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Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Releases Public Lands Report to Educate Sportsmen and Decision Makers on the Need to Keep Public Lands in Public Hands

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Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA) recently released “Our Public Lands-
Not for Sale,” detailing how the proposed transfer, or sale, of America’s federal public lands would negatively affect sportsmen and women in the United States. A growing number of western state legislators and federal elected officials are advocating for the transfer or all out sale of federal public lands. This report highlights how these ideas are nothing new and if the come to pass, how detrimental they would be to America’s sportsmen and women, ultimately resulting in loss of access to quality habitat for hunting and fishing.

The report also illustrates the incredible potential harm to both the outdoor business community and sportsmen and women. More than two thirds of hunters in the 11 Western states depend on public lands for all or part of their hunting, including both resident and non-resident hunters. And, outdoor recreation supports $646 billion in revenue and 6.1 million jobs annually.

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is 100 percent against the transfer, or sale, of our federal public lands. While we think that federal land management could be improved, this is no time to throw the baby out with the bathwater. We look forward to working with elected officials from both sides of the aisle to protect our outdoor heritage and keep public lands in public hands,” said Land Tawney, Executive Director of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers.

“Without public land we would be out of business, in fact, we would have never gotten into business because there would be no reason to make hunting clothes if only a select few could participate. The opportunity for individuals to access beautiful and wild places in an equitable manner is one of the core American values that enriches the quality of life for all,” said Kenton Carruth, Founder, First Lite, Idaho.

As someone who has spent his life enjoying the public lands of the West, “I consider this land a birthright and a heritage to be passed on to future generations. The State’s Rights arguments forwarded by those advocating turning federal lands over to individual states are thinly veiled mouth pieces for private interests seeking to purchase and exploit our public lands to the exclusion of the common American,” said BHA member Tim Note, Washington.

The Public Lands Report can be found on Backcountry Hunters & Anglers’ website at http://www.backcountryhunters.org.

Founded in 2004, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is the sportsman’s voice for our wild public lands, waters and wildlife. With chapters in 23 states and one in British Columbia, BHA and its members represent sportsmen and women who hunt and fish on public land and work to protect the challenge and solitude that only the backcountry can provide.

For more information on Backcountry Hunters & Anglers and how you can get involved, please visit their website at http://www.backcountryhunters.org or visit them on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/backcountryhabitat.

Sign the Sportsman’s Pledge today to help us protect our public land!

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The South Platte at Elevenmile Canyon, Colorado. Photo by Rich Holland

The South Platte at Elevenmile Canyon, Colorado. Photo by Rich Holland

Former Interior Secretary Salazar, NWF CEO and affiliates say keep public lands public

Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar joined Collin O’Mara, the National Wildlife Federation’s CEO and president, and business and conservation leaders Thursday to speak out for conserving America’s public lands and against attempts to sell or get rid of the lands that sustain fish and wildlife populations as well as hunting, fishing and the country’s multi-billion-dollar outdoor recreation industry.

The National Wildlife Federation’s 49 state affiliates have unanimously approved a resolution that calls for keeping public lands in public hands and opposes large-scale exchanges, sales or giveaways of federally managed lands. This week, 41 of the state affiliates sent a letter to the Republican National Committee asking that it rescind a resolution adopted this year that urges Congress to turn over public lands to the Western states that want them.

The affiliates noted that public lands help grow America’s economy by supporting an outdoor recreation industry that generates $646 billion in economic benefit annually and supports 6.1 million jobs. The organizations stressed that wise stewardship of the lands that belong to all Americans is a long tradition that cuts across political and social lines.

Shadow Mountain Lake, Colorado. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Shadow Mountain Lake, Colorado. Photo by Lew Carpenter

“Despite the economic importance of federal lands to wildlife and people, they remain under constant threat. In recent years, several state legislative proposals have called on the federal government to transfer ownership of public lands to the states, which in turn would pass them off to private interests in many instances,” the organizations wrote.

The Interior Department’s latest annual economic report shows the agency’s programs and activities generated $360 billion in benefits and supported more than 2 million jobs nationwide in fiscal 2013. Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar started preparing the reports in 2009 to highlight the department’s contributions to the U.S. economy.

