Stalking Wildness: BHA’s Wilderness Warriors

Stalking Wildness: BHA’s Wilderness Warriors

The title caught my attention: “Wilderness Warriors: Tales of Backcountry Hunting and Veteran Camaraderie.” It was for a Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA) Podcast & Blast (Ep. 172) with BHA Armed Forces Initiative (AFI) leaders Trevor Hubbs and Andy Lehman.[1] As BHA members know from boots on the ground experience, wilderness is the gold standard for wildlife habitat and backcountry hunting and angling. In other words, bigger bucks, bigger bulls, and better fishing![2]

Wilderness generally provides the best wildlife habitat, among many other benefits, which is why “Wilderness Warriors” have called BHA home from the start. However, there’s more to it. “Public lands personify this idea we call America—which is freedom,” Ron Spomer said. “The human animal—the human spirit—is not intended to be confined to a cage.”[3] This human need for freedom and “wild public lands, waters, and wildlife” is the spark that ignited our first BHA campfire.[4]



“On the night in 2004 that Backcountry Hunters & Anglers came to life, at least two of the faces glowing orange and red in the flickering light of a campfire belonged to veterans of military service,” Russell Worth Parker wrote in the Fall 2023 Backcountry Journal. Those two flickering faces belonged to U.S. Army veteran Mike Beagle and U.S. Navy veteran Tony Heckard.[5]

“Almost 20 years later, 20% of BHA’s members are active duty or veterans of military service, a rate more than twice that found amongst the remainder of our citizenry,” Russell added. “It’s not a surprise people drawn to protect national security are also drawn to protect the lands held in common by all North Americans.”[6] As Russell presumes, Wilderness Warriors are (at their core) a potent combination of selfless public servants and determined public lands advocates.

In the Fall 2005 Backcountry Journal BHA founder Mike Beagle said (in “Wilderness: Reservoirs of Freedom”), “The best hunting and angling opportunities lie in America’s roadless areas and designated Wilderness Areas.”[7] “Benefits pour out of Wilderness Areas, in the form of clean water,” he added.[8] As Mike alludes to, public lands, wilderness and roadless areas, clean water and freedom go hand in hand.

BHA Podcast & Blast host Hal Herring said, “The future of the American public lands is as important to our nation as the Bill of Rights or the Constitution itself.”[9] Military veterans like Trevor, Andy, Mike, and Tony know a thing or two about the Constitution. “Every service member takes an oath to ‘protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,’” BHA AFI Veteran Programs Lead Ryan Burkert noted (in the Winter 2022 Backcountry Journal).[10] Which helps explain why selfless and determined public servants have been at the forefront of BHA and conservation from the start.



Public Lands Conservation

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers carry a wide variety of equipment outdoors—rifles, muzzleloaders, bows, shotguns, fly rods, and spinning tackle. But they are united by their passion for the rugged, wild habitat that makes North America’s hunting and fishing the finest in the world. They share an appreciation for the challenge, solitude, and tradition that are found in our nation’s backcountry.[11]

The idea that hunters and anglers are responsible for providing habitat for the game they pursue, and for the ecosystems that support game and other wildlife, is one of the oldest forms of environmental advocacy in North America, owing its existence to hunter-conservationists like former U.S. president and Medal of Honor recipient Theodore Roosevelt.[12] 

Born in 1858, Roosevelt grew up steeped in the lore of Western hunting and adventure. But by the time he went west to hunt big game in 1883, he rode on horseback for 10 days across the grasslands of North Dakota before finding a bison to shoot. Roosevelt felt keenly the loss of a legacy that he believed had belonged to all Americans. He also saw in the ruin of wildlife the potential ruin of the nation, and by the late 1800s the plight of wildlands and wildlife had hit rock bottom.[13]

“With Geronimo’s surrender to General Miles at Skeleton Canyon, Arizona, on September 3, 1886, the last of the Indian resistance was gone. The native bison of the plains were nearly extinct. The plains grizzly bear and plains wolf were extinct,” explained John A. Murray in Wildlife In Peril. “The elk now inhabited only the high mountains. Much of the prairie was homesteaded and even on the most remote alpine ridges herds of sheep grazed. Cattle grazed the range at lower elevation.”[14]



