Kristyn Brady

March 1, 2017

Sportsmen Call on Zinke’s Leadership for Public Lands

Trump’s newest cabinet member has opportunity to support habitat and access on the public lands that are part of our national identity

This morning, in a strongly bipartisan 68-31 vote, U.S. Congressman Ryan Zinke was officially given the top job at the Department of the Interior, where he’ll be responsible for the management of public lands, minerals, migratory birds, and endangered species. Hunters, anglers, and the conservation community look forward to working with Zinke to support habitat conservation, sportsmen’s access, and increased public involvement in the management of America’s public lands.

“More than ever before, we need to see the Secretary of the Interior act with conviction as the nation’s top champion of public lands and foremost arbiter of balanced management for fish and wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation,” says K.C. Walsh, chairman of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s Corporate Council and president of Simms Fishing Products in Bozeman, Mont. “The hunting and fishing community is looking forward to working with Secretary Zinke and his staff to improve collaborative conservation of natural resources that are the envy of all the world.”

Image courtesy of Ryan Zinke.

From his earliest days in office, Zinke will be faced with charting a path forward for the Bureau of Land Management’s revised land-use planning process, a rule that is supported by the sporting community but faces an uncertain future. The House voted three weeks ago to block the BLM’s new Planning 2.0 rule, which creates greater agency transparency and gives the public three additional opportunities to weigh in on land-use plans.

If the Senate passes a similar resolution under the Congressional Review Act, it would likely prevent the BLM from ever issuing a rule with substantially similar benefits. Sportsmen are encouraging Congress to take a step back and instead let Zinke lead on making further changes to the rule, while retaining its many benefits.

“We encourage Secretary Zinke to simply solve problems constructively: Bring together diverse stakeholders, and find common ground for the benefit of fish, wildlife, and our sporting traditions,” says Whit Fosburgh, TRCP’s president and CEO. “Sportsmen and women stand ready and willing to help shape a positive future for our public lands. We’re just asking that remaining concerns with the BLM Planning rule are addressed through a process that also keeps all of the improvements made to public lands management.”

During his tenure, Zinke will also oversee the implementation of federal conservation plans created to keep the greater sage grouse off the endangered species list.

“We’re hopeful that having a true sportsman in this role will be positive for sage grouse as well as the other iconic game species dependent upon conservation of sagebrush habitat, like mule deer and pronghorn antelope,” says Miles Moretti, president of the Mule Deer Foundation. “Hunters, ranchers, and other stakeholders are ready to work with Sec. Zinke to safeguard many traditional uses of this landscape through collaborative conservation.”

The TRCP and other sportsmen’s groups came out in support of Zinke’s nomination in December 2016, based mainly on his opposition to privatizing or transferring federal public lands to individual states. In June 2016, Zinke was the only member of the House Natural Resources Committee to cross party lines and vote against a bill that would allow states to acquire up to two million acres of national forest lands to be managed primarily for timber production, locking Americans out of our public lands. Later this summer, he resigned as a delegate to the Republican nominating convention because of the party’s position on the transfer of federal public lands to the states. Zinke is also in favor of full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which uses revenues from offshore oil and gas production to conserve important natural resources and open public access.

More than 50,000 Americans have signed a petition opposing the sale or transfer of our public lands. Learn more here.

14 Responses to “Sportsmen Call on Zinke’s Leadership for Public Lands”

  1. Tess Husbands

    Much of America’s public lands are America’s share of planet Earth, the very Earth that, alone, generates and releases all of mankind’s life lines for life itself. Mankind’s only home, planet Earth, is her first, natural and wild surfaces, created, supported, sustained, maintained and protected only by all wild and native species, scientifically, biological diversity and bio means, “life”. Science refers to portions of wild and natural planet Earth as ecosystems. A handful of these ecological life-supporting services are oxygen releasing, the balancing of the gaseous composition of the atmosphere, transpiration of the vital water cycle, vital for Earth’s ability to cool the climate [and trees contribute immensely to this service] and the vital nitrogen cycle that passes between plants and animals. Also, add mankind’s protection from diseases and epidemics.
    “In Wildness is the salvation of the Earth and the preservation of all life, long known among wolves and planet Earth but seldom perceived by man.”

