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Weekly Update: Public Lands for Public Use: Supporting Our Sporting Heritage

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Washington, March 9, 2016 | comments

Growing up in the town of Montross on the Northern Neck of Virginia, I learned early that when you’re outdoors, there are no ugly places. I can’t say how many boyhood afternoons I spent with a line in the water, watching the sun sink beyond the horizon, or how many days I spent wandering in the woods with my dad. But what I can say is that, for me and for so many Americans, the time spent in the great outdoors was foundational. It laid the groundwork for what I would become—a biologist and an outdoorsman—and it helped me understand that our strength as a society depends on healthy habitats and natural resources.

It’s no secret that Teddy Roosevelt was one of America’s most devout outdoorsmen and conservationists. But less known is how dedicated he was to sportsmen-led conservation. Roosevelt believed that wildlife and the wilderness belong to the public at large, and not to government or corporations. He triumphed what is now known as the North American Model of Conservation, rooted in the idea that the natural world is best cared for by those who have an interest in preserving it, like hunters, anglers, and other outdoor recreationalists. “In a civilized country,” Roosevelt said, “wild animals only continue to exist at all when preserved by sportsmen. The excellent people who protest against all hunting and consider sportsmen as enemies of wildlife are ignorant of the fact that in reality, the genuine sportsmen is by all odds the most important factor in keeping … wild creatures from extinction.”

I agree with Roosevelt that sportsmen-led conservation is critical to preserving our sporting heritage and our natural resources. Sportsmen and -women contribute nearly $8 million each day to support wildlife and wildlife agencies and have done more protect natural resources and wildlife habitats than any other group. That’s why during my time in Congress and as Co-Chair of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, I’ve worked to champion Second Amendment rights and other issues that are important to outdoorsmen. It’s also why I’m proud that the House passed the SHARE Act, a bipartisan bill I authored to help to preserve our wildlife and natural resources and promote the long-held values and traditions that are dear to sportsmen and -women.

I’ve also been a staunch advocate for a clean and healthy Chesapeake Bay. Last week, I met with the Choose Clean Water Coalition to talk about efforts to make sure that the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries are well-kept. We’ve seen progress in Congress, and I’m proud to have been a part of that by stewarding the Chesapeake Bay Accountability and Recovery Act, but there is still more to do. I’m dedicated to making sure that every dollar spent on restoration activities produces real results, and I’ll continue to find ways to protect Virginia’s fisheries and waterways.

I know that Virginians in the First District and all over the state share my passion for protecting our natural world for generations to come, and I would love to hear your thoughts about how we can be good stewards of wildlife, habitats, and waterways. I look forward to hearing from you!
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