Outdoor Extremists at a Scientific Conference

Oct 24, 2022

Editor’s Note: Today, an op-ed from Brian Lynn, Vice President of Marketing and Communications for the Sportsmen’s Alliance

The Wildlife Society to allow Humane Society of United States, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Wildlife For All and Others to Host Panel Discussion at National Convention Nov. 5-10

About 20 years ago Spokane, Washington, was the scene of industry uproar when it hosted the Outdoor Writers Association of America national conference. Two decades later, the underlying premise that ripped that organization apart is repeating itself at another national conference in Spokane.

That OWAA conference was my first. As a young associate editor with ESPNOutdoors.com, I was a panel speaker on the emerging trend of “Writing for the Web.” Like most first-time convention goers, it was an experience to see everyone in the industry together, sharing ideas and having fun. As we all know, this industry is built on relationships.

But many of those relationships suffered when a rift within OWAA was exposed later in the week. As some of you might remember, my future employer, the Sportsmen’s Alliance and the NRA rightfully called out the organization for allowing membership to anti-hunting and anti-gun organizations, such as Sierra Club. That rift split OWAA as members fled the soft-peddled “inclusive” approach and formed the Professional Outdoor Media Association.

Today, The Wildlife Society is about to repeat history when my hometown of Spokane hosts their national convention Nov. 5-10. The conference is where scientists, biologists and state game agencies gather to inform each other on research and share ideas. Good people doing good things.

However, this year, The Wildlife Society is allowing an egregiously anti-hunting coalition to have booth space and to host a reception on Monday night while giving another anti-hunting group time to host a  panel discussion on Thursday afternoon.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Reform Coalition is a who’s who of anti-hunting organizations, including the Humane Society of the United States, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Mountain Lion Foundation, Animal & Earth Advocates, Washington Wildlife First and, for God’s sake, the Northwest Animal Rights Network.

If that weren’t bad enough, The Wildlife Society is allowing another animal-rights group, Wildlife For All, to host a panel discussion – moderated by Wildlife for All and stacked with members of the aforementioned groups.

Think about that: The Wildlife Society, the organization responsible for ensuring science is used in wildlife management is allowing an organization intent on destroying a century of scientific management to air their anti-hunting beliefs at the national conference to a roomful of biologists. I say belief system because Wildlife For All has no science to back up their positions or beliefs. Rather, they have theories … theories that contradict not just the North American model of Wildlife Management, but the standing and position statements of The Wildlife Society itself.

There is no room for organizations who actively work to break the North American Model of Wildlife Management to have space at a wildlife management conference. Giving this group space only gives them air to breathe their message into the minds of biologists and agency personnel. It legitimizes their position and leads to message creep from agencies to game commissions.

Think I’m overreacting? Consider the fact that the people listed on the Washington Fish and Wildlife Management Reform Convention Steering Committee are the same people responsible for ending Washington state’s spring bear season last year. They’ve spoken out against any predator management when it comes to wolves and mountain lions, even when the science has shown decimation of elk herds by lions.

It's groups like these that sue the government to keep you from hunting on federal lands, and then get paid by this same government for bringing the lawsuit. It’s not just out West where this is a problem. Groups like these are behind legislation that would set up a separate government agency to oversee the decisions of the fish and wildlife commission in Vermont, to ensure they weren’t too focused on hunting, fishing and trapping. Changes to game commissions, mandates and political oversight of policies and seasons are fights these groups bring every year in multiple states.

Science doesn’t matter to them when it doesn’t fit their anti-hunting narrative. If science doesn’t matter to them, why is a scientific convention giving science deniers space to peddle their wildlife management pseudo-theories? The destruction of the very model, the very people and organizations, that pay the salaries of the biologists and fund their studies is the mission of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Reform Coalition, and the groups behind it.

I do believe The Wildlife Society is a good group. It’s obvious that others in our industry think so, too. The majority of sponsors are hook-and-bullet industry groups who do great things in our world. However, as an industry, we’re fighting a global anti-hunting machine, one that uses state legislatures, the courts and the ballot box to end our way of life. And now they’re using The Wildlife Society, the supposed guardians of scientific management, to infiltrate state game agencies nationwide at their national conference … funded by the very industry they want to end.

The Sportsmen’s Alliance, with the help of our partners, fights back against this machine to protect the hunting, fishing and trapping community. But the threat we’re facing Nov. 7 at a little conference in Spokane isn’t about laws or lawsuits, rather it’s the first step of subversion by those wishing to destroy us. It might be popular today to suggest we can all sit down together, even if we disagree. But those who support the scientific approach to managing wildlife that is the envy of the entire world cannot find common cause with those who would destroy this model. We, as a community, need to push back in no uncertain terms.

— Brian Lynn
Brian Lynn is Vice President Communications, Sportsmen’s Alliance

About Sportsmens Alliance: Working in all 50 state legislatures, the Sportsmen’s Alliance protects and defends America’s wildlife conservation programs and the pursuits – hunting, fishing, trapping and recreational shooting – that generate the money to pay for them. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation is responsible for public and youth education, legal defense in state and federal court and research to guide the decision-making process of all involved. Its mission is accomplished through several distinct programs coordinated to provide the most complete defense capability possible. Stay connected to Sportsmen’s Alliance as www.sportsmensalliangce.orgFacebookTwitter and Instagram.