By David A. Lien on Sep 14, 2015
At the end of this month, the Land and Water Conservation Fund is set to expire unless reauthorized by Congress. Established in 1964 through a bipartisan act of Congress, the fund uses royalties paid by energy companies drilling for oil and gas on the Outer Continental Shelf to conserve important natural resources and expand access to public land. The money comes from a maximum of $900 million in royalty payments collected annually from oil and gas companies, not from taxpayer dollars.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund enables access to millions of acres of public land and has expanded access to millions more, all while strengthening habitat for fish and game. From 1965 to 2008, Minnesota received $69 million from the fund. Adjusted for inflation, this is about $220 million. Those grants typically are matched by an equal amount of state or local money, thus doubling the federal investment.
Studies have found that every dollar invested in land acquisition or improvement generates a $4 return for communities. And U.S. hunters and anglers comprise a powerful economic engine, annually contributing close to $90 billion to the nation’s economy and supporting 1.5 million jobs. The broader outdoor recreation and conservation economy is responsible for more than $600 billion in consumer spending every year.
Recently, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has been used to acquire the 11,179-acre Devil’s Canyon Ranch in Wyoming, a premier hunting area with important herds of bighorn sheep, mule deer and elk; to protect the working forests around Wisconsin’s Chippewa Flowage, one of that state’s most pristine lakes and best trophy fisheries; to secure habitat in the Dakota grasslands for more than 100 breeding birds, including 12 waterfowl species, in a region that has been described as America’s “duck factory;” and to protect the confluence of the Ohio and Tradewater rivers in Kentucky, an action that is providing significant watershed and water quality improvement to the benefit of public hunting and fishing.
This month, a letter from a coalition of Minnesota’s hunting and conservation organizations to the U.S. Forest Service’s regional office expressed support for continued funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
“Minnesota’s National Forests offer world-class recreational opportunities,” the letter read. “Indeed, outdoor recreation is an integral part of the state’s $10 billion tourism economy. The Superior and Chippewa National Forests, in particular, are popular among hunters, fishermen and other visitors — a third of whom travel from hundreds of miles away and spend millions of dollars locally. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness alone attracts a quarter of a million visitors each year. Further public access enhancements would be certain to draw even more visitors to the region.”
As rural lands across the country continue to disappear, public access to federal lands will become increasingly important, and the Land and Water Conservation Fund will play a vital role in unlocking millions of federal acres currently unavailable to sportsmen. The fund is essential to make public lands public by securing recreation access, particularly where opportunities for sportsmen and others to access public lands are limited or precluded.
As explained by Backcountry Hunters and Anglers President and CEO Land Tawney, “(The Land and Water Conservation Fund) is the best tool available to provide access for hunters and anglers, as well as habitat conservation to make sure sportsmen have something to chase once we get there. … The program invests in the conservation of fish and wildlife habitat and enhances recreational access, which means more rewarding days afield for America’s hunters and anglers.”
David A. Lien of Colorado Springs, Colo., formerly of Grand Rapids, is a life member of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, co-chairman of Minnesota Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (backcountryhunters.org) and the author of “Hunting for Experience: Tales of Hunting and Habitat Conservation.
For additional information about the Land and Water Conservation Fund and how the fund has benefited Minnesotans, go to lwcfcoalition.org/minnesota.html.
Dear Mr. Jensen and Mr. Lien:
Thank you for sharing your concerns with the Department of Natural Resources regarding the use of drones in hunting and fishing activities. We certainly appreciate the fair chase issues and share similar concerns to protect our heritage of responsible sportsmanship .
Minnesota's game and fish laws includes prohibitions on some uses of motor vehicles as well as the use of radio/cell/remote control devices to take, chase, or pursue wild animals. Not all states have the broad prohibition that is in Minnesota's game and fish laws.
The use of trail cameras outside of open seasons has generally been interpreted to not constitute pursuing, chasing, or taking wild animals. The use of equipment that sends an alert or image while to aid the person while hunting is not legal under Minnesota's game and fish laws. Drones would tend to fall into a similar scenario if there is a live feed.
Minnesota's game and fish laws do not allow a motor vehicle to be used to drive, chase, or take a wild animal. Drones meet the definition of a motor vehicle. Thermal imaging/night vision equipment cannot be used to take wild animals if possessing a firearm or other equipment that could be used to take wild animals.
We have included information in our hunting regulations booklet that drones, along with other wireless devices, cannot be used to take big game and small game.
As the technology and availability of drones evolves, it may become necessary to enact additional restrictions on the use of drone type equipment in the game and fish context. Your support will be valuable in that endeavor.
Again, thank you.
