BY ANNE MULLER
Luke Dommer, the founder of C.A.$.H., said the military teaches
to identify and then attack the weakest point of the enemy.
Based on observation and conversation with other activists, the
weakest point of the enemy appears to be federal and state despotic
authority over local governments; and the undemocratic process by
which decisions affecting wildlife are made. Conservation law itself
was created by hunters for hunters and greatly impacts the 93% non-hunting
public. I would go so far as to say it subjugates the non-hunting
public to the will of the 7% minority that hunts. The despots are
becoming sensitive to the public's increasing awareness. They are
taking steps to construct a democratic facade, while doing nothing
substantive to change.
To make it appear that hunters and trappers are not making unilateral
decisions for wildlife, the New York State Department of Environmental
Conservation's (DEC) Wildlife Division has been initiating "task
forces" to include the "general public." I contend
that task forces or citizen advisory boards are orchestrated
by wildlife management agencies and will be comprised of individuals
who will do their bidding.
Task forces give the illusion of democracy at work. They seduce
the public and press into believing that government is responsive
to the larger population by encouraging its inclusion. The task forces
that I'm aware of have been shams.
A task force set up to discuss the Canada goose issue in Rockland
County, NY. is a good example. The task force was formed by a local
legislator (who had taken our side) at the suggestion of a DEC official.
She set it up to discuss non-lethal methods that could be used in
the county to redistribute geese from areas where they are "unwanted." [Note
that legal hunting of Canada geese, the issue which really should
be addressed and exposed, is not within the purview of the task force.]
The Coalition to Prevent the Destruction of Canada Geese was invited
to be on the task force, being told to have one representative from
our group present as there would only be one representative from
several other groups in the county. At the first meeting, and as
of this writing the last one, thirty people attended. Most represented "themselves." There
were six people from one school, someone from out-of-state who is
a well-known agitator for hunting, the town supervisor who wanted
to gas 10,000 geese (a member of the local Audubon Society, by the
way) and his staff. Most were recognizable from meetings held on
Canada geese in the past, and were known for their pro-kill stance.
Three individuals now claimed to be coordinating the task force:
1) the legislator (on our side) 2) the head of the Environmental
Management Council (on our side), 3) a director from Cornell Cooperative
Extension (a DEC arm). The latter commandeered the meeting early
from the other two coordinators and recommended that the DEC be brought
into the task force. The representative from the Coalition to Prevent
the Destruction of Canada Geese was the only individual to object.
The following week, the Coalition to Prevent the Destruction of
Canada Geese submitted a proposal for a format for future task force
meetings to all three coordinators to ensure that the staged free-for-all
by the pro-kill forces didn't recur. The coordinators responded by
saying they would incorporate some suggestions, adding that we could
expect this to be a slow process taking years to resolve!
We originally had faith in the fairness of the task force because
we had confidence in two of the coordinators. However, the task force
itself can be taken over by the opposition any number of ways: through
local political maneuvering, through state maneuvering - I won't
go into detail here In a meeting on another hunting matter with the
head of the NYS DEC Wildlife Division, we were asked if we would
be willing to participate in a task force with hunters and trappers.
Sure, we all agreed. I cautioned that based on our experience in
Rockland, task force meetings could be unproductive unless properly
run and that a format had to be established. He confessed that they
had none and I faxed him our draft. Several days later he faxed a
response saying that our format wouldn't work because a 50-50 split
of proponents of lethal methods on one side and proponents of non-lethal
methods on the other side made for a deadlock. The composition of
a task force, he said, should have broad representation regardless
of how the individuals felt about lethal methods, thought it was
a bad idea to set up a task force to discuss only non-lethal methods
since lethal methods were a legitimate way of controlling populations
as well, and it appeared to be undemocratic! I said I could agree
so long as decisions were made by consensus. "Of course," he
said. "By the way, how do you define consensus?" I asked. "Unanimous
minus one," he answered.
Press releases could read, "A decision was reached by consensus
of the goose task force to permit the taking of....." (Federal
and state wildlife management agencies, as you know, are formidable
propaganda machines.) What's even more disturbing, as already mentioned,
is that hunting regulations have no place in this task force, which
is set up to discuss non-lethal methods the county can use to dissuade
geese from areas where they are unwanted. Regular and special hunting
seasons are unaffected by our decisions. They will continue unabated
as part of the state's "long term management plan" to reduce resident Canada
Another attempt to give the impression that wildlife management
agencies are democratic is their "comment" system on proposed
hunting regulations. Few people are on their list to receive notice
and little time is given to comment. The general public is in the
dark about what is coming down the pike, and unwelcome comments are
ignored. Their boards are "good ol' boys clubs," rubber
stamping proposals as they come up for vote. Rarely is a regulation
challenged unless the hunting impact could affect someone else's
consumptive use of the "resource."
Until wildlife management agencies cease to be controlled by the
7% minority (sport hunting and trapping interests) substantial progress
cannot be made. I maintain that the democracy issue is the weakest
point of the enemy. Efforts should be made to expose the despotic
rule of wildlife management to the public and local governments so
that, to begin with, authority is given to local governments to afford
wildlife and human residents protection from hunters and trappers.
To encourage local governments to seek authority from the state
for protective jurisdiction over wildlife.
