What would Teddy Roosevelt do? | AspenTimes.com

What would Teddy Roosevelt do?

What would Teddy Roosevelt do?

Dear Editor:

When big game hunter (and Medal of Honor winner) Theodore Roosevelt became president, one of his first acts was to begin planning a national conservation policy. When Roosevelt entered the White House in 1901, the idea of conservation had not yet found its way into the public mind. When he left office in 1909, he had implanted the idea of conservation into our culture and enriched our future prospects with 230 million acres of designated public forests, wildlife refuges, parks, national monuments and game ranges.

Roosevelt would be turning over in his grave today at the prospect of H.R. 1581 (the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act of 2011), which if implemented would open more than 70 million acres of these backcountry lands to road construction, motorized wreckreation, mining, and oil and gas extraction.

Here in Colorado, for example, 12 of the 15 most hunted game management units (the most productive ones) have more than 100,000 acres of roadless backcountry. More than 70 percent of Colorado River Cutthroat trout habitat is in roadless areas. Build roads in these areas, and the elk migrations are hindered, the mule deer populations suffer, and the trout spawning habitat is negatively impacted. That means less hunting and fishing opportunity.

Not very long ago, the Colorado Division of Wildlife performed an exhaustive inventory of the state’s 4.2 million roadless acres, and unanimously recommended full protection on behalf of elk, deer, lynx, trout, and endangered hunters. Big game hunter Bill Sustrich hit the nail on the head when he said, “From my own observations, I have seen nothing yet created by mankind that offers the degree of habitat protection that is achieved through wilderness [and roadless] designation.”

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The roadless backcountry H.R. 1581 would effectively turn over to motorized wreckreation interests, strip-miners, and energy companies offer sportsmen and women a place to experience backcountry that looks a lot like it did 200 years ago. While we understand the need for mining, oil development and other resource extraction activities on some federal lands, and even recognize the attraction (to some) of motorized recreation far from the glare of civilization, when our forefathers landed on our shores in the 17th century, 100 percent of the land was wilderness.

Today, that figure has dwindled to less than 3 percent in the Lower 48 states, and H.R. 1581 threatens what little remains. As the man whose visage is chiseled into Mount Rushmore once said, “I recognize the rights and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize a right to waste them or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us.”

David A. Lien

Co-chairman, Colorado

Backcountry Hunters and Anglers