“By the end of the century, the need for a comprehensive federal system for protecting wildlife was recognized. All that was needed was a leader to give birth to the concept. Theodore Roosevelt was that leader,” Murray added. “Roosevelt helped the cause of conservation more than any other president (with the possible exception of Jimmy Carter, who created more parks and wilderness areas—in total acreage—than any other president).”[15]

When Roosevelt became president, he enacted the most sweeping environmental legislation the world had ever seen. “When he entered the White House in 1901, the idea of conservation had not yet found its way into the public mind,” Jim Posewitz wrote in Rifle in Hand: How Wild America Was Saved. “When he left office in 1909, he had implanted the idea of conservation into our culture and enriched our future prospects with 230 million acres of designated public forests, wildlife refuges, bird preserves, parks, national monuments, and game ranges.”[16]

Despite TR’s monumental conservation achievements, and those by countless others since, wilderness is a quickly vanishing resource. “Whether it be ‘big wilderness’ like you find in vast federally protected areas out west or ‘small wilderness’ like you might find on the farm behind your house—these places are constantly being chipped away at, year after year becoming victim to the encroaching footprint of man,” MeatEater contributor Mark Kenyon wrote. “It’s up to us—hunters, anglers, campers, climber, hikers, etc.—to keep ‘all the wild that remains’ wild.”[17]



Copper-Salmon Wilderness

The need for wilderness is not lost on military veterans like Teddy Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter, and Mike Beagle. Mike grew up hunting, fishing, camping, and backpacking around rural Eagle Point and the south Cascades of Oregon, then attended Southern Oregon State College, where he lettered in football all four years and was a three-time all-conference defensive back.  

After college he graduated from the U.S. Army Officer Candidate School (OCS) and the Airborne Course at Fort Benning, Georgia, and then served as a field artillery officer in the 9th Infantry Division at Fort Lewis, Washington (1986–89). After completing his military service, Mike began teaching and received an MA in History and Government from the University of Portland (1993). 

He taught high school social studies in Oregon for fifteen years, along with nineteen years of coaching football and baseball, and founded and led one of the only high school fly fishing conservation clubs in Oregon (1996–98). Then, in 2005, Mike joined the staff of Trout Unlimited and went on to help pass the first sportsmen-led wilderness bill in Oregon history, the Copper-Salmon.

Congress designated the 13,757-acre Copper-Salmon Wilderness in 2009. The Copper-Salmon is bordered by the Grassy Knob Wilderness (17,159 acres) to the west.[18] These adjoined wilderness areas contain one of the nation’s largest remaining stands of low-elevation old-growth forest and, in the north Fork of the Elk River, one of the healthiest salmon, steelhead, and cutthroat runs in the continental United States.[19]

“In Oregon, Trout Unlimited’s Northwest Field Coordinator, Mike Beagle, was instrumental in the campaign to protect the headwaters of the wild Elk River,” an October 2010 Campaign for America’s Wilderness post explained. “The Elk River supports some of the healthiest runs of native Chinook salmon and steelhead on the entire West Coast. The watershed is blanketed with great stands of old-growth Douglas fir and Port Orford cedar, which helps filter the cold, clear waters those fish depend on.”[20]



7003 Days

Thanks to Mike and the “Gang of Seven” and many other selfless hunter-angler-conservationists, during the two decades since our first campfire BHA has grown far beyond “the sum of its parts,” taking on a life of its own. This growth and transformation was accelerated in 2010 by hiring BHA’s first executive director, Jim Akenson. Working alongside Jim were development associate, Rose Casler, and conservation director, Holly Endersby. 

“For Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, 2010 was a year of sweeping change in our leadership and structure,” Jim wrote in the Winter 2011 Backcountry Journal. “Founding Chairman Mike Beagle has officially stepped down, a task that he has tirelessly and effectively tackled, bringing BHA from a fledgling organization in 2004. Mike literally took BHA from a group of friends in a bull session around a campfire near Eagle Point, Ore., to a national organization that is a highly sought after as voice for the concerned sportsmen of today.”[21]

Not to be overlooked, during 2013 Tony Heckard was the last remaining “Gang of Seven” board member to step down. “The board would also like to tip a tin cup of whiskey for Board Member Tony Heckard, of Molalla, Ore. Tony stepped off the board after nearly 10 years of service,” co-chair Ben Long wrote in the Summer 2013 Backcountry Journal. “Tony was one of the legendary ‘gang of 7’ hunters and anglers who were at the founding campfire of BHA … Thank you, Tony.”[22]

The hiring of Jim and a professional staff catapulted BHA to the next level, enhancing our boots on the ground effectiveness throughout the country and continent. Although Jim has since moved on to other life endeavors, he helped propel BHA (with indispensable help from Rose and Holly) forward. In addition, Jim has logged more time living, working, and hunting in a designated wilderness area (7003 days) than most of us can fathom.



Jim and his wife, Holly, spent 21 years managing the University of Idaho’s Taylor Ranch in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness.[23] Writing 7003 Days: 21 Years in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, Akenson says, brought home the uniqueness of his Idaho experience and the importance of those wild places.[24] Partly as a result, he has a deep well of appreciation for wildlands and wildlife.

“We have lengthy bow seasons for elk in many western states only because the elk still have roadless security habitat to be able to escape hunters and carry out the rut cycle,” Jim explained (in the October/November 2012 issue of Traditional Bowhunter). “You don’t have to be a wilderness advocate to want security for huntable wildlife species, as it usually just takes wisdom, applied science, and common sense in regards to access points and roads.”[25]

“The founders thought there was room for an organization based on protecting quiet, remote wilderness,” Akenson said. “Our focus is on roadless areas and the threats to those places.”[26] “The glue is enthusiasm for wild places that take some energy and skill to access for hunting and fishing,” he added. “Our membership is about traditional methods of hunting and fishing and respect for places where wild processes dominate and old-style woodsmanship still thrives.”[27] One of those places is America’s most popular wilderness, the Boundary Waters in northern Minnesota.[28]



The Boundary Waters

In Ernest Hemingway’s short story “Big Two-Hearted River,” World War I veteran Nick Adams is troubled after the war and begins to find peace in the Northwoods.[29] Similarly, in the Spring 2021 Boundary Waters Journal, Stu Osthoff wrote about an encounter he had with a veteran in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. “Turns out the guy was on a ‘decompression trip’ after a brutal stint in Iraq,” Stu said. “This guy had been through hell and back, including fighting for my freedom to enjoy this wilderness.”[30]

In a May 2022 Duluth News Tribune op-ed (“Protecting the Boundary Waters includes for veterans,” 5/24/22), I quoted Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, who said: “This place is sacred to me; it’s sacred to Minnesotans … I will do nothing that puts at risk that sacred place.” Walz is a hunter-angler who served 24 years in the Army National Guard. While in Congress, he was also the senior Democrat on the House Committee on Veterans Affairs. “The right to self-govern was paid for by the blood of patriots,” Walz added.[31]

Regardless, the Boundary Waters is at risk. In the Summer 2019 Backcountry Journal I wrote (in “Veterans, Hunters, Public Land Defenders”), “The Superior National Forest encompasses Minnesota’s 1.1 million-acre Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW), which is threatened by proposed copper-ore sulfide mines. Every sulfide mine is a water-rich environment, like Minnesota, has contaminated surface and/or groundwater with toxic acid mine drainage: 100 percent failure rate.”[32]

A foreign-owned (Chilean) mining company, Antofagasta—i.e., Twin Metals—is looking to build a copper-ore sulfide mine upstream from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness near Ely. Twin Metals also wants to ship mined sulfide ore to our most dangerous adversary, China. It’s no wonder a Boundary Waters administrative mineral withdrawal was completed by the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) in 2023.[33]

The Biden administration protected the headwaters of the Boundary Waters for 20 years through Public Land Order 7917 (PLO), issued on Jan. 26, 2023.[34] “The USFS (U.S. Forest Service) and DOI finalized a 20-year mineral withdrawal of 225,000 acres in the Superior National Forest in January, following an environmental assessment that demonstrated a threat from proposed copper mining to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness,” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers reported in our 2023 Federal Policy Roundup.[35]

“The Boundary Waters is the most visited wilderness area in the United States for good reason. It’s a sportsperson’s paradise,” Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters board member (and MeatEater contributor) Mark Kenyon shared on social media. “Hunters and anglers visiting the area can find world-class cold-water fishing and the opportunity to grouse or deer hunt across millions of acres of mixed hardwoods and conifer forest. … Nowhere else in the country can you experience a water-filled wilderness of this quality or scale.”[36]

