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The recent efforts to turn public lands back to the states is a far-fetched, and blatant attack on American values. Our public lands are both a legacy handed to all Americans by great leaders of the past, and an essential, critical value to the generations that follow. The public lands that we recreate upon feed our collective soul, nurture and protect the wildlife and habitat within and build jobs related to a sustainable resource intrinsic to our very existence. The price for clean air, water and land is tied to this basic asset within our borders.

A growing number of Western states and lawmakers, both state and federal, are calling for the take-over or sale of public lands. Sportsmen and other outdoor and wildlife enthusiasts oppose attempts to dismantle our public-lands heritage and will fight to see that our public lands stay in public hands.

Surveys and reports, including a recent one by Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, show that more than two-thirds of hunters in 11 Western states depend on public lands for all or part of their hunting. Without access to public lands, many of us wouldn’t be able to go hunting or fishing.

Getting rid of our public lands would be a serious blow to our state and national economies. In Colorado, outdoor recreation contributes more than $13 billion to the economy. Nationwide, it generates $646 billion in consumer spending and directly supports 6.1 million jobs.

These schemes for states to take over public lands are a solution in search of a problem. Survey after survey show that Coloradans and other Westerners love their public lands. This year, a Colorado College poll found that three-fourths of voters in the Rockies oppose selling public lands to balance the budget and nearly all of them visited public lands in the past year.

Public lands belong to all Americans. They’re our birthright. They were conserved for us and future generations by people from both political parties and all kinds of backgrounds. We owe it our children and grandchildren to fight to keep public lands in public hands so they can enjoy the benefits we have.

States that want to seize public lands say they can do a better job of managing them, but what happens when they figure out they don’t have the money and other resources? The states will start selling our public lands to the highest bidders and we’ll all be the losers.

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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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Rich Holland of SmartEtailing.com fishes a stretch of water on public land. Photo by Lew Carpenter

We all know that access to our public lands has been shrinking. Everyone who has been around New Mexico for more than a decade has a story. My friend and co-worker Max Trujillo, for example, remembers hunting with his father and brothers on BLM land in San Miguel County that eventually was designated as the Sabinoso Wilderness. “There’s good hunting up there,” he said, but as private lands surrounding Sabinoso changed hands, public access routes were shut down and the public lost all access into the area. Now Sabinoso is landlocked and no one but the neighbors can hunt there. “My kids never had that chance,” Max said.

In Las Cruces, NMWF board member Jim Bates talks about a large area of BLM land in the Sierra de Las Uvas where he used to hunt 40 years ago. Then came a locked gate. At first the landowner charged $25 a year to get to the public land. Then the price jumped to $100. Last time he heard, Jim said, it was $400. “It’s a nice area and there’s some pretty good hunting in there. But that’s not why we need access. It’s the principle of the thing – that’s our land and we can’t get to it.”

John Cornell, NMWF’s sportsman organizer in Hillsboro, lives in the shadow of Gila National Forest. But because one landowner has blocked access up Berrenda Creek, the public is locked out of the entire southeast corner of the forest. “That’s tens of thousands of acres that we can’t reach, but it’s the landowner’s private playground,” John said.

These are exactly the kinds of access issues that a bill now before Congress would address. The HUNT Act, introduced by Sen. Martin Heinrich, would expand and protect access to millions of acres of landlocked public land nationwide.

If this sounds familiar, it is. Sen. Heinrich introduced the same legislation last year when he was in the U.S. House. The new bill (click here to read it) would require agencies like the BLM and the Forest Service to work with willing landowners to provide access to public lands currently off-limits to hunters and anglers like Max, Jim, John – and YOU.

Polls have found that access is sportsmen’s No. 1 concern. The Government Accountability Office found that more than 50 million acres of public land is literally off-limits to the public that owns it. Not surprisingly, the HUNT Act has proven popular with sportsmen’s groups. Outdoor Life called it a “helluva good bill for hunters and anglers.” ( Click here to read the full story.)

Specifically, the HUNT Act would:
– Require public land management agencies to publish annually a list of federal lands over 640 acres with recreational potential but without access;
– Require the agencies to identify existing access routes to those parcels and develop a plan to provide access, including the resources needed;
– Dedicate 1.5 percent of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (which comes from a portion of federal offshore oil and gas revenues) to purchase easements and rights-of-way from willing sellers to unlock federal public lands.

This is legislation sportsmen have been waiting for. Please take a moment now and thank Sen. Heinrich for continuing to push for improved access for hunters and anglers, and for searching for ways to provide access to millions of acres of landlocked public lands. Click here to send your message.

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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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