“Words of Caution”
AFMS Newsletter, Volume 61, Number 1 , November of 2007
Past President of SFMS
Current Member of the AFMS Conservation/Legislation
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.
PUBLIC LAND ACCESS ISSUE INFORMATION AND OPINIONS: