In a move that mirrors action recently taken by Wyoming agencies and officials, U.S. Congress overwhelmingly passed a measure to save hunter education and archery programs in public schools.
Earlier this month, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the Wyoming Education Department and some elected officials announced their intentions to continue and expand hunter education programs and archery classes in Wyoming Public Schools. The program will be funded entirely through the state, freeing it from national political controversies, they said.
Meanwhile, members of U.S. Congress – including Wyoming’s delegation – had introduced and backed bills to protect funding for similar public school programs across the county.
The Biden administration tried to defund those programs under the federal Safer Communities Act, claiming that they involved giving children “dangerous weapons training” by instructing them about firearms in hunter education and teaching them to shoot bows in archery classes.
The U.S. House passed a bill to protect the money for those outdoor programs Wednesday, and the Senate passed it unanimously late that night, Andrew Wilkins, the director of land conservation policy for the National Wildlife Federation, told Cowboy State Daily.
“I was pleased to see such a unified front on this measure,” he said.
Biden Expected To Sign
Despite the Biden administration’s previous efforts to cut the funding, Wilkins – who works in Washington, D.C. – said he’s confident that the president will sign the bill into law.
First, because it sends a clear message that Americans still value outdoor education for their children, and also because Congress showed rare, strong bipartisan support.
“We’re pretty confident that the president is going to sign it. There’s not much bipartisanship in Congress these days,” Wilkins said. “But credit where credit is due — both parties worked hard on this, and the Department of Education supported this too.”
A Wyoming gun rights advocate told Cowboy State Daily that he was heartened by Congress’s action, but said the larger problem of gun control infused into the Safer Communities Act still remains.
“It was a poor law that allowed the Biden administration to do this (try cutting the funds) in the first place,” said Mark Jones of Buffalo, the hunter program coordinator for Gun Owners of America.
“Rather than rewriting the law, they are passing a ‘fix,’” he added. “They’re put a Band-Aid on the wound.”
He also praised the Game and Fish and other state agencies and officials taking the imitative to fund Wyoming’s hunter education and archery programs independently.
“If they can stand up and defend these school programs in Wyoming, what else can they stand up on?” Jones said.
Valued Across The County
Wilkins agreed it’s a good thing that Wyoming and other states can support their own programs. But it’s also heartening that congressional delegates from those states were willing to go to bat who don’t have that advantage.
It shows that teaching children outdoors skills is still a universal American value, he said.
“It was the value of outdoors education that drove this effort, and the recognition that many of these programs couldn’t have survived even a single school year without federal funding,” he said. “These programs are many kids’ first connection to the outdoors.”
Mark Heinz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.