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Hunters and Environmentalists Claim "Attack on Sporting Heritage"

December 29, 2011

CASPER, Wyo. - An unusual alliance is taking shape in Wyoming and other Western states. Politically conservative members of pro-hunting and fishing groups such as Trout Unlimited and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership are partnering with the National Wildlife Federation and others to try to fend off what they see as anti-sporting legislation.

Bob Meulengracht, Colorado representative for Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development, says one example is HR 1581, which he calls especially troubling because it could open up prized hunting habitats to oil and gas development. He calls the bill the "Assault on Our Sporting Heritage Act."

"We're talking about 40 million acres, the size of the state of Wyoming. Some of those areas don't need to be protected, but a lot of those areas do because of their importance to fish and wildlife."

Not all sportsmen's groups oppose HR 1581, which would release land to local management. Safari Club International and the National Rifle Association back the bill, saying it would allow better access for people with disabilities.

Matthew Copeland, public-lands organizer for the Wyoming Wildlife Federation, says supporters of HR 1581 aren't being completely upfront about its impact.

"They're billing this as 'Oh, we want to give you access as sportsmen to these areas so that you can go in and you can hunt and fish,' when in fact we already have that access."

Low-impact hunting roads already exist in much of the land, Copeland says, and the bill would open up the lands to mining and other high-impact development.

The text of HR 1581 is online at gpo.gov.

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - WY