For more than 100 years since our national forests and national parks were established, the managers of our public lands have had the discretion to decide whether or not to allow hunting in all or parts of the lands within their control. That discretion has resulted in most federal land being open to hunting. H.R. 4089 is a “land grab” by the “sportsmen”, ie. hunters, which would mandate that all of the public lands in the United States to be open to hunting, even national treasures such as Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Canyon!
Here in Michigan, the Department of Natural Resources estimates that approximately 10% of our residents are hunters. Unlike other outdoor activities, such as bird watching, which are growing at rates much faster than the population growth rate, hunting is one of the few outdoor activities which is declining not only in participation rates but also in absolute numbers.
While 90 percent of Michigan's population does not hunt, hunting is already allowed on almost all of the public land in the State of Michigan. This includes not only 3.9 million acres of our state forests, but also 2.8 million acres of national forests. That works out to about 7 acres of public land for every hunter! H.R. 4089 would further expand this to allow hunting in our national parks, the only significant pieces of public land on which hunting is not currently allowed.
Unfortunately, it is not the case that hunters and people who want to do other things, such as bird watching, can share the land. How much fun is it to look through your binoculars only to watch your favorite bird being killed up close?
Many people think of hunting as only taking place during a couple of weeks at the end of November. Hunting is a year-round activity. The Spring turkey hunting season just opened in Michigan, and most of the other bird hunting takes place in the early fall when many people want to be hiking, biking, canoeing and bird watching.
I am not suggesting that people shouldn't be able to hunt, simply that there should be places for the vast majority of people who do not want to hunt to enjoy their outdoor activities free from the noise and danger of hunters. There should be a balanced approach to the management of our federal public lands, and H.R. 4089 is not it!