Dani Dagan

February 7, 2017

The Latest Threats to Public Lands Are Less Obvious Than H.R. 621

If you were shocked and angered earlier this year by a bill to dispose of public lands, then you should know about these less blatant—but similarly dangerous—legislative moves

[Editor’s Note: This post was originally published February 7, 2017 with ten legislative threats—one of which has become a reality for 245 million acres of Bureau of Management Lands. The post below has been updated as of March 29, 2017 with the latest on these developments and the newest threats to our public lands legacy.]

In February, sportsmen flooded the office of Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) with phone calls, letters, tweets, and Facebook messages about his unpopular and dangerous public lands bill, H.R. 621. Shortly after, he dropped the legislation that would have enabled the sale of 3.3 million acres of public lands.

We celebrated. We were reminded that our voices have power. Then, we went back to work.

Here’s the thing: The tug-of-war between Americans who are proud to have 640 million acres of public lands as their birthright and those who seek to undermine these lands has never been tied to one individual bill, state, or lawmaker—it’s a longstanding ideological battle that puts conservation, access, and our hunting and fishing traditions on the line.

And, because D.C. politics are hardly ever as simple as black and white, the intent to transfer or sell public lands isn’t always explicitly stated in a bill’s title. To add to this confusion, sometimes a “win” for us is when nothing happens at all—a bill is introduced, never receives a hearing or co-sponsors, and gets swept from the docket at the end of that Congress. H.R. 621 languished in obscurity in this way last year, and Chaffetz probably wasn’t prepared for the backlash from public lands advocates when he reintroduced identical legislation in 2017.

Well, it’s a new day, and sportsmen are watching. Keep your eye on these legislative actions that would dismantle our public lands heritage, piece by piece.

BLM/BobWick H.R. 621
Top and above images courtesy of Bob Wick/BLM
The Pesky Budget Hitchhikers

We expect that the Fiscal Year 2018 budget resolution will pick up legislative riders like fleece picks up burrs. Riders are policy priorities tacked onto larger must-pass legislation and, coupled with bills that help guide government spending, they could have scary implications for public lands and habitat. Pretty much anything is fair game, but we’re keeping an eye out for language that undercuts federal plans to benefit sage grouse and the broader sagebrush ecosystem. Because stripping federal authority over management of national public lands is a big ol’ slippery slope.

The Sneaky Sage Grouse Bill

In fact, Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho) has already introduced legislation (S. 273) that would give state officials full authority over state and federal conservation plans to restore sage-grouse habitat. This might sound mild, but don’t be fooled—transferring control of management plans is a back door to transferring control of the land itself. This would be “an unprecedented shift of management responsibility that erodes the implementation of bedrock conservation statutes,” according to Ed Arnett, our senior scientist. Congressman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) introduced a near-identical bill last year.

The Other Chaffetz Bill

In addition to the bill he withdrew*, Rep. Chaffetz also introduced the “Local Enforcement for Local Lands Act” (H.R. 622) as a measure to pull funding for federal public-land law enforcement. This bill is still alive in Congress and has six co-sponsors.

*Many of you have asked why it appears that H.R. 621 is still alive in congressional records and online, even though Chaffetz requested that the bill be withdrawn. Well, the committee chair is the one who officially files the forms to withdraw legislation and strike it from the books—and nobody likes doing paperwork. It’s typical for bills to collect dust in committee until the end of the congressional year.

The Forest Fire Sale Bill

The “State National Forest Management Act of 2017” (H.R. 232), introduced by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), would take two million acres of National Forest System land away from Americans to be managed solely for timber production (read: short-term profit.) Just a friendly reminder that this could transfer management of all of Pennsylvania’s Allegheny National Forest to the state. This language was originally introduced in 2016 and made it the next step to a committee hearing, despite sportsmen’s outcry. The 114th Congress wrapped without seeing that bill move any further, but now it’s back for round two.

