Hunters and anglers organize against land transfers

Sixty-nine percent of hunters in the 11 Western states rely on public lands for the sport.

 

Just a few years ago, bills to transfer federal lands to state and private ownership seemed like little more than symbolic protests from restless right-wing lawmakers. But as proponents of land transfers in Utah, Arizona, Montana, Idaho and other Western states gained political momentum and public support, hunting and fishing groups that oppose transfers began to take the proposals more seriously. And now, they are launching a remarkably unified PR-counterattack.

“The notion of transferring ownership of lands currently overseen by the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management or any other federal land manager to states, or worse yet to private interests, is not a solution to federal land management issues," wrote Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation president and CEO David Allen in an open letter last fall to all Western congressional members.

Allen's letter added to a flurry of reports, press releases, and public statements from hunting organizations across the political spectrum opposing federal land transfers. Just last week, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP), a coalition of over 1,400 membership-based hunting and fishing organizations, released a public report highlighting nine prized hunting and fishing areas on Western public lands, access to which is at risk from federal land transfer proposals.

The areas include the Arizona Strip perched above the north rim of the Grand Canyon, segments of the St. Joe and Clearwater Rivers in Idaho, the Missouri River Breaks in Montana, and the Book Cliffs of eastern Utah.

TRCP released its report to coincide with the 2015 Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show, which took place last week in Las Vegas. TRCP also announced a new national campaign devoted to rallying hunters and anglers against federal land transfers. A variety of national hunting and fishing groups as well as outdoor businesses including Simms and Remington are sponsoring the campaign.

The actual likelihood of any of these federal lands being transferred to state control is low. Utah's 2012 Transfer of Public Lands Act demanded the federal government cede much of its lands to the state by December 31st, 2014; the federal government ignored the request. State lawmakers are now discussing filing a lawsuit against the feds. Idaho passed a similar law in 2012, but set no deadline. Since the bill's passage, an economic analysis of the proposal found that it could result in a net loss of $111 million a year, from increased management expenses for things like wildfire that the federal government currently finances. Republican Rep. Tim Stubson of Wyoming has announced his intention to propose a state-sponsored study of a federal land transfer in the upcoming session. Lawmakers in several other Western states are also likely to introduce bills this year.

While land transfer proposals have yet to succeed, hunting and fishing groups clearly deem the dangers to public lands worth organizing against. Sixty-nine percent of hunters in the 11 Western states rely on public lands for hunting according to a recent report by Backcountry Hunters and Anglers.  Groups also tout the huge economic benefits of public lands. The Department of Interior reported that its 2013 management activities alone supported 296,993 jobs in outdoor recreation and added $16.6 billion dollars to the national economy.

Beyond the financial impacts, however, hunting and angling anti-land-transfer campaigns also speak to a more personal concern: being "locked out" of lands that communities have used for generations. As the recent TRCP report declares, national forest and Bureau of Land Management lands are "strongholds" for hunters and anglers of all income brackets. “Federal public lands have always afforded the opportunity for Americans to hunt, hike, fish and enjoy the outdoors,” said Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s David Allen. “The RMEF wants it to remain that way.”

Alex Carr Johnson is a contributor to High Country News and is based in Paonia, Colorado.

High Country News Classifieds
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Eugene, Ore. nonprofit Long Tom Watershed Council is seeking a highly collaborative individual to lead a talented, dedicated team of professionals. Full-time: $77,000 - $90,000...
  • GIS SPECIALIST
    What We Can Achieve Together: The GIS Specialist provides technical and scientific support for Geographic Information System (GIS) technology, data management, and visualization internally and...
  • LOWER SAN PEDRO PROGRAM MANAGER
    What We Can Achieve Together: The Lower San Pedro Program Manager directs some or all aspects of protection, science, stewardship and community relations for the...
  • FOREST RESTORATION SPATIAL DATA MANAGER
    What We Can Achieve Together: The Forest Restoration Spatial Data Manager fills an integral role in leading the design and development of, as well as...
  • WATER PROJECTS MANAGER, SOUTHERN AZ
    What We Can Achieve Together: Working hybrid in Tucson, AZ or remote from Sierra Vista, AZ or other southern Arizona locations, the Water Projects Manager,...
  • SENIOR STAFF THERAPIST/PSYCHOLOGIST: NATIVE AMERICAN STUDENT SPECIALIST
    Counseling Services is a department strategically integrated with Health Services within the Division of Student Services and Enrollment Management. Our Mission at the Counseling Center...
  • THE NATURE CONSERVANCY IS HIRING A LOCAL INITIATIVES COORDINATOR
    The Nature Conservancy in Wyoming seeks a Local Initiatives Coordinator to join our team. We're looking for a great communicator to develop, manage and advance...
  • LAND AND WATER PROTECTION MANAGER - NORTHERN ARIZONA
    We're Looking for You: Are you looking for a career to help people and nature? Guided by science, TNC creates innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our...
  • SENIOR CLIMATE CONSERVATION ASSOCIATE
    The Greater Yellowstone Coalition (GYC) seeks a Senior Climate Conservation Associate (SCCA) to play a key role in major campaigns to protect the lands, waters,...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Southern Nevada Conservancy Board of Directors announces an outstanding opportunity for a creative leader to continue building this organization. SNC proudly supports Nevada's public...
  • CORTEZ COLORADO LOT FOR SALE
    Historic tree-lined Montezuma Ave. Zoned Neighborhood Business. Build your dream house or business right in the heart of town. $74,000. Southwest Realty
  • ENVIRONMENTAL AND CONSTRUCTION GEOPHYSICS
    - We find groundwater, buried debris and assist with new construction projects for a fraction of drilling costs.
  • PHILANTHROPY COORDINATOR
    Founded by sportsmen and women in 1936, the Idaho Wildlife Federation (IWF) is a statewide nonprofit dedicated to protecting, conserving, and enhancing Idaho's natural resources,...
  • STRAWBALE HOME BESIDE MONTEZUMA WELL NAT'L MONUMENT
    Straw Bale Home beside Montezuma Well National Monument. Our property looks out at Arizona fabled Mogollon Rim and is a short walk to perennial Beaver...
  • ATTORNEY AD
    Criminal Defense, Code Enforcement, Water Rights, Mental Health Defense, Resentencing.
  • LUNATEC HYDRATION SPRAY BOTTLE
    A must for campers and outdoor enthusiasts. Cools, cleans and hydrates with mist, stream and shower patterns. Hundreds of uses.
  • LUNATEC ODOR-FREE DISHCLOTHS
    are a must try. They stay odor-free, dry fast, are durable and don't require machine washing. Try today.
  • PROFESSIONAL GIS SERVICES
    Custom Geospatial Solutions is available for all of your GIS needs. Affordable, flexible and accurate data visualization and analysis for any sized project.
  • A CHILDREN'S BOOK FOR THE CLIMATE CRISIS!!
    "Goodnight Fossil Fuels!" is a an engaging, beautiful, factual and somewhat silly picture book by a climate scientist and a climate artist, both based in...
  • THE MAGICAL UNIVERSE OF THE ANCIENTS: A DESERT JOURNAL
    Bears Ears, Chaco Canyon, and other adventures in the Four Corners area. 60 photos and lively journals. Purchase hc $35 or pb $25 from bigwoodbooks.com...