Teddy rolls over in his grave

To the editor,

Public lands – America’s lands – are the foundation of our nation’s great hunting and angling heritage. No other nation enjoys the array of public parks, rangelands, forests, rivers and wilderness as the United States ... what historian Frederick Turner called the “greatest gift ever bestowed on mankind.” One that was enhanced significantly by perhaps the world’s greatest hunter-conservationist, Theodore Roosevelt.

Unfortunately, today Roosevelt’s legacy is under attack, by his own party.

In July, the Republican National Committee approved a national party platform that endorses the disposal of federal public lands. Then, on the first day of the 115th Congress (in January), as promised, House Republicans took aim at the former president’s legacy. As part of the resolution setting the rules for the new session, members voted to make it easier to transfer federal land to states or local governments.

Then, on Jan. 24, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, introduced H.R. 621, Disposal of Excess Federal Lands Act, which called for selling off 3.3 million acres of public lands. A second bill, H.R. 622, would terminate the law enforcement functions of the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. After facing withering, nationwide criticism from hunting-angling groups, Chaffetz withdrew H.R. 621 (on Feb. 2), but H.R. 622 is still pending.

Much like the rest of the country, Colorado’s U.S. Representatives voted along party lines on the rules package –Democrats Jared Polis, Diana DeGette and Ed Perlmutter voted against it, while Republicans Mike Coffman, Scott Tipton, Ken Buck and Doug Lamborn all voted for it.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in the West, 72 percent of sportsmen depend on access to public lands for hunting. In addition, polls show that more than 70 percent of Coloradans oppose public-lands seizure, and in 2016, the State Legislature created the first-ever Colorado Public Lands Day to celebrate our great public lands estate. Across the U.S., Americans decisively reject the idea of selling off public lands: Polling from after the 2016 election showed that 78 percent of Americans oppose efforts to privatize or sell public lands, including 64 percent of Trump voters (The Wilderness Society, 1/26/17).

In the words of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers president and CEO Land Tawney: “Precedent has been set and every politician is now on notice. Don’t mess with our public lands. We won this battle but ... the war is far from over. Billionaires don’t like to lose.” Clearly, we should not be so fast to dismantle Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy. Interior Secretary Zinke seems to agree and has said that it’s “time for Republicans to return to our conservationist roots.”

– David Lien, chairman, Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers