Let Your Voices Ring – A Letter To G&G

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Photo by Louis Cahill

Photo by Louis Cahill

Jody Martin

What follows is a letter I received from a reader.

It concerns the impending public land crisis and is to some extent critical of our coverage of that issue. Given the importance of this issue to the outdoor community I have decided to publish it in the form it came to me. Be advised that it is somewhat political in nature, as is the issue. It is not our policy to publish political content, but I believe the concerns expressed are fair and not offensive and as it is in some part critical of our handling of the issue, and in the best interest of the community, I am sharing it. Thank you in advance for keeping the commentary civil. -Louis Cahill


Like many readers, I have always appreciated the direct and relatively hard hitting articles in Gink & Gasoline, a reliable source of “no nonsense” pieces that are of help and interest to many of us.  In recent editions, I was glad to see several articles related to the misinformation that is guiding the proposed sale or transfer of our public lands to private or state oversight.  These articles correctly point out that (1) these lands never, ever, belonged to the states to begin with, and (2) in nearly all cases where federal lands have been transferred to the state, these lands have been later sold into private hands, rendering them inaccessible or, in some cases, developing them and devastating the natural resources contained within them.

In an October 10 piece called “No Longer America,” G & G editor Louis Cahill directed us to an excellent article by Hal Herring in Field and Stream (“Transferring Control of Federal Lands Would Devastate Hunting and Fishing,” August 18, 2016) that details the extent to which states have failed in their handling of lands that were handed over to them, lands that belonged to all of us.  Louis’s title comes from a quote by Randy Newberg:  “America without Public Lands is No Longer America.”  Related hard-hitting articles have also appeared in national fly fishing magazines, as in the summer issue of TROUT magazine, which featured three different essays (“This Land is Your Land” by Chris Wood, “Pride” by Kirk Deeter, and “Anglers Must Remain Vigilant to Protect Public Lands” by Corey Fisher), all decrying the misinformation guiding the proposed sale or transfer of our public lands to state oversight.  In an earlier G & G article appropriately titled “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone,” readers were warned that  “A group of short-sighted law makers would like to sell off your American birthright, or deed it over to states to sell it for them.”  Another article, Louis Cahill’s “We Are Seriously on the Brink of Losing our Public Lands Forever,” directed us to Jason Tucker’s blog Fontinalis Rising, where he writes about our “Freedom on the Brink” as a result of these mostly western land grabs.  Mia Sheppard, writing for G & G, penned yet another strong article about the pending loss of our public lands.  Great stuff, all of them; all of these articles were (and are) accurate, thoughtful, occasionally even appropriately angry, and well written.

But I also found them oddly tepid in their accusations, or lack thereof. 

What is missing in all of these articles is the explicit naming of the “group of short-sighted law makers.”  And I am confused about this.  Why hold back here?  This is not a varied or diverse group of misinformed politicians.  It is part of the GOP platform for this year, clearly stated.  From the GOP document itself, approved as a result of the GOP convention and available on the web:

“Congress shall immediately pass universal legislation providing for a timely and orderly mechanism requiring the federal government to convey certain federally controlled public lands to states.  We call upon all national and state leaders and representatives to exert their utmost power and influence to urge the transfer of those lands . . . “  

The wording “certain federally controlled public lands” is loaded and also intentionally vague.  If someone voices concern over the possible sale of a specific national park or forest, Glacier National Park for example, the GOP can deny that’s what they meant, but when (not if)  it happens, they can say they gave us full warning for doing just that.  No public lands are specifically mentioned, meaning that all public lands – national parks, wilderness areas, national forests, and more – could be endangered by this reckless and irresponsible wording.  Development, privatization, transfer to state ownership; anything would be possible.

