Public Lands Yield Iconic Game and Pristine Backcountry
This past August, I had the opportunity to hunt deer with archery equipment in central Nevada. This would be my first Nevada mule deer tag and I was able to hunt in a pristine backcountry area with abundant deer and little hunting pressure. I was blessed to have the opportunity to hunt this iconic animal in such a spectacular setting.
One reason Nevada consistently provides outstanding opportunities for hunting and fishing are the large areas of intact and undeveloped backcountry on Bureau of Land Management lands. Most people don’t realize it, but just over 86 percent of the land in Nevada is public land. It is these large intact areas of backcountry land that provide the core habitat that gives us some of the finest big game hunting in the West where trophy mule deer, elk, antelope and bighorn sheep are taken every season.
Unfortunately, throughout the West some of our best public lands are threatened by a massive wave of new energy development and deteriorating habitat conditions. Here in Nevada, poorly planned wind energy projects and transmission lines could threaten to further fragment prime fish and wildlife habitat. In other parts of the West, oil and gas developments are being proposed in some of the best remaining big game habitat.
As development pressures continue to grow, the TRCP and partners are working to maintain the high quality fish and wildlife values of our public lands. Western hunters and anglers are working through local land use plans in Colorado, Nevada and Oregon to conserve intact fish and wildlife habitat and are calling on the BLM to manage high value areas as backcountry conservation areas or BCAs.
BCAs would provide BLM land managers with clear guidelines that would help conserve our best wildlife habitat while protecting public access and at the same time would allow common-sense activities to restore habitat and honor existing rights like ranching.
Dodge ran a commercial during Sunday’s Super Bowl that sparked memories for me and my friends. Featuring a series of evocative images of U.S. agricultural life and landowners, the two-minute spot is narrated by the late, great broadcaster Paul Harvey, drawing from a speech Harvey gave at a Future Farmers of America convention.
Since Sunday, I’ve gotten emails and phone calls from folks who know I spend most of my time in the country where I also work on conservation issues related to agriculture and the Farm Bill. I must admit I got a goose bump or two when I heard Harvey’s old, familiar voice.
The memory lots of people have of their grandparents’ farm or their uncle’s ranch is encapsulated in Mr. Harvey’s comforting tone and wholesome subject matter. I’m pleased that a nation full of an increasing number of urbanites found the opportunity to reflect on the rural life that created and sustains this country.
Farms are where our food comes from, where our fish and game live and where our future resides. While I’ll avoid the cliché reference to the rest of the story out of respect, I can’t help but hope that there is a continued story to tell of the American farmer and his or her love for the land, hopefully as expressed through the stewardship of our collective natural resources.
We should take heed of the image developed of the farmer in this brief attempt to sell trucks. Our soil and water are under increasing demand as the world creates more mouths to feed and more alternative uses for grain products. The fish and wildlife that so many of us respectfully pursue depend on the quality and quantity of clean air and clean water as much as we do, and as such, fish and wildlife depend in no small measure on the American farmer.
I hope this commercial and this trip down memory lane with an American icon remind us all that farmers and ranchers are vital to this country: We all depend on what they do and ultimately, how they do it.
Leadership, tenacity and foresight are three traits of Theodore Roosevelt’s that I most admire. T.R. embodied a certain largeness of character that is, of course, not unusual for many in the political arena. But while the man certainly could talk the talk, here is what set him apart: He got things done.
Bully pulpit or no, exceptional leaders know what it takes to make a tangible and positive impact on the nation and its people. A lot has changed since the days of Roosevelt, but I still believe great things can be accomplished in Washington, D.C., and sportsmen must play a leading role.
I share these priorities with you in the hopes that you’ll be willing to step into the arena when the time comes. And the time will come soon.
What’s more, I hope that you will have the tenacity to carry the discussion about conservation policy into your community. I hope you will take leadership and talk about these issues at your local hunt club or shooting range. Consider hosting a roundtable with friends – those you agree with and those you disagree with – to discuss issues of importance for hunters and anglers. True change requires the foresight to work together and map out the areas in which sportsmen hope to progress in 2013.