Public Lands & Waters photo

I can’t help but think that if Theodore Roosevelt could see the current scam being peddled to American sportsmen he’d be fighting mad.

I’m talking about the proposal to transfer ownership of federal lands to states. Make no mistake: This will lead to a loss of access to some of the country’s best hunting and fishing grounds, mean fewer opportunities for millions of sportsmen, and decimate the contribution that hunting and fishing make to our national economy. It will seriously threaten the North American model of wildlife management, which is based on the idea that wildlife belongs to the people, that hunters are the best way to manage our game populations, and that the ability to hunt, fish, and camp on public lands is the right of every American, not just those with deep pockets.

Simply put, state treasuries cannot afford to manage these lands. In 2012 alone, the feds spent $700 million just fighting forest fires. We can get a hint of the likely solution by looking at the places under consideration for transfer: only lands with high-dollar view­scapes or some extractive value like minerals, crops, or timber. These game-rich areas that currently belong to all of us will be developed or sold to large corporations, degrading critical habitat and locking out millions of sportsmen.

Over 70 percent of Western sportsmen hunt on public lands. Access to places to hunt is routinely cited as one of the big challenges hunters face, so the loss of public land will be devastating to the future of our sports.

Through my job I’ve been able to hunt some great private hunting properties. I’ve also hunted in Europe, where without ade­quate amounts of public land, hunting is almost exclusively a rich man’s sport. But honestly my most memorable hunts have been on spectacular public land in the West, open to anyone with a license and the ambition to explore.

The good news is there are a lot of sportsmen in this country, and when we speak together, our public servants listen. Already rallies of sportsmen in states like Montana are having a big impact. And a coalition of conservation groups, hunter’s rights organizations, and outdoor recrea­tion companies are joining together to battle this threat. Please visit sportsmens​access.​org and sign the petition to let our lawmakers know that hunters and anglers matter. TR would be proud.