Let’s be honest, American politics these past couple of years have been rough! In an age starving for unity, protecting public land ownership should be a rallying point for commonality. One of the unique benefits of living in America is the vast amount of public land. The conservation efforts of President Teddy Roosevelt propelled the United States towards preserving the nearly 620 million acres of federally owned land that exists today.
Public land ownership is a salient conservation tool for the sustainability of hunting and angling. Moreover, public lands provide equal access for all outdoor recreationists. Many hunters depend on harvesting an animal in order to provide a natural and affordable way to feed their family. Public land ownership creates a cooperative for hunters and anglers to partner in efforts to conserve our nation’s resources.
Public land ownership also safeguards the preservation of our environment. It protects nature from falling into private entities that so often exploit the land. The preservation of habitats and countless species is strengthened by public land protections. Furthermore, the countless preservation efforts to study climate change can be furthered by the use of public lands for scientific research.
However, a mounting pressure to have public lands sold off is threatening our American heritage of being public landowners. Congressman Jason Chaffetz recently introduced House Bill 621 to Congress, which would sell off 3.3 million acres of federal public lands. Mr. Chaffetz hoped to privatize these millions of acres in order to provide more opportunity for exploration and extraction of natural resources. Mr. Chaffetz only withdrew the bill after he was confronted by an uproar from conservationists and outdoor enthusiasts.
Many threats to reduce the quantity and quality of public lands still exist. First, Congressman Chaffetz also introduced House Bill 622, notoriously nicknamed “A Poachers Dream Bill,” which would remove law enforcement authority from federal land management agencies on public lands — leaving often underfunded local law enforcement entities to inadequately fill the void. House Bill 622 has been accurately deemed by OutdoorHub as leaving “our National Forests and public hunting/fishing lands vulnerable, neglected and generally up for grabs by the lawless.”
A second imminent threat is posed by the national monument review currently being carried out by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. Secretary Zinke has been tasked with reviewing 27 national monuments to determine if the monuments should be removed from the list of protected public lands. The Department of the Interior recently announced that Secretary Zinke will not rescind any of the 27 monuments; however, he is pressing for some of the monuments to be reduced in size via boundary changes and others be opened up to drilling and mining operations. Conservationists hold that altering the size or use of our national monuments will undermine essential fish and wildlife habitats.
Both Democrats and Republicans have an interest in preserving our nation’s habitats, species, and the environment generally. If we hope to pass on our love of hunting, hiking, and bird watching to future generations, then we must conserve our public lands. I encourage everyone to contact their congressional representatives and Secretary Zinke about protecting our public lands. Let’s defend our public land ownership for the generations ahead.
Chase Giacomo is a former Army Captain and a recent graduate of Harvard Law School. He is an avid sportsman and a Kalispell resident.