Finally, Hunters Get a Seat in Interior Department

So far, the Obama Administration's appointments to posts and commissions, from the Cabinet on down to obscure committees, have been characterized by a curious mix of high-minded fairness and political payback.

Obama's appointment of a Nobel-prize winning scientist to lead the Energy Department is an example of the former. His appointment of a leading fundraiser to be ambassador to Britain is an example of the latter.

So it's hard to know what to make of the administration's reform of a hunter-oriented advisory board, previously known as the Sporting Conservation Council.

The new council, whose formation was announced last month (http://www.doi.gov/news/pressreleases/2010_02_04_release.cfm) promises a lot. But the main thing it guarantees is that hunters and anglers will get a seat at the table as some grand-scale issues are discussed. They include landscape-scale conservation initiatives, the role of hunting as a primary tool of wildlife management, and the impact of federal policy on hunting and fishing access and wildlife habitat.

What sets the new board, officially called the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council, apart from its predecessor is that hunting groups and shooting-sports representatives are specifically designated as members. That's a very good thing.

Curious about the specific charge of the board, I checked out the bureaucratic underpinning that gives it life, authority and funding. You can too, by visiting the Federal Register here. You may be surprised to learn, as I was, that many of the seats on the board are already promised to specific interest groups. Only a handful are reserved for unaffiliated hunters and anglers.

Even more surprising, and urgent, was my discovery that nominees for the board are due in Washington, D.C., on March 8. If you know someone who is an articulate and accomplished sportsman, nominate him or her for this board. It's great to have representatives from designated groups, but it's also important to have unaffiliated enthusiasts represent the great majority of unaffiliated sportsmen.

And, like they say of elections: if you don't vote, you lose your privilege to grumble about the results.