Our first project partnering with the USFS in the Lincoln National Forest was a success in many ways. After kicking off the weekend with a Pint Night at the Downshift Brewery's Hidden Taproom in Ruidoso, BHA along with AFI members made camp and enjoyed a campfire while sharing stories and planning out the morning hunts. While many miles were covered Saturday morning, no one was able to connect with a tom. Pausing only for a quick lunch and change of clothes, volunteers headed to the nearby Smokey Bear District ranger station to meet with Brad Allen, a BHA member, USFS employee and our liaison for the weekend. After reviewing a quick checklist of gear we needed, a convoy of volunteers and USFS employees made its way to Big Bear Creek. Once waivers and a short safety briefing were completed, the group had a short hike upstream to the worksite. Brad then gave us an overview of why the work was being done, as well as some long term goals for the project. One goal for the next few years is to build up enough sustainable habitat to reintroduce Rio Grande Cutthroat to the area. Another long term hope for the area is the reintroduction of beavers to the ecosystem. The work that afternoon entailed building about 15 linear feet of "beaver" dams. The structures built were between 2'-3' tall and built using limbs, brush, rocks and soil from the area and the stream bed itself. The work was physically demanding, but the satisfaction of seeing the water pool up behind our dams and knowing it could possibly be fished in the future was a pleasant thought to ponder. Once work was called off and thank you's and goodbye's were said, volunteers made their way back to camp to prepare for our wild game potluck.
Sliders were a favorite entree, with elk, oryx and moose hitting the grill. Elk and oryx burritos were also offered up to eat, along with an aoudad red chile and grilled sandhill crane breast. After the feast and some enjoyment of refreshments donated by the Broken Trail brewery, an intro to turkey hunting was given by Don DeLorenzo before Sunday's hunts were planned and folks turned in for a well earned sleep. Sunday's hunt proved to be tough as well and the only tom taken by the group over the weekend was the first turkey for a 9 year old member's daughter. Once a cleanup and pack up at camp was completed, a somewhat smaller convoy traveled to the South Fork Campground near Bonito Lake. Past fire damage and subsequent erosion, the USFS attempted a revegetation project upstream of the campground. The project employed a stream fed watering system utilizing hundreds of feet of hoses. BHA members packed out a large amount of these hoses along with trash found while doing so. Brad Allen and the other USFS folks were ecstatic about what we were able to accomplish during the weekend.
This project would not have been possible without the ongoing support and partnership provided by USFS staff and the American Fly Fishing Trade Association grant we received to execute this work. NMBHA looks forward to many more boots-on-the-ground work projects with likeminded hunters and anglers. We hope you will join us at a future event so be sure to stay tuned to our upcoming events page!