The Biden administration has named 18 members of the newly created “Hunting and Wildlife Conservation Council” to advise the federal government on issues related to hunting, fishing, habitat conservation, and shooting sports.
The U.S. Departments of the Interior and Agriculture selected individuals representing a variety of interests and industries, including waterfowl, pheasants, archery, mule deer, ranching, and Tribal resource management.
“Hunters, anglers, and outdoor enthusiasts have some of the deepest connections to wildlife and form the bedrock of habitat conservation efforts,” Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said in a press release. “I look forward to working with the Council as we advance efforts to expand access to the great outdoors, address climate change, and safeguard the wildlife and health of the natural systems that supply our food, water, and other resources. This kind of engagement is at the heart of the America the Beautiful initiative and the Biden-Harris administration’s broader conservation strategy.”
The Hunting and Wildlife Conservation Council is a revamped version of the Wildlife Hunting and Heritage Conservation Council, which was established by the Obama administration in 2010 but was disbanded in 2018. Prior to that, the Sporting Conservation Council, launched by the George W. Bush administration in 2006, performed a similar role.
Some animal rights and protectionist groups had hoped the Biden administration would choose not to re-install the Obama-era council. The Center for Biological Diversity sent a letter to Secretary Haaland in February of this year to express their opposition to the “euphemistically titled” advisory group.
“The laughably biased proposed composition of this FACA committee illustrates an overwhelming bias in favor of commercial and recreational hunting, shooting, and extractive uses that seek only to monetize this nation’s natural wildlife heritage,” the group wrote. “This clear and overt bias would render any operationalized committee to be in violation of the law, and the Center will certainly litigate it.”
According to its charter, the Hunting and Wildlife Conservation Council is tasked with providing recommendations to the federal government that benefit wildlife resources; encourage partnership among the public, sporting conservation organizations, and government agencies; and benefit fair-chase recreational hunting and safe recreational shooting sports.
Council members include Jeffrey Crane of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, John Devney of Delta Waterfowl, Bethany Erb of Pheasants Forever, Dan Forster of the Archery Trade Association, Collin O’Mara of the National Wildlife Federation, Joel Webster of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, and Land Tawney of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers.
“I’m humbled by the appointment, and I’m ready to serve with my fellow council members and administrative officials, both to honor the work of previous councils and chart a future that maintains and enhances public access to public lands and waters for all, quality wildlife habitat when we get there and fair chase hunting principles,” Tawney said.
First Lite’s Michael Van Fossan was also named as an alternate council member representing outfitter and guide businesses.
Not all appointments were met with approval from the outdoor community. The National Shooting Sports Foundation took issue with the appointment of author and gun control activist Ryan Busse as the representative of “shooting sports interests.”
“The appointment of Ryan Busse is a farce and demonstrates the contempt the Biden administration holds for lawful gun owners who hunt on America’s public and private lands,” the NSSF’s Mark Oliva said in a statement to MeatEater.
Busse is listed as “unaffiliated,” but he currently serves as a Senior Advisor to the gun control group Giffords. A former executive at Kimber, Busse has since published a book slamming the firearms industry, called AR-type rifles "the rifle that ruined America," and has supported banning private gun sales.
Busse said in a statement to MeatEater that even though some seek to make "our rivers, prairies, and forests into partisan issues," he believes public land should be a place where Americans unite.
"I've been hunting and shooting since I was a little boy and most of the best days of my life have been spent engaging in those activities on our vast public lands," he said. "I loved it so much that much of my career was centered on firearms and so I am now very honored to combine my long professional experience and my deep devotion to conservation on this important council."
The Council will meet approximately twice a year and will be disbanded after two years if not renewed by the executive branch of the federal government.
Editor's Note: This article has been updated to include a comment from Ryan Busse and to clarify that Busse has not called for a ban on AR-type rifles.