We Are Public Lands

A note from Chris Wood, CEO of Trout Unlimited:

This is not a dispassionate report.

The threat of losing our public lands looms large. That threat grows, passing like wildfire through halls of Congress and state capitols, spreading its invasive rhetoric in our communities. People with soft hands and expensive suits tell us

TU-CO-20100912-0189“It’s just transfer. It’s not like we’re selling them.”

It’s not just transfer. And it is a big deal.

The truth is that the distance between the effort to “transfer” public lands and to sell them is very short. Many of the states that would manage these lands have already sold significant portions of their formerly public state land to the highest seller. And we, as a country, have nothing to gain by such actions.

We have nothing to gain. And everything to lose.

ElkPublic lands are for anglers, hunters, hikers, campers, backpackers, energy producers, mountain climbers, berry pickers, ranchers, horse packers, birders, timber operators, miners, snowmobilers, ATVer’s, mountain bikers.

Nature’s enthusiasts. Advocates of open space and the guardians of our right to use it.

We are public lands. Public lands are our birthright as American citizens. And we will not give them up.

Statistics make the point. More than 70 percent of hunters use public lands in the West. Nearly 70 percent of native trout strongholds are on public lands. A growing majority of hunters and anglers oppose the sale of public lands.

Public lands create strongholds of important fish and wildlife habitat. Public lands provide important sources of clean water for tens of millions of people. Public lands are some of the last pristine places in the country.

Sure, these things are important.

But the bottom line is these are our lands. Yours. Mine. Ours. And a greedy few are trying to steal them from us.

Muench 01Public lands are part of what define us as Americans. They are what remain of the great westward migration of the nation. They are the crucible upon which the character of the nation was formed. Our forebears left these lands to us, not so we could sell them to the highest bidder. They left them to us as an heirloom to pass on intact to the next generation. These lands are our birthright. They are a beacon of blinding and unwavering light on what it means to be free.

Whether you call it sale, transfer, or divestiture, allowing public lands to fall from public ownership would represent the triumph of cynicism over democracy. We — you and me, all of us who own these lands by virtue of our citizenship — can make sure that never happens.

We are public lands. And we will not step aside.