Sporting Caucus

Meyer warns against sales of public lands

Larry Servinsky

The head of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation warned Wednesday that there is an increasingly strong movement in the United States to sell off federal lands such as National Wildlife Refuges, National Forests, Bureau of Land Management lands and National Monuments.

According to WWF Executive Director George Meyer, while here has long been pressure from oil, gas and mining interests to wrest away control of federal lands, especially in the West, in the last few years, this effort has gained substantial support, becoming an issue in the presidential election campaign.

Meyer said the campaign has the support of the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee and has even resulted in a current proposal to sell off the fourth most popular national wildlife refuge, Vieques, an unspoiled gem of sea and shoreland created from a former U.S. Navy Base and established in 2002. Located in Puerto Rico, a number of Congressional Republicans have advocated selling off the refuge for commercial development and using the proceeds to help pay off Puerto Rico’s $70 billion in debt.

Meyer also said, in a related matter, that House Committee on Natural Resources chairman Rob Bishop, a Utah Republican, has refused to allow a vote on renewal of the popular Land and Water Conservation Fund. The fund uses royalties from offshore oil and gas drilling to protect public lands and to promote outdoor recreation.

Meyer said the two issues should be of deep concern to Wisconsin residents who have drawn great benefits from both public lands and the Land and Water Conservation fund.

Meyer noted that the WWF was made up of 195 groups of sportsmen and women in the state, and is a part of the National Wildlife Federation.

“We are supporting them on this issue, but our citizens have a major interest on this issue,” he said.

Meyer recalled the “Sagebrush Rebellion” of the 1970s as one chapter of the effort to obtain control of federal lands, and said the presidential election has given the push to remove the lands from federal control and into private hands.

“Ted Cruz has put out an ad in Nevada very specifically saying he would sell off the federal lands,” Meyer. “His aides qualified that saying he would sell off all lands except for national parks and military reservations, but that leaves the refuges, monuments, forests to be sold off.”

He noted that when votes to sell off public lands have taken place in Congress, both Republican U.S. Senator Ron Johnson and fellow Republican Seventh District Congressman Sean Duffy have voted in favor of the proposals.

“We are facing a very serious situation,” he said. “We are trying to get the word out to sportsmen and others, because this is bigger than sportsmen.”

Meyer said the federal lands are an important legacy for all of the citizens of the United States.

“The sale of federal lands in the West or in Puerto Rico would be a terrible precedent for the future potential sale of federal lands in Wisconsin,” Meyer said. “Hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin citizens and visiting tourists use federal lands in Wisconsin every year. Federal lands are a major component of Wisconsin’s economically important tourist industry.”

Closely related to this issue, Meyers said, was Congressman Bishop’s intransigence in refusing to allow the Land and Water Conservation Reauthorization Bill to come to a vote.

He noted that through another mechanism, the act has been reauthorized for three years.

“The senate has permanently reauthorized it, and now it’s got to go to the House of Representatives,” Meyer said. “That is where Congressman Duffy could really help out to get permanent reauthorization.”

Meyer noted that Duffy has not come forward with a position on the bill, and he urged Wisconsin residents to contact Duffy’s office, asking for his support.

“Senators (Ron) Johnson and (Tammy) Baldwin ultimately voted for it, and Congressman Duffy needs some encouragement,” he said.

Meyer emphasized that the Conservation Fund was not paid for by taxpayer dollars but by oil and gas royalty revenues.

“The principle of this is that U.S. citizens are selling off federal resources and the royalties form these sales are being plowed back into natural resources accessible to the public,” he said.

The payback to Wisconsin has been huge, Meyer said.

“Over the last five decades, Wisconsin has received $212 million that has been used for hundreds of state and local parks; and projects such as the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, the Ice Age and North Country National Scenic Trails, the St. Croix National Scenic River and the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

Funds from the Conservation Fund have also been used to support the Wisconsin Forest Legacy program that buys land from Wisconsin industrial forests seeking to sell their properties, as well as obtaining conservation and public access easements on more lands when they are transferred to other private companies.

“Wisconsin has received $21,500,000 for this purpose,” Meyer said. “It results in continued public land for recreational use, continued sustainable forestry practices and keeping these lands as working forests.”

Meyer called Wisconsin’s public lands vital to the state’s economy

“The U.S. Census Bureau reports that annually 2.9 million people participate in hunting, fishing, trapping, wildlife watching and other recreational pursuits in the states, contributing $3.9 million to the state economy,” he said.

Meyer said that resolutions in support of retaining federal lands has passed at the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation’s annual meeting on April 8-9, while a resolution opposing the sale of federal public lands was easily adopted at the Dane County Conservation Congress’s April 11 annual meeting.

“It will pass the state meeting in a couple of weeks overwhelmingly,” Meyer predicted.

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Governor Dayton on Water Quality: “Failure is not an option”

Governor Dayton on Water Quality: “Failure is not an option”

My father, Bruce Dayton, taught me that good stewardship is one of our most important responsibilities: to take what we have been given, or have acquired, and leave it in better condition for those who will inherit it from us.

As Minnesotans, who have inherited this incredible state, we have no greater shared responsibility than our stewardship: to protect and improve the priceless natural resources, which we will pass on to our children and grandchildren. That wise stewardship is everyone’s challenge and everyone’s opportunity.

Tragically, in recent years, the quality of our water has deteriorated in many parts of our state. Too many lakes, rivers, streams, and ditches have become contaminated with potentially dangerous chemicals. In some communities, the surface and underground waters our citizens use for drinking, washing, work, and recreation are no longer safe.

