By Matt Strickler —
Fall is an amazing time to be outdoors in the Commonwealth of Virginia, particularly for those of us who hunt or fish. Many of us will be out in the woods or on the water as much as possible, but we cannot afford to forget about how important the 2020 election is to the things we love to do.
While it is true that we call our pursuits hunting and fishing, not catching and killing, hunters and anglers can all agree that doing either is a lot less enjoyable when the chances for encounters with our targets are slim. We have become pretty good at improving our odds with new techniques and technology, but if the game and fish simply aren’t around, even the best prepared and equipped among us getting skunked.
The guns, gear, boats, and bows that make what we do more fun – and support more than a million jobs while generating tens of billions of dollars in economic activity – don’t matter if we don’t protect the resource. Without early success, beginners are less likely to stick with it, meaning they won’t make these purchases, and won’t help generate the tax revenue that funds fish and wildlife conservation.
That’s why it is so important to be proactive about protecting and restoring fish and wildlife populations and their habitat. If we aren’t vigilant, we could lose everything. Hunters and anglers know what’s at stake, and they value, whether consciously or unconsciously, conservation laws and policies that protect the resource.
We support the Clean Water Act because it stems the loss of wetlands used by waterfowl, and the degradation of trout streams. We support the National Environmental Policy Act because it prevents our favorite spots from being clearcut, paved, or polluted without public input. We support the Endangered Species Act because we know that nongame species and the habitat they need to survive also benefit game species. And we support the Migratory Bird Treaty Act because it prevents the excesses and neglect that drove bird populations to the brink of extinction a century ago.
Unfortunately, the things we care about as outdoor lovers have been on the chopping block in Washington over the past four years. The Trump administration has actively and intentionally undermined each of these bedrock conservation laws, proposed to eliminate or nearly eliminate funding for restoration of the Chesapeake Bay, the Great Lakes, and the Everglades, and moved to expand oil and gas drilling in our national forests and off our coasts.
All of this is bad news for hunters and anglers. When combined with a refusal to address climate change, the greatest threat to fish and wildlife in our country and around the world, it is clear that our resources and the people who depend on them can’t take four more years of empty promises, divisive rhetoric, and bad public policy.
Our natural heritage and sporting traditions are on the line and on the ballot this fall, and we need a different vision to protect them: one based on American values like conservation, stewardship, and respect for science. Joe Biden shares these values, and understands that restoring and maintaining the landscapes and waterways that give our country and our commonwealth their beauty and bounty will increase opportunities for hunting, fishing, and all outdoor recreation. Hunters and anglers know this, too, and we know the time to stand up for what we value is now.
The author is a lifelong Virginian and an avid angler who lives in Northampton County.