Outdoors Guide: Trouble in outdoor writing lodge

One of the outdoor writing lodges, the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA), is under some heavy fire of its own making. I belonged to OWAA for a number of years, but resigned a few years ago because of big dues and not much advantage to belonging. I would have resigned over this current issue.

The National Rifle Association used a big stage like the SHOT Show to announce its withdrawal from OWAA, which, in my opinion, is a blow to OWAA.

NRA President Kayne Robinson, whose pointed criticism of the Sierra Club at the OWAA conference last June began the feud that has resulted in the resignation of many longtime OWAA members, said the continuing loyalty of OWAA to the Sierra Club forced the decision to withdraw NRA support.

NRA reportedly will formally throw its substantial support behind a growing number of former OWAA sustaining and individual members who have transferred their memberships to groups more favorable to “hunting and free expression.”

A meeting of former OWAA members was held to discuss “alternatives” to OWAA. Former OWAA members Jim Zumbo, Tom Gresham, John Phillips and J. Wayne Fears apparently were organizers of the meeting. The four left OWAA shortly after the OWAA board of directors sent a letter admonishing Robinson for his remarks.

“The NRA has long worked with others in support of game and habitat preservation,” said Robinson. “We are the primary organization that works to defend the rights of hunters and protect access to hunting lands. The NRA will continue its fights for the rights of all hunters in America.”

Robinson noted NRA’s efforts to curb government harassment of hunters, including bureaucratic red tape, civil rights invasions, unreasonable fees and restricted access to public lands. “Many of our most vulnerable hunters are being driven away by hostile government actions, and the NRA will never stand idly by while our rights are being eroded,” he said.

Last year, the Sierra Club, an OWAA member organization, spearheaded a political campaign to defeat pro-gun and pro-hunting candidates by endorsing a slate of candidates in the 2004 elections that was opposed to hunting and firearms ownership.

NRA opposition to the Sierra Club campaign was met with criticism by OWAA leaders, beginning the feud that literally has torn the OWAA into two openly hostile camps.

“If the Sierra Club’s endorsed candidates had their way, private ownership of firearms would be banned,” said NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre. “We were right to oppose their campaign and their candidates, and NRA’s 4 million members turned out on election day and voted for their rights and their freedom.”

Robinson pointed out the irony of OWAA criticism of the NRA in opposing the Sierra Club campaign. “This is an organization of journalists,” Robinson noted. “Yet, as soon as we criticized the Sierra Club, we were attacked by the OWAA board in a clear exhibition of bias against free speech for its own members.”

From the April 13-19, 2005, issue

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