Calling Norm Bangerter a "do nothing" governor when it comes to outdoor and wildlife issues, representatives of every corner of Utah's sportsman and conservation community officially offered their endorsements to gubernatorial candidate Ted Wilson and Congressman Wayne Owens.
In unprecedented unity between the various groups, ranging from the Sierra Club to the legislative arm of the National Rifle Association, several leaders met Tuesday to officially announce their stand and ask individual sportsmen and conservationists to support the two candidates.More than 60 of what spokesman Kenley Brunsdale, co-chairman of the Utah Roundtable of Sportsman and Conservations, called the most prominent sportsman, conservationists and activist leaders in the state have agreed to endorse the two candidates.
Among the 64 names listed were Dick Carter, coordinator of the Utah Wilderness Association; Bill Christensen, president of the Utah Hunters Federation; Jerry Little, president of the Utah Bass Fisherman Federation; Dell Taylor, president of Utah Marksman Association; Andy White, president of the Utah Audubon Society; Jim Salmon, president of Utah Coalition of Muzzleloaders; Ann Wechsler, co-chair of Save Our Canyons; and Denise Parker, the 14-year-old Olympic bronze medalist who listed herself as a future voter concerned about the future.
Doug Day, chairman of the Utah Wildlife Leadership Coalition, which represents 47 hunting groups in the state, said he was involved in helping the Bangerter administration get started four years ago.
"And I had great hope for wildlife and habitat, but it didn't happen. We see little caring on the part of the administration to the things we feel strongly about. They've been pushed in the background."
Day added that every conservation and wildlife group he is aware of in Utah has agreed to endorse the two Democratic candidates.
It is not surprising that Day and Brunsdale are displeased with Bangerter and the Republicans. Day's job in the Division of Wildlife Resources didn't work out under the Bangerter administration and Day quit. Brunsdale, a former law partner of Owens, lobbyied Owens this year on behalf of UP&L and his conservation group on the CUP funding bill, which Owens wrote. GOP State Chairman Craig Moody filed an ethics complaint against Owens over the Brunsdale matter. That complaint was dismissed by the House Ethics Committee, with Democrats calling the complaint a cheap shot.
"An important thing to point out is we have a very diverse group of folks here," said Randy Lukez, conservation chairman of the Utah Sierra Club. "I think it's very rare you are going to see the Sierra Club and the NRA sitting around the table together, let along agreeing on an issue like this."
David Buhler, campaign manger for Bangerter, said that the governor is interested in wildlife and is, in fact, a sportsman . . . "He's taking a day and a half off to go deer hunting."
He added that the main criticism of Bangerter is that he is too pro-development. "He has been fair with them, but he looks at all sides of an issue."
The sportsmen's major complaint is that the present administration has not only withheld support for wildlife projects but in many instances gone against vital wildlife issues.
"The biggest wildlife project I've been involved in has been the CUP funding for wildlife. If it hadn't been for the sportsmen and Wayne Owens there would have been no involvement from the state. In fact, he (Bangerter) opposed a provision that would have provided as much as $55 million a year in funding for wildlife. It would have cost the Utah taxpayers nothing and he opposed it," Day said.
Buhler said on this issue it would have been the water users that would have suffered. He listed among the accomplishement of Bangerter the signing of the hunting license increase, the in-stream flow bill, the Utah Duck Stamp bill and the pumping of the Great Salt Lake, which has helped waterfowl habitat around the lake.
Owens, the group said, is a hunter and conservationist with unusual appreciation for Utah's heritage. Owens has been there on every occasion when sportsmen and wildlife have need a champion in federal congress.
Wilson was also called an active outdoor enthusiast and the "only clear choice" of Utahns who care about the conservation and wildlife.
Alan Carver, president of the Utah Shooting Sports Council, the legislative are of the NRA, said his group has been very troubled by Bangerter. His group endorsed Bangerter four years ago.
"Recently I worked with the NRA in grading Utah's candidates. Wilson was given an `A' and Bangerter a weak `B.' Somehow it leaked out and some political pressure was put on. When it comes out, now, Bangerter will have an `A,' but he doesn't deserve it. I've never had a grade preemptively changed like that. Someone interceded for Bangerter."