2019 marked Backcountry Hunters & Anglers' busiest and most successful year yet. From Washington, D.C., to the Yukon, we came out swinging on all fronts and secured a number of important wins for our public lands, waters and wildlife. Find out more below.
Visit www.backcountryhunters.org/donate. BHA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and your donation is tax deductible.
The John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act (S. 47) was BHA’s most significant win in 2019. S. 47 was a long-awaited package of conservation and public access bills that were hard-won by hunters, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts. An overwhelming number of lawmakers supported the measure with a 92-8 vote in the Senate and a 363-62 vote in the House. The package included permanent authorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund with 3 percent dedicated to securing hunting and fishing access opportunities on our public lands and waters; Frank and Jeanne Moore Wild Steelhead Special Management Area; Methow Valley permanent mineral withdrawal; Paradise Valley permanent mineral withdrawal; California Desert Protection and Recreation Act; Cerro del Yuta and Rio San Antonio wilderness areas; reauthorization of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife program at current funding levels of $51.6 million until FY2022; reauthorization of Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act at $6.5 million until FY2022.
- The relevant committees in the Senate and the House made it a top priority to move public lands legislation this year. We helped organize hearings and votes and advocated for the advancement of more than 17 bills. BHA submitted more than 40 letters supporting the advancement of measures such as the following:
LWCF Permanent Funding Act (H.R. 3195, S. 1081)
Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA, H.R. 3742)
Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act (H.R. 1225)
Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act (S. 2092, H.R. 877)
North American Wetlands Conservation Act (S. 261, H.R. 925)
Fish Habitat Conservation Through Partnership Act (S. 754, H.R. 1747)
America’s Conservation Enhancement Act (ACE Act, S. 3051)
America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act (S. 2302)
Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act (R. 1373)
Central Coast Heritage Protection Act (H.R. 2199)
Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act (H.R. 823)
Ruby Mountains Protection Act (S. 258)
Oregon Recreation Enhancement Act (S. 1262)
Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act (H.R. 2642)
Chronic Wasting Disease Management Act (S. 689, H.R. 1550)
Chronic Wasting Disease Transmission in Cervidae Study Act (S. 382, H.R. 837)
Recreation Not Red Tape Act (S. 1967, H.R. 3458)
- BHA worked with partners to successfully defend against egregious attacks on sage grouse by preventing harmful riders from being attached to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020. While this conservation victory in Congress is significant, weakened federal conservation plans for the bird create new uncertainties heading into 2020. Fortunately, U.S. District Court Judge Lynn Winmill has intervened with an injunction that restores the strong conservation measures afforded by the original 2015 conservation plans. The administration is likely to appeal the ruling, however, which affects more than 51 million acres of sage grouse habitat in Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Nevada, California and Oregon.
- While our federal funding process seems broken with five stopgap funding packages kicking the can down the road in 2019, BHA proactively sought out ways to increase funding for conservation and access programs for Fiscal Year 2020. A $1.4 trillion package was enacted with an overall increase in funding in conservation, including a $60 million increase to the Land and Water Conservation Fund. LWCF has not received this much funding since 2004. BHA and other sportsmen’s organizations were instrumental in advocating for the inclusion of two provisions: 1) authorizing the United States to coordinate with Canada to conduct monitoring, scientific assessments and research on the Great Lakes at $15 million annually until Fiscal Year 2025; 2) permanently authorizing state fish and wildlife agencies to flexibly use the Pittman-Robertson Fund, as needed to recruit, retain and reactivate hunters.
- BHA has been a leading voice opposing Department of the Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s two consecutive secretarial orders delegating the authority of the director of the Bureau of Land Management to William Perry Pendley. Pendley’s track record supporting the transfer of public lands to states and private entities and his efforts to dismantle government agencies including the BLM are beyond troubling. His nefarious reputation and blistering attacks on our public lands legacy make him ill-equipped to lead the land management agency that stewards the majority of our public lands. Our opposition to Pendley generated nearly 20,000 letters to members of Congress urging them to call for official nominations and a transparent Senate confirmation hearing process designed to vet qualified candidates and provide greater public accountability. The administration’s unprecedented approach in continuously delegating authority to Pendley could be extended with a third secretarial order in January.
- Secured a position on the Alberta Game Policy Advisory Council.
- Conducted a candidate questionnaire during the provincial election. Responses were received from all major parties and distributed to members.
- Leading stakeholders in consultations with the province on improving wildlife management and habitat conservation. The resulting Together for Wildlife Strategy prioritizes wildlife stewardship as a province-wide goal. Chapter participation in the process is ongoing.
- Secured membership participation in consultations regarding caribou recovery with the provincial and federal governments. BC BHA is advocating for an adaptive, ecosystem-level approach to recovering the mountain caribou herds.
