FL huntsman takes aim at Biden admin’s ‘gut punch’ policy to US hunting: We’re ‘fighting tooth and nail’

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Lifelong Florida resident Travis Thompson spent his childhood learning how to hunt, fish, camp and hike from his dad.

“In my family we call those conservationists,” the All Florida executive director told Fox News Digital. “We really cared a lot about the wildlife, the waters, the habitat beyond just hunting and fishing… everything we kind of did was built around the outdoors in Florida. So it’s a thing that’s really near and dear to my heart.”

Representing Florida’s community of environmentalists and outdoor sportsmen, Thompson sounded off on the Biden administration’s decision to strip away federal hunting and fishing education funds – then reversing course after widespread criticism.

In July, the U.S. Department of Education under Biden announced to hunting and archery school programs they’d be stripped of funding after interpreting that the 2022 Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) meant taxpayer dollars couldn’t be applied to the so-called “enrichment opportunities.”

REPUBLICANS UNVEIL EFFORT TO CLAW BACK SCHOOL FUNDS BIDEN ADMIN IS HOLDING OVER HUNTING, ARCHERY CLASSES

More specifically, the hunting and archery teachings utilize “dangerous weapons,” thus disqualifying them for federal aid. But last month, the DOE opened doors for Congress to reinstate programs’ funding.

“My initial reaction was kind of a gut punch,” Thompson said. “Everything in life has risks or dangers, right? Like getting in a car or riding a bicycle or anything else… Safety is the first thing we go for.”

“You don’t point it at anything unless you are prepared to shoot it,” he continued. “So there’s a lot of really good values that I think bipartisanly everyone would agree on that are in this aspect of hunter safety or archery training or weapons handling, that I don’t understand why anyone would be against that. It’s just baffling to me.”

According to the generational outdoorsman, the public’s acceptance of hunting and archery activities has been on a steady decline over the years, but saw a significant dip in 2022.

Thompson pointed to a recent national survey conducted by the Outdoor Stewards of Conservation Foundation which found overall acceptance at 77% in 2023, down from 81% in 2019.

“It’s exceedingly important if we want this thing to exist in the future, not just as sportsmen, but also as conservation advocates, as an environmentalist… I would care very deeply about hunting still being a thing. Because hunters require clean water, they require wild places, they require wildlife.”

“That’s kind of a central tenet of the North American model of conservation, is that if you have wildlife and it’s available as a resource, that people will ensure that it always exists,” he added. “Species have been restored in our country, from the wild turkey to white-tailed deer to wood ducks or all waterfowl across North America. Hunters play a critical role in both the funding of that, yes, but also having been a viable reason for that to exist. They are so integral to how that exists and why it exists and keeping it on our landscape.”

State wildlife agencies are “fighting tooth and nail” to retain the number of active hunting licenses, the sportsman claimed. And without interest from the younger generations, it could deteriorate America’s wild lands.

“I don’t look at hunter education in schools as necessarily always just recruiting new hunters. I look at it as exposing folks to hunting. We do a lot of programs,” the All Florida executive director said. “A lot of them are okay with hunting after they’ve come and hunted with us because they see how we care for the resource, how we care for the habitat, the work we put into the land that benefits way more than just waterfowl.”

The conservationist posed to parents, educators and politicians: “Do we want more kids on Xboxes, or do we want more kids with tackle boxes?”

As of last week, the DOE did not respond to Fox News Digital’s request for clarification on exactly how lawmakers may work with their office to restore the federal funding.

Both Democrats and Republicans were outspoken when the initial defunding decision was made. Those who have expressed concern include a group of 66 House GOP members, as well as Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin, W.Va., Sherrod Brown, Ohio, and Jon Tester, Mont, as well as Independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, Ariz.

Thompson said he hopes lawmakers “don’t forget us.”

“We’ve got to be very careful we don’t lose that identity, that we are conservationists first and foremost, that we care about not just the game that we’re pursuing, but the ancillary benefits of that game and the habitat and the water that it needs to exist,” Thompson said. “I think if we lose that, we lose a huge part of what makes [hunters] so important just to our environment, to our ecosystem societally. It’s innately human.”

Fox News’ Gabriel Hays contributed to this report.

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