“To those devoid of imagination a blank place on the map is a useless waste; to others, the most valuable part.” – Aldo Leopold
With shorter days and cooler nights, many of us will be looking forward to days spent on the hunt—hopefully in one of those blank places on the map Leopold so valued. Leopold knew, like many Backcountry Hunters & Anglers’ members, that the “blank places” are where you find solitude and challenge. They are where humanity’s footprint is light, and by extension where you find intact ecosystems and thriving wildlife.
As you spend time in the field this autumn, take a moment to reflect on what it takes to keep those places (relatively) blank. In the face of new and continued pressures, healthy wildlife and wild places don’t happen by accident. They need defenders who are willing to stand up and speak out. That’s at the core of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers’ mission, and the highlights in this newsletter are just a small sampling of how BHA is working every day, in ways large and small, to protect our public lands.
Wishing everyone soft steps, steady nerves, and full freezers!
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Colorado Policy Updates
Vote public lands and waters this midterm season!
The Colorado midterm election date is November 8, 2022. Registered voters will receive mail-in ballots soon. Research your candidates well and consider voting for those who are most committed to our hunting and fishing traditions and the conservation of intact fish and wildlife habitat on our public lands and waters. Above all, please VOTE in this important election.
Gunnison sage-grouse management plan
Colorado BHA joined other conservation organizations in commenting on the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) efforts to revise resource management plans for the Gunnison sage-grouse. BHA encouraged the BLM to consider the impacts of invasive and other encroaching flora, siting of renewable energy infrastructure, drought, and domestic sheep grazing. The planning area covers 7.6 million acres of BLM-managed lands in Colorado and Utah. Gunnison sage-grouse are federally listed as “threatened,” with an estimated population in the Gunnison Basin (which holds roughly 87% of the total population) of around 3,800 birds in 2022, although numbers fluctuate year to year.
Colorado chapter comments on big game corridor planning
The Colorado chapter of BHA also recently submitted technical comments on the BLM’s efforts to amend Resource Management Plans (RMPs) in Colorado to better maintain, conserve, and protect big game corridors and other big game habitat areas on BLM-managed lands (approximately 8.3 million acres). The initial comment period, which closes on Sept. 2, will shape the scope of what is expected to be a two-year effort.
Colorado BHA commended the BLM for initiating this amendment process and for their leadership in recognizing the need to address activities on our public lands that are contributing to high-priority big game habitat degradation, fragmentation, and loss.
Healthy wildlife populations depend on a suite of intact habitat types. Our footprint on public lands has increased substantially and this amendment process is an important opportunity for us to assess and address the activities having the most significant impacts on big game habitat on Colorado BLM lands.
In addition to oil and gas impacts, Colorado BHA encouraged the BLM to consider other factors that are or could encroach on big game habitats, including recreation and the siting of renewable energy resources. Colorado BHA also hopes to see the scope of the BLM’s planning expand to include bighorn sheep. To learn more, see “BLM kicks off important big game amendment process.”
Colorado BHA publishes memo on illegal trails
Outdoor recreation is part of our Colorado identity and values. It shapes our communities and how we live our lives. While the growth in outdoor recreation is to be celebrated, it also poses a significant and dynamic threat to wildlife and habitat. The scale and pace of this habitat loss are alarming. To sustain healthy wildlife populations, it's imperative that we ensure the habitat needs of wildlife and our state's recreation priorities are balanced and sustainable into the future.
Colorado BHA has long prioritized trail management as a key issue. To understand more about the problem illegal trails pose and some of Colorado BHA’s suggestions to address them, check out this overview recently published by the chapter: “Balancing recreation and the needs of wildlife.”
Stewardship Coordinator Hired
Brittany Parker was hired as a full-time Habitat Stewardship Coordinator to support our ongoing commitment to boots-on-the-ground conservation. Brittany was born and raised in Rifle and currently lives in Gypsum. She was previously serving as Assistant Regional Director for the Roaring Fork Valley.
The Colorado BHA chapter already engages in an array of stewardship projects throughout the state, and Brittany’s position will allow us to extend our boots-on-the-ground conservation even further. During the field seasons she will be primarily engaged in fence removal projects in northwest Colorado, but as we start to transition to the winter months the scope of this work will expand to help support and plan stewardship projects across the state.
