USA Online Poll
Backcountry Vital to Sportsmen and Outdoor Businesses
A chance to chase bull elk or buck deer on a large, unbroken landscape represents a dream hunt for many American sportsmen. Whether we hire an outfitter or go it alone, these opportunities still exist thanks to our nation’s public lands. These landscapes form the lifeblood of many communities, providing folks with jobs, economic security for small towns and outstanding opportunities for hunting, fishing and other forms of outdoor recreation.
While developed public lands provide economic benefits to communities through resource development and recreation, undeveloped backcountry lands, known by the U.S. Forest Service as inventoried roadless areas, are imperative in sustaining strong economies and our hunting and fishing traditions.
Roadless areas provide important habitat security for big-game populations and, consequently, outstanding backcountry hunting opportunities where sportsmen can enjoy solitude and a high-quality hunt on our lands that are open to every citizen, regardless of means. These areas also serve as "source" areas for deer and elk, offering surrounding developed lands a renewed source of wildlife that can handle hunting pressure year after year. The headwater streams and rivers that flow through roadless areas shelter trout, salmon and steelhead and attract anglers who travel from across the country to ply these pristine waters. These roadless headwaters also feed America’s mainstem rivers, offering world-class fishing opportunities to anglers far downstream of the backcountry.
These backcountry values have been supporting successful businesses for generations. Fishing and hunting annually contribute more than $190 billion to our nation’s economy - a provocative consideration in today’s uncertain financial climate. Likewise, businesses that provide services and products to sportsmen - guides, outfitters, gear stores, motels, cafes and gas stations - are the foundations of many towns and communities all across the country.
Many of these dollars generated through the secure habitat and clean waters of roadless areas - landscapes that spill monetary benefits into surrounding communities. Because these public lands are so important for businesses and our outdoor traditions, more than 225 hunter/angler focused businesses and organizations - and counting - have signed on to a letter called Banking on the Backcountry that was recently delivered to the Secretary of the US Dept. of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. This letter requests that the maximum acreage of national forest roadless areas be conserved to support the economies, high-quality habitat and sporting opportunities that depend on the backcountry.
Ultimately, backcountry national forests are vitally important to the future of superior public-lands hunting and fishing, and our last remaining 58.5 million acres of national forest roadless areas must be conserved so that backcountry-reliant businesses and our outdoor traditions can continue to flourish. The conservation of roadless areas is important not only for the livelihood and heritage of many American families but also to ensure that you are able to take that great backcountry hunting or fishing trip sometime down the road.
Joel Webster is the associate director of campaigns for TRCP Center for Western Lands. He writes from Missoula, Mont.