  2. John E. Marchwick

    I don’t beleive the Federal Goverment should transfer fedral land to the States either.We need to protect that Federal Land, for Sportsmanen , farmers , ranchers and Outdoors hikers , campers and future generations.
    JEM

  3. Joe Saselli

    I absolutely oppose the sale or transfer of any of our public lands. These lands belong to each US citizen. And must continue to be maintained in such a manner as to preserve access and usage of these lands in their natural state. I hope that those we have voted to represent our interests do so in such a manner. Do not allow our public lands to be taken from us.

  4. Kirk Robinson

    Hopefully Secretary Zinke will also see the wisdom of the Antiquities Act and will not recommend changes to the Bears Ears National Monument, or other national monuments. Anyone in the know, knows that in southern Utah, in particular, the national parks, national monuments, and national recreation areas are the salvation of local towns. A decent future depends upon protecting them and helping local citizens benefit economically and in other ways from their proximity. We all need to come together as a community for the benefit of people and our natural heritage.

  5. Leslie Parks

    Please support public lands in public hands. States do not have the resources to manage federal lands and will sell them at the first budget shortfall. Public lands are one of the many things that make America great. Please protect these lands from privitization.

  6. Bruce Geldine

    Public are to remain public. The fact that state governments will not be able to sufficiently care for and maintain these acres has been proven. We need to keep and protect our outdoor heritage and not to allow private interests turn our public lands into private clubs or profit centers.

  7. James A Brower

    Sir: Please do not sell or transfer any of Our Public Lands! They are for All Our Future Generations to enjoy! Our Lasting Legacy to all Who are Coming. Thanks for Your time. Jim

  8. Steve Kopp

    Sir: Please do not sell or transfer any of Our Public Lands! They are for All Our Future Generations to enjoy! Our Lasting Legacy to all Who are Coming. Thanks for Your time.
    Steve

  9. Hugh Carola

    We all must understand that Secretary Zinke can do NOTHING except what the President tells him to do; and he in turn is “told what to do” by Bannon & Co. So, for example if Zinke is directed to facilitate the turnover of our Public Lands birthright, he will do so. Pure and simple. Just because there’s that nice photo of him in his upland hunting gear doesn’t mean he’s one of us. He’s a member of Donald Trump’s cabinet – a minor member, I might add – and there is nothing positive whatsoever for wildlife, habitats, public access or anything that we care (or SHOULD care) about in the makeup of that group of people. Gotta speak up folks. Loud, proud and don’t let up!

  10. Bruce Schwartz

    So… on first day in office rode in on his horse and rescinded the lead ban for firearms and fishing weights on federal refuges. While sportsmen generally cheered this action, it was most certainly a blow to the health and well being of all nature. This lead is manufactured and spread onto the land from hunters and fishermen and there is no known benefit to ANY life, whether humans or raptors or predators or fish. Think about why you might think otherwise, and then think about who wants you to believe what you believe. We do have alternatives and they are effective in killing and effective in cost. It’s going to be a while before I accept that Zinke will be speaking for the environment he oversees.

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Mia Sheppard

February 27, 2017

Elliott State Forest: The Poster Child for What Could Happen to America’s Public Lands

There can be no confusion—Western states are in the business of selling public lands to make ends meet

Last week, the Oregon State Land Board voted to sell 82,000 acres of one of the most celebrated public lands in Oregon—the Elliott State Forest. The sale was on and then off and then on again in an ongoing saga, but now its fate seems relatively sealed: The Elliott is the poster child for what could happen to America’s public lands in the hands of individual states.

For Sale: One Public Lands Legacy

The Elliott is considered one of the best recreation areas on the Oregon coast, as it borders Loon Lake and is very close to the BLM’s Dean Creek Elk Management Area and Golden and Silver Falls State Natural Area, providing unmatched experiences for local hunters, anglers, and wildlife enthusiasts. The lush forest and steep hillsides are layered with tall fir and cedar trees that provide phenomenal habitat for Roosevelt elk. Wild trout, steelhead, and salmon can all be found running the cool waters within the forest as well.

In support of the Common School Fund—established in 1859 to benefit Oregon’s public education system—state trust lands like the Elliott are used to generate revenue, mostly through sustainable timber harvest. However, recent restrictions and lawsuits have limited logging, and ownership of the forest has actually been a financial drain on the state, rather than a source of income. The state started talking about selling back in June of 2014.

