Wilderness areas, wildlife refuges, wild and scenic rivers, and other treasured public lands have become the focus of a small number of elected officials whose intention is to roll back protections, limit access to outdoor enthusiasts, and to promote extractive activities over the existing recreation-based economy that supports $730 billion in economic benefits and more than 6.5 million jobs nationwide. These efforts, illustrated by legislative proposals below paint a rather grim and shortsighted picture of the future of public lands. To prevent these bad ideas from gaining traction, it is important for paddlers to reach out to their legislators and remind them of the value of protected public lands.
HR 4089 (Miller - FL) The Sportsmans Heritage Act: This bill would, among other things, severely weaken the protections afforded by the Wilderness Act by prioritizing shooting, hunting, fishing and game management related activities over Wilderness preservation. Ironically, this bill could damage the best fish and wildlife habitat left in our Country, as well as opening paddler's most cherished remote places to motorized use and other impacts.
HR 1581 (McCarthy-CA) The Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act: This bill would eliminate protection for millions of acres of public lands. The result would undermine the recreation economy based on these special areas, threaten delivery of clean water to our cities, add to the costly and deteriorating backcountry road network, and leave iconic American wildlife at risk. The areas that this bill would eliminate protections for contain some spectacular paddling destinations.
HR 1505 (Bishop-UT) National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act: Authorizes the U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) to circumvent nearly 50 conservation and environmental laws on public lands within 100 miles of the northern and southern land borders. CBP opposes HR 1505, saying that the bill is not necessary because CBP already coordinates with federal land managers in these areas. This coordination results in security and a healthy environment – we can and should have both.
HR 1126 (Chaffetz-UT) Disposal of Federal Lands Act: This proposal would sell off millions of acres of public lands based on an outdated 1997 report to Congress. Much has changed in the West since 1997; Westerners now recognize the enormous employment, economic, health, and quality of life benefits of nearby public lands. This land giveaway would also give away publicly owned and managed rivers - along with their contributions to clean water and a healthy economy.
HR 3009 (Flemming-LA) National Wildlife Refuge Review Act of 2011: If passed, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) could no longer establish new refuges, which would lead to many worthy refuge proposals never receiving protection. It would also take away the flexibility to move quickly to conserve wildlife habitat that are threatened by development.
HR 4193 (Stivers-OH) Land Acquisition to cut National Debt (LAND) Act: The LAND Act would prohibit any net increase in federal land acreage unless the federal budget is balanced for the year of purchase. This would effectively hamstring Americans from using the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to support conservation and access projects that stimulate the recreation economy and offer paddlers new and enhanced opportunities.
If these ideas concern you, please send your legislators an email or give them a call and voice your support for well-protected public lands.