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Nearly 350 plant and animal species depend on sagebrush habitat for their survival.


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The State of our public lands? In the bull’s eye

Judith Kohler January 21, 2015

Our public lands are in the bull’s eye. Legislators in states throughout the West have launched efforts to take over national public lands or explore ways to do it. Proponents claim the states can manage the lands better but gloss over how much it will cost to assume stewardship of millions of acres. They dodge arguments that state takeover of public lands – lands owned by all Americans – inevitably will lead to  big sell-offs of the choicest parcels, many of which provide some of the best hunting, fishing and sightseeing in the country.

The multifaceted value of our public lands

Frank Sturges, Aug. 19, 2014

Bison at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. Source: flickr, thronps

The over 640 million acres of federal public land benefit wildlife, recreation enthusiasts, and local residents every single day. They provide wildlife habitat, drinking water, and opportunities to challenge ourselves in the outdoors.
Despite these many values, some state legislatures and members of Congress think that public lands are little more than a real estate deal they can hastily undertake to cash a one-time check. As the owners of the public lands that continue to provide value every year, we have to stand up against attacks on our public lands that would hand them over to private interests.

Congress Fails to Act on Wildfires

Frank Sturges, photo USDA

Last Friday, Congress kicked off their five-week summer recess, but not before refusing to approve emergency funds for wildfire suppression. Over 30 large fires are currently blazing across the American West, including the 4,700-acre El Portal Fire in Yosemite National Park, which has already cost over $9 million, and the over 250,000-acre Carlton Complex in Central Washington, the largest in that state's history. Thousands of wildland firefighters are deployed to stop the spread of these wildfires from the U.S. Forest Service, Department of the Interior, and state agencies like Cal Fire.

While the number of acres burning continues to grow, the cost of this summer's fire season is also on the rise. In May, the Department of the Interior and U.S. Forest Service projected a $470 million budget shortfall, and the administration requested an emergency budget supplemental that would have included $615 million plug that gap in paying for fire costs this year.

However, neither chamber of Congress acted to fund wildfires before heading out of town -- leaving the question of how the Forest Service and Interior will pay for this ongoing work. They will most likely turn to "fire borrowing," or taking money from other agency priorities to pay for wildfire. A report from the Forest Service earlier this summer explains the impact this practice has on cancelling and delaying necessary forest management programs across the country.

Don't let Congress silence sportsmen

By Frank Sturges, June. 26, 2014

Photo by Suzanne O'Neill, Colorado Wildlife Federation