The Elliott State Forest provides phenomenal habitat for Roosevelt elk. Image courtesy of Dean Finnerty. Header image courtesy of Oregon Department of Forestry.
A Lose-Lose for Our Kids

As a mother, I can speak for the Oregonians caught in the middle—we want to raise our kids camping, hiking, hunting, and fishing in the outdoors, but we also care deeply about our state’s school system and whether it’s properly funded. I would very much like to find a solution for public education, but not at the risk of robbing our kids of valuable time spent on public lands.

For Dean Finnerty, a longtime hunter and outfitter—and a father—what’s happening with the Elliott is personal, too. Last year, I explored some of his favorite parts of the forest with him. As we drove down gravel roads, twisting and turning through stands of trees, he explained the situation from a hunter’s perspective. “The forests surrounding the Elliott are mostly privately owned and during archery season each and every year, all of the private lands are totally closed off to public access. For a sportsmen like myself, the only game in town is the Elliott!”

Dean and I came to a road blocked by a gate with a ‘No trespassing’ sign nailed to a tree. “The land behind the gate is one of several parcels sold by the state early on,” Dean explained. “It used to be a part of the Elliott State Forest, but is now owned by a private timber company. My boys and I used to hunt fall and spring black bear and pursue elk during archery season on that land. Not anymore.”

“The forests surrounding the Elliott are mostly privately owned and during archery season each and every year, all of the private lands are totally closed off to public access.” Image courtesy of Dean Finnerty.
Don’t Hand Over Our Land

With the sale of the Elliott now official, many other sportsmen will have similar stories to tell. At this point, there is no clear action to prevent the sale. The best thing we can do—both as parents and as Americans who care deeply about the future of our hunting and fishing traditions—is to stay engaged to prevent the mismanagement and sale of other public lands.

A good first step will be keeping our lawmakers from handing more of our national public lands over to the states. After all, Western states have proven over time that they are in the business of selling land to make ends meet. Oregon alone has already sold all but 776,000 acres of the 3.4 million acres it was granted upon statehood. Learn more and sign the petition supporting public lands at sportsmensaccess.org.

It’s up to us to make sure this example ends with the Elliott.

TAKE ACTION and help keep the Elliott State Forest in public hands. 

Jonathan Stumpf

February 16, 2017

Passionate Steelheaders Could Be a Force in the Fight for Our Public Lands

A rare breed, the anglers who choose to pursue wild steelhead single-mindedly have just what it takes to stamp out threats to public access, especially when some of the best waters are on the line

I consider myself lucky to live in Washington State. As an avid steelhead angler, I’m at the epicenter of some of the best steelhead fishing in the Lower 48 (sorry, Oregon and California.) We enjoy just 13 million acres of national public lands—a paltry amount when compared to other Western states. But with the high deserts of the east and the coastal rainforests of the west side, the splendor of the places Washingtonians have to pursue this iconic game fish more than makes up for what the state lacks in overall acreage of public lands.

winter steelhead public lands Washington
Image courtesy of Chris Ringlee.

Unfortunately, wild steelhead are in serious decline—12 of the 15 populations on the West Coast are listed as threatened or endangered species, and the root cause of their collapse is heavily debated among anglers and fisheries managers. I’ve witnessed hours-long heated discussions about the impact of single-barbless and treble hooks on species survival. In fact, we get so caught up in whether to worry about overharvest, dams, hatcheries, or ocean conditions, that we’re failing to fight for the public lands that provide us with our best days on the water.

When some lawmakers talk about disposing of public lands, they’re talking about trading off your access to places like the mountainous headwaters of Washington’s Methow River in the Okanogan National Forest, which is considered one of the last strongholds for Columbia Basin summer-run fish, or some of the finest runs of summer steelhead in Oregon’s North Umpqua River. They’re toying with your ability to get to Idaho’s iconic Snake River via BLM land or hold a wild steelhead in Alaska’s vast and relatively untouched Tongass National Forest. Even the access provided by Washington’s Olympic National Forest to the river corridors of the Sol Duc and Queets, where dime-bright winter-run fish swim to their natal waters from November through May, could be closed off forever.

summer steelhead Olympic National Forest
Image courtesy of Luke Kelly.

You get the point. In state or private hands, the needs of steelhead or anglers will not be a priority on these lands—nor will the interests of hunters, hikers, bikers, or American families. The habitat could suffer under a different management model or inevitable lack of funding for upkeep, creating more trouble for the species that are already in a precarious situation.

