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March 16, 2011

NSSF President’s Keynote Address at North American Conference


Steve Sanetti, NSSF’s president and CEO, today gives a keynote address at the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference in Kansas City, Mo., highlighting the 100-year anniversary of the Wildlife Management Institute and the firearms and ammunition industry’s longstanding, hands-off support of that organization.

Here, in part, is Steve Sanetti’s speech:

Ladies and gentlemen,

2011 marks the 50th anniversary of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade association for the firearms and ammunition industry.  It also marks the 85th anniversary of the Sporting Arms and Ammunition Manufacturers’ Institute, Inc. (SAAMI), the technical standards setting organization for this industry.  I have the honor of serving as president and CEO of both these respected industry groups.  I have been asked to speak with you this morning about a conservation organization that also has its roots in industry, yet has branched out in recent years to be far more inclusive and influential–the Wildlife Management Institute (WMI).

WMI is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, making it one of the grande dames of conservation organizations.  It has successfully bridged many worlds and has united industry, the outdoor community, and various conservation and wildlife constituencies in an alliance to scientifically manage our precious natural resources in a most effective way–one which no single organization could have ever hoped to achieve for itself.

So let’s look at some of WMI’s 100-year history . . . and observe how WMI/industry cooperation helped everyone concerned. . . .

Perhaps WMI’s  stellar achievement has been its unyielding philosophy that, within the extremely successful North American Model of Wildlife Management, hunting plays a most important role in conservation, habitat preservation, and species management, which we must never forget, and which the world outside our doors needs to be reminded of–badly!

The sporting arms and ammunition industry was the driving force behind the establishment of WMI’s predecessors (starting with the American Game Protective and Propagation Association, supported by Remington Arms).

From 1911 to 2004, our industry was nearly the sole financial support for WMI; yet we let WMI essentially guide itself.  By so doing, it enabled WMI to remain small, mobile, independent, noncompetitive among NGOs, and dedicated wholly to improved professional management of wildlife resources.

We supported establishment of the National Game Conference in 1915, predecessor of the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference.

We provided the funds for Aldo Leopold’s Game Survey of the North Central States, the first-ever comprehensive regional survey of wildlife populations, and its publication.

The firearms and ammunition industry . . . has willingly accepted taxation on its products in support of natural resource conservation, resulting in the most successful wildlife restoration and management program in the world. . . .

For nearly a century, we have also supported WMI’s book publication program, starting with Ducks, Geese and Swans of North America in 1942 and 37 other titles since. . . .

Industry continues to support, but by no means control, WMI’s activities, and that’s an important distinction.  Much of WMI’s influence and prestige in its important areas of operations comes from its science-based approaches to wildlife management and its working together with non-industry partners to find solutions to the many vexing problems which face all of us who love the outdoors.

We have to find constructive ways to work with each other and to follow the path where science, not emotion, leads us, in a world where it is all too easy to lapse into either a fawning sentimentality about nature or a insensitivity to the views of others which ultimately could hear the end of the North American Model and the consequent ruin of all we have built.

Industry has long been a willing partner in scientific wildlife management and, along with WMI, has been proud to lead the way, both with programs and dollars.  We have committed to getting the word out . . . that hunters and target shooters are conservationists, proudly funding the lion’s share of habitat protection for game and non-game species alike with Pittman-Robertson Excise Tax dollars on the sales of firearms and ammunition.

But ultimately, how these funds are used by the state and federal agencies is, and has been, guided by the research and wisdom of groups like WMI, whose goals we fully share.  We hope that WMI will enjoy yet another century of success, because ultimately it benefits every man, woman and child in this nation as they help steward our precious natural resources and our American way of life.

To [WMI President] Steve Williams and all the staff of WMI, past, present and future, we extend our profound thanks for a job so very well done, and our sincerest best wishes for their future success.  Because it will be everyone’s success.

Thank you.