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Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Retracts Support of Anti-Roadless Bill

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August 16, 2011

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Retracts Support of Anti-Roadless Bill

By Hal Herring

In my last post for The Conservationist, I wrote about the so-called Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act, H. R. 1581, a bill written by Representative Kevin McCarthy of California and Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming, which promised to open to motorized use several million acres of America’s remaining roadless public lands.

H.R. 1581 is an extreme piece of legislation, described by Bob Abbey, director of the Bureau of Land Management, as “a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach, that fails to reflect local conditions and community-based interests." In an interview with the New York Times, Abbey compared the bill to “shooting a small rabbit with a large gun, leaving almost no meat on the bone” (read the New York Times story here).

The Safari Club International and the National Rifle Association came out in support of H.R.1581, which was surprising to many sportsmen, since SCI is an organization that celebrates trophy big game hunting, and for most hunters, the only, or at least the best, opportunity they will ever have to pursue a trophy-size elk or deer will be on remote, difficult to access, public lands. The NRA’s support of motorized access to these last remote public lands was baffling as well, since such land management policy debates would seem to have nothing at all to do with our embattled Second Amendment rights.

But it was the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s support of H. R 1581 that stunned many RMEF members and elk hunters across the nation. There is no big game animal that is more susceptible to disruption from motorized access to its summer and winter range than elk, and no big game hunting in North America that is more closely associated with big roadless spaces, hard hiking, and the revered and powerful tradition of “packin’ in with horses and mules.” Stacks of studies confirm these facts, hundreds of years of collective experience of elk hunters confirm that elk hunting, at its best, is an activity that takes place on roadless lands.

Perhaps we will never know why the RMEF supported H. R. 1581 in the first place, and perhaps we do not need to know. What is most important is that, in response to the mystified anger and concern expressed by its many members, the venerable conservation group has retracted its support. (The letter from RMEF is pasted below.) And now, it is the sincere hope of myself and every other elk hunter that I know, that the RMEF can get back to doing what it has done so well (5.9 million acres of critical elk habitat, winter range, and public access to hunting and fishing preserved so far) since its founding by four hard-core elk hunters from Troy, Montana, in 1984.

RMEF Withdraws Support for H.R. 1581

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation today announced it has withdrawn its support for H.R. 1581.

RMEF President and CEO David Allen will respectfully inform the bill’s authors and supporters that RMEF cannot endorse the bill because of its potential negative impacts to roadless areas. Allen said responses and feedback from RMEF members and a review of the scientific literature led to the withdrawal.

“We strongly believe in managing habitat to its best condition for elk. Along with controlling invasive weeds, managing forests, restoring grasslands and riparian zones, another element of habitat that’s growing in importance is roads. The roadless-area impacts of H.R. 1581 include too many unknown risks for us to remain supportive,” said Allen.

The fundamental concern with H.R. 1581 is its attempt to deal with “inventoried roadless areas” administered by the U.S. Forest Service alongside “wilderness study areas” administered by BLM. The complexities of different land designations—by two different agencies with unique and historic policies on use—prevent a one-size-fits-all approach.

Allen said, “We believe the proponents of H.R. 1581 are well intentioned and have restarted a necessary debate on best designations for public lands. If a parcel is suitable for wilderness, then it’s imperative to designate it as such. If not, then the best science-based land and habitat management practices should be applied. Neither this bill nor the status quo are acceptable paths to resolving the problem. RMEF will revisit these issues with the BLM, Forest Service, Congress and sportsmen for a better solution.”

Federal and state agencies have been gridlocked too long in litigation and lawsuits from special interest groups and environmentalists, with land and habitat suffering the consequences. Allen called on all sportsmen to support a balanced, collaborative approach to management. He said RMEF watched the litigation and court maneuverings with the wolf debate for years, and now sees similar tactics being applied to public land management. RMEF will push for what is best for the land and the habitat.

He added, “RMEF listens to its members and is guided by science. We reversed our original non-stance on wolves four years ago and we’ll always be willing to revisit our positions and processes to do what’s best for our mission. The debate over use of public lands is far from resolved and we will continue to engage the debate for the sake of the future of these lands.”

Photos courtesy of Gene Sentz, Choteau, MT

Comments (43)

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from ADKJG wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

This is a bill that will ruin some of the last great wilderness on earth, and without a doubt, in our country. You cannot call yourself a sportsman if you are for this; you are simply someone that is to lazy to walk out there yourself. Don't ruin it for the rest of us.

+5 Good Comment? | | Report
from HuskerHunterFisher wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

I was not aware of this bill and definitely think it's a bad idea. This bill doesn't make sense to me why a Congressman from Wyoming would want more roads and vehicles tearing up the wilderness. I will also shoot off an email to the NRA and wonder why my lifetime dues are being spent on a bill that will ruin unspoiled land all across North America.

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from elkslayer wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

This is good news, roads quickly destroy wild areas. The ATV riders supporting this bill will claim to stay on maintained roads but every ATV rider I know likes to brag about getting around gates and clearing their own trails cross country. Let me riterate that, I have never seen an ATV rider respect road closures.

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from Brian Maguire wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

This bill has far more to do with gas and oil development than it has to do with ATV's. The bill's main sponsor is a Southern Californian representative who brags that his district extracts more oil than Oklahoma. They want to turn the rest of Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Oregon, Idaho and Montana into the next Pinedale, WY. Gas well pads 5 ac in size every 20 ac with all the roads leading up to them, couple that with complete cocktail of poisons injected into the ground and Haliburton owned towns. Whats not to like?

Why would the RMEF have ever been for it is beyond me, even the retraction still has some very concerning language, that makes me think they guys running the show don't hunt public land, they hunt their private ranches.

I understand SCI supporting it, fat cats hunting genetically bred 600 class elk or deer inside fences - why would they care about protecting lands without fences and roads? Maybe they will start a category for Herefords as the next innovation to pat themselves on the back.