Tom Landwehr Commissioner
Minnesota BHA Rendezvous
Report (2015): Whitewater State Park
Minnesota BHA held its third annual chapter Rendezvous during the weekend of August 14-16, 2015. We set up camp in southeastern Minnesota’s Whitewater State Park & Wildlife Management Area, enjoying tours of local sights (including the Crystal Springs State Fish/Trout Hatchery and the Pope & Young Club Museum of Bowhunting), excellent food (duck, along with elk burgers/brats), and great friends/comradery.
We also hiked the bluff trails in Whitewater State Park, canoed/fished and scouted (for Minnesota’s Youth Waterfowl Day) the Whitewater River, and took in the astounding surrounds from atop the nearby Elba Fire Tower National Historic Lookout. Links to some photos from the weekend are included below:
Crystal Springs State Fish/Trout Hatchery tour: https://goo.gl/photos/5jo1sWt5wX7hWefF7
Pope & Young Club Museum of Bowhunting tour: https://goo.gl/photos/EFy6gdWDsJqz8jqM7
Elba & Whitewater State Park: https://goo.gl/photos/byHvE3bcg2uexndx7
Elba Fire Tower National Historic Lookout: https://goo.gl/photos/uZziyFrsQQ6Q1ziUA
Overall, it was a relaxed, mostly unstructured “get acquainted” weekend with some serious conversation and plenty of laughter both nights, along with perfect weather all weekend. One result of our evening conversations included deciding to submit a letter to DNR Commissioner Landwehr regarding improving/expanding the state’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (i.e., “drones”) regulations. Read the letter here: http://backcountryhunters.org/index.php/state-chapters/minnesota-bha/minnesota-issues/966-letter-to-commissioner-landwehr-regarding-drones
We’re tentatively considering holding the 2016 MN BHA Rendezvous somewhere in the greater Duluth area (please let us know if you have any ideas for locations). Thanks to everyone who attended the Rendezvous, and for the entire chapter’s continued hard work/boots-on-the-ground efforts to protect our wild public lands, waters and wildlife for future generations of hunters-anglers and other outdoorsmen and women.
As BHA founder (& U.S. Army veteran) Mike Beagle said, “We will continue to be a voice for core values of solitude, challenge, freedom and tradition so badly needed in the world where outdoor pursuits risk becoming more about selling products and technology instead of exercising skill and woodcraft. BHA is getting better and better. The best is yet to come.”
Don’t hesitate to contact myself, Erik Jensen or Matt Norton if you have any questions/concerns going forward:
-MN BHA Co-Chairman (Erik Jensen)
-MN BHA Co-Chairman (David Lien)
-MN BHA Vice Chair-Finance (Matt Norton)
Have a great fall hunting season!
David A. Lien
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers
The Sportsman's Voice for Our Wild Public Lands, Waters and Wildlife
August 25, 2015
TO: Tom Landwehr, Minnesota DNR Commissioner
FROM: Minnesota Backcountry Hunters & Anglers
SUBJ: Drone Regulation
Dear Commissioner Landwehr,
We write as avid hunters, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts on behalf of the Minnesota Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA), a group formed with the goal of protecting our nation’s wild public lands, waters and wildlife for current and future generations of hunters, anglers and other outdoorsmen and women.
We seek to maintain high quality habitat and hunting-angling experiences, as well as a strong code of fair-chase ethics. BHA members share the values of solitude, tradition and challenge when it comes to the outdoors and want to ensure that our public lands and sporting traditions are preserved for future generations.
As you are likely aware, during the last couple years the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or “drones,” has skyrocketed. And, like ATVs and game cameras before them, they have become part of the discussion about fair-chase. Today off-the-shelf drones are available for as little as $100, and for around $1,000 you can purchase sophisticated models with GPS guidance and cameras that send video back to the ground. Consumers are buying thousands of them a year.
Imagine somewhere in Minnesota: A man wakes in a cabin and begins the day by firing up his favorite new accessory—a drone. He uses a smartphone to fly the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle over nearby woods and fields, searching for a trophy white-tailed deer. A camera mounted on the UAV sends live images to the smartphone. Once he locates the buck he wants, he grabs his rifle and, using the smartphone to monitor the live image from the hovering drone, stalks into position for a shot. To prevent just such a scenario from unfolding, in 2014 alone 10 states passed drone-use regulations, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Land Tawney, BHA’s executive director, sees a future where unscrupulous profiteers use evolving drone technology to take the hunt out of hunting. “Our largest concern is the erosion of fair-chase principles,” Tawney says. “Whether drones are used for scouting to find animals or, in a worst-case scenario, where they’re used to pinpoint a particular animal for a hunter to kill, it’s a problem. As drones become more and more accessible and cheaper for people to use, I think there will be a certain element that starts to use them to hunt,” Tawney said. “We’d rather get out in front of that.”
