DNR awards $500,000 grant despite thorny questions
Group is lone bidder for award to promote hunting, fishing
Madison — A controversial $500,000 grant for promoting hunting and fishing was awarded Thursday by Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp despite tough questions from the public and a committee meeting earlier in the day.
The United Sportsmen of Wisconsin Foundation, a group with close ties to GOP politicians and other conservative organizations but a scant track record, was the only applicant for the award.
Stepp awarded it to United Sportsmen late Thursday afternoon after the Sporting Heritage Committee that morning voted 4-1 in favor of the grant. The vote came after the group took public testimony that was entirely opposed to it.
In announcing her decision, Stepp released a finding by her legal counsel that United Sportsmen of Wisconsin met the criteria in state law for the grant and said in a statement that she had to award the money to United Sportsmen under a budget provision written by Republican lawmakers.
“I will be inserting clear and specific language within the grant contract to ensure that desired outcomes are met in an efficient and transparent manner with ample opportunity for public scrutiny. We will work to incorporate many of the concerns and ideas we heard during today’s hearing into the grant contract,” Stepp said.
United Sportsmen has been active in elections and lobbying over the past two years on behalf of conservative causes. But it has no history of doing the kind of training called for in the grant, though its board members have done so as part of other groups.
The grant was quickly approved in May in a session of the Joint Finance Committee on a motion written by Assembly Majority Leader Scott Suder (R-Abbotsford) and Rep. Dan LeMahieu (R-Cascade). The DNR posted the grant on an agency web page but did not put out a news release on it.
Its language prevented most established conservation groups, including the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation and state chapters of Pheasants Forever, National Wild Turkey Federation and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, from applying for the grant.
Lone no vote
Mark LaBarbera of Hazel Green, the sole member of the committee to vote against United Sportsmen, asked the group’s president questions about its finances, structure and qualifications, stressing that “people around here think this just doesn’t smell right.” Afterward, he said he wasn’t satisfied with the answers as given.
“I didn’t think we had a clear enough answer that I could vote yes so I had to vote no,” LaBarbera said.
LaBarbera asked United Sportsmen president Andy Pantzlaff if he could provide a copy of United Sportsmen’s letter from the federal Internal Revenue Service showing it had received tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status.Pantzlaff, who called into the meeting, said he could provide that with enough time.
As of Thursday, there was no entry on the popular website, GuideStar, that United Sportsmen had filed the annual reports that federally recognized tax-exempt groups are supposed to file with the IRS, though sometimes those reports can lag in being filed or posted to GuideStar. Pantzlaff didn’t respond to a reporter’s phone messages and email request for this information.
The drafting file for the budget bill shows that a lawmaker asked for a specific change to the grant motion so the group receiving the grant would not have to be recognized as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.
In the legal memo released by Stepp, her chief legal counsel Tim Andryk noted that, “(United Sportsmen is) not required by the statute to be tax exempt or be a sec. 501(c)(3) organization as inquired about at today’s hearing, and thus a letter from IRS is not needed.”
In his statements to the committee by phone, Pantzlaff said his group would try to triple the grant amount by seeking private matching funds; not paying its board members; doing a national search for a full-time executive director; and hiring a full-time director of operations and part-time staffer to work on public policy.
The group would seek to train people who could serve as long-term mentors for people wanting to learn to hunt and fish, he said. The group also would bring programs such as the National Rifle Association’s Eddie Eagle gun safety program into schools to get youths interested in shooting sports.
“Failure is not an option,” Pantzlaff said. “We have to try something new and innovative.”
The grant will provide $200,000 this year and $300,000 in 2014. Thereafter, it will provide $450,000 in each two-year budget. The grantee will have to provide $150,000 of its own funds in matching dollars in each future two-year budget.
The state budget includes no requirement that the grant be put out to competitive bid in the future, but Scott Gunderson, the committee chairman and the No. 3 official at the DNR, said the DNR could do that and likely would.