The Zombie from Nevada

The “Honor the Nevada Enabling Act of 1864 Act,” introduced last Congress by Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.), was an explicit attempt to transfer federal public lands in Nevada to state ownership—at which point public access could be barred. While we haven’t seen this language reappear verbatim, Amodei has introduced two public lands bills so far. The Small Tracts Conveyance Act (H.R. 1106) would allow for the sale of some federal public lands in Nevada to private landowners or other entities, and the Nevada Land Sovereignty Act (H.R. 243) prohibits the expansion or establishment of national monuments in Nevada.

The One Where the Math Doesn’t Add Up

Last year, the “Self-Sufficient Community Lands Act” passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee, but didn’t make it to a floor vote. It never should have made it that far. Introduced by Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), the bill would have given management authority for large segments of our national forests to “advisory committees”—no previous professional experience in forest management would be required on these committees. Conservation and access would surely be an afterthought to generating revenue, but the financial burden of wildfire management would still be on the American taxpayer. That’s why we’ll be watching for something similar to emerge.

The State Bills

Bills at the federal level aren’t the only place we see shots fired at public lands. There are clear examples of state legislators easing the skids for public land transfer in OregonWashington, and Utah. Even in Missouri, a resolution encouraging transfer of Western federal lands to the states is making its way through the state legislature.

The Lesson

It’s easy to get complacent as long as these threats never really come to a head. But consider what’s already been lost this year.

Alarmingly, Congress has already voted to roll back public involvement in public land management by blocking the Bureau of Land Management’s new planning rule through a Congressional Review Act resolution of disapproval. The resolution, which could eliminate the BLM’s ability to provide similar benefits in a planning rule ever again, was signed into law by President Trump on March 27, 2017. Planning 2.0 was the result of more than two years of collaborative work, and overturning it was a gut-punch to sportsmen who celebrated conservation benefits for big game migration corridors and backcountry habitats.

And, in Oregon, a two-to-one vote by the State Land Board is likely to seal the fate of the Elliott State Forest, which is much beloved for its recreation opportunities, including hunting and fishing, but has been a drag on the state budget sheet. Federal public lands aren’t managed for profit, but they would be in the hands of the states. Now, it’s likely that the Elliott will be sold. This could make it the poster child for what could happen to America’s public lands if land transfer proponents get what they want.

It’s also a reminder of why we’re fighting tooth and nail to keep public lands public. Give them an inch and they’ll take millions of acres. Let your elected officials know that our public lands are not for sale.





28 Responses to “The Latest Threats to Public Lands Are Less Obvious Than H.R. 621”

  1. I think it would be worth your groups time to design an online tool that says which states are the most important to get active. I live in a state that is controlled (at least by law-makers) by democrats that largely agree with most of our opinions and I feel like flooding them with emails on opinions they already agree with, dilutes our power. I could be wrong, but I feel that if we have a map showing who should really get involved, we could focus power better.

  2. Michael Rowe

    Many of the groups that participated in the Women’s March and in related local actions are also interested in opposing these actions threatening public lands. You may wish to establish formal dialog with these groups. We ,in Chautauqua County, NYS will be using the information provided here to express our feelings to Congressman Reed in an upcoming town meeting. Thanks for the resource.

  3. Wayne Morrow

    We need to make sure that Sponsors and Co-sponsors of this type all need to be defeated in their next election, regardless of party affiliation, we need legislation in the way of a Constitutional amendment that protects public lands forever. And we need a march like the women’s March on Washington of all public land users all across the nation singing Arlo Guthrie’s America the Beautiful on a couple of occasions.

  4. Angela Eagle

    Thanks for the comprehensive list. I have been contacting house members about 621 & 622. Other than our own US Representative, is the next most useful person to contact the representative who introduced the bill of not the person who introduced the bill? Also, let us know if you have any good talking points. I do not know enough about how federal lands are currently managed to be effective at my arguments. Then again, I think they just take down my name and opinion without details.