More than 1 million drones of all kinds are expected to be sold in the United States during 2015, compared to 430,000 in 2014 and 120,000 in 2013, according to the Consumer Electronics Association. U.S. pilots reported more than 650 drone sightings during 2015, as of Aug. 9, well over double the 238 total for all of 2014, the FAA said.
The Following Op-Ed Recently appeared in the Duluth News Tribune: 4/5/15
Recently there have been renewed efforts at trading State School Trust Lands, totaling about 30,000 acres in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, for federal public lands in the surrounding Superior National Forest. Hunters and anglers are skeptical about this proposed trade for many reasons, but perhaps our No. 1 concern can be summed up in the words of Rep. David Dill, DFL-Crane Lake. He said of a similar proposed land swap in 2012: “We should mine, log and lease the hell out of that land.”
There are some 2.5 million acres in Minnesota known as School Trust Lands, with 83,000 acres located in the BWCAW. Revenue from timber, mining, leases, etc., that these lands generate are put into the state’s Permanent School Trust Fund. The trust fund generates $26 million to $30 million per year for schools.
Dear LCCMR Members:
Minnesota Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA) are a grassroots group of sportsmen and women who are united by a passion to protect and conserve the public lands, forests, prairies, streams, lakes and game that support our hunting and angling traditions.
We seek to maintain high-quality habitat and hunting experiences, as well as a strong code of fair chase ethics. BHA members share the values of solitude, tradition, challenge, freedom, health, and family, and want to ensure that our public lands and wildlife are preserved for future generations of hunters and others.
And we would like to express our support for the University of Minnesota and Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa proposal to conduct a feasibility study for the restoration of elk to eastern Minnesota. As you know, Minnesota’s native elk were originally distributed over most of the state, but were extirpated by the early l900s. Their current numbers and range in Minnesota are only a fraction of historic levels.
The following Op-Ed was published by the Duluth Tribune here.
A PolyMet Mining board member opined recently in the News Tribune about the company’s proposed sulfide mining operation in Northeastern Minnesota. Not unexpectedly, his Dec. 29 commentary, headlined, “Mineral mining industry merits our appreciation,” made sulfide mining sound like a benign extension of the iron ore and taconite mining that has gone on in our state for generations. But what would you expect from a PolyMet board member?
He conveniently forgot to warn us about acid-mine drainage, for starters. Acid-mine drainage is what results from bringing sulfur-bearing minerals into contact with the atmosphere. Sulfuric acid is created. There are 1,500-year-old, Roman-era hard-rock mines in Europe that are still producing acid-mine drainage pollution today.
In addition in northern Minnesota, where surface water and groundwater mix so readily, PolyMet’s initial Draft Environmental Impact Statement predicted its West Pit would fill with water and overflow into the Partridge River (in the Lake Superior watershed) after the mine’s closure, according to Conservation Minnesota.
TO: Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR) Big-Game Program Coordinator, Leslie McInenly
September 10, 2014
Minnesota Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA) are a grassroots group of sportsmen and women who are united by a passion to protect and conserve the public lands, forests, mountains, prairies, streams, lakes and game that support our hunting and angling traditions.
BHA was founded around an Oregon campfire in 2004 by seven sportsmen and women and now has members in all 50 states, with 17 chapters across the country and Canada, including Minnesota, New York and Pennsylvania, and just about every Western state. Partly as a result of our western roots, we know that when a hunter dreams of a trophy elk thoughts run to frozen mornings deep in the Rocky Mountains. Minnesota seldom comes to mind, but that could (and should) change. As you know, Minnesota’s native elk were originally distributed over most of the state, but were extirpated by the early l900s.
By David Lien
Duluth News Tribune: 7/17/14
In 1887 Theodore Roosevelt founded the Boone and Crockett Club with fellow sportsmen. The group later became Roosevelt’s brain trust of “hunter-conservationists” during his presidential crusade to preserve habitat for elk, deer, buffalo and other species among America’s vast wild places and wide-open spaces. Roosevelt’s work as a “conservation president” was one of many ways he left lasting imprints on the nation.
However, today, Roosevelt’s public-lands legacy is being put at risk. Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a budget engineered by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., that supports selling “unneeded acreage” of federal land on the open market.
Hunters, anglers, and other outdoorsmen and outdoors-women are intimately familiar with our public lands. We know that the possible sale or transfer of federal public lands used for hunting, fishing, camping and hiking will only serve to enrich a few at the expense of many and eliminate access to our public lands and waters. These are lands set aside “for the greatest good of the greatest number for the longest time,” as Gifford Pinchot, first director of the United States Forest Service (appointed by Teddy Roosevelt), said.