Three ways you can turn shock and anger into proactive solutions for our public lands
Like many sportsmen and women, I was shocked and angry when I first learned that the seven armed outlaws who took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for 41 days earlier this year were acquitted of any wrongdoing. These radicals trashed public property and blocked public access to land that belongs to all of us, and they did it while brandishing weapons and talking tough. It is impossible to comprehend how some people, armed from head to toe, could seize a federal facility and not face any consequences for their actions, but that’s exactly what happened just last week. (Hatch Magazine points out that the verdict came down, in a cruel twist, on the birthday of conservation’s patron saint.)
While it feels satisfying to place blame—on the quirky nature of the charges, an incompetent prosecutor, or a weak jury—doing so won’t change the situation. The decision is made, and anti-government fanatics are likely emboldened as a result.
However, as sportsmen and women who love and rely on public lands, we can’t sit around and accept this outcome as some part of an inevitable future. More than 72 percent of Western hunters depend on access to public lands, and millions of anglers do, as well. Complacency and discontent will only serve to benefit those who wish to steal our heritage, and we need to make sure that this decision stands as an anomaly, one at odds with the course of history.
To that end, I’ve outline three active steps that public lands hunters and anglers can take to defend our public lands legacy moving forward:
- Most immediately, sportsmen and women should let lawmakers know we need assurances that lawbreakers and extremists cannot take away our lands and our facilities. Congress should give land managers and law enforcement personnel the tools they need to protect our public lands legacy. Sign the Sportsmen’s Access petition—or share it with family and friends who may not have signed—to send a clear message to decision-makers at home and in Washington.
- Second, be prepared to hold lawmakers accountable for their votes in 2017, as state and federal legislators will be considering a new list of proposals designed to seize your public lands. For our part, we will keep you informed on the best ways to make your voices heard on this and other conservation issues. Sign up for TRCP email alerts and check in with the leading state-based sportsmen’s group in your area, to ensure that you receive a complete picture of upcoming challenges.
- Finally, get outside and enjoy your public lands this fall. Hunting and fishing opportunities abound this time of year, and it is important that we all get out there to reenergize and remember what we are fighting for. Take plenty of photos and share them with us on social media using the hashtag #PublicLandsProud. Meanwhile, we’ll make sure that lawmakers get the picture—hunters and anglers support and value public lands, and we’re proud to keep them that way.
The Bundy boys aren’t out of the water yet. They’re currently awaiting their next day in court, this time tied to the standoff in Bunkerville, Nevada, in 2014. We’ll be watching and hoping that the rule of law is applied through these proceedings and a clear message is sent to anyone considering attacks on our public lands and our way of life: These lands will not be bullied away from us.