America’s hunters and anglers are a diverse group that come from across the nation: from rural and urban areas, from Democratic and Republican states. We do not agree on everything, but we do agree that we must work diligently to protect our natural spaces and the resources that support our outdoor traditions.
Conservation requires collaboration to ensure that future generations can enjoy the same experiences we do. Despite what his recent comments suggest, President TrumpDonald TrumpMedia giants side with Bannon on request to release Jan. 6 documents Cheney warns of consequences for Trump in dealings with Jan. 6 committee Jan. 6 panel recommends contempt charges for Trump DOJ official MORE has not lived up to this spirit of collaboration or conservation.
On July 8, the president gave a speech from the White House praising his administration’s record of protecting our outdoor spaces and wildlife. Echoed by several of his cabinet secretaries, the president’s remarks obscured an agenda that has done the exact opposite.
Hunters and anglers who rely on healthy lands and waters know the value of protecting these landscapes and resources. As a hunter and angler, I was disappointed by the president’s rhetoric — and I know that much of it is simply not true.
In my own backyard, the Department of Interior recently drafted plans that deny protection to 100,000 acres of land in north-central Montana, land which has been identified as prime wilderness area. The plan also eliminates all existing areas of critical environmental concern — areas like the Rocky Mountain Front and the Judith Mountains, Square Butte and Blacktail Creek. These areas were previously protected for their outstanding fish and wildlife habitat, their cultural, scenic and geological values. I have hunted elk and snow goose in north-central Montana. I am eagerly planning a 2019 fall elk hunt in the Missouri Breaks, an area renowned for hiding an abundance of elk in an extensive network of coulees and canyons, an area where there are now no plans for conservation and no effort to protect this incomparable landscape.
The Trump administration’s energy dominance doctrine has hastily and without appropriate safeguards, offered millions of acres of public lands and waters to mining and oil and gas leasing, while simultaneously weakening environmental regulations and restricting public comment meant to ensure responsible development. In the West, one in five oil and gas leases sold have been in important big game habitat. We absolutely need a methodical and prudent approach for any development in or near these areas — not a hasty giveaway.
I had the immense privilege of fishing off the coast of southeastern Alaska over the July 4th holiday. I reeled in a 109-pound halibut, caught giant king salmon, and played tug-of-war on a fish with an orca. My father and I put over 200 pounds of beautiful, healthy, fresh fish in our family’s freezer. It was an incredible, awe inspiring experience. What would this experience be like in Bristol Bay if the president and his administration succeed in their efforts to open Pebble Mine.
America has always worked hard to balance effective management of our public lands for a multitude of uses, including recreation, range, timber, mineral extraction and conservation. Trump’s actions put conservation at the bottom of the pile and compromise the future of our wildlife and sporting heritage.
Trump’s speech further claimed that his administration is prioritizing protections for clean water. However, it is actually in the process of rolling back Clean Water Act protections for at least half of the nation’s wetlands and millions of miles of streams by dismantling the Waters of the U.S rule. These small streams and wetlands all over the country provide ecosystems services critical to both people and wildlife for drinking water, flood prevention, waterfowl nesting grounds and fish nurseries. Untold numbers of us hunt and fish these watersheds.
Saying you are committed to conservation is not enough. We need real actions that truly protect our sporting traditions and the landscapes that define America. Future generations cannot have the same experiences we have if critical wildlife habitat is irresponsibly developed or our fishing streams are severely degraded.
What we really need is a president who exercises foresight to protect our public lands and waters. By protecting clean water, pristine landscapes and our outdoor traditions as well as ensuring that these valuable assets remain intact, we will protect our health and our economy. We will make it certain that our children can fully enjoy these incredible resources.
Until Trump’s actions reflect his words, he is letting down American hunters and anglers and threatening our way of life.