This article, first filed on Sept. 8 2016, is by Aaron Kindle, Manager, Western Sportsmen’s Campaign, National Wildlife Federation.
I can still smell my father’s breath when he woke me up on those cool fall mornings on the Wyoming prairie in the mid 80s. I can still hear my black lab, Jesse, now long gone, panting and whining in anticipation of the bird hunt. I can smell the musty soils and see the sun rise over the wetlands and streams we would walk. I was a ten-year-old boy elated to go with dad on the hunt.
These are but a few of the countless precious memories that sculpted me and define my life, and my own children’s lives; memories I would not have without public lands.
Public lands are me and I them.
Unfortunately, over the past few years, a handful of lawmakers have pushed misguided efforts to transfer public lands to states or private interests. They are pushing to steal the memories my kids or theirs could have of their mother and father, those quiet, peaceful times with loved ones connecting to the land as all humans have done since the dawn of time.
We know that transfer means sale.
Those of us whose family histories are steeped in public lands and who rely on public lands both spiritually and economically know very intimately that selling or transferring public lands is a terrible idea, one sought for all the wrong reasons that will deprive us from too many valuables to count. We know that transfer means sale. A simple look at the history of Western lands shows us that states sell their lands, and each time they do, it means one less opportunity to connect with nature and one more step away from our heritage for a child like I was then or my kids are today.
Knowing the disturbing facts behind the attacks on public lands means sportsmen and women can’t help but stand up and do what we can to make sure this intolerable fate never becomes of our public lands.
For my part, I do declare on this day that I will personally, and professionally, do all I can to ensure that public lands stay in public hands.
As sportsmen and women, we have an obligation that accompanies our immense privilege of opportunity and access to America’s amazing array of public lands. With the same intensity we wake early and plan meticulously, we must be the watchdogs for our public lands and wildlife. It is our solemn duty to ensure the vitality and perpetuity of the bugling elk on cool September mornings, the sip of trout after caddis on a May afternoon, and the sound of the next generations laughing as they frolic in a piney grove. To do this we must hold decision makers accountable.
I am proud today as the National Wildlife Federation joins sportsmen and women from across the country to call on electoral candidates to commit their support for public lands.
We are part of an impressive list of sporting and conservation organizations that know this battle is one we simply cannot lose. We know all too well that any numskull decisions that remove public lands from the public trust will strike deep in the heart of our collective heritage and forever desecrate our cherished sporting traditions.
The ability to responsibly manage and exercise sound stewardship of public lands is a key trait all elected officials should possess.
So today, we call on all of those who wish to occupy public office to serve the public good and commit to protecting and enhancing public lands, and most of all, commit to keeping these lands forever in public hands. Doing so will preserve the very fabric of our country, our families and the theater of our most precious memories.