Photo information: Senator John Tester (left) and RMEF President/CEO Kyle Weaver
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation paused to celebrate a significant and extremely rare achievement, especially in this day and age of political partisanship.
RMEF hosted Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), fellow hunting and conservation groups, and media members to recognize efforts behind the restoration of funding to schools with hunter education and archery curriculums.
Here’s the backstory. The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) cited one line in the year-old Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) that restricts funds being used to provide “a dangerous weapon” or “training in the use of a dangerous weapon,” to block funding to schools with hunter education and the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP).
Lawmakers who originally crafted the BSCA legislation said their intentions were completely misinterpreted by the DOE. Sportsmen and women agreed and did something about it.
“A call to action was necessary and we made that call to action,” said Kyle Weaver, RMEF president and CEO. “It ended up being the number-one call to action we’ve ever done. We (RMEF members) sent 2,000 messages directly to (DOE) Secretary Cardona and more than 6,000 messages to our elected officials. We asked them to restore that funding and correct this misinterpretation and I’m glad to say we were heard.”
Senator Tester and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, with support from the hunting and outdoor community, collaborated to draft the Protecting Hunting Heritage and Education Act.
“We went to work as a bipartisan group and were able to get a bill written and signed into law in a few weeks. From beginning to writing the bill to getting it to the president’s desk was a few weeks – literally unheard of. I’ve never seen it in my time in Congress,” said Senator Tester.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted 424-1 followed by a unanimous vote in the U.S. Senate to send the legislation to President Biden, who signed it into law one week later.
With hunting heritage as a key part of its mission, RMEF contributed $1.8 million to nearly 800 school-based projects safely teaching shooting sports over the years. RMEF also invested heavily in NASP, contributing to 340 projects in 37 states. Nearly 8,900 schools and 1.3 million students alone are involved in NASP.
Also on hand was Arnica Riggers, a seventh grader at Target Range School in Missoula, Montana.
“It’s important that you passed it because I have been practicing shooting with my dad for about two years now with my bow,” Riggers said to Senator Tester. “I feel hunter safety will teach other people how to be safe with their bows and their guns as it will teach me the same thing. I’m excited to go out and do that with my friends.”
“Hunter safety and Archery in the Schools, these are programs that build character in our kids. They teach them how to handle firearms safely. They teach them how to hunt ethically. They teach them how to be stewards of our land,” said Tony Schoonen, Boone and Crockett Club CEO and RMEF life member.
(Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation)