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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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Colorado mule deer. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Colorado mule deer. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Heat, Drought, Disease Target Big Game and Their Habitats, Threaten Outdoor Traditions

 

Rising temperatures, deeper droughts and more extreme weather events fueled by manmade climate change are making survival more challenging for America’s treasured big game wildlife from coast to coast, according to a new report from the National Wildlife Federation. Nowhere to Run: Big Game Wildlife in a Warming World details how climate change is already putting many species of big game at risk, creating an uncertain future for big game and the outdoor economy that depends on them.

 

“The recovery of big game species is one of America’s wildlife conservation success stories, made possible in large part by sustained investment by generations of sportsmen,” said Dr. Doug Inkley, senior scientist at the National Wildlife Federation “But today, a changing climate threatens to rewrite that success story.”

 

Wildfire, floods and extreme weather events like heat waves, droughts and heavy rainfall, are becoming more frequent and more severe. Unprecedented changes in habitat are having far-reaching consequences for big game and for sportsmen and women, affecting, for example, the timing of hunting seasons and the distribution and survival of animals.

“We’re already seeing changes where we hunt big game – reduced snowpack, dying forests, shifting migration patterns,” said Todd Tanner, founder and chairman of Conservation Hawks. “We have to let our elected officials know that we need solutions and we need them now. We’re running out of time.”

 

Nowhere to Run takes a comprehensive look at the best available science on climate change’s impacts on big game, covering moose, mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, pronghorn, bighorn sheep and black bears. The most significant effects include:

 

·         Heat: Moose can become heat-stressed in warm weather, especially in summer if temperatures climb above 60 to70 degrees when moose coats are thinner. Heat stress leads to lower weights, declining pregnancy rates and increased vulnerability to predators and disease. Because of warmer fall and winter temperatures, black bears are already more active than usual during times when they normally conserve energy through hibernation, pushing fat stores to the limit.

·         Drought: More droughts have reduced aspen forests in the west, a favorite elk habitat, and many elk are not migrating as much as they traditionally have. Increasing periods of drought, more invasive plants and wildfires will alter sagebrush and grassland ecosystems, favored pronghorn habitats.

·         Parasites and disease: With less snowpack to kill ticks, moose in New Hampshire are literally being eaten alive, losing so much blood to ticks that they die of anemia. White-tailed deer are susceptible to hemorrhagic disease caused by viruses transmitted by biting midges.

“Cutting carbon pollution is the key in the long run, but in the short term we must also take action to help big game survive the climate changes we’re already seeing,” said Dr. Robert Brown, former dean of North Carolina State University’s College of Natural Resources and former president of The Wildlife Society. “We can do this by promoting climate-smart approaches to conservation and managing big game populations with a changing climate in mind. But with investments in wildlife research at a generational low, policymakers risk making these decisions in the dark.”

 

In 2011, there were more than 12 million adult big game hunters who spent more than $16 billion on hunting.  More than 22 million people observed big game near their homes and 10 million traveled to view big game.  Sportsmen have invested decades and millions of dollars in restoring big game habitats and populations, in excise taxes, hunting and fishing licenses and fees.

“Not only are our sporting traditions at risk, but jobs-producing tourism dollars could decline as there will be fewer wildlife to see in America’s wild places,” saidLarry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “To protect America’s outdoor heritage, we must cut carbon pollution, speed our transition to clean energy and safeguard big game and their habitats from climate change.”

Nowhere to Run outlines the key steps needed to stem climate change and save big game:

 

1.      Address the underlying cause and cut carbon pollution 50 percent by 2030.

2.      Transition to cleaner, more secure sources of energy like offshore wind, solar power and next-generation biofuels and avoid polluting energy like coal and tar sands oil.

3.      Safeguard wildlife and their habitats by promoting climate-smart approaches to conservation.

4.      Factor a changing climate in big game plans and management.

 

The National Wildlife Federation is also running radio ads educating sportsmen about climate change’s threat to moose in Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana and New Hampshire. The version running in Maine, Michigan, Minnesota and Montana is available here: http://bit.ly/MooseRadioAd-MT. The New Hampshire ad is available here: http://bit.ly/MooseRadioAd-NH.

 

Read the report at NWF.org/SportsmenNowhere to Run is the latest in the National Wildlife Federation’s 2013 Wildlife in a Warming World series:

 

·         Wildlife in a Warming World: Confronting the Climate Crisis

·         Shifting Skies: Migratory Birds in a Warming World

·         Swimming Upstream: Freshwater Fish in a Warming World

 

Get more National Wildlife Federation news at NWF.org/News.

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The National Wildlife Federation is America’s largest conservation organization inspiring Americans to protect wildlife for our children’s future.

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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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Like many sportsmen across Colorado, I’m heartened that Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) and Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID) have reached across party lines to re-introduce the Public Lands Renewable Energy Act. This legislation takes a balanced approach to meet America’s energy needs, bolster clean energy technologies, and protect wildlife which sportsmen depend on by reducing future impacts of clean energy facilities.

A wind farm backdrops this Colorado pheasant hunter. Photo by Lew Carpenter.

A wind farm backdrops this Colorado pheasant hunter. Photo by Lew Carpenter.

As an avid angler and hunter, I know how valuable of our public lands are as a resource for recreation, beauty, and fish and game species. That’s why I support S. 279’s more efficient approach to clean energy development. The bill would set aside royalties from renewable projects to support local economies and mitigate impacts on fish and wildlife resources. By contributing thirty-five percent of the royalties collected to a conservation fund, Colorado sportsmen like me and thousands of others can keep enjoying the resources which make our state so special. State and Counties would receive twenty-five percent each.

“We want our public lands to be great places to fish and hunt,” Keith Curley, Director of Government Affairs for Trout Unlimited, “This bill would help ensure that when wind and solar energy development occurs on public lands, there are resources available to protect and restore habitat and secure public access in the affected areas.”

In addition, S.279 would establish a competitive leasing system, mirroring the system already in place for oil and gas industries, and make it more feasible for smart development projects to take place on federal lands. This more efficient process would be particularly beneficial to us here in Colorado, which has a tremendous potential for wind power on millions of acres of public land suitable for such projects. This will allow us to develop necessary new sources of wind and solar power on suitable public lands and at the same time give back a portion of the royalties to those most affected by the projects – the states and counties, as well as wildlife and the sportsmen who have a stake in the future of these public lands.

Senator Tester hit it dead on when he said, “With some of the best renewable energy development sites located on public lands, it’s vital to expand this industry while protecting the natural resources that make the West famous. He frames the bill as, “A common-sense way to create jobs and provide renewable energy the same opportunities as oil and gas while increasing our energy security.”

I want to thank our congressmen from Montana, Idaho, and across the nation for working together to reintroduce The Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act of 2013. I also am proud to be a part of the extensive network of supports for this bill, which includes the Western Governors Association, the National Association of Counties, conservation groups like The National Wildlife Federation and Trout Unlimited, and conservationist and sportsmen across the nation. Tom France, Senior Director of Western Wildlife Conservation of the National Wildlife Federation’s Rocky Mountains and Prairies Regional Center called the bill, “A win-win strategy to facilitate needed renewable energy development on suitable public lands.”

I believe we have much to gain for this bill’s directed effort to increase our energy independence, create meaningful jobs, support local and state level economies, and protect our unique wildlife heritage for future generations of Colorado hunters and anglers.

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Next week the shooting, hunting and outdoors industry again will engage in one of the largest trade shows I’ve ever experienced. The SHOT Show is the once-a-year gathering place for manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, publishers and wildlife conservation organizations. It’s where a passion for firearms, ammunition and outdoors equipment, plus the industry’s unified support for the Second Amendment, are on display.

lew

Author Lew Carpenter at SHOT Show 2012 Media Day with a Smith and Wesson M&P 15 in .300.

This is the 35th annual SHOT Show. The first SHOT Show was in 1979 in St. Louis, Missouri, and more than 60,000 professionals in the shooting, hunting and outdoors industry attended SHOT Show in 2012. In addition more than 2,000 members of the outdoor and mainstream media, including international media, cover the show.

