Do you have any thoughts on this post?
In an increasingly crowded and pay-to-play world, America’s 640 million acres of public lands – including our national forests and Bureau of Land Management lands–have become the nation’s mightiest hunting and fishing strongholds. This is especially true in the West, where according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 72 percent of sportsmen depend on access to public lands for hunting. Without these vast expanses of prairie and sagebrush, foothills and towering peaks, the traditions of hunting and fishing as we have known them for the past century would be lost. Gone also would be a very basic American value: the unique and abundant freedom we’ve known for all of us, rich and poor and in-between, to experience our undeveloped and wild spaces, natural wonders, wildlife and waters, and the assets that have made life and citizenship in our country the envy of the world.
In Part Eight of our series, we stop in at Utah’s Book Cliffs.
Stretching almost 200 miles from Price, Utah, to Palisades, Colorado, the Book Cliffs comprise the longest continuous escarpment in the world. High plateaus of ponderosa pines, firs, and aspen groves, and staggered lines of towering cliffs and isolated canyons, open out onto arid plains. Because the terrain and the vegetation changes so much with altitude, it is near-perfect mule deer and elk country, where summer range and winter range are closely connected.
When American sportsmen began restoring the wildlife lost during the settlement of the West, it was BLM public lands like those in the Book Cliffs that made the experiment the most successful wildlife recovery on earth. Today, there’s a limited draw hunt for trophy elk and mule deer here. Colorado River cutthroat trout, wild bison, and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep have been restored, and pronghorn numbers are strong. All of these success stories were written almost entirely using sportsmen’s dollars on healthy public lands accessible to all Americans.
In 2012, the Utah legislature passed H.B. 148, “Transfer of Public Lands Act and Related Study,” a demand for 31 million acres of public lands like those in the Book Cliffs to be given to the state. You see, the cliffs are also a rich source of natural gas, coal, oil, helium, and potentially new reserves of oil.
Energy development under federal management has already been extensive enough here to pose real threats to big game and other wildlife resources. Federal management under the principles of multiple-use and sustained yield has forced the BLM to create management plans that at least lessen the impact of development on wildlife.
As reported in a recent Utah study, the transfer of public lands would mean that the state would face huge new expenses for land management—an estimated $280 million per year. Utah has already sold 4.1 million of the 7.5 million acres it was granted at statehood, and millions of acres of the most valuable public lands could still be sold to foreign companies and billionaires, cutting off public access forever. If the state were to retain energy-rich lands like the Book Cliffs, it would need to aggressively develop mineral resources in order to cover the enormous costs associated with the management of its other lands. Energy-producing landscapes like the Book Cliffs would be industrialized at a scale that far exceeds levels under federal management, leaving nothing behind worth accessing.
Utah remains the epicenter of the land seizure movement, and two bills were passed during the 2015 state legislative session that are aimed at undermining America’s public lands heritage. Fortunately, Utah’s fervor for public lands seizure is not matched in most other states, and sportsmen will continue working to keep it that way.
Stay tuned. In the rest of this 10-part series, we’ll continue to cover some of America’s finest hunting and fishing destinations that could be permanently seized from the public if politicians have their way.
Arizona’s sportsmen and sportswomen will have an opportunity to help conserve their favorite public hunting and fishing destinations by participating in the Sportsmen’s Values Mapping Project, a statewide effort being launched by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and the Arizona Game and Fish Department, in cooperation with several state sportsmen’s groups.
The department soon will be mailing postcards to a random sample of individuals who have purchased Arizona hunting and fishing licenses, inviting them to participate in the survey and directing them to a website that allows them to draw their favorite areas on a map.
“The department is pleased to present a scientifically-sound method for outdoor enthusiasts to tell us what areas of the state are important to their wildlife-related recreation,” said Loren Chase, human dimensions program manager for Game and Fish. “This is an opportunity for Arizonans to participate in some innovative citizen-science research, so I would encourage anyone who receives a postcard in the mail to take a few minutes to participate.”
That input will be combined and assembled in a geographic information system (GIS), where it will be overlaid with maps of critical habitat, migration routes, land ownership, and other data. The resulting maps will provide important and previously unavailable data to state and federal agencies for the following purposes:
“Access to some of the most valued public hunting and fishing areas in Arizona is at risk because of deteriorating habitat conditions and increased development pressures,” said John Hamill, state field representative for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We are seeking the help of sportsmen and sportswomen to identify lands that are cherished for their hunting and fishing values, where the conservation and restoration of habitat and the enhancement of public access should be a priority.”
