By Mark Kenyon
Watch this video. Take its message seriously.
If you hunt or fish or camp or hike or recreate in any way on public land – or even if you just want the opportunity to do so someday – your voice is needed.
You’ve likely seen and heard plenty over the past couple years about the threat of a transfer or sale of America’s public lands. It was a dangerous idea, and hunters, anglers and other outdoorsy folks made a lot of noise about it. The good news now is that we as a community have done such a good job speaking out against these proposals that the idea has started to lose steam. At least in its original form.
Over the past year or so, politicians have quickly found that any bill that overtly calls for the transfer or sale of public ground is going to set off an absolute firestorm (take for example the HR 621 event). So in many cases they’re backing away from that kind of rhetoric. But that doesn’t mean the attacks have stopped. Far from it. Now, instead of a direct sale or transfer of public ground, these anti-public land advocates are seeking out new slightly more overt ways to undermine the integrity of our public real-estate.
Budgets for managing agencies are proposed to be slashed, in many cases resource extraction is being prioritized over almost all else (even in some of the hunting/fishing community’s most cherished wildernesses such as Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge), land protections for entire areas are being rescinded, wildlife protections are being pulled back, and public input is being minimized.
For some people, when it comes to public lands, all they see are money making opportunities. And these folks have done a great job lately of being the squeaky wheel that gets the grease.
But some of us see it differently. Some of us see public lands as places to acquire our meat from, rivers to teach our kids to fish in, mountainsides to camp on, deserts to explore, and forests to find peace in. This side of the story needs to be heard too.
Public lands belong to all Americans and multiple use is, of course, a part of the management doctrine for most of these public landscapes. That means that resource extraction, as well as recreation and wildlife conservation and watershed protection, and so many other things, all have a place on these lands. But balance and care is needed when the decisions are made as to where and when and how all of these things happen.
And that’s why it’s so important for us as hunters and anglers to make sure that balance happens. We’ve got to stay squeaky. Because if we don’t, it’s clear that plenty of other folks will and their desired outcomes will look wildly different than ours.
We as a community have done a great job letting our politicians know that we are not OK with public lands being sold off or transferred. But the job isn’t done. Our task now is to make it clear that not only do our public lands need to stay in public hands, but they also need to be properly prioritized, protected and managed.
So what can we do?
1.) Stay informed. You can learn more about many of these issues over at SportsmenCountry.org or sign up for newsletters from the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership or Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, who both put together very helpful emails with updates on public land policy/news. And from a deer hunting perspective, the National Deer Alliance’s newsletter is a great resource with loads of news updates that often include public land and wildlife conservation issues.
3.) When you hear about a policy or proposal that seems to endanger our hunting or fishing opportunities and/or the lands and wildlife we cherish and depend on, speak up. Email/call/tweet or go visit your representatives in congress – this is recommended all the time, but too often acted on. Spread the word through social media. Talk to your friends about what’s happening. Volunteer for conservation organizations that are working on these issues.
And quite simply, don’t stop caring.