Sportsmen across the West have been rallying hard against state takeover of America’s public lands—east coasters can’t just kick back and let them do the work of protecting our public lands legacy
The last time my D.C.-area friends and I wanted to unleash our crazy birddogs and hunt, the options were limited to hunting on preserves or driving three hours or more to a Wilderness Management Area that stocks the land with pheasants. Most days, my English setter, Belle, has to settle for sniffing out birds and squirrels in the bushes around my apartment complex. This is the reality in the eastern half of the U.S., where we’re surrounding by more major cities and more fragmentation, while the West enjoys 640 million acres of public lands with astounding fish and wildlife habitat. As east coasters, we can be jealous, or we can be proud—after all, those lands out West are ours, too.
That’s why hunters in our region need to be concerned about Western states gaining control of public lands. This fight isn’t a Western issue, it’s an access issue, one that impacts millions of acres that belong to all of us.
Still, the threat of public land transfer hasn’t lit a fire under Eastern sportsmen, and this makes it easier for our elected officials to support this dangerous idea. Did you know that last year the South Carolina General Assembly supported Utah’s resolution to transfer Western public lands to the state? The state legislature passed its own resolution that encourages Utah’s unprecedented steps in the wrong direction. Ten other states introduced similar measures, but Tennessee slammed the measure. With the most-visited national park in their backyard, these decision-makers understand the importance of public access to bountiful natural resources and outdoor recreation, like the Great Smoky Mountains’ unparalleled fishing. We need more states east of the Mississippi to take a stand, or Western states could seize millions of acres, bungle their management, fail to pay the bills, or worse, sell them off to private interests.
Imagine the Smokies being transferred to state agencies. Visitors from around the country and the world wouldn’t be able to access the park or the Appalachian Trail (AT) without paying an entrance fee. That’s just another barrier to entry for American families, who need the adventure and simplicity of the outdoors more than ever. During an interview with Woods and Water SC host Roger Metz, Steven Rinella recently made an appeal to east coast sportsmen to oppose public land transfer, if only because it’s bad business. He emphasized that under state ownership, everything would come second to generating revenue from these lands. That’s no benefit to the American public, who could get cut out of access they rely on for outdoor recreation.
Here in the East, it’s our time to step up and stand with Western sportsmen. We’re all Americans who care deeply about our outdoor traditions. And it’s easier than you think to take action. Educate yourself and sign the Sportsmen’s Access petition to let your lawmakers know that you own 640 million acres in the West, too. Whether we hunt public land in Montana or private land in Virginia, we can’t sit back and give up these wild places.
3 Responses to “It’s Time for Eastern Hunters and Anglers to Join the Fight Against the Western Land Grab”
It is time for eastern hunters, anglers, hikers and outdoor enthusiasts to speak up. Frankly I hate it when people say this is only a Western issue though. Even in this article, why are we talking about the transfer of the Smokies, a national park, closed to hunting, that is not the real target of federal land grabbers. Lets talk about the 1.6 million acres of the George Washington/Jefferson National Forest in Virginia which would be in danger of state seizure. Or the half a million acres of the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania. These are public lands that I and countless others hunt every year. We need to tell congress that people on the East coast are also #publiclandowners and #publiclandsproud
I agree 90%. The remaining 10%? Have you paid for a “nonresident” Montana elk license lately?
As a native of New Hampshire which has the White Mountain National Forest, we easterners have a big part of play in this fight, in fact you could say based on our population numbers and elected officials we have one of the biggest parts to play to keep this state land grab from happening. I’m glad this is finally being recognized, so many of the podcasts and articles are very western focused yet these are all our lands and there are more hunters/anglers in the east than out west which translates into more voices to the politicians. One aspect that is hard for especially us New Englanders to understand is the big difference between state land ownership out west vs. new england. We don’t use our state lands to generate revenue, in fact most of the state land is state parks, forests or wildlife management areas. Take Massachusetts for example, any land purchased in fee or through easement by the state or land trust for conservation is protected under Article 97 of the state constitution in which it cannot be used for any other purpose. So us New Englanders really need a good education to clearly explain how our state lands are managed very differently than western state land making this federal lands transfer a terrible idea.