Photos: Ace Hess
“Acts of creation are ordinarily reserved for gods and poets, but humbler folk may circumvent this restriction if they know how. To plant a pine, for example, one need be neither god nor poet; one need only own a good shovel.”
– Aldo Leopold, Sand County Almanac
By Tim Brass
It is our sense of duty to reinvest in the wild places that provide the sense of awe, inspiration and renewal that drives many of us to volunteer with conservation organizations like Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. We recognize that intact tracts of healthy fish and wildlife habitat are what sustains our game populations – and that our abundant hunting and fishing opportunities are not something we can afford to take for granted.
This is why time and time again, BHA members have rolled up their sleeves to help conserve and restore the publicly accessible ridges and creeks they enjoy – from BHA’s founders working to curtail habitat degradation from illegal motorized use in Oregon in 2009 to members from across North America uniting to pack out more than 4,400 bags of waste from our public lands and waters last fall. Habitat stewardship work has always been core to BHA’s work and mission but we’re doing more than ever. Every year our annual membership survey shows we have thousands of BHA members interested in volunteering on stewardship projects.
We recognize that intact tracts of healthy fish and wildlife habitat are what sustains our game populations – and that our abundant hunting and fishing opportunities are not something we can afford to take for granted.
Today, thanks to significant contributions from dedicated BHA volunteer leaders and staff, as well as dedicated public land management agency staff, we have substantially expanded our stewardship work at a scale and level of impact that is making a real difference. Here’s a glimpse at what these burgeoning partnerships have looked like thus far:
- National Fish and Wildlife Foundation – BHA’s partnership with NFWF recently grew with funding awarded for wildlife habitat improvement projects on public lands in California and Colorado. In California, we will undertake a restoration initiative for habitat and fire-scarred lands in the Hallelujah Junction Wildlife Area, a critical winter range for mule deer and a premium deer hunting zone that burned in several recent wildfires. This work will be implemented in coordination with Nevada Department of Wildlife and California Department of Fish & Wildlife , various NGOs, the Washoe Tribe and Sagebrush in Prisons Project, run through the Federal Correctional Institution. In Colorado, a new, dedicated full- time Colorado Stewardship Coordinator will work directly with volunteers and partners to remove 30-40 miles of obsolete fencing on public lands, which is currently serving as a barrier to wildlife migration within the winter range of North America’s largest elk herd.
- Bureau of Land Management – BHA and our chapter leaders are building on a successful 2021 – 2022 partnership with BLM and their wildlife division staff to successfully carry out 17 new volunteer-supported wildlife habitat restoration work projects across the West, ranging from restoring habitat degraded by illegal motorized use in Alaska to adding markers to nearly 50 miles of fence in Oregon to minimize sage grouse fence collisions.
- National Forest Foundation – In 2020, NFF contributed funding to support implementation of BHA’s fence removal/ modification project on the Kiowa National Grassland in New Mexico through which volunteers helped improve habitat for pronghorn by improving 29 miles of fencelines on public land. This funding also included support for an ongoing project in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness in Idaho, where BHA staff, volunteers and contractors have effectively cleared and re-opened miles of previously inaccessible trails deep within the wilderness.
- State fish and wildlife agencies – From timber-stand improvement and brush-clearing projects on the El Dorado Wildlife Area in Kansas to cleanup events at the Deer Creek State Wildlife Area in Ohio, BHA chapters have continued to build on existing partnerships with state agencies through a wide range of stewardship projects.
These are just a few of the many ways BHA chapters have been working to build on existing partnerships with our public land managers across North America. And the opportunities to do more for your public lands are endless. To grab a shovel and get involved in a stewardship project near you, check out BHA’s event page at backcountryhunters.org/events or, if you have a public land project in mind that you would like to help organize, drop your chapter a note at [email protected]
Tim Brass is BHA’s State Policy & Field Operations Director and lives in Longmont, Colorado, with his wife, Megan, and their 6-year- old daughter, Linden.