Gunderson said conservation groups such as the Gathering Waters and River Alliance of Wisconsin also received grants from the DNR for specialized purposes with little or no competition.
Most of those testifying praised the purpose of the grant but questioned why more of the state’s many hunting and fishing groups weren’t able to apply. Ray Anderson, a retired DNR grants employee who now teaches hunter safety, said he was concerned by the process of the grant and the fact it excluded the National Wild Turkey Federation, a group that he belongs to.
“It would be prudent for the Legislature and the DNR to hit pause on this,” Anderson said.
The five-member Sporting Heritage Committee is composed of Gunderson; Rep. Al Ott (R-Forest Junction); LaBarbera; Sen. Neal Kedzie (R-Elkhorn) and Bill Torhorst of Oregon. Ott, the first committee member called upon to vote, initially passed, voting yes after all the other committee members had voted and he was called on a second time.
Though its foundation was legally established in January, United Sportsmen of Wisconsin was formed about two years ago and has been lobbying lawmakers in favor of sporting legislation such as the creation of a wolf hunt as well as bills to ease the way for a controversial open-pit iron mine in northern Wisconsin and to better enable development in wetlands.
The group also sponsored the Sportsmen Freedom Fest and Concert in Lake Delton with Americans for Prosperity and the NRA in October 2012, just ahead of the presidential election. In 2011, the group Citizens for a Stronger America reported in its tax filing giving $235,000 to United Sportsmen along with large donations to two social conservative groups: Wisconsin Right to Life and Wisconsin Family Action.
The other night I watched the HBO movie Game Change, about John McCain’s selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his presidential running mate in 2008. After Tina Fey’s hilarious portrayal of Palin on Saturday Night Live I was half expecting a comedy, but this fact-based film stayed so close historical reality it should have been billed a horror flick. The thought of Sarah Palin a heartbeat away from the red button that could launch our 7,000+ nukes on a president’s whim is beyond scary.
While Julianne Moore usually doesn’t do anything for me, her depiction of Palin at her highest, lowest and airheaded-est was spot on. It was almost painful watching a potential American VP be so clueless about foreign policy, domestic policy, or any other policy for that matter. Ed Harris as Senator John McCain was a bit of a stretch, but Woody Harrelson did a great job as McCain’s strategist, Steve Schmidt, who was partly responsible for suggesting Palin in the first place—and who spent the rest of the movie regretting it and desperately trying to coach her. After she goes catatonic during a Q&A session and later tries to seize power from her running mate, someone asks Schmidt, “Have you ever considered that she might be mentally unstable?
Well I consider it every time I see her. To me she’s little more than a female Ted Nugent—especially when she dons her hunting garb.
Near the story’s end, Harrelson’s Schmidt asks Rick Davis, his co-conspirator in picking Palin, “Still think she’s fit for office?” to which Davis answers, “Aw, who cares. In forty-eight hours no one will even remember who she is.” Unfortunately, Davis’ hopeful prediction did not come to pass.
The film leaves you wondering how the hell someone like Palin ever got tapped for VP and how she thinks she has any credibility left after monumental blunders like her interview with Katie Couric. Well, apparently Sarah Palin has found her niche as a mouthpiece for the National Rifle Association—a group clearly unconcerned with credibility (and collectively as mentally unstable as Palin herself).
Sporting a t-shirt making the simplistic yet inexplicable statement “Women Hunt” (including an obscenely suggestive line-drawing that probably went over her head), she called the NRA crowd she spoke to Friday her “brothers and sisters” during her 12-minute speech in which she told the crowd that Trigger is her son Trigg’s nickname and that Remington is her nephew’s middle name.
The creepy thing is, she received standing ovation.
Although Sarah Palin came off in the movie as a power-tripping right-wing extremist bordering on evil, if anything, Game Change was too nice in its representation of her. What sort of woman hunts? A woman like Sarah Palin.
On Facebook this morning a friend had posted a photo of a cruelly confined pig at a factory farm desperatly chewing on the bars of her cage. A caption read, “If your God had wanted us to eat animals, do you really think he would have given them the ability to feel pain and fear? What kind of sadistic individual would that make him?!”