During the fall, hunters across the country spend days and weeks stalking and hiking amongst the vast tracts of public lands that all Americans own, which is a byproduct of our democratic form of government and the resulting freedoms it guarantees. For us, public lands are the embodiment of those freedoms. We do not intend to let foreign-owned mining companies strip our state of its natural resources—turning a pristine watershed into a toxic sacrifice zone—to benefit communist China. There will be no sulfide mines here. Not on our watch. Not a chance.[37]



Stalking Wildness

“BHA was conceived at a Republican gathering in Albuquerque in the fall of 2003,” Inside/Outside Southwest contributing editor Ken Wright explained (in “Stalking Wildness,” October/November 2005). “At a meeting of Republicans for Environmental Protection, [Mike] Beagle and a group of fellow hunters were discussing the works of hunting writer and ethicist (and Durango resident) David Petersen, when the idea of a new kind of sportsmen’s group espousing Petersen-like ideas and ideals was hatched. Backcountry Hunters & Anglers was born six months later, at a meeting in Beagle’s backyard in the spring of 2004.”[38]

“Petersen has authored seven books of natural history, including Elkheart, a memoir of his love of elk and elk hunting, and Heartsblood, an inspiring treatise and deeply personal narrative on the spiritual rewards and moral responsibilities of hunting and the wild country it requires,” Wright added. “He also edited A Hunter’s Heart, a controversial anthology on the ethics of hunting that earned him national recognition as a ‘hunting ethicist.’”[39]

David is also a former U.S. Marine Corps helicopter pilot and founder of the first BHA state chapter, in Colorado.[40] “After his Marine Corps stint and another as Western editor for Mother Earth News, Petersen eventually found his voice through critiquing his personal passion for hunting in the stylings of his mentor and friend, Edward Abbey,” Scott Willoughby explained (in a June 12, 2013, Denver Post story).[41]



“This earned him the admiration and respect required to launch Colorado BHA and move into roles as public lands director for Trout Unlimited’s Sportsman’s Conservation Project and a position on Colorado’s Roadless Areas Review Task Force, all the while maintaining his career as author and editor,” Willoughby added. “As for those who have yet to embrace the ethics and traditions upheld by BHA, he’s hoping they’ll come around.”[42]

“Seems like every time something important comes up, too many hunting groups come down on the wrong side. They’re ideological and self-serving rather than about protecting public land. They’re predator-phobic. They’re anti-wilderness. And they’re spreading ignorance and disinformation,” Petersen explained (quoted by Ken Wright in 2005). “My background writing about hunting ethics is about trying to expand the idea of what hunting and wilderness are all about in the minds of hunters and the public. We should all be hunting-ethicists and wilderness activists. It’s what we owe nature.”[43]

The problem is, Petersen speculates, that many would-be conservationist-hunters (and he means anglers, too, for Petersen refers to fishing as “hydraulic hunting”) “don’t get involved because there’s no good organizations to side with. Until BHA came along.” Holly Endersby agrees (also quoted by Ken Wright). “I joined because there wasn’t another organization out there that shared my values,” says Endersby, an Idaho-based outdoors writer, horsewoman, hunter, and angler. “All the rest were us-against-them groups.”[44]

“It’s important to me to get my own food,” explained Endersby, who said that she and her husband live on wild game, including elk, deer, bear, upland birds, and fish. “It’s a privilege to hunt and take animals,” she said, “and when you work hard for something, you value it more.” She and her husband frequently practice their traditional-style stalking in the nearby Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, in Idaho.[45]

It is this place that also taught her that “our public lands are every citizen’s gift,” she explained, adding that she considers it “a civic duty to take care of them.” That also means, she argues, that “healthy ecosystems need a full range of species, including large predators.” “Most other hunting groups don’t address that, or defend that,” she complains. And it’s those senses—a consideration of the needs and honor of the animals and the land—that puts BHA in a category all by itself, summarized David Petersen.[46]

“You’ve got extremists on both sides—hunters’ rights and anti-hunters,” Petersen elaborates (quoted by Ken Wright). “So here comes a group embodying the best of the middle ground of common sense, decency, intelligence and respect. A group that’s not just about rights, but also is promoting respect, responsibility and resource protection.” “Backcountry Hunters & Anglers embodies all the things hunters and anglers should become,” he says. He then adds pointedly, “And all the things we must become in order to continue doing what we love.”[47]



Quality Over Quantity = Results

I’ve always said that BHA is a “quality over quantity” outfit and, as a result, we punch far above our weight. “This is a group that gives voice. It amplifies voice and action. We have found a way to leverage our relationship,” said BHA North American board member Eddie Nickens. “I’ve never been involved in an organization that has this kind of ground up punching power.”[48]

To prove the point we need only catalog a sample of BHA’s past successes. During November 2009—a mere five-plus years after our founding campfire and before we had any paid staff—Campaign For America’s Wilderness (CAW) posted a detailed list of BHA’s most significant accomplishments to date.

