Meet our first #PublicLandsProud judge: Jess McGlothlin

Meet Jess McGlothlin of The Orvis Company and Jess McGlothlin Media, the guest judge in the first round for our #PublicLandsProud photo contest. For this segment of the contest, she’ll be judging the best fishing photos with her selected  winner receiving a new pair of Costa Sunglasses. Think you have what it takes? Read on to find out what she’ll be looking for in a winning photo and get the full scoop on the #PublicLandsProud contest here.

1. What makes you #PublicLandsProud?

Image courtesy of Bob White.

The simple ability to go out and get lost in the outdoors is one of the best things for the soul. It tends to put everything in perspective. And the fact we have readily accessible public lands is, really, pretty incredible.

2. What’s your ideal day of fishing on public lands?

Hard to say; as I see more—and different—public lands, my idea of a perfect day fishing keeps changing. All I can say it would involve family, a good boat, and a relaxed day on the water. And if the fish are eating so much the better.

3. How do you like to spend your time on public lands? 

I’m usually off on a shoot—be it fishing, hunting, or hiking—but sometimes it’s nice to leave the camera gear at home and just enjoy being outside.

4. What’s your connection to the industry?

Image courtesy of Dry Fly Media.

Currently I freelance full-time, working for editorial clients like the New York Times and various publications and blogs (mostly in the fly-fishing and outdoor industries), and a stable of really awesome commercial clients. I’m also the outdoor copywriter for The Orvis Company.

5. What will you be looking for in a #PublicLandsProud photo?

A good photograph tells a story beyond what’s actually seen in the image. I’ll be looking for shots that make me wonder what the rest of the day was like, what happened next… a good picture is like a story compressed down to a single shot. I can’t wait to see the awesome things folks are doing on our public lands!

Show us your #PublicLandsProud moment and you could be featured on our blog, not to mention win a new pair of Costa Sunglasses. 

Here are three ways you can support sportsmen’s access on public lands. 

Pheasants and steelhead: #PublicLandsProud in Eastern Washington

We check in with Josh Mills from Spokane, WA, who is taking home the first pair of custom Costa Sunglasses as the round one winner of our #PublicLandsProud photo contest.

1. You’ve shown us a favorite #PublicLandsProud moment, now tell us the story behind the picture.

The #PublicLandsProud winner.
Image courtesy of Josh Mills.

We have a special region of Washington known as the Channeled Scablands that turns out is tremendous pheasant habitat. A great deal of the land that we hunt on is either  BLM and or CRP land that has sportsmen’s access.  We have walked this ground for over 40 years pursuing upland game with my dad and our dogs. Combined with gracious landowners who have given us access as well, the public access across the region we hunt gives us great opportunity for some great days afield.

Image courtesy of Josh Mills.

2. How often do you visit these public lands and why is it so special to you?

My father have these particular tracts of land for close to 40 years and I’ve either been with him or had my own hunting license for over 26 years.  The memories made are truly life long…I can put myself in each field, each canyon, each draw instantly in my mind.  I remember my first pheasant. I remember coming up the breaks of the Snake River at 13-years-old and realizing how big this world really is. I remember missed birds, great shots, and dead tired dogs at the end of each hunt. I cant wait to share it with my two boys when they’re old enough to join themselves

3.  If these public lands are lost, what do you and your fellow sportsmen stand to lose?
Access is elemental to the experience. Without public sportsmen’s access,  hunting and fishing become a game with a steep entry fee. We live in a country so unique we don’t have to pay-to-play in the outdoors. Happiness is just a short drive away to the nearest river or tract of land where sportsmen’s access is secured for generations

4.  When not out on public lands, where can we find you (job, family, volunteer, etc.)?

When not out hunting and fishing, I live in Spokane, Washington and work in advertising sales. I’m married to my beautiful wife, Kallie, and have two boys Carson and Mason.  In the minutes of spare time, I serve on the board of directors of the Wild Steelhead Coalition and write a blog centered on fly fishing, hunting, and conservation, www.millsfly.blogspot.com

Show us your #PublicLandsProud moment and you could be featured on our blog, not to mention win a new pair of Costa Sunglasses. 

