s group in the nation as well as fishing and hunting gear manufacturers,
urging them to stand down. But they passed the bill anyway as part of an election-year campaign to provide shouting-points in tight elections.
That’s what makes this latest SINO attack especially craven. They were pandering to the forces that oppose vital sportsmen’s interests. Once again they were throwing sportsmen under the bus to gain points with another group.
So check the vote. If your House member voted “Yea” on H.R. 5078, he or she is a SINO – Sportsman In Name Only.
Meanwhile, sportsmen should take their own action to outflank the SINOs. The proposed rule is open to public comment through Oct. 20. You can do your part in a few minutes online.