Good questions. Taking it a step further, I have to wonder…if god had wanted us to eat animals, do you really think he would have given us the ability to feel their pain and fear?!
Unfortunately, empathy and compassion are not doled out equally to all.
Some people feel them so strongly it literally pains us to hear about the brutalities inflicted on nonhumans by their fellow man. The sadness is outweighed only by the understanding that many of the animal cruelties are so widespread and so accepted by society it will require nothing short of a major revolution in thinking to put an end to them. For those of us so well-endowed with empathy and compassion, every KFC, Arby’s or McDonalds commercial, every shiny photo ad for this weeks’ meat and dairy specials at the local market, every camo-clad nimrod in a pickup truck sporting an NRA bumper sticker inspires feelings of grief, anguish or anger.
There are those, Temple Grandin, for instance, may be able to feel empathy but apparently not compassion. Her autism allegedly allows her to experience the fear and anxiety factory farmed animals go through, yet her lack of compassion allows her to work for the animal industries, helping to spread the absurd, feel-good myth that some animals are “humanely” raised (and slaughtered), thereby giving consumers a license to ignore any twinges of empathy or compassion they might have.
And there are many who are completely incapable of feeling empathy for others. They’re the lucky ones—if hollowness, selfishness and superficiality are to be considered enviable traits.
According the Associate Press,five people were wounded in accidental shootings at gun shows in North Carolina, Indiana and Ohio on Saturday. That’s five shooting victims—all in one day!
At the Dixie Gun and Knife Show in Raleigh, a 12-gauge shotgun discharged as its owner unzipped its case for a law enforcement officer to check at a security entrance, injuring three people, a state Agriculture Department spokesman said. Two bystanders and a retired deputy sheriff were hit by shotgun pellets and taken to a hospital.
Sheriff Donnie Harrison said that it was too early to know whether the shotgun’s owner might be charged, but that it appeared to be an accident. (But don’t be surprised if the victims are the ones who end of being charged—with failure to wear a bullet proof vest at a public gun show.)
The North Carolina show, which is held at the state fairgrounds (not annually, but four times a year), usually draws thousands of people (some of whom actually survive the event unscathed).
In Indianapolis, police said a 54-year-old man was injured when he accidentally shot himself while leaving a gun show. (He could have saved himself the entry fee if he would have just shot himself before leaving home.)
Emory L. Cozee, of Indianapolis, was loading his .45 caliber semi-automatic when he shot himself in the hand as he was leaving the Indy 1500 Gun and Knife show at the state fairgrounds. Police said that loaded personal weapons aren’t allowed inside the show, but (presumably since the shooting occurred outside the building in the fairgrounds parking lot) no charges will be filed. (After a trip to the emergency room, Cozee is comfy once again.)
And in Ohio, a gun dealer was checking out a semi-automatic handgun he’d just bought when he accidentally pulled the trigger. The gun’s magazine had been removed, but one round remained in the chamber, police said. The afore-mentioned (magic) bullet appears to have ricocheted off the floor and struck the gun owner’s friend in the arm and leg. The (erstwhile) friend was taken by helicopter to a hospital 30 miles north in Cleveland; his condition was not immediately known.
Now I’m not trying to trounce on anyone’s God-given American rights (except the self-allocated “right” to hunt and kill animals recreationally), but for safety’s sake, maybe some of these folks should take up crocheting, knitting or collecting stamps, rather than gun collecting. Once they’ve mastered benign hobbies such as these, if they still feel the puerile need to prove their machismo, they could work back into it slowly, starting with craft shows or canasta tournaments.
Hell, it sounds like playing Russian roulette is probably a safer pastime than attending some of those gun shows.
As predictable as the fact that there will be another mass shooting in this country again sometime is the inevitability that when it happens talk of controlling gun violence will crop up again. The two seem to go hand in hand. The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School is a case in point; the media has been rife with talk of controlling gun violence—against people.
