The face of natural resource conservation at Federal Ammunition for the past 12 years lost his position last week in a job cut that caused a national stir on social media.
Ryan Bronson, only the third person since 1935 to lead Federal’s conservation program, said Monday on Twitter that the two-man conservation staff at Federal’s parent company, Vista Outdoor, was “terminated.” He and Jon Zinnel, the second in command, lost their jobs, the tweet said.
The announcement elicited concern about Federal’s decades-old commitment to wildlife habitat, shooting sports, hunter recruitment and other outdoor causes. The Anoka-based maker of ammo for hunting and target shooting has been a private-sector standout in those matters.
“We are saddened and concerned at this turn of events,’’ the Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports tweeted from Washington, D.C.
“Holy crap,’’ wrote Brian Hiller, a leading professor of wildlife management at Bemidji State University. “... concerned about what this means for the direction of the company.’’
Minnesota state Rep. Rick Hansen, D-South St. Paul, also weighed in on Twitter. “The big get bigger and bigger and forget their foundations,’’ wrote Hansen, chairman of the House Environment and Natural Resources Finance Division.
Two days later, Federal issued a news release reaffirming its conservation mission and support of shooting sports. Without mentioning Bronson, the statement announced “the addition” of Zinnel as Federal’s new conservation and youth shooting program manager.
The move prompted Bronson to update Twitter: “It is important to note that Federal Premium stepped up today and re-created their conservation manager position.’’
Jason Nash, Federal’s senior director of marketing, said Friday the changes were part of a corporate reorganization at Vista. Since 2015, the conservation program run by Bronson was spread across all of Vista’s brands.
“We’re able to have a dedicated staff again,’’ Nash said.
He acknowledged that the events of last week caused confusion but that Zinnel’s hiring will keep alive Federal’s legacy as a conservation leader.
Bronson declined to be interviewed. In a statement he said he is looking for a new job and that he was “very pleased the Federal Ammo team stepped up to bring Jon Zinnel back.’’
He said he was one of many Vista Outdoor employees let go for financial reasons. “I had 12 good years of meaningful work at the intersection of conservation, gun rights and business,’’ Bronson said.
Bronson, 46, is a biologist and former Department of Natural Resources employee who grew up in Elk River as the son of a Federal factory worker. He has overseen programs that benefit the Boy Scouts, 4-H, Pheasants Forever, National Wild Turkey Federation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and other groups.
Bronson went to work for Federal when its previous conservation director, Bill Stevens, retired. Bronson worked on issues around the country and served four years as a member of Minnesota’s Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council as an appointee of Gov. Tim Pawlenty.