An assault on our land
On Tuesday evening, the House of Representatives passed the Sportsman Heritage Bill. Sounds like a great thing for all us hunters and anglers out there, right? It sounds good until you read it in its entirety and spend an hour or so Googling the actual meaning of the text.
While some portions do, in fact, benefit the hunting and angling communities, certain parts open the door to wholesale undermining of longstanding protections that have benefited those same sportsmen for decades.
Specifically, Section 104(e)(1) in H.R. 4089 would open wilderness areas to motorized vehicles, helicopters, road building and any other imaginable tool that is used for hunting or fishing but is not allowed in wilderness. This would undermine world-class hunting destinations such as the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana, the Frank Church Wilderness in Idaho and the Snowmass-Maroon Bells Wilderness right here in Colorado.
Section 104(e)(2) would allow industrial development of wilderness areas. Activities such as industrial logging and oil and gas drilling are inappropriate for our nation’s wilderness areas. Also, there are problems with language under 104(1)(b) and 104(1)(c) that would prohibit adequate National Environmental Policy Act review of management decisions. The way the language is written in this section, it actually could result in less hunting opportunity.
In reality, expanding wilderness protection (the gold standard for wildlife habitat and backcountry hunting and angling grounds) for public lands enhances hunting and fishing and our economy and quality of life. Unfortunately, today only 5 percent of Colorado is designated wilderness – just 3.5 million acres out of 66 million. And only 2.5 percent of the lower 48 is protected as wilderness. That’s simply not enough.
Although off-highway-vehicle (and other) groups constantly oppose wilderness protection on “access” grounds, only 8 percent of the national forest acreage in Colorado lies beyond one mile of a road (only 4 percent for BLM lands).
The hunting and fishing heritage and the ability to feed our families that we currently enjoy should not be taken for granted. Don’t let covert assaults on that heritage destroy it despite sympathetic-sounding names.
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