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NC Sportsmen: 'Keep Public Lands in Public Hands'

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited in the nation, by more people than the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone combined. (Steve Harwood/Flickr)
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited in the nation, by more people than the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone combined. (Steve Harwood/Flickr)
June 7, 2017

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - More than 35 hunting, fishing and outdoor groups today sent a letter to the members of North Carolina's congressional delegation calling on them to defend public lands in the state and the rest of the country.

The demand from organizations representing more than 100,000 stakeholders comes as efforts continue to privatize some national parks. Tim Gestwicki, chief executive of the North Carolina Wildlife Federation, one of the groups leading the opposition, argued that the lands are vital to American tradition and the economy.

"Public lands are part of the fabric of America," he said. "This letter is urging the North Carolina delegation to stay strong in support of public lands. Our message is keep public lands in public hands."

The plea comes on the eve of the 111th anniversary of the Antiquities Act, which grants authority to presidents to protect areas that provide significant natural, cultural or scientific features. Supporters of privatizing public lands argue they are costly to maintain and belong to individual states to decide how to manage them or sell them to for-profit companies.

North Carolina's national parks are among the most visited in the country, led by Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is visited more than the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone combined. Gestwicki said the economic impact offered by the land is reason enough to protect them.

"These public lands are critical for hunting, fishing, outdoor recreation, the economy of America," he said, "and there are serious attempts under way to take away these public lands."

According to the latest figures released by the Outdoor Industry Association, outdoor recreation generates $887 billion in consumer spending annually and creates 7.6 million jobs.

The letter is online at ncwf.org.

Stephanie Carson/Dallas Heltzell, Public News Service - NC