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CONTACT: Defenders of Wildlife and New Mexico Wildlife Federation
James Navarro, Defenders of Wildlife, (202) 772-0247
Oscar Simpson, New Mexico Wildlife Federation, (505) 345-0117
Public Land Management Needs Greater Accountability for Wildlife
New report finds current public land management policy lacks sufficient protection for wildlife
WASHINGTON - February 10 - A new report released today by conservation groups and sportsmen's organizations provides a practical roadmap for restoring balance to public lands management to ensure healthy wildlife populations.
"Safeguarding fish and wildlife is one of the most important uses of our public lands because it leads to so many other benefits," said Peter Nelson, Defenders of Wildlife, director of federal lands program and a lead author of the report. "After eight years of having the scales tipped in favor of development, it's time to restore balance, science and public trust to the management of these lands."
The report, titled "Your Lands, Your Wildlife: Restoring Balance to the Management of Our Public Lands" offers policy makers a strategy for meeting the complex social and environmental challenges facing America's federal public lands in the 21st century.
Together the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) steward 449 million acres of land - almost one fifth of the country's land area - for the benefit of all Americans. That's more land than California, Texas and Florida combined.
These lands hold some of the last remaining intact wildlife corridors for big game species, provide habitat for countless other species, both imperiled and common and protect some 3,400 public water supplies. But they're also under increasing pressure from rapid, poorly planned development and the dramatic environmental changes associated with global warming.
"Abundant and viable populations of big game, fish and other wildlife species on a regional scale are the best means of measuring the vitality of our wildlife and the health of our public lands," said Oscar Simpson, a sportsman and the conservation policy chair with the New Mexico Wildlife Federation. "Without healthy lands and watersheds, our local economies, our water supplies and our quality of life suffer. We've learned a lot about land management planning over the past decades. It's time to start applying knowledge, best management and innovation into practice."
According to the report, the first step towards responsible management is to end the previous administration's practice of favoring oil and gas drilling, mining and other extractive industries on public lands over all other land uses. Too often, such development has come at the expense of wildlife, healthy ecosystems and outdoor recreational activities including hunting, fishing, birdwatching and other wildlife-watching activities. By restoring a balance between resource development and land conservation, land managers will ensure that these lands support all of their multiple uses.
The report recommends directing the Forest Service and BLM to take responsibility for maintaining sustainable wildlife populations to ensure the continued economic health and vitality of America's public lands and surrounding communities for the benefit of all stakeholders. A modern, flexible management framework will provide a foundation to ensure that land managers cooperate in managing wildlife across federal agency boundaries, and provide the tools needed to safeguard wildlife and its habitat from the harmful effects of global warming.
"The times call for intelligent policies that recognize that the true implementation of multiple-use means sustainable use," the report concludes. "No action should diminish our ability to provide values to future generations."