Okay, stick with me on this one. I don’t care if you are a hunter, a hiker, a photographer, a birdwatcher, or any other type of person who enjoys the outdoors – you need to hear about this. You may think this has nothing to do with you, but in fact it matters a great deal.
House Resolution number 1581, the “Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act”, was written by Representative Kevin McCarthy of California and Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming. This act is an extreme move to take millions of acres of protected roadless lands and open them up motorized use. The lands in question are currently being managed by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Here is a map of the lands that H.R. 1581 would release: Map (PDF)
The real problem with H.R. 1581 isn’t the fact that it will open up some lands to motorized use, it is the fact that this act will take a “one size fits all” approach to releasing these lands. There is no input from local governments, organizations, or even the local population. This is a power move by Washington big shots who are funded by lobbyists and special interest groups.
Now, here is the really crazy part…
Several weeks ago I shared an idea, or really just a thought I had, about “Land, and the Future of Hunting“. The big idea is this – our lands are being gobbled up at an alarming rate, and they sure aren’t making more of the stuff. We need hunters, hikers, fisherman, and all other outdoorsmen, to rally together and find ways to conserve our lands for our enjoyment and shared interest.
When I posted that article I intended to follow it up with a post praising the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) and all that they have done not just for elk, but all lovers of the outdoors. I don’t know of a single organization that has done more tangible work to protect our lands, the wildlife habitat of those lands, and the future of our access to those lands. They have enhanced or conserved over 5.9 million acres of land since 1984, the majority of which is publicly accessible! The RMEF isn’t just about elk, it is about protecting shared habitat for all kinds of wildlife.
Well, guess who took a crazy move and decided to support H.R. 1581? That is right, the RMEF! This is troubling. Very troubling.
The RMEF knows better. They understand how to work with local influences to know what is best for a land. They know that having a “what is good for one, is good for all” approach to managing lands is absolutely destructive. That is why the RMEF should not support this bill. Yes, wildlife habitat can be improved (prescribed burnings, plantings, etc.) in some lands if they are removed from roadless or wilderness protection, but we all know that opens up these lands not only to habitat improvement, but habitat destruction as well. The fact is, roadless lands are crucial to wildlife habitat. The damage that invasive motorized access can do to these lands is unreal. There are few wildlife sanctuaries left, and they must remain.
Now, here is the encouraging news…
The RMEF has revoked their support of H.R. 1581. This is both joyous and sad. I am sincerely disappointed that the RMEF made any move to support H.R. 1581, but I am so proud that they have been forced to revoke their position.
Here is the big takeaway for all of you.
When it comes to something that you care about, something that you know you need to protect…don’t sit on your derriere and hope for the best! Do something!
I believe that the RMEF revoked their support of H.R. 1581 for one reason – the RMEF membership demanded it. I can’t tell you how many places I saw members of the RMEF saying that they were calling in to cancel their memberships. The leadership of the RMEF may have failed on this one, but the great RMEF members weren’t going to sit by and let it happen.
All of us need to not only join conservation organizations, we need to hold them accountable. It isn’t enough to send in your dues, get your stickers, and sit on the couch. You need to pay attention. You need to take part. You need to make your voice heard. You never know, it may actually change things. I know it did this time!