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Hunters Called Upon to Protect Public Lands

October 13, 2007.

Mining legislation reform is, clearly, a much less sexy topic than grizzly attacks, 400-inch elk, and big bucks. But, for hunters who wish to hunt the public lands of The West, management of mining leases on public lands is not something that can be ignored forever.

The Utah office of the federal Bureau of Land Management showed leadership in this area recently when it cancelled its November lease sale in order to have time to further analyze the impact of oil and gas drilling on the wildlife habitat of the land up for lease. This is believed to be the first time the Utah BLM office has ever cancelled a lease sale due to wildlife impact considerations.

This decision wasn't knee-jerk or arbitrary. It was made after it was determined that 98.6% of the land in question represented summer range for wildlife. Given such a large potential for impact on wildlife populations, the BLM decided more time was needed to assess the offering of these particular properties.

Other properties up for lease in Utah during February, 2009, are not considered as potentially sensitive and will still be offered. Perhaps a sensible, balanced approach like this is the way to go?

For more info on the Utah move, see the October 9th coverage provided by the Salt Lake Tribune.

In a related issue, several sportsmen-based conservation groups, including the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and Trout Unlimited, are calling upon hunters and fisherman to support an initiative in Congress to revisit the 1872 Mining Law -- if you're bad at doing math in your head like me, this is a 135-year-old law.

The TRCP describes the law this way:

"The 1872 Mining Law is a relic of an era long past. Under the law, more than 270 million acres of federal land are open to hard rock mining. Mining companies strip and degrade the landscape, pay no royalties to taxpayers, have no real obligations to reclaim the land and purchase public lands for as little as $2.50 per acre."

There are a couple fundamental questions here:

1) To what extent do you believe the government should subsidize private parties by allowing them to appropriate our public resources for their private profit?

2) Do you believe that we should aggressively protect our wild places and the hunting and fishing potential that they offer?

3) Do you think it's conceivable that legislation passed a few years after the end of the Civil War could use a little updating?

If so, you may want to review the following:

Sportsmen United for Sensible Mining

Suggested text for a letter to your representative

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, whose mission is "Guaranteeing you a place to hunt and fish".


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