“The nation’s public lands are the birthright and priceless heritage of all Americans. Our policymakers and elected leaders should be working to preserve and enhance these multiple use economic engines,” said Salazar, who served as Interior secretary from 2009 to 2013.

The National Wildlife Federation is on the front lines of conserving fish and wildlife and the places where they live, and in large part those places are public lands, O’Mara said.

“The National Wildlife Federation, our 49 state affiliates, and four million members and supporters strongly support keeping our public lands in public hands. As a diverse federation of hunters, anglers, hikers, wildlife watchers, and nature lovers, we are united in our passion for protecting public lands, which provide amazing outdoor experiences for all Americans, landscapes for deer, elk, pronghorn, and bison herds to migrate, forests for grizzlies, bighorn sheep and lynx, and critical habitat for more than 700 species of birds, 220 species of mammals, 1,000 species of fish and 250 reptile and amphibian species. For more than a century, protecting land for the benefit all outdoor enthusiasts and wildlife has been an essential element of the American experience—and we must pass on this legacy to future generations,” O’Mara said.

The wildlife federations have worked through the years to conserve the public lands necessary for fish and wildlife and hunting and fishing and will continue to do, said David Chadwick, Montana Wildlife Federation executive director.

“Every few decades this idea of selling off public land pops up, and public opinion always beats it back. Meanwhile, the challenges facing our national forests and other public lands have continued to grow,” Chadwick added. “We need our elected officials to quit wasting time on these speculative, ideological proposals and instead take action on the common-sense, collaborative efforts under way all over the country to improve land management.”

Hanging Lake, Colorado. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Hanging Lake, Colorado. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Surveys and polls show overwhelming support for public lands among voters in the West, the target of many of the drives to dispose of public land. That support extends beyond the region to other parts of the country where hunters, anglers and other wildlife enthusiasts enjoy the backcountry, rivers and forests, said Tim Gestwicki, the North Carolina Wildlife Federation CEO.

“Sportsmen and women and wildlife watchers in the Southeast value our public lands, from the Appalachians to the coast. We also value the Western lands and their abundant wildlife, big open spaces and great hunting and fishing. We stand with our fellow sportsmen and women in defending public lands and protecting the special places that offer some of the best of what this country is about,” Gestwicki said.

“Sportsmen are on the front line in this effort to prevent the transfer of federal public lands. These are the very lands where we hunt and fish, and where we pass on those traditions to our kids. The idea that somehow our federal public lands are dispensable is an affront to all hunters and anglers, and we are determined to protect these lands for ourselves and for future generations,” said Garrett VeneKlasen, executive director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation.

America’s national parks, monuments and rugged landscapes are not only a draw for people in this country, but across the world, said Peter Metcalf, CEO and president of Black Diamond, Inc., a leading manufacturer of outdoor sports equipment and clothing.

“No other country in the world has the public land infrastructure that we have. There’s such a richness of landscape and wildlife. Our public lands and outdoor recreation and lifestyles are coveted by people around the world and are a draw for communities and employers competing for new businesses and workers,” Metcalf said. “Black Diamond’s brand is synonymous with these iconic landscapes that capture the imagination of people all over the world. In addition they are a source of inspiration for our designers, engineers and marketing people.”

Additional Resources: `Valuing our Public Lands: Safeguarding our Economy and Way of Life,’

National Wildlife Federation affiliates’ resolution on transfer of public lands.

NWF affiliates’ letter on transfer, sale of public lands.

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The National Wildlife Federation’s Sportsmen Initiative invites you to attend the 2014 Nebraska Fishing Trip. Your event fees will support NWF’s work with hunters and anglers to conserve fish and wildlife habitat and protect our sporting heritage.

Brian Bashore, NWF Board Director and professional walleye guide (thewalleyeguides.com) heads up this great event.

Brian Bashore, NWF Board Director and professional walleye guide (thewalleyeguides.com) heads up this great event.

