I’ve had my fair share of difficulties with the National Rifle Association, especially when you consider that I’m a Life Member and believe strongly in the organization’s support of our Second Amendment rights of gun ownership.

My primary problem is not with their dogmatic, paranoid message to their membership, which is insulting. Is absolutely everything really a slippery slope? Nor is it with their consistent appeal to the lowest common denominator, which is embarrassing. Ted Nugent as a featured speaker and board member? Are you kidding?

My issue is with the way they have manipulated, lied to and finally, sold out millions of American hunters who believed the NRA’s message that the organization had their best interests at heart. Those hunters have bought into the fiction that protecting gun rights is the same as protecting our hunting heritage. Not even close, as it turns out, because the NRA is happy to trade away wildlife habitat, public access and even publicly owned lands for dependable votes on their three top issues: guns, guns and guns.

The NRA fought vigorously in support of the Bush administration’s efforts to remove federal protection for 58.5 million acres of inventoried roadless areas, in the face of evidence that the resultant road-building in those areas would have a long-lasting, negative effect on the fish and wildlife species within them.

It supported and kept as a board member the disgraced former U.S. senator from Idaho, Larry Craig, who made a career of opening public land to private exploitation.

Finally, it contributed to the re-election campaign of Richard Pombo, a lightweight Republican congressman from California whose primary claim to fame was sponsoring a bill allowing the sale of millions of acres of public land to mining companies, thus taking single-issue politics to ridiculous new heights and proving that hunters were not only an unimportant part of the NRA agenda, we weren’t even on their radar.

The concepts of habitat conservation, or protection of enough space for animals to breed and raise their young safely just didn’t register with the NRA leadership. It seemed to feel that once it got people with guns into the woods it had accomplished its mission. But for just a short time in the last couple of years I began to feel that perhaps the NRA was getting better. It was saying saying the right things; perhaps they were finally developing a protective influence toward our hunting heritage.

Then came Donald Trump. Even before he spoke at the National Rifle Association leadership forum, the NRA endorsed his bid for the presidency. 

I’m not worried (at least for the purposes of this column) about the bullying, misogynistic, racist, vulgarity-laden venom Trump tries to pass off as stump speeches. My concern is with his willful and aggressive ignorance about science and natural resources. With his stated belief that global warming is a hoax. With his description of measures to limit carbon emissions as a “money-making industry.” With his promise to bring back the glory days of coal and abolish the Environmental Protection Agency. And I’m concerned about a man who thinks he can back out of international agreements to reduce carbon emissions without terrible and long-lasting repercussions.

Donald Trump will, if he can be believed, sacrifice all the progress this country has made on behalf of our wild lands and wildlife to extractive industries.

But NRA officials don't care. He’s their guy, presumably because he stands up for the important things, like this: “We’re getting rid of gun-free zones.”

Rest easy, hunters. The NRA and Donald Trump are on your side.

Pat Wray writes about the outdoors for the Corvallis Gazette-Times. He can be reached at patwray@comcast.net. His column usually appears in the sports pages, but this one seemed to be a better fit on the G-T's Opinion page. 

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