May 8, 2006
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
CODY — Trout Unlimited and a host of Wyoming sportsmen are asking the state’s governor and federal delegation to protect the remaining 3.2 million acres of roadless backcountry and the hunting and fishing resources within them from further development, the organization announced Monday during a press conference.
“These places are special to a lot of people, and if we’re not careful, we’re going to lose them,” said Tom Reed, Wyoming field coordinator for Trout Unlimited and chief author of TU’s newest report, Where the Wild Lands Are: Wyoming. The report details the direct connection between hunting and fishing success and Wyoming’s undeveloped backcountry. “Wyoming is one of the best destinations for hunters and anglers in the country. At the rate our state is being developed, it won’t be that special much longer. We’re asking Gov. Freudenthal and our federal delegation to consider the long-term resources these areas contain, and we’d like very much for these areas to remain off limits to further development.”
Al Sammons, an avid backcountry horseman and hunter, noted that oil and gas development has its place in Wyoming, but the sacrifice for unchecked exploration and drilling is a huge one.
“While energy development is certainly important to our country today, it’s irresponsible to compromise long-term, above-ground resources in places that have so much to offer,” he said. Sammons operates Sammons Oil Co. in Riverton, and favors responsible energy development. Unfortunately, he said, the country’s thirst for energy is resulting in poorly formulated exploration and development strategies that are costing sportsmen their last, best places to hunt and fish.
“There’s no question that our best hunting and fishing is in the backcountry,” said Harry Harju, retired biologist for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. “These are the places where we’ve tread lightly over the last century and a half, so they’re in good shape, and they provide the best habitat for our fish and game. For that reason, they deserve some degree of protection—without them, our state loses much of its character. These are the places that define Wyoming. If we don’t have them, we’re not much different than other places, where the backcountry is gone.”
Susan Reaves, secretary of the East Yellowstone Trout Unlimited, has devoted hours and hours of volunteer time to restore damaged fish habitat. The effort she put forth on these projects—and the efforts of hundreds of Wyoming Trout Unlimited volunteers on various restoration projects—could be sacrificed if upstream habitat is developed in the search for oil and gas.
“There’s too much at stake to rush into some of these areas,” Reaves said. “These places provide Wyoming anglers and hunters with virtually unlimited opportunity. Developing them leads to degradation and the value of our hunting and fishing in Wyoming will decline, not only for us, but for generations to come. I’m not in favor of sacrificing resources that can pay dividends for generations.”
It’s important to note, Reed said, that TU isn’t asking for special designations, road closures or access limitations in the backcountry.
“We’re simply asking to keep things like they are, to keep the status quo in place,” he said.
Dave Glenn, chairman of the Wyoming chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, defended the land-use balance in Wyoming.
“Some of my best friends take their ATVs and go hunting every fall, and that’s great,” he said. “There are places where that’s allowed and that’s appropriate. But there are places that should be left like they are now, so everyone can enjoy our public lands—we’re fortunate to have room for everyone, and that’s the way it should be.”
“There are plenty of places for people to go in their car or on their ATV,” he said. “We’re losing places for people to access without seeing cars and ATVs. We need to keep these places as they are today and keep the balance we have in place today in place tomorrow.”
About the participants:
Susan Reaves is the secretary of the East Yellowstone Chapter of Trout Unlimited in Cody. Through the local chapter, she has invested time in habitat restoration projects, fish rescue and education through a women’s fly fishing clinic. She also volunteers for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
Al Sammons operates Sammons Oil Co., a petroleum and lube oil marketing business out of Riverton. He’s an avid horseman who spends a good deal of time riding and packing into Wyoming’s roadless backcountry. From 2001 to 2003, he was chairman of the group Backcountry Horsemen of America. Today, he is the public lands chairman of the group, representing the Wind River and Shoshone chapters of Backcountry Horsemen. He’s an avid big-game hunter and carries a Wyoming Pioneer fishing and hunting license.
Harry Harju is a retired Wyoming Game and Fish Department biologist, where he worked on endangered species, reviewed management recommendations and proposals for hunting seasons. He has hunted, fished and camped in Wyoming’s backcountry for 37 years.
George Hunker is an outfitter and fly fishing guide in the Wind River backcountry for almost 30 years. He operates Sweetwater Fishing Expeditions Lander. He is the past president of his local Trout Unlimited chapter, and he’s devoted more than 35 years to hunting and fishing in Wyoming’s backcountry.
Dave Glenn is currently the Rocky Mountain director of the National Outdoor Leadership School in Lander, and has worked as a fishing and hunting guide all over the West and in Alaska. He’s chairman of the Wyoming chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and spends about 40 days a year hunting Wyoming’s backcountry.