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Groups Ask for Public-Lands Commitment from Interior Dept.

Craters of the Moon was one of the national monuments under review by the Trump administration this year. (Doug Kerr/Flickr)
Craters of the Moon was one of the national monuments under review by the Trump administration this year. (Doug Kerr/Flickr)
November 17, 2017

BOISE, Idaho – Conservation, hunting, business and other outdoor interests have sent a petition to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, asking him to commit his agency to keep public lands in public hands. The coalition filed the letter under the Administrative Procedure Act, requesting that Zinke develop regulations to prohibit the sale or transfer of public lands without consent from Congress.

Martin Hackworth is the executive director of the Ribbon Coalition, which supports motorized vehicle use on public lands. He believes the Interior Secretary is sincere in his pledge to protect these lands, but would like the agency to codify this promise.

"What I would be completely opposed to are large-scale transfers of federal lands to state or local entities, or selling them off, and that's the reason why I'm a part of this process," he explains. "I agree with all my friends in the environmental and preservationist community that that's a terrible idea."

Hackworth says states can't afford to manage public lands and believes access would become restricted if states took over. Many groups that are part of the petition became concerned earlier this year when the Trump administration ordered a review of national monuments across the country, including the Craters of the Moon in Idaho.

Ryan Callaghan, director of conservation at First Lite, a hunting clothing company, says access to public lands is crucial for his company, Ketchum-based First Lite, which makes clothing for hunters.

"It's a critical issue for all sorts of recreation recruitment, getting people into sports - and it's absolutely true for hunting," he explains. "We're losing hunters faster than we can make them and, at the top of the list as reasons why, it's access and opportunity."

Public lands generate $887 billion in consumer spending annually, according to the Outdoor Industry Association.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID