by David Codrea
Foreword: The Archdiocese of Anchorage, Alaska, is drafting a pastoral
statement, and the indications are they are going to call for preferential
treatment of subsistence hunters at the expense of sportsmen -- not that there's
any game shortage, but this letter aims to show that this is exactly what such
policies would produce. Reports are that the bishops will finalize their pastoral
sometime in the February/March timeframe. People wishing to make their views
known can contact the Archdiocese via the Internet at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
February 5, 2002
To: His Excellency
Most Reverend Roger L. Schwietz, O.M.I.
In re: Pastoral on
Subsistence Hunting and Fishing
It is a self-evident truth that abundance empowers, enabling human
opportunities, and that scarcity oppresses, restricting human choices. In your
quest to draft an appropriate pastoral letter on subsistence game harvesting, I
pray that you make prosperity your goal.
No one wants to take a fish away from a poor person. The argument that
subsistence and sports hunting/fishing represent mutually exclusive
"either/or" propositions might sound good on the surface to those who
don't know better -- it is certainly designed to touch our hearts with empathy
for the less fortunate and concern for social justice. But I hope you look
beyond the emotional resonance of this appeal and realize that this siren call,
if heeded, will result in divisive and disastrous public policy, hurting those
in need the most.
The mechanism for producing abundance has always been enlightened
self-interest, the much-maligned "profit motive." Control by
bureaucracies has always resulted in corruption, inefficiencies, and shortages.
This is true not only with goods and services, but with ideas. The donations
that allow you to fulfill your mission and grow, come from the private sector.
When dependent on state sanctions, innovation and freedom are discouraged, even
banned, and their advocates are persecuted. When relying on free choices, they
Such is the case with hunting and fishing, which annually provide hundreds of
millions of dollars specifically earmarked for conservation and wildlife
management, not to mention generate billions more into the job-creating private
economic sector -- and with the result that, according
to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game:
• "Normal dispersed hunting pressure has little influence on [Sitka
black-tailed] deer numbers."
• "Protective measures contributed to the recovery of the
[Roosevelt] elk herds and by the late 1970s, all of Afognak and Raspberry
islands were again open to hunting by permit."
• Bison are extolled for the virtue of their meat and as trophies in
• Black bears are so abundant that they are considered a nuisance in many
• "Brown bear hunting is popular and...can occur without causing
populations to decline."
• "There are approximately 950,000 wild caribou in Alaska...hunters,
primarily from the lower 48 states, Europe, and Mexico, travel to Alaska to
experience caribou hunting each fall. These hunters contribute significantly
to the economy of the state, particularly in rural areas."
• "Dall sheep in Alaska are generally in good population
• "Moose have a high reproductive potential and can quickly fill a
range to capacity if not limited by predation, hunting, and severe
• "Goats are relatively abundant throughout their Alaskan ranges,
particularly in southeastern Alaska."
• "Canada geese are popular and accessible to many wildlife
watchers, even in urban areas. They are prized by hunters across the
• "There is an excellent market for chinook salmon ... catches in
Alaska have brought fishers nearly $19 million per year... Catches by
subsistence fishers ... have averaged approximately 90,000 chinook salmon....
The sport fishing harvest of chinook salmon is over 76,000 annually."
One might ask, your Excellency, exactly what the pressing problem is that
requires your attention? Or why a council of bishops might think that a
"needs based" pastoral document ignoring our Constitutional guarantee
of equal protection under the law, urging preferential treatment based on racial
or cultural profiling, and ensuring a draconian loss of revenues available for
conservation and shortages of harvestable fish and game, would be to anyone's
"To each according to his need" may sound Christian, but we both
know that Marx held the Church in contempt, as do his contemporary followers.
The real-world results of this doctrine have always, without fail, led to brutal
repression and exploitation of those who serve under such rule. If you really
want to ensure that subsistence living is the only option, this is the path you
Do you know what happens when the state assumes yet more power to dictate how
land and wildlife are utilized, your Excellency? In his expose
"Betrayal of Trust," James Jay Baker of the National Rifle Association
gives us a good indication. Under the Clinton/Gore administration,
Pittman-Robertson funds specifically earmarked in a trust fund for conservation
were abused by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service bureaucrats on foreign junkets,
limousine rentals, lavish meals, hotels and illegal liquor purchases. The
trustees with the keys to the vault, the unelected officials with the power to
close off further hunting and to micro-manage what's left, the public stewards
who are supposed to serve the people you are rightly concerned for, are hardly
living at the subsistence level. Indeed, they treat themselves to luxuries at
the expense of the indigenous poor, and the edicts they impose will only
guarantee more scarcities, more obscene abuses.
Baker goes on to reveal "(FWS) has misappropriated at least $45 million
in excise tax funds set aside for game conservation ... In at least one
instance, pressure was applied ... to fund a grant proposal submitted by a
zealous animal-rights group ... dedicated to the elimination of the very hunting
heritage that those monies are collected to support ... The Clinton-Gore
Administration proposed using $30 million in Duck Stamp fees and hunting excise
tax revenues to buy Palmyra Atoll, located 1,000 miles south of Hawaii,
populated by 10 ducks."
As Alaska Congressman Don Young wryly observed, "$3 million a duck seems
high." But if, through a pastoral decree, you facilitate government
suspension of sport hunting, all that you'll guarantee is a loss of revenues
that could have been applied to improving Alaska's ability to conserve, manage
and increase wildlife; and the people who will lose the most will be the ones
you wish to protect. The bureaucrats who will oversee such prohibitions,
however, will still seize new and creative ways to engorge themselves even as
they devise new restrictions on public land use -- and as the recent Lynx
hair-planting scandal demonstrates, this is an evident goal for many in their
And this brings us to the deceptive trump card that those who would appeal to
emotion rather than reason have played -- that somehow, there is a preferred
nobility in destitution, a superiority in scarcity, and that embracing
abundance, prosperity and CHOICE results in "cultural genocide." Why
is it that "Western culture" is admonished to embrace the differences
of other peoples under the banner of "multiculturalism," but this
odious charge is always leveled whenever our way of life, with its unrivaled
potential to elevate people from misery and poverty, touches theirs?
Isn't a person better able to explore and promote his culture if he has more
resources to do it with, and time to do so? Should following indigenous cultural
traditions be but one option among many, or the only one because there are no
others? Which path allows a human being more opportunities, the one of freedom
and abundance, or the one of forced restrictions?
When God gave man dominion over the earth, it was with the understanding that
the resources were bequeathed to us with a responsibility for sound stewardship,
which, unsurprisingly (as if by design?) results in sustained abundance. Your
Excellency, I urge you and your fellow bishops to reject the path of
divisiveness and restrictions and scarcity and corruption. For the benefit of
all, and especially the poor, I urge you to embrace prosperity.