Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument, Montana
Bob Wick, BLM
Rachel Skaar is a Montanan, outdoorswoman and conservationist.
The poll, released by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP), found that 77 percent of sportsmen support keeping the number and size of existing national monuments, including a solid majority of both Republicans (77 percent) and Democrats (80 percent).
The findings come as monuments from coast to coast face a period of intense and unprecedented uncertainty. The Trump administrations is wrapping up a “public comment” period reviewing all large national monuments established since 1996, with an eye toward shrinking or reducing protection for many of them.
Monuments under review means traditional hunting and fishing grounds under attack
One of the biggest arguments used by Trump's surrogates and allies is that monument status "locks up" the land and keeps people from using it. But most of the monuments under review (22 of 27), and most monuments generally, allow hunting and fishing. In fact, our monuments provide some of the wildest hunting grounds in the country—and the TRCP polling suggests that sportsmen appreciate that fact.
Utah's Bears Ears National Monument, which has already been recommended for reduced protection by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, is among those special places. Journalist Hal Herring recently quoted a Utah hunter who called it not only “one of the preeminent elk and mule deer hunting areas in our state,” but “one of the last true wilderness hunts in the country”—an experience for which the potential annoyance of more monument-fueled tourism pales in comparison to the dangers of leaving the land unprotected.
While the poll numbers come at a significant moment, sportsmen’s appreciation for our monuments isn’t anything new: hunters and anglers have advocated for use of the Antiquities Act to protect national monuments and even helped create monuments like the Río Grande del Norte and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks in New Mexico, Berryessa Snow Mountain in California, Upper Missouri River Breaks in Montana, and Basin and Range in Nevada – all of which are now under attack.
Threat to big game habitat and fisheries
In a broad sense, the Trump monument review is step one in a campaign to erode the fundamentals of America's public lands tradition. The current political regime wants to let special interests like fossil fuel and mining companies call the shots on lands that are supposed to be protected for all of us. This means pristine fish and wildlife habitat could fall victim to industrial development.
Among those places potentially in the line of fire: the Río Grande del Norte, which offers extreme backcountry elk and mule deer hunting; the Upper Missouri River Breaks, with its prime fishing for big channel cats and shovelnose sturgeon; and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, where hunters can stalk mountain lions and mule deer in the ancient footsteps of Clovis hunters.
If Trump succeeds in rolling back our monuments, the oil and gas industry could ruin some of our country’s best big game habitat and fisheries. Protecting our monuments is the best way to ensure our children and grandchildren can hunt and fish in our wild places.