Conservation Update: Wildlife Leaders Join Opposition to Wilderness Release Bill

_by Bob Marshall
_
As the rhetoric heats up during this election season, so do the lies about what's at stake in the push by the oil and gas lobby to open public lands previously closed to that type of development. My favorite is the characterization of any one opposed to "drill now, drill everywhere" as "environmental extremists" who want to "lock away public lands."

Coming in a close second are those politicians trying to tell sportsmen that opposition to opening protected backcountry to development is a move by (and I paraphrase again) "extremist environmental groups to keep sportsmen out of the forests."

But as sure as a wise old gobbler will hear you blink your eyes on a still April morning, you're going to hear those claims through early November. Well, here's some ammunition to shoot back when those "oil and gas extremists" start fibbing:

More than 200 fish and wildlife scientists and managers, including 12 former directors of state fish and game agencies, have signed a letter to Congress opposing the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act (H.R. 1581/S. 1087).

That letter writing and signing was organized by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, which consists of most of the nation's sportsmen's conservation groups, including Ducks Unlimited, Trout Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, Mule Deer Foundation, National Wild Turkey Federation, Delta Waterfowl Association, Izaak Walton League. Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Quality Deer Management Association, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and BASS -- to name a few.

Moreover, TRCP is the home of a group called "Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development." They are just what the name implies: they are not against ALL development, just irresponsible development.

Numerous polls over the years show an overwhelming majority of sportsmen want public lands protected from most development. And a recent poll taken of likely voters across western states shows a clear majority urging a hands-off policy on these backcountry areas in their own states.

When the fibber comes back with the old "gas prices are soaring because supplies are low" lie, point them to the recent headlines that show the U.S. has now become a net exporter of oil-based fuels.

If we have so much that we can now be among the world's exporters, why do we need to crave up the backcountry for more?