The Worthy Effort to Keep Public Lands Public

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REI respects a diversity of opinions on topics such as access to public lands, and we encourage passionate voices in the outdoor community to speak up. The post below was authored by Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership

Photo by Ariel Wiegard.

I grew up in upstate New York, two miles off the paved road and nestled in a seemingly unending landscape of pines and glittering streams. The forest—and hunting and fishing in it—shaped me in a fundamental way. My brother and I spent our formative years wetting lines in native trout streams and pursuing grouse and deer, and I believe it’s no accident that we both ended up working in conservation. The hold the outdoors had on us was just that strong.

We now live in an age when many children spend more time with screens than on stream banks, and we are met on our many devices with more news about the ways we are divided—politically, ideologically—than by the issues we should unite to solve.

As our country becomes more and more disconnected from the outdoors, we are also at risk of losing our public lands legacy. Many of the same forces that fought Roosevelt in the early 1900s are at it again, seeking to turn public assets into private commodities. And there is far less awareness of the contributions that American sportsmen and sportswomen make to bedrock conservation efforts.

Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership

Photo by Michael Misurek.

Hunters and anglers are among the fiercest advocates for improving fish and wildlife habitat. Theodore Roosevelt, a founding father of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, was also a passionate hunter. He created a public lands system of more than 240 million acres, which we still enjoy today, and advocated for the management of wildlife as a public resource, rather than a market commodity, to be maintained in perpetuity. Since Roosevelt’s days, those of us who hunt and fish have continued to fund and support conservation through our license fees, excise taxes, donations and volunteer labor.

As CEO and president of Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, I am proud to work with our hunting, fishing and conservation partners in an effort to maintain quality habitat and access to it for all. Together, we work on a variety of issues, including the fight to keep public lands accessible for all Americans. Whether you’re a trout angler, saltwater reef fisherman, upland hunter or big-game fanatic, we all have a stake in this galvanizing issue. Public lands are where we come together with our families and friends. They’re where we remember learning to track an animal or explore the pool around the next bend of the river. They’re where we find ourselves challenged by the fish and game we pursue, and by the vastness of our wild places.

Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership

Photo by Bobby Hottensen.

But having the opportunity to enjoy public lands unites us as Americans, too. Whether you hunt, fish, hike, bike, paddle, birdwatch, climb, camp or stargaze, these lands are yours. That’s why, regardless of our politics, we need to unite outside. Conservation of these iconic places is not red or blue, it’s red, white and blue, and it is a big part of what makes our country great.

Show your support for public lands and access to outdoor recreation here.

Featured photo by Michael Misurek.

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