NWF’s Collin O’Mara: Zinke Right on Public Lands

This letter to the editor from Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, was originally published in the Wall Street Journal in response to their Dec. 19 editorial

We do not agree with the incoming administration on everything and look forward to learning more during confirmation hearings, but the President-elect and Rep. Zinke are exactly right on this issue. Mr. Trump knows that more than three-quarters of sportsmen and women rely on public access to wildlife habitat and streams that public lands provide for hunting and fishing.

Economically, public lands serve as the foundation of our $646 billion outdoor economy, sustaining 6.1 million jobs, with 72% of Americans in the West viewing public lands as important to the economy. The National Park System attracts 300 million visitors annually, spending nearly $17 billion in nearby communities.

America’s public lands absolutely must be managed better. We need more active restoration focused on reducing wildfires, increasing wildlife populations, improving watershed health, expanding recreational opportunities and increasing local economic development opportunities. We need more collaboration and less litigation.

The answer is not selling the land to private interests, which will eliminate public access and degrade habitat, or transferring land to states, many of which already face budget challenges and may resort to selling the land.

Throughout the campaign, Mr. Trump promised hunters and anglers that he would uphold Theodore Roosevelt’s public lands legacy. His nomination of Rep. Zinke signals that he intends to fulfill this pledge.

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