Improving Public Access on Public Lands
SPORTSMEN’S VOICE • WINTER 2011
(reprinted for ease of reading)
IMPROVING PUBLIC ACCESS ON PUBLIC LANDS:
TWO BILLS THAT SPORTSMEN & SPORTSWOMEN SHOULD SUPPORT
It used to be that election season and hunting season lined up
pretty nicely. Right about the time the airwaves fi lled up with
campaign commercials, you could throw your gear in the pickup
and head out to a hunting camp where you couldn’t get a TV
signal even if you wanted one.
Lately, though, the election season has come earlier and earlier.
And with it, some mean-spirited mud-slinging, most recently
from a brand new group calling itself Montana Hunters and
Anglers. I want to discuss two pieces of legislation that have been
misrepresented to sportsmen and women: H.R. 1505, the National
Security and Federal Lands Protection Act and H.R. 1581, the
Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act.
When you’re out hunting and you spot the game there are
two important things you have to do before you take your shot.
First thing you need to identify your target – make sure you’re
pointing at what you think you’re pointing at. Then, you have to
check behind your target to make sure it’s clear. We can apply this
approach here too – first identifying what the legislation actually
does and doesn’t do, and then looking at who’s behind the effort
to misrepresent it.
Don’t be fooled by what you hear in the media or on TV.
These bills, and what they do, is being falsely reported and I think
it’s past time to get the facts, and set the record straight. As a
sportsman myself, I strongly support public access for hunting and
fishing. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I support these bills.
As you read this, radical out of state environmental interest
groups are working hard to reduce public access to public
lands. On November 30, the Missoulian newspaper uncovered
plans to close down even more roads in the Lolo and Kootenai
National Forests. Why? Simply because those roads happen to
access grizzly habitat.
Anyone who hunts, fishes, hikes, backpacks or enjoys the
great outdoors has probably used a forest service road or a logging
road to get to a favorite hunting ground, fishing spot or trail
head. These roads are critical for public access, not only in terms
of recreation but also for grazing and economic opportunities.
But environmentalists from places like San Francisco and
New York are working hard to close those roads for good. They
have a lot of plans with a lot of different names: The Northern
Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act, The Treasured Landscapes
Initiative, the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act. They all do the
same thing – restrict public access to public lands.
That’s where H.R. 1581 comes in. The federal government
has locked up 42 million acres of federal land in so-called
Wilderness Study Areas and Inventoried Roadless Areas. These
were possible wilderness areas, but for whatever reason, the
Bureau of Land Management or Forest Service, respectively, have
determined they are not suitable for wilderness. It’s past time to
return some of these lands to the public for their use and enjoyment.
That’s what this common sense bill does. It opens public
land for public use.
H.R. 1505 addresses a related problem. When federal land
managers restrict access to land near our borders, it not only
restricts the ability of sportsmen and women to use the land for
recreation, but it stops law enforcement from doing its job and
securing our border.
Current law grants the Border Patrol access to the border
on state and private lands, but not on federal lands, where agents
must first seek permission from federal bureaucrats. When that
permission is denied or delayed, portions of our border become
safe havens for drug and human smugglers, illegal immigrants
and even terrorists. H.R. 1505 gives the Border Patrol the access
it needs on federal lands—and only on federal lands—to keep
Montana’s families and communities safe.
Did you know that in places on the Southern Border, people
are asked to stay out of public lands because they are so infested
with dangerous criminals that it’s not safe? It’s time to stop ceding
our public lands to drug and human traffickers so we can use it for
recreational purposes again.
Ted Denning is a Retired Deputy Chief of the Havre sector
of the U.S. Border Patrol. Here’s what he wrote in the Missoulian
on October 25, 2011:
As an avid sportsman and a retired Border Patrol agent who
just returned from an elk hunt, I treasure Montana’s public lands.
And I don’t know a single border patrol agent who would do anything
to jeopardize our public lands.
I’ve also seen the results of an unprotected border first-hand.
I’ve witnessed the sort of human trafficking, and the illegal drug trafficking,
that rips families apart and destroys entire communities. The
national security threat of terrorism is very real. Even forests and
wildlife suffer from an unprotected border, as drug smugglers and
illegal border-crossers aren’t known to respect the environment.
This is a good bill, which is why it’s been endorsed by the
National Border Patrol Council which represents 17,000 border patrol agents, the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers and Borderland Ranchers. It’s a bill that Montanans support.