+4 Good Comment? | | Report
from GregMc wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

RMEF made a huge mistake in supporting this bill, but at least they had the courage to change their position and get on the right side of this anti-hunting legislation.

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from Kyle VanBritson wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

Please,for the love of all that is true wilderness,DO NOT PASS THIS BILL! how could anyone,except for oil and money hungry politicians think that this bill is even romotely close to "helpfull"!? I'm sorry, but this bill will ruin one of a few true and great wildernesses, a place were RME can freely roam, and a place where true hunters and outdoorsmen can put themselves to the ultimate test and try to harvest of of North America's finest species of big game. So please tell me Oil/Money rich congress men who approve of this,"Are you okay with potentially destroying one of America's finest species of big game?"

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from Bernie wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

I am glad the RMEF backed off on its support of this bill, but it irritates me that the NRA and SCI support the bill. As an Endowment member of the NRA for the last 36 years, I believe the NRA should stick to Second Amendment issues and stay out of hunting and land use issues. As for SCI, Brian Maguire makes a valid point. SCI has repeatedly opposed abolishment of game farms, the most recent example being the failed attempt last year to ban game farms in North Dakota.

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from toomuch wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

I wonder why RMEF can't do the right thing "first" without being prssured by members? I'm glad they finally did the right thing for elk and elk hunters by retracting their ill-thought support for such a blantant anti-hunting bill as 1581, but I don't see any courage there. The "couragous" thing to do - not to mention the right thing to do for elk and hunters - would have been to come out first supporting our last wild lands and comdeming this legislation.

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from HuskerHunterFisher wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

Just in case anyone was wondering, I sent an email to the NRA inquiring why they support this bill and received a reply back. I have posted the reply in the Answers section under "Other" category.

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from Michael Shepard wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

This is always controversial...out here in NW Montana..just about every gate you find, whether it is a Forest Service gate or a Plum Creek Timberland gate... has been tampered with.. Many are just destroyed. Slobs are slobs..and way too many lazy hunters use ATVs to go around these gates.not sure why RMEF did what it did..but enough of us called so they changed it...I WALK WHEN I HUNT..even with bad knees, and lower back problems...the modern hunter cannot hunt without all his crap they all sell...it is sad...especially what has happened to the AMO...

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from hal herring wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

Much thanks to HuskerHunterFisher.

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from delrod wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

Hats off to the RMEF. Not only should they withdraw support but they should also help oppose this potential disaster. I'm still confused re: the NRA and SCI. They must just be politically biased or somehow their coffers are being filled by groups that support this bill. As a member I've contacted both of these groups to let them know that this bill is bad for hunting and fishing. There's just absolutely no way around it. I think all of us members should let them know.

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from delrod wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

After reading the NRA's response it's definitely political. Plus, they obviously don't even really understand what roadless areas are. Looks like political rhetoric to me.

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from troutaholic wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

Thanks Hal, for another great piece on this anti-sportsmen's bill. We're thrilled to see RMEF has seen the light and applaud them having the courage to change their position. I have a new found respect for RMEF and wish every sportsmen's group would join us in opposing HR 1581.

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from mthunter47 wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

I'm happy to see RMEF pull its support. And I agree that they should be lined up to oppose it becasue this bill is essentially anti-habitat, anti-wildlife and anti-hunting.

The states with the largest backcountry units typically have over the counter tags, extended seasons and liberal hunting methods. More roads, more motorized access and more development means higher bull and buck mortality which equals limted entry, draw hunts only. And less hunting. We live this in Oregon with 3.6 million people, 60,000+ miles of USFS roads and only remnant backcountry islands of habitat. Sportsmen must be diligent and repetitive with this message until other organizations and legislators get it.

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from Bootheel Hunter wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

My best elk honey-holes are designated roadless and wilderness study areas. In my experience, if you want to find an elk anywhere close to the road on public land the best place to look is next to a roadless area. Those are the security habitat pockets that keep elk on public land when the pressure turns up. If you are a walking hunter, you can go right in after them. If you are not a walking hunter, then being next to a roadless area is still the best place to catch one near the road. I'm a walk-in hunter but I have also been lucky enough to kill a nice bull right next to the road and the only reason that elk was there is because it was where the road passed right next to a roadless area.

Thanks Hal for covering this. RMEF brass made a mistake that just makes you wonder why or how that could happen. But it is good to see that RMEF still has a enough of a public land elk hunting membership to set them straight when a mistake this big is made. Thanks to the brass too for reversing course on this one.

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from Paesan wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

Congrats to RMEF for finally seeing the light, or at least for listening to your members. It took courage to stand up and do the right thing. And wake up, motor users--this bill negatively impacts you too. Most of these IRAs aren't large, but they provide critical escapement and rearing habitats that help to keep even the surrounding motor-accessible areas supplied with fish and game. The beauty is, you can hunt in them as well (if you're willing to go it the old fashioned way). Simply, this bill is about big energy and big $$ and is detrimental to ALL sportsmen.

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from Steward wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

Call your Congressman. And keep calling.

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from Chris Wright wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

I don't know the details to HB 1851 and judging from the comments posted on here neither do many of the people commenting.
I live and hunt in Oregon and here is what i do know.
Not every one that hunts can take two weeks off and pack horse into an area.
If you want to hunt with your kids they can't take much time off to hunt due to school / work.
Every year when i go hunting there is less and less accessible area (by vehicle) due to road closures and / or road removal or non-maintenance, or the land no longer being accessible to the Public.
The latest tactic by the do gooder greenies is to change National Forest Land into Wilderness area and close it down to anyone that has a job is not on foot.

There are millions of use that want to use our National Lands for camping, hunting, riding, having fun and being out there and can only access it by some sort or vehicle due to time or physical condition.
The National Wilderness Preservation System is GROWING. On 3/30/09 President Obama signed the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (Public law 111-11) into law. This law designated 52 new wilderness areas and added acreage to 26 existing areas, a total addition to the NWPS of over 2 million acres.

