Vail Daily column: Hunters’ year in review
Protecting the places we hunt and fish is nothing new for sportsmen and women, because hunters and anglers know that good habitat means strong herds and healthy fish. But they also know that protecting such habitat takes hard work — work that often spans decades. The idea that hunters and anglers are responsible for protecting habitat for the game they hunt and fish is one of the oldest forms of environmental advocacy in North America, owing its existence to sportsmen such as Theodore Roosevelt.
Roosevelt, a Republican, would likely be proud of recent public lands conservation successes in Colorado and elsewhere, but also dismayed at some of the misguided actions taken by ideologically driven, anti-public lands scofflaws and politicians. Historically (and still today, in some cases), public lands conservation has been a bipartisan undertaking. Here in Colorado, Browns Canyon, near Salida, is a textbook example.
On Feb. 19, President Obama designated 21,586 acres of wild canyons and low-elevation big game habitat along the Arkansas River as the Browns Canyon National Monument. Former U.S. Rep. Joel Hefley, a Republican who represented the district from 1987 to 2007 and originally championed the project, said: “I am thrilled that after all these years it is finally happening.”
Colorado’s U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, also a Republican, called Browns Canyon a “national treasure with a long history of bipartisan support in Colorado.” Not to be outdone, Democratic U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet was a co-sponsor of The Browns Canyon National Monument and Wilderness Act of 2013, originally introduced by U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo.
Another bipartisan success in Colorado (in December 2014) was the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act, sponsored by U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, of Colorado. This bill provided protection (including 37,000 wilderness acres) for over 100,000 acres of the Hermosa Creek watershed (near Durango), encompassing some of the finest elk and deer habitat in the state along with the site for CPW’s largest native cutthroat trout reintroduction program.
In 2015, there was also plenty spoken and written (both in Colorado and throughout the West) about efforts by various state legislatures proposing bills to transfer federal public lands to the states. Although current public lands management can be improved, there’s no defendable reason to allow public lands to be seized and given to states with a history of selling them or leasing them to private interests and, ultimately, limiting sportsmen access.
Here in Colorado, thanks in great part to a deciding “no” vote on SB232 (aka the federal land-grab bill) by state Sen. Larry Crowder, R-Alamosa, no such legislation made it out of the state legislature. Sen. Crowder surely took some heat from members of his own party as a result, but Roosevelt had plenty of critics in his day too, and they only steeled his resolve. Thank goodness for that. America’s great traditions of hunting, fishing and public lands recreation would be in tatters if it weren’t for the visionary and steadfast will of Roosevelt and those like him.
In the words of U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., “Since Americans first set eyes on the natural beauty of our country, it has been one of our shared values that those lands must be cherished and that recreational and sporting access should be maintained. Republican President Teddy Roosevelt was so inspired by the beauty of our nation that he preserved more than 230 million acres of public lands. It’s time for Republicans to return to our conservationist roots.”
Here in Colorado, Rep. Ryan, some already have. We need many more like them.
David Lien is a former Air Force officer and chairman of the Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (www.backcountryhunters.org).