Kristyn Brady

June 15, 2016

UPDATE: House Committee Passes Public Land Transfer Legislation

Two bills up for committee vote are overt attempts to undermine public land ownership

UPDATE (June 15)

The House Natural Resources Committee, for the first time in history, passed legislation that would sell off millions of acres of our public lands. Rep. Don Young’s H.R. 3650, which would sell land for the primary purpose of timber production and not recreational uses, passed the committee with a 23-15 vote. The only Republican member who defended sportsmen’s rights was Congressman Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.). Listed below are the recorded results:

NAY
Reps. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.)
Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.)
Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.)
Jim Costa (D-Calif.)
Gregoria Sablan (D-Northern Mariana Islands)
Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.)
Jared Huffman (D-Calif.)
Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.)
Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.)
Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.)
Don Beyer (D-Va.)
Norma Torres (D-Calif.)
Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.)
Jared Polis (D-Colo.)
Lacy Clay, Jr. (D-Mo.)

YAY
Reps. Rob Bishop (R-Utah)
Don Young (R-Alaska)
Louie Gohmert (R-Texas)
Doug, Lamborn (R-Colo.)
Rob Wittman (R-Va.)
John Fleming (R-La.)
Tom McClintock (R- Calif.)
Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.)
Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.)
Dan Benishek (R-Mich.)
Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.)
Raul Labrador (R-Idaho)
Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.)
Jeff Denham (R-Calif.)
Paul Cook (R-Calif.)
Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.)
Garret Graves (R-La.)
Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.)
Jody Hice (R-Ga.)
Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.)
Alex Mooney (R-N.J.)
Cresent Hardy (R-Nev.)
Darin LaHood (R-Ill.)

H.R. 3650 is an overreaching bill that would allow each state to buy and manage up to two million acres of National Forest System land. Most Eastern states—like Illinois for example, which only has 273,482 acres of NFS land—do not have two million acres of national forests land, leaving a high possibility that sportsmen could be unable to access their public land. Sportsmen contribute over $640 billion to the outdoor economy. We deserve to be represented correctly by our lawmakers.

ORIGINAL (June 14)

On Wednesday, the House Natural Resources Committee will vote on two bills that risk essential sportsmen’s access, quality fish and wildlife habitat, and economic balance for American communities. Since the bills were first debated back in February, sportsmen’s groups have been alarmed with Rep. Don Young’s H.R. 3650 and Rep. Raul Labrador’s H.R. 2316, which constitute overt attempts to undermine public land ownership.

“Make no mistake, these are the first votes on legislation that would legitimize the wholesale transfer or sale of America’s public lands, and sportsmen should be concerned with any ‘yea’ votes,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

Young’s bill is sweeping in its impact, allowing states to select and acquire up to two million acres of national forest lands to be completely owned and operated by states and managed primarily for timber production. The Labrador bill would transfer management authority for up to four million acres of our national forests to state-appointed “advisory committees,” but incredibly, these officials would not be required to have any professional experience in forest management.

Hunting and fishing groups have been vocal in urging lawmakers to oppose these bad bills. “With so many opportunities to do right by American sportsmen and women—by encouraging better active management of forests or bigger investments in public land management agencies, for example—these bills are dangerously distracting and certainly represent an attempt to get a foot in the door for public land transfer,” says Ben Bulis, president of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association. “This is bad for fly shops, their customers, and the communities surrounding our national forests.”

“Our public lands system, which includes our national forests, is unique in all the world—it supports our $646-billion outdoor recreation economy, but not without the mandate to keep public lands accessible and to balance the needs of hunters, anglers, and other outdoor enthusiasts with the many demands on our natural resources,” says Fosburgh.

The TRCP is urging sportsmen across the country to contact members of the committee. Here’s the easiest way.

To learn more about efforts to transfer, sell off, or privatize public lands, click here.

Header image courtesy of Dusan Smetana.

9 Responses to “UPDATE: House Committee Passes Public Land Transfer Legislation”

  1. Glen Holt

    The Labrador bill would transfer management authority for up to four million acres of our national forests to state-appointed “advisory committees,” but incredibly, these officials would not be required to have any professional experience in forest management.”
    I’ve seen these “advisory committees”. Most of the people on them are “environmentalists” of some kind and have no experience managing a forest for timber, fire, natural systems, habitat or any other thing except for another special interest with no practical experience or application in anything other than that narrow interest. Often it is a viewpoint through a straw. Foresters are trained to look at all resources in a public resource management setting. They need to hear from all user groups.
    As it is now, the US Forest Service is tied up in the “process”. IF a timber sale manages to get through the “process”, frivolous law suits call the decision in to question and by the time the proposal clears the courts the “process” needs to be gone through again.
    As usual with the environmental industry, the end justifies the means. Tell lies and tie it all up in court.
    So, I’m in favor of designated timber management lands being managed by the states, not given to the private sector or as private lands but managed to actually allow management, the kind that provides for all resources including timber and not just some perception of damage inferred by an ill informed special interest group that is ultimately really only against timber harvest of any kind.

