Could there be a benefit to the beetle epidemic sweeping forests of the West? A recent research paper from the Rocky Mountain Research Station suggests that in the wake of the widespread tree death, new structural complexity and species diversity may arise.
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Ensuring a future with free, public hunting and fishing access is central to Backcountry Hunters & Anglers work and mission. So we were glad to hear about a recent effort to improve the level of freedom that sportsmen enjoy, by providing access to “locked-up” public lands – lands that are held by the public, but which the public cannot use.
“The HUNT Act” (The Hunt Unrestricted on our National Treasures Act) is legislation aimed at opening access to “locked-up” public lands, where private landowners have blocked traditional access, or where public lands are completely surrounded by private landholdings, with no way in.
Take for example the Sabinoso Wilderness Area in New Mexico; an entire wilderness area surrounded by private land owners who refuse to allow even foot access across their land; or the Troublesome Creek Wilderness Study Area in Colorado, which has had access blocked by a subdivision of vacation homes; or one of the many parcels of land-locked BLM land that checkerboard much of Western Oregon. For most of us, it’s not difficult to come up with an example of an unfishable ‘public’ trout stream, or a well-used elk hide-out owned by the public, but only accessible to those who own the land around it .
American families have been blessed with millions of acres of accessible public lands on which to hunt, fish and recreate. However, as development pressures and human populations inevitably increase so will the importance of ensuring that access to our public lands is available to the sporting public.
Recent studies validate this point, showing that access is the number one issue facing hunters nationwide. That’s why this bill is so important and that’s why “if any bill deserves to pass Congress, this one does” (Ben Lamb in Outdoor Life).
The HUNT Act would:
The Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers has partnered with the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW), the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Trout Unlimited (TU) to improve native cutthroat habitat, elk habitat and elk hunter success on National Forest lands Southwest of Yampa, Colorado. With BHA’s help, the U.S. Forest Service will block and restore 25 miles of illegal, non-system motorized routes. The project serves as a model for how proper travel management planning and implementation can help improve fish and wildlife habitat, while also improving hunter success.
In the early 2000’s CPW wildlife managers identified low hunter success on public lands in the area, along with high game damage claims on adjacent private lands, as an issue the needed to be addressed. After careful analysis, staff from the USFS determined that illegal motorized vehicle use was a large part of the problem.
Elk were being driven from public lands onto adjacent private lands by illegal Off-Highway Use (OHV), during hunting season, as well as during the summer. Some years, this resulted in game damage claims amounting $60,000 for a single ranch – money generated through hunting and fishing licenses that could have otherwise been put towards fish and wildlife habitat. Further, while the area is home to the largest elk herd in North America, hunter success in the area was consistently below the state average.
In an effort to identify common priorities among sportsmen, Washington Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is coordinating a series of roundtable meetings with sportsmen throughout the state. Through this process, WA BHA and a variety of sportsmen and conservation interests will work to educate Washington’s Congressional candidates about key issues affecting sportsmen. Some of the groups invited to participate include Ducks Unlimited, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Trout Unlimited. Current Issues identified for discussion include:
WA Backcountry Hunters & Anglers and the sportsmen roundtable will ask that each of the candidates publicly take a position on each of these issues. With this information, it is our hope that sportsmen can make well-informed choices for the candidates who best represent their interests.
As an organization of sportsmen dedicated to protecting free access, prime backcountry habitat and the sportsmen voice, BHA will continue to ensure voters know where each candidate stands on these very important issues.