This is a Republican offensive, and it needs to be named as such.  This is not the time to be politically correct or sensitive to hurt feelings.  There are definitely Democratic senators and representatives who are equally uninformed, and we all know that both parties have the ability to make grievous environmental blunders.  Indeed, history is full of them.  But it is the GOP that is currently trumpeting their unveiled threats to get rid of our public lands, the very lands that TU president Wood referred to as “the best idea America ever had.”  I can easily understand the reluctance of the writers of G & G and the editors of TROUT to be perceived as political spokespersons or to take sides.   G & G’s role is to provide us with accurate information that will improve our understanding of fly fishing.  TU’s job is to ensure for the future of trout and their environs, and not to act as political shills.  But if you really want to address this issue – and that seems to be the case, based on the amount of space that both vehicles have devoted to it – then why pull punches here?  The upcoming elections will determine the pace at which our wild waters are destroyed.  And one political party, not the other, is championing that theft.  As Jenny Weis, writing for TROUT, pointed out, the fate of the Pebble Mine will be “inherited by the next presidential administration.”  And that’s true of course for the larger issue of all of our public lands.

In an April 2016 article that I think should be required reading for all fly fishers, titled “These Are The Representatives Who Want To Sell Your Land,”  Adventure Journal’s Steve Casimiro listed “the 20 members of Congress who are leading the efforts to sell or give away federal lands, as described by the Center for American Progress.”  They are all Republicans.

Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT)

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)

Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV)

Rep. Diane Black (R-TN)

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT)

Rep. Paul Cook (R-CA)

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)

Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT)

Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC)

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ)

Rep. Cresent Hardy (R-NV)

Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID)

Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA)

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT)

Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY)

Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM)

Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX)

Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT)

Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR)

Rep. Don Young (R-AK)

So let’s not be “hands off” in talking about, or writing about, this issue.  It’s far too critical for the future of trout and their habitats.  These thieves of our children’s heritage should be named, blamed, and removed from office.  This November, let’s make our voices clearly heard at the polls.

Jody Martin, Ph.D.

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

Author of:  The Spirituality of Fly Fishing:  An Introduction (Morgan Creek Press)

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37 thoughts on “Let Your Voices Ring – A Letter To G&G

  1. I said it after the first G & G piece and I’ll say it again now, these grabs are by Republican members of Congress trying to curry favor with their conservative Republican constituents. It certainly won’t cure everything, but if you don’t vote Democrat you only help their cause. Think about it.

    • Unfortunately for me, the democrats stand for too many things I could never be a part of. I would never vote for one. I live near the city of Philadelphia. Go visit that city just one day, and tell me what democrats stand for. No thanks. Personally, I don’t look at this as a political issue, it’s a common sense issue. I prefer to put energy into that end of the equation, and not make out with a pig.

  2. Thanks for saying what needed to be said Jody, regardless of your political affiliation these lawmakers are not looking out for the interests of anglers, hunters, and other outdoor enthusiasts. Props to Louis for putting this out there.

  3. No more pussyfooting. The idea of Republican sportsmen is oxymoronic. The GOP has been on an all-out attack on public access, habitat and conservation for years. You can’t be the slaves of corporate greed and the extraction industries and pretend to be a friend of hunting and fishing just because you talk like a tough guy and dress up in sporting clothes to cast a fly rod or carry a rifle for your political commercials. Screw these assholes, and vote them out.

    • “Republican Sportsman” is an oxymoron? You’re painting with a pretty large brush when you make blanket statements like that. I guess I could do the same by countering that “Democratic Small Business Owner” or “Liberal Patriot” is an oxymoron. But then we’d both be operating under the assumption that everyone fits into neat little classifications…which we know is not reality. Believe it or not, there are some fiscal conservative, socially moderate, environmentally conscious folks out here trying to navigate the circus we’re being presented with…

      • Don’t be an idiot. I was a Democratic small business owner for years; despite your propaganda, the Democratic Party is not hostile to small business owners. In fact, the Republicans are bankrolled by the US Chamber of Commerce, the most anti-small-business organization on earth. The Chamber only represents the interests of behemoth corporations. Oh, and don’t give me that liberal patriot oxymoron horseshit. That’s the Dick Cheney wing of your party speaking: dissent against being lied into war is unpatriotic. Speaking of Cheney, he must be your poster boy. Flyfishing on Sunday and conspiring with the frackers on Monday to conceal what they’re putting in the ground.

