Our wild places need to re­main ex­actly where they are

Field and Stream - - CONTENTS - Colin Kearns, Editor-in-Chief

ANY OUTDOORSMAN WHO’S had a mem­o­rable hunt on pub­lic land un­der­stands how, over time, the land evolves from be­ing the set­ting of that hunt’s story into a main char­ac­ter. One of those places for me is Hunt Area 52, near Saratoga, Wyo., where I once en­joyed a D.I.Y. pronghorn hunt with a buddy. Years later, so much of that land­scape has stuck with me.

I re­mem­ber the quak­ing as­pens that bor­dered our camp­site. I re­mem­ber stalk­ing through draws choked with sage­brush. I re­mem­ber the cool­ness of the flat boul­der where I rested prone, peer­ing through the scope, and the coun­try’s si­lence af­ter the ri­fle blast. Most of all, I re­mem­ber how we had that place en­tirely to our­selves. It was as if we owned the land. Which, of course, we did—and still do. Along with ev­ery Amer­i­can.

If some politi­cians have their way, though, that col­lec­tive own­er­ship of our fed­eral pub­lic lands will be lost. In this is­sue’s re­port, “This Land Was Your Land” (p. 40), you’ll see why the trans­fer of fed­eral lands to states would be such a dis­as­ter, re­sult­ing in worse habi­tat for wildlife and less ac­cess for hunters. For­tu­nately, sports­men have been quick to fight back.

In Fe­bru­ary, a bill that called for sell­ing more than 3 mil­lion acres of fed­eral pub­lic land in the West was with­drawn from Congress—thanks largely to the united, and loud, out­cry from out­doors­men. While that was a sat­is­fy­ing win, there’s still work to be done. I re­cently spoke with Land Tawney, pres­i­dent and CEO of Back­coun­try Hunters & An­glers, about ways in which we can take ac­tion (see be­low), and he said even the small­est ef­fort— like call­ing your con­gress­man—makes a dif­fer­ence. “Tell them about a piece of fed­eral pub­lic land, in their state, that mat­ters to you,” he said. “Tell them that we need to keep pub­lic lands in pub­lic hands.”

If a phone call can help keep a place like Hunt Area 52 pub­lic, con­sider it done. One day I’d like to re­turn to that coun­try, and I hope to find ev­ery bit of its char­ac­ter in­tact.

In Plains Sight Here’s a look at Hunt Area 52 in Wy­oming, where I shot my first pronghorn.

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