Steve Kline

March 31, 2016

Public Lands Symbolize Freedom in a Troubled World

Our government relations director reflects on the value of America’s public lands in a world that seems to grow increasingly dangerous

(Originally published in March 2016.)

Monday morning, when I started to write this blog, it was a straightforward task. I set out to explain that Congressman Don Young of Alaska has introduced legislation that would permit the sale of millions of acres of National Forest System lands to the states. The idea of selling off public lands is something I’ve spent the last 15 months of my professional life vigorously opposing on Capitol Hill, and Young’s bill is the most tangible example of this awful idea we’ve yet seen here in the nation’s capital.

In allowing each state to buy up to two million acres of national forest land to be managed strictly for timber production, this bill goes against everything the TRCP stands for. These lands would no longer retain their current ‘multiple use’ mandate, and as such, the needs of fish and wildlife would factor little into the management of these lands. The bill makes no mention of maintaining public access, nor does it require the states to retain title once they purchase the land, clearing the way for sale to private entities.

It’s a bill so egregious that it’s easy to take umbrage, but then my dander rises easily to the occasion of writing an angry blog.

However, just after lunch, I left the half-written blog open on my computer, put on my suit coat, and took a taxi through peak cherry blossom traffic to the House of Representatives for a meeting with a member of the Natural Resources Committee. We were scheduled to talk about this very bill, this extremely bad idea to commoditize the conservation legacy of a man whose face adorns Mount Rushmore and my business card.

As the meeting was about to start, a shelter-in-place call cackled over the alert radio that hangs, usually in silence, on the wall of every Congressional office. Earlier that day, Capitol Police had taken the opportunity provided by the Congressional recess to run an emergency drill of the alert system, so staff assumed that this was a continuation of those activities. But then the radio lit up again. “This is not a drill” and “shots fired” were words that mixed with the growing volume of sirens outside, heightening the gravity of what started as just another Hill meeting.  Later it became clear that a man had pulled a gun on a police officer in the Capitol Visitor Center, where we’d held a meeting of our partners just a few months ago.

Headlines from across the globe continue to grow increasingly worrisome, and terror has become a palpable threat, something we see in some form or another, it seems, almost every day. But it occurred to me, as I saw the very building I was sitting in appear on CNN, that our American identity is the antidote to terrorism—and our public lands represent an important part of that identity.

America’s public lands stand ever-ready to provide a needed dose of freedom to her people. They are places to reconnect the dots of life that have grown increasingly scattered. To lay aside, if only for a short time, our crowded lives, and watch a Llewellin setter named Julep as she works a low draw with unbounded enthusiasm before coming to a rigid stop and a firm point. To watch the poetry of a sharp-tailed grouse exploding from tight cover.

There is freedom from fear in these places, where our souls have long gone to do their healing, if only in knowing that the outdoors is there for us.

If today’s hunters and anglers can succeed in grasping the mantel of leadership handed to us by George Bird Grinnell, Theodore Roosevelt, Aldo Leopold, Jim Range, and countless others, our public lands legacy of freedom and liberty will long persist. And ideas like Rep. Young’s will be dismissed out of hand for what they are: short-sighted and counterproductive. And by our united voice we will ensure that our public lands, this unique embodiment of independence, will long endure.

UPDATE: The Young bill may have failed, but there are new threats to our public lands and outdoor traditions. Take action today

10 Responses to “Public Lands Symbolize Freedom in a Troubled World”

  1. William Latta

    What suggestions are their to stop this piece of legislation? Sure we can contact our Congressman/woman and Senator but these days our fearless leaders are preoccupied with retaining their jobs and who they will have as a President come early January. Their willingness to take a stand, any stand at all, on any controversial legislation right now will ne next to nil. Immediately after everyone has settled into their nect term there is no telling what mischief they are willing to lay on us. So what can we do?

