With less than a week remaining in President Donald Trump’s term in office, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has committed to a ten-year partnership with the National Rifle Association to “assist in the recruitment, education, and retaining of sportsmen and women through NRA’s vast hunter education and outreach programs.”
The Memorandum of Understanding signed by the NRA and the USFWS outlines how the organization will help the federal agency in its recruiting of new hunters. The NRA has pledged to use its free online hunter education program along with programs like the Hunters’ Leadership Forum, the Youth Hunter Education Challenge, and the Women’s Wilderness Escape, along with the NRA magazine American Hunter to encourage folks to take to the field.
“This MOU strengthens our shared commitment to wildlife and natural resource conservation while preserving our American heritage of hunting and recreating outdoors,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Aurelia Skipwith. “This partnership supports the Trump administration and Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt’s priority of increasing access to public lands and expanding hunting opportunities while promoting the safe, responsible use of firearms.”
The USFWS exists to “conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, and plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.”
The signing of the memo comes just a few days after Joe Biden declared that he and other Democrats would “defeat the NRA” once in power, and ensures that, for a while anyway, the new administration is going to be partnering with the Second Amendment organization even while it works to defeat it.
I’m sure that that New Mexico Democrat Deb Haaland, who’s Biden’s pick for Secretary of the Interior, will do her best to undo the agreement once she’s been confirmed. In fact, on Haaland’s latest campaign website, the congresswoman declares that her first priority in addressing “gun reform” isn’t dealing with violent criminals, but taking on the NRA.
“Congress needs to stop wasting lives and take action on gun violence — now. We must keep guns out of the hands of people who should never have a gun. We need 100% background checks and to close loopholes — especially with gun shows. We need to rid our communities of military-grade weapons; neither hunting nor policing require automatic weapons. We need major funding for behavioral health programs that are accessible to everyone. We need to strip the power of the NRA with commitments from elected officials to NOT ACCEPT campaign contributions.”
According to the terms of the MOU, the agreement can only be terminated by mutual agreement of both parties, so even if Haaland makes it her first priority to stop the Department of the Interior from working with the NRA on hunter recruitment, the partnership won’t be easily undone.
However, the memo does state that “all actions taken by the USFWS under the MOU are subject to available funding”, and the MOU does not actually commit the USFWS to any specific funding or use of department resources. Haaland might find it easier to simply ignore the agreement than to try to formally end it, even if that hampers efforts to add new recruits to the number of hunters and anglers across the country.