There are a couple of contradictory trends here. The first is that as a state we are doing more and more to protect and improve our water quality. We are spending more public and private resources to achieve this important goal. The second, however, is that our water has become more polluted and less safe in many areas.

Those contradictions tell me two things. One, we’re not doing enough to correct the problems. And two, we’re doing too much to cause the problems.

They are simple conclusions. But in our complex environment, there are often no simple solutions.  And there is often disagreement about how best to achieve them.

But ignoring our water quality problem is not the solution. Doing nothing will only make matters worse, by allowing problems to turn into crises. That is what happened in Flint, Michigan. We cannot let it happen here.

Which is why I have declared this week to be “Water Action Week” in Minnesota.

I challenge everyone to take actions that will lead to a new era of clean water in Minnesota.

1. Learn about your water quality. Visit our Water Action Week web page at http://mn.gov/governor, to learn more about the water quality challenges in your community. Test the water in your well. Ask your local officials what they are doing to protect or improve the quality of the water you and your family rely upon.

2. Teach your children about clean water, and let them teach you. Talk with your children or grandchildren about the importance of water in our lives. A great place to start is www.h2oforlifeschools.org, where you can find simple lesson plans, watch short videos, and find new ways to improve water quality.

3. Set a water conservation goal. Fixing leaky pipes in your home, turning off the water when brushing your teeth, or using less fertilizer on your lawn are just some of the small changes that will add up to big improvements in our state’s water quality.

4. Call your legislators. This session, I have a proposed a $220 million down-payment on some of the clean water upgrades urgently needed to provide safe drinking water in communities throughout Minnesota. I encourage you to review my proposal at http://mn.gov/governor. If you agree that it deserves top priority, please call your legislators and encourage them to support those important investments to improve our state’s aging water infrastructure. You can find out how to contact your legislator by using the “Who Represents Me?” tool at www.gis.leg.mn/iMaps/districts.

We can preserve the best of what we have in Minnesota by behaving responsibly. By being wise stewards, we can bequeath clean water to future generations. My water quality initiatives are not intended to take anything away from anyone. I’m not trying to take away anyone’s property, or livelihood, or happiness.

But I do want to preserve all of that for everyone else. It is my responsibility as the chief executive of this state, and it’s your responsibility as a citizen of this state. It will require all of us working together to achieve our goal.

Failure is not an option.

Mark Dayton

Governor of Minnesota

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Backcountry Hunters & Anglers

Energy Bill Clears Senate, Includes Sportsmen, Conservation Priorities

First comprehensive energy bill passed by Senate in nine years permanently reauthorizes
Land and Water Conservation Fund, includes key components of bipartisan sportsmen’s bill 

In a vote earlier this morning, the U.S. Senate advanced a comprehensive energy bill that includes measures critical to public lands, fish and wildlife management and public access for hunters, anglers and other recreationists, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers announced.

In addition to making vital advancements in America’s energy future, The Energy Policy Modernization Act (S.2012) permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a popular and successful conservation program long advocated for by BHA, and allocates a percentage of LWCF funds to opening access to public lands currently unreachable by the public.

BHA President and CEO Land Tawney commended today’s Senate vote.

“Public lands sportsmen and women have spoken up, loudly, clearly and consistently, in advocating for a responsive energy bill that will sustain our sporting heritage by conserving lands with high wildlife habitat value and healthy fisheries -  as well as securing access for economically important activities like hunting and fishing,” Tawney said. “The Senate’s foresighted actions deserve to be loudly praised, not just by sportsmen but by all Americans with a stake in outdoor recreation and who appreciate the importance of our nation’s public lands and waters.”

The legislative package includes two amendments of special importance to sportsmen.

One amendment, introduced by Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Maria Cantwell, comprises significant components of the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act, which BHA and a host of other sportsmen’s groups have been committed to for the last three congresses. It includes the following measures:

  • Reauthorization of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) through 2019
  • Reauthorization of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) through 2019  
  • Permanent reauthorization of the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act (FLTFA)
  • Establishment of the National Fish Habitat Conservation Through Partnerships Act
  • Establishment of the HUNT Act to identify opportunities for recreation, hunting and fishing on federal land

The Murkowski-Cantwell amendment also designates Cerro del Yuta and Rio San Antonio as wilderness within New Mexico’s Rio Grande del Norte National Monument.

Another amendment, a bipartisan measure introduced by Sens. Dean Heller and Martin Heinrich, improves how wind, solar and geothermal energy are developed on public lands. Language in the amendment focuses on appropriate siting, avoiding impacts to water resources and fish and wildlife habitat, and prioritizing important natural resources investments.

Sportsmen, including BHA members, successfully united to block passage of an amendment that would have significantly altered the LWCF and limit the ability of states, local officials, federal partners and groups like BHA to enhance public access, create new recreational opportunities and conserve important fish and wildlife habitat. Introduced by Sen. James Lankford, this damaging amendment would have unraveled more than 50 years of bipartisan conservation success enabled by the LWCF.

“Our community has been steadfast in our support of permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, as well as passage of comprehensive sportsmen’s legislation,” Tawney concluded. “In its willingness to consider and advance this measure, Senate lawmakers have showed us that they’re listening. We now urge congressional leaders to expeditiously advance this important legislative package to the president’s desk.”

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is the sportsmen’s voice
for our wild public lands, waters and wildlife.

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