In light of the swift death of HR 621, due in large part to the activism of a diverse cross-section of people that includes hunters, conservationists, backpackers, and most every other demographic concerned with land access and environmental conservation, let me offer something that’s been on my mind for a long time.
It’s about the possibility of building bridges between otherwise antagonistic communities; about messaging, and, dare I say it, about changing minds.
Land access and environmental protection is an area where there is a lot more potential for common cause between traditionally opposed demographics than is understood, and I think it’s a connection that’s worth working on.
My baseline position starts as a conservationist and defender of California’s ecology and native flora and fauna. I do that, I climb mountains, smell flowers, camp in the backcountry, all that stereotypically “left” stuff.
I also defend ethical hunting and fishing, even though I don’t really participate much in either. By extension, I support responsible, reasonably regulated gun ownership for purposes of recreation, hunting, target shooting, and home protection. Stereotypically “right” stuff.
While I do not support opening up more protected lands to ORV use, I do support the idea of maintaining ORV legal areas that exist, and I–and many of us naturalists–have to recognize that our vehicles are themselves having an impact, and that we often drive long, long miles producing emissions in pursuit of our passions. We are not angels either.
I also happen to have friends who are hardcore Democrats who also own guns. I have friends who are professional climbing and mountain guides who also hunt big game. I have friends who practice rigorous LNT principles and also like to take modified 4WD vehicles rock crawling.
In these overlaps there is opportunity.
What can we do with that?
How do each of us–coming from our baseline positions–adjust our messaging to actually reach other people who are starting from different positions?
Can I use my respect for rational gun ownership as a de-wedge issue to begin a conversation with someone who lives in the Upper Peninsula to demonstrate that
A) Many people on “the left” do not want to “take their guns away,” thereby earning some measure of good will, establishig common ground and thus
B) Maybe a pro-Democratic notion of strengthening Organized Labor and advanced, social job-training programs might indeed be desirable in their communities which have been decimated by closing factories, closing mines, and closing economic opportunity.
Which, once established, may actually begin to demonstrate to people who otherwise demonize “the Left” that actually, having someone work to protect your welfare, develop and strengthen your community isn’t such a bad thing after all.