Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Sending in the Cavalry

In case you missed it, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, arguably one of the most respected hunting organizations in the United States,issued a strong statement against the sale and transfer of public lands. This is a big deal for several reasons, not the least of which is that David Allen, CEO of the Elk Foundation, is taking a stand where a lot of other single species oriented, big money groups refuse to go: Supporting the public land hunter.

To be sure, there are many groups who have been fighting this fight for a long while now. Hellgate Hunters & Anglers, The Montana Wildlife Federation and the Montana Bowhunters were the first groups to stand up during the interim and say that the concept of transfer would lead to more taxes and less access. Those organizations are usually on point when it comes to protecting our public lands and they deserve our gratitude and our membership.

But so does the Elk Foundation. Few organizations in the U.S. have as much clout or standing among those of us who hunt and love public lands as the Elk Foundation. For a large and politically wary group like RMEF to be as publicly opposed to the poorly thought out transfer concept is a break from the usual, quiet, way they do business.

There will be those who take swipes at RMEF for standing up for the vast majority of elk hunters. Winston Chuchill once said “You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up  for something, sometime in your life.” 

We’re proud to stand up with RMEF and oppose this land transfer. The harsh reality is that the concept is being proposed by out-of-state special interest groups who want to take your land and give it away. It’s being proposed by the same people who have stood up and yelled at the top of their lungs that “The state can’t manage what it has now and needs to get rid of land before buying more.”

It’s a lie wrapped up in the American Flag and served with a side of apple pie. But it’s still a lie. The truth is that the state cannot afford to add 31 million acres of public lands to the management duties of state government without significantly increased how much money we spend. That means the taxpayer of Montana would now pick up the $360 million a year bill to manage these lands with no guarantee of access or multiple use management that respects the needs of hunters, anglers and wildlife.

For every westerner and every Montanan, the concept should represent everything that’s wrong with the real issues surrounding public lands management. We need more collaboration and less divisiveness.
We need more groups like RMEF to stand up and be counted when it comes to opposing this poorly thought out land grab.

Well done, RMEF. Who’s next? 

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