Outside magazine, August 1996
"Well, they do like to shoot birds," figures Maureen Hinkle, a lobbyist for the National Audubon Society. Hinkle is speculating on the motivations of the newest member of the green movement, the National Rifle Association. Last April, the NRA joined its unlikely new allies in denouncing President Clinton's decision to open up 36.4 million acres of fallow land-enrolled in the government's Conservation Reserve Program-to grazing. Under the CRP, farmers are paid to establish grasses and trees, instead of crops, on fragile portions of their private land; scientists say the program has helped repopulate several threatened bird species. While Clinton's move alienated environmentalists, it got big cheers from its intended beneficiaries, farmers and ranchers in electorally crucial western and midwestern states. For its part, the gun lobby insists its support of habitat preservation is nothing new. But NRA conservation director Susan Lamson still feels the need to clarify one point. "We are not environmentalists," she says defiantly. "We're conservationists."