One day, if I’m really lucky, I’ll draw a permit to hunt elk or, more excitingly, bighorn sheep in the Missouri River Breaks National Monument of central Montana. “The Breaks” are one of the most sought after tags in Montana. I’ve watched 380 class bull elk there fight in battles that bring to mind old Greek gods, going toe-to-toe, after some mythical goddess.
You may share a similar dream. Thousands of dreams like that come true every fall because of the outdoor public lands legacy handed down by President Theodore Roosevelt.
Back in his day, Roosevelt was called every name in the book by industry lobbyists who hated his policies. They called it a “federal land grab.” History has defined it as protecting hunting and fishing access and opportunity for generations to come. That’s why Americans carved his face on Mt. Rushmore.
Fast forward 100 years: H.R. 4089, the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act, once again calls for revisions to the Antiquities Act, by which presidents create national monuments. As I’ve blogged before, the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act has some great provisions in it. But TR would wince at some of the fine print regarding national monuments and the Antiquities Act.
Within the folds of H.R. 4089 is a provision that says every new use of the Antiquities Act must be approved by the governor and legislature in the state where the new monument would be.
If that language had been law decades ago, the Grand Canyon might be dammed or flooded. We might not have the Missouri River Breaks National Monument, or others like it. Instead of dreaming about Booner bulls and rams, we might be looking at flocks of domestic sheep spreading disease, or oil rigs and gas wells.
“Access” is a magic word. It means freedom. Everyone is for “access,” but the larger question is, access for whom and for what purpose? Bottom line is, habitat is the root of all hunting and fishing opportunity. Degrade that, and we all lose access.
There are places where we should be looking at increasing motorized access, but it should always come from the ground up. This provision in H.R. 4089 is a sweeping change in the Antiquities Act, coming top-down from lobbyists and DC insiders without a thorough debate by American sportsmen. I’m not okay with that.
The Sportsmen’s Heritage Act has a ton of great components to it. Let’s remove the bad stuff, and keep the good stuff. Sportsmen and women need a win here. Cut the divisiveness and we will enjoy that win. Leave it in and we all suffer the folly of ideologues.