David Lien of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers lays out the issues in this letter to the Glenwood Springs newspaper, invoking the best Republican president ever*, Theodore Roosevelt:
Roosevelt would be turning over in his grave today at the prospect of HR 1581, which if implemented would open some 60 million acres of these backcountry lands to road construction, motorized recreation, mining, and oil and gas extraction.* Some might say that honor should go to Abe Lincoln, but the Republic Party was still newly hatched in 1860 and had not yet coalesced across a broad range of issues other than abolishing slavery and preserving the Union. By Roosevelt's time it had.
Here in Colorado, 12 of the 15 most hunted game management units (the most productive ones) have over 100,000 acres of roadless backcountry. More than 70 percent of Colorado River cutthroat trout habitat is in roadless areas.
Build roads in these areas, and the elk migrations are hindered, the mule deer populations suffer, and the trout spawning habitat is negatively impacted. That means fewer hunting and fishing opportunities.
We understand the need for mining, oil development and other resource extraction activities on some federal lands, and even recognize the attraction (to some) of motorized recreation far from the glare of civilization. But when our forefathers landed on our shores in the 17th Century, 100 percent of the land was wilderness. Today, that figure has dwindled to less than 3 percent in the lower 48 states, and HR 1581 threatens what little remains.
When Teddy Roosevelt became president, one of his first acts was to begin planning a national conservation policy. Roosevelt implanted the idea of conservation into our culture and enriched our future prospects with 230 million acres of designated public forests, wildlife refuges, parks, national monuments, and game ranges.