“Backcountry Hunters & Anglers understands how to inspire hunters and anglers to protect our public lands. BHA has already contributed to campaigns that helped protect millions of acres of backcountry and wilderness in Washington, California, Idaho, Montana, Colorado, and Oregon,” CAW explained. “Even without staff and on a small budget, BHA has already proven itself as an influential player in public lands debates. Wilderness veterans credit Backcountry Hunters & Anglers with offering key support for several successful wilderness campaigns, including:[49]

-250,000-acre North Coast Wilderness in California.

-106,000-acre Wild Sky Wilderness in the Washington Cascades.

-550,000-acre White Pine County Wilderness in Nevada.

-14,000-acre Copper-Salmon Wilderness and the 127,000-acre Mt. Hood Wilderness expansion in Oregon, among others.

-Withdrawal of 1.2 million acres of public lands from oil and gas development in the Wyoming Range through legislative action.

-Improving the Idaho Roadless Rule, including successfully upgrading over 250,000 acres in the Caribou-Targhee and Sawtooth National Forests and the 21,000-acre Rapid River Roadless area on the Nez Perce National Forest to a stronger level of protection.

-Banning off-highway vehicles from 90 percent of the 130,000-acre Badger-Two Medicine Drainage, along Montanan’s Rocky Mountain Front in the Lewis & Clark National Forest.

-BHA is … working to improve the Colorado Roadless Rule and … to reinstate national roadless protections to 58.5 million acres of unroaded national forest lands.”[50]

“In all, BHA has played a role in protecting nearly 10 million acres of wilderness and roadless backcountry since 2004,” the CAW post explained. “Clearly, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is an organization to watch and support as its power and influence continue to grow.” Again, this was as of November 2009, a mere five-plus years after our founding campfire. We’ve had fifteen years of additional conservation (and related) accomplishments piled on since then!

“So, would Teddy Roosevelt and Aldo Leopold respect and appreciate our efforts? I think those two men would applaud them, but they would warn us to maintain vigilance and avoid apathy,” Jim Akenson cautioned (in the Winter 2011 Backcountry Journal). “In short, stay involved.”[51] Protecting, perpetuating, and expanding our “Reservoirs of Freedom” and other public lands requires constant vigilance and taking the initiative whenever and wherever possible.

The U.S. Navy Seabee Memorial at the entrance to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia preserves a World War II motto that’s also applicable to the battles Wilderness Warriors wage today: “The difficult we do immediately. The impossible takes a little longer.”[52] All conservation battles are difficult. Many, if not most, might seem impossible at first glance.

In a June 2013 Denver Post story by Scott Willoughby (about Colorado BHA founder David Petersen) I was quoted, saying: “‘It’s always a David versus Goliath, which is what I kind of like about it,’ Lien said. ‘It’s always a challenge that you almost can’t win, but the ones you do mean a lot.’”[53] We always face long odds in our battles. So, whenever you’re feeling tired and discouraged, remember TR’s wise words: “Do what you can with what you have where you are.”[54]

 And don’t forget to savor our long (and growing) list of victories. “If there’s one organization that knows how to mix business with pleasure in the outdoors, it’s Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (BHA), which was essentially created over a glass of Crown Royal and the sobering ethics of Aldo Leopold,” Scott Willoughby wrote (in a March 2014 Denver Post story).[55] When we all do a little, we accomplish a lot.


