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The growing coalition of groups and businesses includes the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, National Wild Turkey Federation, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, Trout Unlimited, Dallas Safari Club, Mystery Ranch Backpacks, Sitka Gear, First Lite, Costa, Simms Fishing Products and Sage.
The coalition supports a grassroots effort by sportsmen to urge lawmakers to reject any actions that would deprive citizens of their public lands.
Most recently, a bill has been introduced in Washington -- SB 5405 -- that would form a task force to look into federal land ownership in Washington, with an eye to “to study the risks, options, and benefits of transferring certain federal lands in the state to an alternative ownership.”
“This is a moderate, common sense and modest bill,” said Bruce Farling, executive director of Montana Trout Unlimited. “This is only targeting mines creating the most problems in the state, and a number of modern mines have left some unreclaimed messes.”
“There’s a lot of things that apparently might go wrong, and this creates a necessary buffer for the taxpayers so that we don’t get stuck with the bill,” said Derf Johnson of the Montana Environmental Information Network.
Greg McReynolds said the state has, over time, sold off a good deal of the public lands it owned. He fears that if the state takes control of federal lands, Idaho will become more like Europe, where there is little publicly accessible land.
"We don't sell our children's right to hunt and fish simply because things aren't exactly how we like them," he said.
About 150 sportsmen, many in hunter-orange baseball caps and some in camouflage, are rallying on the Capitol steps today against any sale or transfer of public lands. “We don’t want to risk losing the places where we fill our freezers as well as our hearts,” former state Rep. Elmer Martinez of Pocatello told the crowd. “These lands are part of our American identity, and they are not nor should be for sale.”
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