    • David Dailey

      Exactly, after the congress settle in for the next 2 years, or 6 for Senate the first domino will be pushed.
      There is a chance that Youngs bill may be a fake though. It could be profiled, spread around and the sitting legeslatior’s can vote it up or down to fake a vote that would suit their Districts appeal! That fake vote would mean to support the “desire” of local voters, this all to hold the seat until WH has a puppet in place. Don’t be surprised if it is designed to fail!

  2. Ted Richardson

    This congress has been the worse that I can remember,especially idiots like the one that proposed this legislation. This guy needs to be voted out and we need term and lobbying limits imposed on congress. Hopefully the President will veto this crap!

  3. Dale Becker

    While those of us who care about public lands seem to be a majority of people in most, if not all, Western states, can we actually count on those who respond favorably to a poll on the issue to make their sentiments felt? The best way would be to vote against Congressional representatives who favor and vote to sell off those lands. However, I am concerned that those same voters will not do so because of other issues more important to them, like party affiliation, guns, religion, etc. God forbid that they might have to bring themselves to vote for a Democrat because of this issue. I fear that we are making too much of these polls and their meaning. We had better be ready for the biggest conservation fight of our times and pulling out all of the stops. W need to adopt an approach like “Not a square inch.”

  4. Wally Haussamen

    I’m a life-long recreation user of public lands for almost 65 years. Since the age or 1 1/2 I’ve camped, fished, hiked, backpacked, hunted, bird-watched, photographed, and enjoyed the solitude of public lands across America. My working career was as a public servant helping to manage these public lands and resources on them. Please remember that there are public land recreation users who do not hunt or fish but who enjoy and value our public lands every bit as much. Engage and collaborate with them in this battle to preserve our Nations public lands as they are currently managed.

  5. What needs to be done is to have the House initiate a bill stating that in order for any agency of the U.S. Gov’t must first poll the people who own these lands before any sales, trading or changes are permitted. If the majority of people object to any issue, the attempt must be I canceled. I want to add that there is a verse in the bible by God stating that, “He who destroys the lands, I will destroy him.”

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Joel Webster

January 21, 2016

A Different Way to Think About Future National Monuments

In areas important for hunting and fishing, engage sportsmen early and commit to maintaining access

Created in 1906 by our group’s namesake, President Theodore Roosevelt, the Antiquities Act is frequently a topic of passionate discussion among public land hunters and anglers. Our organization receives many requests from local, state, and national organizations to weigh in on specific National Monuments proposed under the Act, but it isn’t an easy issue. Still, these land designations impact the hunting and fishing community directly, so we’re rolling up our sleeves and finding common ground to see that the Antiquities Act is used thoughtfully, in the right places, as a tool for conservation.

That’s why the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership decided to collaborate with 27 hunting and fishing organizations and businesses to develop a new report, “National Monuments: A Sportsmen’s Perspective,” that outlines a clear approach for gaining widespread hunter and angler support for new National Monuments.

organ-mountains-desert-peaks-national-monument
Image courtesy of Bob Wick/BLM.

The report also provides case studies of existing national monuments that offer great hunting and fishing and where sportsmen played an important role in monument establishment. Through review of these success stories—and examples where endorsement from the sportsmen’s community was lacking—it became clear that the most widely-supported national monuments were created through a locally driven, transparent process incorporating science-based management of important fish and wildlife habitat. And, perhaps most importantly, successful monuments continue to offer opportunities for the public to hunt and fish.

Knowing this, here’s what our report suggests is the best use of the Antiquities Act:

  • A monument proposal must be developed through a public process—one that includes hunters, anglers, and state and local governments.
  • A monument proclamation must clearly stipulate that management authority over fish and wildlife populations will be retained by state fish and wildlife agencies.
  • Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service lands must remain under the authority of a land management agency focused on multiple uses of the land.
  • Reasonable public access to hunting and fishing must be retained.
  • The input and guidance of hunters and anglers must be included in management plans for national monuments.
  • Important fish and wildlife habitat must be protected.
  • Sporting opportunities must be upheld and the historical and cultural significance of hunting and fishing explicitly acknowledged in the monument proclamation.

