19 January

Our Public Wild-Lands Under Attack

Anti-government radicals have brought a lot of attention to our national wildlife refuges.  Armed with guns and a twisted agenda, they've taken over one of our nation’s oldest wildlife refuges, Malheur Refuge near Burns, Oregon.  With comical claims that it's illegal for the federal government to own land, they've vowed to remain until the refuge relinquishes ownership.
San Isabel National Forest- Colorado

I chuckle as the media  broadcasts the Bundy brigade's demands to have the refuge "returned to the people". Returned to who? I want to ask.  Bundy and his militia? For 107 years the refuge has belonged to all Americans. You, me and future generations of Americans. It is not their private land, never has been. These guys need a history lesson.

Caribou National Forest -Idaho 
Like most public lands in the West, the birth of Mahleur Refuge can be traced back to unclaimed federal land. Land so rugged, so economically un-viable and inhospitable, that the hardiest of settlers avoided it. Even when offered up free for the taking under the Homestead Act. So, in a story common to the birth of many refuges, this land offering no economic incentive to develop nor hope to profit from it, was left vacant and unwanted.

The concept of national wildlife refuges as a tool to protect wild habitats was first conceived in 1903 by one of our oldest hunting organizations, the venerable Boone and Crockett Club and its influential founder, Teddy Roosevelt.

Roosevelt, an avid hunter, had witnessed the near extinction of American buffalo as well as wading birds decimated for their plumes. Demand for fashionable ladies hats combined with unregulated hunting meant that a safe-haven or " refuge" for wildlife was needed. From its 3 acre start with
Pelican Island in 1903, our system of refuges now protects a network of over 500 areas critical to wildlife from Key West to Kodiak.

Coeur d'Alene National Forest- Idaho
Roosevelt and fellow Boone and Crockett Club members had the rare ability to look beyond their generation.  Because of their forethought, modern sportsmen are able to experience these wild places much as they were 100 years ago. Intact and unspoiled.

Here in Arkansas our position within the Mississippi flyway has benefited us with the establishment of ten national wildlife refuges. Most protect dwindling bottomland forest and wetlands along flood prone rivers that serve as stop-over points for migratory waterfowl. Though they have a "wildlife first" mandate they  also provide some of the finest deer and duck hunting in the nation.

Uncompahgre National Forest- Colorado
Arkansas sportsmen may be quick to dismiss this call by armed radicals to turn over refuge lands so far away. We shouldn't. Because these homegrown terrorist, with their twisted ideologies, are hell-bent on slitting the throats of ALL public wild lands.

The attack on Mahleur, should be a wake up call. A warning, like the canary in the coal mine, to all sportsmen about this growing threat toward our public wild lands.

As America grows more crowded and disconnected from nature (94% of the US population lives in metropolitan areas) public lands will be increasingly vulnerable to changing  political winds, exploitation, and indifference.

National Forest Lands- Idaho
Public wild-lands need an enduring voice. Someone to step up and speak out against lawmakers who view our BLM lands, National Forests and Wildlife Refuges as a burden. Simply unused real-estate to be developed or resources extracted. A taxpayer asset to be divvied up and bargained away during elections.

Fortunately today's sportsmen remain the strongest advocate and best hope for securing the future of our public wild-lands. Any call to steal our public wild-lands from us will be met with overwhelming objection from those who revere it the most. The American sportsmen.

Jim Taylor