Pittman-Robertson: 78 Years of Gearing Up for Good Conservation

On this day in 1937, one of the most important pieces of legislation in conservation history was signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt—yep, that other Roosevelt—to dedicate excise taxes on guns, ammunition, and other hunting equipment toward funding conservation and habitat restoration throughout the country. Today, the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, more commonly named the Pittman-Robertson Act for co-sponsors Senator Key Pittman and Congressman Absalom Robertson, can be directly linked to the revitalization and survival of wild turkeys, whitetail deer, elk, pronghorn antelope, wood ducks, black bears, Canada goose, desert bighorn sheep, and mountain lions in our country.

Image courtesy of Bob Wick/BLM.

At the height of commercial and market hunting, and just as several species were on the brink of being over-hunted to the point of extinction, this important bill helped to create a permanent source of funding for conservation in the U.S. Estimates show that Pittman-Robertson has brought in over $8 billion for conservation since 1939—that’s a lot of gear.

Over 4 million acres of sensitive habitat have been acquired with these funds, and the management of wildlife on another 40 million acres has been underwritten with money from P-R and state-funded matches. This funding also ensures that we’re using the best science to assess habitat risks and needs, easily making it part of one of the most successful conservation stories ever.

Image courtesy of Sean Svadilfari/Flickr.

All of this, of course, has come on the backs of sportsmen and women everywhere. Every time we purchase the latest shotgun or bow, or stock up on ammo, we are essentially helping our own cause, but the effects of P-R funding extend far beyond sportsmen.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says that “almost all the lands purchased with P-R money are managed both for wildlife production and for other public uses,” such as hiking, camping, birdwatching, and picnicking.

So, when you’re at the store stocking up for opening day, go ahead and buy that extra box of shells—it’s worth it. The decisions we make today, at the cash register and in Washington, will have lasting effects on our sporting traditions.

Arizona Anglers and Fishing Guides List Six Ways to Enhance Lees Ferry Rainbow Trout Fishery

Image courtesy of Eric Petlock.

To address concerns over an unstable rainbow trout population in northwest Arizona’s Lees Ferry, a coalition of conservation and sportsmen’s groups and Marble Canyon fishing guides has submitted a list of recommendations to the federal and state agencies responsible for maintaining and improving the blue-ribbon fishery. The recommendations will be provided to the Bureau of Reclamation and National Park Service as they develop an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the adoption of a long-term experimental and management plan to determine Glen Canyon Dam operations and river restoration actions for next 15 to 20 years.

The coalition—which includes the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Trout Unlimited, the International Federation of Fly Fishers, Northern Arizona Fly Casters, Arizona Fly Casters, Desert Fly Casters, Anglers United, the Arizona Sportsmen for Wildlife Conservation, and Marble Canyon guides and businesses—delivered the report titled “Lees Ferry Recreational Trout Fishery Management Recommendations: The voice of Lees Ferry recreational anglers, guides, and businesses” at the meeting of the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Work Group in Tempe, Arizona, last week. This group advises the Secretary of the Interior on matters related to the operations of Glen Canyon Dam.

Image courtesy of Eric Petlock.

Currently, dam operations have direct and indirect effects on rainbow trout in the 16-mile stretch of the Colorado River between Glen Canyon Dam and Marble Canyon—an area commonly referred to as Lees Ferry. Completion of the dam in 1964 created a unique tailwater rainbow trout fishery that has grown in importance and reputation locally, regionally, and nationally. But varying water releases from the dam are currently affecting the production and diversity of insects in the river, the survival of young trout, and the growth and condition of adults.

The trout in Lees Ferry have experienced several significant population swings over the years, which has been bad news for local guiding and lodging businesses that depend on a reliable sport fishery. “Currently, the Lees Ferry trout fishery is ecologically unstable,” says John Hamill, Arizona field representative for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Rainbow trout are exhibiting strong natural recruitment, but these populations aren’t fully supported by the amount and diversity of food in the river. Scientific studies also suggest that food supplies are also limiting to native fish populations downstream in Grand Canyon National Park.”

“Our goal is to make sure the trout fishery gets a fair shake in the EIS process,” Hamill says.