Overall: The proposal must enjoy support from local sportsmen and women.

We believe this approach creates a clear measuring stick to inform the decisions of elected officials and other stakeholders about what needs to be accomplished before future National Monuments are considered in areas important to sportsmen. I hope you’ll read it. It’s in our best interest for sportsmen to engage on National Monument proposals in a constructive manner.

But I recognize that you may still have questions, so please contact me directly if you want to discuss.

Coby Tigert

January 7, 2016

A Great Year in the Outdoors: Brought to You by Public Lands

To enjoy our best year of hunting and fishing yet, there can be no off-season for defending sportsmen’s access

As we flip the calendar to 2016, we’re given an opportunity to reflect on the past year. It also becomes painfully clear that we have many pages to turn before another fall season of hunting and fishing. For most sportsmen, fall is the culmination of a year’s worth of anticipation and preparation. It’s all-too-brief and usually departs imperceptibly, like a ghost buck on the edge of a field at last light.

Last year, I spent September chasing screaming elk near the Wyoming border. In October, I followed my bird dogs in pursuit of sharptails and partridges in the Tex Creek Wildlife Management Area near Idaho Falls, Idaho. In November, I was trying to outsmart rutting whitetails along the Snake River. The brief opportunity to catch Macks as they ventured into shallower waters to spawn in Bear Lake or to fight a powerful Salmon River steelhead fresh from the ocean was all that could persuade me to leave the woods. As a hunter, I give that time grudgingly. As an outdoorsman, I appreciate the change of pace. A couple of late-October days wading cold water is not just good for the soul—it provides a needed respite for legs pushed to their limits over untold miles before I charge into high-desert rim rocks and canyons of the Owyhees for chukars or jump-shoot mallards on open eddies and backwaters of the Snake.

Fall wouldn’t be so special—and I wouldn’t yearn for it the way I do—without healthy fish and wildlife habitat and abundant public access to the places where we can take on these challenges. Certainly, for millions of sportsmen around the country, America’s public lands are essential to the hunting and fishing experiences we’ve come to expect.

Photo by Coby Tigert

No matter the season, we all have a joint stake in America’s network of 640 million public acres—national lands that provide the habitat needed for fish and wildlife to thrive and access for all of us to pursue our sports. This is a uniquely American concept, dating back to the days of Theodore Roosevelt, and serves as the basis of our sporting heritage. We should not take it for granted.

All year long, the TRCP will continue working to galvanize sportsmen and women against the public land transfer movement in the West—and in Washington, D.C.—and there can be no off-season when it comes to these efforts. The future of our hunting and fishing opportunities and the legacy we leave for our children depend on us standing up for public lands today.

So, while we all yearn for fall, and hopefully enjoy a good bit of meat still in the freezer, I urge you not to forget these feelings: that hunting season will always feel too damned short, but we’re privileged to enjoy. There truly is no other place in the world quite like this.

There is still time to speak up for your hunting access. Sign the petition or learn more at sportsmensaccess.org.

Kristyn Brady

January 5, 2016

Authorities Should Hold Extremists Accountable for Seizure of Public Land

Eight major hunting, fishing, and conservation groups are condemning the extremist takeover of Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

Image courtesy of Mia Sheppard.

For the last several days, as reported by numerous news outlets, a headquarters facility at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon has been occupied by an armed group of extremists from outside the state. This ongoing occupation represents a seizure of public land that American hunters and anglers find unacceptable.