In Oregon we have at least 47 Wilderness areas and the total acreage is increasing every year. Unfortunately the National Forest / BLM Lands open to all of the Public are not increasing, but are decreasing.

Some sort of BALANCE is needed. I am not sure if this Bill would help or hurt, but i would not be so quick to condemn it.

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from shane wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

I'm not surprised at all by the SCI and NRA endorsements. You shouldn't be either. Follow the money, follow the highest paying/most powerful members/officials, follow the politics...

But the RMEF? Huh? Thank goodness they got their heads screwed on straight.

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from wildandfree wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

Good job RMEF! The proof is in the pudding. Elk need roadless wild areas to survive and thrive in huntable numbers. A notable study from the early nineties (Leptich and Zager)notes that the bull:cow ratio for roaded areas is 10:100; simply closing those same roads raises the ratio to 20:100, and that in unroaded or roadless landscapes the ratio to 34.5:100 - wow!. Additionally, numerous other studies point to chronic negative avoidance of roads by elk. If you are an elk hunter you should be doing all you can to make sure roadless areas stay intact. In Colorado, the top 15 most hunted game management units all have over 66,000 acres of roadless land - this is no coincidence. Keep roadless are wild and as they are.

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from Matthew Clark wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

Kudos to RMEF for taking a second look at this bill and realizing it was not a sound nor reasonable policy. I don't think anyone would argue against evaluating our public lands and making proper determinations of appropriate uses, as RMEF said in their press release -"If a parcel is suitable for wilderness, then it’s imperative to designate it as such. If not, then the best science-based land and habitat management practices should be applied." That sounds like common sense, unlike this poorly thought through legislation that would throw the baby out with the bath water!

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from Fred Flinstone wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

I would Just like to give encouragement to the RMEF in making the right move. You stuck your neck out by changing your stance, but as an organization, I think you changed to support the sentiment of your members. Good Work. I cannot speak about the SCI, because have had no experience whatsoever with them, but I can say I'm not surprised to learn that the NRA is all for this. The last encounter I had with an NRA member went something like this--Camped for two days at the end of a dead end road, down by an artificial only regulationed river. In came three campers, three big trucks, a pack of dogs, a swarm of ATV's, and set up camp 30 yards away from my little tent, right in the road. The big NRA flag was ran up a pole, the dogs all let loose, ATV's stirring up dust, and the bait thrown in the river with rods propped up on forked sticks. After about 1/2 hour of my serenity shattered and my stuff dragged around by thier dogs, I packed up and attempted to leave. I found that the road was completely blocked by their campers, which they would not move, but urged me to drive through their fire (which I eventually had to do) to be able to leave. Those NRA folks are already out there promoting new roads be made, around their camps!!!

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from MTbackcountry wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

Hal, thanks for another excellent post on this subject. There are a lot of terms that could be used to describe this bill, but "anti-hunting" seems to sum it up. Scientific studies show that roadless areas have higher densities of elk, have higher hunter success rates, result in longer hunting seasons and create an increased capacity for habitat to support elk. The bottom line is that this bill is bad for elk and elk hunting. If Defenders of Wildlife proposed legislation that science shows would have these same impacts on hunting, how do you think that the Safari Club and the NRA would react?

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from backcountry jones wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

My hat's off to RMEF for having the stones to reverse themselves and do what's right for large game and hunters on this issue. If you support hunting in the U.S. why would you want to pass a law that could seriously diminish the quality of some of our best remaining habitat?

About the last thing we need is career politicians with a poor understanding of what the best ingredients are for a successful public lands hunt removing the modest protections now in place for roadless areas, trying to advance some broader anti-conservation agenda.

I agree with those who say we need a balance between access and real wild country with few or no roads. But let's not confuse "no access at all" with "no motorized access." If you are willing and able to walk (or ride a horse) you can hunt or fish pretty much anywhere in a national forest that you want, even in designated Wilderness. Being now in my fifties and with bad knees, the prospect of getting deep into good elk country again is daunting. But I want my now-13 year old son to have the opportunities I've had -- to make a good elk camp miles from the nearest road and, to borrow a phrase from the famous 1970's advertisement for the brokerage firm Smith Barney, earn his elk "the old fashioned way."

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from bberg7794 wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

Thank you RMEF for reversing your decision on this bill. I've been a member for quite a few years now and they are a great organization. Thankfully, they are flexible enough to reverse their support as additional information becomes available. Remember, this happened with their wolf position not too long ago and I am happy to see it happen again with this bill.

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from garrystl wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

I'm all for Elk hunting but to deny access OR to keep all these lands closed to motorized traffic is just plain selfish. The ATV community is getting a bad rap on this, yes there are rogue ATVers but there are also poachers, so, do we outlaw hunting because of poachers?
I'm 55 years old, I can't do it "the old fashion way", my ATV has kept open my ability to get into the outdoors.
My whole life is based around hunting and fishing, with out my ATV that all comes to an abrupt halt.
Is there no common ground anymore....and as for ATV's tearing up terrain....take a look at that pack of mules cutting ruts in the picture above....sorry, I cannot afford Joe Guide and his pack of mules to Elk hunt.
Shame on you all for not supporting 1581.
God created that land for our enjoyment, not just Elk hunters.
Thats my view on it.

-7 Good Comment? | | Report
from toomuch wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

Hmmm. So, "God created that land for our enjoyment." That's an interesting observation. I guess my Sunday school class didn't cover that material...

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from Roderick K. Purcell wrote 2 years 33 weeks ago

Thanks, Hal, for continuing to inform concerned sportsmen about this very concerning piece of legislation. I am gratified that RMEF still listens to its grassroots members and biologists and that it had the courage to acknowledge a mistake. I too am baffled as to why they picked the wrong trail in the first place. Maybe they need to spend more time in the backcountry ... maybe the batteries got weak in their moral GPS. Either way, Hal's great work on the topic helped set things right. Please keep us informed as we work to kill this legislation.

