BY PETER MULLER
I would like to begin by focusing on two words “policy” and “politics.”
Both words are derived from the Greek word “polis” referring to a
city-state of ancient Greece. But the polis was not a physical location or
an aggregate of infrastructures it was the citizenry that made up the city
that was the polis.
The most common structure for business and other organizations today is
a board of directors that sets policy and a management team that executes
and implements the decisions of the board. In our government today we
commonly see the same structure reflected – we have town boards and make
policy reflecting the political will of the people and leaving the
implementation to mayors and others who make the day-to-day management
Frequently outside experts who have specialized knowledge, experience
and education are consulted on how these policies are to be implemented.
We have resources both in government and in the private sector that we can
call on to guide us through the implementation of our policies when
specialized skills and knowledge are required.
In most instances in which those experts are consulted, it is perfectly
clear that they are to guide us through the implementation of our
political decision. They are not to set policy; they are not elected by
the polis, they are not empowered to make policy decisions for our
Most of us would be upset over the very suggestion that we should turn
some of the functions of our representative government over to group of
technicians who are not elected and are not responsive to political
direction from our citizens.
Yet this is precisely what has happened in wildlife management, and we
would be well advised to reverse this dangerous trend toward a
technocracy, especially a technocracy in the pockets of private business,
in this case the firearms manufacturers.
Laws that are passed by the legislatures of this country on both the
federal and state levels in many cases defer decisions to regulatory
agencies thus allowing agencies to set policy thorough regulation. These
“regs” then have the force of law but were never enacted by a legislative
body. This abrogates the responsibility of the elected representatives and
denies the polis policy-making power. We thus have agents with agendas
For example, permitting the sale and purchases of “pollution credits”
are largely the work of EPA regs. A coal burning power generating plant
has restrictions by federal law regarding how much toxic gas emission is
The EPA however permits plants that emit fewer toxins than permitted to
sell these “pollution credits” to other plants that emit more. This will
permit drastic pollution in certain geographic areas.
Let’s say there is power plant in Virginia that’s close to a coal mine
that is a source of low sulfur coal. They get the fuel at a very low cost
since they pay little or nothing for transportation.
They use the high-grade coal and reduce their emission.
Another plant in New York State finds it cheaper to buy pollution
credits from the Virginia plant than to use highgrade, low sulfur, coal
and emits many more tons of pollutants in the region in than was
envisioned under the clean air act passed by Congress.
Similar regs on a state level permit “mitigation” measures in one part
of the state for filling in or degrading wetlands or forests in another
part of the state.
These mitigation measures usually do nothing to compensate for the
destruction of the natural resources.
That is a dangerous trend –
Governmental policy-making functions should not be assigned to
entrenched careerists. Observe who the lobbyists of large corporations are
talking to: They are spending less and less time with Congress members and
more and more time with heads and staff of the EPA, the FDA, and other
These meetings need not be recorded for public record.
WE’VE LOST PUBLIC CONTROL OVER WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT
On the state level, policies concerning management of wildlife have
been largely abandoned by the state legislature and turned over to the
“Fish and Game” agencies, let’s call them the “DNRs” though each state
uses a slightly different title.
The DNRs have their own agendas and interests. They perceive their
client base not as the stakeholders in wildlife such as farmers, orchard
operators, hikers, bird-watchers and animal protectors – but rather a very
small subset of stakeholders – namely the consumptive exploiters of
wildlife, the hunters and trappers. Their revenue stream is based to a
large degree on license sales to that subset of stakeholders and so the
DNRs’ interest lies in accommodating these clients through their
For example, in NYS the Bureau of Wildlife (BOW) of the Department of
Environmental Conservation has a regulation that prohibits the feeding of
deer. It is not a law that was passed by the NYS Legislature. Yet this
regulation has the force of law.
A well publicized victim, Anita Depczynski, the Deer Lady of
Cheektowaga, has been jailed for allegedly not complying with this reg.
Most recently she was cited for putting four apples on the ground in a
town park. She was arraigned in court and at the arraignment two judges,
so far, have recused themselves from hearing this case. One of them, in
fact, had been cited with violating the same reg. And what about people
who grow tulips in their garden which deer love to nibble on, are they
feeding the deer? What about people who have lawns or put out bird seed?
The enforcement of such blatantly nonsensical regulations cries out for
taking the law-making power away from regulators.
There’s no doubt that legislators would pass a no baiting law for
hunting, but it’s not likely that a feeding law by non-hunters would pass,
this can only be done by regulation.
Through political action we have to take back our policy making
prerogative as citizens of the community from the regulatory agencies that
cater to a narrow set of perceived clients.
Decisions about whether to allow hunting and trapping in a community
and whether to use lethal or whether nonlethal methods of population
control for what is perceived by some as an overpopulation of wildlife are
policy decisions not technical decisions. The right to decide belongs to
the polis not the technocrats.
The specialists will be consulted on the best way to implement the
policy but they will no longer be entitled to set policy.
Just as wars are too important to be left to the generals, so policies
concerning clear air, water, other natural resources and wildlife are too
important to be left to the regulators.