Dave Glenn (307) 332-6700 x 16
Shauna Sherard (307) 757-7861
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Sportsmen to Congress: “Keep our backcountry like it is”
13 conservation groups sign letter in opposition to H.R. 1581/ S. 1087 and launch new website to educate public about the importance of roadless areas.
At a glance...
The issue: H.R. 1581/S. 1087 seek to remove the protections for Wilderness Study Areas on Bureau of Land Management lands and Inventoried Roadless Areas on Forest Service lands that are not recommended for wilderness designation.
What’s at stake: Simply put, roadless is the best of what’s left when it comes to the opportunity for bigger bulls, bigger bucks and better fishing. With the introduction of this bill, more than 50 million acres of backcountry, or “roadless areas” are facing threats of new development, be it more motorized access, roads or energy development.
Who we are: We are sportsmen and women dedicated to protecting our fishing and hunting opportunities by protecting the habitat which supports the game, fish, and people who rely on it. Go to www.oursportingheritage.com for more information.
WASHINGTON — Conservation organizations representing thousands of sportsmen and women urged the Senate to oppose a bill that would harm hunting and angling opportunities on millions of acres of backcountry by opening up prime fish and game habitat to new roads and development.
The Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act of 2011 would remove the reasonable protections afforded to almost 50 million acres of Inventoried Roadless Areas and Wilderness Study Areas. Inventoried roadless areas are relatively undeveloped and highly accessible public lands protected by the recently upheld 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule. While not all areas are technically without roads, they are important refuges for fish and game as they tend to be more pristine and, because they are protected, much more difficult to develop in the long run.
The letter was sent simultaneously with a similar request from the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and more than 200 fish and wildlife scientists and managers, including 12 former directors of state fish and game agencies. It also comes on the heels of opposition from more than 200 additional state-level hook and bullet organizations and businesses that have previously voiced their opposition to the bill.
“These are the most important and productive pieces of land out there for hunters and anglers,” said Dave Glenn, backcountry director for Trout Unlimited. “Just look at hunting success rates—they’re some of the highest you’ll see. Look at current ranges for native trout. Large percentages of it exist within those areas. Clearly, something is working. Why someone would want to disrupt that balance is beyond me.”
IRAs are some of the best of what’s left of great habitat—backcountry areas essential to the success of fisheries, big game herds, clean air and clean water. As a vital puzzle piece of a functioning landscape, these lands benefit everyone even if they never actually set foot in a roadless area.
“Any sportsmen worth their salt understands that when it comes to backcountry areas, the walk out is worth the walk in,” said Gaspar Perricone, Co-Director, Bull Moose Sportsmen’s Alliance. “Backcountry areas provide the necessary quality habitat to produce robust game populations, and the protection of these areas will ensure that the next generation of hunter and angler will inherit the same recreational opportunities that were gifted to us by previous generations of conservation-minded sportsmen.”
In addition to recreational benefits, the group notes that it makes little economic sense to open these areas up, not only because they support a $76.7 billion recreation-based economy, but because there aren’t enough funds to maintain roads that already exist. Currently there is an $8.4 billion backlog in road maintenance across Forest Service land.
“Given that the Forest Service can’t even keep up with the almost half million miles of roads already on public land, it makes no sense to us to open these areas up to additional roads and development,” said Glenn. “There’s this misconception out there that roadless means a lack of access, but really it’s quite the opposite. More roads aren’t the answer here.”
Studies show that almost 90 percent of roadless areas are within two miles of a road and many allow for the same types of use as the rest of the forest, such as motorized use, camping, hunting, fishing, wood gathering, climbing, geo-caching—the list goes on.
In conjunction with release of the letter is the launch of the new website, www.oursportingheritage.com, a site devoted to educating the public about the role the backcountry plays.
A few highlights include:
• Detailed information on H.R. 1581/ S. 1087
• An interactive map showing all western roadless areas by state
• Featured roadless areas listed by state
• Tools to get involved in protecting the backcountry and our sporting heritage
Go to http://www.oursportingheritage.com for more information.
Trout Unlimited is the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization. It has over 140,000 members dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North America’s trout and salmon fisheries and their watersheds.