President Donald Trump’s eldest son is an avid hunter and played a key role in picking Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who is also a hunter and fisherman. And now Donald Trump Jr. has asked Jason Hairston, a former San Francisco 49ers linebacker and founder of hunting gear company Kuiu, to serve as a liaison among himself, Zinke, sportsmen’s groups and the White House on conservation and public lands issues, Hairston said on Thursday.
“I’m absolutely going to take the position,” Hairston told POLITICO, but the job won’t come with a salary, and he plans on staying in California where he lives and managing his business.
But an official with the Interior Department said there had “been no discussion of creating of a new role like this” and White House deputy press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in an email there were no new personnel announcements.
Hairston said Donald Trump Jr. had hoped to play the liaison role between Interior and the White House himself, but his decision to stick with running his father’s business empire with his brother, Eric Trump, put a kink in that plan.
“It’s really a role he was hoping to fill, but he can’t because of conflict of interest,” Hairston said.
Hairston and Donald Trump Jr. have been hunting buddies for at least two years — and Donald Trump Jr. tweeted out his congratulations last year after Hairston’s company was featured in a Bloomberg news article. The two have tracked game together in mountain ranges in the West and Canada, and Hairston helped to organize meetings between sportsman groups and Donald Trump during his campaign, including a February 2016 gathering in Las Vegas, Hairston said.
The president “knows that it’s not just a sport, that it really is something that’s more meaningful to hunters and how important wildlife and conservation are because of everything Don and Eric have experienced and shared with him,” Hairston said. “So he’s not just pacifying his kids over this. He understands it and gets it.”
Outdoor recreation groups have recently stepped up their fight against efforts by some Western Republican lawmakers to force the Interior Department to transfer more of the vast amounts of public lands it controls in the West to states — a move the groups say would cut them off from prime hunting and fishing ground. And having Hairston as their advocate would give them a direct line to the White House.
While he said his position hasn’t been given a formal starting day, Hairston said he has “already started with the work on it,” including “meeting with different organizations to determine what challenges and issues we’re facing and really just what we should be working on — what’s important.”
Hairston has met with Zinke twice: once before Zinke was confirmed as secretary and again on March 7 when Hairston traveled to Washington and talked with the heads of conservation and hunting organizations. Those included the National Rifle Association, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, National Shooting Sports Foundation and Safari Club International.