Here’s a summary of the recommendations:

  • Establish a more diverse and stable aquatic food base by experimenting with more stable flow regimes to bring back bigger bugs, like mayflies, stone flies, and caddis flies. A more diverse aquatic food base will also benefit the native fish community and other wildlife in the Colorado River corridor.
  • Conduct high-flow releases in the spring to improve the aquatic food base and enhance trout spawning and recruitment when needed.
  • Test the use of flows to manage trout in the Lees Ferry reach and reduce downstream migration. This could help minimize competition with and/or predation of endangered humpback chub.
  • Implement a water temperature control device that has the capacity to release both cold and warm water from the Glen Canyon Dam. Recent studies suggest that the amount of water in Lake Powell will likely decrease in the future as a result of increased water demands and climate change, leading to warmer water releases from the dam. This would seriously impact the Lees Ferry trout fishery and lead to an invasion of cool- and warm-water fish which would seriously impact native fish in Grand Canyon National Park.
  • Establish re-stocking and environmental compliance protocols for responding to potential catastrophic losses of the rainbow trout population in Lees Ferry.
  • Create action strategies to reduce or avoid the potential effects of poorly-oxygenated water passing through the reservoir. Though a rare occurrence, these conditions can pose a direct and immediate hazard to rainbow trout in Lees Ferry.

These recommendations aim to boost the Lees Ferry fishery without detriment to downstream resources. “Our recommendations will improve the quality of the trout fishery and benefit many other Colorado River resources below Glen Canyon Dam,” says John Jordan, conservation chair for Arizona Trout Unlimited. “We expect these steps to support the recovery of the endangered humpback chub, the improvement of camping beaches in Grand Canyon National Park, the development of hydropower generation, and the protection of archaeological sites.”

Read the full report here.

Locked Out: Montana’s Missouri River Breaks

In an increasingly crowded and pay-to-play world, America’s 640 million acres of public lands – including our national forests and Bureau of Land Management lands–have become the nation’s mightiest hunting and fishing strongholds. This is especially true in the West, where according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 72 percent of sportsmen depend on access to public lands for hunting. Without these vast expanses of prairie and sagebrush, foothills and towering peaks, the traditions of hunting and fishing as we have known them for the past century would be lost. Gone also would be a very basic American value: the unique and abundant freedom we’ve known for all of us, rich and poor and in-between, to experience our undeveloped and wild spaces, natural wonders, wildlife and waters, and the assets that have made life and citizenship in our country the envy of the world.

A big game hunter’s bucket list might include a trip to the slopes of Alaska’s Brooks Range for Dall sheep or an excursion deep into the southwestern desert for beautiful little Coues deer. But, one thing is certain: That list will hold a hunt for big bull elk, and there is no better place to do that than on high-country public lands in Colorado.

In Part Six of our series, we head to the north-central part of Montana.

Thousands of years ago, the Missouri River in Montana ran north of where it is today. As the ice ages ended, the river took a new course below the Bears Paw Mountains, near the present-day town of Havre, cutting a wide channel through the fine clay soils of the plains. Rain and snow have since carved the earth into a vast and twisted maze of coulees and canyons, some of them hundreds of feet deep, marked by cliffs of yellow sandstone and weathered buttes, steep slopes of scree and gumbo soil.

Image courtesy of BLM.

The Breaks were one of the last places to be settled in the West. Much of the land went unclaimed while the region was homesteaded. A lot more of the land was abandoned later, when fierce winters and seemingly endless droughts forced even the toughest families to leave.

Today, most of the Missouri Breaks is public land in the care of the Bureau of Land Management. American hunters know it as perhaps the most unique and legendary elk, mule deer, and bighorn sheep country in the world. If you’ve never seen it, ponder this: Mountain hunters are accustomed to going up into the hills to seek their quarry. In the Breaks, you hike down, eventually reaching the big river itself. This is the home of the second-largest elk herd in Montana and some of the West’s biggest trophy bulls.

Nothing comes easy here. There’s galling heat, clouds of mosquitoes, and big rattlers during bugling season. Sometimes in September there’s snow or gumbo mud that will defeat the most determined off-roader. By November, there’s howling blizzards and subzero temperatures. Here, you pack meat uphill and risk missing that one coulee that leads back to the truck. It’s a tough place, and that’s the way Missouri Breaks hunters like it.

Image courtesy of BLM.

So, imagine their dismay at hearing the Breaks are in the crosshairs of the movement to transfer public lands into state—and possible private—ownership. On June 24, 2014, the Montana GOP announced that it had taken a position of “shifting public land management away from Washington, D.C., control,” and interest in private ownership of Missouri Breaks land remains at a record high.

A Texas family recently purchased more than 300,000 acres in the area for hunting purposes. The once-abandoned and unclaimed lands, now rich with big game, solitude, and adventure, are the on-the-ground equivalent of diamonds and gold. If transferred to the state of Montana, these lands could be sold and closed forever to the average American sportsman.