    • Dani Dagan
      Dani Dagan

      You don’t have to be an expert on public land management to show lawmakers that their constituents support keeping public lands public—the important thing is that lawmakers know that their constituents are in support of public lands, and that you’re paying attention and holding them accountable.

  5. The Antiquities Act of 1906 (signed into law by the namesake of this organization) is particularly under attack. I see you mentioned S 22/HR 243 (Preventing the use of the Antiquities Act in Nevada), but there is also S 132 (Weaken the Antiquities Act for National Monuments) & S 33 (Modification of the Antiquities Act). So make it 12.

  6. I agree with Michael and Wayne above. I am not into hunting and fishing, but we all agree that our public lands need to be protected forever, and saved from folks/corporations that would despoil them for profit. Yes, most certainly, other groups and lots of folks would join a march to make that point clear. In fact, I would like to share this website at the next moveon.org meeting I go to, if that is okay with you.

    • Don’t be a f*#&(#^% partisan hack. An ally is an ally. Just because you don’t agree with them on other (unrelated) issues, it doesn’t mean you can’t align on common ground.

  7. Mike Glowacki

    Please be careful who you join forces with. Do you your homework. Do you want to associate with the likes of Donna Hylton, who was a featured speaker at the woman’s march or moveon.org. Please find out who these people are before you decide to partner with them.

  8. Where is the proof that transferring control of public lands to the states will immediately lead to them being closed and sold off? I hear this thrown out a lot but see very little facts supporting it, it just seems like a bunch of fear mongering to me.

  9. I don’t understand why all these a*#+&*e politicians have to run everything for all of us. There is no rime or reason to there thinking. To me I think there being paid off by the lobbiest who are of course representing big money. Food for thought.

  10. Jamie D

    I’d like some clarification on something please. When you say “we need to keep public lands public”, aren’t state lands still public? For background sake, I’m very concerned about these issues but I don’t want to go off half-cocked protesting something that isn’t necessarily a negative. I’ve read HR 621 and 622 and from what I understood the House was trying to transfer some federal land to state control, thus decreasing the cost burden on the federal government. I don’t really see how that’s bad. We have tons of state parks and state owned/managed land in my state and it’s just as well cared for as the federal land. If I’m missing something please explain.

    • Lisa C

      Jamie D – we have lots of state land in our state too, but it’s subject to being sold off when state budgets suffer (i.e. Elliot State Forest). The way I see it, most of the public lands that are major destinations (national parks, national forests, national monuments, national grasslands, etc.) are in the west but are owned and used by all Americans, current and future. These are big parcels, much bigger than state parks, and require a national pool of taxpayer funding, not just taxes from our state residents (again, in a budget crunch, our state closes parks, campgrounds, or sells off lands). Also, many national forests/parks/monuments cross state borders and the only way to manage the wildlife, watersheds, invasive plants, fires, etc. is via federal land management. The feds have scientists on these state-border-spanning lands doing boots-on-the-ground work. I doubt if multiple states could coordinate (or afford) to maintain the science necessary for proper land management. In my own family, we prefer hunting and hiking on large tracts of federal land, not the smaller, carved-up chunks that are managed by the state. There are more reasons I’m sure.

  11. Ann Hyde

    Thank you to all who are fighting and helping to protect, preserve and appreciate all the public lands, water sources, wildlife and plants that we have to enjoy that so many before us made possible for us and now our turn for the future generations! Prayers are being answered. We love and need our wild areas for all!

Do you have any thoughts on this post?

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

by:

posted in: Sportsmens Access

January 30, 2017

An Uncertain Future for Public-Land Bear Hunts Like This One in Montana

Here’s what’s at stake in Montana’s Flathead National Forest if our public lands are managed for short-term financial gain

By Guest

On a rock outcropping, I sat perched over a large canyon in the Swan Valley, with my eyes glued to a pair of binoculars, scanning the adjacent mountainside. Montana’s spring bear season had only been open for three days, and typically doesn’t produce this early, but I was too excited not to be out there.

Just a few hours prior, I had been sitting at my kitchen table working on a term paper, but my mind kept wandering back to the thought of snowless foothills, fresh mountain air, and the chance of finding an early-season, public-lands black bear. I had to get out here. It couldn’t wait until tomorrow.

I’d have to reckon with my procrastination later, but my decision to spend that time in the Swan Valley paid off. After glassing for less than an hour, a color phase bear ambled out of the timber to feed. I watched for nearly an hour, long enough to determine that the bear was alone, unaccompanied by cubs, and therefore legal.

The wind spoiled my chances of sneaking in close enough for a shot that night, but I’d be back the next day.

Image courtesy of the US Forest Service


A Shortsighted Proposal

Just a few months later, right down the road from that spot, the Lake County Conservation District (LCCD) pitched a too-good-to-be-true proposal to the locals that would transfer management of these public lands to the state for the next 100 years.

Instead of public lands being managed for multiple-use, the proposal would take a strictly short-term, for-profit approach that would benefit a few at the expense of the rightful owners of these public lands: every single American. Approximately 60,000 acres of the Flathead National Forest would be utilized purely for its available timber commodities, with no regard for the long-term health of the forest or watershed.

Wildlife, like the bear I’d been watching, would surely be an afterthought.

A proposal like this wouldn’t just be bad for today’s sportsmen and women, but for every future generation of public-land users, as well.

The LCCD is now asking for public comment on their proposal, so there is an opportunity for hunters and anglers to put a stop to this. Allowing a proposal like this to move forward sets a dangerous precedent for other transfer initiatives to find footing throughout the West.

Luckily, there is something you can do.

Back to the Bear

When I returned to find the same bear less than 400 yards from where I’d seen it feeding, I moved quickly to get into range before the winds shifted, and I was able to harvest an impressive public-lands bruin.

After field dressing the bear, I sat next to a small fire and admired the thick, full, chocolate-colored hide of a unique black bear. Beside me, spaced out across a log to cool, lay four game bags full of bear meat. Another bag sat full of bear fat, which I’d render down for cooking oil and pie crusts. The bear had wintered extremely well, and none of him would be wasted.

Around midnight, my roommate Eli arrived to help with the heavy pack-out. We raced the sunrise back to the trailhead and were able to make it home with just enough time to shower and rush to campus. I made it to my first class on time, with baggy eyes and a wide, accomplished grin.

“The bear had wintered extremely well, and none of him would be wasted.” Image courtesy of Trey Curtiss.


Time to Take Action

If the LCCD prevails in obtaining land-management control, public-land stories like mine won’t come out of Swan Valley for a long time. And this isn’t just about my ability to hunt this specific spot; the issue of transferring national public lands to the state could play out across our entire country. Every American who takes part in our shared public-land heritage needs to pay attention and take action. Hunters and anglers truly are the #originalconservationists, and now is the time to prove it.

It can’t wait until tomorrow.

Trey Curtiss is a native Montanan and lifelong hunter. He’s currently wrapping up his final semester at the University of Montana, where he’ll graduate with a bachelor’s degree in resource conservation. When he’s not pulling all-nighters packing out big game (or writing term papers) Trey works as an intern for Backcountry Hunters & Anglers in Missoula, Mont.

by:

posted in: Sportsmens Access

January 18, 2017

Our Public Lands Are Classrooms That Are Too Valuable to Lose

Lessons from a youth hunt in the public lands around Oregon’s Elliott State Forest have a major impact on father and son, but opportunities like this are at risk

The subtle click of the safety disengaging made my heart race. Every emotion, logical thought, and sense focused like a laser to the moment. To say I was a nervous wreck was an understatement.

Chase was a lot calmer than I was. He’d already passed on a shot that he said didn’t feel right, but it was clear he’d made up his mind about this plump little forked horn buck standing across the cut, just east of the Elliott State Forest. As a dad, I prayed for a clean shot, as I have personally experienced the ramifications of a poor one and hoped Chase wouldn’t have to go through that with his first youth tag. But I could almost taste the backstrap, too, so I struggled to keep my cool.

I heard the crack of the .270 and watched the buck fall in its tracks. Emotions poured out of both of us, and a sacred bond had been made between father and son. Chase and I were now of the same make, the same tribe.

Image courtesy of Nathan Bailey.

This story plays out for families across the U.S. every year. Young men and women learn lessons that only the realities of the outdoors can teach: Patience, perseverance, responsibility, success, and disappointment are what this lifestyle is all about. Such lessons can only be taught outdoors, but our classrooms—our public lands—are under the threat of being locked up.

There is a big push in the West for states to obtain the federal lands within their borders. On the surface, this might seem like a good idea, but state governments have a long track record of selling off land to meet budget shortfalls.

This issue is very personal to me here in Oregon, where the sale of the Elliott State Forest has been playing out at the expense of taxpayers for years. That sale appears to be tabled for the moment, as our governor has asked to explore ways to keep the lands public, or at least to make a private sale more appealing to the public. But, at one point, there was a long list of buyers, topped by some private companies known for closing public hunting and fishing access. That’s how state ownership goes.

Image courtesy of Nathan Bailey.

Outdoorsmen—and our sons and daughters—stand to lose much more than access if our national public lands are handed over to the states, which have a mandate to make revenue off these lands. Our outdoor heritage depends on the wild places where it can be lived out.

As a volunteer TRCP Ambassador here in Oregon, I’m willing to fight to protect our heritage. If you’d like to join me in safeguarding our public lands, so kids like my son Chase can grow into confident, resilient, conservation-minded hunters, sign the petition at sportsmensaccess.org.

Nate Bailey is TRCP’s volunteer ambassador in Oregon. When he isn’t exploring the wild public places of southern Oregon, you can find him guiding clients down the Rogue and Williamson rivers. See what makes him #publiclandsproud by following his adventures on Instagram at @southern_oregon_outdoorz.

by:

posted in: Sportsmens Access

January 12, 2017

My First Hunt Made Me a Public Lands Believer

A woman’s first mule deer hunt in Oregon takes her from hunting skeptic to #PublicLandsProud convert

This fall, I did something I never thought I would do—I went hunting.

I didn’t grow up with hunting traditions. In fact, five years ago, my opinion of hunting was probably more aligned with a stereotype than it was based on an actual person or group of people I knew who hunted.

Then I met Kevin, and suddenly found myself dating a hunter. You know him as TRCP’s Western field associate.

Through Kevin’s passion for hunting and the outdoors, I found myself immersed in a new world. We cooked wild game together, and I sat in on fascinating conversations among his friends regarding hunting ethics, outsider perceptions, and conservation.

I began to see hunting as a culture, and it changed my perspective enough that I thought about giving it a try myself.

The author on a beautiful, but chilly, public-lands opening morning. Image courtesy of Kevin Farron.

A Humbling Hunt

This fall, against all odds, I drew tags for a mule deer buck and cow elk in Oregon—something that I hadn’t totally prepared for, especially since we wound up moving to Missoula, Mont., right before the season started. On the long drive back to the Beaver State, I studied YouTube videos on how to quarter a deer and pondered if there were any quick car exercises that could make up for my woeful lack of preparation in the physical fitness department.

We met up with Alex, a friend from Oregon, and made camp. This was Alex’s third year hunting mule deer, though he had yet to harvest one. Still, I remained confident—how hard could it be?

Sitting against a tree on opening morning, I listened to the forest waking up all around us as the sun rose over the mountains, and I felt a sense of awe. The landscape was breathtaking. If it weren’t for the tag in my pocket, I wouldn’t have seen that sunrise or experienced any of the lessons I learned that day. I was starting to understand what Kevin and his friends had been going on about.

