At the dawn of the 20th Century, a squat, chubby, and bespectacled man laid out a series of maps on what was likely a very large table. His focus was the American West. Vast swathes of land that were still mostly unpopulated. He grabbed a pencil and methodically carved out mountain ranges, grasslands, watersheds, wildlife corridors, and river basins. In doing so, he effectively stamped, in bold letters meant to last a millennium, a sign stating ‘Not For Sale’ for huge regions of the American West. Also in doing so, he introduced to the world the concept of public land.
The man’s name was Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States. It was his gift to Americans. My parents received Teddy’s gift in 1929. I received it in 1961. My son received it in 2001. Last November, my niece’s son, the 20th grandchild of our family, received his gift. By virtue of being born in America or becoming a Naturalized American, you/we/us are landlords of some of the most beautiful land God created. For the non-Americans who work, study, or visit the United States, it is part of the red carpet that we roll out to the world.
Teddy’s gift is under threat. Whether it’s labeled as a land transfer, preservation reduction, or some other policy wonk phrase, there is a strong lobby to take away public lands from the public. We need to stand up, or saddle up as TR would have done, and say ‘Hands off our public lands.’
Hook ‘n Bullet Montanans get this. For some, it’s their livelihood under threat. For others, it’s their heritage and cultural. Hunting, fishing, and backcountry horseback has been in their families for generations. Hook ‘n Bullet Montanans needs some help though and sports can help fill this role.
I’m a boastful owner of my public land. I like to show off what we got. It’s part of the reason I launched the Greater Yellowstone Adventure Series (GYAS). This is a six race sporting series in Madison County and the races are run on public land. By complying with a set of pragmatic rules, the GYAS uses Teddy’s Gift to create some truly beautiful sporting events that are open to all. This includes the highest road marathon in the world, the second longest downhill road marathon in the
world, and a cycling race with an elevation gain of 4,651 feet. We also have a duathlon, an Olympic distance triathlon, and our first race, on June 2, the Water to Whiskey 5K in Ennis.
For the past 10 years, athletes from around the nation and several countries have participated in these events. They take home lifetime memories, photos, and stories about the incredible public sporting grounds of Montana. They spread the word about the value of public land. They help keep Teddy’s Gift intact.
This year, the GYAS is upping its game. We are partnering with the Montana Wildlife Federation (MWF) and recruiting more partners to showcase this year’s GYAS races as a model for the value, beauty, and use of public land. Public land is not just for hunting and fishing. It’s for hiking, camping, or simply taking walks. It’s also for sports and competitive sports can speak volumes about public land. Sports can get the attention of policy makers in a way that taking a walk cannot.
For a short, non-athletic-looking, and very near-sighted dude, Teddy had some seriously long term vision. He also had immense generosity. However, the gift that he gave us needs you. Show up. Vote with your running shoes, bicycle, or swim suit. Toe the line or join the MWF and volunteer at one of the
GYAS races. It’s not just hook ‘n bullet people who can make the case for public land. It’s sporting people too. It’s you.
Sam Korsmoe is a Montana native and entrepreneur. He is the owner of the Greater Yellowstone Adventure Series in Ennis. Contact him by email at email@example.com To learn more about the GYAS and to pick your race, go to www.themadisonmarathon.com