Experience:
Fishing – 2 full days of Nebraska’s finest walleye and trout fishing
Golfing – on what might be the world’s most undisturbed golf course
Learn about NWF’s sportsmen programs and the Nebraska Wildlife Federation
Meet NWF’s new CEO/President, Collin O’Mara          

What:   2014 Nebraska Fishing Trip

Where: The Prairie Club

When:  October 16 – October 19th

Time: Thursday, the 16th, starting at 5 pm Happy Hour. Sunday, check out

Please see the flyer and the response card for more information on how to register to attend. See you in the Sandhills!

http://www.nwf.org/Sportsmen/Events.aspx

 

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Guest Post: Jodi Stemler (via http://camoisthenewblack.com)

I work in a pretty male-dominated field. I remember 20 years ago when I was interning for a wildlife conservation organization, my supervisor described our colleagues as “silver backed males,” a fairly apt description…

(more…)

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Coalition calls on Congress to fund the Refuge System after report shows the economic benefit to the American public is almost five times the cost to run them

A new report released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Banking On Nature: The Economic Benefits to Local Communities of National Wildlife Refuge Visitation, shows that for every $1 appropriated by Congress to run the Refuge System, nearly $5 is generated in local economies. Despite the fact that the Refuge System has seen a significant increase in visitation, it has faced severe funding cuts. As Congress considers the budget bills for Fiscal Year 2014, the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE) calls upon the House of Representatives and the Senate to fund the Refuge System at $499 million this year.

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Alamosa and Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuges are adjacent refuges in southern Colorado. Photo courtesy FWS.

“As hunters, anglers, bird and wildlife watchers, scientists, conservationists and concerned Americans, we know the National Wildlife Refuge System has always been a worthy investment,” said David Houghton, President of the National Wildlife Refuge Association and Chair of the CARE coalition. “Now the data proves it – refuges provide an enormous bang for the American buck.”

The report, spanning 2006-2011, shows that even during the worst recession since the Great Depression, the overall return on investment increased substantially for the Refuge System as well as every other major indicator. From 2006-2011 the Refuge System saw the following annual increases:

– 20% increase in sales and economic output to $2.4 billion;
– 22% increase in return on investment for every $1 appropriated to $4.87;
– 23% increase in jobs to 35,000.

“At the height of our economic downturn, Americans recreated on our national wildlife refuges more than ever before and that increase helped many businesses weather the economic storm,” said Houghton. “These public lands are increasingly important to hotel operators, restaurant owners, hunting guides and the countless other small businesses that depend on a vibrant Refuge System for their livelihood.”

CARE estimates that the Refuge System needs at least $900 million in annual operations and maintenance funding to properly administer its 561 refuges and 38 wetland management districts spanning over 150 million acres. At its highest funding level in FY 2010, the Refuge System received only $503 million—little more than half the needed amount. Since that time, congressional appropriations have not only failed to account for rising costs, but have been steadily backsliding. With its annual budget having declined by $50 million over the past three years, the Refuge System cannot afford to lose another penny.

The Refuge System always did “more with less” but now, after three years of budget cuts, it has to do “less with less”. Everything from acres of invasive species being treated to volunteer hours were down substantially in FY13 and further budget cuts will simply make many operations impossible.
“We hope Congress looks at this report and sees what a great investment we have in the National Wildlife Refuge System,” continued Houghton. “Let our decision makers retain funding for the programs like refuges that grow our economy.”
– REPORT HIGHLIGHTS –
– Wildlife refuges generate more than $32.3 billion each year in natural goods and services, such as buffering coastal communities from storm surges, filtering pollutants from municipal water supplies, and pollinating food crops.
– The more than 46 million hunters, anglers, wildlife watchers, photographers and other recreationists who visit wildlife refuges generate $2.4 billion in sales to local communities each year.
– Visitors to refuges generated $342.9 million in local, county, state and federal tax revenue.
– 77% of refuge spending was done by visitors from outside the local area.