Steelheaders are a passionate bunch—you’d have to be to brave the winter conditions we do without blinking an eye. That’s why we could truly be a force in the fight for our public lands. We don’t need to abandon our debate over the best approach for restoring steelhead populations, but we can’t afford to have the rug pulled out from under us in the meantime. As sportsmen, and as steelheaders, the simplest thing we can do to help ensure the future of the species and our fishing opportunities is to speak up for habitat AND our access to America’s public lands. It isn’t an either-or proposition.

Mia Sheppard

February 15, 2017

No Trespassing Signs on Public Lands? It Isn’t What You Think

These days, it seems that everybody wants a piece of America’s public lands all to themselves. But the strategists behind the land transfer movement aren’t the only ones creating confusion to keep you from your public lands.

This fall, we received the following inquiry from a hunter in Oregon.

Q: What should I do when I find a “no trespassing” sign on public lands?

To whom it may concern,

I have a question regarding the posting of ‘No Trespassing’ signs on public land. I hunt late-season blacktails on public land in the Soda Mountain Wilderness of southern Oregon. The wilderness is adjacent to BLM lands and private lands.

I use the OnXMaps mapping service on my phone, and I always make sure to stay off of private land while I’m hunting, so I thought it was weird when I saw ‘No Trespassing’ signs posted within the wilderness boundaries. Even though I assumed the signs were incorrectly placed, I stayed off of the so-called private property and headed down the hill to my truck. At the trailhead, there was a landowner trying to find who had been hunting on his property. He threatened to have the trailhead closed and to prosecute the alleged trespasser to the maximum extent of the law. He wasn’t specifically accusing me, but was heavily insinuating it.

I pursued the issue and looked up BLM and wilderness maps online; they all showed that the landowner had placed ‘No Trespassing’ signs well into public lands.

It seems like there should be a significant penalty for this misconduct, but I cannot find any information regarding this issue.

Any tips or recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you for your time.

-Jason Y.
Coos Bay, OR

The line between public and private lands must be respected, from both sides. Image courtesy of Mia Sheppard.

We thought it was an excellent question because, as in the fight against state takeover of national public lands, we don’t believe the hunting and fishing public should get locked out so that a select few can benefit.

A: Let officials know, and be courteous.

From my point of view as a fellow Oregon public lands hunter, I can understand why you’d want to avoid this kind of confrontation and get to the bottom of things. It’s hard to say whether this landowner truly was mistaken about his property line or putting on an aggressive show. I reached out to Sean Carothers, a former BLM law enforcement officer in central Oregon, for his take on what to do next.

“I would contact the appropriate BLM district—I believe that’s the Medford District—and ask to speak with the law enforcement staff there,” says Carothers. “The BLM has regulations about ‘Interfering with Lawful Use’ and posting public lands as private is a classic example of that.

“At the very least, a ranger will go out and remove the signs. If it’s possible to identify the person who put the signs up, they will contact them and clear up any confusion about where the boundaries are and document the conversation so if it happens again, there’s a record for future enforcement. It could be a simple misunderstanding or it could be someone claiming public lands as his own. Either way, if the land truly is public, the signs are illegal and the district should do something,” he says.

The way I see it, in these vast landscapes interwoven with public and private lands, the improved mobile mapping technology we have at our disposal is now more accurate than what we had decades ago, but that doesn’t make them flawless. Fences or ‘No Trespassing’ signs may be misplaced, but we as sportsmen need to be respectful, and give the landowners the benefit of the doubt.

If you have any question, please take the higher ground and heed Sean’s advice: Call the BLM and let their law enforcement experts handle it. Be sure to take note of the precise location as well. Screenshots of your maps, pictures of the fences or signs, as well as the coordinates of your whereabouts are all good to pass on. The BLM can take it from there.

“Fences or ‘No Trespassing’ signs may be misplaced, but we as sportsmen need to be respectful, and give the landowners the benefit of the doubt.” Image courtesy of Mia Sheppard.

Part of being public lands proud and an original conservationist is being a good steward of the land—this includes respect for both public and private boundaries, even when you’re in the right and someone else might be mistaken. Someday you might need to knock on that landowner’s door to ask his permission to retrieve lawfully taken game that crossed onto his accurately marked property.

It’s important to remember that we’re all doing PR for hunting and fishing, in every social media post and every interaction with a non-sportsman. And we’ll come to rely on the image and relationships we’ve built as we work to uphold Theodore Roosevelt’s conservation legacy and our country’s rich history of public lands access.

