In 2003, Trout Unlimited created its Sportsmen's Conservation Project in order to better organize a sporting community that was growing restless with "politics as usual" when it came to managing – and protecting – irreplaceable fish and wildlife habitat on public lands in the West. Over the years, the voices of conservation-minded sportsmen had been co-opted by interests whose goals ran counter to those of the hunters and anglers across America who, even then, understood that good hunting and fishing starts with healthy, intact habitat – habitat that provides places to go to hunt and fish on land that belongs to every American.
It wasn't until 2005 that TU's Sportsmen's Conservation Project really began to help anglers and hunters flex their political muscles. Efforts were afoot to sell off public lands to mining interests, and energy development policies were put in place to make drilling for oil and gas an expedient process that bypassed bedrock environmental laws put in place to protect the public's land and water … and fish and game.
With guidance from the SCP, sportsmen stopped the proposed liquidation of federal public lands, and played prominent roles in the campaigns to protect Montana's Rocky Mountain Front and New Mexico's Valle Vidal from unnecessary and intrusive oil and gas drilling.
Soon after, working in Idaho, we helped draft a rule that protected the largest swath of roadless fish and game habitat in the Lower 48. Subsequent victories on behalf of hunters and anglers with bipartisan support followed. We protected 1.2 million acres of prime fish and game habitat in the Wyoming Range. We assured an economy built on sportfishing in southern Oregon that salmon and steelhead would always be able to return to the Elk River and the new, sportsmen-created Copper-Salmon Wilderness. We helped permanently protect the National Landscape Conservation System, which includes such hunting and fishing destinations as Colorado's Gunnison Gorge and the Steens Mountain region of Oregon.
Today, with our momentum, we've joined forces with the preeminent voice of the sportsman – Field and Stream Magazine – to identify irreplaceable and iconic public landscapes in the West that, without the help of America's hunters and anglers, could one day disappear. The idea is to get you – our country's avid sportsmen and women – to visit these priceless destinations and partake in their hunting and fishing bounty. With your firsthand experience, you can then convey the importance of our sporting heritage to the politicians who will decide the fate of these treasured landscapes.
We need you to venture to the Best Wild Places described in our 2010 tour: Colorado's Roan Plateau and Alpine Triangle, Nevada's Pine Forest Range, Montana's Yaak Mountains, Little Mountain in Wyoming and the Gila country of New Mexico. We need you to visit the Best Wild Places we highlighted in 2011: Maine's North Woods, the Tongass National Forest in Alaska, the Dolores and White River basins in Colorado, California's South Lake Tahoe region and the Clearwater Basin in Idaho. Take that first step. Go. Visit the Best Wild Places and do what you do best: Fish. Hunt. Then step into the fray and work to protect these places for what they offer you today, and your kids and grandkids tomorrow. Join us in the effort to protect our public land treasures for the future.