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from darkwoodsbowhunter wrote 2 years 33 weeks ago

Thanks Hal for daylighting this important subject. I am shocked that RMEF initially took a supportive position on a bill that is so anti-elk habitat. What were they possibly thinking? In addition to just retracting their support, RMEF should actively and publically oppose this bill, and work to get NRA and SCI to oppose it as well. Here in Montana, known as one of the best elk states, only 6.8% of the state remains roadless. Without good security, elk have no choice but to run to private lands closed or restricted to the rich.

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from Jay Banta wrote 2 years 33 weeks ago

Good job Hal! What kind of organization who professes to want the best thing for elk could have ever taken that stand in the first place. I'm glad they recanted and hope that your effort were significant but I'm afraid they have shown their true colors. As a retired wildlife professional, I can state that large blocks of roadless country are indeed critical for healthy elk populations and it is simply inexplicable that they would have ever been anything but adamantly against this bill. I hope members who know that this was a significant peek at the hierarchy of the organization will be on guard. This will not be the last such "faux paux."

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from Backcountry wrote 2 years 33 weeks ago

Appreciate you bringing this important issue to the attention of sportsmen. I elk hunt in the backcountry and don't want any new roads in my honey hole. If groups want to help sportsmen with access issues they should find ways to make public land accessible by securing access routes through private land. The biggest issue from an access perspective is private landowners closing public roads that access public land.

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from montanaspotteddog wrote 2 years 33 weeks ago

Shout out to RMEF for reversing its stance. Why did they reverse it? They heard from elk hunters. They represent elk hunters. Elk don't like roads. Elk love wilderness. Sure, not all of us own a pack string. Nor do all of us own an OHV. But without big pieces of country that don't have roads and are away from motorized toys like OHVs and motorcycles, we don't have elk. I'm going to be 50 in a short time. I hope I never see the day when I can't walk into the woods a mile to hunt elk, and can't bring out an elk on my back one measly mile if I'm lucky enough to shoot something. If that day comes, I hope I'm not selfish enough to look at the next generation and say to them: sorry, I had the best of the best, now please build my old butt a road into your heritage.

We are raising a selfish generation of wimps. As sportsmen, we need to spank these people back to their video games and Cheetos.

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from Longbow Jarhead wrote 2 years 33 weeks ago

As a RMEF member for almost 10 years now I was shocked when they came out in support of this horrible bill. I have always known that the biggest bulls and best hunting was to be found in our roadless backcountry. RMEF's courage to change their mind gave me the courage to continue my membership into the next decade. As hunters we all need to stand up and work together to kill this bill. If we don't H.R. 1581 will kill our backcountry hunting opportunities.

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from GOV wrote 2 years 33 weeks ago

Conservation and responsible stewardship should be both apolitical and bi-partisan. I suspect RMEF, SCI and the NRA based their official H.R. 1581 position of support on an inflexible adherence to political ideology instead of using responsible stewardship and solid science to formulate their opinion. Behind this dangerous proposal is a lie that claims to champion the fundamental American freedom of unregulated access and untapped, wasted economic opportunity. I,for one, ain’t buyin’what they’re sellin’. I’m all for common-sense industrial growth and prosperity and reasonable, responsible access into our public lands. But not at the expense of destroying my happy hunting grounds and my daughter’s inheritance of the priceless natural resources our predecessors worked so hard to create and protect. At least RMEF woke up and changed their tune (although it shouldn't have taken such pressure from their shocked membership to do so). So where does this leave SCI and the NRA? Is their leadership so stubbornly invested in politics that they are willing to completely forsake place in the process? Time will tell and the clock is ticking. There will be no turning back for either organization if they stick to their guns and continue to support H.R. 1581…

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from Larry O Copenhaver wrote 2 years 33 weeks ago

It's intereting to read these responses and how supportive most are for reserving wildlands and how significant they are for perpetuation of secure elk herds. I just passed the 60 yr. milestone and am not the least bit initimidated by a backcountry hunt. The gentleman from Oregon boiled it down to one point - he works and can't hire a pack train so should be allowed motorized trans into the backcountry. Unfortunately, he doesn't realize that if he were given untrammeled access there would soon be few elk to hunt. I won't take that trade. When the back country acts ike an incubator for elk, then more elk get cloe enough to the outside where we old guys can find 'em!!

RMEF has been on the wrong track for awhile and only do the right thing if dragged to it kicking and screaming. I hope their leadership will lose the land trust mentality and get back to perpetuating healthy elk herds. I am glad they came around on this toxic legislation.

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from upacreek333 wrote 2 years 33 weeks ago

Great work, Hal... and congrats to RMEF for backing off its opposition. Now, the questions remains... since they're rescinded their support, will they now stay on the right track and actually oppose this bill?

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from Matthew Clark wrote 2 years 33 weeks ago

garrystl, While I appreciate your desire to use an ATV to explore and hunt, there is plenty of country that is roaded an open to all typed of motorized travel. Many roadless areas actually have some existing open roads and ATV tails as well. As far as your economic reasoning goes, I sure as heck can't afford a $6,000.00 to $10,000.00 dollar ATV but I can pay a fellow with a horse $200.00 to pack out an animal if I get too far back in to get it out myself. Plus you'll get to spend some quite time in the woods with someone who probably has some great stories to tell, you may even make a friend in the process.