- Advocated for the Forest and Range Practices Act to be revised for the benefit of ecosystems and wildlife through the development of landscape-level management plans that include measurable objectives to mitigate the cumulative effects on the landscape from industry, forestry, recreation and development.
- Conducted a candidate questionnaire during the federal election. Responses were received from all major parties and distributed to members.
- The Yukon chapter initiated a project to map the loss of hunting opportunity in the territory as the result of the ongoing sale of small parcels of public land for residential and agricultural use.
- Defeated two very dangerous public land seizure bills that threatened our American public land estate.
- Years of hard work by BHA was recently rewarded in Colorado when the state approved the expansion of public recreational access on 500,000 acres of state trust lands that were previously closed to public use, with 100,000 acres opened immediately to the public in 2019.
- The Iowa chapter hit the ground running soon after being officially recognized in beating back legislation (H.F. 542) that would have limited the acquisition of new public lands in the state.
- Kentucky BHA backed the establishment of the Green River National Wildlife Refuge, which became Kentucky’s newest refuge in October.
- Helped advance a 2,000-plus public land acquisition by the Department of Natural Resources.
- Secured support for the successful passage of the Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act in S. 47. The provision permanently protected more than 30,000 acres of public lands adjacent to Yellowstone National Park from future mineral development.
- Passed S.B. 316 with bipartisan sponsorship, which helps limit private landowners from illegally blocking public access to public lands by making it a misdemeanor for any individual to construct a fence around or claim exclusive rights to the use of public land if that person has no leasehold or claim to that piece of land.
- Celebrated a major stream access win in November, when the New Mexico Department of Game & Fish agreed to amend a highly unpopular set of rules which allows landowners to have previously navigable streams bordering private property certified “non-navigable” and therefore closed to public access without the landowner’s consent.
- Worked in partnership with the Department of Natural Resources and other partners to secure the acquisition of 31,000 acres of American Electric Power lands that were traditionally accessible for hunting and fishing but were at risk of being sold off.
- With robust opposition from the newly formed Oklahoma chapter, BHA defeated state legislation that would have limited the purchase of new state wildlife areas.
- With strong chapter engagement, Oregon BHA was successful in stopping the implementation of a permit requirement for archery hunters in the Central Cascades wilderness areas.
- Expanded public hunting access in the Keystone state by helping advance passage of S.B. 147, state legislation that repeals the ban on Sunday hunting for three Sundays during the season.
- Advocated for a successful bipartisan ballot measure titled the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act, or GOSA, which directs a portion of the sales tax on outdoor gear to outdoor recreation and conservation projects within the state.
- Contributed financial resources to a legal fight in which Texas Parks and Wildlife prevailed in asserting its rightful management authority and state ownership under the Public Trust Doctrine for all cervids in Texas including captive-bred deer.
- BHA was pivotal in the passage of the Methow Headwaters Protection Act in S. 47. The provision prohibits future mineral development on 340,000 acres of national forest land that are home to the state’s largest mule deer herd and populations of salmon and steelhead.
- Supported passage of a Teton County ballot measure that secured $10 million in bond funding to mitigate wildlife-related traffic collisions through the construction of wildlife crossings.
BHA’s membership has doubled every year for the last six years, our staff has grown to 31 employees and rapid growth on all fronts is demonstrated by the following numbers:
- Our membership grew to a remarkable 40,000 in 2019, with members in every U.S. state, Canadian province and territory.
- More than 1,100 people have become BHA life members.
- The number of letters to decision makers has grown by 105 percent since 2018 with more than 108,955 letters sent to state and federal representatives in 2019.
- BHA added eight new chapters in Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Tennessee and the Yukon. We now have chapters in 45 states, two Canadian provinces, one Canadian territory and the District of Columbia.
- BHA’s Podcast & Blast with Hal Herring has had over 592,750 all-time downloads since we began in July of 2017. With 66 podcasts now under our belt, we're averaging just over 7,300 unique downloads per podcast. We've had multiple podcasts go to the top of the outdoors chart on iTunes, and we hold steady in the top 40 outdoor podcasts.
- Our very successful BHA collegiate club model has exceeded all expectations, building our presence across the country in unique ways and growing from six established clubs in 2016 to 30 established clubs in 2019, with over 20 more currently in development. The collegiate programs partnered with the USFWS to on work service days at national wildlife refuges across the West. Collegiate club members also participated in D.C. fly-ins and game commission hearings and led the charge for hunting regulation clarifications or changes in partnership with BHA chapters.
- Hunting for Sustainability, a unique BHA program created in Montana, has expanded to Colorado, Idaho and Wyoming with more in the works. Hunting for Sustainability addresses the challenge some would-be hunters experience as they attempt to break into the sport by offering novices hands-on learning guided by seasoned hunters and other experts, while expanding the ranks of hunter-conservationists among college students.
Visit www.backcountryhunters.org/donate. BHA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and your donation is tax deductible.