“What if I made a bunch of money and die before I can spend it to buy the free time to fish?” – Jim Harrison, Field & Stream, February 2003
Hopefully you’re taking Mr. Harrison’s warning to heart, and the warmer weather and longer days have found you out enjoying our public lands and waters. For Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, summer also means stewardship. We started the season off with a bang in May with a massive party mixing habitat improvement, food, refreshments, music, giveaways, and amazing camaraderie. And we have more boots-on-the-ground projects in the works across the state in the coming months. We hope you’ll come out, give back to our public lands, and have a blast in the process.
On the policy front, the last few months have been a rollercoaster. We’ve helped secure important advances on “corner crossing” and seen major Colorado public lands legislation reintroduced in Congress. But we’ve also faced a significant setback in improving stream access in Colorado, and saw a consequential US Supreme Court decision affecting clean water across the country.
Win or lose, you can be certain that BHA will be “in the arena,” working to protect public lands, waters, and wildlife. That work is only possible through the generous support of our members. For a limited time, join, renew, upgrade, or gift a membership and be entered to win a Deluxe NRS Slipstream 120 Fishing Raft Package! All summer long we’ll be giving away entries to win the raft below with the purchase of any membership, and drawing early bird prizes along the way!
Sign up before June 26th and be entered to win one of our early bird prizes, a $250 gift certificate to Grundéns!
Celebrating Colorado Public Lands Day
Colorado BHA held its biggest event ever May 19-21 in Gunnison. Dubbed “Beers, Bands, and Barbed Wire Strands,” it definitely lived up to its name.
The weekend kicked off with a wild game potluck where volunteers shared their harvests, with dishes spanning mountain lion green chili, black bear stroganoff, and even a whole grilled deer leg. Saturday saw well over 100 volunteers remove more than five miles(!) of obsolete fencing from surrounding public lands, improving habitat for wildlife. The day rounded out with food and drinks, tremendous giveaways and a silent auction featuring items from the event’s many sponsors, and a rousing set by local Americana and bluegrass band Storm Pass.
It was a tremendous event combining the best of BHA: conservation, stewardship, and a whole mess of fun. A huge thank you to our many sponsors for making this event possible, including Savage Arms, 1% for Open Space, Seek Outside, Mayfly Project (Ross Reels, Airflo, and Abel), Gunnison Country Outfitters, Burris Optics, OnX, Kryptek, Upslope Brewery, Nikwax, Chopwood Mercantile, Meyvn Creative, and many others. Thanks also to our CPW and BLM partners for facilitating the stewardship projects and to the I Bar Ranch for hosting us all weekend. A particular shout-out to John Chandler, BHA’s Gunnison regional leader who spearheaded the effort, and BHA’s Colorado Stewardship Coordinator Britt Parker, who was instrumental in organizing. And a special thank you to all the volunteers who came out and made the event such a tremendous success.
If you missed this year’s event, never fear: we’re already thinking about how to make next year’s Colorado Public Lands Day bash even bigger and better. Stay tuned!
New Armed Forces Initiative liaison appointed
Army National Guard veteran Matt Lee was recently named Colorado liaison for BHA’s Armed Forces Initiative (AFI). A Midwest expat, Matt served on the Minnesota chapter board for many years before moving to Colorado in 2022. He’s passionate about public lands and giving back to the military community.
Colorado BHA Rendezvous recap
The Colorado chapter held its 14th Annual Rendezvous June 9 - 11 at the Soap Creek Corral Dispersed Camping Area, just west of Gunnison. A group of about fifteen—plus canine companions—from across the state met up for a picture-perfect weekend. The gathering included ample opportunities for hiking and fishing, along with an informative Q&A session with CPW Area Wildlife Manager Brandon Diamond. Meals featured a plethora of wild game, including elk burgers and meatballs, elk barbacoa, antelope backstrap, and smoked trout dip. Central West Slope Regional Director Craig Grother reminds us that, “Mr. Jameson also made his annual appearance at the campfire that night.”
The weekend was greatly enhanced by the Dutch oven (and other) cooking wizardry of both Chris Parmeter and Mike McKeever. And a big thank you to Chris for recommending the Rendezvous location. We tentatively plan to return to Soap Creek for the 2024 gathering.
