Resolving Public Land Disputes: There is a Better Way

huntingBy BHA Board Member, Jay Banta of Torrey, Utah

The flaring disputes in southern Utah about the appropriate uses of public land highlights one of the very reasons Backcountry Hunters & Anglers was formed: Making sure our shared public land resources are managed responsibly and passed on to future generations.

That is why sportsmen and women must speak out against the threatened illegal ATV ride in a Bureau of Land Management administered area that is closed to motorized use.

BHA members, many of whom own and ride ATVs, support laws and regulations that protect wildlife and their habitat. That said, we often share frustrations about rules that appear arbitrary or cramp our freedom. If BHA members don’t agree with the laws and regulations we work with the appropriate agency and lawmakers to change them.

BHA members also support common sense laws and regulations that are needed for responsible multiple-use management, such as rules to conserve valuable wildlife habitats. Sportsmen, allied with politicians such as Theodore  Roosevelt, realized long ago that America’s natural resources are finite and need to be conserved for the continued use and enjoyment of the American people. BLM public lands provide high quality fish and wildlife habitats and high-quality hunting and angling opportunities. These resources and public opportunities would be lost without reasonable management , including reasonable regulations that determine where and when we can drive our vehicles.

It is not okay to blatantly disregard the law just because one disagrees with it. Many ethical hunters may disagree over hunting season length and tag availability but they do not shoot elk out of season just to make a point.  Responsible ATV riders think the same way: they obey the limits necessary to conserve the resource and the rights of other people. But that is not what we are seeing at Recapture Canyon. The proposed ride there represents a complete disregard for the law.

Be assured, there will be plenty of people “watching” this weekend when San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman and a group of ATV riders plan to hold an illegal ride in an area that is being managed to protect archeological sites.   The trail in question was closed to ATV use by the BLM because of a continuing pattern of resource abuse, including looting and destruction of historical sites that are federally protected under the Antiquities Act.  The BLM is charged with the responsibility of protecting those resources on the lands it manages.

A better example of true leadership would be for Commissioner Lyman to organize a group of ATV riders and non-riders to work with the BLM and lawmakers to formulate a plan to stop the resource damage and identify ways to maintain important motorized access into the future.

The protest ride in Recapture Canyon sets a poor example and will only widen the growing divide between people that have an interest in our public lands—that is, all of us.  We can do better. We can work together to resolve many of the growing conflicts over public land issues throughout the West.  BHA is the leading sportsmen’s voice today for our wild public land, water and wildlife. Our members understand public lands and the need to manage them responsibly which is why hunters and anglers are flocking to us every day. Working together to reach consensus on public land management, not acting illegally, is the American way to solve problems.

Join BHA now to help conserve our priceless public lands!

About Jay Banta

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