Kevin Farron

February 8, 2017

A Public Land Victory in Wyoming is Overshadowed by Looming Threats

Out West and on the national stage, recent wins for public lands prove that our voices matter, but we can waste no time patting ourselves on the back

Recently, sportsmen and women in Wyoming were instrumental in keeping state legislators in line by speaking out against a constitutional amendment that would have set the stage for transfer of America’s public lands to the state. The amendment would have sent the message to D.C. that Wyoming is willing and able to take over public lands, if given the chance. (Even though, as most of you know, this is not just an unpopular idea, it’s also financially inconceivable.)

Since some federal lawmakers are working to make this happen, too, an immediate response from hunters and anglers was critical.

What Exactly Went Down in Wyoming?

The text of this legislation was deliberate: Wyoming lawmakers carefully reserved the right to exchange newly acquired lands, and even sell them, but only for “public purposes,” which, conveniently, were not defined. This was nothing more than another veiled attempt to take over the public lands that are the backbone of our hunting and fishing heritage, and sportsmen and women, the original conservationists, were not fooled.

Hunters, anglers, and other public-land enthusiasts packed two public hearings about the proposal and testified with an overwhelming No way, not our lands! In just a few short weeks, nearly 1,000 of TRCP’s advocates in Wyoming sent 1,980 letters to their state representatives, urging them to reject this bad idea. You called, emailed, faxed, and showed up in person to voice your displeasure. It took all of us to finally get the message across.

The result was empowering and an example of the clout that hunters and anglers have when we unite and take action: The Wyoming legislature dropped the land transfer amendment, and the window to propose anything similar has passed. We want to thank you for showing that everyday sportsmen and women are a force to be reckoned with and for helping us make a difference in the Cowboy State.

A packed house greeted the Wyoming State Legislature’s Federal Natural Resource Subcommittee during a December meeting to discuss the proposed constitutional amendment to transfer public lands. Image courtesy of Keep It Public Wyoming
The Tide May Be Turning

Fortunately, this pattern seems to be playing out elsewhere. A few days after we heard the good news in Wyoming, sportsmen and locals rallied at Montana’s Capitol in Helena, chanting “keep public lands in public hands.” It was impossible for lawmakers to ignore the more than 1,000 people decked out in camouflage and brandishing signs in the rotunda and stairwells.

There, Governor Bullock reaffirmed his commitment to public lands, rallying the crowd with his proclamation that “the proposals to transfer public lands have no place in this building and they have no place in Montana.” But he didn’t stop there. “Not only do we need them to hear us here in this building,” he cried, “but we need them to hear us all the way in D.C.”

His comments seemed to foreshadow the events of last week, when social media blowback forced Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz to withdraw his bill that would dispose of 3.3 million acres of our public lands. As satisfying as that was to see, it is critical that we keep our game faces on and keep speaking up, especially because not all threats to our public lands are highly publicized and obvious.

A public-land hunter in eastern Montana’s Missouri River Breaks. This and the title image are courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management.
Your Opposition Checklist

We all need to stay vigilant and informed, and when called upon, hunters and anglers everywhere need to make sure their voices are heard loud and clear. Since it’s the off-season, we’re pretty sure you’ve got the time. Here’s what to do:

  • Sign the Sportsmen’s Access petition. This will send your elected officials a note letting them know that you support public lands and ensure that you’ll be the first to hear from us about developments on this issue.
  • Stand up for your voice in public lands management. You are an important part of the democratic process on our BLM lands, and your access means nothing without healthy habitat and strong fish and wildlife populations once you’re out there. Better planning for all the diverse ways we use public lands also means that detractors have less of a case for saying that land management is dysfunctional.
  • Call a friend east of the Mississippi and bend their ear about this issue. Their congressmen and women will cast votes on legislation that shapes our public lands. We won’t get very far if only half the country thinks it’s their problem to stand up for America’s public lands legacy.

We should pat ourselves on the back for our recent triumphs, and feel inspired and confident about the outcomes we helped to shape. But there will be bills that do not disappear overnight. They will get hearings and may force your elected officials to choose what side they’re on. Make sure there isn’t a choice. Make sure our lawmakers are siding on the side of sportsmen. And make sure whenever they look over their shoulder, it’s a sea of blaze orange they see looking back.

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.

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