Orvis Joins the Outdoor Industry in Asserting Our Right to Public Lands

One of the bigger threats facing outdoors-lovers of all kinds—anglers, hunters, hikers, etc.—is the transfer of federal public lands to the states. The federal government owns more than 600 million acres of land, the vast majority of which is open for all of us to use. But there is a movement afoot to transfer much of this land to the states, the argument being that the states could manage them better. But these states, mostly in the Rocky Mountain West, simply cannot afford the upkeep of these lands: for instance, fighting wildfires, maintaining roads and trails, treating noxious weeds, and conducting habitat restoration. And when a state can’t afford to maintain the land, there’s usually only one option: sell it to the highest bidder. Then the land that once belonged to you and me is privatized, and we lose access to it.

Orvis CEO Perk Perkins has joined more than 100 other leaders of businesses in the outdoor industry in signing a letter to “our elected officials and those who value the great outdoors,” arguing that public lands should remain in public lands, today and forever. The letter is in today’s Washington Post as a full-page ad designed to garner as much attention as possible as a new administration takes office.

Below is the full text of the letter, which (Click here to see the actual ad appearing in The Washington Post, including the list of signators.)

Orvis CEO Perk Perkins, his wife Laurie, and Chico explore public land in Wyoming’s Wind River Range.
Photo courtesy Perk Perkins

To our elected officials and those who value America’s great outdoors:

This open letter expresses the view of more than 100 leaders of large and small businesses in the outdoor industry, which contributes more than $650 billion annually to the U.S. economy, generates $80 billion in tax revenue and employs more than 6 million people. Together, we represent a huge range of activities – from hiking to hunting and camping to conservation.

Our businesses make the lives of everyday Americans, from every corner of the political spectrum, healthier and happier. We do not often unite as an industry in the way we are today but we are compelled to make clear our collective view on a vitally important issue that affects the economic health of our industry, our local communities, and the lives of all Americans.

It is an American right to roam in our public lands. The people of the United States, today and tomorrow, share equally in the ownership of these majestic places. This powerful idea transcends party lines and sets our country apart from the rest of the world. That is why we strongly oppose any proposal, current or future, that devalues or compromises the integrity of our national public lands.

Yet as the 115th Congress begins, efforts are underway that threaten to undermine over one hundred years of public investment, stewardship and enjoyment of our national public lands. Stated simply, these efforts would be bad for the American people. They include the potential of national public lands being privatized or given to states who might sell them to the highest bidder. This would unravel courageous efforts by leaders from across the political spectrum up to the present day, including Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt.

This is not a red or blue issue. It is an issue that affects our shared freedoms. Public lands should remain in public hands. We hold these views both as leaders of the outdoor industry — which creates significant economic value for this country — and as individuals who believe deeply that the next generation should be free to benefit from our national public lands as we and our families do today.

The undersigned companies are therefore working together to ensure that all Americans maintain their right to our iconic national public lands and that it is not taken away.

9 thoughts on “Orvis Joins the Outdoor Industry in Asserting Our Right to Public Lands”

  1. The argument to keep these public lands in the hands of the federal government is also a flawed. While the states surely could not afford the upkeep, neither can the federal govt. Many of our public lands, especially those out west, are being destroyed by intense visitor use. Many of these visitors are from out of the country. These lands are for Americans and therefore should be a top priority for American use only. In addition funds from both state and federal levels need to be allocated towards our parks and other recreational areas. A huge divestment of all historical sites managed by the NPS is in order. The money from that alone could help save the “real” national parks.

    1. Kyle you make a good point, but this issue you go far beyond the national parks. There’s a very large portion of the public land doesn’t fall under the NPS jurisdiction. The national parks are very important and generate a lot of tourism dollars. I would say that they are safe; they’re not going anywhere.
      The land that is in danger is the land that often gets over looked by foreign visitors. There is a lot of public land that I use for hunting and fishing that, if given to the state to run, could end up in the hands of a private company and I will not be able to use anymore. I want my land to be every ones land.

    2. Let’s hope other countries don’t consider limiting their public lands to citizens of said country only….that is one very slippery slope.

      1. Public does not equal citizen only. I welcome the use of public lands to all visitors, no matter their country of origin. Furthermore, in my neck of the woods, just as much damage is done by citizens as anyone else.

        While the Feds also struggle to keep up they are in a much better position than the states to protect the land. More importantly, they are far less affected by “local” lobbies that seek access to the land to exploit resources such as timber, coal, and oil. In the west, as far as I can tell, the majority of the movements to reallocate land to the states are being led by representatives who are associated with timber and mining groups, and even cattle ranchers. They don’t really care if the land is public or private, what they see is that they are more likely to convince state governments to lease public land for resource extraction.

  2. Thank you Orvis for your efforts to protect not only these federal public lands, but also all your industry leading efforts for all the years past. Myself & many of my fellow sportsmen & women appreciate your commitment to all our futures in the outdoors.

  3. Thank you for your leadership, and financial support, of this and other conservation issues. The voices of your company and those of the other great companies on this list are desperately needed!! Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU.

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