From river breaks to high mesas and from sage coulees to semi-arid mountain ranges, tracts of intact and undeveloped Bureau of Land Management public lands are some of the most important places to hunt and fish left on the planet. These “backcountry” lands sustain high quality big game, upland bird and fisheries habitats, support traditional resource based economies and are widely appreciated by the public for hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation. Most people like these places just the way they are: intact and undeveloped.
Change is occurring rapidly across the West. We are a nation with a quickly expanding population, where recreational and ranching activities alike are under pressure, where wildlife habitats are shrinking, and where resource extraction is a necessity to meet an exploding global demand for energy. Traditional public lands users like hunters and anglers are feeling squeezed.
Sportsmen must get involved and make ourselves heard in order to sustain our public lands hunting and fishing traditions. Right now, the future of 123 million acres of Bureau of Land Management public lands is being decided as the agency develops local land use plans across the West. These land use plans will determine the future of energy development, fish and wildlife habitat management and recreation on these lands. They represent the last great opportunity for sportsmen to conserve our best hunting and fishing areas.
To conserve these invaluable public lands, a coalition of influential hunting and fishing groups, close to 100 organizations and growing, is promoting a new land use tool through local BLM land use plans across the West. Called “backcountry conservation areas,” this bottom-up solution has multiple benefits. It would conserve extraordinary fish and wildlife habitat from the impacts of surface disturbance. It maintains important access points already in existence while also limiting new road development. It focuses management activities on the conservation and restoration of key habitat, while at the same time sustaining traditional uses of the land.
Hunters and anglers are working with local stakeholders such as landowners, businesses and recreationists to advance backcountry conservation areas through nine different land use plans in five Western states. Each of these areas provides some of the finest wildlife habitat and sporting opportunities in the West, and now is the time to conserve these public lands for future generations of sportsmen and women.
Citizens are uniting in support of responsible management of America’s public lands.
Two-hundred and thirteen hunting and fishing-dependent businesses requested that the “U.S. Department of the Interior and Bureau of Land Management safeguard our BLM hunting and fishing legacy by conserving high-value backcountry lands.”
American sportsmen have the opportunity to weigh in and support the conservation of our finest BLM fish and wildlife habitat. We need your help to assure that our backcountry resources are managed in a way that sustains fish and wildlife populations and enables our continued ability to hunt and fish on the nation’s public lands.
Submit comments to the BLM on “Planning 2.0,” the agency’s national land use planning revision process.
For more information contact Joel Webster, Director, TRCP Center for Western Lands.
(Photos by Dusan Smetana)
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