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from dabba g wrote 2 years 33 weeks ago

Thanks Hal, for another great post, and to the RMEF for seeing the light. Now it's up to sportsmen to keep that light burning, because Mr Maguire is right: this bill is much more about oil and gas than deer and elk. And because of that fact, even if this bill dies we'll likely see another one like it. They'll learn from the first go-round and mess with the language to see if they can get more hunters and anglers to support it, but it will be the same wolf in another sheep's wool.
As a hunter or an angler, treat this as a wake up call and take action. Don't stand for this nonsense from your congressional reps. Let them know that messing with the best big game and fish habitat in the West (aka roadless land and wilderness) will guarantee that somebody else will be sitting in their seat in Washington after the next election. As for SCI and the NRA, there's another wake up call. They haven't been interested in supporting the average sportsman in years. Why the hell are you still supporting them?

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from garwhal wrote 2 years 33 weeks ago

Great post. Glad that RMEF pulled its support of the Bill, now I hope that other Sportmens' organizations follow suit as they learn of the real implications the Bill could have on our hunting and fishing opportunities.

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from garwhal wrote 2 years 33 weeks ago

Great post. Glad that RMEF pulled its support of the Bill, now I hope that other Sportmens' organizations follow suit as they learn of the real implications the Bill could have on our hunting and fishing opportunities.

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from MarkinAlaska wrote 2 years 33 weeks ago

It's great to see Hal blogging here at F&S, thanks for the update Hal, always enjoy your writings over the years.

Regarding RMEF, I do think we need to know why the hell they supported this bill - that is 180 degrees opposed to their mission - in the first place. I'm glad they retracted their support, but certainly don't think it was an act of courage. And their retraction statement only begs the question: What kind of due diligence does RMEF do before supporting a piece of legislation that would have profound negative affects on elk habitat and elk populations and elk hunting opportunities? The science was always there, and one would think their board members were well aware of it. So this "guided by science" rhetoric is...um...well it leaves one to ponder the reality of how RMEF functions at the top levels.

Beyond that, rather than get all pat-on-the-back to RMEF for changing their position, I'd like to know what they intend to do to see that this bill is defeated. What are they doing by way of talking with NRA and SCI? I want to see something well beyond just a retraction down the line, I hope they will fight with other sportsman's orgs to educate hunters and legislators why this bill sucks for the future of elk and elk hunting on millions of acres of our public lands.

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from billyjo bondurant wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

this is good news it would alow more axcess to public lands for hunting or just camping.

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from GregMc wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

RMEF made a huge mistake in supporting this bill, but at least they had the courage to change their position and get on the right side of this anti-hunting legislation.

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from MTbackcountry wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

Hal, thanks for another excellent post on this subject. There are a lot of terms that could be used to describe this bill, but "anti-hunting" seems to sum it up. Scientific studies show that roadless areas have higher densities of elk, have higher hunter success rates, result in longer hunting seasons and create an increased capacity for habitat to support elk. The bottom line is that this bill is bad for elk and elk hunting. If Defenders of Wildlife proposed legislation that science shows would have these same impacts on hunting, how do you think that the Safari Club and the NRA would react?

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from backcountry jones wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

My hat's off to RMEF for having the stones to reverse themselves and do what's right for large game and hunters on this issue. If you support hunting in the U.S. why would you want to pass a law that could seriously diminish the quality of some of our best remaining habitat?

About the last thing we need is career politicians with a poor understanding of what the best ingredients are for a successful public lands hunt removing the modest protections now in place for roadless areas, trying to advance some broader anti-conservation agenda.

I agree with those who say we need a balance between access and real wild country with few or no roads. But let's not confuse "no access at all" with "no motorized access." If you are willing and able to walk (or ride a horse) you can hunt or fish pretty much anywhere in a national forest that you want, even in designated Wilderness. Being now in my fifties and with bad knees, the prospect of getting deep into good elk country again is daunting. But I want my now-13 year old son to have the opportunities I've had -- to make a good elk camp miles from the nearest road and, to borrow a phrase from the famous 1970's advertisement for the brokerage firm Smith Barney, earn his elk "the old fashioned way."

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from ADKJG wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

This is a bill that will ruin some of the last great wilderness on earth, and without a doubt, in our country. You cannot call yourself a sportsman if you are for this; you are simply someone that is to lazy to walk out there yourself. Don't ruin it for the rest of us.

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from Paesan wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

Congrats to RMEF for finally seeing the light, or at least for listening to your members. It took courage to stand up and do the right thing. And wake up, motor users--this bill negatively impacts you too. Most of these IRAs aren't large, but they provide critical escapement and rearing habitats that help to keep even the surrounding motor-accessible areas supplied with fish and game. The beauty is, you can hunt in them as well (if you're willing to go it the old fashioned way). Simply, this bill is about big energy and big $$ and is detrimental to ALL sportsmen.

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from Brian Maguire wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

This bill has far more to do with gas and oil development than it has to do with ATV's. The bill's main sponsor is a Southern Californian representative who brags that his district extracts more oil than Oklahoma. They want to turn the rest of Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Oregon, Idaho and Montana into the next Pinedale, WY. Gas well pads 5 ac in size every 20 ac with all the roads leading up to them, couple that with complete cocktail of poisons injected into the ground and Haliburton owned towns. Whats not to like?

Why would the RMEF have ever been for it is beyond me, even the retraction still has some very concerning language, that makes me think they guys running the show don't hunt public land, they hunt their private ranches.

I understand SCI supporting it, fat cats hunting genetically bred 600 class elk or deer inside fences - why would they care about protecting lands without fences and roads? Maybe they will start a category for Herefords as the next innovation to pat themselves on the back.

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from Kyle VanBritson wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

Please,for the love of all that is true wilderness,DO NOT PASS THIS BILL! how could anyone,except for oil and money hungry politicians think that this bill is even romotely close to "helpfull"!? I'm sorry, but this bill will ruin one of a few true and great wildernesses, a place were RME can freely roam, and a place where true hunters and outdoorsmen can put themselves to the ultimate test and try to harvest of of North America's finest species of big game. So please tell me Oil/Money rich congress men who approve of this,"Are you okay with potentially destroying one of America's finest species of big game?"

