Contributing Writers: Ryan Burkert and Morgan Mason
Photo Credit: Josh Bent
On June 1st, 2020 Backcountry Hunters & Anglers launched their Armed Forces Program alongside the Hunting for Sustainability and Collegiate Program. The organization hired Morgan Mason to lead this new program for the organization. This new program developed pilot concepts across three major pillars of active duty engagement, veteran initiatives, and legislative priorities. We'd like to take the opportunity to start sharing the design of the program and our initial successes.
We stood up our initial four military installation chapters at Fort Bragg, Camp Lejeune, Fort Wainwright, and Camp Pendleton. We held our first veteran Dual Skills Acquisition Camp with 17 veterans on a mule deer hunt in eastern Montana. We also engaged our elected officials on a number of legislative initiatives, specifically the Accelerating Veterans Recovery Outdoors Act, which passed into law earlier this month.
This next year, the active duty programming is expanding our footprint into other military installations and continuing to build out our existing programs to provide the knowledge, resources, and network for service members and veterans to understand hunting and angling areas and regulations surrounding an installation, how to navigate the on-base hunting/angling opportunities, and reduce some of the barriers to a population that frequently moves and PCS’s. Andrew is leading up the active duty – installation programming for BHA Armed Forces.
For 2021, we’re going to kick-off the veteran programming with a presence at BHA Rendezvous and then move into our Dual Skills Acquisition Camps this summer and fall. The Dual Skills Acquisition Camps will provide an opportunity and community for veterans to gain and share tactical hunting and angling skills, provide foundational knowledge on public lands and waters, and build legislative and policy advocacy skills. At least for the first year, as we develop and refine our programs, the locations will be Montana centric. But, as we figure things out, we look to expand the number of programs and program locations. We’re also going to increase our veteran presence and collaborate with the state BHA chapters for partnership in work projects cleaning up and protecting our public lands and waters.
For the legislative programming, we are building curriculum and opportunities to enable BHA veteran leaders to engage with elected officials and policy makers utilizing their ‘veteran voice’ to advocate for public land and waters and the ethical and fair chase of wild game.
We really appreciate all the support we’ve received so far. Even though it’s only been a few months, we consider the Armed Forces Initiative a tremendous success and we look forward to a full year of programs and growth in 2021.
Early in 2021, we’ll begin publishing our veteran programming calendar and highlighting the additional military installations we’re on-boarding. Also, stay tuned for our “Road to Rendezvous” adventure this Spring.
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