Access for hunting, fishing gets a big boost ... and a great, big thank-you card
No, that’s not the face of U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Colo., peering at you from the town’s newest billboard.
And no, it’s not a re-election poster, at least it’s not meant to be.
The billboard, visible from the U.S. Highway 6&50 bypass near Bassett Furniture, was sponsored by the non-political Bull Moose Sportsmen’s Alliance and thanks Tipton for his support of the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.
According to Gaspar Perricone, co-director of the Bull Moose Sportsmen’s Alliance, Tipton successfully carried an amendment to the Land and Water Conservation Fund designating $5 million for hunting and fishing access on federal public lands.
“Expanding opportunities for hunting, fishing and recreation will assist in recruiting and treating a new base of sportsmen-conservationists in a manner that protects this important part of our nation’s heritage,” Tipton said in a release from the Bull Moose Sportsmen’s Alliance.
In this age of nearly unprecedented political bickering and brinksmanship (I remember reading there also was a bit of discord during the Continental Congresses), it’s hard to ignore the political affiliations of our elected leaders.
And it’s equally hard not to cast a cynical eye at anything that merits a politician some free publicity.
But you have to look past that and realize that Tipton’s amendment was not a Republican thing but a (small r) republican thing.
Getting even $5 million set aside for public access is huge at a time when the lack of access often is blamed as the No. 1 reason why people quit hunting and fishing.
Of course, whether Tipton’s request for $5 million ever sees the light of day depends on the whims of Congress, which hasn’t been in a particularly generous mood as of late.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund comes largely from royalty payments from energy companies drilling offshore for oil and gas with smaller amounts coming from taxes on motorboat fuels.
The fund, currently authorized through 2015, is supposed to be funded at $900 million a year but has seen that amount only twice in its history since it’s regularly raided by Congress.
Perricone said this year’s fund may reach close to $90 million when all the accounting is over.
It’s not tax dollars — it doesn’t cost you a penny, at least directly.
But if spent right, that money goes a long way, Perricone noted.
“Investments in conservation have proven to yield a 4-to-1 economic return and help ensure that our sportsmen heritage will be enjoyed by future generations,” he said.
Maybe Tipton’s amendment is a first step in finding common ground, particularly public common ground that provides hunting, fishing and other recreational possibilities.
And to show you can’t be a conservative without being a conservationist.
“You can’t make these as political decisions because they touch every hunter and angler no matter what their political party,” said Perricone, a native of Steamboat Springs and a state Parks and Wildlife commission member.
This isn’t the first time the Bull Moose Alliance has used public signage to acknowledge legislators needing some direction on conservation legislation.
“We had a billboard in Colorado Springs expressing our disappointment, you might say, in Congressman (Doug) Lamborn’s opposition to the LWCF,” Perricone said.
He said Lamborn, a Colorado Springs Republican, introduced an amendment intended to zero-out the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
“In a time where lack of access to quality hunting and fishing opportunities is a reason for declining participation, Rep. Lamborn has proven his willingness to further degrade a unique American legacy of wildlife management and conservation prized by hunters and anglers throughout the nation,” said a Bull Moose press release.
“I was shocked when I saw the amendment,” said Perricone. “It’s contrary to the hunting and fishing community.”