But when I saw a recent article about a handgun buyback it hit me: most mass murderers use high-powered rifles—hunting rifles—but the buyback is only for handguns. Why isn’t there a buyback on hunting rifles? Oh, that’s right, hunting is a sacred institution—perpetuated by the likes of Dick Cheney, Ted Nugent and the NRA—no one can touch it. Forget all the violence done to animals, or even to crowds of people, if it means going up against hunting.
Never do you hear a peep about stopping gun violence against non-human animals. It’s as if they are inanimate objects, living targets to practice on. But if we really want to prevent the next school shooting or mass murder of mall shoppers, isn’t it time we address the violence inspired and nurtured by hunting?
Like any other technological advancement, the internet is a tool that can be used for good or evil. Social media is a great venue for educating and rallying caring people and amassing an army of kind folks to work together for a positive change.
At the same time, it can also be a meeting place and breeding ground for sick minds sunk so deep in the gutter that hate oozes from every pore. The general public is now well aware of the problem of pedophiles and stalkers trolling the internet, but there’s another malevolence out there they don’t hear much about—mainly because the crimes committed by these psychopaths are legal.
I’m talking about the prideful trophy hunters showing off their kills on Facebook; the sneering wolf hunters and trappers who post their grotesque triumphs on webpages where they know they’ll be viewed by people who are already so distraught that one more image may push them over the edge. It’s part of the game to them, to see who snaps first. Don’t be their next victim.
My advice to those of you who, like me, can’t stand seeing another NRA leader gloating over a dead water buffalo, or country star hunched over a bear he murdered with a bow in a fenced in canned hunting compound, or a wolf-hunting website designed just to turn the stomachs of kindhearted wolf advocates: don’t go there—at least for a day or two. Take some time off if you need to. Hold on to the anger, but try to pace yourself. Wars are not won by those who are blinded by rage or lost in a pit of depression. There’s an art to war; it takes self-discipline and careful strategy to be victorious.
Rome wasn’t toppled by the first invading army; like the decadence of sport hunting, it had to crumble from within first.
Judging by the frost on the grass and the ice on the birdbath, it’s time to start thinking about Christmas shopping. This year, your gifts can make a statement—they can show the hunters that you care.
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean you should show hunters that you care about them—no, quite the opposite—I mean you can show the hunters that you care about wildlife. And what better way than purchasing a pro-wildlife/anti-hunting book, like Exposing the Big Game: Living Targets of a Dying Sport?
There’s a common misconception that hunters are the only ones who “care” about wild animals. For example, when I brought some of my framed wildlife photos (such as the trumpeter swan seen here) to a small-town art gallery, the owner said, “Well, you might be able to sell them to a hunter…” My first reaction was an under-the breath “What the hell?” quickly followed by a resolute, “Never mind, I’m not hanging them here.”
I don’t know if it’s a sign of the self-absorbed, economocentric times we live in, but it seems Black Friday is garnering more attention than Thanksgiving these days. Across the country, you’ll find headlines like, “2 seriously hurt as driver plows through crowd of shoppers,” “Massachusetts bargain hunter took home TV, left tot” or “Earlier Black Friday kicks off shopping season.”
That last article reports: “This year’s Black Friday shoppers were split into two distinct groups: those who wanted to fall into a turkey-induced slumber and those who’d rather shop instead.” I’m guessing (hoping, really) that readers of this blog fall into still another category altogether.
The article goes on to say: “Stores typically open in the wee hours of the morning on the day after Thanksgiving that’s named Black Friday because of retail folklore that it’s when merchants turn a profit for the year. But after testing how shoppers would respond to earlier hours last year, stores such as Target and Toys R Us this year opened as early as Thanksgiving evening. That created two separate waves of shoppers.
Lori Chandler, 54, and her husband, Sam, 55, were a part of the early group. By the time they reached the Wal-Mart in Greenville, S.C. early Friday, they had already hit several stores, including Target and Best Buy. In fact, they had been shopping since midnight.