– QUOTES FROM CARE MEMBER ORGANIZATIONS –
American Sportsfishing Association
“Americans generally don’t think of fish and wildlife recreation as an industry but it is. Whether anglers and hunters spending their money to pursue their respective sports or funds spent on wildlife viewing, fish and wildlife recreation is big business and for many communities near a national wildlife refuge it may be most of their business. The Banking on Nature report demonstrates the importance that fish and wildlife recreation makes to the economy. It needs to be taken seriously.”
— Gordon Robertson, Vice President
Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies
“National Wildlife Refuges are a mainstay of a system of state, federal, local and private lands that support our nation’s rich fish and wildlife heritage. They offer hunters, anglers, photographers and other wildlife enthusiasts a unique opportunity to connect with nature and uphold timeless traditions. The Banking on Nature report provides further economic proof of the value of wild places that accompanies their ecological worth.”
—Ron Regan, Executive Director
Defenders of Wildlife
“They are called ‘refuges’ for a reason. In this challenging economic environment, people depend even more than usual on opportunities to escape the worries of everyday living by engaging with nature and with wildlife. Those opportunities are provided by our country’s National Wildlife Refuge System. Our investments in refuges are being returned fivefold to local economies, right where the money is needed most. It’s simple math – Congress should increase funding for America’s Refuge System for the benefit of people and wildlife.”
—Jamie Rappaport Clark, President

Ducks Unlimited
“Every state has at least one national wildlife refuge which provides unparalleled outdoor recreation opportunities such as hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing. This report further strengthens what sportsmen and the conservation communities already know: investment in our natural resources provide a valuable return in our nation’s economy.”
— Paul Schmidt, Chief Conservation Officer
Izaak Walton League of America
“Refuges nationwide provide some of the best hunting and fishing for American sportsmen and women and the Banking on Nature report shows once again that taxpayers and local communities receive tremendous economic benefits when we conserve natural resources and promote sustainable outdoor recreation.”
—Scott Kovarovics, Executive Director
Marine Conservation Institute
“The refuge portions of the four Pacific marine national monuments constitute one-third of the refuge system; yet, funding to safeguard these national treasures has not followed suit. The Pacific marine national monuments were designated to protect invaluable coral reefs, essential habitat for an estimated 14 million seabirds, and many threatened and endangered marine species. But illegal trespass and illegal fishing have damaged coral reefs and other marine wildlife from vessel groundings and introduction of invasive species within the monuments. Continued budget cuts to the System will hurt current efforts to restore this damage and protect these areas effectively.”
— Lance Morgan, Ph.D., President
National Rifle Association
“Hunters have been the backbone of the National Wildlife Refuge System beginning in 1903 when President Theodore Roosevelt established Pelican Island as the first wildlife refuge. Since the 1930s, the purchase of Duck Stamps for waterfowl hunting and collecting have contributed substantially to the acquisition of important lands for the Refuge System. This citizen-based revenue for land acquisition is unparalleled in the world. The NRA supports CARE’s efforts to protect the hunters’ investment in our Refuge System and to strengthen public support for wildlife conservation through the economic benefits that wildlife-dependent recreation brings to local communities.”
—Susan Recce, Director of Conservation, Wildlife and Natural Resources
National Wildlife Federation
“There’s nothing more fiscally conservative than taking care of our vital assets and investing in the future. Despite years of underfunding, these important natural areas continue to draw people who want to connect to wildlife and the outdoors. They produce great economic benefits for neighboring communities. How long can that continue if Congress keeps shortchanging the refuge system?”
— Larry Schweiger, President & CEO
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
“The National Wildlife Refuge System provides outstanding hunting and angling opportunities for America’s sportsmen and women. They are drawn from across the nation to these public lands because they provide quality habitat and opportunities to hunt, fish, and enjoy nature. The new Banking on Nature report demonstrates once again that local communities near refuges benefit a great deal from federal investment in the refuge system, and stands as further evidence that Congress should support increased refuge funding to ensure that these benefits are sustained.”
— Whit Fosburgh, President and CEO