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and seven major sportsmen’s groups—the Wildlife Management Institute, Trout Unlimited, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Public Lands Foundation, Berkley Conservation Institute, Snook and Gamefish Foundation, and Dallas Safari Club—are united in condemning these unlawful actions and have issued the following statement:

“Many citizens of the West—sportsmen and women included—take issue with some public land management decisions, but there is a legitimate process, well-established by law, to provide significant opportunity for public input and influence on these decisions. When an extreme minority uses lawlessness and threats of violence to occupy public land, it threatens the rights of many for the benefit of very few—a profoundly un-American course of action.

We want to thank refuge employees, public land management employees, and law enforcement personnel for their dedicated service during this incident, and we’d urge authorities to uphold law and order by bringing a peaceful resolution to the occupation and then by bringing these armed extremists to justice.”

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was established by Theodore Roosevelt in 1908 as a preserve and breeding ground for native birds. The refuge provides essential habitat for more than half of the Pacific flyway’s migratory waterfowl, as well as sandhill cranes, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, and native redband trout. It is typically open to hunting and angling—but not today.

More than 23,000 hunters and anglers have signed a petition opposing the seizure of America’s public lands.

Help protect public lands and Roosevelt’s legacy—learn more at sportsmensaccess.org.

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posted in: Sportsmens Access

April 11, 2015

I Traveled from Colorado to Washington, D.C. to Stand Up for My Public Lands

Congress has been deciding on appropriations for the national budget, including line items that are way over my head. I don’t understand everything about this process, but I do know that it can shape the discussion of how our public lands are managed for years to come. This was my reason for traveling 1,900 miles to be in Washington, D.C., to stand up for sportsmen’s access to public-lands hunting and fishing. With help from the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, the National Wildlife Federation, and Trout Unlimited, I met with my representatives from Colorado, Sen. Gardner and Sen. Bennett, witnessed the process, and now I better understand how to fight for our outdoor rights.

Photo courtesy of Dan Harrison.

While we were in with Senator Heinrich, I also helped to deliver a petition against the sale or transfer of public lands. I have been guiding and outfitting for well over 20 years, almost entirely on public ground and in wilderness settings. During this time, I have hosted people from every corner of the U.S., and some from across the big water, whoseopinions and political leanings are all over the spectrum. (As much as I try to stay away from discussing religion and politics around the campfire, you can’t spend a week on the mountain without learning a little about people’s views and ideas.) Many see something going wrong and, as much as they may care, assume that there is nothing they can do—they’ll most likely be overridden. This assumption has gotten sportsmen in so much deep water that we are about to lose our uniquely American outdoor heritage that we love so much. The hunting industry alone is over 28 million strong, bringing billions of dollars to the economy. If you combined the hunting and fishing community with the outdoor enthusiasts who hike,raft, and cycle on public lands, it seems to me that you’d have one of the largest organizations in the U.S.

Photo courtesy of Dan Harrison.

The organizations that want to sell off our heritage are masters at getting their word out to our elected officials, and they have an advantage overus, because their only focus is to lobby in D.C. The organizations I belong to, many in life membership, do great work in most respects, but their fundraising dollars are spread very thin, because they’re focused on conservation, education, and habitat. We have to lend our support with individual voices.

Outdoorsmen are the original conservationists. We are the ones generating funds for our wildlife and youth education. We have to protect our outdoor heritage and lifestyle, too. So, when was the last time you picked up the phone or picked up a pen and actually voiced your opinion to a decision-maker in your hometown, home state, or in Washington? Your voice and opinion will count as long as we stand together and show how big our piece of the pie really is. Start flooding their offices with opinions. I don’t mean just write one letter, or make one phone call; be persistent. Harness the passion you have for the hunt to stand up for the places you go afield. Because once we lose them, we won’t get them back.

Dan Harrison is a resident of Colorado’s Western Slope, longtime public lands supporter, co-host of Remington Country TV and Owner/Partner of Colorado Mountain Adventures.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

WHAT WILL FEWER HUNTERS MEAN FOR CONSERVATION?

The precipitous drop in hunter participation should be a call to action for all sportsmen and women, because it will have a significant ripple effect on key conservation funding models.

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