Sportsmen Tee Off on Richard Pombo
In a recent interview aired by a local television station, Richard Pombo outlined his vision for the future ownership of our National Forests and wildernesses.
The federal government owns a vast amount of land -- 700 million acres. Some of it mountains and forest, a lot more of it high desert. Representative Richard Pombo thinks that's a mistake.
Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy: "There is no reason for the federal government to own over half the state of California."
ABC7's Mark Matthews: "Are we be better off in private ownership?"
Rep. Pombo: "I believe most of it would be."
Please read that quote again. And while you’re reading it, think of the places in your life where you’ve gone fishing, hunting, camping, hiking or boating. Then take a quick look at this map. Did you find any of your special spots there? I know I did.
On November 18, the House passed its budget reconciliation bill, HR 4241, containing language inserted by Richard Pombo enabling the holders of mining claims to purchase federally-owned land for $1000 per acre.
Just the day before, the leaders of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Trout Unlimited, Orion - The Hunters’ Institute, North American Grouse Partnership, Izaak Walton League of America, and Campfire Club of America were among the ten signatories to an open letter to the members of Congress. Here is a copy of their letter:
We are writing to you on behalf of the tens of millions of hunters and anglers, wildlife professionals, and commercial interests who use and enjoy the great American outdoors.
As you know, the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote this week on HR 4241, the House Reconciliation Bill. The Mining sections of this bill (sections 6201-6207) direct the Secretary of Interior to make public lands available for sale to private entities such as, mining companies and other development interests for $1,000 per acre. This action would open these previously public lands to development, fragmentation, habitat loss, and potential pollution. These amendments are harmful to fish, wildlife, and their habitats. Equally important, HR 4241 would reverse a 30-year congressional mandate that public lands remain in public ownership. This action to put public lands on the auction block will not be received well by American citizens.
Public lands are managed in trust for all of the people of the United States by federal agencies such as the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Public lands contain well more than 50 percent of the nation’s blue-ribbon trout streams and are strongholds for imperiled trout and salmon in the western United States. More than 80 percent of the most critical habitat for elk is found on lands managed by the Forest Service and the BLM, alone. Antelope, sage grouse, mule deer, salmon and steelhead, and countless other fish and wildlife species, as well as the nation’s hunters and anglers, are similarly dependent on public lands.
As more private lands are subdivided or posted, public lands provide the last access for sportsmen who wish to fish, hunt, and camp with their families and friends. That access could be compromised as a result of the Mining sections of the House Reconciliation Bill. As a result, and on behalf of America’s sportsmen and women, we ask that you insist on the removal of the Mining sections amendment from HR 4241.
The Denver Post wrote about HR 4241 recently, noting that Colorado’s Aspen and Pitkin Counties have already passed local resolutions in opposition to Pombo’s bill.
"Our membership is up in arms over this," said Chris Wood, vice president of Trout Unlimited. "We've gotten more response on this issue than any other from our general membership."
As Matt pointed out last week, Richard Pombo has made an art form of painting his opponents as a bunch of whining, liberal enviros. This latest outrage on the part of Pombo has brought with it an increasing awareness by sportsmen of their stake in the federal government’s land policies. Here’s the letter to the editor of the Tracy Press that Matt linked to. I think it deserves to be printed in full.
On a recent deer-hunting trip east of West Point, I found myself surrounded by lumber company land. We drove for hours up dirt roads passing one locked gate after another, one “no trespassing sign” after another trying to get to national forest land so we could hunt without trespassing. We had to go to nearly 6,000 feet elevation before we were out of the various lumber company lands.
Now Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, wants to sell off even more public land, land that will no doubt be closed to public use. It’s bad enough that our Delta levee system, built with public money, is largely closed to public use, preventing fishermen and others from accessing it. Now Pombo wants to bar the public from our national forests.
I voted for Pombo in all the recent elections, even though I did not support some of his issues. But this legislation I can’t support, nor will I continue to support him if it passes.
Dick Lanza, Tracy
Richard Pombo may have unwittingly awakened a sleeping giant here. The sportsmen of our country are a well-organized bunch, and they have teed off on Richard Pombo. Now, there’s something to be thankful for.