Yesterday, in an address to the National Parks Conservation Association newly appointed Secretary of Interior Sally Jewel exclaimed that "There is a growing disconnect between people and nature, and this group understands we need to do something about that.” We couldn’t agree more, Secretary Jewel.
As hunters and anglers who celebrate the great American tradition of testing personal boundaries amid the solitude of the wilds, we certainly understand the threats that a growing reliance on motors and technology is having on our opportunities to honorably connect with nature. This is in fact is Backcountry Hunters & Anglers’ call to duty.
Whether we’re standing-up for backcountry habitat in Utah’s Bookcliff Mountains, speaking-up against motorized vehicle overuse and abuse, or working to protect Alaska’s fish factory from dangerous development proposals, we’re working to ensure that others have the same opportunities to hunt and fish our wild public lands as we’ve enjoyed. But we cannot do it alone.
We need energy development plans that account for the needs of wildlife and sportsmen BEFORE leases are issued, we need funding to maintain the trails that sportsmen have relied on for decades, we need to provide access to our landlocked public lands, and we most of all need to protect the backcountry habitat that we have left. Without taking action, as the great sportsmen conservationist Aldo Leopold put it in 1932, “the remaining remnant of wilderness will be pounded into road-dust long before we find out its values.”
Survey after survey shows that the top reason hunters hunt is to get outdoors and connect with nature. As affirmed by Randall Eaton in Why We Hunt, “Hunting is how we fall in love with nature. The basic instinct links up with the spiritual, and the result is that we become married to nature.” This marriage remains the bedrock of the conservation ethic and it drives a connection with nature which simply cannot be replaced.
As the Interior Department considers ways to reconnect people with nature, it must balance needs for development and multiple use with the original conservationist’s source of natural connection – our wild public land, water and wildlife.