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Southeast Federation
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Words of Caution
AFMS Newsletter, Volume 61, Number 1 , November of 2007

by
John Wright
Past President of SFMS
Current Member of the AFMS Conservation/Legislation Committee
Current Mississippi State Representative for the American Lands Access Association Inc.

 Many of you have heard at club meetings or learned through the news media about all the new federal and state lands that have recently been added to “preserves” where rock hunting is prohibited or severely restricted and how many other areas of public lands have in other ways also had access to them limited and/or restricted.  Proposals are constantly being considered to substantially increase these land preserves and to add more restrictions for access to almost all public lands. The total acreages being placed off limits to us is in the millions and primarily it is our own fault because with the exception of a very few, we have done nothing to prevent it from happening.  

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) requires permits in many areas, plan to increase the areas where permits are required, and are considering raising the fees for permits. Their counterparts in some states have followed suit for state owned lands or are currently working on legislative initiative and agendas along similar lines.  Environmentalists and paleontologists, plus a host of other groups, are diligently working to limit access to public lands and restrict the removal of minerals, fossils, and almost everything else imaginable.  Quite a number of bills are pending in Washington and many state capitols right now that will further restrict our right to use public lands, and they are virtually unopposed. 

 I know that many of the areas involved hold little interest to most of you.  Well, you better wake up and get interested, because each time our adversaries win, they are encouraged to try for even more and one day they may be plotting to close areas in your own neighborhood.  Another and probably more important reason is that if we join with other clubs in our efforts to safeguard public access to federal and state lands, we all gain strength in unity and numbers and can stop a lot of these idiotic restrictions. At the 2007 AFMS annual meeting held in Roswell, NM, it was reported that we have 48,677 members and that is a larger membership than any of the environmental groups have.  Joining with other clubs will help us overcome the attitude that the situation is much too big for us as individuals to do anything about.  Cooperation with other clubs will also help us keep more up-to-date and informed about the proposed changes in land usage and accessibility. 

 My wife and I recently attended a meeting conducted by the U.S. Forestry Service regarding road closures in a local National Forest area.  We actually found out about the meeting from other AFMS members in California and Idaho.   The meeting turned out to be either the worst organized unprofessional event I have ever attended (I have actually seen Cub Scouts do better), or the meeting was a very carefully orchestrated “sham”.  Since the early 1900s the Forestry Service has spent “billions” of our tax dollars building roads in National Forest areas to act as “firebreaks” and to make areas more accessible to emergency equipment.  With forest fires establishing new records in occurrence and destruction of public and private property all around the country, the sudden decision to close all these roads just doesn’t make sense.  Something is going on that smells a little bit “environmentally” fishy. 

 According to ALAA (American Lands Access Association) many of the agencies and governing bodies at local, state, and federal levels do not always keep the public informed about plans that could ultimately restrict access to public lands.  When they do let you know, normally through public hearings, the plans are usually complete and the “mind set” is to prevail.  Often changes are made without any prior notification or public input and it’s not surprising that this is done on purpose to prevent public interference.

 I have just briefly touched on some of the problems that are confronting us, but I think it is enough to give you an idea of what needs to be done.  We need to collectively (club petitions) and individually write our state and federal representatives.  Writing these letters actually requires very little effort and could quite easily be turned into an interesting and enlightening club project.  I might add at this point that “emails” and particularly “email petitions” have little or no effect. 

 Remember, the majority of representatives we send to our state and nation’s capitol really like their job and want to keep it.  They also know that keeping their job often depends on a very narrow margin of votes, so they are very keen on keeping their constituents happy. If we fail in letting them know what is bothering us or what we want done about the varying legislation that affect our access to public lands, we shoot ourselves in the foot.  Why, because there are hundreds of organized groups with very dedicated members that are earnestly working to restrict the use of public lands and you can bet they make their desires known. 


MORE PUBLIC LAND ACCESS ISSUE INFORMATION AND OPINIONS:


 
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