To the editor:

The basic premise of the recent Dave Sartwell column “Outdoors: A dangerous bill for sportsmen” (the Times, Sports, Wednesday, April 1) is that any changes to public lands management policy will end hunting and fishing in America as we know it. 

Similar dire predictions have become the mainstay of groups that are opposing state land management.

But sportsmen should not be fooled by these doomsday prophecies from groups such as Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. They have another agenda at heart, and access to public lands is just a ruse.

First, sportsmen should know that “federally managed” does not necessarily mean “accessible.” A lawsuit brought by two counties, associations, and individuals currently underway in the U.S District Court for the Eastern District of California alleges that the Forest Service has illegally shut down access to the Plumas National Forest. An official for one of the plaintiff counties said, “This lawsuit is about freedom to access public lands.”

The federal government shutdown in 2013 also affected millions of acres of public lands. Headlines such as “Hunters, fishermen howl as federal lands are closed” were common in news outlets across the country. Meanwhile, governors were fighting to keep the public lands in their states open and accessible.

The true motivations of anti-state management groups were laid bare when they opposed legislation in Montana that would have prohibited the sale of any lands transferred to the state by the federal government. 

Their reason for opposition was quite simple: it would make their best sportsmen-friendly talking point of “access” moot and expose their true motivation. BHA and TRCP are funded by anti-energy environmentalists who simply see it as easier to lock away land under the friendly Obama administration and byzantine federal bureaucracies than to let states have control and potentially lease some of it for economic development.

A look at their “dark money” financial backers shows their care for sportsmen is fleeting.

When following BHA’s money to the source, it’s easy to forget the group has anything to do with hunting and angling at all. Its major donor is the Western Conservation Foundation, which in addition to giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to BHA, has also given handsomely over the years to radical environmentalists, including the Natural Resources Defense Council and Earthjustice (the self-proclaimed “law firm of the environment”).

Meanwhile, TRCP is on the sidelines for the Second Amendment despite claiming to support hunting. The organization’s non-stance is even stranger given that a portion of every sale of firearms and ammunition is earmarked for conservation programs — but it starts to make a little more sense when the fact is considered that TRCP has received $150,000 from the Joyce Foundation, which funds anti-gun and environmentalist causes.

The debate over management of public lands has understandably stirred passion. But it’s also brought out political trickery.

In order to avoid becoming unwitting camouflage for left-wing environmental foundations, sportsmen should be aware of groups like BHA and TRCP that have ulterior agendas and are using the access issue to try to divide and co-opt the sportsmen community for their own gain.

WILL COGGIN

Director of research

Environmental Policy Alliance

Washington, D.C. 

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