The Nature Conservancy
“The Banking on Nature report could not have come at a better time as it reinforces the tremendous value of nature as found in our National Wildlife Refuge System. National Wildlife Refuges provide innumerable public benefits for the nation – fish and wildlife habitat, special places for wildlife recreation and stimulation for local economies. The Refuge System also provides $32.3 billion in goods and services such as natural defenses from storm surges and flooding for the thousands of communities nestled around refuge areas. Strong annual funding for the Refuge System is imperative to ensure the numerous public benefits provided by this system are sustained into the future.”
— Kameran Onley, Acting Director of Government Relations
The Wilderness Society
“Our national wildlife refuges are treasures that protect important wildlife habitat, bolster the economies of local communities, and provide places for Americans to learn about and experience nature in the wild. Continuing to cut critical funding for refuges hurts these iconic lands and waters and those who depend on them while shortchanging the American taxpayer who has invested in building this vibrant National Wildlife Refuge System.”
— Jamie Williams, President
The Wildlife Society
“Refuges are essential for the conservation of our nation’s wildlife and their habitats, and they also provide a natural laboratory for wildlife biologists who are engaged in field research efforts. As the Banking on Nature report shows, they also provide important economic benefits for local communities. In light of this report, The Wildlife Society encourages Congress to provide the necessary investments in the Refuge System to allow it to continue to provide these, and myriad other, benefits.”
— Ken Williams, Executive Director
Wildlife Management Institute
“Conservation is good business and an essential investment in the future of our nation. The Banking On Nature report details the powerful economic impact of the National Wildlife Refuge System. True patriots recognize that additional funding is needed to protect our natural heritage and to enhance the economy it supports.”
— Steve Williams, President
The Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE) is a national coalition of 23 wildlife, sporting, conservation, and scientific organizations representing a constituency numbering more than 16 million Americans. CARE has been working since 1995 to educate Congress, the Administration, and the public about America’s magnificent National Wildlife Refuge.

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Rich Holland, fishing and hunting content director for SmartEtailing.com holds up a nice Elevenmile Reservoir cutthroat trout. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Urgent Action Needed to Protect America’s Outdoor Heritage

America’s coldwater fish habitat could decline by 50 percent within the lifetime of a child born today thanks to climate change, according to a new report released today by the National Wildlife Federation. Swimming Upstream: Freshwater Fish in a Warming World details how climate change is warming lakes, rivers and streams and making existing stresses worse, creating an uncertain future for America’s freshwater fishing traditions and the jobs that depend on them.

“More extreme heat and drought are already causing big problems for fish that rely on cold, clean water – and the warming we’ve seen so far is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Doug Inkley, National Wildlife Federation senior scientist and one of the lead authors of Swimming Upstream. “We can protect America’s outdoor heritage, but only if we act now to cut industrial carbon pollution, invest in clean energy, and make communities and habitats more resilient to the impacts of climate change.”

Climate change is warming our lakes, rivers and streams causing:

· Habitat loss for many cold-water species

· Exacerbation of existing stressors, such as habitat loss, polluted water, invasive species and
disease

· Increased competition from warm-water species

“Temperature increases of even a few degrees can have dramatic impacts, harming iconic game fish like salmon, trout and walleye and giving a leg up to destructive invaders like sea lamprey,” said Jack Williams, Trout Unlimited senior scientist and one of the lead authors of Swimming Upstream. “We need to manage our water resources in a way that ensures that both people and fish have the clean, cool, and abundant water they need to survive.”

Climate change is affecting seasonal patterns and loading the dice for extreme weather:

· Warmer, shorter winters with less snow and ice cover can shift stream flows and water
availability in the spring and summer. Reduced ice cover also means many lakes are too thin
for safe ice fishing, a popular recreation in many northern locales.

· More extreme weather events —especially more intense droughts, heat waves and wildfires
— can increase fish mortality.

· More frequent droughts reduce stream flows and kill streamside vegetation which helps to cool streams. Less water during droughts reduces available habitat and the remaining water warms faster, leaving fewer cool or cold-water refuges for fish.

