Fireside Chat with Bernhardt and Perdue

Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue at SHOT Show 2020.

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue (left) and Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt (below)during their SHOT Show fireside chat.
Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue (far left) and Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt (far right)during their SHOT Show fireside chat.Kris Millgate Tight Line Media

Fill 12.5 miles of aisles with booths belonging to 2,600 exhibitors all contributing to an industry worth $6.2 billion, and you’re bound to attract the attention of national politicians. Case in point: the appearance of Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue at SHOT Show 2020. They spoke with Larry Keane, NSSF Senior Vice President and General Counsel, during a fireside chat, followed by an audience Q&A.

During the hour-long discussion, Keane questioned the two Trump administration officials about everything from public lands to their favorite hunting spots. Here’s how they responded.

Public Land

Bernhardt: “I’m not sure people recognize how big of a deal it is to have public-land access enshrined in law. This is an important thing to have in statutes. It’s not for when things are happy. It’s for when there’s a rub. Over time, you will find having access in law is so beneficial to you.”


Perdue: “What we’ve seen from wildfires is a result of land not being managed. We’ve had policies that precluded us from managing. We are way behind the curve. We are going to have more active management with thinning and prescribed fires. It will be better for all users.”

Limiting Factors

Bernhardt: “If you look at why people don’t get into hunting or fishing, lack of access is an issue. The other major reason is the complexity of our regulations. We’ve spent a lot of time harmonizing our regulations so someone can go fishing or bird hunting without having to be a lawyer to figure out regulations.”

Urban Sprawl

Perdue: “I’d like to see the development of state funds for buying land through easements. That creep is going to come about if you don’t get ahead of it and protect the land.”

Bernhardt: “I think we’re in a much better place today on those ideas than we were 40 years ago. I’m optimistic about the future. I think the vast majority of planning that occurs today considers [wild land] and they didn’t do that 40 years ago.”

Chronic Wasting Disease

Perdue: “It’s a dangerous thing. It has a real impact on our deer, elk, and moose herds. We need to encourage awareness and communication about where we’re finding it.”

Colorado Wolves

Bernhardt: “I think we are a long way from the re-introduction of wolves in Colorado. We’re a long way from that being an issue happening in real time.”


Perdue: “Democracy works best when there’s engagement. We need boots-on-the-ground feedback. When people come in and say, ‘Here’s where the public is and here’s what we’d like,’ that’s the way to get things done.”

Favorite Hunt

Bernhardt: “Goose hunting with my son.”

Perdue: “I grew up turkey hunting in Georgia. My wife once asked me if I like hunting more than her. I said, ‘Is it spring or fall?’”

Favorite Hunting Spot

Bernhardt: “Seven miles outside of Steamboat Springs, Colorado.”

Perdue: “Wherever I’m going next.” — Kris Millgate