Sportsmen Cheer End of Sell-off Bill, Vow Continued Vigilance on Public Lands

02-03-2017 // Judith Kohler

Pronghorn photo by Aaron KindleDENVER – Sportsmen and women and other conservationists and outdoor advocates voiced appreciation Thursday after a plan to sell more than 3 million acres of national public lands was halted, but pledged to stay vigilant as other bills to dispose of or undermine the management of public lands advance at the state and federal levels.

The decision by Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz to not pursue HR 621, which would have sold a total of 3.3 million acres of public lands in 10 Western states, came as welcome news to the sportsmen and women for whom public lands “are the backbone of our sporting traditions,” said Aaron Kindle, the National Wildlife Federation’s Western sportsmen’s campaign manager.

“We hope this decision signals that Rep. Chaffetz and his congressional colleagues are starting to understand how important these lands are to Americans and that they’ll cease their efforts to seize them from the public trust,” Kindle added.

However, Kindle and other sportsmen noted that a new House rule makes it easier to sell or transfer public lands by claiming their disposal wouldn’t negatively affect federal revenue. Plans are also underway in Congress to rescind improvements that have been made to public-lands management. That includes the Bureau of Land Management’s Planning 2.0 initiative, which provides more opportunities for public input and more comprehensive planning to address conflicts upfront and consider the impacts of development on water, air, fish and wildlife.

Sportsmen joined members of conservation and community organizations and other outdoor enthusiasts from across the political spectrum to pack the statehouses in Montana and New Mexico this week for rallies in support of keeping public lands in public hands and conserving hunting, fishing and recreation opportunities.

"The grassroots spoke on HR 621, and Rep. Chaffetz listened. It is heartening in a time of such deep political strife to have our leaders in Washington respond to the voice of the people," said Dave Chadwick, executive director of the Montana Wildlife Federation. "There are lots of ideas flying around in Washington about how to change public land management. I hope that our elected officials continue to recognize that people in Montana and across the West love our public lands and want to see them protected so that future generations can hunt, fish, and enjoy the outdoors."

“At a time when more and more elected officials are calling to sell off our public lands, the decision by Congressman Chaffetz to pull HR 621 after a huge backlash from Westerners is a strong reminder that our voices matter,” said Garrett Vene Klasen, executive director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation. “Thousands of outdoor enthusiasts in Montana and New Mexico and across the West organized and sent a clear message that our public lands are not for sale, and that message was heard this week. While this is far from the last battle we'll see for our public lands, the withdrawal from HR 621 is a crucial victory for all Americans.”

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