Sitka Statement: Public, Wild and Free
Public lands are at the heart of everything we do as hunters
Public land and wildlife are uniquely American traditions. All of us, regardless of our personal wealth, enjoy the privilege of accessing public land and water that support healthy populations of fish and wildlife. Access to quality public land that supports these opportunities is vital to our livelihood. As hunters, we live and breathe public land and water, and understand the importance of these places more than anyone else.
This is land that we all own as Americans. It is land that I cherish with my wife and daughters; land that all of our children and grandchildren should be able to hunt, explore, and enjoy. Unfortunately, as we have all recently seen, there is a very real effort to diminish and sell our public lands. These efforts will compromise family traditions, our ability to put healthy food on our dinner tables, and the lifestyle that defines us. This public land transfer movement seeks to transfer federal public lands to the states under the promise of greater public control. The reality is, the public already owns these lands, and transferring them to the state would only increase the likelihood of future privatization. To many sections of public land have already been privatized, resulting in little or no access at all. As hunters, we do not want to give up another acre.
Under direct pressure from hunters of all stripes, H.R. 621 -- which would have sold over 3 million acres of public land -- was finally withdrawn by Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT). This was a positive victory, but there are other efforts that threaten our public lands.
- HR 622, also proposed by Rep. Chaffetz, will undermine the law enforcement functions of the BLM and Forest Service. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the law enforcement officers who help protect our public lands. These officers are experts in conservation, and we are very concerned that taking away their educated authority will lead to more poaching and habitat degradation.
- Oregon House Bill 2365, sponsored by Rep. Wilson, will empower a task force to research the benefits of transferring federal public lands to the state. This task force would primarily investigate fiscal benefits of the transfer, including the timber and mineral revenue possibly accrued after the transfer is complete. We fear if financial contribution is the dominating factor, the research will support the immediate transfer of these lands, overlooking utilization of and current access to public lands.
- HJ Res 44, sponsored by Rep. Cheney, will reverse improvements made to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) planning process (known as BLM 2.0), which provide more opportunity for public input on resource management plans on the 245 million acres of public lands that the BLM manages. HJ Res 44 will also ignore prior research gathered, that ensures proper management techniques in the ever developing wildlife habitat and seasonal ranges. As hunters and conservationists, we must continue to use the most state-of-the-art conservation techniques, to establish healthy wildlife populations, and secure hunting for future generations.
These are only a number of the issues that are a threat to public land access. We can and must take action.
We urge you to call your representatives and tell them you oppose H.R. 622 and H.B. 2365, and support keeping public lands in public hands. Go to: www.usa.gov/elected-officials to find your local representative and make the call. It takes 5 minutes and can truly makes a difference. These are issues that transcend politics, and should unite us as sportsmen, women, and children. The diversity of the hunting community is our strength. Politics do not discriminate in the field; we all share in the tradition of public hunting as equals.
Additionally, we encourage you to join us in supporting the efforts of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation , and our other conservation partners who are driving the public lands agenda. Become a member and support organizations that are making a difference. United with these conservation champions, we can send a strong message to legislators that the hunting community will not allow the sale of our legacy.
Public lands are vital to our lifestyle and the future of hunting. We will continue to reach out to you at key moments in the defense of our public lands. Thank you for your support.
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