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from Bernie wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

I am glad the RMEF backed off on its support of this bill, but it irritates me that the NRA and SCI support the bill. As an Endowment member of the NRA for the last 36 years, I believe the NRA should stick to Second Amendment issues and stay out of hunting and land use issues. As for SCI, Brian Maguire makes a valid point. SCI has repeatedly opposed abolishment of game farms, the most recent example being the failed attempt last year to ban game farms in North Dakota.

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from toomuch wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

I wonder why RMEF can't do the right thing "first" without being prssured by members? I'm glad they finally did the right thing for elk and elk hunters by retracting their ill-thought support for such a blantant anti-hunting bill as 1581, but I don't see any courage there. The "couragous" thing to do - not to mention the right thing to do for elk and hunters - would have been to come out first supporting our last wild lands and comdeming this legislation.

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from mthunter47 wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

I'm happy to see RMEF pull its support. And I agree that they should be lined up to oppose it becasue this bill is essentially anti-habitat, anti-wildlife and anti-hunting.

The states with the largest backcountry units typically have over the counter tags, extended seasons and liberal hunting methods. More roads, more motorized access and more development means higher bull and buck mortality which equals limted entry, draw hunts only. And less hunting. We live this in Oregon with 3.6 million people, 60,000+ miles of USFS roads and only remnant backcountry islands of habitat. Sportsmen must be diligent and repetitive with this message until other organizations and legislators get it.

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from Bootheel Hunter wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

My best elk honey-holes are designated roadless and wilderness study areas. In my experience, if you want to find an elk anywhere close to the road on public land the best place to look is next to a roadless area. Those are the security habitat pockets that keep elk on public land when the pressure turns up. If you are a walking hunter, you can go right in after them. If you are not a walking hunter, then being next to a roadless area is still the best place to catch one near the road. I'm a walk-in hunter but I have also been lucky enough to kill a nice bull right next to the road and the only reason that elk was there is because it was where the road passed right next to a roadless area.

Thanks Hal for covering this. RMEF brass made a mistake that just makes you wonder why or how that could happen. But it is good to see that RMEF still has a enough of a public land elk hunting membership to set them straight when a mistake this big is made. Thanks to the brass too for reversing course on this one.

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from Backcountry wrote 2 years 33 weeks ago

Appreciate you bringing this important issue to the attention of sportsmen. I elk hunt in the backcountry and don't want any new roads in my honey hole. If groups want to help sportsmen with access issues they should find ways to make public land accessible by securing access routes through private land. The biggest issue from an access perspective is private landowners closing public roads that access public land.

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from montanaspotteddog wrote 2 years 33 weeks ago

Shout out to RMEF for reversing its stance. Why did they reverse it? They heard from elk hunters. They represent elk hunters. Elk don't like roads. Elk love wilderness. Sure, not all of us own a pack string. Nor do all of us own an OHV. But without big pieces of country that don't have roads and are away from motorized toys like OHVs and motorcycles, we don't have elk. I'm going to be 50 in a short time. I hope I never see the day when I can't walk into the woods a mile to hunt elk, and can't bring out an elk on my back one measly mile if I'm lucky enough to shoot something. If that day comes, I hope I'm not selfish enough to look at the next generation and say to them: sorry, I had the best of the best, now please build my old butt a road into your heritage.

We are raising a selfish generation of wimps. As sportsmen, we need to spank these people back to their video games and Cheetos.

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from HuskerHunterFisher wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

I was not aware of this bill and definitely think it's a bad idea. This bill doesn't make sense to me why a Congressman from Wyoming would want more roads and vehicles tearing up the wilderness. I will also shoot off an email to the NRA and wonder why my lifetime dues are being spent on a bill that will ruin unspoiled land all across North America.

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from Michael Shepard wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

This is always controversial...out here in NW Montana..just about every gate you find, whether it is a Forest Service gate or a Plum Creek Timberland gate... has been tampered with.. Many are just destroyed. Slobs are slobs..and way too many lazy hunters use ATVs to go around these gates.not sure why RMEF did what it did..but enough of us called so they changed it...I WALK WHEN I HUNT..even with bad knees, and lower back problems...the modern hunter cannot hunt without all his crap they all sell...it is sad...especially what has happened to the AMO...

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from delrod wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

Hats off to the RMEF. Not only should they withdraw support but they should also help oppose this potential disaster. I'm still confused re: the NRA and SCI. They must just be politically biased or somehow their coffers are being filled by groups that support this bill. As a member I've contacted both of these groups to let them know that this bill is bad for hunting and fishing. There's just absolutely no way around it. I think all of us members should let them know.

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from Matthew Clark wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

Kudos to RMEF for taking a second look at this bill and realizing it was not a sound nor reasonable policy. I don't think anyone would argue against evaluating our public lands and making proper determinations of appropriate uses, as RMEF said in their press release -"If a parcel is suitable for wilderness, then it’s imperative to designate it as such. If not, then the best science-based land and habitat management practices should be applied." That sounds like common sense, unlike this poorly thought through legislation that would throw the baby out with the bath water!

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from bberg7794 wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

Thank you RMEF for reversing your decision on this bill. I've been a member for quite a few years now and they are a great organization. Thankfully, they are flexible enough to reverse their support as additional information becomes available. Remember, this happened with their wolf position not too long ago and I am happy to see it happen again with this bill.

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from Roderick K. Purcell wrote 2 years 33 weeks ago

Thanks, Hal, for continuing to inform concerned sportsmen about this very concerning piece of legislation. I am gratified that RMEF still listens to its grassroots members and biologists and that it had the courage to acknowledge a mistake. I too am baffled as to why they picked the wrong trail in the first place. Maybe they need to spend more time in the backcountry ... maybe the batteries got weak in their moral GPS. Either way, Hal's great work on the topic helped set things right. Please keep us informed as we work to kill this legislation.

