Friday, April 28, 2006

Hunters, Anglers, and Treehuggers Join Forces

Kudos to Jerome Alicki of Black Bear Speaks for drumming up this article :
Important note: The same give away (average price per acre 350$) of public lands is in the Bush proposed 2006 budget

Today's GOP-controlled Congress has shown itself to be no friend of the environment, but even by conservatives' own standards, last October's surprise was a standout. An amendment inserted at the last minute into a budget reconciliation bill would have opened up millions of acres of public lands, including tracts in national monuments and wilderness areas, to purchase by mining companies and other commercial interests.

It was to be the biggest divestiture of public lands in almost a century, and it was happening completely under the radar, with no floor vote, no public hearings, and no debate. Washington's environmental community was the first to notice the amendment and sound the alarm. Staffers at Earthworks, the Wilderness Society, and other green advocacy groups identified lands in the crosshairs and called allies in the Senate, where the measure could still be defeated. It didn't take much prodding before western Democrats were united against the provision.

But to stop the land sales, Republican senators would also need to speak out. That was a harder sell. Many conservatives accept large campaign contributions from mining, oil, and gas companies, and they tend to favor more industry access to public lands and resources. In addition, western Republicans don't take advice from national environmental groups, whose members tend to be urban and suburban liberals -- not exactly their voters.

But there are outdoor organizations whose members include voters who can draw conservatives' attention. After an Earthworks staffer tipped off a counterpart at Trout Unlimited, the sportsmen's group (whose membership is two to one Republican) emailed its roughly 100,000 members and contacted regional editorial boards to spotlight the fight.

News spread like wildfire -- western sportsmen were outraged that public lands where they hunt and fish might be put on the auction block. Once they knew the stakes, local hook-and-bullet organizations held phone-bank days, organized letter-writing campaigns, and scheduled visits to regional Senate offices. A petition signed by 758 sportsmen's clubs affiliated with National Wildlife Federation, from the Great Falls Bowhunters Association to the Custer Rod and Gun Club, landed on elected officials' desks in Washington just weeks later. "These lands, so important to sportsmen and women, are open to every American, rich and poor alike," the letter read. "We believe it is wrong to put them up for mining companies and other commercial interests to buy at cut-rate prices."


And this isn't the first time since W took office that hunters, anglers, and environmentalists have joined forces to battle against bad legislation. Before this there was the proposed weakening of of the Clean Water act that would have allowed for dumping raw sewage into rivers and lakes when it rained and now we are seeing a joining of forces to fight the weakening of the Endangered Species Act. Why? Because the habitat protection aspect of the ESA creates prime hunting and fishing areas.

Forgive me if I'm out of line here but aren't conservatives supposed to conserve? Failure to be fiscally conservative is not a valid reason to stop practicing conservation. The legacy of conservation was originally a Republican invention after all.

"To waste, to destroy, our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them amplified and developed."

Teddy Roosevelt
Message to Congress (3 December 1907)

I guess W is a uniter and not a divider after all. Although I'm pretty certain this isn't what he had in mind when he said that.

You can view a state by state list of public lands that will be sold if the budget passes as is here.

You can oppose the sale here.