A Conversation with Sean Curran of The Sportsman's Alliance
The Following was taken from Episode 002 of The American Hunting Podcast Featuring Sean Curran of The Sportsman's Alliance. You can watch the full interview at the bottom of the page:
Sean Ferbrache: About three years ago we were looking for a group or organization to support and we found the Sportsmen's Alliance. It's an organization that just does tremendous work and they've got, I want to say, the muscle and the passion combined to really make a difference and so with us today is Sean Curran, who is the Vice President of Membership and Corporate Partnerships for The Sportsmen's Alliance. That's ah, that's a whale of a title, Sean.
Sean Curran: Yeah, there's a lot of different hats that go on with that, but that's all right. That's part of the fun of doing this job is wearing a lot of different hats and doing whatever we can do to help grow the organization and grow the Sportsmen's Alliance. So I appreciate you having me.
SF: Oh, absolutely. We're thrilled that you're with us. before we kind of get into the bread and butter stuff. I saw a picture of you yesterday on a blog. I want to congratulate you on your beard game. It's strong.
SC: It's growing strong. This year we decided not To break out the Clippers You know, my daughter's encouraged me just to kind of see how long we can grow it before I finally got tired of it and hack it off here. So it's pretty robust right now.
SF: It's pretty white too and I noticed that it was a surprise. Mine is, too, and I'll be honest with you. Just this morning I was like, I'm pretty close to breaking out the Clippers and trimming this thing a little bit back.
Joel Matheny: From a guy who can't grow facial hair, I would ask you not to do that. Just enjoy it. I think I'm the only one in this room right now who can't do it. So there's a little bit of jealousy on my part, right?
SF: Yeah, I'll keep her going. Well Sean, Can you explain what exactly is the Sportsmen's Alliance? And you know why is it important to all hunters?
SC: Yeah, You know, I appreciate that. So the Sportsmen's Alliance has been around, as an advocacy organization, for forty years. In our primary mission is to protect and advance our outdoor heritages of hunting, fishing, and trapping and so the way that we do that is looking out for sportsmen and women. Any time issues arise we do the majority of our work in the Legislature's both at the state and federal level, in the courtrooms and at the ballot box. So we're kind of the specialist group out there that is watching out for bad laws being proposed, or lawsuits that would affect one's ability to go out there and do the things that we love to do. To hunt, to fish, and trap and most of these types of things involve hunting. That's where we see the majority of the attacks have taken place. And so that's what we've been focused on looking out for those types of things that would restrict or prohibit any of us from going out and doing what we love to do.
SF: Okay, Why is that? I guess here's one of questions I had for you. Early on. I said, I think we've been partnering with you guys for you three, if not four, years. So here's one of my questions that I ask you. And I think even a year or so ago and that is, I noticed that you guys focus a lot or actually, your work has done a lot out West, where you know you're concerned with grizzly bears being delisted or laws concerning wolves or wolf hunting or even black bears up in Maine. How does that relate to a guy like myself that hunts white tail or water fowl mostly in the Midwest or down South? How do those two things correlate?
SC: That's a great question, because you know it's and that's a hard, hard bridge to cross for a lot of folks is, “Hey, I'm just a deer hunter from Ohio. Why the heck do I need to care about black bear hunting in Maine? Or you know what's going on? Grizzly bears and the Yellowstone ecosystem” well behind a lot of those types of things are much bigger organizations than ourselves. And what's bigger than us? Quite frankly, a lot of the conservation groups that are out there and these organizations are animal rights or anti-hunting organizations. And what they do is they slice away at the fringes. We use phrases like “death by a thousand cuts”. They're not going after deer hunting in Ohio or Iowa or Kansas, but they're going after black bear hunting and they're going after predators or coyote hunting or little things around the edges that are smaller groups of hunters. They're not going to go after waterfowl hunting tomorrow, things like that but what they do is they attack these areas where they see vulnerability, where they can divide us, where they can pick apart hunters and take away these little things bit by bit by bit. Their end game is really to stop hunting. I mean, that's really the endgame, and it's been quoted from many people. On that side of things is that they want to stop trophy hunting. That's the Humane Society of the United States. That's one of their main tenants on their recently updated website is to stop “trophy hunting”, and they use words like that, that are kind of divisive, that pick things apart. But at the end, of the day, they'd be just as happy, if not a single one of us ever picked up a bow or ever picked up a gun to go out and go to your hunting or squirrel hunting or rabbit hunting or anything like that. So that's kind of why we need every single person that's out there, that buys a hunting license to really pay attention and to really watch and stay engaged on these types of issues. There's a lot of groups out there really don't like what we do, and they're just fundamentally opposed to it.
