By David Lien
Duluth News Tribune: 7/17/14
In 1887 Theodore Roosevelt founded the Boone and Crockett Club with fellow sportsmen. The group later became Roosevelt’s brain trust of “hunter-conservationists” during his presidential crusade to preserve habitat for elk, deer, buffalo and other species among America’s vast wild places and wide-open spaces. Roosevelt’s work as a “conservation president” was one of many ways he left lasting imprints on the nation.
However, today, Roosevelt’s public-lands legacy is being put at risk. Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a budget engineered by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., that supports selling “unneeded acreage” of federal land on the open market.
Hunters, anglers, and other outdoorsmen and outdoors-women are intimately familiar with our public lands. We know that the possible sale or transfer of federal public lands used for hunting, fishing, camping and hiking will only serve to enrich a few at the expense of many and eliminate access to our public lands and waters. These are lands set aside “for the greatest good of the greatest number for the longest time,” as Gifford Pinchot, first director of the United States Forest Service (appointed by Teddy Roosevelt), said.
Steve Kandell, director of Trout Unlimited’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project, also made it clear fishermen and sportsmen don’t support land sell-off proposals. Kandell said at thinkprogress.org, “Public lands shape the American identity, support local economies and perpetuate our sporting heritage. They should not be sold.” To hunters, proposals to sell off federal public lands or to transfer them to state ownership are at best unsettling and at worst doing the bidding of anti-hunting organizations.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t that long ago — during President George W. Bush’s administration — that similar shenanigans were taking place. However, it didn’t take long for administration officials to realize their actions were unpopular with nearly everyone, as reported by the Rocky Mountain News: “There’s little support for a Bush administration plan to sell 300,000 acres of Forest Service land, federal officials said. … ‘We acknowledge that the vast majority are expressing opposition,’ said Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey. He said 75 percent of the comments received were negative.” Of course, this wasn’t surprising to hunters and anglers.
The annual survey of hunting and fishing by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found the vast majority of hunters pursue game on public lands. In New Mexico, for example, 94 percent of hunters surveyed said they hunted on public lands. In other Western states, the percentages also were high: Arizona 82 percent, Idaho 88 percent, Montana 86 percent, Utah 81 percent, Colorado 92 percent, and Wyoming 74 percent. In Minnesota, we can venture into two national forests totaling approximately 3 million acres along with millions more acres in state and county lands.
As explained by Field & Stream contributor Hal Herring, the most powerful and effective anti-hunting movement in the United States is not PETA or the Humane Society. It is not headquartered in any bustling metropolis. And it has no representatives in Hollywood. The most powerful anti-hunting movement in the U.S. is the loss of places to hunt and shoot.
America’s tradition of allowing public-lands access for hunting, angling and other outdoor recreation is the epitome of our unique and successful North American model of natural resource/wildlife management. And for most of us, public lands are the only lands we will ever own. Our public lands are not for sale!
David Lien of Colorado Springs, Colo., formerly of Grand Rapids, is co-chairman of Minnesota Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (backcountryhunters.org), and is the author of “Age-Old Quests: Hunting, Climbing & Trekking.” He recently was recognized by Field & Stream as a “Hero of Conservation.”