“If it weren’t for the tag in my pocket, I wouldn’t have seen that sunrise.” Image courtesy of Kevin Farron.

I had no luck on opening day, but each encounter with an animal renewed my sense of excitement. As we crept up over a hill in late morning, Kevin stopped abruptly and whispered, “I see one.” I craned my neck to spot the animal he was looking at, adrenaline pumping. The deer was resting under a tree, partially obscured, but when its head turned, we both saw that it was a doe. That night, I remember having vivid dreams of seeing a buck instead and pulling off the perfect shot. When I woke up the next morning, I was giddy, ready to try again.

The next weekend, as Kevin and I were trudging up yet another steep hill while glassing the opposite hill for movement, our radio went off—Alex had shot a forked horn mule deer, his first! With no regard for any unseen animals that might be nearby, we whooped and hollered over the radio, sharing in his excitement. We got his coordinates and headed his way for the pack out.

I watched as Alex and Kevin field dressed the buck, seeing it transition from being an animal on the ground to different cuts of meat hanging from the trees. Alex kept the hide and cut out the ribs, wanting to savor each bit of his trophy and show full respect to the animal. By the time we loaded our packs and headed out with headlamps aglow, only a pile of guts and a few bones were left behind. For me, a big part of why I wanted to hunt was being able to provide my own meat and know where it came from. In today’s world where so much of our food processing is out of sight, this experience was the circle of life made tangible—an eye-opening experience of hunting for food and wasting nothing.

Lessons Learned

“On my first hunting trip, I learned that sometimes all you get is to see the sun come up and go back down, and sore legs.” Image courtesy of Laura Sligh.

Although I never did pull the trigger, being a witness to Alex’s achievement was enough to get me hooked, though I don’t know if I’ll ever be obsessed with it the way Kevin is. Hunting is humbling in a way that I hadn’t expected. I went into it with starry eyes, thinking I would punch my tag on opening morning, but it wasn’t easy. I came back to camp at night tired, hungry, and cold. I can only imagine how difficult conditions would be without healthy habitat, plentiful big game, and access to public lands. So, you could say I learned the value of conservation at the same time that I was paying my dues in the field.

All in all, I was refreshed by the beauty and adventure of public lands, no matter the outcome. I’m aware now more than ever of the incredible bounty that public lands can provide, but I’ve also witnessed their fragility. The adventures I had this fall would not have been possible without them. Public lands are ours to enjoy, but first and foremost, they are ours to defend. I now truly know what it means to be #publiclandsproud, and I can’t wait to try again next fall.

Laura Sligh grew up in the tiny town of Holland, Mich. and currently lives in Missoula, Mont. When she’s not adventuring on public lands with her boyfriend, TRCP’s Western field associate Kevin Farron, and black Lab Leo, she’s knitting baby hats with their cat on her lap, or trying to master a new wild-game recipe.

 

Kristyn Brady

December 21, 2016

The Wild Ride That Was Conservation in 2016

A look back at the highs and lows for habitat, clean water, access, and conservation funding

I think we can all agree that this year has been a political roller coaster ride. Election antics aside, there were a lot of peaks and valleys for conservation in 2016 that may have a major impact on fish, wildlife, and America’s sportsmen and women for years to come.

Image courtesy of Donkey Hotey/Flickr.

Looking back on 2016, we’ll always remember:

If you’d like to help us work on positive solutions for fish and wildlife, consider making a donation to the TRCP right now.

Happy holidays! We hope you have excellent hunting and fishing next year.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

CONSERVATION ISN’T
RED OR BLUE

But a little green never hurt anyone. Support our work to ensure that all hunters and anglers are represented in Washington.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

Be The First To Know




  Please leave this field empty

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

Be The First To Know




  Please leave this field empty

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Join the TRCP for free!

Sign up below to help us guarantee all Americans quality places to hunt and fish. Become a TRCP Member today.

Be The First To Know




  Please leave this field empty

You have Successfully Subscribed!