Giving Away Washington’s Great Outdoors?

If it passes, as little as 12 percent of Forest Service and BLM lands would be off-limits to developers. It would also prohibit the BLM from identifying any new areas as potential wilderness.

The plan doesn’t sit well with sportsmen, according to Mike Beagle, co-founder of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. He says an expanse of wild country ensures the health of wildlife populations.

“Having that big ground, that’s really important for bighorn sheep, mule deer, Rocky Mountain elk. We need those special places intact, whether it’s calving for elk, fawning for mule deer, antler growth, horn growth.”

Some are reminding Congress that extractive industries aren’t the only ones interested in using public lands – that recreation is a $730 billion annual business and deserves as much consideration as mining and petroleum.

The bills before Congress are HR 1581 and S 1087.