Public Lands = Freedom

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is built on a foundation laid down by hunter-conservationists like Theodore Roosevelt and Aldo Leopold, men who understood that America’s outdoor heritage depends upon healthy habitat, and we take the advice of Roosevelt, who said: “Preserve large tracts of wilderness … for the exercise of the skill of the hunter, whether or not he is a man of means.”[56]

“With public lands, ownership belongs to everybody,” said former BHA President and CEO Land Tawney. “It doesn’t matter if you’re Republican or Democrat or Independent, if you’re rich or you can barely keep food on the table. It doesn’t matter who your parents are, it belongs to all of us. That’s the idea.”[57] The size of your 401(k), bank account, house or vehicle is irrelevant.

“People are attracted to the mystique of the backcountry, especially in its purest, uncommon form—the roadless wilderness,” Land added. “Hunters and anglers know that safeguarding healthy habitat for wildlife on public lands is essential if hunting and fishing traditions are going to persist.”[58] We know instinctively that the fate of our public lands estate is inextricably linked to the future of our hunting and angling. We protect public lands because we hunt and fish, and vice versa.

In short, the future of wildlands, wildlife, freedom, and democracy hinges on what we give, not what we take.[59] It depends on selfless and determined public servants and public lands advocates taking the initiative. It depends on Wilderness Warriors who understand that democracy and freedom go hand in hand with public lands and public service. To drive the point home, in the words of BHA’s Armed Forces Initiative (AFI), “Public Lands = Freedom.”[60]

David Lien is a former Air Force officer and co-chairman of the Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. He’s the author of six books including “Hunting for Experience: Tales of Hunting & Habitat Conservation.” During 2019 he was the recipient of BHA’s Mike Beagle-Chairman’s Award “for outstanding effort on behalf of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers.”[61]



Additional/Related Information

-BHA Stewardship:

-BHA Top 10 Wins (2023). “Being Good Stewards of Our Public Lands, Waters, and Wildlife.” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 12/5/23.

-Kaden McArthur. “Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Federal Policy Roundup 2023.” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: December 2023.

-Kaden McArthur. “BHA’s 2024 Policy Priorities.” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 1/24/24 (See p.19 for Colorado Priority Landscapes).

-Hal Herring. “Wilderness Warriors: Tales of Backcountry Hunting and Veteran Camaraderie.” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Podcast & Blast Ep. 172: 12/25/23. “On this episode we had Trevor Hubbs & Andy Lehman from Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Armed Forces initiative on.”

-Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (9/26/22). “Why BHA? [Colonel] Mike Abell.”

-CBS Saturday Morning (4/16/22) segment (“What role hunting plays in wildlife conservation”) featuring former BHA President and CEO Land Tawney.

-“2021 Rendezvous Recap-Campfire Stories: Hal Herring.” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 9/1/21.

-Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (3/10/20) video. “What is BHA with Land Tawney.”

-Jim Akenson (first BHA Executive Director): 7003 Days: 21 Years in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness (Caxton Press, 2016).

-Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (9/22/14). “BHA #1 Founder Mike Beagle: Bullish for the future.” “The #1 founder of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers reflects on the beginnings and growth of BHA in this special tenth anniversary video.”

-Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (9/11/14). “BHA: Celebrating 50 years of Wilderness.” “Backcountry Hunters & Anglers celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act and defends the importance of keeping federal public lands in public hands.”

-We celebrated BHA’s 10th Anniversary at the 2014 North American Rendezvous in Denver: 2014 North American Rendezvous Rewind (video).


Armed Forces Initiative (AFI)

-Our Mission: “To instill within the Military Community a knowledge of conservation theory, a love of wild places, and a desire to elevate America’s wild lands as fundamental components of American Freedom.” “The BHA mission is all of ours.”[62]

-“Giving Veterans A New Mission In Conservation”

-“Public lands = Freedom”

-“We don’t offer once in a lifetime experiences but the knowledge and skills for a lifetime of experiences.”

-David A. Lien. “Armed Forces Initiative Helps Veterans Hunt … And More.” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 8/17/22.

-BHA’s Armed Forces Initiative. “Armed Forces Initiative-Get Involved.”

-Become An AFI Volunteer; Armed Forces Initiative Leadership.

-Upcoming BHA Armed Forces Initiative (AFI) Events:


Bad Ideas

-Conservation Lands Foundation (CLF). “New attacks on public lands emerge in Congress.” CLF: 11/17/23.

-Kaden McArthur. “New HOUSES Act Still a Threat to Our Public Lands.” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 10/30/23.

-Katie McKalip. “House Appropriations Makes Drastic, Reckless Funding Cuts to Public Lands Management.” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 7/20/23.