“Here in North Carolina, fishing is a critical economic driver. More than a million anglers spent over $574 million on freshwater fishing in 2011,” said Kelly Darden, North Carolina Wildlife Federation board member. “For North Carolina sportsmen, it’s not about politics. It’s about a simple question: What’s your plan to confront climate change and protect our outdoor heritage?”

Swimming Upstream outlines actions needed to address climate change and ensure a thriving fishing tradition. To confront the climate crisis’ threats to fish, wildlife and communities we must:

· Address the underlying cause and cut carbon pollution 50 percent by 2030.
· Transition to cleaner, more secure sources of energy like offshore wind, solar power and
next-generation biofuels while avoiding dirty energy choices like coal and tar sands oil.
· Safeguard wildlife and their habitats by promoting climate-smart approaches to conservation.
· Help communities prepare for and respond to the impacts of climate change such as rising
sea levels, more extreme weather, and more severe droughts.

“Sportsmen are on the front lines of conservation. They’re already seeing changes where they fish and they know we can’t leave this problem for our children and grandchildren to deal with,” said Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “We need action on the local, state and federal levels to cut industrial carbon pollution, invest in clean energy, and make communities and habitats more resilient to the impacts of climate change. President Obama’s plan to act on climate is a major step in the right direction.”

Read the report at NWF.org/FishAndClimate.

More of NWF’s reports connecting the dots between climate change and extreme weather are available at NWF.org/ExtremeWeather. Get more National Wildlife Federation news at NWF.org/News.

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The West is filled with iconic landscapes, most of them public. With rod in hand, shotgun or rifle shouldered, most of us have experienced the bounty public lands provide. And from our earliest days in the field when any body of water or forest held unseen potential, to our current, often thoughtfully planned excursions, public lands have always been there to provide opportunity.

A new report by the National Wildlife Federation highlights the value of public lands for hunters and anglers.

A new report by the National Wildlife Federation highlights the value of public lands for hunters and anglers.

For many, the true American dream is pursuing North America’s trophy big game on the West’s vast open spaces. It’s the epitome of DIY – a complete hunting or fishing trip in the West – and also a testament to our sporting nature. It’s all there: the planning, the practice, the pursuit, the stalk, the shot and the harvest.

This sporting heritage is hard to quantify on a personal level. The value of days spent afield alone or with great friends and family, transcends material possessions. The value of public lands, however, can be quantified. The National Wildlife Federation’s (NWF) new report, Valuing Our Western Public Lands: Safeguarding Our Economy and Way of Life, illustrates the value and scope of our western lands and sends a clear message that these lands define the American landscape and our national identity.

The bulk of the vast open spaces are in the West, where they have generated jobs and revenue from commodity production, tourism and recreation, including hunting and fishing. As the western economy changes from one dominated by natural resource production to one distinguished by knowledge- and service-based industries, conserving public lands becomes increasingly important as a magnet for businesses and employees seeking a high quality of life.

The NWF report can be found at: http://www.ourpubliclands.org/sites/default/files/files/NWF_PublicLands.pdf

This fat brown trout was caught on public lands on the South Platte, which the author has fished since childhood. Photo by Matt Vincent

This fat brown trout was caught on public lands on the South Platte, which the author has fished since childhood. Photo by Matt Vincent

Several recent studies and surveys within the report found that:

• Many communities near public lands managed for conservation and recreation report higher levels of economic, population and income growth and higher property values.

• The outdoor recreation industry, including fishing and hunting, contributes nearly $650 billion to the U.S. economy and supports more than 6 million jobs. Western public lands provide recreation for people from across the country and world.

• Americans invest nearly $39 billion annually in natural resource conservation, resulting in more than $93 billion in direct economic benefits.

• Extractive, commodity-based industries generate needed materials and energy and provide jobs and revenue, but have been cyclical and have become a smaller part of the overall economy.

“Public Lands are not just where I recreate; they are also where I get my food,” said Armond Acri, a retired chemical engineer who hunts big game and waterfowl. ” I hunt on National Forest, BLM lands, State and Federal Wildlife Refuges, and State Lands.  Each year I hunt grouse, ducks, geese, deer, elk and perhaps antelope.  In a few special years I have had the privilege to hunt bison and bighorn sheep.  Public Land helps me feed both my body and my soul.  I cannot put a price on Public Land, but I know it is one of my most valued possessions.  That is why I fight to preserve the Public Lands we all own.”

