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CapitolIn 1989 a group of US Congressmen founded the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) to protect the interests of hunters, anglers and trappers. Now comprised of over nearly 300 members of Congress, it is the largest caucus on Capitol Hill. These caucus members have indicated by their membership that they are interested in hunting, fishing, and trapping issues and expect to hear from sportsmen when legislation comes before them that impacts these activities. They may not always vote with us but they respect the data we prepare and come to depend on it as a quantitative, reasoned source of information. Very few bills have gone against sportsmen in the last five years when it comes to hunting, fishing, trapping, or conservation. All of Idaho’s delegation are members of that caucus and Idaho Senator, Jim Risch, is the current Senate Vice-Chair. Formed to protect the interests of sportsmen, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus stands strong in support of hunting, fishing and conservation. More than half of the members of the United States Congress, representing nearly every state, are affiliated with the Caucus, providing an identified group of allies that can quickly be called into action.

Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation – Sportsmen’s Link to Congress

Shortly after the CSC was created the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) was created to provide advice, support and information to the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus. This gives CSF a unique niche in the U.S. Congress that is unparalleled by any other sportsmen’s organization, serving as the sportsmen’s link to Congress. One major objective of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation is to educate the 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and 100 members of the U.S. Senate about legislation that affects hunting, fishing, and conservation of fish and wildlife. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation works to educate, communicate and inform sportsmen, conduct issue research (e.g., economic benefits) and serve as the conduit for sportsmen’s organizations, state legislators and state conservation agencies to the US Congress.

The CSF is a non-profit 501(3)(c) organization funded by industry, hunting, fishing and wildlife conservation organizations, education/research grants and fundraising events.

A 1992 show-down involving an attempt to block whitetail deer management in the Mason Neck NWR was the first real challenge to the new organizations. The defeat of a provision in the Appropriations Bill to stop hunting on the refuge (the vote was 255-160) illustrated how effectively Congress, the Foundation and sportsmen could work together to preserve hunting opportunities.

In State Capitals Throughout the Nation

National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses

State MastheadIn 2001 the CSF facilitated the establishment of the first state legislative sportsmen’s caucuses to provide the state-level coordination and communication necessary to achieve CSC goals. The national template is being moved to the state level (where more mischief and good is done on wildlife issues than in Washington, D.C.). Now more than ever there is a need to ensure that sportsmen’s interests are well represented in each state capital – those who are working to end our hunting and fishing traditions have found state government to be a vulnerable target.
The federal caucus has been so successful that, in 2004, the CSF decided to take the concept to the state level, a move that only made sense because, as then Director Melinda Gable noted, “There are 7,342 members of state legislatures. And last year, some 2,800 bills impacting hunting and fishing were introduced in state legislatures across the country — a 50 percent increase from 2003.””

Have sportsmen’s caucuses worked at the state level? You bet. In the past decade, state caucuses have helped get (or keep) dove seasons in Michigan and Minnesota, pushed for Sunday deer hunting in Maryland, and fought to maintain the right to hunt and fish on public lands in Illinois. Currently, 44 state sportsmen’s caucuses involve more than 2,000 legislators in hunting and fishing issues.

The huge success of these state caucuses led to the first National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC) in Texas in December 2004. This assembly was a group effort that included Founding Partners from national hunting and fishing organizations, state and local grassroots organizations, and the outdoor industry. Founders include the Safari Club International, the National Wild Turkey Federation, Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, Comcast, International Paper, the National Marine Manufacturer’s Association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, UST, the Hunting and Shooting Sports Heritage Fund, and the National Association of Sporting Goods Wholesalers. The organization serves as the umbrella association for the individual state sportsmen’s caucuses ensuring communication and interaction among the growing list of states with caucuses.

Twenty-three state legislators took part in the summit in Texas to outline the mission, goals, and objectives of the NASC as well as to adopt bylaws and elect an Executive Council. We all need to support the legislators who support us. Some of the key representatives are: Senator Robin Webb (D-KY), Representative Mark Neuman (R-AK), Representative Brandon Phelps (D-IL), Representative Mike Pitts (R-SC), Senator John Astle (D-MD), Senator Bill Heath (R-GA), Delegate Wendell Beitzel (R-MD) Representative Sal Esquivel (R-OR), Representative Candy Ezzell (R-NM), Representative Herb Frierson (R-MS), Representative Marc Gergely (D-PA), Representative Craig Miner (R-CT), Representative Brian White (R-SC), and Senator Mike Green (R-MI).

The NASC is helping to form new sportsmen’s caucuses and is providing a network for state caucuses to work together. This whole concept is great, because it provides a network for passing pro-hunting legislation from one state to the next. Prompted by the increasing frequency of attacks on hunting, fishing and the shooting sports at the state level, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation is responding with a powerful answer – a network of legislative sportsmen’s caucuses providing an identified group of allies that can quickly be called into action.

With the formation of the NASC, sportsmen and women, as well as the industry that supports them, now have more than 2,000 legislators in 44 states that have banded together to protect and promote their interests.