      • One more thing, Chris. In case you haven’t heard, your party has left you. There are no more socially moderate and environmentally conscious people in the Republican Party. And as for fiscally conservative, hahaha, that’s a whopper. The Republican idea of fiscal conservatism is to endow the rich with budget-busting subsidies and get everyone to blame the sick and the poor.

  4. Thank you to the author, and thanks for posting it as it is written. It is important information to have regardless of political affiliation. Keep up the good work. Aside from voting how can people get involved and help with this issue?

  5. Since this is turning into a political post, lets get political. It’s the democrats that have tried to restrict fishing and hunting rights in this country, notwithstanding gun control. Animal rights groups, supported by the democrats, have attempted to ban hunting on some animals that weren’t endangered. Some state legislatures, like Kansas, have even have gone as far as introducing a bill in their Constitution to be voted Nov. 8 that citizens have a Constitutional right to hunt and fish. Similar legislation preserving the constitutional right to hunt and fish is currently pending in Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York. For me it’s water pollution that rules, and that issue is ignored by all parties.

    • I appreciate your perspective. But, tell me, if water pollution is what’s important to you, how do you square your opinion that both parties are ignoring the issue when one party has clearly stated over and over again that it wants to gut the EPA?

    • But, we are not talking about goof-ball groups like the animal rights folks. We are talking about turning federally protected water and land into local free-for-alls. You call yourself a captan; better worry about water in the West.

      • For 32 years I was a water pollution engineer, enforcing water quality and EPA laws for a major municipality and State. BTW without clean water, you can have all the land you want, it won’t make fishing any better. In my experience which is probably exponentially more then yours on water quality issues, neither party cares. The Clean Water and Clean Air Acts were created under a Republican President, and most of the money to upgrade wastewater treatment plants to secondary standards came during the Reagan Administration, so what does that prove? In this election major corporations, wall street etc. are supporting one party and it’s not who you think, so what does that prove? Again don’t be fooled that one political party is far better then the other, they all have special interests and there is much corruption ongoing as we see in the news everyday.

        • OK, Captain. You make some good points. But the one truly bad point is that both parties are equal in their intent relative to clean water. It’s like the other stuff in the news: Outrageous lies and distortions are offered on a daily basis and treated as if they are valid, instead of being subject to the ridicule they deserve. The knee-jerk “fairness” reaction is ridiculous. Please take a minute and read what’s in the GOP platform. They put in writing that they want to gut the EPA, as I stated. After you read it, please note that the Democratic Party platform not only aggressively supports environmental regulation, it also calls for the closing of the Halliburton loophole to force frackers to disclose the chemicals they’re pumping into our groundwater. GOP Platform article here: http://www.politico.com/tipsheets/morning-energy/2016/07/gop-platform-proposes-turning-epa-into-a-commission-215402

  6. There is some major delusion going on here insinuating that either Clinton or Trump will be the standard bearer for wild, national lands.

    Be critical thinkers folks. The key is defending public property against all politicians.

    They are politicians. They live (D or R) by taking property that is not theirs to take, thereby gaining power.

    Dr. Martin does a disservice to lovers of national lands by pitting them against one another rather than against the enemy…politicians.

    • Can you add some Democrats to the above list? And, who but politicians make these decisions. Land usage is always political at some level.

  7. I agree that the Republican platform statement is regrettably vague, and that language should be fixed. However, I take exception to the assumption that the plank is necessarily a direct threat to fishing and hunting lands. Over 50% of the land in the western states is Federally owned and in Nevada, it’s nearly 85%. Because Nevada is largely within the Great Basin, huge tracts of desert land could be turned over to the state, then sold to private individuals, without affecting a single trout stream, national park, or redwood tree. Putting the land to economic use would benefit all Americans, compared maintaining it in a state of benign neglect, which benefits practically no one. Public land ownership is a wonderful American tradition and should be protected, but so is private land ownership. Let’s have a vigorous, honest debate about how best to put our land to use, rather than a dogmatic approach that says all Federal lands must be kept sacred, regardless of the geography.

