The following was written by BHA's Conservation Director, Holly Endersby.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock - and hey, that might not be a bad idea for the future - you’ll know large swaths of Western land are burning-and burning hotter than…well, you know. And looking at the projected temperature and moisture trend line for the future things aren’t going to get better. In fact, we can all say a big hello to the new normal: heat and fire.
But what does that mean for BHA and hunters and anglers in particular? Well this fall I am waiting to see if we can actually get into our high camp for September archery elk hunting or if, like last year, with a wildfire burning 8 miles from our home, I will be packing our important papers and family photo albums for a quick evacuation if needed. It means that hunters, in particular, may have to learn new areas and wildlife habits in order to successfully gather winter’s meat after fire has changed a cherished hunting spot. It also means coming to grip with the fact that the West’s public lands are reaping an 80 year legacy of putting all wildfires out by 10:00 a.m., allowing massive fuel buildup that is now blazing across huge swaths of wildlife habitat. While many biologists point out that fire is a natural process that over the long haul can actually improve wildlife habitat, the truth is, we simply don’t know. With a drier, hotter climate predicted, will we actually see improved habitat….or not? Already scientists are acknowledging many species of wildlife are expanding their ranges northward in response to hotter, drier weather. And we simply don’t know if land will revegetate with the same critical plant species needed for forage or if the change in climate will reduce those plant communities or allow invasive, non-native plants to colonize critical wildlife habitat. As the West blazes this summer, there are a lot of questions and not too many solid answers.
What the new normal means for BHA as an organization is we will advocate even more strenuously to protect precious public land to provide clean drinking water, to help offset carbon emissions and provide quality-and ever diminishing-wildlife habitat. As you read this, BHA is working on behalf of hunters, anglers and wildlife to protect land in Oregon, Utah, Washington, Montana, Colorado and Idaho. And as BHA continues to grow both in numbers and influence, we plan to expand our protection efforts, not only in the West, but in the East and Midwest where our membership is increasing as well.
But, the new normal is also……uncertainty. Humans love predictability but the era we are entering on our planet is anything but consistent and stable. So, like the wildlife we love and work to protect, hunters and anglers and BHA will have to adapt to a changing landscape. We’ll need to be nimble enough to grab opportunities for success on new ground and remain a steadfast voice for the voiceless: the wildlife, land and water we all cherish.