Reader: It's all about the land 


In Colorado, we are lucky to have some 24 million acres of public lands, with an estimated 90 percent of Coloradans using them to hunt, fish, hike, climb, camp and otherwise recreate. A survey by the Congressional Sportsmen Foundation found that 92 percent of Colorado hunters use public lands. However, threats to public lands in Colorado and across the country are piling up.

A recent Trump administration proposal will remove Clean Water Act protections from up to 20 percent of our nation's stream miles and about 50 percent of wetlands. An estimated 2 million miles of streams and 110 million acres of wetlands in the continental U.S. would be impacted. The proposal strikes down clean water protections created by Republican and Democratic presidents going all the way back to Ronald Reagan.

Sage grouse are also on the chopping block. Before stepping down due to (apparently) facing multiple federal ethics investigations — including one that was referred to the Justice Department for possible criminal violations — Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke signed Secretarial Order 3353, "Greater Sage Grouse Conservation and Cooperation with Western States." The new order opens up 9 million acres of sage grouse habitat to potential oil and gas development.

And let's not forget about national monuments. During December 2017, the Trump administration cut a collective 2 million acres from a pair of Utah national monuments, Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. The move opened the door for oil, mining and other development. Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke maintained that the rollbacks were not about energy or mineral extraction. However, as of July 2018 some 20 new mining claims were already staked.

A Canadian firm has also since unveiled plans to mine copper on land stripped from Grand Staircase-Escalante. In the words of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA) Conservation Director, John Gale: "Conserving large tracts of undeveloped public lands as national monuments is essential to America's hunting and fishing traditions." A BHA report, "Hunting Opportunity in At-Risk National Monuments," includes interactive habitat maps for six Western national monuments.

"Ryan Zinke came to the Interior Department with an ambitious vision for overseeing the nation's great natural resources, but he ultimately broke his contract with the Americans people," said BHA president and CEO, Land Tawney. "His actions — such as undermining the federal Antiquities Act, diminishing good faith collaborative successes in sage grouse management, and pushing resource exploitation at the expense of conservation — eroded public goodwill."

— David Lien, co-chairman of the Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers

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