  8. Take about misinformation! My husband and I ranch in western Montana and we just moved back into our home after first being evacuated due to a fire that ultimately burned about 80% of the beautiful national forest and wilderness mountain behind our ranch. The USFS has allowed the “environmental” agenda to stop all management of public lands via EPA rule making, litigation that has eaten up 60-80% of the USFS budget over the past 30 years and has wiped out the forests that are “protected” by federal mismanagement and budget deficits.

    Our ranch is over 100 years old and up until the mid 1980’s cattle grazing and wise land management practices of logging and mountain dams for irrigation kept our forest healthy through long droughts and heave snow pack years. Multiple use guide lines allowed recreational use for all while helping our local economy via greater beef and crop production. All of these activities provided more tax base at all levels of government thus helping pay for the resource management so needed.

    In Montana the Republican party, led by the current Sanders County state senator who is also acting head of the American Lands Council, to put forward a bill that would have required a vote of ¾ s of the voters approving any sell of public land in Montana. Our Democrat governor Steve Bullock vetoed that billl. The left opposes the transfer of some of the federally help public land back to the states simply because the Environmental activities would lose their power. These are the minions for tried to push President Obama’s Water of the US regulations which was designed to kill rural America. We feed the world yet our government fights us on every drop of water, on protecting our organic farming, we are accused of abusing our livestock by well meaning people who have never visited nor worked on a working farm or ranch.

    If your garden is dying do you let it die or do you use best practices to heal it and keep it at highest production? The forest is a giant garden and man has been coexisting with it for thousands of years and we had a beautiful forest. Today the largest Wilderness Area in the lower US , the Selway Bitterroot is a dead and dying forest. two million acres in size and at least 50% burned so hot that the ground is scorched for years before even a week can grow. The Rocky Mountains do not have a good top soil for new growth, very shallow and we are very arid as well.

    Every year millions of wildlife die in these fires. The last one that hit us grew from a new start to over 500 acres within an hour, within 3 days it had taken 16 homes, nearly a hundred outbuildings and grown to over 3000 acres. With in ten days it was over 14,000 acres of extreme mountain terrain. That is our backyard. It was reported that NOTHING within the fire zone could have survived the inferno. This means huge numbers of does and fawns, cow elk and calves, black bears and their cubs, mountain lions and their kittens, not to mention all of the hundreds of other species of mammal, bird, fish and crawly things.

    This was the 2nd fire close to us in a month and a half. The cost to fight the Roaring Lion fire for $11 million not counting the rehabthat is ongoing. The fire is still burning above us and will continue until enough snow comes to bury it. The fuel is that heavy.

    Montana State Lands are mandated to produce funding for schools and roads. With only 1 million citizens and being 49th in the nation for per capita income those funds are essential to educating our students. Our state lands are managed to protect them from fire and to provide multiple use for all who come to our state. Over 20, 000 miles of roads have been closed off by he USFS thus access to federal lands is now greatly diminished and only the healthy back packer has true access to the land.

    Please educate yourselves beyond party politics, Take a trip to a Rocky Mountain wilderness area and go back from the trail heads a couple of miles and see the destruction for yourself. With our water shed destroyed not only is the agriculture industry hurt but now tourism is down, hunting is gone due to the wolf introduction and the fishing guides are going to be suffering with less water coming down to feed the rivers and streams as there is not vegetation to hold it for slow melt. Great job Progressives of both parties, your goal of making life unsustainable in the west has just about succeeded. We were 9th in per capita income until the early 90’s when the last logging mills were killed.

    • On one hand you talk about man coexisting with nature for thousands of years and, on the other, you talk about generating revenue through agriculture and tourism…

      We, as modern society, have over-drawn natural resources at an exponential rate for the last century and the only sensible solution at the moment is to conserve what is left and let the Earth _try_ to recover.

      These will be difficult times for everyone involved and sacrifices need to be made. But one cannot spend like a drunken sailor and hope to get out of it by spending a little less than before!

    • Not sure what the misinformation you refer to is. All these major supporters of stealing public lands (make no mistake, the Bitterroot belongs to all people not just Montanans) are Republicans.
      A spade is a spade, Suzy. If you want to take away a national forest you’re taking it away from me. And I’m not okay with that.