-David A. Lien “Selling off our public lands is a bad idea that won’t die.” VailDaily: 1/29/23.

-For more about the ongoing efforts by some legislators in Congress (and others) to privatize our public lands estate see the “Bad Ideas” section (scroll to end) in: “A Hunter-Angler (Hell-Raisin’ & Habitat Savin’) Guide To Winning: Colorado BHA Examples (Browns Canyon & Camp Hale).” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 10/23/23.



-Ben Long’s Hunter & Angler Field Guide to Raising Hell:

-BHA Podcast & Blast, Ep. 162. “Ben Long, The Hunter & Angler Guide to Raising Hell.” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 8/15/23.

-“Ben Long is a hardcore hunter and hardcore conservationist.” -Steven Rinella, The MeatEater

-David Petersen (founder of the first BHA state chapter, in Colorado, and a former U.S. Marine Corps helicopter pilot) books:

-PJ DelHomme. “The Top 20 Books for Hunters and Anglers.” Outdoor Life: 12/21/11 (featuring two BHA stalwarts—David Petersen and Jim Posewitz).

-“Reading Petersen’s books led me to BHA.” -Colorado BHA Co-Chair Don Holmstrom (4/27/22)

-National Deer Association (1/23/24). “WildTail Documentary–America’s Wildest Success Story.” A conservation history documentary narrated by Justin Lynch with input from MeatEater’s Steven Rinella and Clay Newcomb.


Founded by Mike Beagle, a former U.S. Army field artillery officer, and formed around an Oregon campfire, in 2004, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is the voice for our nation’s wild public lands, waters and wildlife. With members spread out across all 50 states and 13 Canadian provinces and territories—including chapters in 48 states, two Canadian provinces and one territory, and Washington, D.C.—BHA brings an authentic, informed, boots-on-the-ground voice to the conservation of public lands. The Colorado BHA chapter was founded by David Petersen (a former U.S. Marine Corps helicopter pilot) in 2005 (the first official BHA chapter)



[1] Hal Herring. “Wilderness Warriors: Tales of Backcountry Hunting and Veteran Camaraderie.” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Podcast & Blast Ep. 172: 12/25/23.

[2] David A. Lien. “Protecting America’s Wilderness.” Aspen Daily News: 3/6/21.

[3] Ron Spomer is a hunting writer, conservationist, and photographer.

[4] “Looking back, looking forward: A brief history of BHA.”

[5] Tony served on the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70). Motto: Vis Per Mare (Strength from the Sea). 

[6] Russell Worth Parker. “Military To Public Lands Protector.” Backcountry Journal: Fall 2023, p. 34.

[7] Mike Beagle, BHA Founder. “Wilderness: Reservoirs of Freedom.” Backcountry Journal: Fall 2005, p. 1.

[8] Mike Beagle, BHA Founder. “Wilderness: Reservoirs of Freedom.” Backcountry Journal: Fall 2005, p. 2.

[9] Will Bostwick. “The New Documentary 'Public Trust' Is a Call to Action: By highlighting three potent public-lands battles, the film asks audiences to take a stand in a political moment that threatens the future of American conservation.” Outside: 2/19/20.

[10] Ryan Burkert, Veteran Programs Lead, Armed Forces Initiative. “Faces of BHA.” Backcountry Journal: Winter 2022, p. 15;

[11] Campaign for America’s Wilderness (CAW). “Backcountry Hunters and Anglers: Protecting Wilderness for Tomorrow’s Sportsmen and Women.” CAW: September 2011.

[12] Hal Herring. “Today’s sportsmen and sportswomen are a powerful force for conservation.” Nature Conservancy: Autumn 2006.

[13] Ibid.

[14] John A. Murray. Wildlife In Peril: The Endangered Mammals Of Colorado. Boulder, Colorado: Roberts Rinehart, Inc. Publishers, 1987, p. 17.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Hal Herring. “Today’s sportsmen and sportswomen are a powerful force for conservation.” Nature Conservancy: Autumn 2006.

[17] Mark Kenyon, MeatEater contributor. “Honing Your Outdoor Skills: A Letter All Hunters Should Read.” Whitetales: Winter 2023, p. 26.



[20] Campaign for America’s Wilderness (CAW). “Trout Unlimited.” CAW: October 2010.

