Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (BHA) is proud to announce the formation of a new chapter in Arizona. The official BHA roster lists only 20 members for Arizona. Twelve of these members unanimously voted to form a BHA chapter during a meeting at the Sportsman’s Warehouse in Tucson on August 10, 2013. The members also elected four individuals to board positions:
Co-Chairs – Kurt Bahti and Ross McCollum
Treasurer – Jim Littlejohn
Secretary – John Windes
The chapter organization, in addition to the elected board, will also include an advisory board and/or board of directors, as required, to address topics and issues that are of interest to BHA.
Forming a chapter in the 48th State was first discussed in 2009, but the effort never caught traction. The idea of forming a chapter was resurrected when seven members met in June at the Bass Pro Shop in Mesa. However, several other interested members, from the southern part of state, were unable to attend this inaugural get together. So, a vote to establish a chapter was delayed until the August meeting. This second group setting was attended by even a more enthusiastic group of hunters and anglers that recognized the need to have an official BHA voice on Arizona backcountry hunting & fishing interests.
One of the first tasks for the board is to develop an introductory message to the other wildlife conservation organizations in Arizona. A key challenge of this effort is to counter the often heard misperception that BHA is an environmental group that is primarily anti-OHV and pushing a Wilderness agenda. The key message, of this introduction, is to emphasize and promote the BHA backcountry mantra that "the adventure begins where the road ends”. Although the definition of “backcountry” differs greatly between users our message will be that BHA is concerned with all wildlife habitat.
We see the utility of the OHV. We also see the damage that has been done by the OHV. We see the utility of Wilderness in preserving the wild. We also see how Wilderness has confounded active conservation actions. BHA is first and foremost, an organization of hunters and anglers concerned with conserving intact, highly functioning and connected habitats for game and fish and promoting a non-motorized backcountry experience.
Wilderness is but one tool toward achieving this goal. BHA-Arizona does not consider it the only one or necessarily the best one. BHA-Arizona is concerned with habitat issues on federal,state, and private lands. Arizonan’s game and fish need all of them! Some argue that Arizona’s designated wilderness are not ‘true’ wildernesses compared to such places as Montana's Bob Marshall or Idaho's Frank Church-River of No Return wilderness areas. The Copper State's wilderness areas, when compared to some other Western states, are small. There is not a wilderness area that you cannot hike across in a day. Most of the prime elk and mule deer units are criss-crossed with logging roads. In these units a half-mile hike would be considered with a backcountry wilderness hike. The majority of hunters in Arizona hunt in these non-wilderness lands, so actions and management decisions that occur on those lands will also carry a high priority for the Arizona chapter.
These, and other topics, along with the nomination of an advisory board/board of directors, will be addressed during the next meeting at the Sportsman Warehouse in Tucson on September 24. Please attend our next meeting and become an active participant in your BHA chapter.