Our wild places need to remain exactly where they are
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In February, a bill that called for selling more than 3 million acres of federal public land in the West was withdrawn from Congress—thanks largely to the united, and loud, outcry from outdoorsmen.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.