By Mark Kenyon

Since the launch of the National Deer Alliance this summer, there has been a torrent of questions from deer hunters across the country hoping to better understand what this new conservation organization will be focused on, how it will operate, and why it’s worth joining. To this point though, since the NDA is just getting up and running, the answers have been few and far between.

For that reason I went to Craig Dougherty, Executive Director of the National Deer Alliance, and asked him some of the most common questions hunters are raising about the NDA. Today we’ve got Part 1 of our NDA Q&A. Read on and then if so inclined, be sure to visit NationalDeerAlliance.com to become a member.

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In what ways will the National Deer Alliance advocate for deer & deer hunters? 

Grassroots Letter & Phone Campaigns: Since the NDA is organizing around the web and capturing email addresses of its members, it can rapidly inform and engage members on issues important to them where they live. This will enable active letter-writing and telephone campaigns to make decision-makers aware of member issues and concerns. Strength lies in numbers, which is the primary motivator for nearly all policy makers (votes matter!).

Grassroots Member Engagement: In addition to letter and phone campaigns, there also will be opportunities for members to participate in public meetings, hearings and stakeholder roundtable discussions where they can actively engage in issue/policy development and resolution. NDA will provide members with key “talking points” and other information to enable sound recommendations. We envision a world where NDA members take an active role in forming sound deer policy, working hand-in-hand with wildlife agencies and other policy makers.

NDA Positions: Since the NDA will have broad representation among all groups interested in deer, it can take positions from a national level in addition to grassroots actions. However, any actions taken nationally will be thoroughly vetted by the NDA advocacy steering committee, Board of Directors, and with a clear understanding of where NDA members stand on a given issue.

NDA Advocacy Specialists: In time, NDA will employ regional advocacy specialists to work on behalf of its members to advance positive policies and regulations for deer and deer hunting. Currently, the NDA executive director and one-part time employee are handling this responsibility.

Media Outreach: NDA is quickly establishing a network of media (print, TV, web and social media) relationships to better inform and unite the entire deer community on key issues impacting deer and deer hunting. This engagement is intended to extend NDA’s impact well beyond its members.

When will a Board of Directors, steering committee and/or official NDA staff be announced?

Board of Directors and Steering Committee: We are currently narrowing down a list of potential Board of Directors and steering committee candidates to ensure representation from all parts of the deer world including: the hunting industry, academia and research, state/federal agencies, landowners, media, and conservation organizations. We expect to have a functioning board and steering committee in place by year’s end.

Staff: Several organizations including QDMA and the Archery Trade Association have been extremely generous with their employees and internal resources to help get the NDA up and running. Right now we have a functional NDA staff in place with additional staff to be added as budgets permit. Expected future staff additions include: advocacy specialists, marketing and social media, agency and industry relations, content and social research experts.

How will the NDA handle divisive issues or ethics related questions?

Whenever possible, the NDA will work to unite rather than divide hunters. Several issues have been dividing hunters for years, and the anti-hunting crowd loves every minute! That said, there are certain biological realities that can’t be ignored, as science is at the very center of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation which has served us so well for decades. We anticipate publishing a series of balanced “pros and cons” papers as well as “best practice” statements that address many of the more divisive issues. We will try to avoid dividing hunters over issues that lack clear scientific justification or are clearly not in the best interest of hunting and our hunting heritage. We realize this will be a fine line to walk. The alternative (hunters battling among themselves) is far too destructive.

How will the NDA steering committee make decisions on what positions to take on issues?

This question is still being addressed as it is at the very core of the NDA. Traditionally, issue positions have been developed by a handful of individuals within a given organization, agency or stakeholder group. As such, rarely are all views considered – especially those of everyday deer hunters. The goal of NDA’s advocacy steering committee is to assemble a diverse group of experts representing the entire deer spectrum to ensure balanced perspectives. These positions will be heavily influenced by input from NDA members gained through surveys, polls and direct communication. We strongly believe deer hunters must be heard, and this means the NDA must be a good listener. This is central to what will make the NDA work.

Will the NDA work solely on wild deer/deer hunting issues, or will it also be open to addressing issues relating to captive deer?

The bulk of NDA’s efforts will be focused on issues that affect wild deer and our deer-hunting heritage. However, certain issues within the captive deer arena have the potential to impact wild deer and deer hunting and therefore cannot be ignored. Therefore, the NDA will engage this community to better understand their issues and to seek common ground wherever possible.

How will the NDA deliver value to its members without the traditional magazine or physical presence like other conservation organizations?

The NDA represents the next generation of conservation where organizations rely heavily on online and social media tools to accomplish desired outcomes. This approach allows real-time member communication and engagement. We envision a world where a member will get a text wishing them a happy deer season opener on their smart phones as they drive to deer camp or an action alert when NDA has identified an issue of concern in their state or community. This model allows NDA members to become “digital deer volunteers” and make a difference, often in a matter of minutes and without going anywhere or attending a meeting.

As for a physical presence, we anticipate opportunities for members to attend NDA rallies, meetings and other events that advance specific agendas or just bring members together for fun and fellowship. The first major NDA event is the 2015 North American Deer Summit to be held May 6-8, 2015 in Louisville, Kentucky. This event is being hosted by NDA and is open to all NDA members. The goal of the Summit is to identify specific issues and action items for the NDA to advance in the coming months and years.

The birth of the NDA was sponsored, in part, by the Quality Deer Management Association – in what way will the QDMA influence the NDA and its mission or actions in the future? Is the NDA just the QDMA repackaged?

The NDA will be a stand-alone organization with a separate IRS designation, a separate Board of Directors, independent staff and a distinctly different mission from QDMA. Another unique aspect of the NDA is that it’s not whitetail specific, but also focuses on issues affecting mule deer and black-tailed deer. Therefore, while QDMA will be actively involved with the NDA, so too will Whitetails Unlimited, Mule Deer Foundation, and many other local and state deer associations. This will ensure that all positions taken by NDA will be reflective of all members rather than any one organization.

Can members or deer hunters contact the NDA for help regarding local deer related issues? If so, how?

Working local deer issues is what NDA was created to do. Our cyber orientation will make us quick to communicate and act locally. We will not be successful without a strong local membership base. Once this is in place, we expect to hear plenty from NDA members on local issues. Are the anti-hunters circulating a petition to stop a special archery season? The NDA will be able to alert members of this threat quickly and amass several times the number of signatures to tamp down the attack before it gets any traction. All you have to do is join – and get every one of your friends and relatives to do the same.

For more information or to join the National Deer Alliance, visit NationalDeerAlliance.com