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from Longbow Jarhead wrote 2 years 33 weeks ago

As a RMEF member for almost 10 years now I was shocked when they came out in support of this horrible bill. I have always known that the biggest bulls and best hunting was to be found in our roadless backcountry. RMEF's courage to change their mind gave me the courage to continue my membership into the next decade. As hunters we all need to stand up and work together to kill this bill. If we don't H.R. 1581 will kill our backcountry hunting opportunities.

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from GOV wrote 2 years 33 weeks ago

Conservation and responsible stewardship should be both apolitical and bi-partisan. I suspect RMEF, SCI and the NRA based their official H.R. 1581 position of support on an inflexible adherence to political ideology instead of using responsible stewardship and solid science to formulate their opinion. Behind this dangerous proposal is a lie that claims to champion the fundamental American freedom of unregulated access and untapped, wasted economic opportunity. I,for one, ain’t buyin’what they’re sellin’. I’m all for common-sense industrial growth and prosperity and reasonable, responsible access into our public lands. But not at the expense of destroying my happy hunting grounds and my daughter’s inheritance of the priceless natural resources our predecessors worked so hard to create and protect. At least RMEF woke up and changed their tune (although it shouldn't have taken such pressure from their shocked membership to do so). So where does this leave SCI and the NRA? Is their leadership so stubbornly invested in politics that they are willing to completely forsake place in the process? Time will tell and the clock is ticking. There will be no turning back for either organization if they stick to their guns and continue to support H.R. 1581…

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from garwhal wrote 2 years 33 weeks ago

Great post. Glad that RMEF pulled its support of the Bill, now I hope that other Sportmens' organizations follow suit as they learn of the real implications the Bill could have on our hunting and fishing opportunities.

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from MarkinAlaska wrote 2 years 33 weeks ago

It's great to see Hal blogging here at F&S, thanks for the update Hal, always enjoy your writings over the years.

Regarding RMEF, I do think we need to know why the hell they supported this bill - that is 180 degrees opposed to their mission - in the first place. I'm glad they retracted their support, but certainly don't think it was an act of courage. And their retraction statement only begs the question: What kind of due diligence does RMEF do before supporting a piece of legislation that would have profound negative affects on elk habitat and elk populations and elk hunting opportunities? The science was always there, and one would think their board members were well aware of it. So this "guided by science" rhetoric is...um...well it leaves one to ponder the reality of how RMEF functions at the top levels.

Beyond that, rather than get all pat-on-the-back to RMEF for changing their position, I'd like to know what they intend to do to see that this bill is defeated. What are they doing by way of talking with NRA and SCI? I want to see something well beyond just a retraction down the line, I hope they will fight with other sportsman's orgs to educate hunters and legislators why this bill sucks for the future of elk and elk hunting on millions of acres of our public lands.

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from elkslayer wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

This is good news, roads quickly destroy wild areas. The ATV riders supporting this bill will claim to stay on maintained roads but every ATV rider I know likes to brag about getting around gates and clearing their own trails cross country. Let me riterate that, I have never seen an ATV rider respect road closures.

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from delrod wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

After reading the NRA's response it's definitely political. Plus, they obviously don't even really understand what roadless areas are. Looks like political rhetoric to me.

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from troutaholic wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

Thanks Hal, for another great piece on this anti-sportsmen's bill. We're thrilled to see RMEF has seen the light and applaud them having the courage to change their position. I have a new found respect for RMEF and wish every sportsmen's group would join us in opposing HR 1581.

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from Steward wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

Call your Congressman. And keep calling.

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from darkwoodsbowhunter wrote 2 years 33 weeks ago

Thanks Hal for daylighting this important subject. I am shocked that RMEF initially took a supportive position on a bill that is so anti-elk habitat. What were they possibly thinking? In addition to just retracting their support, RMEF should actively and publically oppose this bill, and work to get NRA and SCI to oppose it as well. Here in Montana, known as one of the best elk states, only 6.8% of the state remains roadless. Without good security, elk have no choice but to run to private lands closed or restricted to the rich.

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from Jay Banta wrote 2 years 33 weeks ago

Good job Hal! What kind of organization who professes to want the best thing for elk could have ever taken that stand in the first place. I'm glad they recanted and hope that your effort were significant but I'm afraid they have shown their true colors. As a retired wildlife professional, I can state that large blocks of roadless country are indeed critical for healthy elk populations and it is simply inexplicable that they would have ever been anything but adamantly against this bill. I hope members who know that this was a significant peek at the hierarchy of the organization will be on guard. This will not be the last such "faux paux."

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from upacreek333 wrote 2 years 33 weeks ago

Great work, Hal... and congrats to RMEF for backing off its opposition. Now, the questions remains... since they're rescinded their support, will they now stay on the right track and actually oppose this bill?

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from Matthew Clark wrote 2 years 33 weeks ago

garrystl, While I appreciate your desire to use an ATV to explore and hunt, there is plenty of country that is roaded an open to all typed of motorized travel. Many roadless areas actually have some existing open roads and ATV tails as well. As far as your economic reasoning goes, I sure as heck can't afford a $6,000.00 to $10,000.00 dollar ATV but I can pay a fellow with a horse $200.00 to pack out an animal if I get too far back in to get it out myself. Plus you'll get to spend some quite time in the woods with someone who probably has some great stories to tell, you may even make a friend in the process.

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from HuskerHunterFisher wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

Just in case anyone was wondering, I sent an email to the NRA inquiring why they support this bill and received a reply back. I have posted the reply in the Answers section under "Other" category.

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from shane wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

I'm not surprised at all by the SCI and NRA endorsements. You shouldn't be either. Follow the money, follow the highest paying/most powerful members/officials, follow the politics...

But the RMEF? Huh? Thank goodness they got their heads screwed on straight.

