Luke Schafer: Hunters have ‘paid their way’
To the Editor:
I’ll admit that I can be the excitable sort whenever the opportunity arises to talk to a captive audience about conservation and the role that sportsmen have had in furthering conservation efforts across the United States.
Therefore, it isn’t terribly surprising that torrent of statements can be a bit confusing to follow if you’re trying to take notes. Here is my brief attempt at clarification regarding some statements that were attributed to me.
It isn’t correct to say that Dinosaur National Monument wasn’t created by a group of hunters. It was designated in 1915 by Woodrow Wilson in recognition of the archaeological finds of Earl Douglass and then expanded in 1938 beyond it’s original 80 acres to it’s current 210,844 acres to protect the awe-inspiring canyons of the Yampa and Green Rivers.
In terms of the birth of the modern environmental movement, some folks trace it back to the fight to prevent the Echo Park Dam in Dinosaur National Monument. However, despite some well-known hunting exploits, I wouldn’t exactly classify David Brower of the Sierra Club or Howard Zahniser of The Wilderness Society as “hunters.”
Their goal wasn’t focused on hunting, it was to protect one of the West’s most spectacular places. The successful effort that led to the Bureau of Reclamation abandoning it’s plans to dam Dinosaur National Monument laid the groundwork for the eventual passage of The Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act’s less than a decade later.
In terms of sportsmen, the message that I was trying to impart centered on the fact that sportsmen — unlike most other user groups — have paid their way for decades. The Pittman-Roberson Act, a law that levies a tax on firearms, ammunition and other hunting equipment, has generated over $6 billion for wildlife conservation over the past 75 years.
State programs like the Colorado Wildlife Habitat Stamp — a stamp required to hunt or fish in Colorado — has conserved nearly 150,000 acres of key wildlife habitat. The point I was trying to make was that non-sportsmen need to recognize the investment that sportsmen have made for resources we all enjoy and invest in a similar manner.
I was truly heartened to see our community leaders of the future learn more about Western issues and their willingness to hear a different perspective.
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UPDATE: The West Fire is now burning 2,403 acres Monday afternoon, after only about 700 acres were burning late Monday morning.