  9. I think the most productive thing is to not make this about R vs D, but rather focus on mounting a unified effort made up of people who value the outdoors and public access vs those who don’t. If all fishers, hunters, atv-ers, hikers, bikers, birders, canoe-ers, kayakers, etc would join a unified effort to spread the word AND an action plan to let their congressmen and women know how important this issue is to all of us, then I bet we would be far more effective. I don’t know how to organize it but I bet the leaders of these different outdoor associations could decide to work together and blitz this issue in concert.

  10. You’ll want to add Utah’s governor Gary Herbert (R) to that list. Formerly of Herbert and Associates Real Estate. Utah is now for sale and he’s the listing agent.

  11. Hi everyone,

    Sorry to be coming in late — somehow I missed the fact that my letter appeared yesterday.

    Thanks so much for all the thoughtful comments, supportive or otherwise. While I agree that all politicians share the burden and need to be held accountable, on this issue, for reasons that I truly don’t understand, it appears to be rather clearly one sided. For the record, I have not always voted democratic; rather, I try to find the most qualified candidate, and especially one who will stand up for conservation and environmental issues, so that my children and grandchildren might enjoy the same benefits that we cherish today. I will admit, though, that in recent decades that “most qualified candidate” has nearly always been on the D side.

    That said, I totally agree with Chris (above) that the answer lies in a unified voice — our unified voice — telling all lawmakers that we care about how our lands are treated. I really don’t mean, or want, to be divisive. But I did feel that it was important to point out that, for whatever reasons, this year one entire party seems to have signed on to the idea of selling our heritage.

    Thanks again, especially to Louis for posting this, and best wishes to all of you,


  12. Great post and reminder of the bad situation our public lands are in. Let’s vote these people out of office because obviously they only care about themselves and truly lack American Ideals. Let them go make a political career in a different country for all I care… I don’t care about political affiliation anymore, just about the future of the country, its ideals, and maintaining the Constitution that our founding fathers set for this great land. My voice will surely be heard in the polls!!!

  13. I think if folks in the West that hunt and fish and support the transfer of public lands tried to hunt and fish in the East, where permission is growing scarcer by the moment, they would change their mind.
    I would challenge a Western hunter that believes we should turn these lands over to come to my county and try to find a place to deer hunt. Good luck.

  14. If some of you are so upset about Republicans being called out, then do your part and primary the jacktards out so there are only sane candidates. The people who want to privatize public lands lean overwhelmingly to the right. It’s too bad being labeled an environmentalist makes you a pariah in the Republican party.

  15. Choosing sides is the underlying driver for democratic political systems everywhere. Politicians attempt to spin the issues one way or another to get people to choose the side the politician wants them to choose. Unfortunately, the side the politicians favor is often not in the best interests of the nation. Choosing a side based on a political party’s philosophy or a politician’s speeches (or on the media for that matter) is just being lazy at best. There are plenty of environmentally friendly Democrats in coal mining states who endorse and push the continued burning of coal. There are Democrats in California who lean heavily to the environmental side except when it comes to providing water for their agriculturally dependent constituents. The intelligent, smart person will not rely on what someone else says (especially politicians and media and zealots who scream and yell from their soapboxes). The smart person will actually read the language proposed in the issue at hand and fully understand what is being proposed – and what is NOT being said. For instance, California voted in their lottery system mainly because it was stated a large percentage of the money would be slated to the educational system, which had gone being one of the best in the nation to one of the worst in the nation. BUT, what was not stated was that the current amount of money allocated to education from the General Fund would continue unchanged. So the lottery was overwhelmingly approved and the politicians smiled. Because they dedicated the money from the lottery into the education budget exactly as mandated. They then deducted the same amount of money that was going to the education system from the General Fund. The end result was education funding remained essentially flat and the politicians got lots of new money for their personal pork barrel projects. Be very careful what you vote for. Read for yourself what is actually being said and what is NOT being said before choosing your side.