Local advocacy preserves critical habitat near Pagosa Springs
BHA leaders in and around Pagosa Springs scored a major, and unexpected, victory for elk and mule deer recently. When a mountain bike trail system was proposed in the Jackson Mountain area–essentially codifying an existing network of illegal trails–local BHA members thought there was little chance of reversing the plan. Nonetheless, they raised their concerns with local Forest Service officials and others, leveraging the state’s own guidelines for wildlife-smart trail building and research on trails’ impacts on wildlife. To the surprise of many, the San Juan National Forest Pagosa Ranger District announced this spring that it would not be moving forward with the project. You can read the whole story here, but it’s an example of how local voices speaking up for public lands, waters, and wildlife can truly make a difference.
Colorado Policy Updates
Colorado Supreme Court deals setback to stream access
On June 5, the Colorado Supreme Court issued a ruling in the Hill vs. Warsewa water access case, finding against plaintiff Roger Hill and taking a step backward in the fight for legal public access and recreation in the navigable waters of Colorado. The court’s decision means Hill’s case will be dismissed.
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers has been engaged in this legal battle for access for years, filing an amicus brief with two of its partners, American Whitewater, and the Colorado River Outfitters Association. The brief argued that the Arkansas River was in fact a navigable waterway at statehood and thus the public has a right to wade, float, and fish. The court’s decision did not address the question about whether the Arkansas River is a publicly accessible navigable waterway.
“For too long, the state of Colorado has neglected to provide the legal assurance needed to ensure anglers like Roger Hill can freely enjoy the state’s waterways without being threatened or harassed by neighboring private landowners,” said Don Holmstrom, co-chair of CO BHA and an attorney who is tracking the case on behalf of BHA. “Today’s decision leaves anglers like Roger Hill in a catch-22. He cannot sue unless he can prove a legal injury, but he lacks the standing to do so.
To date, the state of Colorado has failed to affirm the public’s right to access to the state’s navigable waterways. Instead, the state has sided with private landowners who have taken extreme steps to block access from rivers and streams, including “death trap” metal obstacles, barbed wire and other aggressive measures that place recreators in dangerous situations. This status quo fails to recognize the importance of navigability and access to the tens of thousands of individuals each year who access Colorado’s rivers to fish, raft or simply enjoy the state’s natural beauty.
“We call on the state’s decision makers to stand up for the public’s right to enjoy recreational access to Colorado’s waters,” Holmstrom continued. “BHA remains committed to working to ensure the public has the right to fish and float in the Centennial State.”
“Apparently, the only remedy for someone in Roger Hill’s position is to test their rights by fishing from the bed of a navigable stream and risking arrest and physical injury by angry landowners,” said attorney and public access expert Mark Squillace. “If Hill or some other parties were arrested for fishing from the bed of a stream, then standing would not be an issue because as defendants they could claim that they have the legal right to stand on the bed of a river because it is held by the state in trust for the people."
“[The] decision by the Colorado Supreme Court represents a setback for the public to recreate in the navigable waters of Colorado,” concluded Holmstrom. “This is not the end but only the beginning of our efforts to secure those rights.”
Wyoming corner crossing case could spur action in Colorado
In a case that’s been closely watched by public lands advocates, the District Court of Wyoming in May found it legal to cross through private airspace when stepping from public land to public land over a shared public/private corner. You can learn more about what the judge’s decision means here.
While ambiguity remains about the status of corner crossing in Colorado, the disposition of the Wyoming case could inject new energy into efforts at a legislative fix in the state (read more here). Colorado state Representatives Brandi Bradley (R) and Elizabeth Velasco (D) are preparing to re-introduce in the 2024 legislative session a bill to clarify the public's ability to cross corners. Please contact your local representatives and ask for their support on this very important measure! And don't forget to sign BHA's corner crossing pledge so we know how much support to count on and your voice will be heard.
Colorado public lands legislation reintroduced in Congress
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO) in May reintroduced the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act. This legislation would protect and conserve more than 400,000 acres of public lands in Colorado. With over a decade of stakeholder engagement and local collaboration, the CORE Act is strongly supported by hunters and anglers who would benefit from intact fish and wildlife habitat.
