The National Forest Service, the NRA, and the Hunting Industry
Bending the Environment to Suit their Own Interests

By Richard Hiatt  1998


The GNP was a formula invented during a period when the country had no idea what its national income was. Its inventor divided the total sum of  the universe into upper and lower tiers of goods and services, labor and income.

What the GNP didn't incorporate (partly because it wasn't important, partly because it didn't fit neatly into Cartesian coordinates) was the environment. If the air, water, animals and their habitats couldn't be quantified (monetarily) they couldn't be qualified.

The problem was that all the GNP measured was the economy's overall size. And it still makes no distinctions between the kinds of businesses transacted, goods and services, or labor.  Even illegal drugs and guns increase the GNP. So does bureaucratic waste. A politician bragging over a higher GNP, to most citizens, is saying very little.

That means between 1950 and 1970, when world pollution skyrocketed, illness of all kinds skyrocketed with it. So did the GNP. Why? Because illness forced more people into hospitals which increased medical goods and services. The GNP said sick people and a sick environment were both "good" for the economy. - It's remindful of the old political cartoon of  a stockbroker climbing out of rubble after a nuclear war proclaiming, "Yes, but the DOW increased a third of one percent!!"

Today another myopia exists. Three of the nation's biggest industries also equate an exploited environment good for business. When speaking of the GNP, political pundits refer to the "iron triangle" (media, White House and Congress). But there's another "triangle" in the works not as easily defined:  the National Forest Service (government), NRA and the hunting industry. These three depend on one another's interests to ensure their own. And like the GNP, at the environment's expense.

Look at history:  The Forest Service has been selling out to private logging and development for 20 years. Our parks and forests, symbols of our national heritage, have been up for auction to the highest bidders claiming privatization will "preserve" our parks. In truth they've been schemes to either exploit raw materials or implant toll booths in front of resources that are rightfully ours in the first place. And the Forest Service's real job has been to look the other way.

The NRA is one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington and has endlessly campaigned around a grossly misguided interpretation of the 2nd Amendment. It has to in order to justify its very existence. For the record, the 2nd Amendment was the brainchild of James Madison whose interest was avoiding a standing army. Standing armies did two things, bankrupt the government and get Americans involved in foreign wars that weren't our business. Historically, he was right on both counts.

Hence the ideas of state militias. To "bear arms" was specifically for the purpose of militias defending against foreign elements - not for Billy Bob Joe Ray to carry an oozy!  And to avoid the error of presentism, Madson's time referred to a quantumly different notion of "bearing arms"; i.e., hand-forged, muzzle-loading rifles capable of about one round per minute ‹ not foreign-made automatic hand-pistols. 

But all this pales by comparison to the "triangle's" deeds at the environment's expense. The pattern has been calculated and progressive. Natural habitats have been eclipsed on all sides by development (permitted by the Forest Service) which fosters the illusion of overpopulating game animals due to natural events.

To the delight of hunters and the NRA which then announce, with fraudulent feasibility studies, charts and graphs, that we have "too many animals." Which then requires more hunters donning K-Mart-khakis and Rambo/weekend-warrior attitudes to drive into cordoned regions with precision rifles and high-powered scopes shooting them down - it doesn't matter how). All for the ritual bragging of trophies and meat they don't need. 

The "it's a lifestyle" argument is predicated on an anachronistic, delusional belief that it is a Constitutional "right" to turn the late 20th century into a 19th century landscape replete with the privileges and excesses thereof, while ignoring ecological crises looming everywhere. It is the puer aeternis going into the bedroom and playing soldier but with real guns on real land. Some even say a ritual searching of sexual identity (by barrel length) which is a subject best left to the analysis of impotence, phobias and other issues. 

"Sport" is then defined by the percentage of "misses" and the "effort" taken to bag an animal which (due to cordoned habitats, precision weapons and camouflaged all-wheel dunebuggies equipped with beer coolers), are both on the decline. "Effort" is measured by walking through brush, hiding in synthetic (K-Mart) camouflage, waiting, holding one's breath, pulling a trigger, and shooting an unsuspecting animal "X" yards away.

All of which have nothing to do with the true meaning of sport anyway. But then the average Rambo wants nothing to do with debating that notion - i.e., meeting a potentially dangerous animal on its own ground where it has a chance to render injury back. No way. And sitting in a hole 200 yards away or up a tree with blackface on is not its own ground.

All the above is as close to shooting fish in a barrel (expedited by modern technology) as is possible while still calling it "sport" and the final test of rugged, manly individualism. It is the sporting industry trying to lure would-be hunters with modern conveniences and comforts - as one would with a beach resort or late-model RV. 

This also has a direct bearing on the "triangle's" intolerance of any congressional bills introducing conservation efforts, restoring natural predators (like wolves) or increasing regulations. These threaten the easy comforts of the Big 3, not to mention the old ways of ranchers who traditionally support all corners of the "triangle."

The "iron triangle" will tell you it is keeping herds healthy and stable - yes, "relatively," after turning the entire political-environmental landscape upside-down to fit their formulas, definitions and universal mind-set.  It is equivalent to creating God in "man's image," then calling everything they do "God's will."

Just look around and witness what has happened, not just to habitats and ecosystems, but to the whole issue of "guns." Not unlike the "cattle industry" debate, facts weigh heavily against an old-fashioned ethic/tradition/lifestyle continued by intransigent, hidebound (but wealthy) stockholders.

It's time we stopped lying. It's time to stop bending the environment to the needs of powerful lobbies who put their premiums on profit and "sport" for out-of-shape weekend wannabes. It's time to start protecting our national heritage and acting like the stewards of the land we are supposed to be. It's time to stop allowing money and 19th century attitudes determine the policies that effect us all.

Richard Hiatt is a freelance investigative journalist and retired psychotherapist living in Colorado. He has written for the Santa Fe Times, Denver Post, Fathering Magazine, Colorado Daily, and local presses on a wide variety of political, environmental, psychosocial and ethical issues.

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