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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Mike Faw (614) 888-4868 x 214
March 7, 2012 Sharon Hayden (614) 888-4868 x 226
Santorum Provides Views on Sportsmen’s Issues
(Columbus, OH) –On the day before the pivotal “Super Tuesday” primaries, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum sat down for an interview with the staff leadership of the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance to discuss issues important to hunters, trappers and anglers.
The USSA staff present for the interview with Santorum were: Bud Pidgeon (President and CEO); Rob Sexton (Senior Vice President); Doug Jeanneret (Vice President, Marketing); and Evan Heusinkveld (Director, State Services).
Here is the interview by issue topic:
Topic One: Hunting Recruitment and Hunting Access
Jeanneret: One of the issues facing sportsmen these days are dwindling numbers of sportsmen. It’s a really big issue. The conservation community, every national group… if you talked to any of them it’s a concern of theirs. One of the things we would like to ask you, the Department of Interior oversees U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which oversees federal game laws. In your opinion, should they be helping us create hunters, fishermen, trappers and promoting that ethic out there?
Santorum: I hear you but I am looking at where we are from the standpoint from the deficit. I mean a lot of people ask me, where are you for federal dollars for this or that? We are borrowing 42 cents of every dollar right now and for me to commit any new dollars to do anything would be a tough thing. If you are talking about within the literature, for example that comes out, and we do things to talk about hunting and fishing opportunities… if it’s in the context of what the agency generally does and making sure that people are aware of opportunities and things like that to sort of reinforce the importance or nature of the sports. I have no problem with that. It’s different if you’re saying we need to spend new dollars to do this.
Jeanneret: We’re not.
Sexton: We’re not. The pot of money we are talking about would be excise tax dollars that come from ammunition sales, firearm sales, fishing tackle sales. That money typically gets spent back on conservation issues and sportsmen issues anyways. We are looking for some prioritization of that money to programs that will get people into the field and get them out and open up new land for them to hunt on and things like that.
Santorum: I have no problem. I mean if you are asking me if I am going to be friendly to opening up federal lands for more sportsmen activity the answer is absolutely yes. If you are talking about if we are going to take federal lands in the extent we can and turn them over to private sector or turn them over to the state the answer is yes. I think this is an opportunity for us. We have way too much federal land and way too many restrictions on the federal lands that we have. I will be working with a whole variety of different conservation groups, not environmental groups, conservation groups as well as sportsmen groups to see what avenues we can pursue to make that a much more welcoming environment for sportsmen and for recreation.
Sexton: For years our community put our money towards reestablishing species, whether it be deer or turkey or pheasant or what have you. Returning to the idea of hunters, one of the biggest factors is the urbanization of America. Guys give up hunting because they have to drive 2½ hours to get to a place to hunt. I am just bringing this around full circle so you know where we are coming from. We have used our money… the firearm tax money and the fishing tackle money. That money is supposed to be put back into the resource so that you get back more hunters and anglers. Of course they (hunters) have a huge economic impact as you know from your own home state. What we are looking for now… we want to see investment in programs so that a guy doesn’t have to drive 2 hours outside of Pittsburgh to get to hunt.
Santorum: I am okay with that as long as…you are going to find if you look at my record one of the programs I am not a fan of is CRP. I know a lot of CRP land is used for habitat but we shouldn’t be paying farmers not to farm. I mean if you want to use that money to pay farmers to keep habitat for pheasant, turkey, whatever…great, but I don’t think we should be using money that encourages farmers not to farm their land for environmental purposes. It’s not (CRP) as you know, it’s not intended for wildlife habitat. It was intended for runoff and all sorts of other things to preserve the ecology. I understand a lot of hunters and sportsmen actually feel very passionate about the CRP program. I don’t. Just being very up front with you. If you want to use the knowledge for that, that’s one thing but we shouldn’t use ag (agriculture) dollars for that.
Topic Two: HR 4089, The Sportsmen’s Heritage Act of 2012
Heusinkveld: We have a piece of legislation we have been working on in D.C. It’s called the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act of 2012. It’s a package of four different pieces of legislation. It would close legal loopholes that anti-hunters have used to shut down access to sportsmen to federal lands. It has a provision, “open until closed,” which mandates that these federal lands are open (to hunting, shooting, and fishing) until closed by the agency because they’ve got specific reason or cause or evidence that it needs to be done. The way the current law works, they (federal land management agencies) have to open every single piece of land. That opens up the opportunity to be sued by anti-hunters and animal rights groups.
