BOZEMAN, MONT. – Six months after launching the unprecedented national Unlocking Sportsmen’s Access campaign at the Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership reports that nearly 18,000 sportsmen have signed a petition to oppose the sale or transfer of federal public lands to the states. More than 174,000 letters have been sent to local, state, and federal lawmakers to ask that they stand with sportsmen in opposing the seizure of federal lands, which would undoubtedly result in a loss of access for the nation’s hunters and anglers.“There can be no mistaking the position of hunters and anglers on the issue of federal lands transfer, the threat of which is very real,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the TRCP. “We remain focused on crafting real solutions for improving federal land management, but we won’t hesitate to amplify the near-unanimous outcry from sportsmen and women opposed to the bad idea of offloading federal lands.”
During the 2015 Western state legislative season, a total of 37 bills were introduced in 11 states to promote the transfer of federal public lands to individual states. Only six bills in four states passed, but the fight still moved to Congress, where the Senate passed a non-binding budget resolution earlier this year that encourages lawmakers to “sell, or transfer to, or exchange with, a state or local government any Federal land that is not within the boundaries of a National Park, National Preserve, or National Monument…” A letter signed by 114 sportsmen’s groups was sent to Congress expressing opposition to “this misguided approach” for overhauling federal lands management and asking that lawmakers reject efforts to dispose of America’s public lands legacy.
“Lawmakers across the country have heard the warning: Don't put yourself between sportsmen and our public lands,” said Randy Newberg, who, as host of “Fresh Tracks with Randy Newberg” on the Sportsman Channel, exclusively hunts public lands. “With so many legislative proposals that would improve and enhance federal land management in ways that don’t threaten habitat and public access, there is ample opportunity for politicians to take a positive stance on public lands. Lawmakers should focus on advancing constructive solutions and abandoning the nonstarter idea of public land transfer. Our job is to make sure they do just that.”
Newberg will speak at the TRCP’s 13th annual Western Media Summit in Bozeman this week, where conservation experts, advocates, and media professionals are coming together for a discussion of legitimate solutions for federal public lands management challenges and safeguards for sportsmen’s access and the outdoor recreation economy. “Having this conversation in Bozeman is fitting,” said Ben Bulis, president of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association and a media summit panelist. “Dozens of outdoor businesses here in town help drive the state’s economy, and Montana sportsmen have a lot of skin in the game when it comes to accessing hunting or fishing opportunities on federal lands. Their financial contribution to these communities shouldn’t be overlooked.”
Montana Governor Steve Bullock welcomed media summit attendees and reiterated the importance of public lands to his state’s culture and economy in a speech at the Baxter Hotel on Mondaynight. “Public lands are part of the Montana ethos and a big sector of our economy. They represent a promise to future generations. But, perhaps like no other time before, that promise could be in jeopardy,” said Bullock. “Out-of-state interests hiring lobbyists to float the idea that the states should demand their lands back from the federal government certainly haven’t fooled me or Montanans. We’ll continue to stand and defend the public lands that our state holds so dear.” The summit comes at the tail-end of Montana’s Open Land Month, a celebration of the state’s “agricultural heritage, vast outdoor recreational opportunities, clean water, diverse wildlife habitat, scenic splendor, tremendous economic benefits... and so much more,” which was established in July 2015 by Bullock’s executive order.
Learn more about the TRCP’s media summits here. Follow along with this year’s summits on our blog.