How Software Designers Benefit from National Forests

Which of the following is more impressive to a member of congress?

A) A sportsman explaining why protecting national lands is important to his pastimes.
B) The owner of a business saying national lands are critical to his operation.

If you answered "A" you might be interested in the polar bear hunt I'm organizing in the Sahara.

There probably are a few members of congress who would give sportsmen's interests equal consideration to those of business and industry, but lately they've been about as a common as - well, polar bears in the Sahara.

That's why this recent headline is important to sportsmen concerned about preserving our public hunting and fishing places:
Business leaders to policymakers: Public Lands create a competitive advantage for us.

Business owners from Montana traveled to Washington to tell their congressmen that protecting that state's wealth of national lands--including national parks, forests, and wilderness areas--is critical to their bottom lines because it has been a key factor in their ability to recruit the top talents in their fields.

And, by the way, these were not businesses connected to the outdoors industry. These were companies such as software designers and advertising and communications firms, among others.

Their message was simple: People come to work for us in Montana because they are attracted to the lifestyle, which is a product of the national lands that surround our businesses.

Sen. John Tester (D-Mont.) certainly got the message.

"This meeting was a great opportunity to meet with Montana business owners about the value of our public lands, clean water and clean air, and how it can drive business and create jobs in Montana," he said. "It's something we take for granted in Montana, but it's incredibly important when it comes to business recruitment and creating more jobs."

Why is this important now to sportsmen?

Because there is a movement afoot, especially out west, to allow states to confiscate federal lands.

It's a movement pushed by certain industries that chafe under regulations that sportsmen have fought to maintain--such as roadless and wilderness areas and placing fish, wildlife and recreational uses on an equal footing with energy development and mining, among others.

In the last year, sportsmen finally were joined in this endless struggle by the greater outdoors recreation industry. Of course, our opponents in congress can say, Well, you're a vested interest, too, a sector that makes money off public lands.

But our newest allies in the fight are coming from a different perspective. They are business owners whose profits are not derived from public lands, but whose success depends on the quality of life these national lands provide their employees--a benefit that helps them attract tax-paying residents to the state. That quality means jobs.

It's another arrow in our quiver to shoot at those who say recreational lands don't earn money for the public.