U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe recently gave a speech in front of environmental activists where he went on a rant against the those who want to put “economic development, private use, and corporate profit” above conservation.
The FWS director’s speech called on environmentalists to unite and fight back against attempts from lawmakers (mostly Republican, but Ashe avoids saying this) who want “the federal government to divest hundreds of millions of acres of public land.”
“Across the West, the very concept of public lands are under sustained assault from federal, state and local politicians and the special interests who fund them,” Ashe said in his speech, according to a transcript published online Monday by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.
“We need all the help we can get, because these ideologues are waging a relentless campaign to undermine the legitimacy of public lands, public resources, and wildlife held in trust for the public,” he said. “They want the federal government to divest hundreds of millions of acres of public land—not for sportsmen or women—but for economic development, private use, and corporate profit.”
“They’re doing what we used to do so well,” Ashe added. “They’re playing the long game, and they are succeeding in their larger aim— to undercut public support and confuse the issue for voters.”
Ashe’s speech even touched upon the occupation of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by armed militants earlier this year. In January, armed militants led by Ammon Bundy occupied the refuge for more than a month. The militants were affiliated with the Bundy standoff against Bureau of Land Management (BLM) officials in 2014.
Ashe said the Bundy occupation was fueled by politicians who want to take back federal land — most of the politicians pushing for states to reclaim federal lands are Republicans.
“The Malheur occupation didn’t occur in a vacuum. It happened because there are people, many of whom occupy positions of power and influence across the West, who share their values and beliefs, even if they recoil at their methods—for now,” Ashe said.
Ashe also said environmentalists to band together and support candidates who back more conservation policies on public lands — policies that would restrict drilling and grazing.
“We have to have zero tolerance for politicians, at all levels of government, who support divestiture of public lands,” he said. “No candidate should be able to call themselves a sportsman unless they defend, loudly and at every turn, the benefits and importance of public land ownership and professional stewardship.”
“It’s an election year, and we need a true sportsmen’s platform,” Ashe continued. “Not platitudes about rights to hunt and fish. We need sportsmen to make it a priority to support — in every sense of the word — candidates who embody this platform, and to oppose those who do not. We need to support politicians who will stand up for clean air and water and protection of habitat, and stand behind the professional public servants — local, tribal, state, and federal — who dedicate their lives to conserving wild places and wild creatures.”
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