Colorado BHA Habitat Watch Volunteer Program History & Training

1-DPetersen_and_bull-Sep09.JPGDavid Petersen, a resident of Durango, has been a U.S. Marine Corps helicopter pilot, a college writing instructor and a magazine editor.[1] He’s one of the nation’s most renowned trad bow elk hunters and is author or editor of 15 books, including A Man Made of Elk and Ghost Grizzlies.[2] David also founded the first Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA) state chapter, here in Colorado, during 2005.

During 2006, he convinced a former U.S. Air Force officer, David Lien, to be his co-chair.[3] By 2009 the Colorado BHA chapter had grown to around 100 members (we currently have some 3,000) and needed a way to engage more members—who were increasingly expressing an interest in getting more involved—and develop a conduit for developing future chapter leaders.

HWV Program

As a result, we started the Habitat Watch Volunteer (HWV) program during September 2009, the first such program started by a BHA state chapter. Colorado BHA HWVs serve as the chapter’s frontline, our boots-on-the-ground “eyes and ears” throughout the state. In the short span of two months after introducing the program, it had grown to 13 volunteers covering 8 of 11 Colorado national forests.[4]

2Don_Holmstrom-Missoula_trout_(2).jpegDon Holmstrom, one of the chapter’s first HWVs, joined the same month the program started. During 2017, he became Colorado BHA’s HWV Program Coordinator. Thanks to Don’s initiative and hard work, the HWV program now has 39 volunteers covering all 11 of Colorado’s national forests. Don also assumed the role of chapter vice-chair (currently co-chair) during June 2018.

In addition, during 2017 Don started a HWV training program via Zoom sessions and in person meetings. So far, he has organized three Zoom training sessions—September 2017, February 2019 and most recently on April 2, 2020—with more to come. Don also led a HWV training session during the June 2017 Colorado BHA Rendezvous at Sylvan Lake State Park. Topics covered during the April 2020 HWV training session included (in part):

-BHA’s strategic plans and priorities (Colorado and National), coronavirus impacts and the relationship to HWV work: BHA Program Manager, Brien Webster.

  • Colorado BHA trails work and the CPW State Trails Committee: Executive Leadership Team (ELT) member & Central West Slope Regional Director, Craig Grother.
  • Citizen science initiatives–BHA’s work on bighorn sheep conservation: ELT member & Southwest Colorado Regional Director, Dan Parkinson.
  • BHA commentary on trails management planning–Silverton Trails Management Plan: Chapter Leadership Team (CLT) member, Cody Doig.
  • Public water access–“Pack String” river access example, illegal OHV use and trails issues: Habitat Watch Volunteer, Ross Bruno.

“Thanks to everyone for the awesome turnout for the Zoom training session last night!” Don said after the training session. “We had 26 attendees and with the stressful times we are experiencing that shows the amazing dedication of our HWVs.”

Inspire, Empower & Inform

During March 2019, the Colorado BHA Chapter Leadership Team developed a draft Strategic Plan Purpose Statement. The fundamental question we asked ourselves was: “How do we best Inspire, Empower and Inform (i.e., Motivate) our CLT and other Colorado BHA members?”

We noted that Colorado BHA members had already been Inspired to join BHA and (once they’re approved as CLT members or HWVs) are Empowered (to lead/engage in Colorado BHA activities/events/issues). The piece that seemed to need the most work/refinement was arming chapter leaders with more education, training and guidance (Inform), although Don Holmstrom was already ahead of the game with his HWV training sessions.

These training sessions serve to arm our boots-on-the-ground HWVs with information and skills they can use to engage on issues in their respective national forests. “It’s critical that CLT members and Habitat Watch Volunteers are pursuing their ‘passion projects’ that fit within our mission,” BHA Program Manager, Brien Webster, said. “There is no one way to strengthen the chapter or advance our mission.”

“Thanks to Don’s outstanding leadership, combined with a second-to-none breadth and depth of public lands advocacy experience provided by our HWV training session presenters, the bar has been set appropriately high for future sessions,” chapter co-chair, David Lien, said. “A standard of excellence we’ve come to expect from BHA members across Colorado and the continent!”


HWV (& Other) Information

For a summary of BHA’s & Colorado BHA’s 2019 accomplishments, see:

  • “Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers End of Year Report.” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 1/15/20.
  • “Backcountry Hunters & Anglers 2019 Policy Roundup.” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 12/23/19.
  • “Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Mid-Year Report/Update: June 2019.” Backcountry Hunters & Anglers: 7/1/19.
  • Colorado BHA also has nine regional Groups (Boulder County, Northern Colorado, Denver Metro Area, Southeast Colorado, Central Rockies, Gunnison County, Southeast Colorado, Western Colorado, Northwestern Colorado). For additional information see:
  • David Petersen (founder of the first BHA state chapter, here in Colorado, and a former U.S. Marine Corps helicopter pilot) books:

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 over 40,000 members spread out across all 50 states and 13 Canadian provinces and territories—including chapters in 45 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. Since the Colorado BHA chapter was founded by David Petersen (a former U.S. Marine Corps helicopter pilot) in 2005 (the first official BHA chapter), they’ve grown their boots-on-the-ground presence to some 3,000 dedicated hunters and anglers.




[2] Editor(s). “‘Ghost Grizzlies’ to be discussed at Collegiate Peaks Forum.” Leadville (Colo.) Herald Democrat: 5/3/17.

[3] Ed Dentry. “Backcountry Power.” Rocky Mountain News: 9/5/06.

[4] Dakota Warry. “Habitat Watch Program.” Backcountry Journal: Winter 2018, p. 25.

About David Lien

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