    In my opinion, some of the issues we currently face have been allowed to exist and grow for so long that fixing them is not going to be easy. A portion of our population has become dependent upon those issues. Immigration is a prime example. Use and conservation (or lack of) our natural resources is another. To change them now is not going to be easy and is in fact going to be painful for some people. But it won’t get any easier in the future. Better to bite the bullet now. It is going to be painful to some people but to keep strip mining and burning coal without environmental cleanup, to keep sending water California doesn’t have to support agriculture, to keep allowing unrestrained livestock grazing on public land, to keep asking taxpayers to support millions of undocumented illegal immigrants, to keep allowing unrestrained dumping of agricultural runoff into the Florida water system is wrong and will be detrimental to entire ecosystems and to future generations.

  16. In the end……we only live 80 years. Enjoy it, because no one makes that big a difference anymore. I stopped trying to think I could preserve anything for future generations when I realized, they have entirely different priorities. Don’t get your panties in a bunch……….do what you want, enjoy your life, and rip the rear view mirror out of your truck……….you’ll never look back again.

  17. Does anyone really expect Ms Clinton to look out for public lands. Unless someone is able to make a massive “donation” to her Foundation on the side of conservation, forget it. How do you think she will act on the Pebble Mine when the Wall Strret investors behind Peeble Mine write her a big fat check?

  18. I have been a guide throughout the west since 1977 and have been fortunate enough to take a lot of people to a lot of great places doing a variety of activities; from hunting and fishing to climbing and skiing. these lands that we enjoy are precious- and these backcountry activities are enjoyed by a wide range of people and because they remain public ,, they are open and for the most affordable to all. Stay informed and involved in your decision making- this is not an attack on Republicans – I have voted for both R and D and definitely worked and recreated with both sides , but in this situation as has been pointed out it Turns out to be mainly Republicans “trying” to turn these lands over. Don’t let it happen

  19. It’s time to put aside the “my way or no way” mentality that has taken the country over at every level.

    Simply put a legislative body composed of millionaires will not provide for the best interest of the common man. Take time to find out who your members of congress, at both the state and federal level are. Start today holding them accountable for their actions that don’t translate directly to benefits for you and your family; for the benefit of the nation as whole. Their job as legislators is to provide for the future of their constituents, not pad their pockets. If they aren’t doing their jobs do what your boss would do if you weren’t doing your job: fire them. That’s what voting booths are for.

    Multi-national, multi-billion dollar corporations and the dollars they pour into the legislative bodies, have become the primary focus of both sides of the legislative aisle. It has to stop. Neither political party is interested in preserving the United States. Both are concerned only with preserving the fat-cats in both parties.

    We as a nation must put aside our petty differences and self-serving attitudes. We as a nation must protect what so many have sacrificed their lives to preserve.

    Remember folks, it doesn’t matter who gives our birthright away, Democrat or Republican; once it’s gone it’s gone. The terrible part is that we will be to blame since we will have been the ones who put them in office.

    Join together, put your differences aside, and save our country.

    As for me, I am no longer aligned with any political party. I no longer label myself Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green Party, Independent, or whatever. I have only one label: American. And God help anyone who tries to take this country away from me.

  20. For all that like to read check out this book, “Wilderness and the American Mind, by Roderick Frazier Nash.” This book explains our roots on the concept of Wilderness and it’s value to our country. Ultimately, without “Wilderness” we would not be the great country we are today. Also, if you’ve never heard about Hetch Hetchy, check it out… It was discussed in this book, but I’m sure you can find all over on the net.

    So, if you travel and have any downtime I highly recommend you read this book. Tons of great information!!!

  21. Fracing is not polluting your ground water. Wells are drilled, on average, down to 11,000 ft, way below the fresh water level. Everything is encased to protect contamination of the freshwater. When fracing is complete, almost all the chemicals are flushed back out of the hole during the “flow back” process, those that remain are encased and eventually I’m sure they come out once the well goes into normal production. Personally, I believe there are other industries, not regulated near as closely as oil, that are a far larger threat too ground water.. I can only speak about the Bakken shale formation in Eastern Montana and North Dakota as I am unfamiliar with other oil producing areas. I can’t imagine they would do business any different. I believe the use of oil and it’s by products do more to damage the environment than the procurement of it. That’s where I would focus my energy

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