Last year two major conservation steps were taken by the Biden administration that were a goal of the CORE Act. Both the designation of the Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument and the initiation of a 20-year mineral withdrawal for more than 200,000 acres of western Colorado’s Thompson Divide region. BHA commended both actions at the time and was present for their announcement by President Biden. It is still critical that the CORE Act is passed into law as it would make the Thompson Divide mineral withdrawal permanent, designate wilderness areas in the San Juan Mountains and in the Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument, create new recreation and conservation management areas, and establish a boundary for the existing Curecanti National Recreation Area while improving its management.
We’re preparing for a busy season of stewardship projects and pint nights, and we encourage anyone interested to get involved. For an up-to-date list of all upcoming events, including pint nights and stewardship opportunities, see: https://www.backcountryhunters.org/co_upcoming_events. Be sure to check back often as new events are being added.
In case you missed it: A taste of Rendezvous
Submitted by Leslie Kaminski, BHA Chapter Leader, Montrose
On a cold, dark January evening, the text message went something like, “Hey Leslie, how about being a dessert chef for the Field to Table dinner at the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers Rendezvous this year?” My answer was a hard “Let me think about it,” which ultimately led to a “yes.” Almost immediately I panicked; it was January and I had nothing to forage to make this dessert! So through January and on through February friends ate many versions of what became a very solid recipe that I was proud to serve to 96 dinner guests at the Rendezvous in Missoula. I have to nod to a few North Fork valley chefs for their inspiration and a sugar maker from back home who emphasized a lesson in barometric pressure to get the syrup right.
Now that it’s June, it’s the perfect time to keep an eye open for neon green new growth spruce tips, my foraged element for the Uncompahgre Gaulette. Enjoy!
French Belgian Waffle Cookies (Gaulettes) - adapted from Rebecca Franklin
Yield: 72 cookies
1 lb unsalted butter, softened
3 C brown sugar
6 large eggs
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
7 C rouge de bordeaux flour
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
- Cream butter, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, and almond extracts until smooth
- In separate bowl combine flour, baking soda, and salt
- Lower your mixer speed and pour dry ingredients into wet ingredients until completely mixed together.
- Cover and chill dough for at least 1 hour
- Preheat waffle iron
- Place 1 Tbsp of the dough into each section, close the waffle iron lid
- When browned, place the cookies on a rack to cool
Yield: 2 cups
2 C of heavy cream
1 Tbsp lemon juice
- In a saucepan, bring the cream to a steady 180° F for 3 minutes, start timing when you reach 180° F (this takes a while, don’t boil your cream)
- After 3 minutes at 180° F, add the lemon juice, stir, and keep the mixture at 180° F for an additional 3 minutes
- Take the mixture off of the heat to let cool to room temperature
- Line a strainer with 3 layers of cheesecloth then set into a glass bowl, pour in cooled mixture over the cheesecloth and place in the fridge overnight (whey will drain into the bowl and separate from the cheese)
- Once your cheese has firmed to a spreadable consistency remove from cheesecloth and place in an airtight container. (If your cheese hasn’t set firm, let it continue to set while in the cheesecloth and strainer for up to another day)
- This cheese is meant to be piped onto the gaulette cookie
Spruce Tip Syrup (adapted from Hank Shaw)
Yield: 1 pint
2 C water
2 C sugar
2 C young spruce tips
- Grease inside walls of a saucepan with safflower oil
- Add sugar and water and heat (7° F above your boiling point) to make a simple syrup to the desired viscosity
- Turn off the heat and add rough chopped spruce tips to mixture, cover, and steep
- Let cool to room temperature then place the entire pot into the fridge for up to 48 hours
- Strain spruce tips from your syrup
- Store syrup in a container in your fridge
Pipe mascarpone cheese onto a fully cooled waffle cookie, top with a fresh raspberry, and drizzle spruce tip syrup on top just before you enjoy.
Thank you for the continued support of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers and our Colorado Chapter. We hope to see you at an upcoming event soon. You can always reach our volunteer board at [email protected].
Yours in Conservation,
The Colorado Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers