More than 35 North Carolina hunting, fishing and outdoor groups have sent a letter to Congressional members of the state delegation calling for a strong defense of America’s public lands and efforts to oppose any legislative attempts to sell or transfer lands out of the public domain. This letter comes on the heels of the 111th anniversary of the Act to Protect Lands.
There is an undercurrent, especially by western states, of attacks on federal public lands that is unprecedented in American history. Public lands include America’s national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and land management areas. The letter points out that our public lands and waters are an American birthright, landscapes where citizens connect with America’s history, hunt and fish with our friends, camp with our families and enjoy the solitude and natural beauty of our country.
Public lands are the foundation of the growing outdoor economy, and are a critical underpinning for the travel and tourism industry that keeps North Carolina’s economy strong.
“It seems unpatriotic to even think about taking away public lands from Americans,” said Tim Gestwicki, CEO of the North Carolina Wildlife Federation. “What we need our congressional members to do is stand up for keeping public lands in public hands.”
The Antiquities Act is celebrating its 111th anniversary tomorrow. This Act affords Presidential authority to protect lands that provide significant natural, cultural or scientific features. However, attempts are underway to remove National Monument status for dozens of iconic landscapes across the United States.
North Carolina’s public lands are among the most visited and enjoyed in the country. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited in the nation, with visitor numbers greater than Grand Canyon and Yellowstone National Parks combined. The Pisgah and Nantahala national forest unit in western North Carolina comprises more than 1 million acres of land, and is the second busiest in the country, with an estimated 6 million visitors a year.
The letter underscores that this is not just a North Carolina issue. North Carolinians travel and value public lands across America. We are gravely concerned with efforts by Western states and lawmakers to demand the turnover of federal lands in some Western states. Western public lands are public trust lands owned by all Americans and should remain accessible to all Americans. Access to public lands across America is one of the things that makes America great.
Richard Mode, of Trout Unlimited’s Table Rock chapter, points out that these lands belong to all of us regardless of where they are in the country. “ Our members love to fish in North Carolina streams and headwaters of our protected national forests, but we also travel to places out west to enjoy our angling pursuits.”
Richard Plattenberger, Chapter President of NC National Wild Turkey Federation, noted that hunting and fishing contributes $646 billion annually to the economy. “As our group and many others are focusing on hunter retention rates and introducing youth to the outdoors, foregoing additional access to public lands would make our efforts all the more difficult,” he said.
The letter concludes by specifically asking legislators to oppose every effort to sell our nation’s public lands or transfer them to states, and work with us to improve how these lands are managed for conservation and recreational benefits.
To view the full letter and group sign-ons click here.