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Anaconda-Deer Lodge county commissioners join a growing list of elected officials across the West to pass resolutions of support for public lands, and they are urging other Montana counties to follow suit
After passing a resolution opposing any effort to transfer or sell federal public lands to the state or local governments, the Anaconda-Deer Lodge County Commission is trying to rally other Montana county governments around the value of public lands.
In a late-September meeting, Anaconda-Deer Lodge county commissioners voted unanimously to officially recognize the importance of public lands to the county’s 10,000 residents for attracting outdoor recreation tourism that drives the local economy. The Anaconda Sportsman’s Club approached the county commissioners about a public lands resolution, resulting in the vote. Nearby Georgetown Lake is a year-round fishing destination, and hunters from across the country come to the Pintler Mountains and Lost Creek to pursue elk, mule deer, and world-class bighorn sheep. The county seat of Anaconda is also located within driving distance of some of the most iconic national forests in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, with numerous opportunities for hunting, fishing, wildlife watching, hiking, skiing, and backpacking.
Now, the ADL commissioners have sent a copy of the resolution with a letter to elected officials in every Montana county, urging them to take up official statements of support for America’s public lands and oppose public land transfer as a “short-sighted and ill-conceived” idea.
The letter claims that although land transfer has largely been defeated at the local level, special interests and lobbyists are pushing their agenda in Washington, D.C., by convincing lawmakers from states with few public lands that counties in Western states support the idea of transferring ownership. “As fellow Commissioners, we encourage your Commission to pass a similar Resolution supporting federal management of local public lands and honor the dedicated federal employees who manage the public lands and wildlife in your county,” the commissioners write.
“The Anaconda-Deer Lodge County Commissioners and the Anaconda Sportsmen’s Club should be commended,” says Scott Laird, Montana field representative for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “They’re the first county commission in Montana to pass a resolution supporting our public lands and opposing the transfer of these lands to state or local governments. It’s heartening to see this movement grow at the county and local level, where a vocal minority would have lawmakers believe that Montanans want transfer.”
“The County’s resolution recognizes the importance of public lands,” says Terry Vermiere, chairman of the Anaconda-Deer Lodge County Commission. “These lands bring irreplaceable value to our county’s economy, recreation, heritage, and quality of life.” Ben Krakowka, the county’s attorney adds, “This action was meant to send a message that selling off or giving away public lands is a bad idea. People come here from all over to vacation on our public lands. That opportunity doesn’t exist for many people from the eastern part of the country.”
A total of 30 pro-public-lands resolutions have been passed by county and municipal governments across the West in the past two years. Anaconda-Deer Lodge County is the first in Montana to do so. For links to these resolutions and other official statements of support for public lands, visit sportsmensaccess.org.
Meet the winner of our #PublicLandsPup photo contest and learn what her family loves about hunting and fishing on public lands
We’re excited to announce the winner of our #PublicLandsPup photo contest: Allison Carolan and her Labrador retriever Beau!
With hundreds of photo submissions to choose from, you guys didn’t make it easy for us to pick just one winner. But this lucky pup will receive a new dog bed from Orvis to rest up for her next public-lands adventure.
We talked with the winning #publiclandsproud photographer, Allison Carolan, and asked her to tell us more about the photo, her dog, and what public lands mean to both of them.
CAROLAN: I took this photo in December in the Nemadji River bottoms on public land near Wrenshall, Minnesota. My husband, Andrew, and our 7-year-old Labrador retriever, Beau, and I were looking for grouse at the time, and we had just walked some single tracks for an hour or so before pausing to take in the sunrise over the Nemadji River valley.
It was about three degrees that morning, and everything was covered with hoarfrost in the valley. The frost was so heavy that some of the crystals were blowing off the trees and shimmering in the air in a crazy, otherworldly sort of way. We stopped to stare at the scene and didn’t even care that we hadn’t flushed a single bird yet. It was actually so cold that some of my breath distorted the light just slightly in the photo.
CAROLAN: Beau loves to hunt, especially pheasants, Hungarian partridge, and sharptails. She specializes in long, challenging retrieves on the big grasslands of western Minnesota, North and South Dakota, and central Montana. In fact, at this very moment, Beau is with my husband at a base-camp on public land outside of Lewiston, Mont., on the Pheasants Forever Rooster Road Trip. (You can follow along with the adventure here.)
Beau is a wild bird snob, loves an authentic hunting experience, and we really only take her to hunt on public lands. You can tell she loves the challenge of flushing late-season roosters that are holding tight in thick cover, the ones that other dogs might have missed.
CAROLAN: As for me, I just completed my hunter safety course, but haven’t completed my field day training yet. For now, I’m content to walk along, watch Beau work, take photos, and contribute to the wild game dinners afterward. I am, however, an extreme frequenter of public lands. I’m an ultra-marathon runner and wilderness canoeist, so I spend the vast majority of my free time seeking out and training on all kinds of public lands. I’ve run on the backcountry ATV trails of western Montana, in countless national parks and forests, and around portage trails in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. In general, the wilder the place, the more I like it. Since I cover a lot of ground in my training, I’m a decent scout for everything from morel mushrooms to rare plants to birdy-looking areas. I sneak up on a lot of grouse during trail runs and take note of good future hunting locations when I find them.