To inform and infuriate the public and local politicians that local
ordinances, designed to protect wildlife (which concomitantly protect
the public), can be preempted by the state and ignored by hunters
and trappers. To encourage citizens in towns that have no existing
bans on the discharge of weapons (and the setting of traps) to demand
that that be done. If your town does not have a general ban on the
discharge of weapons (for the safety of human citizens), and your
property is not properly posted with 11 x 11 signs stating your name
and address, then hunters can be 500 feet from your dwelling (while
still on your property) and blast animals away during the "season." In
the case of shooting waterfowl, at least in New York State, hunters
can shoot over a body of water regardless of its proximity to a person
or dwelling. Therefore, if there is a "body of water" next
to your house (a puddle? pool?), and your children are playing near
or in it, hunters can still legally enter your property and "harvest" (maim,
harry, shoot, kill) waterfowl "so long as a person, livestock
or dwelling is not in the direct line of fire."
The democracy issue cuts across the board. This focus engages the
larger public. People become incensed when they discover that they
cannot protect wild animals or a particular wild animal if they so
choose. They become even more incensed when they discover that conservation
law prevents them from protecting their own property or their families
from hunters and trappers without going to great effort and expense.
a) The general public is unaware that conservation law infringes
on the rights of the 94% non-hunting public. The public is unaware
that democracy doesn't operate in the decision-making process regarding
wildlife; that conservation law, written by and for hunters, shackles
the larger public, preventing self-protection or protection of wildlife.
b) Most local politicians are unaware of the pro-hunting bias of
state and federal wildlife management agencies and are unaware that
local anti-hunting/trapping ordinances can be preempted by the state
and indeed ignored. Local governments have no legal authority to
protect wildlife by regulating hunting and will lose in a court of
law if challenged.
c) Some local politicians are in the pockets of or are intimidated
by local hunt groups.
d) The general public does not think highly of hunters, in spite
of the glossy conservationist image painted by game agencies,
and does not want to be subjected to them.
- Pro bono legal help
- Folks to get on the bandwagon in other areas -keep us informed
- Documented examples of how towns or individuals have been denied
their right to protect themselves or wildlife during hunting
- Statistics on hunting accidents involving non-hunters, pets,
- Progress reports: how, when, where, who
Note: Several people have come to our meetings or called for help
because they were disturbed by hunter activity near their homes.
Some have been effective at getting neighbors to sign petitions for
the town to "do something." They were shocked to learn
that that they couldn't protect themselves from hunter intrusion,
and were simply told to post. They were told that even if they could
get an ordinance passed it could be preempted by the state. They
become even more infuriated when they learn that they have to spend
money, time and effort to be able to bring charges against an individual
who may not be easy to identify or apprehend. Further, even if violations
could be proven, maximum penalties are meager and rarely meted out
by judges. They then realize that conservation law violates their
rights. In spite of that, they're reluctant to give testimony. They
don't want their names used, they're afraid of retaliation, of being
in the limelight, of the time it will take.
Giving priority to getting complaints from citizens: mothers, teachers,
etc. about hunters in their area. Follow up has to be regular, persistent
Offering posting help as interim relief. Doing the leg work for
them if necessary.
Being pro-active by alerting communities about the hazards of hunting
in the area and offering posting help. That allows you to inform
people about conservation law. You're more likely to have their support
at town or county meetings for weapons' discharge bans.
Getting veterinarians, med stops, hospitals, police departments
to supply information about hunting related accidents.
Informing legislators of issues that would influence voting decisions
related to locally banning the discharge of weapons and seeking authority
for local jurisdiction over the protection of wildlife.
Educating reporters, editors, etc.
Educating the public through letters to the editor. Attempting to
get a regular column in a newspaper, or a program on local radio.
Doing public and/or government access programs on a regular basis.
Sensationalizing what is being taken for granted. Putting the horror
back into an activity taken for granted through demonstrations.
Tabling at supermarkets or fairs while demonstrating and petitioning
at the same time.
Seizing the opportunity whenever a person, pet or property is injured
by a hunter or trapper by taking actions to call as much attention
to it as possible for as long a time as possible.
Making "deals": e.g. "Support the Committee to Abolish
Sport Hunting Through Your Favorite Pizza Shop." Putting this
message on pizza boxes and distributing boxes free to pizza places.
ANNE MULLER IS PRESIDENT OF THE COMMITTEE TO ABOLISH $PORT HUNTING,
C.A.$.H. SHE WAS A FOUNDING MEMBER OF THE COALITION TO PREVENT THE
DESTRUCTION OF CANADA GEESE. PLEASE; DIRECT ALL CORRESPONDENCE TO
THE AUTHOR AT: POB 562, NEW PALTZ, NY 12561; FAX OR MAIL WOULD BE
MOST HELPFUL. FAX: 914-256-9113 OR E-MAIL AT [email protected]
A THANK YOU NOTE TO MEMBERS FROM ANNE MULLER REGARDING THE LAWSUIT:
I would like to thank all of our members for their patience and
support during the 1½ years C.A.S.H. could not carry on its work.
On the positive side, it resulted in the formation of The Coalition
to Prevent the Destruction of Canada Geese, which is now happily
a full-fledged organization.
I never doubted for a second that Luke and I could be stopped from
fulfilling his wishes for the Committee or from what I knew our destiny
to be. Though unfortunate, it was only a short blip in the Committees
long and successful history. We now will move forward with even greater
steam to hopefully see an end to the nightmare of legal hunting in