[21] Jim Akenson. “BHA roars into 2011!” Backcountry Journal: Winter 2011, p. 2.

[22] Ben Long, co-chair. “Welcome aboard, Land!” Backcountry Journal: Summer 2013, p. 3.

[23] Katy Nesbitt. “Backcountry Hunters and Anglers tap Akenson as executive director.” The (La Grande, OR) Observer: 1/27/11.

[24] April Streeter. “Can Jim Akenson Rebrand Hunting?” Oregon Business: November/December 2016.

[25] E. Donnall Thomas Jr. “An Interview with … Jim Akenson.” Traditional Bowhunter magazine: October/November 2012, p. 50.

[26] Katy Nesbitt. “Backcountry Hunters and Anglers tap Akenson as executive director.” The (La Grande, OR) Observer: 1/27/11.

[27] E. Donnall Thomas Jr. “An Interview with … Jim Akenson.” Traditional Bowhunter magazine: October/November 2012, p. 49.

[28] Frank Jewell of Duluth is a former St. Louis County commissioner. “President’s visit a reminder of Bidenomics' importance to Canoe Country.” Duluth News Tribune: 2/1/24.

[29] Ryan Rodgers. “The Ghosts Of Basswood Falls.” The Boundary Waters Journal: Winter 2023, p. 54.

[30] Stuart Osthoff. “Wilderness Camaraderie.” The Boundary Waters Journal: Spring 2021, p. 68.

[31] David A. Lien. “Protecting the Boundary Waters includes for veterans.” Duluth News Tribune: 5/24/22.

[32] David A. Lien. “Veterans, Hunters, Public Land Defenders.” Backcountry Journal: Summer 2019, p. 26.

[33] David A. Lien “Local View: Clean water, freedom ought to trump foreign-owned mines.” Duluth News Tribune: 1/11/24.

[34] Frank Jewell of Duluth is a former St. Louis County commissioner. “President's visit a reminder of Bidenomics' importance to Canoe Country.” Duluth News Tribune: 2/1/24.

[35] David A. Lien “Local View: Clean water, freedom ought to trump foreign-owned mines.” Duluth News Tribune: 1/11/24.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Ken Wright, contributing editor. “Stalking Wildness.” Inside/Outside Southwest: October/November 2005.

[39] Ibid.

[40] David A. Lien. “Hunting With A Man Made of Elk.” Colorado Outdoors: 1/23/14.

[41] Scott Willoughby. “David ‘Elkheart’ Petersen aims to protect outdoor resources.” The Denver Post: 6/12/13.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Ken Wright, contributing editor. “Stalking Wildness.” Inside/Outside Southwest: October/November 2005.

[44] Ibid.

[45] Ibid.

[46] Ibid.

[47] Ibid.

[48] Editor(s). “Why BHA?” Backcountry Journal: Winter 2023, p. 18.

[49] Campaign for America’s Wilderness (CAW). “Backcountry Hunters & Anglers.” CAW: November 2009.

[50] Ibid.

[51] Jim Akenson. “BHA roars into 2011!” Backcountry Journal: Winter 2011, p. 2.

[52] Larry J. Schweiger. “Doing the Impossible.” National Wildlife: June/July 2013, p. 6.

[53] Scott Willoughby. “David ‘Elkheart’ Petersen aims to protect outdoor resources.” The Denver Post: 6/12/13.

[54] Editor. Quotations of Theodore Roosevelt. Bedford, Massachusetts: Applewood Books, 2004, p. 11,

[55] Scott Willoughby. “Social events for outdoor enthusiasts easy targets.” The Denver Post: 3/12/14.

[56] Jim Posewitz. Rifle In Hand: How Wild America Was Saved. Helena, Montana: Riverbend Publishing, 2004, p. 87.

[57] David Erickson. “'The stoke level is high': Local nonprofit, brewery team up for public lands-themed beer.” Missoulian: 8/22/19.

[58] Todd Wilkinson. “Tawney: advocate of public backcountry.” Jackson Hole News & Guide: 3/2/16.

[59] Ron Schara. “The Squirrel will show you the way.” Minneapolis-St. Paul (Minn.) Star-Tribune: 9/11/07.



[62] Trevor Hubbs, BHA Armed Forces Initiative (AFI) Coordinator. “Lethal Minds Journal Volume 13.” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 8/17/23.

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