It’s an incredible event, and one where today’s important issues will be discussed with, no doubt, a wide spectrum of opinions. Top-tier issues that affect this industry will certainly include universal background checks for gun buyers, modern sporting rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

In 2012, modern sporting rifles (like the one seen in the picture above) accelerated in popularity. This year’s show will be no different, with an abundance of peripheral accessories to compliment these popular rifles. As hunters and shooting enthusiasts we all have a responsibility to engage in honest, open discussion about the safety of our communities and family members. SHOT Show is an important gathering place where people of integrity will have these discussions.

Other issues of concern to sportsmen will also be on tap. Primarily, conservation.

Personally, I have been engaged for the past four years in the Vanishing Paradise campaign – a movement to restore the Louisiana wetlands. And, as many of you understand, the Mississippi River Delta supports incredible fishing and is the winter home for 70-percent of the waterfowl in the Central and Mississippi flyways.

Vanishing Paradise team members Andy McDaniels and Land Tawney wait for waterfowl in the Louisiana wetlands.

Vanishing Paradise team members Andy McDaniels and Land Tawney wait for waterfowl in the Louisiana wetlands.

Due to efforts by Vanishing Paradise and other conservation organizations, The RESTORE Act last July passed through Congress with strong support from the sportsman’s community, and we can expect that most of the money (80-percent) from any Clean Water Act fines will be sent back to the states affected by the spill.

Unfortunately, the oil spill isn’t over—and America’s hunters and anglers know it.

Every week it seems that scientists discover a previously unknown consequence of the spill. For example, scientists recently announced  that species like mahi mahi—if even briefly exposed to small amounts of oil while still in their eggs—grow up unable to swim as fast as unexposed fish.

It is not surprising that in one recent poll, 81% of hunters and anglers said they thought BP should pay the maximum penalty for their role in the spill.

Last month, the Department of Justice hammered out a plea agreement where BP agreed to pay $4.5 billion to settle the criminal claims against it. Importantly, the company also acknowledged negligence in the deaths of 11 rig workers.

But this criminal settlement doesn’t mean it is all over—far from it.

The Justice Department is still pursuing civil claims against BP under our nation’s environmental laws. If found guilty of gross negligence at trial—and Justice seems to think it has a strong case—BP would face fines in the range of 20 billion under the Clean Water Act alone.

The company also faces billions of dollars in assessments under the Oil Pollution Act. This law requires the company to pay the costs of restoring the Gulf back to the condition it was in at the time of the disaster. To give you a sense of the potential scale, if BP paid the same amount per gallon as Exxon did in the Valdez case, we’d be looking at roughly $30 billion dollars for restoration.

These may seem like large numbers, but it will take an investment on this scale to make the Gulf whole again. It is the Department of Justice’s job to see that BP is held fully accountable. And it is our job, as hunters and anglers, to keep the heat on the Justice Department to make sure it happens.

Please speak up and demand that BP own up to its carelessness in the Gulf and that the Justice Department hold the company fully accountable. America’s hunting and fishing legacy depends on it.

Out West

SHOT Show is also an important place to discuss areas out West where I, like many of you, hunt mule deer, elk, pronghorn and other great species. If you have an interest in supporting and saving our great western hunting legacy, OPL_Sigplease see the Our Public Lands website. Ourpubliclands.org is a place for hunters, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts to get information about the public lands where they enjoy their favorite activities. The public lands issues on the website focus on:

FRIENDS OF COLORADOOUTDOORS.NET

Finally, SHOT Show is a place to reconnect with old friends. And although there are too many to list here, I’m going to take a moment to highlight two great partners who have helped with the Vanishing Paradise campaign and whose senior leadership have been friends of mine for decades.

RealTree Camo has developed the industry’s most realistic pattern ever. Last week the company unveiled its new camo pattern, Realtree Xtra, also available in Realtree Xtra Green.Image

The breakthrough in camo pattern realism comes from a combination of design and printing technology that delivers three distinct fields within one camo pattern: a foreground, mid-ground, and background.

“New Realtree Xtra and Xtra Green truly live up to their names, giving hunters extra effectiveness in the field,” said Realtree Designer and President Bill Jordan. “All throughout the development process, we focused on creating incredible depth, visual confusion and 3D effects in the pattern mid-grounds and backgrounds while still retaining total sharpness and detail in the foreground elements. The result is as close to nature as we’ve ever gotten.”The Realtree Xtra and Realtree Xtra Green camo designs feature 12 warm, natural colors-one with more green. The new designs provide all-season utility for hunters and outdoorspeople. Its subtle shadows, highlights, and textures blend with more terrain and lighting conditions than any other camo pattern available and make Realtree Xtra the most versatile camo on the market.

