The Importance of Public Land
With some 640 million acres of federal land open to the public in the United States at their disposal, hunters have a wealth of opportunity to pursue big game animals. For those growing up east of the Mississippi River it’s somewhat difficult to remember the vast acreage that we co-own with the government. Or at least that’s how they phrase it. If it’s sold, as could have possibly happened with Jason Chaffetz’s (R-Utah) H.R. 621, which pushed for the sale of 3.3 million acres of BLM land in 10 states, we probably wouldn’t see a dime.
As an easterner, many of us have never really considered traveling west for a big game hunt on public land. I like to, for example, wait for someone to invite me to their private ranch, but let me just tell you, I do a lot of waiting. If the government owns 47 percent of the land west of the Mississippi and only four to the east, it’s easy to forget. But who’s to say I can’t purchase an over-the-counter tag, hop in my truck and follow the setting sun out toward the Rocky Mountains? In this case, the only hindrance is me.
Surely you see the point though, which is to say that America’s public lands are the most important natural resource we have whether you’re a hunter or not. They house birds and wildlife and certain crude minerals that we rely on in our everyday lives. Here at Montana Decoy, we are thankful for public lands because the idea of creating the most lightweight decoy on the market was born out in some of those wild places.
Montana Decoy’s founder Jerry McPherson grew up in the state he named his decoy company after. For years he either hauled a bulky elk decoy through the hills and over the mountains or just went without one. As opportunities were missed and frustrations grew, he knew there had to be another way to present a cow’s likeness to a rutting bull without adding 25 pounds to his pack. By taking a high-quality photograph of an elk and constructing a foldable wire frame, Jerry was able to create the lightest, most realistic decoys on the market.
But back to the importance of the very lands that create outdoor opportunities for millions of Americans. In fact, one could argue that these places continue to promote the two most important virtues of this country’s established foundation: adventure and freedom. Teddy Roosevelt in his many journeys to the west to hunt didn’t have to knock on a single door and ask permission. And while today’s west is not the same vast wilderness of yesteryear, our 640 million acres is still, well, 640 million acres.
Some have said that Chaffetz’s bill was simply designed to “grease the skids” for a torrent of federal land sales to state governments that would then turn it over to corporations and private citizens. Gates, fences and other barriers would go up and access would therefore be denied to the many outdoorsmen who rely on public land for sport and meat. No, our local grocery store does not sell elk tenderloin. There’s only a few places to get that and those valleys and ridges are no walk down the tiled aisle of Whole Foods.
There’s two types of dirty: one you get from a long day trekking through the evergreen-laden ridges of Utah’s Wasatch Range and then the slimy feeling after listening to a politician speak. Sometimes you just have to grit your teeth and bare the latter because these ladies and gents are the ones who can pull the proverbial public land rug out from under us. Tune in. Stay resilient. And don’t forget to take the opportunity to enjoy America’s public lands!