Guest opinion: Sportsmen want Trump to leave monuments intact
This column originally appeared in the Vail Daily.
The Trump administration recently completed its review of 27 national monuments and has indicated that some monument boundaries will be “changed.” In other words, currently protected public lands will be opened to extractive industries, such as mining and oil and gas development, most likely.
While I’m grateful Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke (a self-described “unapologetic admirer of Theodore Roosevelt”) opted to recommend leaving many monuments intact, parts of others are apparently being put on the chopping block.
In 1905, President Roosevelt came to Colorado for a three-week bear hunting trip. Perhaps inspired by Colorado’s beauty, in 1906 he signed the Antiquities Act, which has since led to the designation of more than 100 national monuments. And, as Backcountry Hunters & Anglers president and CEO Land Tawney put it, “An attack on one monument is an attack on them all.”
One of the biggest arguments used by the Trump administration’s anti-monument allies is that monument status “locks up” the land and keeps people from using it. But most of the monuments reviewed (22 of 27) allow hunting and fishing. In fact, our national monuments provide some of the wildest hunting grounds in the country — and sportsmen appreciate that fact.
Through locally based, collaborative processes, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers members have worked hard to help conserve as national monuments places such as Rio Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks in New Mexico, Berryessa Snow Mountain in California, Upper Missouri River Breaks in Montana and Browns Canyon in Colorado.
Jim Bartschi, president of Scott Fly Rods in Montrose, said, “Public lands such as the new Browns Canyon National Monument preserve incredible outdoor opportunities to hunt, fish, hike, bike, camp and float — and they’re strongly supported by local communities, who understand that these lands offer one of the best new, sustainable ways to grow their local economies.”
In fact, the full quiver of Colorado big game is found in Browns Canyon: bighorn sheep, elk and mule deer, black bear and mountain lion, as well as a wealth of non-game species and migratory birds. Recreation on these lands, and especially on the Arkansas River, pumps an estimated $55 million into central Colorado’s economy every year.
A poll released by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership found that 77 percent of sportsmen support keeping the number and size of existing national monuments, including a solid majority of both Republicans (77 percent) and Democrats (80 percent). In addition, an analysis of 1.3 million comments publicly available on regulations.gov found that 99.2 percent opposed Trump’s national monuments review.
In the July 2017 issue of the National Rifle Association’s American Hunter, Zinke said, “America’s hunters and anglers are the backbone of what makes our wildlife-management system the envy of the world. It’s time the lead agency on their issues recognized that and acted accordingly.”
Sportsmen and women call on Zinke to make good on his word, to uphold Theodore Roosevelt’s protected public-lands legacy by expanding America’s rich system of national monuments — not diminishing it.
David Lien is a former Air Force officer and chairman of the Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. He’s the author of “Hunting for Experience: Tales of Hunting & Habitat Conservation,” and during 2014 was recognized by Field & Stream as a Hero of Conservation.