This is the time of year when I spend my weekends in the National Forest on Oregon’s north coast. I am in search of elk. Come November, Oregon’s western rifle season is a mere four days in length, which gives me 361 days to prepare. There is a calm anticipation that I feel hiking Oregon’s rugged coastal rain forest alone, scouting for wildlife. A slight feeling of vulnerability keeps me alert.  Noises that would cause many city dwellers to panic, I welcome. Cracking sticks, bushes rustling, grunts, growls, snorts, wheezes and bugles all spike my adrenaline, making me smile.  This National Forest that I love at times can be unforgiving, it is always rewarding, and most importantly: it is ours.

A handsome bull elk in velvet saunters through public land in Oregon’s coastal forest. Photo by: Nic Callero (NWF Staff)
Despite our public lands being a hunting and fishing paradise and the very heart and soul of our western states, they are under attack. Currently there are proposals at the national level to sell off significant portions of our public lands to make it easier to log, drill and mine these special places.

The House of Representatives earlier this year adopted a budget resolution proposing to sell off public land to help pay down the national debt. At its winter meeting, the Republican National Committee approved a resolution endorsing proposals to turn our public lands over to Western states that want to increase development. Additionally, Members of Congress like Senator Barrasso have sponsored dangerous bills that would mandate increased logging and drilling on public lands regardless of the environmental consequences.

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A herd of cow elk meandering public land in western Oregon. Photo by: Nic Callero (NWF Staff)
Despite these short sighted proposals there are still public land champions in Washington DC standing up for hunters and anglers and outdoor enthusiasts.  Senator John Tester and Representative Paul Gosar have co-sponsored the Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act which would promote renewable energy on public lands in a responsible way while protecting critical fish and wildlife habitat. Also just last week, Senator Walsh from Montana introduced a measure that would require a supermajority of Senators to agree before taking up legislation disposing of our federal lands. As the oldest and largest wildlife conservation organization in the nation, the National Wildlife Federation and our state affiliates recently passed a resolution reaffirming our collective unequivocal opposition to the large-scale exchange, sale or giveaway of federally managed public lands.

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Steelhead caught on public land in Oregon (photo by Joe Davidson)
Selling our public lands is a shortsighted strategy that economically undermines local communities. Some of our leaders in Washington DC need a reminder that our beloved public lands are part of our great nation’s heritage dating back to Theodore Roosevelt.

The hundreds of millions of acres that belong to all Americans are critical to fish, wildlife, watersheds and the economic powerhouse of outdoor recreation, which produces $646 billion in economic benefit annually and supports 6.1 million jobs.

If you spend time in national forest hunting, fishing hiking or biking please join me in standing up for our public lands.



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