A: The takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon in 2016 was one such conflict. Another occurred when Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz introduced a bill to sell more than 3 million acres of public land, a bill he later withdrew after an outcry from hunters and anglers, among others.
Q: President Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke have said they don't intend to sell public lands. Yet these lands seem evermore threatened by increased oil and gas exploration.
A: We applaud the administration's promise not to sell public lands, because once you sell them, you don't get them back. Keeping these lands in the public trust is, you could say, our Second Amendment.
That said, the issue now is not so much the sale of public lands but the selling out of those lands. You can have all the public lands you want. But if there is no habitat on them, the losses are significant.
Q: President Trump has said he wants to emulate the conservation achievements of Teddy Roosevelt.
A: Roosevelt was our greatest conservation president. But what we've seen in the first year of the Trump administration is very troubling.
Q: Mining proposals are advancing near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, an issue Minnesota's BHA chapter is concerned about.
A: Preserving public lands, particularly the boundary waters, is critically important to Minnesota and to the nation. Mining is also a threat to salmon fisheries in Alaska and the Smith River in Montana. Also in Minnesota, some counties have said they want no net gains of public lands, which obviously is a concern to hunters, anglers and others who want to enjoy the outdoors.
The threats are in fact national. We had protection of temporary wetlands and intermittent streams in this country, but that protection has been scaled back. We had an excellent compromise plan that was years in the making to conserve sage grouse. Now that plan is being disbanded, despite protests from hunters, ranchers and elected officials.
All of these things have a thread: big industry. And, unfortunately, big industry has the ear of President Trump and Secretary Zinke.
Q: Is it a crisis?
A: We have the public resources we have today because people stepped up to protect them when threats arose. Sport hunters stopped commercial hunting in the early 1900s, when wildlife populations were being wiped out. In the Dust Bowl days of the 1930s, duck hunters passed the Duck Stamp and founded Ducks Unlimited. In the 1960s, when rivers were on fire in this country, Rachel Carson wrote "Silent Spring," and a few years later we had clean air and water legislation.
Now these environmental and public-lands threats are arising again. Is it time for us to do our part? Absolutely. And I'm confident people will.
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