Public Lands: Biospheres Under Glass? Not If USSA Can Help It

 As regular U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance readers know, on April 17th, the House of Representatives passed the most important fishing and hunting bill in 15 years – HR 4089, The Sportsmen’s Heritage Act – by a lopsided 274 to 146 vote.  A bipartisan majority of 235 Republicans and 39 Democrats voted yes.  The bill has two fundamental features: (1) establishing that 700 million acres of federal public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service are open to fishing, hunting, and recreational, as a matter of law, until or unless closed for good specific reasons and (2) confirming recent EPA decisions that the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act does not allow the agency to regulate lead in fishing gear or ammunition.  The overwhelming support from America’s real conservationists, the angling and hunting community, demonstrates this is good public policy and ought to be non-controversial.

 But nothing in Washington, D.C. ever is.  So it’s little surprise that the usual suspects are screaming about the bill and peddling disinformation about what it does.  We’re told that this fishing and hunting bill is really about opening lands to oil and gas development or forcing the National Park Service to allow hunting on the National Mall.  Aside from the fact that these specious claims are utter nonsense, what prompts this over-the-top reaction to a fishing and hunting bill?

We know the answer for the animal rights radicals like HSUS, Peta and the Animal Legal Defense League etc.  They simply oppose any and all hunting.  We’re frankly thrilled to see them foaming at the mouth in opposition – it confirms the bill does indeed protect fishing and hunting on our federal public lands.

Look, But Don’t Touch

For others like The Wilderness Society, Defenders of Wildlife, the Sierra Club, and National Parks Conservation Association, the answer is more subtle and fundamental.  Their goals are to manage public lands as “biospheres under glass.”  Lands where public access is barred or heavily restricted; where the public stands outside with its nose pressed against the glass looking in.  And if you’re allowed onto the lands, you have to be part of a controlled group and have your hand held by a special guide or ranger to ensure that you are acting in an “environmentally correct” manner; where the public is reduced to voyeurism – look but don’t touch.  We see it year after year in repeated efforts – legal and political – to limit public access and use of public lands. Unfortunately for many of our urban brethren who don’t fish and hunt, and get most of their “nature” via a HDTV program; being herded into a group or told to stand outside and merely peer in is ok.

Sportsmen Interact With the Environment

This attitude is a stark contrast to anglers and hunters.  We interact with the natural environment.  We are predators acting within an ecosystem.  And heaven forbid, we’re usually on our own!  This prized interaction creates connections to the wild world.  It spurs passion and an abiding commitment to conservation.  It’s not mere happenstance that the American conservation movement was founded by connected and committed anglers and hunters.  And it’s not happenstance that we commit well over a billion $$ every year for fish and wildlife conservation via our license fees, duck stamps, trout stamps, excise taxes and contributions of time and millions more to myriad fish and wildlife conservation organizations.

Interaction = Conservation

Interaction creates connections creating commitment leading to conservation.  We’re not about to roll over and buy into putting our public lands under a glass dome.  We want to “touch”, we like getting cold and dirty or hot and wet in pursuit of our favorite game or fish.  It makes us passionate and keeps us paying the tab for fish and wildlife conservation – for everyone’s benefit (even those who don’t pay a dime and fight us every step).

A bipartisan majority in the House figured this out.  Let’s hope the U.S. Senate – with very different leadership – gets the message too.


7 comments on “Public Lands: Biospheres Under Glass? Not If USSA Can Help It

  1. Richard Stafsholt says:

    it is one thing to allow hunting etc. on these lands. But closing off 3500 plus miles of access trails in does not allow usage other then from the main fire roads. This is ANOTHER FORM OF LOOKING FROM THE OUTSIDE .

    This road closure was in the Federal forest in Wisconsin.

  2. Peter Mirick says:

    C’mon, there’s plenty of bones for the sportsmen in this act to camouflage it’s many environmentally damaging clauses, but when you read between the lines it opens more than 109 million acres of wilderness areas to motor vehicle use, eliminates the president’s ability to designate any new national monuments like the Fort Ord one that was just announced for California, and it potentially opens our wilderness areas to oil and gas drilling, logging, and mining. This is more crap being foisted on us by the giant corporations who own the politicians and know how to spin facts to get sportsmen to suppport an act that actually goes against the best interests of wildlife and the sportsmen.

  3. Rob Sexton says:

    Thanks for your comment, Peter, but you have your information wrong. To begin, corporations had nothing to do with the drafting of this bill. Sportsmen’s organizations did, including USSA. The bill DOES NOT open land to drilling, mining etc. That is misinformation from opponents of the bill. It also DOES NOT open wilderness areas to motorized vehicle use. The only spin about HR 4089 is coming from opponents of the bill. During the drafting, we met with every conceivable concerend party and made changes to address their issues so long as thos concerns were not in direct opposition to the goals of the legislation, which is all about maintaining and opening land to hunting, angling and recreational shooting. For a point by point breakdown of what is fact and what is fiction you can visit:

    • Peter Mirick says:

      Thanks for the references. I stand corrected. But please keep an eye out for dangerous amendments as the legislation moves forward. There are too many in congress beholding to corporate interests, rather than the People’s interests, these days…

      • Rob Sexton says:

        We sure will Peter. You are right. Congress sure knows how to laden a bill down with things that can cause problems. Thank you.

  4. Tice Supplee says:

    I do not understand why the hunting and angling community refuses to show leadership in supporting alternatives to lead for ammunition and fishing gear. I hunt with copper bullets and consider them to be accurate and reliable. How about we work with the ammunition industry to solve this like the conservation leaders we are instead of frothing at the mouth about efforts by others to remove lead from ammunition being an anti-hunting plot.

  5. Rob Sexton says:

    Tice, we appreciate your comment. The key on HR 4089 is that the U.S. EPA already agrees with us that they do not have the authority to restrict lead for ammunition and fishing tackle. That is the purview of the fish and wildlife agencies. They are the ones with the understanding of the impact of hunting and fishing on the resource. HR 4089 simply clarifies what the EPA already believes. Making that clear in law will prevent a frivolous lawsuit and the possiblity that an activist judge decides EPA should be in the wildlife management business.

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