‘It’s a tradition,’ Lori said as she looked at some toys she bought for her four grandchildren….”
I’m sure you get the idea.
You’re probably not the type to camp out in front of Wal-Mart for the best deals on Asian sweatshop-produced, future landfill-clogging plastic trinkets, or you wouldn’t be here reading this post. But don’t worry, you won’t have to stand in line and risk being “plowed through” by some crazed shopper driving a Humvee or lose your “tot” in a crowded superstore while attempting to purchase Exposing the Big Game. You can order copies online from the comfort of your own home. If you’re not a fan of Amazon or Barnes and Noble, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for signed copies sent directly to your doorstep. Or you can ask your local “brick and mortar” bookstore (which is more than likely on the verge of going out of business) to order in a copy or copies for you. And of course, Exposing the Big Game is also available in e-book form.
There are around a butcher’s dozen new pro-hunting books on the market this year, while Exposing the Big Game is the only anti-hunting book to come out in decades, and the only one still in print. Don’t let the hunters think you’re indifferent about this issue. Together we can put an end to the absurd misconception that they’re the only ones interested in wildlife. While we don’t have the kind of financial support that the hunting industry gets from the NRA or the Safari Club, here’s our chance to show them that we’re the ones with the passion!
During last night’s debate, the president accused his opponent of pandering to the NRA by changing his stance on so-called “assault weapons.” The accusation is valid—former Governor Mitt Romney also pandered to the pro-gun lobby big-time by tapping die-hard “sportsman,” Paul Ryan, as his running mate. But at the same time he made the accusation, President Obama pandered to the NRA himself.
Though Barack Obama has never been a hunter (to his credit), he was quick to give oral tribute to hunters and “sportsmen” who use their weapons regularly and repeatedly (albeit “legally”) to assault the non-human citizens of this country. At the risk of showing his hand, I’d speculate that if it wasn’t for the power of the National Rifle Association to make or break an election, the president, deep down, would ultimately prefer to see all dangerous weapons banned.
Though they tiptoed gingerly around the subject, both candidates agreed that all guns are dangerous in the wrong hands. From the point of view of the wildlife, all weapons are assault weapons—and all hunters are the “wrong hands.”
Comparatively speaking, the body of hunters in America is withered and shrunken, only a wee fraction of its former self. Today there are six times as many photographers, bird watchers and others who enjoy seeing animals alive as those compelled to make them lie down and die. Like the KKK and the SLA, the NRA has seen its day and will rightfully fade away. Literally, figuratively and statistically, hunting is a dying sport.
But non-hunters should not be lulled into a false sense of security for wildlife. Sportsmen, though a skeletal minority, are a shrill and voluble 5 (or 6) percent when it comes to forcibly interjecting themselves into animal issues; they‘re reluctant, to say the least, to kiss their blood-sport goodbye and join the civilized world.
The NRA and other heavily-funded hunting groups are pushing to pass laws such as the odious “Hunting Heritage Protection“ acts (already shoved on several states), aiming to enshrine their perceived “birthright“ to shoot and kill nonhumans recreationally.
Worse yet are the unconstitutional Hunter Harassment laws, which essentially punish residents and land-owners for trying to protect animals and keep hunters off their properties. In direct answer to the drop in sportsmen’s numbers, meddlesome state game departments are encouraging young kids to get a taste for killing (perverting their natural affinity for animals).
Alabama opens deer season two days early for children under the age of 16 (so they’ll have a better crack at “bagging“ one), and Maine holds a “Youth Deer Day,” allowing pre-season bow hunting for children ages 10 to 16. States like Illinois and Colorado are preying on women by offering hunting lessons for single mothers, while the private pro-hunting programs “Becoming an Outdoors-woman“ and the NRA’s “Women on Target” are seeking to enlist the future Sarah Palins of America.
Fouler still are the ongoing schemes to open more and more public lands to hunting…
The preceding was excerpted from the book, Exposing the Big Game: Living Targets of a Dying Sport