Backcountry Hunters & Anglers takes pride in being vocal advocate for the public backcountry lands that sustain our hunting and angling traditions. While the roots of BHA’s advocacy efforts reside largely at the local level with advocates that have boots-on-the-ground experience with the land, our voice, knowledge and passion for the lands we hunt and fish is being recognized nationally.
On December 3, 2012 Backcountry Hunters & Anglers representatives from throughout the West traveled to Washington DC to meet with staff from the White House and Congress. The purpose of the trip was to introduce staff on the hill to the issues that we care about back home.
The issues discussed included:
- Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) – BHA’s focus was to speak-up in support of conservation funding provided by LWCF, a program which funds public access for sportsmen and habitat for wildlife.
- “Making Public Lands Public Act” – A component of the Sportsmen’s Act which would dedicate 1.5% of LWCF funds to providing access for sportsmen to otherwise inaccessible, land-locked ‘public’ parcels.
- Standardized Visible OHV ID – For years BHA has advocated for a nationally standardized visible ID on all OHV’s to aid in enforcement efforts.
- Locally-Based Public Land Protections – In Utah; Idaho; Colorado; Washington and elsewhere BHA is involved in collaborative efforts to come up with habitat protection plans for public lands which balance varied interests.
BHA discussed these issues with staff for: Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA); Rep. Mike Simpson (ID); Rep. Dave Reichert (WA); Sen. Orrin Hatch (UT); Rep. Jason Chaffetz (UT); Sen. Harry Reid (NV); Sen. Mike Crapo (ID); Sen. James Risch (ID); Sen. Mark Udall (CO) and the White House’s Council on Environmental Quality.
While discussions on each of the issues varied greatly from office to office, the following are brief summaries of discussions on each issue:
- Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) – All congressional staff members acknowledged the value of LWCF and supported the idea; however, most also noted that given the financial situation it’s unlikely that LWCF will receive funding at or near the level at which it is approved ($900 million).
- “Making Public Lands Public Act” & The Sportsmen’s Act – The fiscal cliff has overshadowed these efforts and will most likely not receive another vote in the Senate before the year is over, though there is still some hope.
- Standardized Visible OHV ID – Members from both parties understood that more visible ID’s are needed for effective OHV enforcement and many expressed an interest in working to address this issue.
- Locally-Based Public Land Protections – BHA was recognized as an emerging leader within the sportsmen community, or as staff from the White House put it “a unique group that’s bridging the gap between environmental groups and sportsmen on issues like wilderness.”
The meetings were a great success and a great way to ensure that Congressional staff members from throughout the west are aware of BHA’s work, values and growing national presence.
If you’re interested in learning more about the meetings in Washington DC, or about BHA’s national efforts to advocate for the conservation of quality backcountry fish and wildlife habitat, feel free to contact us here.