DENTRY: Hunters and fishers fight for public land

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

To the hunters and anglers whose hackles are up, may you enjoy even more successes in 2008 sticking up for America: the place, the land and our descendants' heritage.

While mega- corporations have ravaged public lands in the West with hurricane force and the blessing of big government, many sportsmen have rallied to the defense.

Hunters, fishermen, ranchers and other guardians of the scraps of America's wild lands and hunting and fishing heritage have lost much in the past seven years.

But they also have formed coalitions that have won battles recently against public lands abuse.

Some examples:

* The Valle Vidal, New Mexico. A coalition of more than 400 organizations, including sportsmen and outfitters, protected the 100,000-acre basin in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains from coal bed methane drilling. Congress passed the Valle Vidal Protection Act in December 2006.

The coalition ( also saw to it that the wildlife- rich valley was added to Gov. Bill Richardson's 2006 petition seeking federal roadless protection.

* The Wyoming Range. The coalition Sportsmen for the Wyoming Range is gaining ground in the fight to keep the 100-mile-long mountain range in western Wyoming in its natural state.

In October, U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., introduced the Wyoming Range Legacy Act. It would withdraw 1.2 million acres from energy development.

Coalition members include The Mule Deer Foundation, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Wyoming Backcountry Horsemen of America, Wyoming Wildlife Federation, Trout Unlimited and the Wyoming Game Wardens Association. See

* Rocky Mountain Front, Montana. Conservation groups including sportsmen and ranchers won a congressional ban on future leasing on the treasured Front, where the shortgrass prairie meets the Rockies. See

* North Platte River, Colorado and Wyoming. This autumn, the Bureau of Land Management withdrew thousands of acres proposed for headwaters energy leasing after protests from sportsmen's groups, rural residents, wildlife officials and Wyo. Gov. Dave Freudenthal.

* Roan Plateau, Colorado. The above victories against unbridled industrial invasion of public lands should serve as inspiration to a new Colorado coalition.

Sportsmen for the Roan Plateau announced its formation this month. Composed of more than 20 groups, it calls for no new leases on public lands on the Roan until a plan is developed allowing "continued, responsible drilling on existing leases and private industry lands," including wildlife winter range at the base of the Plateau.

'ABSOLUTELY' ROAN: Mike Gould says he's not an activist, but he sings like one. The third-generation western Colorado native and hunting guide has written a song about greed destroying western Colorado.

Gould, a songwriter and performer, guided grouse hunters on the Roan until an energy company broke his lease in the early 1990s, sending him packing to Idaho, where he famously trains Labradors and writes books.

The song, Absolutely, introduces an overheard conversation between a congressman and an energy developer who make much of their fortunes and little of the "common country people."

"I would love it if every single ranching family in Colorado could hear this song," Gould said in a telephone interview Sunday.

"Nowadays, when I cruise through (the Grand Valley) . . . I just see greed," he said. "I see the amazing natural intricacies of what used to be western Colorado are being sold out. And it's permanent. It's forever and it's gone."

Gould dedicated the song to Keith Goddard, the Rifle-based big-game hunting guide who has been very much an activist on behalf of sparing the Roan.

Absolutely is on Gould's DVD, Look In My Eyes, $12, available from him by e-mail at

To people like these - with roots in the land, wildlife, hunting and fishing - Happy New Year.

Stick to your guns.