Why We Care About Conservation

Posted by Nathan on 22nd Feb 2017

"If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them something more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it." - Lyndon B. Johnson

My father tells me stories of his childhood. One has him standing on the banks of the Duck River watching the red boiling water and dead fish floating down the middle as it approached flood stage.

The red boil came from phosphate mines upstream who waited until the river was high to empty their waste into it. Fish kills abounded.

My experience with the river is very different. It is emerald green, placid, and full of smallmouth bass. I grew up swimming in the Duck, and expect my son to as well.

Cohutta Wilderness 

This is why conservation matters to me.

Nature itself and the active enjoyment of it calms troubled spirits and nurtures the soul.

Few things in life give back more to you than that which you put in - the great outdoors is one of the rarities that blesses partakers, asking for nothing in return.

At Seek Outside we wear many labels. Hiker, biker, hunter, fisherman, backpacker, camper, photographer.

Our family enjoying fathers day on public lands

The love and unsullied passion for these activities and the wild places they take place in has been woven into every tent and stitched into every backpack we make.

If you’re a hunter you ARE an environmentalist. Why? Because if humans build oil derricks and roads (especially roads) across every acre of winter range then hunters won’t have anything to hunt.

Game animals need habitat. More specifically they need habitat free of humans, especially at stressful times of the year.

Taking a young hunter on their first backcountry hunt 

Turning roadless wilderness into profitable oil leases leaves the land less than it was, and much less usable for game.

If you’re a hiker, backpacker, angler, camper, photographer, or anyone who loves the outdoors then you ARE a conservationist. Why? Because if we lose land set aside for outdoor recreation then there won’t be outdoor recreation.

The Great Land Grab

The US Government controls millions of acres of public access land all across the country, but specifically concentrated in the West.

A small minority of politicians motivated by greed disguised as “efficiency and cost cutting” are making a huge push to transfer ownership and control of these public lands to the States.

Public land transfer to the States sets forth a process- like a train derailing- that is inevitable.

  • Wildfires are expensive to control.
  • States with large public land holdings such as Wyoming have low populations and therefore a small tax base.
  • One large wildfire would cause deficit spending for the State.
  • Upkeep costs will eventually exceed the State’s ability to pay and it would be forced to sell the lands to the highest bidder.
  • The highest and best use for most of these lands will be oil & gas, mining, or ranching.
  • Hunting, backpacking, fishing, biking, hiking, photography, and other outdoor recreation will suffer from privatization of public lands.

This scenario is currently unfolding in Oregon with the Elliott State Forest. The Elliott is public access land that has been managed for profit by the State yet when the profit eroded a provision in the State’s constitution was triggered that opened the process to take bids on the open market.

The cost of upkeep is too great, so the State wants to sell the land rather than continue to manage it for the greater good.

This could play out all across the West.

The New Congress Set Public Land Transfer in Motion

Abraham Lincoln once said “How many legs does a dog have if you call his tail a leg? Four. Saying that a tail is a leg doesn’t make it a leg.”

On the first day of the new congressional session a house rules package was passed that included language that changed the way the transfer of federally held public lands would be calculated by the bean counters in the Congressional Budget Office

Simply put, in the past public land transfer was considered a loss of revenue because the federal government wouldn’t receive logging, oil & gas, or grazing revenue.

That made it hard to actually transfer public lands because of other laws on the books requiring a balanced budget. Basically that loss in revenue would have to be offset with cost cutting elsewhere, or by increasing tax revenue.

So how did the new Congress get around this?

They simply changed the rule and are now saying that such transfers would be revenue neutral.

They’re telling us that the dog’s tail is now a leg. And they’re making it easier to give away the american heritage in the process.

Public Land Brawl in Utah

A fight has been brewing in Southern Utah for years. At issue is a new National Monument, oil and gas interests, roadless tracts, land swaps, and money….lots and lots of money.

A small party of politicians fueled by business and tax interests wants to perform a series of land swaps in Utah, and in the process trade some disjointed smaller tracts of land for a few much larger blocks of land. It so happens that the lands they want to trade for are more energy rich than the lands they want to trade off.

Also at stake are provisions that local politicians - not professional federal managers - would decide the management of these lands.

A Camp spot near Escalante Utah

Camp near Escalante Utah

Provisions are included that would allow road building and increased off road vehicle use on lands currently protected as wilderness.

A major win for conservation happened when President Obama used his authority under the Antiquities Act to designate 1.35 million acres as the Bears Ears National Monument.

As you might have guessed, there is a push in congress to rescind this designation - a move that has never been done. This power of the president has never been challenged in this way, going back to Teddy Roosevelt.

The Economics of the Outdoors

The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, and the love of money is what is behind corporate and political pressure to transfer public lands.

Cries of “More jobs!” are intended to justify such transfers. These cries and the intent behind them are misguided and misinformed.

The American coal industry has crashed. Is this because of over-regulation by the federal government? That may have a part to play, but the real reason is huge technological advancements in natural gas extraction.

Natural gas burns cleaner than coal, and it is now much cheaper to get out of the ground. So, businesses and utilities are burning natural gas instead of coal.

The American timber industry is depressed. Is this because of over-regulation by the federal government? In his article “ Why is logging dying?”, the author explains that simple economics is to blame. It is now cheaper to import timber from abroad than it is to cut in America.

Outdoor Recreation itself is the boom market that politicians should be focusing on. Outdoor recreation jobs and dollars are starting to be tracked more reliably, and the figures are astoundingly larger than first thought.

The Outdoor Industry Association asserts that 646 billion dollars are spent each year in the outdoor economy and that 6.1 million people are employed in the outdoor industry.

Cities in the west seeking growth are now being told by consultants that if they want growth to not look at energy for job growth, but to outdoor recreation. It is more reliable year to year and completely sustainable.

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Sunset 

United We Stand

A storm is brewing all across the West. One one side of the ball are giant corporations, politicians, energy companies, timber companies, and all the cash they have among them.

On the other side are hunters, anglers, backpackers, hikers, photographers, bikers, and environmentalists.

If one of these labels fits you (as it does us) then we hope that you will care enough about conservation to get involved.

Hunters and backpackers and hikers and bikers must stand united in this fight. We all love the outdoors, so let’s all work to protect it.

What You Can Do

  • Join Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. They are a nonprofit dedicated to fighting for public land access for hunting and fishing.
  • Go sign the Sportsmen’s Access petition to keep public land public. The Petition will send an email to your Representative. This is an easy, easy thing to do.
  • Read THIS PAPER published by BHA detailing public land issues, and how most federal land transferred to states in our country’s history is no longer public access.
  • Take a look at The Sportsmen’s Alliance. They are dedicated to protecting the rights of hunters and anglers.
  • The Wilderness Society fights to protect wild lands.
  • Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance has been integral in fighting the Utah Public Lands Initiative, helped to get the Bear’s Ears designated a National Monument, and is currently fighting to keep the Bear’s Ears a Monument.