Brittany has already organized a number of projects and has a significant fence removal effort planned near Meeker on Public Lands Day (Sept. 24). If you’re not in the field consider signing up!
Women in the Woods Shotgun Skills Clinic
Caroline Yielding and Suzanne Freehauf hosted a group of five women at Colorado Clays Brighton for a shotgun skills clinic in July. After a question-and-answer session in the classroom, participants spent the day on the range for professional instruction and good times all around.
Prepare To Hunt Rifle Sight In
BHA members came out for a day of rifle instruction and shooting practice to hone their skills for upcoming big game seasons at the Northern Colorado Shooting Park. Novice and experienced shooters alike had an opportunity to learn about all aspects of rifle shooting, from set up and "barrel break-in" to building a proper rest in numerous positions and dialing in scopes to develop data at extended ranges. Many members rang the gong at 300 yards to finish out the day! We look forward to developing more programs in a Prepare To Hunt series in the future.
Summer suds and stewardship
Colorado BHA groups from around the state have been busy, connecting with their communities over a favorite beverage and working with local land managers to improve habitat and share input.
- The Durango team hosted its first Pint Night since the pandemic began, with strong attendance from new and old faces. The group was energized and has lots of plans for future workdays and stewardship projects. Special thanks to the Union Social House in Durango for hosting!
- The Central Mountain team has been active. In May they hosted a Beers & Bows clinic at C&K Archery in Frisco. Shop owner Cameron Shrum discussed archery maintenance and shooting mechanics, and members were able to shoot in C&K Archery's indoor range and enjoy cold drinks. Then in July the group assisted Colorado Parks and Wildlife in obtaining community feedback regarding potential moose hunts in GMUs 044 and 045.
- In July a group of BHA volunteers worked to remove old fencing in the Dan Noble State Wildlife Area near Norwood. Over two days they removed more than a mile of redundant fencing that had been replaced with wildlife-friendly alternatives, making the area a little better for the elk, deer, and sage grouse that depend on this area.
- The Gunnison Valley group in July worked with Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the BLM to restore wet meadows outside Gunnison. A dozen volunteers (and a couple of dogs!) showed up on a rainy Thursday to build stone structures aimed at managing runoff and erosion in important Gunnison sage-grouse habitat and big game winter range.
- In Northern Colorado, over a dozen conservation-minded BHA members joined the Forest Service biologist for the Canyon Lakes Ranger District for a fence removal workday. Nearly two miles of three- and four-strand barbed wire fence was removed and rolled out to the road to be picked up and recycled at a local scrapyard. Many members stayed the night at a nearby dispersed camping area to share a meal, a cold beverage, some good stories, and an incredible display of the stars in the Milky Way above. The group looks forward to more projects like this one in our area in cooperation with the Forest Service and other agencies.
- Thanks to the hard work of BHA volunteers in Jefferson County an old wildlife guzzler that was in disrepair was replaced with a new guzzler and rain collector that will benefit wildlife in the area. This project required some real sweat equity! BHA would like to thank Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Pike National Forest South Platte Ranger District for their partnership and commitment to our wildlife resources. We'd also like to thank Habitat Watchmen David Deschenes and Ross Bruno for their leadership and dedication.
Mark your calendars! The 2023 Colorado BHA Rendezvous will be held June 9-11 at Mason Family State Wildlife Area, along Cebolla Creek between Gunnison and Lake City. We hope to see everyone there for a great time in a beautiful location.
For an up-to-date list of upcoming events, see: https://www.backcountryhunters.org/co_upcoming_events.
In case you missed it
The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership recently released findings from a survey of hunter and angler attitudes about climate change. The poll found that large majorities of respondents supported nature-based climate solutions, such as restoring wetlands, forests, and grasslands, to capture carbon and mitigate the impacts of climate change. Read about other findings in TRCP’s report here.
Thank you for supporting BHA and our chapter's efforts. We couldn't do it without you. Best of luck with your upcoming hunts and please check in on upcoming events and work projects in the weeks and months ahead.
Derek Pankratz, Communications Chair, Colorado BHA