Brandon Butler: Congress’ impact on sportsmen often overlooked

Washington D.C. isn’t one of the first places one may think of when it comes to celebrating hunting and fishing, yet our nation’s capital is where federal policy is crafted to oversee many public lands, and where rules and regulations are created to protect and promote our fish and wildlife resources. Congressional activity in Washington is central to the present and future of sporting life.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) represents hunters and anglers to our elected officials in Washington D.C. and around the country. This important conservation organization, which focuses on policy, hosted its 34th Annual Banquet & Auction in downtown D.C. on Sept. 13. I was proud to be in attendance as a supporter of the CSF efforts to recognize and celebrate the bipartisan Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) and its leadership.

The efforts of these members of Congress to protect and advance conservation on Capitol Hill are imperative to fishing and hunting in our country.

“The CSF Annual Banquet is a completely unique event on Capitol Hill that sets aside party lines to celebrate our similarities and our shared love for our outdoor pursuits,” CSF president and CEO Jeff Crane said. “What makes CSF unique is the unparalleled network of pro-sportsmen’s policymakers, and this event, which is the largest gathering of hunters and anglers in D.C., provides an opportunity to celebrate the vast achievements of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus and our shared goals to protect and advance hunting and angling traditions.”

CSF was founded in 1989 to serve as the primary sportsmen’s voice for influencing public policy. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC), the Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus (GSC) and the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC) are all made up of elected officials who have made a commitment to supporting policy beneficial to hunters, anglers, recreational shooters and trappers. CSF works with these legislators on Capitol Hill and in state capitols to advocate for our nation’s conservation legacy.

CSF hosted a VIP reception prior to the main banquet. I was able to attend this event, where I, along with 100 or so other conservationists, heard pro-conservation remarks from Deputy Secretary of the Interior Tommy Boudreau, USDA Undersecretary Robert Bonnie, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico and CSF Board Chairman Richard Childress as well as Crane. Representatives of Safari Club International (SCI) also took the stage to be recognized for the organization’s longtime partnership.

The CSC is made up of more than 200 members of the House and Senate. According to CSF, it is the largest, most active bipartisan caucus in Congress and is renowned for its unparalleled effectiveness and dedication to advancing the interests of America’s 55 million sportsmen and women. This year, more than 60 members of Congress attended the event, including bipartisan CSC leaders Sen. Joe Manchin (West Virginia), Sen. John Boozman (Arkansas), Sen. Angus King (Maine), Rep. Bruce Westerman (Arkansas), Rep. Jimmy Panetta (California) and Rep. Garret Graves (Louisiana).

I personally had the good fortune of sitting with and catching up with my friend, Rep. Eric Burlison, who represents Missouri’s 7th district in the House of Representatives. Rep. Burlison and I worked together on numerous conservation issues in Missouri during his time in the State House. Hearing his firsthand account of life as a freshman Congressman in Washington D.C. was incredibly interesting. I can say with all honesty that I am glad to have him representing Missouri in our federal government. He is a friend to sportsmen.

A highlight of the night was watching the two founding members of the CSC, Richard Taylor “Dick” Schulze and Robert Lindsay Thomas, be honored for their service to conservation. They each received the Dingell-Young Sportsmen’s Legacy Award — the highest award given by CSF. Named in recognition of the Dingell family — Congressmen John D. Dingell Sr. and John D. Dingell Jr. of Michigan and Don Young of Alaska, the CSF created the Dingell-Young Sportsmen’s Legacy Award to recognize the extraordinary individual and collaborative leadership of the Dingell family and Rep. Young, and their long-standing dedication to the advancement of conservation policy and our outdoor hunting and angling traditions.

“Schulze and Thomas are innovative leaders that set the precedent for a bipartisan collaboration that remains as the frontline for hunting and angling policy in the Halls of Congress,” Crane said. “This award is in recognition of their lifelong dedication to conservation, their passion for our outdoor pursuits and their impact that we will forever be grateful for.”

While conservation organizations dedicated to specific species and direct habitat improvements are critical to the future of wildlife, so are organizations focused on conservation and sporting policy. Often, these organizations operate outside of the mainstream awareness they deserve. The CSF is critically important to the future of hunting and fishing in our country. All of us who care about conservation and our sporting traditions should be proud to know over 200 members of Congress agree.

See you down the trail …

Brandon Butler writes a weekly outdoors column for the Daily Journal. For more Driftwood Outdoors, check out the podcast on or anywhere podcasts are streamed. Send comments to [email protected].