September 12, 2011
Need Accountability for attacks on Sporting Heritage
Quiz time - What’s the most popular place in the world to hunt trophy Bighorn Sheep?
Give yourself a pat on the back if you were thinking of Montana’s Missouri River Breaks National Monument. If you didn’t get the answer, don’t worry, your about to learn something else. The coulees and canyon lands of the Breaks Monument will still be a huge sporting destination one hundred years from now because it’s world-class habitat and our hunting traditions were protected by proclamation a decade ago.
Hunting the Breaks country is big deal, which I can attest too as both a hunter and commercial photographer who’s always on the lookout for the best hunting and wild game photographs in Montana. Last year alone sportsmen spent over 20,000 days in search of trophy elk, deer, and big horn sheep in this popular ‘bread and butter’ hunting destination. But not everyone is as proud of our Breaks as the pick-up loads of sportsmen who are beginning to make their annual migration to central Montana from all corners of our state, and Nation.
Representative Denny Rehberg recently took the podium in Congress to demonize Monuments like the Breaks in an attempt to gut the Antiquities Act and make it harder for Montanans to pass along our hunting heritage. After scaring people for more than a year with the threat of a phantom Monument, he’s now trying to reap what he’s sown.
Its decisions like these that have caused many folks in the sporting community to wonder who has the ear of our Congressmen. Whoever it is, I don’t think its public lands hunters because the evidence is pretty clear his voting record hasn’t favored our pastime.
Recall, it wasn’t too long ago that Congressmen Rehberg voted alongside then California Representative Pombo on a 2005 bill that would have sold our public lands and prime elk habitat to developers of casinos, ski resorts, and condos for rock bottom prices. It was the largest public lands scam in recent history.
Now this year Congressmen Rehberg has supported another California lawmakers legislation to immediately axe roadless protections throughout Montana and the nation- from the limestone reefs of the Rocky Mountain Front to the deep larch and cedar forests of the Yaak. Its one-size fits all legislation and its causing a huge uproar among hunters. For good reason.
Montana has one of the longest hunting season in the country because of the habitat security that roadless public lands provide for elk, mule deer, and other big game. If you lose your roadless security you’ve just lost the headwaters of your hunting opportunity. It’s happened before in other states.
In defending his record, we’ve often heard Representative Rehberg say he is protecting Montanans from bureaucrats in Washington. It’s a good talking point but it ignores that both the Missouri River Breaks designation and the original roadless process were both transparent and open public processes which Montanans supported.
I watched the Breaks monument process very carefully as past member and chair of the Central Montana Resources Advisory Council. I was at every meeting for five years and heard every issue first hand. The truth is that there are people who just don’t like the government, period, so it’s easy to get them fired up when you tell them the big bad government is taking away liberties, regardless of the facts.
Montanan’s are always going to need clean streams to fish in and wide open spaces to hunt. Our roadless forest lands and BLM prairie lands are central to healthy wildlife habitat. Our patriotic duty is to protect our states hunting heritage not to make short sided, mostly selfish decisions that in the long run will take that away from Montanans.
Let’s remember what matters most. What legacy shall we leave our children and theirs? Public land, open hunting for the common man is a tradition out west. I wish to leave that legacy to my children and when this heritage is threatened by bad leadership decisions we need to hold our leaders feet to the fire. It is far better to manage wisely and preserve our intact systems than it is to dismantle and try to rebuild them later.
Tony Bynum is an award winning professional photographer, small business owner and adventure sportsmen who lives in East Glacier Park.