Last week, the Biden Administration reversed massive Trump-era conservation decisions in key protected areas. In 2017, the Trump administration restructured the boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, opening up millions of acres for conservation-tourism. This did not lessen protection for the areas, but rather adopted a conservation model over a preservationist one. Biden has now totally reversed this landmark decision, locking up millions of acres away from public use.
Utah’s Congressional delegation stated: “President Biden is delivering a devastating blow to the ongoing efforts by our delegation, along with state, local, and tribal leaders, to find a permanent, legislative solution to resolve the longstanding dispute over the boundaries and management of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. Rather than take the opportunity to build unity in a divided region and bring resources and lasting protections to sacred antiquities by seeking a mutually beneficial and permanent legislative solution, President Biden fanned the flames of controversy and ignored input from the communities closest to these monuments. We will continue to support efforts to ensure that our monuments’ boundaries and management reflect the unique stakeholder interest and uses in the area, but today’s ‘winner take all’ mentality moved us further away from that goal.”
Safari Club International believes that public lands are for public use. This is the same conservation ideology of Theodore Roosevelt, which was to both protect and enjoy the outdoors. The most effective conservation model in the world, the North American Model of Conservation (NAMC), funds protection of wildlife and wild places through multiple use: hunting, fishing, hiking, kayaking, and much more. This not only provides the revenue structure for protection, but also the personal and community investment in the outdoors.
The Biden Administration has repeatedly failed to commit to a “No-Net-Loss” policy, meaning the Administration will not pledge to preserve current access to public lands for hunters and anglers around the country. No-net-loss is a key component to continuing the NAMC, with hunters and anglers providing the highest revenue for wildlife and habitat protection. The acres of land lost in the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase decision by the Biden Administration is staggering: 1.36 MILLION acres and 1.87 MILLION acres, respectively.
Since Administration officials have repeatedly denied commitment to no-net-loss, sportsmen and women continue to fight for positive public access decisions. Earlier this year, the Biden Administration attempted to close down 40 million acres of caribou and moose hunting federal public lands in Alaska. Thanks to SCI’s advocacy, the Federal Subsistence Board has deferred this decision and has not closed the public lands – yet.
Later this summer, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced its final rule to expand hunting and fishing opportunities on 2.1 million acres of National Wildlife Refuges across the country. Members of SCI played an integral role in the approval of this rule by submitting hundreds of public comments to the USFWS in early July.
While 2.1 million acres is certainly something to celebrate, our total access to public lands stands to decrease following the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase decisions. These decisions were politically, rather than scientifically motivated; the Trump-era decision considered community stakeholders, local leadership, Tribal Nations, conservation needs, and maintained protections for the critical areas under federal management. With the federal government controlling nearly 30% of the total U.S. land area, it is essential to maintain or expand current access. This is especially important for hunting and fishing access as the primary drivers of conservation and management efforts.
Now more than ever, we need YOUR help to defend our public hunting and fishing access. Sign our petition to demand the Biden Administration commits to a No-Net-Loss of hunting and fishing access TODAY!