Author: Cassie Scott
Jay McAninch, ATA president/CEO, sought King’s services after King retired from a 31-year career with the F&WS. King was assistant director of the agency’s wildlife and sportfish restoration program, so he had firsthand insight into FET collection and redistribution to state agencies.
King’s professional experience and personal passion for archery and bowhunting made him uniquely qualified to create the ATA’s government-relations program, which is now well developed. In fact, King spent the past 10 years working with wildlife-agency directors and leaders to establish or expand archery and bowhunting programs across the United States.
Emily Beach, ATA’s senior director of outreach and education, watched King expand the program, which began with four state wildlife agencies working and partnering with the ATA. That number has since grown to 22 such agencies. Beach and King worked with state-agency staff to help them adopt ATA programs like Explore Bowhunting and Explore Bowfishing, which recruit archers and bowhunters.
“Mitch made ATA’s presence more consistent by attending meetings, forming relationships, and integrating archery- and bowhunting-related programs into state budgets and curriculums,” Beach said. “He approaches problems as opportunities, and established the ATA as a strong partner and advocate for recruitment, retention and reactivation efforts.”
King’s FET expertise helped him answer questions from ATA members, and persuaded the F&WS to approve using FET revenues to build and promote archery and bowhunting programs. With King’s departure, Wendy Lang, ATA’s membership manager, will field FET questions.
Caption: Mitch King’s professional experience and personal passion for archery and bowhunting made him uniquely qualified to create the ATA’s government-relations program. For the past 10 years, he worked in his role to expand archery and bowhunting programs across the United States. Photo Credit: Shane Indrebo
In recent years, King also worked extensively with state wildlife agencies and ATA-member scent manufacturers to develop a program to ensure the industry sustains this market by doing everything possible to prevent liquid scents from spreading chronic wasting disease to wild elk, deer and moose. Those efforts created the ATA Deer Protection Program, now led by Dan Forster with assistance from Scott Gieseke, ATA’s information systems and technology manager.
Another person who enjoyed working with King is Ron Regan, executive director of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.
“I’ve learned (Mitch) values friendship and partnerships,” Regan said. “He understands how state wildlife agencies are at the tip of the broadhead in delivering conservation. In his role with ATA he always wanted to vet and check with state agencies before going live with an initiative, idea or proposed legislation. You can’t ask for anything more than that.”
King leaves his role with mixed emotions, but believes Forster will do exceptional work.
“My nearly 10 years with the ATA have been exciting,” King said. “I’ll always appreciate the opportunity the ATA provided me to stay productive in my career. I’ve enjoyed working with the members and, of course, ATA staff. They’re good-quality folks with a passion for the resource, not necessarily the dollar, and that’s rare. I have enjoyed helping them be successful, and look forward to what Dan will bring to the table. Having him step in and take over gives me the utmost confidence that the program and ATA’s reputation with state agencies will do nothing but improve.”
Dan Forster brings over 30 years of wildlife-management experience to his job as the ATA’s next director of government relations. “The relationships I’ve built, and my previous credibility within the industry, make my transition much easier,” Forster said. “Thanks to Mitch, there aren’t any bridges that need mending or roads that need paving, so I’ll continue to work hard to keep up ATA’s reputation and serve as a good partner and resource for state agencies.” Photo: Courtesy of Dan Forster
King mentored Forster the past six months as he transitioned into his new role, but their relationship goes further back. They previously collaborated during Forster’s tenure at the Georgia DNR, and attended many of the same meetings the past 10 years. Forster also sought King’s help and advice to help develop a shooting range at Georgia Southern University. King flew to the area to provide guidance and help explain ATA’s Archery Park Guide.
“Mitch always provided meaningful, credible and valuable information,” Forster said. “A lot of people called on him and folks at ATA to help. Creating the Shooting Sports Education Center was one of those times. My interactions with ATA provided a practical working knowledge of the tools, relationships and expertise ATA brings to state agencies.”
In recent years Forster also served as president of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and chairman of the Council to Advance Hunting and Shooting Sports. Those experiences provided valuable insight to the workings of state and federal agencies, and built relationships with other agency directors, researchers and executives.
Forster’s career, bowhunting background, longtime relationships with King and McAninch, and firsthand ATA experiences make him a great fit as ATA’s director of government relations.
“The relationships I’ve built, and my previous credibility within the industry, make my transition much easier,” Forster said. “Thanks to Mitch, there aren’t any bridges that need mending or roads that need paving, so I’ll continue to work hard to keep up ATA’s reputation and serve as a good partner and resource for state agencies. I want them to reach out to us for assistance. I’ll be there to provide it.”
Dan Forster, a Georgia native, is widely respected for his work in wildlife research, population management and policy development. He attended the University of Georgia and holds a B.S. degree in forest resources, with an emphasis on wildlife management; and an M.S. degree in wildlife biology. Photo: Courtesy of Dan Forster
In assuming full responsibilities as the ATA’s government-relations director, Forster will also continue King’s work to implement policies, strengthen relationships and R3 programming, and develop plans to expand archery and bowhunting nationwide.
Regan looks forward to working with Forster, and believes he will ensure the ATA keeps helping states develop archery, conservation and bowhunting programs and opportunities.
“Dan is a very strong strategic thinker who sees the big picture and doesn’t get fenced in by paradigms or predispositions of the past,” Regan said. “He has a great network of professional contacts, and has exceptional relationship and communication skills for talking through issues. He understands how important it is to keep the states front and center when thinking about conservation. I think we’re going to have nothing but a strong, positive relationship with Dan. I look forward to working with him.”
Forster said one of his priorities is to review bowhunting regulations in all 50 states to identify rules or laws that hinder bowhunting participation. He plans to use that information to work with states to develop or adopt customized, easily understood regulations that boost bowhunting recruitment and participation.
Another high-priority item is to work with McAninch on Capitol Hill through the Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable. This group promotes policy and legislative reforms that help ensure archery, bowhunting, fishing, shooting and other outdoor activities contribute to the nation’s economy.
“I’m really pleased with how Mitch and Dan have represented our industry so professionally,” McAninch said. “I doubt any other trade association has been so well-served. We have benefited by having two quality individuals with great reputations and credibility with state agencies. That helps us enormously as we work to improve archery and bowhunting across the country.”
Contact Forster at (770) 601-5038 or firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions regarding government relations.