Santorum: I’m for it. (referring to supporting HR 4089)
Santorum: Government should make things available unless there is a reason it shouldn’t be.
Topic Three: Dog Breeding and the Humane Society of the United States
Sexton: I think you are probably aware of a lot of the media coverage over issues of substandard dog breeding operations. There has been a 50 state campaign to address the issue but the issue has gotten out of control. The laws that are being written heavily impact folks who aren’t large breeders, but operate sporting dog kennels, hobby breeders instead of going after…
Santorum: …that’s actually why we thought about doing this at the federal level so we could get all the folks and interested parties in doing it. I mean you actually probably know I supported some of this because of it was in conjunction with a problem we were having with the importation of dogs and cats, but mostly dogs from China where there are huge, huge problems with dogs, huge amount of dogs dying in transportation and other types of problems and so that was clearly a federal government issue because it has to do with trade so this was sort of piggy backed on that bill. But it has been a chronic problem for us in Pennsylvania too in the Amish areas. It became sort of a wildfire issue for me and as far as I know they didn’t have this (state) effort, which I understand they do now, to try and take care of this in the 50 states. I know each state is dealing with it differently. But if you look at that law we put together we were very, very conscious of hobby breeders. We were very conscious of making sure we were talking about large commercial operations, not somebody that was breeding a few bitches you know every year or two.
Sexton: I think one of the concerns about the issue nationally is that the chief proponent of the overall issue was the Humane Society of the United States, who the hunting community regards as the top anti-hunting group. The bills have been written in wide funnel methodology that would… well in Pennsylvania the law they proposed would have put every sporting dog kennel out of existence. We couldn’t find even one in compliance with their proposal.
Santorum: I am not surprised by that. We dealt with both the AKC and the HSUS. There were a lot of issues that ultimately would go back and forth that we are not able to resolve and as a result probably just set them aside. You know for me this was trying to do something that was reasonable. I do believe in people’s ability to raise their own animals, but I also believe when animals go into the home as most of these animals do, you have to have consumer protection standards so you’re not having defective animals and animals that have temper problems and other types of problems coming into people’s homes. How many folks do you know that their dog is like their child? You just can’t introduce an animal into the home without having some sort of standards that are set in place.
Sexton: Are you aware of the issues between the Humane Society of the United States and the Sportsmen’s Community?
Santorum: Sure. I am very aware of it. I understand there are issues between them (HSUS) and production agriculture which is even worse than it is with the Humane Society and the sportsmen. I think you’ll find I am very reasonable guy. I do believe we should be good stewards. We have dominion over animals. We have dominion over the earth and we have to be responsible for the treatment of them. I know most sportsmen are but unfortunately there are some breeders who aren’t. As a result this is the same thing as everything else when you have people that do not live up to those conditions. Everyone else has to deal with regulations as a result of that. You can’t just turn a blind eye to it. You can’t just say well it’s too bad there are some bad people out there but too bad. I just don’t think that’s what laws are for. People keep a minimum standard for the care of and treatment of animals.
Sexton: You know you can draw a parallel when you think about it like firearms regulations and laws. We are after law breakers, not the law abiding and the same would be true on this issue.
Santorum: The concern is that we heard from some sportsmen groups and breeders that government shouldn’t be involved with us at all. Well, I don’t buy that. I mean you know if you want to police yourself…but you’re not because I can point to lots of kennels where you’re not. So if you’re not, someone is going to have to police it, otherwise you can run the videos and show the American public and you’re going to lose because no one is going to want to see animals treated like this and hear the stories that are going on. I mean, Americans loves our pets so we have to be reasonable. What I found is that vast majority of breeders are very reasonable. Some who don’t believe in any government regulation of anything and they have been out there speaking against me as I have heard in some of the states, but my feeling is we need responsible laws just make sure were hitting the irresponsible people not the responsible ones.
***Editor’s Note: The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance is attempting to set up interviews with the remaining presidential candidates. We will provide information on their views on the most important issues to sportsmen as it becomes available.
About USSA: The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance’s watchdog efforts protect hunters’ rights and the interests of anglers, trappers and recreational shooters in the courts, legislatures, at the ballot, in Congress, and through many public education programs. The USSA has more than 150,000 registered Sentries that regularly receive information about conservation issues, and then they actively work to promote and protect scientific conservation through calls and contacts. For more information about the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance and the Sentry program, call (614) 888-4868 or visit www.ussportsmen.org