Zack Taylor, with the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers added this:
“The Border Patrol must have access to the actual border in order to patrol the border and make it secure. H.R. 1505 was proposed because Departments of Interior and Agriculture have been intentionally shutting off unfettered Border Patrol access to the physical border. When these agencies lock out the Border Patrol they are also locking out the outdoor recreational users and commercial users of the same federal public lands. Talk about a land grab? The bill gives the Border Patrol—and the public—the access it needs.”
See, H.R. 1505 does something else that would benefit hunters. It allows the border patrol to re-open roads that have been closed to public access by federal land managers. That means you might be able to get to get back into those old hunting grounds again! And H.R. 1505 contains explicit protections that forbid Border Patrol from doing anything to inhibit recreational access for hunting, fishing and hik¬ing, grazing rights or economic use for things like mining or timber harvest.
So if H.R. 1581 and H.R. 1505 are about restoring access on public lands, why is a group called Montana Hunters and Anglers spend¬ing a quarter of a million dollars against it? Remember, once you identify your target on a hunt, you have to look to see what’s behind it.
So who’s behind the Montana Hunters and Anglers group that’s spending so much money misleading folks about these bills? Surprise. It’s not hunters and anglers.
Ron Arnold at the Washington Examiner did some digging. Here’s what he found:
Profiling this group is unusually difficult, partly because Barrett Kaiser, MHA’s treasurer, filed with the Montana secretary of state’s office only on Oct. 6, 2011 — its first reports have yet to become public.
But information is available. Kaiser is a former adviser to Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont, and a former consultant to Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester’s 2006 campaign. He’s also a Tester donor.
MHA President Land Tawney is senior man¬ager for the Sportsmen Leadership program of Big Green giant, the National Wildlife Federation (2010 revenue in excess of $98 million).
Tawney is also on the Montana Sportsmen for Obama Committee, and the Sportsmen’s Advisory Panel for Tester.
Zack Taylor with the The National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers stands at a closed public road in the Yaak River area near Libby, Montana. The road is not only gated, but also blocked by large boulders, preventing anyone from using the road for hunting, fishing or hiking. The federal government is currently working on plans to close even more roads in the Lolo and Kootenai National Forests.
MHA Secretary Kendall Van Dyk is also a member of Montana Sportsmen for Obama and an elected Democratic legislator in the Montana House of Representatives.
MHA director George Cooper is a Tester donor, and a lobbyist for Forbes, Cauthen and Williams, (Forbes is Jeff Forbes, former Baucus chief of staff).
In short, everybody who matters in MHA is a member of President Obama’s Montana campaign leadership team, or has close ties to Baucus or Tester.
Why doesn’t MHA disclose these relationships? Why doesn’t MHA disclose its funders?
These Democratic activists especially dislike Rehberg because he testified in 2009 against the Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act, which was to carve out more than 24 million acres of new wilderness in five Western states. MHA is about revenge.
It turns out the very people who are fighting to restrict public access – your access – by closing roads across the West are posing as sportsmen and women pre¬tending to be upset about the lack of access they are causing!
Keep in mind, these are the same environmentalists who destroyed elk popula-tions by introducing the gray wolf and who try to make it a crime to carry guns on public lands. They envision vast swaths of land completely devoid of any human presence and to get it, they’ve dressed their big green agenda in hunters orange.
My guess is, after holding a few focus groups they discovered that their radical environmental agenda doesn’t poll well in places like Montana where people actu¬ally like to use the land they want to lock up. So they hired slick spinsters to write scripts designed to obscure their true agenda. They pretend to be hunters and fishers, and hope you won’t notice that their policies actually do more to hurt hunting and fishing than help it.
Sportsmen and women respect the environment. Some of the best stewards of the land that I’ve ever met are avid hunters and fishers. We need to take all reason¬able steps we can to ensure that our outdoors remain clean and safe, so that our children and grandchildren can hunt and fish just like we do.
Surely, we can find a way to protect the environment that doesn’t require us to close off access to public lands. This is about finding a middle ground, and working across the aisle to find workable solutions. That’s what I’m working for in Congress.
Thank you for reading, and happy hunting. ]
Congressman Denny Rehberg is a fifth generation rancher from Billings, Montana. He is Montana’s only Congressman, and a member of the Congressional Sportsman’s Caucus.
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