Sportsmen and women join the public lands revolution;
BHA continues exponential growth across North America
MISSOULA, Mont. – Backcountry Hunters & Anglers members continue to step up in support of North America’s public lands and waters, fish and wildlife, and hunting and fishing opportunities, establishing eight new chapters in the United States and Canada.
The new chapters – Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Yukon – officially launched following a vote by the BHA board of directors at BHA’s North American Rendezvous in Boise, Idaho, in May. Fifteen years after its formation, BHA members have established chapters in 45 states, two Canadian provinces, one Canadian territory and Washington, D.C.
BHA President and CEO Land Tawney commended the drive and dedication of the new chapter leaders as a critical element of the organization’s overall growth.
“This cohort of new chapters might be our best yet,” Tawney said. “From Oklahoma and Iowa to New Jersey and the Yukon they pounded on the door and demanded to be heard. I’m excited about their outstanding leadership, vision and get it done attitude. I can’t wait to see what the next year brings for our budding chapter leaders, members and work on the ground.
“The public lands revolution is alive and well both south and north of the border,” Tawney continued. “With continual geographic coverage from the Arctic Circle to Mexico and the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic, BHA continues to be a force to be reckoned with. With only a few blank spots left it’s only a matter of time before we have all states, provinces and territories covered.”
New BHA chapter leaders relish the opportunity to join the public lands revolution.
“States like Indiana need a BHA presence in their outdoor culture more than anything else right now,” said Indiana Chapter Chair Neil Summers, a resident of South Bend. “Public lands in Midwest states are becoming a thing of the past, and that’s a threat to the future outdoorsmen and women of this state and more states like us.”
“Since its inception Illinois has enjoyed a longstanding tradition of hunting and fishing,” said Seth Trokey, chair of BHA Illinois, who lives in Highland. “Those same traditions are still important to Illinoisans, evident in the more than 1 million hunting licenses, fishing licenses, tags and permits that are sold here annually. Being only 3 percent public, our public lands and waters are that much more important to us. The Illinois chapter looks to protect, promote and expand on those traditions while increasing hunter and angler numbers thru programs like R3/Learn to Hunt and working with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources on programs like the Illinois Recreational Access Program to gain access and opportunity to more hunting and fishing grounds. Our members are engaged, highly motivated and highly intelligent individuals who are eager to increase access and opportunity, increase BHA membership numbers, expand on our volunteer efforts and recruit more men, women and children into the outdoors.”
“Kansas citizens have a strong heritage of hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities, and our members are among the most passionate of those folks,” said Kansas BHA Chair Kurt Ratzlaff, of Bel Aire. “In a state with very little public land, we have learned the values of working hard, taking care of what we have and wanting better for our children and our children’s children. Now that Kansans have come together to form a BHA chapter, we have created a more powerful voice that combines that passion with those values.”
“There was already a serious group of motivated public land advocates in the commonwealth,” said Kentucky Chapter Chair Will Adams, who lives in Lexington. “They have shown themselves ready to defend our public resources at the state and national capitals, even as a U.S. Senate committee met in eastern Kentucky to discuss stripping our citizens of a significant portion of their Daniel Boone National Forest. These public land defenders now have a home in Kentucky BHA, and we are so proud to organize and unify their voices to protect what we’ve grown to love and cherish.”
“When it comes to the hunting and fishing conversation, you have the rest of the United States and then there’s Jersey,” said BHA New Jersey Co-Chair Mike Adams, of Corbin City. “Outdoor recreationists here know what’s at stake, from the imperiled striper fishery to our east and the continual flip flop in bear management policy in our north to the preservation of the Pinelands National Reserve at our center. Forming a Backcountry Hunters & Anglers chapter in our state has been a crucial first step in mitigating some of these issues, and we’re honored to become a part of BHA’s nationwide legacy.”
“Growing up in Oklahoma with permissions to hunt and fish as a child I never knew the importance of public lands, but times have changed and now as an adult I rely heavily on public lands and waters,” said BHA Oklahoma Chair Josh Karum, a resident of Yukon. “Oklahoma only has about 3 percent public lands for 700,000 anglers and 420,000 hunters to share, so the importance of BHA quickly became apparent! I am beyond excited to continue our success at beating bad legislation and to start growing awareness and protections for these precious resources and reintroducing folks to the great outdoors.”
“As a native Tennessean and having spent the vast majority of my life here, I’ve come to realize the importance of our public lands and waters in the last several years,” said Joey Bell, Tennessee chapter chair, who lives in Cane Ridge. “This has made me abundantly passionate about Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. There are many things the general public might not know about Tennessee. For example, Tennessee has 13 mountains that reach above 6,000 feet. The world record walleye, crappie and whitetail deer all were harvested in Tennessee. You can fish for musky, brown trout, brook trout and rainbow trout in Tennessee in parts of our 17,000 miles of streams and rivers as well as largemouth and smallmouth bass. There are opportunities to hunt Sandhill crane, elk and black bear on our 2,356,000 acres of public land. Coming from the Volunteer State it is my honor to serve as the chair for the Tennessee chapter.” The Tennessee chapter is officially launching with a pint night tourthis summer.
“The members of Yukon BHA are proud to have joined the family of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers,” said Lucas Knowles, Yukon chapter co-chair, of Whitehorse. “Yukon has a wealth of pristine wilderness. We are happy to be part of an organization that will help us protect the land, water and wildlife while still providing great opportunities for resident hunters and anglers to participate in the activities we love. We look forward to the support we can receive from the organization, as well as adding our voices to the calls for action on issues important to BHA internationally.”
BHA was formed around an Oregon campfire in 2004. Since then, the group of sportsmen and women has established itself as the leading voice of North American public lands users, including hunters, anglers and other outdoor recreationists. BHA continues to grow rapidly in 2019, with more than 36,000 members – and counting – spread across the continent.
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is the voice
for our wild public lands, waters and wildlife.