Backcountry Hunters & Anglers chair: Trump pushing anti-hunting agenda with monuments plan (column) | VailDaily.com

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers chair: Trump pushing anti-hunting agenda with monuments plan (column)

David Lien
Valley Voices

David Lien

Editor's note: Find a cited version of this column at http://www.vaildaily.com.

Although President Donald Trump — along with his Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke — came into office praising America's greatest hunter-conservationist, Theodore Roosevelt, and vowing to follow in his footsteps, they've instead opted to do the opposite. Most recently, they've taken steps to drastically reduce the size of two national monuments in Utah: Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears.

Jay Banta is a 63-year-old Utahan and Backcountry Hunters & Anglers member who likes nothing better than tramping across the red-rock desert country in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, hoping to kill wild turkey, chucker, sharp-tailed grouse or deer. "Sportsmen are united on this issue," Banta told Bob Marshall, a blogger for Field & Stream. "They oppose any changes."

A recent poll done for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership backs him up, finding that 77 percent of Republican and 80 percent of Democratic sportsmen and women support keeping the existing number and size of national monuments available for hunting and fishing, Marshall wrote.

"The people spoke on this in the public comment period — with over 1 million comments sent in — and 99 percent were against any changes," Banta told Marshall.

Banta dispelled another Trump administration-perpetrated myth related to the local economy.

Recommended Stories For You

"They say local people are opposed to the monument's current size and want it smaller, but that's definitely not true," he told Marshall. "There are three times as many businesses in the town of Escalante today as there was on my first trip in 1994 — outfitters, restaurants, motels, curio shops, guides — and they're almost all tied to the outdoor recreation created by that monument."

Field & Stream contributor Hal Herring quoted a Utah hunter who called Bears Ears National Monument not only "one of the preeminent elk and mule deer hunting areas in our state," but "one of the last true wilderness hunts in the country." Utah state Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, said: "The winners in the president's decision are the fossil-fuels industry, giant international coal companies and the pollution industry. The losers are Utah families, outdoor enthusiasts, hunters, campers, climbers and all who appreciate the unspeakable beauty of our state."

Ty Stubblefield, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers chapter coordinator, told KUOW Radio that he self-identifies as a "red-blooded conservative," but he's also an avid hunter who is frustrated with the Republican Party's efforts to transfer public lands out of federal control (transferring public lands was part of the 2016 Republican platform). So while Stubblefield has traditionally voted Republican, when it comes to keeping public lands under federal control, he's not afraid to cross party lines.

Stubblefield himself used to own a logging company and understands why some people are frustrated with how the federal government manages forests.

"It got to the point where they started calling me an environmentalist because I wanted public lands to stay public," Stubblefield said. He strongly disagrees with that characterization and, instead, looks at his community of hunters and outdoors people and sees a group willing to take any means necessary to maintain access to public land.

Zinke has promised to create more access for hunters and fishermen, which is a fine idea, but that "access" means virtually nothing if public lands that thousands of American sportsmen rely on simply vanish. Zinke came into his office — literally, on a horse — promising to fight for public lands. That promise has not been kept.

"Zinke said he was a Teddy Roosevelt guy, and he needs to be held accountable," said Land Tawney, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers president and CEO, to Forbes.

Many national monuments provide high-quality hunting and angling found nowhere else. They support invaluable tracts of habitat that host robust fish and wildlife populations, Tawney wrote in The Guardian.

"Actions speak louder than words, and American hunters and anglers demand leadership from the secretary that upholds — and advances — Roosevelt's legacy," Tawney said later to E&E News.

In a further interview with Outside magazine, Tawney added, "If you attack one monument, you attack them all."

For additional information, see Backcountry Hunters & Anglers' National Monument Hunting & Habitat Maps for six Western national monuments targeted by Zinke for modification, reduction or elimination. Also visit What Would Teddy Roosevelt Do? at whatwouldtrdo.org.

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.