It is not just the 2nd Amendment Hunters need to Protect.

It is the political season again.

The primaries are coming to a head and we are about to be bombarded with ads trying to convince you vote one way or another. Guns and gun control are a hot button items every election cycle and is usually a make or break issue for hunters. And while the 2nd Amendment is extremely important to sportsman there is another issue that is starting to come to light that hunters should take a serious look at before the vote. That issue is the divestiture of federal lands.

I know a lot of you are saying what in the world does that mean? In a nut shell it means, that the federal government would turn over land managed by the US Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to be managed by the states. On the outside that does not sound like a bad idea, but when you start to dig into what this means it is not good for sportsman.

Hunting access is the number one reason that people stop hunting or never begin hunting. If you have been hunting for a while you can probably go get in your car and drive by some places that you used to be able to hunt, but it has been sold or leased to the highest bidder. If the federal lands transfers go through there will be a lot more of those places.

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Right now hunting is authorized on both USFS and BLM lands. This is not always the case for state lands. For example only 18{5c20afc010e65415aecac9ea1262ea64a0924a29c29fc9ad7cafd2eeb769a435} of Colorado’s state trust land are open for hunting. The rest of the land is leased out for exclusive access to the highest bidder. Colorado contains 22 million acres of USFS and BLM lands which is a super majority of the state’s public access. That is a lot of land that any hunter in this country can go out buy a license and hunt on, and is a lot of land that we could lose access to.

Even states that allow hunting on state land have other restrictions that make millions of acers inaccessible. New Mexico for example does not allow you to camp on state land, which means land farther than a few miles off the road would be unhuntable.

Right now the federal government is required to manage for shared use. That means that hunters, anglers, hikers, ATVers, loggers, and oil companies all have equal representation when it comes to land use. States manage their lands for profit. Meaning loggers, oil companies, and other business interest will have a greater priority then hunters. Keeping these lands in the federal government’s hands gives the average citizen a place at the table and equal footing with big business.

The most likely thing to happen if the states take control is that they sell it. States only have so much money dedicated to land management. One good forest fire will wipe out a state’s yearly forest management budget. And since they are required to manage for profit they will either have to raise taxes or start selling off chunks to make ends meet. How many politicians are going to raise taxes? It would be political suicide in today’s climate, so they will sell.

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Some of you may be asking I hunt east of the Mississippi, How does this affect me? Good question. For starters, if you ever dream of hunting elk one day you will probably be hunting on public land. Because most of us cannot afford a guide or the trespass fee to hunt private. Protecting these lands keeps your dreams alive.

Also, I mentioned that hunting access is the number one reason people no longer hunt. As access shrinks so will the number of hunters. Right now we have a healthy voting block that can protect our rights. If our numbers drop we will eventually be over powered. We are constantly under fire by anti-hunters using the courts and lawmakers to try and curtail hunting. We cannot let that happen.

This election season ask your candidates how they stand on the issue of public land, let them know how you feel, and vote accordingly.

For more information and what you can do to help check out Backcountry Hunters and Anglers at

www.backcountryhunters.org

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