OPINION — On Oct. 19, the state of Utah plans to sell thousands of acres of state-owned lands, permanently ending public entrance to places accessed by Utahns for generations.
Many of these landscapes encompass prime wildlife habitat and offer high-quality public access for hunters to pursue mule deer, elk and upland birds, among other critters. Once sold, these opportunities would be lost forever. (The access agreement in Cave Valley, cited in a recent article by Julie Applegate, is unfortunately the exception, not the rule.)
Utah sportsmen are invested in stopping this bad deal. The Utah chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is mobilizing public lands users to speak out against the sale. To date, more than 1,000 have signed a BHA petition urging the state to reconsider its approach.
Many of Utah’s elected officials are pushing state management (or ownership) of federal public lands and waters. They are quick to offer reassurances that state ownership would not result in the lands’ sale. Yet clearly, the state is all too willing to sell off its lands to the highest bidder – a scenario that has played out with state-owned lands time and time again.
More than 70 percent of Western hunters depend on public lands for our time afield. During the time of year when many of us are heading afield with our families, Utah’s elected officials should be doing more to expand opportunities for us to partake in our outdoor traditions – not end them forever.
Submitted by Jay Banta, St. George.
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