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John Edwards Unveils Hunting Bill of Rights

October 30, 2007.

Campaigning in Iowa on October 24th, Democratic Presidential candidate John Edwards unveiled a "Hunting and Fishing Bill of Rights and Responsibilities." The rationale given for the move was a desire to "protect Iowa's hunting and fishing tradition and to ensure that we protect our country's natural resources for future generations."

Despite putting forth what is probably the most detailed pro-sportsman, pro-wildlife plan ever articulated by a major candidate, Edwards has been attacked from all sides for his thoughtful, middle-of-the-road vision.

The principles in the plan included:

  • Improving access to Public and Recreational Lands, including more local involvement with federal land managers, working with landowners to improve access to hunting areas (very frequently noted by wildlife agencies as a key issue in managing game populations), and preserving wild, roadless backcountry.
  • Protecting lawful gun ownership.
  • Preserving access to clean water for fishing. No clean water, no fishing. Therefore, let's keep the water clean.
  • "Secure our Natural Heritage for Future Generations" -- that is, manage public lands for the benefits of the public, rather than for the benefit of oil, gas, and mining companies.
  • "Expect Citizens to Share Responsibility for Stewardship" -- kind of a catch-all category with some interesting ideas. Specifically, he mentions opening National Parks to hunting, rather than paying millions of taxpayers dollars to hire sharpshooter to manage wildlife populations.
  • The details of the plan are at:
    http://www.johnedwards.com/iowa/20071024-iowa-hunting-fishing/

    Critics from both sides have ignored the majority of Edwards' plan and zeroed in on pet issues.

    From the left, the animal rights people are focusing on the common-sense proposal to open National Parks to hunting when required for game management.

    A radical group on Google Groups is calling on its members to call the Edwards campaign and "tell them that he lost your vote, because of his positions stated." (http://groups.google.com/group/AR-News/msg/1de6d8150c7b7464).

    The Humane Society Legislative Fund referred to some of the most common-sense aspects of Edwards' plan as "alarming." (http://www.nysun.com/article/65240)

    From the right, in a widely-referenced article in the New York Sun, the NRA attacked Edwards' plan as "Pathetic." (http://www.nysun.com/article/65240). Although it's possible that the NRA spokesman wasn't fully quoted, it appears that his analysis ignored the content of the Edwards proposal entirely, focusing on what was absent -- an unconditional commitment to pro-gun policies as articulated by the NRA.

    Despite the selective readings of critics, the plan's pro-habitat, pro-access, common-sense approaches are some of the best-thought-out ideas ever put forth by a presidential candidate, even if you don't agree with all of them (as often happens in a democratic society).

    According to an October 13th poll by CNN, Edwards is a distant 4th in the Democratic race. While it's unlikely he'll sit in the White House any time in the near future, he has at least been able to add some informed discussion of sportsmans' issues to the process.

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