The Sportsmen’s Values Mapping Project is a national initiative that was launched in 2007 by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. The project was completed in Montana in 2008 and Wyoming in 2011. Arizona is now front and center, with mapping efforts expected to be finished here, and in Idaho, later this year.
The project has also been endorsed by the Arizona Sportsmen for Wildlife Conservation, an alliance of 22 Arizona sportsmen’s groups, as well as the state chapters of the National Wild Turkey Federation, Trout Unlimited, Arizona Elk Society, and Arizona Antelope Foundation.
Starting Tuesday, the Senate will be in session, and the House begins legislative business on Wednesday.
Congress continues to debate President Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran, and a scant eight legislative days remain before Congress needs to agree on funding legislation to keep the government from shutting down on October 1. Controversy involving Planned Parenthood funding continues to delay budget talks and compromise, and neither the House nor the Senate are slated to consider funding legislation this week. That leaves Congress just three working days in the last week of September to reach a funding agreement. A short-term continuing resolution seems likely, but the obstacles to such an agreement are still high. September 30 will also see the expiration of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
On the Floor:
The Senate will continue consideration of the President’s Iran agreement.
Starting Wednesday, the House will consider three bills: Rep. Black’s (R-TN) H.R. 3134 to prohibit Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funds for a year; Rep. Smith (R-TX)’s H.R. 758 to provide more oversight over attorneys; and Rep. Franks’ bill regarding abortion laws.
House Natural Resource Committee field hearing on energy production and economic growth in the Gulf
Tuesday, September 15, 2015 at 9:00AM located at 400 Royal Street, New Orleans, Louisiana
*Agriculture, Conservation Funding*
House Agriculture Committee hearing on USDA organization and program administration review – Part I & Part II
Tuesday, September 15, 2015 at 1:30PM in Longworth 1300
Wednesday, September 16, 2015 at 10:00AM in Longworth 1300
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on the Federal Land Recreation Enhancement Act
Thursday, September 17, 2015 at 10:00AM in Dirksen 366
House Natural Resource Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on the EPA’s Animas spill
Thursday, September 17, 2015 at 10:00AM in Rayburn 2154
Hunting outfitters, fishing guides, taxidermists, publishers, and gear manufacturers from more than 100 outdoor industry businesses in 23 U.S. states have sent a letter to House and Senate leadership asking for the speedy reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which is set to expire on September 30. The fund has been instrumental in improving habitat and providing public access for hunting and fishing across America for 50 years.
The letter urges Congress to continue to allow the fund—which is supported by off-shore gas royalties, not taxpayer dollars—to provide quality places for Americans to hunt and fish, thereby helping to grow an outdoor recreation economy that currently provides millions of jobs and drives $646 billion into local communities each year.
“It is up to those of us who care deeply about these resources, and depend on them for our businesses, to demand that Congress reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” says John LeCoq, founder and CEO of fishing brands Fishpond and Lilypond in Colorado. “The diverse landscape of America personifies our nation, and we have a responsibility to protect and enhance the natural resources from which we draw so much inspiration. Both sides of the aisle should be able to see that the LWCF is a tool that makes economic sense and that fish, wildlife, and future generations will continue to benefit from it.”
Since its inception in 1964, the LWCF has been used to invest over $16 billion in conservation and outdoor recreation, including the establishment of new public fishing areas, new access into landlocked and checkerboarded parcels of public lands, and the acquisition of new public lands for the benefit of fish, wildlife, and the sporting public.
“The success of our company depends on the ability of everyday American sportsmen to be able to find quality places to hunt,” says Ryan Callaghan, marketing manager with First Lite, a hunting clothing manufacturer based out of Ketchum, Idaho. “The Land and Water Conservation Fund is a success story in funding conservation and access and in providing quality opportunities for sportsmen to hunt on public lands. If you hunt, hike, fish, or birdwatch, you want the LWCF reauthorized as soon as possible.”
“Where conservation so often loses out in the federal budget, it wins big in the Land and Water Conservation Fund, without being a burden on taxpayers,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, the group responsible for spearheading the business letter. “Congress has enough to debate before the end of the fiscal year. Reauthorization of this successful program should be a no-brainer.”
LWCF supporters can contact their lawmakers through the TRCP’s action alerts page.
Get the latest news and share the message on social with #LWCF.
In the last two years, policymakers have committed to significant investments in conservation, infrastructure, and reversing climate change. Hunters and anglers continue to be vocal about the opportunity to create conservation jobs, restore habitat, and boost fish and wildlife populations. Support solutions now.Learn More