As debates rage over the management and future ownership of federal landholdings in the American West, an unprecedented consortium of sportsmen’s groups is stepping forward to advocate for the conservation of, expanded access to and strategic acquisition of publicly owned lands and waters.
More than 100 prominent sportsmen’s groups from all 11 contiguous Western states today urged congressional leaders to strongly fund the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, which directs a portion of revenues from offshore oil and gas leasing to conserve fish and wildlife habitat and increase access and recreational opportunities for sportsmen and the general populace on public lands.
“Our organizations represent thousands of hunters and anglers from the American West who have a vital and vested interest in the sustainability and accessibility of quality fish and wildlife habitat for both present and future generations,” stated the sportsmen. “The Land and Water Conservation Fund has played a critical role in conserving some of the West’s most important fish and wildlife habitat and publicly accessible hunting and fishing areas. We request your support for full funding of LWCF in fiscal year 2015.”
Sportsmen stress that many iconic Western hunting and fishing experiences can be found only on public lands that have benefitted from LWCF funding.
“Hunters and anglers are losing access by the day to our traditional places to hunt and fish,” said Mark Hennelly, vice president of legislative affairs and public policy for the California Waterfowl Association. “The Land and Water Conservation Fund enables public access to valuable hunting and fishing areas while also maintaining important waterfowl nesting sites, conserving functional habitat for both game and non-game species and offering a valuable tool for ranching families and communities to maintain the economic viability of working landscapes.”
“Western public lands provide some of the best hunting and fishing in the nation,” said Larry Johnson, a director of the Coalition for Nevada’s Wildlife. “The Land and Water Conservation Fund enables the conservation of high-quality fish and wildlife habitat, access to exceptional hunting and fishing, and the development of public facilities that directly benefit hunters, anglers and shooters. Nevada sportsmen urge Congress to fully fund this important public lands program.”
The LWCF is one of the West’s most important tools for conserving fish and wildlife habitat and facilitates sportsmen’s access to millions of acres of land, supporting the multibillion dollar hunting and fishing economy. Yet Congress has consistently diverted these funds from their intended purpose.
“At the end of the day, Western sportsmen understand the importance of federal public lands to our outdoor traditions,” said Jay Stark of the Idaho Hunter Education Association. “These areas are vital to our continued ability to hunt and fish, they encompass priority fish and wildlife habitat, and they are available to everyone. Public lands form the cornerstone of our American sporting heritage, and we urge Congress to make funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund a priority in fiscal year 2015 and beyond.”
Inspired by the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, the TRCP is a coalition of organizations
and grassroots partners working together to preserve the traditions
of hunting and fishing.