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from wildandfree wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

Good job RMEF! The proof is in the pudding. Elk need roadless wild areas to survive and thrive in huntable numbers. A notable study from the early nineties (Leptich and Zager)notes that the bull:cow ratio for roaded areas is 10:100; simply closing those same roads raises the ratio to 20:100, and that in unroaded or roadless landscapes the ratio to 34.5:100 - wow!. Additionally, numerous other studies point to chronic negative avoidance of roads by elk. If you are an elk hunter you should be doing all you can to make sure roadless areas stay intact. In Colorado, the top 15 most hunted game management units all have over 66,000 acres of roadless land - this is no coincidence. Keep roadless are wild and as they are.

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from Fred Flinstone wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

I would Just like to give encouragement to the RMEF in making the right move. You stuck your neck out by changing your stance, but as an organization, I think you changed to support the sentiment of your members. Good Work. I cannot speak about the SCI, because have had no experience whatsoever with them, but I can say I'm not surprised to learn that the NRA is all for this. The last encounter I had with an NRA member went something like this--Camped for two days at the end of a dead end road, down by an artificial only regulationed river. In came three campers, three big trucks, a pack of dogs, a swarm of ATV's, and set up camp 30 yards away from my little tent, right in the road. The big NRA flag was ran up a pole, the dogs all let loose, ATV's stirring up dust, and the bait thrown in the river with rods propped up on forked sticks. After about 1/2 hour of my serenity shattered and my stuff dragged around by thier dogs, I packed up and attempted to leave. I found that the road was completely blocked by their campers, which they would not move, but urged me to drive through their fire (which I eventually had to do) to be able to leave. Those NRA folks are already out there promoting new roads be made, around their camps!!!

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from toomuch wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

Hmmm. So, "God created that land for our enjoyment." That's an interesting observation. I guess my Sunday school class didn't cover that material...

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from Larry O Copenhaver wrote 2 years 33 weeks ago

It's intereting to read these responses and how supportive most are for reserving wildlands and how significant they are for perpetuation of secure elk herds. I just passed the 60 yr. milestone and am not the least bit initimidated by a backcountry hunt. The gentleman from Oregon boiled it down to one point - he works and can't hire a pack train so should be allowed motorized trans into the backcountry. Unfortunately, he doesn't realize that if he were given untrammeled access there would soon be few elk to hunt. I won't take that trade. When the back country acts ike an incubator for elk, then more elk get cloe enough to the outside where we old guys can find 'em!!

RMEF has been on the wrong track for awhile and only do the right thing if dragged to it kicking and screaming. I hope their leadership will lose the land trust mentality and get back to perpetuating healthy elk herds. I am glad they came around on this toxic legislation.

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from dabba g wrote 2 years 33 weeks ago

Thanks Hal, for another great post, and to the RMEF for seeing the light. Now it's up to sportsmen to keep that light burning, because Mr Maguire is right: this bill is much more about oil and gas than deer and elk. And because of that fact, even if this bill dies we'll likely see another one like it. They'll learn from the first go-round and mess with the language to see if they can get more hunters and anglers to support it, but it will be the same wolf in another sheep's wool.
As a hunter or an angler, treat this as a wake up call and take action. Don't stand for this nonsense from your congressional reps. Let them know that messing with the best big game and fish habitat in the West (aka roadless land and wilderness) will guarantee that somebody else will be sitting in their seat in Washington after the next election. As for SCI and the NRA, there's another wake up call. They haven't been interested in supporting the average sportsman in years. Why the hell are you still supporting them?

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from garwhal wrote 2 years 33 weeks ago

Great post. Glad that RMEF pulled its support of the Bill, now I hope that other Sportmens' organizations follow suit as they learn of the real implications the Bill could have on our hunting and fishing opportunities.

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from hal herring wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

Much thanks to HuskerHunterFisher.

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from billyjo bondurant wrote 2 years 30 weeks ago

this is good news it would alow more axcess to public lands for hunting or just camping.

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from Chris Wright wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

I don't know the details to HB 1851 and judging from the comments posted on here neither do many of the people commenting.
I live and hunt in Oregon and here is what i do know.
Not every one that hunts can take two weeks off and pack horse into an area.
If you want to hunt with your kids they can't take much time off to hunt due to school / work.
Every year when i go hunting there is less and less accessible area (by vehicle) due to road closures and / or road removal or non-maintenance, or the land no longer being accessible to the Public.
The latest tactic by the do gooder greenies is to change National Forest Land into Wilderness area and close it down to anyone that has a job is not on foot.

There are millions of use that want to use our National Lands for camping, hunting, riding, having fun and being out there and can only access it by some sort or vehicle due to time or physical condition.
The National Wilderness Preservation System is GROWING. On 3/30/09 President Obama signed the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (Public law 111-11) into law. This law designated 52 new wilderness areas and added acreage to 26 existing areas, a total addition to the NWPS of over 2 million acres.

In Oregon we have at least 47 Wilderness areas and the total acreage is increasing every year. Unfortunately the National Forest / BLM Lands open to all of the Public are not increasing, but are decreasing.

Some sort of BALANCE is needed. I am not sure if this Bill would help or hurt, but i would not be so quick to condemn it.

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from garrystl wrote 2 years 34 weeks ago

I'm all for Elk hunting but to deny access OR to keep all these lands closed to motorized traffic is just plain selfish. The ATV community is getting a bad rap on this, yes there are rogue ATVers but there are also poachers, so, do we outlaw hunting because of poachers?
I'm 55 years old, I can't do it "the old fashion way", my ATV has kept open my ability to get into the outdoors.
My whole life is based around hunting and fishing, with out my ATV that all comes to an abrupt halt.
Is there no common ground anymore....and as for ATV's tearing up terrain....take a look at that pack of mules cutting ruts in the picture above....sorry, I cannot afford Joe Guide and his pack of mules to Elk hunt.
Shame on you all for not supporting 1581.
God created that land for our enjoyment, not just Elk hunters.
Thats my view on it.

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