by Darrell Spencer, 8-22-2011
Dear Senator Klobuchar --
We write on behalf of Minnesota Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, the state chapter of the national organization Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. We are group of outdoorsmen and women who value the high quality hunting and fishing experiences that wilderness and roadless areas provide. These areas provide the best habitat for big game, the cleanest water, and the best fishing. We value the freedom, solitude, and challenge of backcountry hunting and fishing, be it for large bucks in the BWCA, or for elk in the Rockies, or for the trout and other game fish that are plentiful in both these ecosystems' lakes and rivers. We are also active in promoting our hunting and fishing heritage generally, through our involvement with the MN DNR outdoor mentor program and as firearm safety instructors, as well as helping friends and family learn hunting and fishing skills.
We strongly urge you to oppose HF 1581's Senate companion bill, S 1087, known as the "Roadless and Wilderness Release Act". The bill would strip roadless and wilderness protection in areas established by Interior Secretary Salazar in his "wild lands" directive. This bill is egregrious anti-hunting legislation as it open large tracts of land to the ever-expanding lattice of motorized use and abuse by ATVs, which will damage habitat for wildlife and ruin hunting experiences. Elk, probably the most revered big-game species in North America, are particluarly negatively effected by motorized traffic through their habitat. This has been well-documented by elk biologists. These ATV trails can also cause a decline in water quality by weakening stream banks, thereby increasing sediment in rivers and hurting fishing. The ATV traffic is also disruptive to bird hunters who travel on foot or on horseback.
In addition to supporting our hunting and fishing heritage, there are other important reasons to oppose this bill. The bill would damage the tourism economies of many rural communities by opening these protected areas to logging and mineral extraction. There are plenty of lands that are already being used for these activities, and these extraction jobs don't come without a price.
Lastly, there are the negative consequences on public health of this bill. We as a nation are struggling with an obesity epidemic, brought on by many causes, not the least of which is sedentary lifestyles. In this context, the government should not be using public resources to promote ever-increasing motorized transportation and recreation. The maintenance and promotion of hunting and fishing traditions that involve travel by foot, horseback, and canoe are positive for public health.
We hope you will strongly consider these concerns when evaluating this legislation and similar legislation that may arise in the future.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Darrell Spencer, Duluth, Co-Chair, MN Backcountry Hunters and Anglers