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Environmentalists' Surprising Ally to Save National Monuments: Hunters

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Environmentalists who oppose Interior Sec. Ryan Zinke's plans to shrink our national monuments might have an unlikely but politically powerful ally on their side—hunters.

Many hunters, anglers and other sportsmen are speaking out against the former Montana congressman over his controversial recommendation to adjust the boundaries of a "handful" of the 27 national monuments under review by the Trump administration. They worry that Zinke's move could potentially reduce land access for sport hunting and kill thousands of jobs.


"[Zinke] said he'd fight to protect public lands," John Sullivan, chairman of the Montana chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, says in a recent television ad. "But since his Washington promotion, he's put our public lands at risk."

Although Zinke promised to keep the sites under public ownership, groups on the political left and right fear that the secretary wants to allow drilling, mining and clearcutting on the sites—a move in line with the Trump administration's overall favoritism towards the fossil fuel industry.

Similarly, in a recent opinion piece for the Flathead Beacon, Chase Giacomo, an avid sportsman and Kalispell, Montana resident, said Zinke's intention to reduce national monuments in size and open them up for business would "undermine essential fish and wildlife habitats."

Giacomo continued:

"Public land ownership is a salient conservation tool for the sustainability of hunting and angling. Moreover, public lands provide equal access for all outdoor recreationists. Many hunters depend on harvesting an animal in order to provide a natural and affordable way to feed their family. Public land ownership creates a cooperative for hunters and anglers to partner in efforts to conserve our nation's resources.

Public land ownership also safeguards the preservation of our environment. It protects nature from falling into private entities that so often exploit the land. The preservation of habitats and countless species is strengthened by public land protections. Furthermore, the countless preservation efforts to study climate change can be furthered by the use of public lands for scientific research."

NPR noted that President Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr., is a big-game hunter who wants to preserve access to wild areas. Trump Jr. also happens to be linked with several sportsmen groups that lobbied for Zinke to become interior secretary, including Backcountry Hunters and Anglers.

Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, a national hunting advocacy group, wants all the current national monuments to remain intact, Outside's Wes Siler reported.

"That hunters are so fired up in opposition to GOP policy is a big deal," Siler pointed out. "Hailing from rural areas, people who are passionate about hunting tend to vote Republican. No other traditionally conservative group is currently waging such a public campaign against current GOP policy."

There's a good reason that the Zinke might actually listen to the influential group. As Siler argued, in February, former congressmen Jason Chaffetz's (R-UT) plans to sell off 3.3 million acres of federal land in 10 different states was met with such fierce outcry from hunting groups that Chaffetz ended up withdrawing the bill.

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