Coyle noted that 35 million people in the United States are part of the hunter and angler community. Many live in rural areas, have fairly conservative political views, and belong to the National Rifle Association. About 50 percent declare themselves to be evangelicals, and approximately 80 percent voted Republican in the last two presidential elections. This community’s characteristics pose a potential challenge to effectively educating members about climate change. Nevertheless, over several years, the NWF reached out to hunters and anglers to educate them on climate change through an extensive training program in 35 states. The goals were to address their skepticism about climate change, improve their capacity to discuss the subject, and motivate them to support climate change legislation and other government initiatives.
The NWF directly tested different content and visual presentations in pilot courses attended by selected leaders of state and national hunting and angling organizations. The participants suggested several approaches to be included in the courses: (1) use local rather than international or even nationwide examples of global warming’s effects, (2) stay sharply focused on habitat and wildlife when educating about problems and solutions, and (3) have a format that allows ample time for participants to describe their own observations and experiences. After incorporating these suggestions into the training materials, the program began to show signs of success. For example, as trained cadres of leaders began to talk to others in their respective states, there were evident shifts in hunter and angler support for policy reforms. Organizations that had been reluctant to support climate change legislation or even to admit there was a problem started to become advocates. When the NWF brought hunters and anglers to Washington, DC, to talk with congressional leaders, more than 90 of 100 participants participated as a result of relationships that they had formed during their NWF training. The training program and the relationships it fostered also contributed to 670 national, state, and regional hunting and fishing groups signing a letter to the 111th Congress urging passage of the American Clean Energy and Security Act.1
Based on this success, the NWF staff used survey research to identify and develop training aligned with the cultural sensitivities, conceptual frames, and informational needs of several other constituencies. Training was targeted to the unique interests and concerns of environmental and civic activists, master gardeners, conservative faith-based organizations, watershed conservationists, land trust leaders, birders, university groups, coastal wetland conservation organizations, and business leaders. For each community, the training had three goals:
1The U.S. House of Representatives approved the act in June 2009, but the bill died in the Senate.