Ain’t No Sunshine When It’s Gone
By Aaron Kindle
The National Wildlife Federation has joined other sportsmen’s, conservation, and outdoor groups to oppose a recent House rule change that will make it easier to sell or transfer national public lands by negating their value when considering legislation. The groups signing on to this letter to Congress represent millions of Americans across the country who hunt, fish, camp and hike on public lands, and who greatly value the fish and wildlife sustained by the habitat on public lands.
Sportsmen and women have about had it. Our years and years of contributions to America’s wildlife are being swept under the table in one “foul” swoop. In a recently passed House rules package, Representatives voted to assign public lands with a value of zero, paving the way for eventual sell off.
You heard me right. Zip. Zero. Nada. Nil.
The vital home to our cherished elk herds. Zero.
The famed rivers, streams, and lakes we dream of laying a caddis fly upon all winter. Zilch.
The vast refuge system that supports millions of migratory birds and countless other wildlife species. Zip.
We are growing weary of every move Congress makes these days, nuanced or obvious, that threatens our tried and true system of public lands. We wake up wondering, will our decades of conservation, billions of dollars in restoration, and umpteen thousands of hours of hard work protecting our beloved resources be undone overnight by out of touch decision makers?
How can we be more clear? We have told them a thousand times. Hollered from the mountaintops, in town halls, hearings and public meetings. You cannot, will not, shall not sell, transfer, degrade or otherwise undo our sporting legacy by somehow divesting of our public lands.
Someone can utter the words that these lands have no value. But they themselves know this is not true. Anyone who has felt the morning chill run through their body at dawn near a meadow hoping for the elusive wapiti to magically appear, experienced that calm hush fall over a stream at dusk as trout finish their supper, or simply strolled through a forest, these people know darn well these lands are priceless.
We also know as well as anyone on the planet that our public lands need some management help. We know we need more active restoration, we know there are culverts, campgrounds, and trail heads that all need a little TLC. We are profoundly aware. We spend our lives in and around these places and care deeply about their health.
We are as committed as we could possibly be to grinding out the tough work it will take to listen to the myriad ideas, craft enduring solutions, and then implement these solutions over millions of acres of public lands. We are ready to do this work.
But we won’t be able to if Congress forces us to continuously fight for what belongs to all Americans. To spend our days in hearing rooms instead of forests, scrublands, and deserts rolling up our sleeves with our land managers and fellow sportsmen protecting and improving our nation’s greatest resources.
Public lands are a treasure. It is so obvious that sometimes we take it for granted. That luxury is no longer available to us. We can and we must make our leaders understand.