As the Presidential campaigns start to gather steam toward the general election, it has become clear that we as sportsmen conservationists, Democrats and Republicans alike, need to ensure the candidates promote the value of our public lands and reinforce the critical role any president should play in ensuring our access to these places where we love to fish, hunt and recreate.
Why should we do this? Simply put, sportsmen have heard precious little about public lands during the campaign season to date. President Obama’s State of the Union Speech briefly mentioned developing renewable energy sources. The Republican debates really have had nothing except questioning the value of these amazing fishing and hunting resources.
Why the lack of focus on our public lands by the candidates? I think the they don’t understand the value of sportsmen and women. We keep hearing talk about jobs and the need to grow the economy. Yes, these are critical issues and a balanced approach to developing some public lands is important to our energy future. We know – we work some of these lands during the day and then escape to other parts of these lands on nights and weekends.
Unfortunately, it seems there is a fundamental misunderstanding among the candidates of what public lands do for us beyond their extraction values. In contrast, we as sportsmen and women know that public lands are much more. Every time we go into a fly or tackle shop before we go out on the water, we see the value we’re creating as sportsmen conservationists. Every time we head out to our jobs in our local communities, whether it is in the gas field, a local restaurant, or at a local community college, we see the value we’re creating as sportsmen conservationists.
And how does this relate to public lands? Most of us live in or travel to these lands that belong to all Americans because of the amazing opportunities they offer. They give us our taste of the wild. They help us escape from our days behind a desk, a computer, or operating a rig. We love our parks, refuges, forests—even BLM sagebrush—because it is on these lands where we create the most passionate memories of our lives: near waterfalls as we struggle to reel in an amazing fish or laughing with each other over beers around a campfire at the end of a great day in the field or on the river. We’ve been doing this for generations and want that legacy for our children.
Photo Credit: Ken Gables, Davidson River, NC, TU Member
But don’t just take my word—there is also hard evidence to prove we add value.
So I challenge President Obama, Mitt Romney, and other presidential candidates, to take up our cause: Protect our public lands and thereby protect jobs and local communities. Protect places like Bristol Bay where the salmon fishery generates millions of dollars for commercial and sport fishing. Protect places like Yellowstone National Park whose iconic lake is under attack by an invasive fish and we’ll create jobs and some great fishing along the way.
Whoever may become president, we want them to protect the places we love to fish and hunt, protect America’s lands, and protect our heritage.