JM: You talked about how big some of these groups are, and for you guys, the Sportsmen's Alliance, You guys pick and choose your battles? Do you have a team that kind of ranks the importance of certain legislative issues or things like that? And then you choose which ones to go after. Or is it first come first serve and we take everything that comes our way?
SC: Yes, it's a little bit of both. That's kind of a great question is because if we could go after everything, we would. Unfortunately, all of these things come down to funding. You know, which fights do you pick and choose is based on what your budget for that particular year is looking like. lawsuits, for example, are very costly way to do business, but unfortunately, the other groups that we go against, they know this, and they have much deeper pockets than we do. Humane Society of the United States, for example, their annual budget is somewhere around 130 to 145 million dollars. If we take a look at some of the top anti-hunting organizations out there, add them up collectively, the top five of them, you'll have just an enormous, half a billion dollars collectively to do these types of things, to take things to court, to string things out over many, many years. So yeah, we have to be very smart about how we spend our money where it goes and what issues we get involved in most of time. We're looking at some of the bigger issues that are out there. Right now, we're involved in a lawsuit in New Jersey where the governor recently came in, took executive order and has banned bear hunting on public lands in the state of New Jersey. That's not based on science. That's not based on anything that his wildlife biologists recommended. It's based simply on campaign promises that he made to his funders, some of which are anti-hunting organizations. But he was going to stop bear hunting for no other reason than he wants to stop bear hunting, and so he's done those types of things. So those are the types of things that we get involved in and we partner with other organizations. When we do so, the New Jersey example is a good example of how we partner. We're partnering with the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance, groups of hunters come together collectively, and we're fighting these issues. A similar thing with the Yellowstone ecosystem. Grizzly bear. We're partnered with Rocky Mountain Elk foundation on that and s these things don't happen in a vacuum or by themselves. We rely on our partnerships, just as The American Hunting Lease Association is a partner of ours, to help us fight these types of things when we get into the fight. We’re the specialists. We bring people together and our government affairs team has the expertise on how to win these types of issues. But we also need our partners to come in there so that we can have numbers behind us and really make those pushes to win these issues and protect our rights as sportsmsn.
SF: I'm going to tell quick story of what we did with the state of Illinois a couple years ago with the Sportsmen's Alliance. And that was the state of Illinois secretively passed a law basically that was going to tax or charge a fee to landowners and anybody who helped land owners find somebody to lease their ground. Basically, what the state of Illinois tried to do, and they did, was lump leasing companies or leasing in with guides and outfitters, and it basically was just unnecessary tax so as a leasing association, we try to get in front of it. Our first call was to The Sportsman's Alliance, and I mean, you want to talk about being aggressive? We got a call to Sportsmen's Alliance and a week or two later, I was on a plane to Philadelphia, where there was a large gathering. A convention and the Illinois head of the D. N R. Was going to be there, and so was The Sportsmen's Alliance. And I mean, I literally I walk into a room in a hotel in Philadelphia, and I think it was Evan and one of their lobbyists said, Hold on, we're going to go get him. And then five minutes later in this little meeting room walks the head of Illinois D N R and they said he's got a problem and I just laid it out and said, Here's what we think And he said, Well, that's ridiculous. He basically, in that moment, was agreeing fully with me, said I'll take care of that when I get back. It’s still ongoing, but my point is, The Sportsmen's Alliance, they jumped on it and it was really impressive to see them work. They carry real weight. When they tap you on the shoulder, regardless where you're at, and they say we need to talk. These politicians take those meetings and they take them to heart. So, yeah, we were thrilled and impressed with that whole thing we went through and continue to support them and so do some of our partners now.
JM: Sean. You mentioned the Humane Society a minute ago. You know, when I grew up, the Humane Societies, were where you went to adopt a dog, right? So locally, I think people don't realize what the connection may or may not be from the local humane society, the dog pound, to this mega organization that's trying to tow ban hunting. Can you kind of touched on that for me?
