Public Lands, a Birthright

Maintaining public access to the places we love to fish

Public land is a birthright and rightfully belongs to all Americans who depend on them for access, angling opportunity and economic security. In an increasingly crowded West where open space is rapidly becoming one of the rarest and most valuable assets of the Western lifestyle, ensuring that these lands stay in the public trust is more important now than ever before.

After the American Revolutionary War, Congress had spent all of its money and was in debt. The new federal government owned all the public land except that within the 13 original colonies and a few non-original states. The land owned by the government was called the Public Domain; our public land that our forefathers fought for and we are still fighting for today.

There’s a fever from anti government activist to eliminate the America public land system. The most recent incarnation of the modern Sagebrush Rebellion originated in Utah, when the 2012 state legislature passed the “Transfer of Public Lands Act and Related Study” and demanded that 31 million acres of federal land be given to the state by December, 2014.  If ownership of our public land was transferred to the states, the expense of managing them could be prohibitive, leading to their eventual sale to private interests. This scenario would likely result in the widespread loss of public access to the special places we like to hunt and fish.

Across the west, some of the best fishing for steelhead and trout occurs on rivers and lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service where access is a given for anglers.

For example, nowhere in America is a strenuous outdoor life more available than in the heart of Oregon, in the Deschutes River country. This major tributary of the Columbia River on the east side of the Cascade Range wanders north through basalt cliff canyons and offers world-class fishing and great hunting to anyone wanting to access the river canyon through public land.

 

Anglers come here from all over the world to fish for the “redsides,” and steelhead. Steelheading doesn’t get much better than on the Deschutes. Managed by the BLM as a designated Wild and Scenic River, with multiple campgrounds for fishermen, whitewater rafters, and anyone else who wants to follow some very simple rules and experience the river.

This is my backyard and a dozen other outfitters; we take pride in sharing this river with visitors and other anglers. People come to the local communities to fish; shop, stay in hotels and eat at local restaurants. Anglers are mesmerized by the rimrock canyons, smell of juniper and solitude experienced on a Deschutes River float. These experiences connect visitors with something greater than themselves while at the same time support a major component of Oregon’s rural economy.

As a professional guide, I depend on my continued ability to share the beauty of our public lands with folks from across our great nation. These lands and other federal lands across Oregon provide wide-reaching economic benefits to individuals like me and other Oregonians who rely on outdoor opportunities for income. Public lands are a boon for those who travel from across the country to enjoy them, as well as those who call these places home.

Public lands are our birthright. As a sportsman, outfitter and mother, I believe that one of the most important challenges of our time is to maintain public access to places we like to fish. As a public land user we need to stay involved to protect the transfer of our public lands. I want my daughter to enjoy the same experiences and opportunities that I have had.

Get involved with just a click. Support sportsmen’s access to our public lands, please visit www.sportsmensaccess.org and sign the petition.

Photos Courtesy Marty Sheppard

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About Mia Sheppard

Mia Sheppard is the Oregon Field Representative for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and owns Little Creek Outfitters with her husband Marty, they are both Simms Ambassadors. She lives and breathes being on the water and chukar hunting the breaks of desert rivers. When she isn’t working for the TRCP she can be found standing in a river with her husband or daughter chasing steelhead or planning the next adventure.
  • Justin

    Why dont more sporstmen and outfitters band together and raise funds to purchase lands, then donate them to the state with the stipulation that they remain public access lands? Aside from the money raising aspect it seems simple enough, and money raising through crowd funding is becoming a simpler task with people of like mids and interests being so connected through social media and blogs. I would love to help purchase lands and preserve wilderness access for sportsmen of the next generation!