  2. Evan Rortvedt

    So 30 years from now when these states need to balance their budgets, they’ll sell these lands to the highest bidder. Most likely companies from China or Saudi Arabia. I hope these representatives are still around when my children are looking to kick someone in the nuts.

  3. Gary from Cody

    This debate always seems to focus on dollars, tax dollars, dollars floating the economy, who can extract the most dollars from the lands we hold in common. Public Lands are much more than the almighty dollar. OUR lands represent a legacy passed from generation to generation as a place to enhance our lives. Public lands are part and parcel of the lifestyles of people who live near them. We have invested together for decades to keep those lands “in the family”. We have collectively labored to keep those lands intact physically and ecologically to benefit our children and theirs. Those who debate this issue based on money simply do not get it. Those who support these land transfer efforts simply are out of touch with what these lands mean to the people of this country. Some are fortunate to transfer the farm or ranch and the lifestyle they support to their descendents. All of us are fortunate to pass our minute share of public land to our descendents. It is a legacy we have cared for, protected and deserve to pass to our children and theirs, in perpetuity. We are passing on a lifestyle, much more important to our descendents that cannot be purchased with the dollar.

  4. Berle Schiller

    This reflects the pseudo sportsmen Rep. congressman selling out to timber interests. Only the Dems opposed it. When will sportsmen learn who has their back!

  5. Kirk Klag

    For the first time I am ashamed that I am a Republican. I cannot believe that so many Republicans sold us out. This is a first step in a massive land grab to enable states to sell our public lands to private owners.

  6. bruce doxey

    Public lands are OURS! The congress does not own them and they are not authorized to sell them. They should be a sanctuary for wild horses, burros and other wildlife. Not for commercial use.

    • Kristyn Brady
      Kristyn Brady

      Good question, Jennifer. NY does not have a representative on the House Natural Resources Committee, but be sure to check out how your New Jersey neighbors’ congressman voted and stay tuned for a full House floor vote. That’s the next step in making this policy law.

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Kristyn Brady

June 7, 2016

Arizona County Opposes Transfer of America’s Public Lands to the State

Board of Supervisors supports sportsmen’s access and local economies over short-term economic gain

Big news today as the Coconino County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution formally opposing wholesale efforts to transfer America’s public lands to the state of Arizona or local governments. The vote was held amid efforts by an Arizona State Legislature committee to examine processes for transferring or disposing of public lands within the Grand Canyon State.

The final resolution recognizes that:

  • Tourism related to federal public lands and recreational amenities accounts for more than $1.1 billion in annual economic impact in Coconino County, 40 percent of which is comprised of federal public lands.
  • Coconino County has productive and effective working relationships with local, state, and federal partners that have allowed for collaborative development and implementation of critical initiatives, such as the response to the 2010 Shultz Flood, the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Program, and the Four Forest Restoration Initiative.
  • Arizona currently lacks an adequate budget to fully support and manage its own state lands, including state parks, forests, and other areas—the state often relies on federal support for wildfire and flood emergencies.
  • There is broad consensus on the need to improve public land management and public access by focusing on effective and cooperative management of our federal public lands that includes the appropriate federal, state, tribal, county, and private agencies, plus other local stakeholders.
Image courtesy of USFS/Coconino National Forest.

“Coconino County’s resolution positively recognizes and places value on our traditions of access, recreation, and the application of multiple-use principles on our public lands,” says Art Babbott,Coconino County commissioner for District 1. “It is clear that efforts to transfer or sell our public lands will negatively impact our citizens, communities, and the regional economy. Access and management of our Western landscapes would be significantly altered if the state government attempts to take control of these public assets.”

The resolution emphasizes that the state does not have the financial resources to responsibly manage public lands—and sportsmen’s groups agree. “While federal land management certainly isn’t perfect, transferring these public lands to the state is not a viable solution, especially considering that the vast majority of Arizona sportsmen and women depend on public lands for hunting and fishing,” says John Hamill, Arizona field representative for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Arizona simply does not have the funds to maintain roads and recreation facilities, prevent and fight wildfires, restore damaged wildlife habitat, and enforce laws or prevent abuses. Ultimately, the state would be left with no choice other than to sell these lands, which, once privatized, would be off-limits to hunters and anglers forever.”

County support for public lands has been crucial at a time when the state legislature is considering a study of land transfer. “Coconino County appreciates the importance of federal public lands to the citizens of our state,” says Tom Mackin, the Regional Director for the Arizona Wildlife Federation. “In 2012, voters here and throughout Arizona overwhelmingly rejected the idea of transferring ownership of public lands to the state by a two-to-one margin. Today the Board of Supervisors recognized this fact and affirmed that the latest attempt to circumvent the loud voice of public opinion is a bad idea.”

A growing number of Western counties in states like Idaho, Wyoming, and Colorado have recently taken formal positions to oppose the sale or transfer of national public lands. To learn more about the land transfer movement across the country, visit sportsmensaccess.org.

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

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.

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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