Sportsmen: Better planning means better balance

Hunters, anglers and outdoor businesses urge BLM to foster responsible energy development and sustain the backcountry

09-29-2014 // Judith Kohler

Bison habitatSportsmen are urging the Bureau of Land Management to chart a more effective and efficient course for the future of land use planning as the agency holds a series of meetings as part of the revision of its current planning process.

In the coming days, two public listening sessions will be convened by the BLM on its initiative dubbed “Planning 2.0,” a way to “improve our land use planning process so that we can more effectively plan across landscapes at multiple scales and be more responsive to environmental and social change," according to the agency. The meetings will take place in Denver on Oct. 1 and in Sacramento, California, on Oct. 7.

The Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development coalition underscored the need for the BLM to use this opportunity to implement a better land use decision process that will benefit not only the agency but also public lands stakeholders, including hunters, anglers and outdoor-dependent businesses.

In the lead-up to the listening sessions, outdoor business owners from the Rocky Mountain region are traveling with SFRED coalition members to Washington, D.C., this week to talk to BLM and Interior Department officials about the need for comprehensive planning to maintain healthy, viable fish and wildlife habitat and waterways. In April, 50 Western business owners and SFRED sent a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell highlighting the importance of public lands conservation to hunting and fishing, which contribute about $90 billion to the economy.

“One of the primary goals for planning and management of our public lands should be to conserve vital fish and wildlife habitat now and for the future,” said Kate Zimmerman, the National Wildlife Federations public lands policy director. “By being more strategic with respect to development on these lands, we can also plan to ensure conservation happens.

Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development highlighted two key priorities for the agency to incorporate into its effort: sustaining backcountry hunting and fishing opportunities and better implementing the master leasing plan concept.

“Outdoor recreation generates $646 billion annually, but this important economic driver is dependent upon intact backcountry lands,” said David Dragoo, president of Mayfly Outdoors, a company that comprises various fly-fishing brands including Ross Reels. “Now is the time for the BLM to ensure that its management plans conserve these lands and the unparalleled fishing and recreation they support.”

“Quality hunting depends on intact, functional wildlife habitat,” added Ed Arnett, director of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s Center for Responsible Energy Development. “The BLM has a great opportunity to work with sportsmen and state fish and game agencies to plan across landscapes and make sure that all habitat components are recognized and conserved. This is especially true for migration corridors, which can stretch for more than 100 miles, requiring strong coordination and planning to protect these critical habitats between summer range and winter range.” The TRCP is also a member of the SFRED coalition.

In addition to conserving backcountry fish and wildlife habitat, the sportsmen stressed, Planning 2.0 creates an opportunity to better balance energy development through master leasing plans.

“In short, master leasing plans are one way to reduce conflict and foster balance,” said David Leinweber, owner of Anglers Covey in Colorado Springs, Colorado. “By identifying upfront those places where oil and gas development is appropriate along with places where fish and wildlife habitat needs to be conserved, the BLM can prevent surprises for sportsmen, the outdoor industry and energy developers.”

Leinweber and Dragoo are part of the group in Washington with the SFRED coalition.

“We’re hoping to carry the message that, just like the energy industry, the outdoor industry needs certainty too,” continued Leinweber. “We need to know that our customers will continue to have quality places to hunt and fish in the West. That doesn’t mean eliminating development; it just means that fish and wildlife habitat gets a fair shake. Master leasing plans are one way make sure that happens. ”  

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