SC: Yeah. that's a fantastic point. The Humane Society of the United States is it’s own organization. They are not affiliated whatsoever with your local county shelter. So the Franklin County Humane Society, they don't receive any funding at all from the Humane Society of the United States. I'm sure you know your local humane society. Usually they're doing good work. They've got good people there. They're helping the cats and the dogs and doing all those things that you know are necessary at the local level. The problem is, is that you have an organization like Humane Society of the United States that shares a similar name that there's a lot of deceptive fundraising. If you look at their website, it shows those same types of things, sickly dogs and cats and things of that nature. And they run a lot of commercials asking people to donate whatever it may be. $19.95 a month. Those types of things and it pulls at your heartstrings and you want to give and you want to get involved. So you think, “Oh, well, this must be the umbrella organization for my county.” And there's no relationship there whatsoever. Less than one percent of The Humane Society of the United States’s budget goes back to any sort of local chapters or local shelters or anything along those lines and instead, they use that money to file lawsuits to go after big agriculture, to go after the outdoors, our history, hunting, fishing, trapping those types of things. They're extremists. They don't want to see anything that we're doing. Certainly, you know their goal. Their former CEO, he's been since removed due to some character flaws and bad things that were going on there, we're not going to get in the gutter of things. He made it clear that his goals on hunting and their new leadership has that same mentality. In fact, their website was recently updated, and one of their initiatives is to end hunting. That's it. I mean, it's just plain as day, so we've got to be getting the word out. We've got to have more and more people involved in just paying attention to these issues and watching what's going on. Because it may start in Maine, or it may start in California. But those things slowly creep and bounced to other states. So what happens at one area. It's happening in New Jersey now. It could be happening in Pennsylvania next. It could be happening in Virginia. After that, they bounce around and we've got to be vigilant on these things.
SF: I agree. This is a big dollar game. Okay, so here's one of my questions is Why does my fifty dollars matter? I mean, as you know, I've joined. But if anybody's listening saying ”My fifty dollars won't even make any kind of a difference.” Can you talk to that? Can my small donation really make a difference?
SC: Heck, yes, It can. Absolutely it can. It's interesting just looking at the hunter numbers. We’ve got the most recent report it was reflecting 2016 hunting license numbers and there was, I think, 11.5 or 12 million licenses bought that year. If we had just 1% of those hunters becoming members of the Sportsmen's Alliance, it's a game changer. We're talking about one percent of everybody who hunts, becoming a fifty dollar member or one hundred dollars member of the Sportsmen's Alliance. All the sudden, we're not having to pick and choose which issues we get involved in. All the sudden, we're able to do more advancing type of things and more proactive things. One of our pro-active programs. Again, it's a partnership program called Families Field. If you live in a state that has an apprentice license or a mentor hunting license, that's a proactive program that Sportsmen's Alliance, National Shooting Sports Foundation, and the National Wild Turkey Federation have partnered on for a number of years. I think we have apprentice licenses or mentored hunting licenses implemented in one way, shape or form in 40 states. We can do more of those types of things if we have more members. Thirty five dollar members, more fifty dollars members. So, yeah, it makes a huge impact. That's what it's all about, and not only from a funding standpoint from an advocacy standpoint, because then that one percent that becomes a member out there. They're up to date on what's going on and they're able to articulate and to communicate with people in their network. The guys that you're going out hunting with, you're able to share that information and will give them a heads up on a “Did you guys know what's going on? Hey, there's this issue that Sportman’s Alliance is working on and were able to have just a huge influence at the grassroots level from that regard as well”, too. I get “What the heck, what's one membership? What's one vote? What's my little impact gonna be?” By itself, it all starts to add up, and then you start to have that pebble in a pond ripple effect. More of us that are engaged. More of us that are involved. We can really move a mountain, but we've gotta have people involved in the fight. Basically, we're turning the death by a thousand cuts around and applying it to the other side instead of it being applied.
JM: Where can our viewers and listeners do this? Where can they join.
SC: Our website is Sportsmensalliance.org You know, right there at the top. There's alliance membership. They can become an individual member. They can follow us on Facebook. We're on all the social platforms. The website is the main place to go for up to date information into joining to become a member. That's where you need to go.
For More Information On Joining The Sportsman’s Alliance Visit https://www.sportsmensalliance.org/