And our friends at Plano Molding have completely remodeled the Plano website. The new and improved version showcases all Plano products and is much easier to navigate. It also features videos and articles by members of photoPlano’s pro staff and highlights products that they personally endorse. Head on over to www.planomolding.com and have a look around.

Hope to see you all at SHOT Show 2013 and safe travels to the City of Sin!

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BLM’s failure to implement master leasing plans in prime fish and wildlife habitat represents a flawed approach to public lands energy development, say sportsmen

DENVER – The Bureau of Land Management has considered the list of Colorado candidates for leasing reforms that take a landscape-scale look at conservation of public lands, and the result is no good news for fish, wildlife and sportsmen.

Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development said Thursday that the BLM’s decision not to approve a master leasing plan for South Park, a premier fish and wildlife haven in central Colorado, is the latest case of the agency’s failure to follow through on the promised reforms a year after identifying sites that merit MLPs. None has been approved in Colorado and little progress has been made in other Western states.

South Park, prized by sportsmen for its world-class fisheries and pronghorn, mule deer and elk herds, is a prime candidate for an MLP, which would identify important conservation values and potential cumulative impacts early in the energy development process, SFRED said.

The sportsmen’s coalition is led by Trout Unlimited, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and the National Wildlife Federation.

“Despite the economic slump, oil and gas development continues to grow in Colorado. Yet the BLM is not utilizing one of its best management tools to secure certainty for industry by focusing on long-term, comprehensive planning that also protects fish, wildlife, habitat and water quality,” said John Gale, NWF’s regional representative. “The BLM has failed to keep an important part of its promise to balance our energy needs with the hunting, fishing and recreation on public lands that boost rural economies and sustain our Western heritage.”

The BLM describes a master leasing plan as a way “to restore needed balance to the development process by improving protections for land, water and wildlife” and to address potential conflicts.

An MLP would provide a crucial step between the more general, overarching resource management plan and approvals for specific leases and drilling permits, when there’s limited opportunity for analysis of the potential, cumulative impacts, said Suzanne O’Neill, executive director of the Colorado Wildlife Federation, which formally proposed South Park for an MLP.

“The BLM’s rejection on Tuesday of an MLP for South Park is an opportunity lost,” O’Neill added. “The BLM’s explanation was that it would be jumping the gun because South Park hasn’t seen that much oil and gas activity. But that’s precisely the right time to act, before the great tracts of unfragmented habitat are carved up and the South Platte and its tributaries are threatened.”

About 450 people and businesses, many of them from the South Park area, signed a petition asking the BLM to approve an MLP to conserve one of the “last wild places” while allowing energy development.

In Colorado’s North Park, a site proposed by the BLM itself for a master leasing plan, agency officials deemed the proposal too late because the area already is “substantially leased.”

“So, it would appear that we are too late for North Park and too early for South Park,” SFRED wrote in a Feb. 1 letter to BLM Director Bob Abbey.

The lack of final guidance for the development of MLPs has created confusion within the agency and among the public about where and when the plans should be used, according to SFRED.

North Park contains the headwaters of the North Platte River and is home to moose, elk, bear, pronghorn, mule deer and the greater sage-grouse, which is a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act. Both North Park and South Park already have oil and gas wells and sit atop the oil-rich Niobrara formation, seen as possibly the nation’s next big play.

“If not North Park and South Park, where are they going to do MLPs?” asked Trout Unlimited’s Bob Meulengracht, who lives in Colorado. “The BLM is in the process of writing new resource management plans, yet they’re pooh-poohing the idea of master leasing plans.’’

Meulengracht challenged the BLM’s reasoning that at roughly 50 percent, too much of North Park is already leased to preclude preparation of an MLP.

“What makes 50 percent substantial?” Meulengracht asked. “North Park has been called the Serengeti of Colorado, and that characterization is absolutely appropriate. It has some of the best hunting and fishing around. It’s a special place, one worth conserving.”

Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development is a coalition of more than 500 businesses, organizations and individuals dedicated to conserving irreplaceable habitats so future generations can hunt and fish on public lands. The coalition is led by Trout Unlimited, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and the National Wildlife Federation.

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NEW SURVEY FINDS VOTERS IN KEY WESTERN STATES BELIEVE U.S. DOES NOT HAVE TO CHOOSE BETWEEN ENVIRONMENT & ECONOMY; SUPPORT PROTECTIONS FOR AIR, WATER, AND PARKS

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO – The results from the 2012 Colorado College State of the Rockies Conservation in the West poll find that western voters across the political spectrum – from Tea Party supporters to those who identify with the Occupy Wall Street movement and voters in- between – view parks and public lands as essential to their state’s economy, and support upholding and strengthening protections for clean air, clean water, natural areas and wildlife.

The survey, completed in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming by Lori Weigel of Public Opinion Strategies (a Republican firm) and Dave Metz of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (a Democratic firm), found that swing voters across the west – who will be key to deciding the outcome of a number of U.S. Senate and governors’ races, and possibly the presidential race – nearly unanimously agree that public lands such as national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife areas are “an essential part” of the economies of these states. Four in five western voters view having a strong economy and protecting land and water as compatible.

Two-thirds of Western voters say America’s energy policy should prioritize expanding use of clean renewable energy and reducing our need for more coal, oil and gas. Even in states like Wyoming and Montana, which are more often associated with fossil fuels, voters view renewable energy as a local job creator.

Survey results are a sharp contrast to the energy and environmental debates currently happening in Washington, and in many state capitals. “Western voters consistently believe that conservation helps create and protect jobs for their states,” said Dave Metz. “In fact, by a 17 point margin, voters are more likely to say that environmental regulations have a positive impact on jobs in their state rather than a negative one.”

Seven in 10 Western voters support implementation of the Clean Air Act, and updating clean air standards. They see regulations designed to protect land, air, water and wildlife as having positive impact on public safety (70 percent), the natural beauty of their state (79 percent) and their quality of life (72 percent).

The survey also found strong approval ratings for most governors in the region, and an electorate divided in hotly-contested U.S. Senate races in Montana and New Mexico. Key swing voters in these contests often express pro-conservation views.

“What we read in the press and what politicians say about an ever-sharpening trade-off between environment and jobs in a deep recession do not square with views of many western voters,” said Colorado College economist and State of the Rockies Project faculty director Walt Hecox, PhD. “Instead, those stubborn westerners continue to defy stereotypes, by arguing that a livable environment and well-managed public lands can be — in fact must be — compatible with a strong economy.”

The survey results echo the sentiments of more than 100 economists, including three Nobel Laureates and Dr. Hecox, who recently sent a letter to President Obama urging him to create and invest in new federal protected lands such as national parks, wilderness and monuments. Studies have shown that together with investment in education and access to markets, protected public lands are significant contributors to economic growth.

Similarly, western voters voiced support for continued funding of conservation, indicating that even with tight state budgets, they want to maintain investments in parks, water, and wildlife protection. When specific local issues were tested with voters in some states – such as increasing the state’s renewable energy standard in Montana, establishing national monument protections for the Arkansas River canyon in Colorado, and updating energy standards for new homes in Utah – voters want to actually strengthen protections.

While there are geographic and partisan distinctions on a number of key issues, such as energy development on public lands, the data show that the broad conservation values uniting westerners are much more prevalent than the occasional issues that divide them.

“The depth and breadth of the connection between westerners and the land is truly remarkable – – when people are telling us that public lands are essential to their economy, and that they support continued investments in conservation, even in these difficult economic times,” said Lori Weigel. “Westerners are telling us that we’ve got to find a way to protect clean air, clean water, and parks in their states.”

The 2012 Colorado College Conservation in the West survey is a bipartisan poll conducted by Republican pollster Lori Weigel of Public Opinion Strategies and Democratic pollster Dave Metz of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates. The poll surveyed 2,400 registered voters in six western states (AZ, CO, NM, UT, WY, MT) January 2 through 5 & 7, 2012, and yields a margin of error of + 2.0 percent nationwide and +4.9 statewide.

The full survey and individual state surveys are available on the Colorado College website.

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