New Backcountry Conservation Measure Elicits Sportsmen’s Support

Secretarial order reinstates BLM’s ability to safeguard highest-quality federal lands;
helps fulfill the BLM’s multiple-use mandate for public lands management

DENVER – A directive issued today by the federal government should help safeguard high-quality public lands central to maintaining fish, wildlife and recreational values important to hunters and anglers, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership announced today. The sportsmen’s group praised the secretarial order, which reinstates the ability of the Bureau of Land Management to designate wilderness-quality lands, thereby conserving those areas and their fish and wildlife resources until Congress determines the areas’ long-term management.

U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar released the guidance measures at a gathering in Denver this afternoon; speakers at the event included Salazar, BLM Director Bob Abbey and TRCP President and CEO Whit Fosburgh.

“The clean waters and undisturbed fish and wildlife habitat provided by pristine public lands enable sportsmen to continue enjoying days afield,” said Fosburgh. “We commend the federal government’s efforts to permanently safeguard America’s finest backcountry lands and the outdoor opportunities they offer sportsmen all across the nation by taking this necessary action.”

The BLM’s ability to administratively protect areas with pristine qualities has been restricted since 2003 when the Interior Department relinquished the agency’s authority to set aside lands as wilderness study areas. Today’s secretarial order advances a process that will provide BLM state offices with direction to determine how to identify, designate and manage lands with wilderness characteristics as required under the BLM’s multiple-use mandate.

The TRCP reiterated the importance of public lands management that balances and sustains a range of uses, such as energy development, fish and wildlife habitat and hunting and fishing.

“America’s public lands form an invaluable natural resources legacy,” continued Fosburgh, “and responsible management of those lands – developed and undeveloped alike – is critical if we are to continue enjoying this legacy. While commendable, this decision should not be construed as a license for carte blanche development of other undeveloped lands.

“Public lands administered by the BLM in Wyoming’s Upper Green River Basin host one of the nation’s largest natural gas fields – and have seen 60-percent declines in mule deer numbers in the decade since energy development began,” Fosburgh concluded. “Sportsmen remain concerned that other high-value lands are destined for a similar fate if the BLM does not follow a new development model. We seek a commitment that the agency will engage in practices that uphold the fish, wildlife and recreational values central to our outdoors heritage.”

Inspired by the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, the TRCP is a coalition of organizations
and grassroots partners working together to preserve the traditions
of hunting and fishing.