11 Ways BHA Chapters Are Working on Public Access to Your Public Lands & Waters Right Now

Quality public hunting and fishing access consistently tops the list of issues outdoorsmen and women expect Backcountry Hunters & Anglers to help tackle.  The need for recreational access only continues to escalate as the supply of open lands is strained by changing land use patterns and growing development pressures for undeveloped lands and waters.  Limits on supply are being coupled with exploding demand as the pandemic-induced participation increases in hunting, fishing, shooting and other outdoor recreation seems as though it may stick. It is on us to help ensure that we have quality public access to lands and waters – and to ensure there’s quality fish and wildlife habitat when we get there.

As the North American hunting and angling organization which has always focused its limited time and resources on speaking up for YOUR wild public lands, waters and wildlife – we wanted to share a short list of current examples of where BHA’s volunteer-driven chapters are working hard right now to help meet this growing need:

  • California – Californians are fortunate to have rich public hunting, fishing and beaching access to all coastlines, below the mean high tide line. To help continue to advocate for how this access is managed, the chapter recently provided comments on the California Coastal Commission’s public access guidelines.  
  • Montana – The Montana Chapter of BHA has joined other public access advocacy groups in filing a lawsuit to defend public access to Montana’s Crazy Mountains – access which could be lost if those who seek to privatize these historic public access routes are left unchecked.
  • New Mexico – Despite recent setbacks at the New Mexico Game Commission which were promptly met with push-back from the outdoor community, the New Mexico Chapter of BHA continues to work with a coalition of stream access advocacy groups on a lawsuit which would affirm the public’s right to access New Mexico’s public waters.
  • Oregon – The Oregon Chapter of BHA recently contributed $10,000 towards the purchase of a 15,573 acre public land near LaGrande, which is being facilitated coordination with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
  • Pennsylvania – Giving the Pennsylvania Game Commission the full authority to manage and expand hunting on Sundays in the state remains a major priority for the Pennsylvania Chapter of BHA, which has launched a major campaign and action alert backing a bill (SB 607) which would do just that.
  • Mississippi – The Southeast Chapter of BHA helped stop a proposed hunting buffer closure on a state wildlife area in Mississippi from being implemented. The proposed hunting closure was initiated by a neighboring private hunt club would have led to a substantial loss in public hunting opportunity.
  • Rhode Island – The Rhode Island Chapter of BHA has been engaged in a study commissioned by the state legislature regarding public access to the state’s shorelines – an access effort which has been coupled by the chapter’s ongoing engagement in a related legislative study on the direction of future coastal management by the Coastal Resources Management Council.
  • Tennessee – The Tennessee Chapter of BHA is working to stop a 220-acre proposed private development on US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) lands from moving ahead. This development would result in a direct loss of lands currently managed as a wildlife area.
  • Virginia – The Capital Region Chapter of BHA successfully advocated for passage of Senate Bill 8 which would lift the current ban on public land hunting on Sundays in the state. The chapter now waits for a bill in the state House.
  • West Virginia – After losing public hunting access on 4,385 acres of formerly-accessible public lands in the newly-created New River Gorge National Park, the West Virginia chapter of BHA has been working to offset this loss through the purchase of new public lands open to hunting through the Land & Water Conservation Fund.
  • Wyoming – The Wyoming Chapter of BHA has mounted a legal defense fund for four hunters who were cited for criminal trespass after “corner crossing” from one parcel of public land to another.

This is just a partial list of public access issues BHA Chapters are currently tackling on your behalf – to receive more regular communications on public access issue, action alerts and quarterly updates via the Backcountry Journal, please consider becoming a supporting member of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers by joining online here.  Donate to our ongoing public access and conservation work through Project Aspen here and every dollar contributed will be matched!   

 

About Timothy Brass

State Policy Field Operations Director for BHA.