Throughout our visit to Montana, we enjoyed abundant and easy public access to great fishing nearly everywhere we went. From the well-marked and beautifully maintained access sites that appear at startlingly frequent intervals along the Madison River, to the National Park waters of the Gallatin, Gardiner, Firehole and Gibbon Rivers we were free to walk and fish as we liked. The right to this kind of freedom, where you needn’t be a wealthy landowner to enjoy our natural resources, is one of the pillars on which our country was founded. True patriots of every tax bracket should fight to uphold the idea and practice of public access.
Today, however, this right is under attack across America. The movement to privatize or hand over federal lands to states is running rampant, promoted, curiously, by many claiming to be patriots. Whether it’s the misguided “patriots” in Oregon occupying a federal wildlife refuge or Montana gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte (who once sued the state to shut down a public-access easement on his property) running on a ticket emphasizing limited public access, every citizen should be concerned.
But if you are a hunter, fisherman, hiker, climber, surfer, birder, kayaker or anyone else who enjoys the outdoors, you should be doubly concerned. Take a look at the 2016 Republican platform: It calls for handing federal lands over to the states. In other words, if you’re an outdoor person who isn’t a wealthy landowner and you vote Republican, you are effectively voting to cut off your own recreational access. Or, as we like to say out West, shooting yourself in the foot. It’s time for all of us who love the outdoors–and public access to it–to stand up against the privatization of public lands with our votes. It’s the truly patriotic thing to do.