I also grew up trout fishing in the Driftless Area of northeast Iowa and have spent many hours fishing on public lands in that region and out West.
CAROLAN: For sure! Beau will absolutely love the new Orvis bed, and I’ll be putting it in her favorite place in the house—right in front of the fireplace. I’m sure she’ll appreciate it after putting in some hard work this week.
Explore some of the West’s most cherished backcountry landscapes through the lens of outdoor photographer Tony Bynum, and learn how you can take an active role in conserving these areas for future generations of hunters and anglers
In Idaho’s High Divide, there exists 7.4 million acres of wildlife habitat and largely untamed public land. Three times the size of nearby Yellowstone National Park, the High Divide sees just a fraction of the use that the famed park does. Beginning this year, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service are undertaking expansive planning efforts to guide the future of these lands, which represent 20 percent of the public ground in Idaho. I recently explored the area with photographer Tony Bynum to document some of the stunning and valuable landscapes at stake in this process. Here’s what we saw.
The High Divide planning area—comprised of both BLM and Forest Service land—is home to mule deer, whitetail deer, elk, pronghorn antelope, moose, mountain goats, and bighorn sheep. It is where half of Idaho’s mountain goat hunters and 73 percent of the state’s Rocky Mountain bighorn hunters draw tags. In 2016, more than 18,500 hunters spent 88,842 days within the Salmon-Challis National Forest and public lands overseen by the BLM’s Salmon and Challis field offices.
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game has recently discovered that the High Divide is also home to vast amounts of pronghorn antelope winter range and migration routes that stretch up to 80 miles. It also features the Sand Creek Desert, which is the wintertime home of more than 10,000 big game animals—elk, deer, moose, and pronghorns.
The BLM is in the first stage of rewriting its Resource Management Plans for 3.14 million acres of this area. The plans will set the direction for ranching, mining, and recreation for decades to come, so this is a critical opportunity for sportsmen and women to rally around the need for these lands to be managed for the benefit of hunting and fishing and the $887-billion outdoor economy we support.
The Salmon-Challis National Forest is also planning for the future of 4.3 million acres of public forest. Over the past nine months, the agency has assessed the health of the forest and explored its issues and future challenges. Forest officials will present alternatives for management over the next 12 months.
This is an important public process, and as citizens of Sportsmen’s Country—the public lands where the majority of hunters and anglers have the unique privilege of pursuing our outdoor traditions—it is critical that we all speak up.
In addition to commenting on the individual plans (when available), there are a number of ways you can act now to influence the management of our national public lands:
Reopening conservation plans before they can be implemented is a premature step
Today, the Department of Interior and Bureau of Land Management announced that they will reopen the federal land-use plans for sage grouse conservation for amendments and published a 45-day comment period in the Federal Register. The action stems from a report generated by Secretarial Order 3353 and recommendations from a DOI-lead review team regarding several issues brought forth by the western states, local governments, and some stakeholder groups. While today’s notice opens the plans for additional comments, it does not necessarily mean they will be amended.
“We do not believe DOI and BLM fully exhausted all administrative options outlined in the report to the Secretary before deciding to pursue reopening the federal sage grouse conservation plans after just 2-years from their completion and with little implementation on the ground,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Some targeted amendments to the plans may be necessary and could be acceptable once all other options have been exhausted, but we do not support major changes from amendments to the federal plans.”
“The current federal plans already balanced the conservation and management of sage-grouse priority habitat with energy development and other multiple uses of public lands. Representatives from the oil and gas, wind, and grazing industries, among others, were deeply involved in developing the current sage-grouse plans. Expanding development within priority habitat would be ill-advised and invite further litigation. Any future changes to the conservation measures in the plans must be defensible and supported by past and current scientific information. The TRCP will continue to work with DOI and BLM, as well as the states, during this process to ensure issues are resolved and balanced without further compromise to the conservation of the sagebrush ecosystem.”
In a separate notice today, the BLM also canceled a proposed withdrawal of approximately 10 million acres in Sagebrush Focal Areas in Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming from mineral development.
“Mining, while not as extensive as other development, still has impacts on the sagebrush ecosystem and must follow conservation rules for sage grouse priority and general habitat. With or without designated focal areas, we expect the BLM to continue to hold future development to these existing standards.”
Theodore Roosevelt’s experiences hunting and fishing certainly fueled his passion for conservation, but it seems that a passion for coffee may have powered his mornings. In fact, Roosevelt’s son once said that his father’s coffee cup was “more in the nature of a bathtub.” TRCP has partnered with Afuera Coffee Co. to bring together his two loves: a strong morning brew and a dedication to conservation. With your purchase, you’ll not only enjoy waking up to the rich aroma of this bolder roast—you’ll be supporting the important work of preserving hunting and fishing opportunities for all.Learn More