The following Op-Ed was written by BHA's own Greg Munther, in partnership with Gayle Joslin of Helena Hunters and Anglers; Casey Hackathorn of Hellgate Hunters and Anglers; Skip Kowalski of the Montana Wildlife Federation; and Kathy Lloyd of the Clancy Unionville Task Force. An original version of this article can be found here.
Elk hunting is more than a hobby to Montanans. It is a way of life for many Montana elk hunters that are growing concerned about plans for managing the Helena National Forest, especially its standards for big-game habitat.
Elk hunting brings friends together, gets us outdoors, provides healthy meat for our families, and generates revenue for our economy. This is why it is hard to understand the rationale for the recent proposal to lessen the Helena National Forest’s own requirements to provide critically important elk security in the upper Blackfoot River drainage.
Practically all elk hunters use motorized vehicles to get to the woods, and then burn boot leather to get close to their prey. We all need motorized access, to a point. Hunters need access to quality habitat. But when habitat suffers, elk hunters lose opportunity and “access” becomes meaningless.
All animals, including elk, need quality habitat to provide food, water, shelter from the elements and security cover.
The following is a summary of state legislation that chapters have been working on during the current legislative session, relevant to public land habitat management, public access to wildlife and the protection of sporting traditions.
As you know, a single piece of state legislation can have a major impact (good or bad) on the state’s fish, wildlife, and sportsmen. That’s why it’s so important that members like you remain informed and engaged on relevant state legislation.
As should be evident from the examples below, BHA state chapters have had no shortage of legislation to weigh-in on. BHA continues to serve a much needed bipartisan voice of reason on the most important issues for those of us who value hunting and fishing that is wild and open to all.
Thanks to all who continue to work on these important issues – we couldn’t do it without you.
Support SB 67: OHV Enforcement by Wildlife Officers
Currently on the Governor’s desk and ready to be signed, CO BHA testified in support of reauthorization of legislation (HB08-1069) which gives state wildlife officers the authority to enforce off-highway vehicle regulations on federal lands. For more information on this legislation and BHA’s position, click here.
ALBUQUERQUE, NM— Locally and nationally hunters and anglers today applaud President Barack Obama’s decision to designate the Rio Grande del Norte area as a National Monument.
This designation will ensure that quality hunting and fishing for this unique area will be preserved for present and future generations. The regions’ rich sporting traditions are what they are because the fish and wildlife habitat remains largely intact and monument designation will ensure that development such as oil and gas or mining will not occur.
“There are many great public lands to hunt in New Mexico, but what makes the Rio Grande del Norte unique is the wide variety of wildlife that it offers, combined with the area’s overwhelming natural beauty. It truly is some remarkable country and fishing in the spectacular Rio Grande Box is a special experience” said Laddie Mills, a longtime New Mexican hunter and angler.
Retired Senator Jeff Bingaman, Senator Tom Udall, Senator-elect Martin Heinrich and Representative Ben Ray Lujan urged President Obama to make the designation and even sponsored legislation to protect the 240,000 acres of BLM land that lies north and west of Taos. This past December, Senators Bingaman and Udall sent a letter to Obama urging him to use his powers under the Antiquities Act to make the designation because the 112th session of congress was grid locked – none of pending public land bills were passed in the 2 year session
You may know him from his hit TV show "On Your Own Adventures", or from the popular hunting forum "Hunt Talk", or as a founding board member of Orion, The Hunters Institute. Regardless of how you know Randy Newberg, it’s impossible to miss his energetic defense of the principles upon which our hunting heritage depends – public ownership and access to wildlife, wild backcountry habitat, fair chase hunting and a do-it-yourself spirit. Randy serves a much-needed voice for the average public land hunter in a media industry otherwise dominated by hunting footage that threatens the hunter’s namesake, rather than propping it up. Recently named “2013 Sportsman of the Year” by the Sportsman Channel, it’s clear that the popularity of Randy’s message has not gone unnoticed.
BHA owes a debt of gratitude to Randy for helping to carry the value of public roadless backcountry habitat and hunting opportunities to sportsmen everywhere. We are grateful for his generosity to the organization and are honored to host him at the International Sportsmen’s Expo in Salt Lake City (3/14-17). If you plan on being at the show, be sure to join BHA and Randy Newberg for a social at 7:00 PM, Saturday, March 16 at The Studios at Jordan Commons, 9400 S State St. Sandy, UT 84070. There will be free refreshments and a free showing of previously unreleased hunting films. For more information on the gathering, click here.
We recently had the opportunity to catch-up with Randy and ask him a few questions about his passion for hunting and conservation. If you have questions you’d like to ask Randy yourself, be sure to stop by BHA’s booth at ISE in Salt Lake City, Thur-Sun, where Randy will be giving out free DVD’s to all new BHA members.
When, where and how did you start hunting? Who were your mentors?
As outlined in an article that can be found on CO BHA’s Issues page here, the Thompson Divide provides one of the largest remaining tracts of unprotected, undeveloped roadless habitat in the state of Colorado. It remains one of the top units for elk hunting in the state, serves as the headwaters of four high-quality trout streams and hosts a fragile population of mule deer.
On February 28, 2013, CO BHA spoke alongside other sportsmen, ranchers, teachers, the CEO of Patagonia, and over 50 other community members in support of withdrawing mineral leases on the Thompson Divide. Our testimony highlighted the need for undisturbed big game habitat, cold and quiet waters and scientific data from Colorado Parks and Wildlife which suggests that “gas development in this area is likely to be detrimental to mule deer and other wildlife.” For a Public Radio broadcast on this hearing, featuring CO BHA’s testimony (1:50), click here.