The Sports Coalition is not unitary: Battles within the Fishing Coalition
Two of the frameworks that I use to explain wildlife politics in my book involve interest group theory and the advocacy coalition framework (ACF). The interest group approach was heavily employed by political scientists to explain how some interest groups were able to dominate policymaking in certain substantive areas including those affecting wildlife such as grazing on Federal lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. For many years, ranchers dominated these policies and were able to gain easy access for their livestock at very low costs and this activity affected wildlife such as wolves that were shot when they preyed upon the livestock as well as depleting grasslands they occupied—they also congregated around riparian areas that other wildlife needed. Interest group theory viewed policy in such areas as a result of a competition in which those groups with the best resources (e.g., access, numbers, financial) were able to win policies favorable to them. With the rise of the environmental movement, the ranchers and extractive industries faced competition from groups that had opposing goals and thus the “iron triangle” was weakened. The iron triangle refers to the fact that interest groups often dominated due to their strong influence over government agencies that managed land affecting wildlife such as BLM and that congressional committees also were dominated by representatives and senators closely aligned with them. With the growth of environmental movements and other relevant interests (e.g., animal rights organizations), the dominance of interest groups became less total and was more complex, often affected by other factors (e.g., media coverage) and the ACF approach views policy as also the outcome of competition among coalitions of interest groups that often had opposing interests. In my book, I discuss how there is a “sports” grouping composed of hunters, anglers, and others interested in recreational uses of wildlife that can play a key role in determining the outcomes of wildlife policymaking. The sports group unlike the rancher-extractive industry and environmental groups can sometime align themselves with the rancher-extractive industry coalition on issues such as hunting of predators like wolves but align themselves with the environmental coalition when it involves issues such as proposals for Federal government to give public lands over to state control.
But an additional point that I discuss in the book is that the coalition can often disagree among themselves in taking policy positions. Historically, for example, the hunting coalition has been fractured between wealthy hunters who hunt purely for sport and poorer subsistence hunters who hunt for food or to sell their kills for their earnings. Indeed, the establishment of regulations such as hunting seasons was established primarily due to the pressure from groups representing the elite hunting interests. Likewise, in the environmental coalition, there is often disagreement between ecologically-focused environmentalists concerned with maintaining populations species and who welcome and sometimes encourage hunting while animal-right groups are attached to individual wildlife do not tolerate consumptive uses of wildlife.
In my book, I discuss how the “angling” group also can have internal differences especially with differences between sports angles and the commercial fishing industry. Recently, an article appeared in Fish and Fisheries journal (Vol. 18, pp. 94-104) by Philip Loring titled “The political ecology of gear bans in two fisheries: Florida’s net ban and Alaska’s Salmon wars. For me, useful part of the article is the politics of fishing—how commercial fishers (in these two cases, they appear or argued to be small families-outfits—not the big ocean fishing industry) are in battle with sports fishers (who won out in the Florida case but not in the Alaska case). The author thinks the commercial fishers in Florida were inequitably treated and argues that the ban on fishing gear (fixed nets) had undesirable outcomes. In Alaska, the outcome was different mainly due to the Alaskan Constitution which gives rights to fishers. The author seems to argue (see below) that bans should not be done unless can be proven necessary—he uses the term precautionary approach to mean that harm to fishers must be avoided rather than protection of fishing populations. The ideas of political ecology and neoliberal are referenced in the article but I don’t find them very useful in providing insight into the dynamics of the cases. It seems to me that the two cases fits quite well into the Advocacy Coalition Framework because the winner was the group that could marshal the best resources and win over other groups such as the media but it also is affected by the institutional framework (the Alaskan Constitution in this case). Nevertheless, the article is useful for differentiating anglers into groups and thus the complexity of sports interest group(s). Loring’s article is available at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/faf.12169/full
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