Tom Joseph, Public News Service-PA
HARRISBURG, Pa. – Thousands of miles from Pennsylvania, on some of the most remote areas in the country, a battle is brewing to safeguard those lands from oil and gas development and timber extraction.
Ed Perry with the National Wildlife Federation will be part of that protection effort as he begins work with NWF's Public Lands Campaign
"The whole purpose is to educate my fellow sportsmen and conservationists that there is a huge threat looming to our public lands out there, otherwise we're going to be losing some of the last, best part of our country," he stresses.
Perry says those roadless lands represent some of the greatest hunting, fishing and camping areas nationwide, which are enjoyed by untold numbers of visitors from Pennsylvania and the east coast each year.
He says they need to be preserved for both the tourist dollars they bring in and the jobs they create, and for their environmental value, which is priceless.
Perry points out bills keep surfacing in Washington to sell off tens of millions of acres of national forest and Bureau of Land Management land for their fossil fuel and timber value.
But he maintains that's not where the greatest value of those lands lies.
"In 2010, public lands drew more than 58 million visitors and they spent more than $7.5 billion,” he says. “Outdoor recreation supports three times as many jobs as does the oil and gas industry out west."
Perry says much of the legislation to develop the land has originated in the U.S. House, but has failed to gain traction in the Senate.
He calls it the most important threat to our western public lands that no one knows about.
"There's this old cliché, 'The price of liberty is eternal vigilance,'” he says. “Well, in this case, it's never truer, that we have to pay attention and educate our citizens and protect these lands."