NWF Asks Ryan to Pledge to Protect America’s Public Lands

Letter seeks clarity on the Romney-Ryan ticket’s public lands policy

10-10-2012 // Miles Grant
Winter Fishing

Larry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, wrote a letter to Rep. Paul Ryan today seeking clarity on the Romney-Ryan ticket’s public lands policy. The letter reads in part:

As an organization deeply committed to the conservation interests of America’s hunters, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts we appreciated your statement in an October 1 interview with Outdoor Life magazine that “we need to open up public lands for access for hunting.” Public lands are critical part of America’s national heritage, and access for all Americans is a conservation legacy that provides everyone the opportunity to hunt and fish.  Public lands also play a critical role supporting local economies: in 2011, 13.7 million hunters spent $33.9 billion and 33.1 million anglers spent $22 billion.

We are concerned however that in another portion of the interview you seemed unfamiliar with the provisions of your budget proposal which call for liquidating millions of acres of America’s public lands, resulting in less access for sportsmen.

While your statement to Outdoor Life indicated this was more about “buildings and assets like cars … [and] vacant properties,” your budget proposal specifically touts legislation (HR 1126) introduced by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) as a model to sell federal lands to generate revenue. In fact, HR 1126 would force the government to sell off 3.3 million acres in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming to the highest bidder. 

The 2012 Republican Party Platform also takes the position of selling our great western landscapes to increase revenue to the federal Treasury. Just last week, Rep. Steve Pearce (R- NM) said that if elected, Gov. Romney would “reverse [the] trend of public ownership of lands.”

Needless to say, these proposals to sell off public lands would ultimately lead to diminished access for hunting, fishing, recreational shooting and other outdoor activities.  These measures run counter to strong hunter interest for increasing access to public lands, as demonstrated in a new national poll of sportsmen by the Republican-aligned firm Chesapeake Beach Consulting.  The poll found that 79 percent of hunters and anglers nationally favor increasing access to public lands.

In light of these contradictions, we’d ask that you clarify whether a Romney-Ryan Administration could be counted on not to sell off or liquidate federal public lands that are vital for sustaining the $730 billion outdoor recreation industry? Will you commit to America’s sportsmen that there will be no such public land sell-off if Governor Romney is elected?

The Ryan budget recommends that millions of acres of public lands be sold to generate revenue, according to a National Wildlife Federation analysis. It calls these lands “unneeded public land,” and notes that “such sales could also potentially be encouraged by reducing appropriations to various agencies.”  

Among other key results of a national poll of sportsmen conducted by Chesapeake Beach Consulting for the National Wildlife Federation released last month:

  • Given a choice between protecting America’s public lands and prioritizing the production of oil, gas and coal, 49 percent of sportsmen want to protect public lands and just 35 percent choose fossil fuel production.
  • A supermajority of sportsmen (84 percent) want the federal government to make it a priority to conserve fish and wildlife habitat and manage public lands for fishing, hunting and other outdoor recreation. Strong agreement crosses all demographic groups including among 90 percent of Democrats, 84 percent of Independents and 82 percent of Republicans. Among ticket-splitters who say they don’t vote straight party ticket, 85 percent support prioritizing habitat conservation on public lands.
  • Nearly nine in ten (88 percent) agree that prior to the federal government issuing an oil or gas lease to drill on public lands the various resources and uses of the land should be considered including fishing and hunting, protection of wildlife habitat and ensuring air and water are kept clean. Hunters and anglers overwhelming across all demographic groups agree including 87 percent of Republicans, 87 percent of independents and 91 percent Democrats.
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