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CASH Courier > 1994 Spring Issue

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The C.A.S.H. Courier
From the Spring 1994 Issue

THE GREATEST CHALLENGE FACING THE ANTI-HUNTING MOVEMENT TODAY IS... TO DEMOCRATIZE WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT

BY ANNE MULLER

PRESENTATION:

Luke Dommer, the founder of C.A.$.H., said the military teaches to identify and then attack the weakest point of the enemy.

Based on observation and conversation with other activists, the weakest point of the enemy appears to be federal and state despotic authority over local governments; and the undemocratic process by which decisions affecting wildlife are made. Conservation law itself was created by hunters for hunters and greatly impacts the 93% non-hunting public. I would go so far as to say it subjugates the non-hunting public to the will of the 7% minority that hunts. The despots are becoming sensitive to the public's increasing awareness. They are taking steps to construct a democratic facade, while doing nothing substantive to change.

To make it appear that hunters and trappers are not making unilateral decisions for wildlife, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's (DEC) Wildlife Division has been initiating "task forces" to include the "general public." I contend that task forces or “citizen advisory boards” are orchestrated by wildlife management agencies and will be comprised of individuals who will do their bidding.

Task forces give the illusion of democracy at work. They seduce the public and press into believing that government is responsive to the larger population by encouraging its inclusion. The task forces that I'm aware of have been shams.

A task force set up to discuss the Canada goose issue in Rockland County, NY. is a good example. The task force was formed by a local legislator (who had taken our side) at the suggestion of a DEC official. She set it up to discuss non-lethal methods that could be used in the county to redistribute geese from areas where they are "unwanted." [Note that legal hunting of Canada geese, the issue which really should be addressed and exposed, is not within the purview of the task force.]

The Coalition to Prevent the Destruction of Canada Geese was invited to be on the task force, being told to have one representative from our group present as there would only be one representative from several other groups in the county. At the first meeting, and as of this writing the last one, thirty people attended. Most represented "themselves." There were six people from one school, someone from out-of-state who is a well-known agitator for hunting, the town supervisor who wanted to gas 10,000 geese (a member of the local Audubon Society, by the way) and his staff. Most were recognizable from meetings held on Canada geese in the past, and were known for their pro-kill stance.

Three individuals now claimed to be coordinating the task force: 1) the legislator (on our side) 2) the head of the Environmental Management Council (on our side), 3) a director from Cornell Cooperative Extension (a DEC arm). The latter commandeered the meeting early from the other two coordinators and recommended that the DEC be brought into the task force. The representative from the Coalition to Prevent the Destruction of Canada Geese was the only individual to object. Screaming ensued.

The following week, the Coalition to Prevent the Destruction of Canada Geese submitted a proposal for a format for future task force meetings to all three coordinators to ensure that the staged free-for-all by the pro-kill forces didn't recur. The coordinators responded by saying they would incorporate some suggestions, adding that we could expect this to be a slow process taking years to resolve!

We originally had faith in the fairness of the task force because we had confidence in two of the coordinators. However, the task force itself can be taken over by the opposition any number of ways: through local political maneuvering, through state maneuvering - I won't go into detail here In a meeting on another hunting matter with the head of the NYS DEC Wildlife Division, we were asked if we would be willing to participate in a task force with hunters and trappers. Sure, we all agreed. I cautioned that based on our experience in Rockland, task force meetings could be unproductive unless properly run and that a format had to be established. He confessed that they had none and I faxed him our draft. Several days later he faxed a response saying that our format wouldn't work because a 50-50 split of proponents of lethal methods on one side and proponents of non-lethal methods on the other side made for a deadlock. The composition of a task force, he said, should have broad representation regardless of how the individuals felt about lethal methods, thought it was a bad idea to set up a task force to discuss only non-lethal methods since lethal methods were a legitimate way of controlling populations as well, and it appeared to be undemocratic! I said I could agree so long as decisions were made by consensus. "Of course," he said. "By the way, how do you define consensus?" I asked. "Unanimous minus one," he answered.

Press releases could read, "A decision was reached by consensus of the goose task force to permit the taking of....." (Federal and state wildlife management agencies, as you know, are formidable propaganda machines.) What's even more disturbing, as already mentioned, is that hunting regulations have no place in this task force, which is set up to discuss non-lethal methods the county can use to dissuade geese from areas where they are unwanted. Regular and special hunting seasons are unaffected by our decisions. They will continue unabated as part of the state's "long term management plan" to reduce “resident” Canada goose populations.

Another attempt to give the impression that wildlife management agencies are democratic is their "comment" system on proposed hunting regulations. Few people are on their list to receive notice and little time is given to comment. The general public is in the dark about what is coming down the pike, and unwelcome comments are ignored. Their boards are "good ol' boys clubs," rubber stamping proposals as they come up for vote. Rarely is a regulation challenged unless the hunting impact could affect someone else's consumptive use of the "resource."

Until wildlife management agencies cease to be controlled by the 7% minority (sport hunting and trapping interests) substantial progress cannot be made. I maintain that the democracy issue is the weakest point of the enemy. Efforts should be made to expose the despotic rule of wildlife management to the public and local governments so that, to begin with, authority is given to local governments to afford wildlife and human residents protection from hunters and trappers.

THE CHALLENGE:

To encourage local governments to seek authority from the state for protective jurisdiction over wildlife.