Intact habitat and unspoiled backcountry are essential to maintaining fish and wildlife habitat. Proposals to dispose or devalue

Energy development on public lands can eliminate wildlife's ability to migrate from summer to winter habitat as well as adjust to the growing effects of climate change.

Energy development on public lands can eliminate wildlife’s ability to migrate from summer to winter habitat as well as adjust to the growing effects of climate change.

the land threaten a crucial part of our economy. These proposals threaten the fundamental value of ensuring that lands belonging to all Americans stay open to everyone, now and in the future.

Through the NWF report a picture of the changing West emerges. Studies show that many communities near public lands managed for conservation and recreation report higher employment, growth and income levels and higher property values. The service industries, which include health, finance and legal jobs, have diversified the economy and sustain communities when commodity-based industries experience downturns.

Industries traditionally associated with the West – logging, mining, oil and gas drilling – are still important and provide needed materials, but are often cyclical and have become a smaller part of the overall economy.

Former WON staffer Rich Holland is Fishing and Hunting Content Director for SmartEtailing.com, which offers web hosting and online commerce tools to 15,000 independent retailers affiliated with Big Rock Sports. His business, and countless others, lie at the heart of the public lands economy. But again, the value runs deeper than business.

“In the 1940s, my father was in his early teens when his family moved to Los Angeles from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,” said Holland. “He and his brother immediately discovered the great fishing and hunting available on public lands. That love of the outdoors was passed along to me and I still fish and hunt in many of the same places he frequented as a young man.

“On the other hand, quite a few of his favorite spots have been lost to encroaching development and government designations that prohibit the traditional activities of sportsmen,” he added. “Many of the retailers we work with are located adjacent to public lands, and not just in the West but along the Great Lakes, the Eastern Seaboard and the vast watershed of the Gulf Coast. These businesses rely on continued access to public lands for families who wish to fish and hunt.”

By conserving the cherished lands that drive economic growth, the American people and our national economy will be healthier

Pronghorn on western public lands need large landscapes for their long migration corridors to thrive. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Pronghorn on western public lands need large landscapes for their long migration corridors to thrive. Photo by Lew Carpenter

and more sustainable for generations to come.

So what does it all mean in today’s world? The report was created to bring the importance of public lands into the national dialogue. Several Western legislatures and members of Congress have shown they are out of touch with the public’s support for keeping public lands in public hands.

The last two congressional sessions, lawmakers introduced dozens of bills seeking to diminish protection of public land, require the federal government to sell millions of acres of the land or turn the land over to the states. State legislators and congressional members behind proposals to dispose of public lands claim that westerners believe federal management of the lands constrains natural resource development, thus depriving states of the economic benefits. In fact, the measures contradict the majority of western public opinion and threaten the region’s economy, which benefits from the diverse businesses attracted and supported by conserving public lands.

The next generation of anglers and hunters are relying on today’s sportsmen to conserve fish and wildlife habitat so they have the same opportunities to recreate on public lands. Photo by Lew Carpenter

The next generation of anglers and hunters are relying on today’s sportsmen to conserve fish and wildlife habitat so they have the same opportunities to recreate on public lands. Photo by Lew Carpenter

As a sportsman from the West I have fished from Alaska to the Gulf Coast, Baja to Idaho – and many places in between – almost exclusively on public lands. Certainly there is a place for the magnificent private-land opportunities in North America – but for the common man, nothing beats the landscapes his forefathers created, paid for with his tax dollars, equipment purchases and license fees, and which is waiting with open arms for him to conserve for his children and the generations to follow.

If you care about this American heritage, your access to public lands and wildlife, and your ability to share this with your children and grandchildren, then you need to inform yourself about the positions your elected officials are taking on public lands issues. Moreover, you need to communicate your positions to your elected officials. This is the essence of representative democracy and it is more important than ever in a time when big money is exerting enormous influence.

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