In 2014, many outdoors groups will celebrate passage of one of the most important pieces of legislation ever for America's sportsmen—but I'm guessing most sportsmen won't be able to name it.
It's The Wilderness Act, signed Sept. 3, 1964 by President Lyndon Johnson. The law included a legal definition of what the act set out to preserve:
"A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain."
I am increasingly faced with problems that seem so very far beyond my capacity to solve them. I am almost relieved when some big problem comes flying at me that is real, clearly defined, and imminently solvable. If somebody tells me that we're out of firewood and it's about to get real cold, I've got a truck, gas and oil, an old but solid Husqvarna 262, and a Forest Service permit to cut a few cords of standing dead. I have a clear solution to the problem.
The solution to our wetlands problem is clear as well.
The truth is, only some members of Congress deserve our praise so far--specifically, Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who have packaged some long-overdue ideas to help fish, wildlife and sportsmen.
Honey, as we all know, attracts bears. But it also attracts flies, ants, roaches and plenty of other things we don't really want around.
Money for conservation efforts has a similar problem. It can attract serious conservation entities that will do great work for fish and wildlife habitat. But it can also attract unscrupulous developers, dissemblers and politically-connected hustlers who will take that money and use it for projects that have nothing to do with improving an ecosystem—except the one in their wallets.
The government shutdown affected many Americans, but hit one group particularly hard—the backcountry fishing guides of the Florida Keys, who rely upon entry to Everglades National Park so their clients can cast for snook, redfish, seatrout, snappers and other species in a beautiful, remote, wild area.
These 16-day closure directly affected the guides—who must buy annual permits that allow access to the Everglades—because if they can't fish, they can't take clients out. And unlike federal employees, there's no possibility of back pay. But it also took away another element.
We've just lived through more proof that politics is part of the wider ecosystem that determines the health of fish and wildlife habitat. Here's why.
No sooner had President Obama signed the bill ending the government shutdown than groups began putting their calculators to the cost of that terrible bit of politics to the nation's businesses. The figures quickly jumped into the double-digit billions. But while many of those businesses can regain lost revenue, sportsmen and others concerned about conservation will never recover from the impacts suffered. That's because every day we delay addressing the causes of lost fish and wildlife habitat means acres removed forever.
First off, no one is saying hunting and fishing is as important as death benefits to the families of service members making the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms, or cancer treatment for children, or food inspections. Every sportsmen out there understands we aren’t the only one’s impacted by this government shutdown, and that our concerns are about sports and recreation – not life and death.
That’s a given.
But we do have a right – even a responsibility – to let the people we pay to keep our government running understand that their failures are causing us pain, too.
Yesterday about 500 people aboard more than 100 boats, kayaks, and paddleboards assembled near the eastern entry of Florida’s Everglades National Park to demonstrate their frustration with the Federal Government’s closure of the park’s fishing grounds.
Regional guides whose businesses are being hurt spearheaded the rally. A press release says that while they find no fault with the park’s officials, they insist the Department of the Interior do something to provide reasonable access while federal legislators attempt to reach a budget solution.
The government shutdown has cancelled hunting and fishing on national wildlife refuges in Louisiana – but not the business of extracting oil and gas form those same properties, according to a report from the National Wildlife Refuge Association (NWRA).
Hunters arriving last week for the opening of bow season on Black Bayou Lake NWR were greeted by the refuge manager explaining the property was closed to their use – as this sign clearly states.