To inform and infuriate the public and local politicians that local ordinances, designed to protect wildlife (which concomitantly protect the public), can be preempted by the state and ignored by hunters and trappers. To encourage citizens in towns that have no existing bans on the discharge of weapons (and the setting of traps) to demand that that be done. If your town does not have a general ban on the discharge of weapons (for the safety of human citizens), and your property is not properly posted with 11 x 11 signs stating your name and address, then hunters can be 500 feet from your dwelling (while still on your property) and blast animals away during the "season." In the case of shooting waterfowl, at least in New York State, hunters can shoot over a body of water regardless of its proximity to a person or dwelling. Therefore, if there is a "body of water" next to your house (a puddle? pool?), and your children are playing near or in it, hunters can still legally enter your property and "harvest" (maim, harry, shoot, kill) waterfowl "so long as a person, livestock or dwelling is not in the direct line of fire."

RATIONALE:

The democracy issue cuts across the board. This focus engages the larger public. People become incensed when they discover that they cannot protect wild animals or a particular wild animal if they so choose. They become even more incensed when they discover that conservation law prevents them from protecting their own property or their families from hunters and trappers without going to great effort and expense.

ASSUMPTIONS:

a) The general public is unaware that conservation law infringes on the rights of the 94% non-hunting public. The public is unaware that democracy doesn't operate in the decision-making process regarding wildlife; that conservation law, written by and for hunters, shackles the larger public, preventing self-protection or protection of wildlife.

b) Most local politicians are unaware of the pro-hunting bias of state and federal wildlife management agencies and are unaware that local anti-hunting/trapping ordinances can be preempted by the state and indeed ignored. Local governments have no legal authority to protect wildlife by regulating hunting and will lose in a court of law if challenged.

c) Some local politicians are in the pockets of or are intimidated by local hunt groups.

d) The general public does not think highly of hunters, in spite of the glossy “conservationist” image painted by game agencies, and does not want to be subjected to them.

NEEDS:

  • Pro bono legal help
  • Folks to get on the bandwagon in other areas -keep us informed
  • Documented examples of how towns or individuals have been denied their right to protect themselves or wildlife during hunting seasons
  • Statistics on hunting accidents involving non-hunters, pets, property
  • Progress reports: how, when, where, who

Note: Several people have come to our meetings or called for help because they were disturbed by hunter activity near their homes. Some have been effective at getting neighbors to sign petitions for the town to "do something." They were shocked to learn that that they couldn't protect themselves from hunter intrusion, and were simply told to post. They were told that even if they could get an ordinance passed it could be preempted by the state. They become even more infuriated when they learn that they have to spend money, time and effort to be able to bring charges against an individual who may not be easy to identify or apprehend. Further, even if violations could be proven, maximum penalties are meager and rarely meted out by judges. They then realize that conservation law violates their rights. In spite of that, they're reluctant to give testimony. They don't want their names used, they're afraid of retaliation, of being in the limelight, of the time it will take.

SUGGESTIONS:

Giving priority to getting complaints from citizens: mothers, teachers, etc. about hunters in their area. Follow up has to be regular, persistent and encouraging.

Offering posting help as interim relief. Doing the leg work for them if necessary.

Being pro-active by alerting communities about the hazards of hunting in the area and offering posting help. That allows you to inform people about conservation law. You're more likely to have their support at town or county meetings for weapons' discharge bans.

Getting veterinarians, med stops, hospitals, police departments to supply information about hunting related accidents.

Informing legislators of issues that would influence voting decisions related to locally banning the discharge of weapons and seeking authority for local jurisdiction over the protection of wildlife.

Educating reporters, editors, etc.

Educating the public through letters to the editor. Attempting to get a regular column in a newspaper, or a program on local radio.

Doing public and/or government access programs on a regular basis.

Sensationalizing what is being taken for granted. Putting the horror back into an activity taken for granted through demonstrations.

Tabling at supermarkets or fairs while demonstrating and petitioning at the same time.

Seizing the opportunity whenever a person, pet or property is injured by a hunter or trapper by taking actions to call as much attention to it as possible for as long a time as possible.

Making "deals": e.g. "Support the Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting Through Your Favorite Pizza Shop." Putting this message on pizza boxes and distributing boxes free to pizza places.

ANNE MULLER IS PRESIDENT OF THE COMMITTEE TO ABOLISH $PORT HUNTING, C.A.$.H. SHE WAS A FOUNDING MEMBER OF THE COALITION TO PREVENT THE DESTRUCTION OF CANADA GEESE. PLEASE; DIRECT ALL CORRESPONDENCE TO THE AUTHOR AT: POB 562, NEW PALTZ, NY 12561; FAX OR MAIL WOULD BE MOST HELPFUL. FAX: 914-256-9113 OR E-MAIL AT WILDWATCH@WORLDNET.ATT.NET 

A THANK YOU NOTE TO MEMBERS FROM ANNE MULLER REGARDING THE LAWSUIT:

I would like to thank all of our members for their patience and support during the 1 years C.A.S.H. could not carry on its work. On the positive side, it resulted in the formation of The Coalition to Prevent the Destruction of Canada Geese, which is now happily a full-fledged organization.

I never doubted for a second that Luke and I could be stopped from fulfilling his wishes for the Committee or from what I knew our destiny to be. Though unfortunate, it was only a short blip in the Committee’s long and successful history. We now will move forward with even greater steam to hopefully see an end to the nightmare of legal hunting in our lifetime.

Return to Spring 1994 Issue

 
 

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C.A.S.H.
PO Box 562 New Paltz, NY 12561
Phone 845-256-1400 Fax 845-818-3622
E-mail: cash@cashwildwatch.org
Anne Muller - President

 

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