Five individual bills were introduced into the Montana legislature in 2015, and all sought to eliminate or undermine America’s public lands legacy. Rank-and-file sportsmen reacted strongly to these proposals and several hundred of them rallied at the Montana Capitol in opposition to the seizure of public lands. In the end, the voice of sportsmen carried the day, and lawmakers put a stop to every land seizure bill under consideration.

We won this round, but those who want to seize your outdoor riches and opportunities for great adventure will be back with new proposals aimed at eliminating America’s public lands legacy. Sportsmen must be prepared to fight another day.

Here are three ways you can support sportsmen’s access on public lands. 

Stay tuned. In the rest of this 10-part series, we’ll continue to cover some of America’s finest hunting and fishing destinations that could be permanently seized from the public if politicians have their way.

TRCP President Takes Seat on Conservation Advisory Council

TRCP president and CEO will help advise federal agencies on ways to advance habitat conservation, hunting traditions, and sportsmen’s access.

Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, has been selected to serve on the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council, a group established in 2010 to advise federal agencies on wildlife habitat conservation and hunting-related policy issues. U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made the announcement last week.

Image courtesy of TRCP.

This is the first time that Fosburgh will represent TRCP on the council, comprised of 18 discretionary members appointed by the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture and seven non-voting, ex officio members representing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Natural Resource Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency, and Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

“I’m honored to work with this exemplary group of industry leaders, including many of TRCP’s coalition partners, to create better awareness of sportsmen’s issues in Washington and to benefit fish, wildlife, and public access through thoughtful conservation policy,” said Fosburgh.

The council is an official advisory group established under the Federal Advisory Committee Act to help promote and preserve America’s wildlife and hunting heritage for future generations. This group will provide advice on conservation endeavors that benefit wildlife resources and recreational hunting throughout fiscal year 2016. In fiscal year 2015, the council made recommendations on greater sage-grouse conservation measures, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and the next phase of BLM land-use planning—all issues on which the TRCP has been actively engaged.

“The appointees to the Council represent top leadership within the conservation community and possess the expertise to provide us with insightful recommendations to better manage resources critical to America’s rural communities,” Secretary Vilsack said in a release. “Hunters were the nation’s first conservationists, and supporting America’s hunting heritage goes hand-in-hand with pursuing our conservation mission.”

Here are the new and returning appointees to the Council:

  • Jeffrey Crane, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation
  • Whit Fosburgh, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
  • Wayne Hubbard, Urban American Outdoors
  • Winifred Kessler, The Wildlife Society
  • Robert Manes, The Nature Conservancy
  • Frederick Maulson, Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission
  • Robert Model, Boone and Crockett Club
  • Miles Moretti, Mule Deer Foundation
  • Collin O’Mara, National Wildlife Federation
  • Joanna Prukop, former New Mexico Secretary of Energy, Minerals & Natural Resources
  • Stephen Sanetti, National Shooting Sports Foundation
  • Land Tawney, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers
  • Christine Thomas, College of Natural Resources, University of Wisconsin
  • George Thornton, National Wild Turkey Federation
  • John Tomke, Ducks Unlimited
  • Howard Vincent, Pheasants Forever
  • Larry Voyles, Arizona Department of Fish and Game
  • Steve Williams, Wildlife Management Institute

For more information about the Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council, click here.

Federal Judge Blocks Clean Water Rule

Late Thursday, a federal judge in North Dakota blocked the EPA’s new clean water rule just hours before it was due to take effect. Here’s our take:

Image courtesy of Dusan Smetana.

“The EPA’s rule simply restores clean water protections to what they once were, a move that is essential for the future of outdoor recreation, public health, and the economy,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “It’s disappointing that opponents of clean water would prefer legal maneuvers and confusion over clarity in the law, which benefits industry and conservation alike. To ensure the health of one in three Americans, who get their drinking water from streams currently without protection, and the $646-billion outdoor economy driven by hunters, anglers, and others who rely on clean water, this rule must be allowed to move forward.”

Ten Years After Katrina: Are We Still Waiting to Safeguard Our Coastline?

My dad and I spent the morning of August 28, 2005, tacking up plywood to cover the windows of his house in Baton Rouge. It’s a routine part of preparing for any hurricane, the same way you look for anything the wind can turn into a missile and take it inside.

Image courtesy of NOAA.

Dad lived through Hurricanes Betsy and Camille in New Orleans in the 1960s, and we both watched Hurricane Andrew churn and chew through central Louisiana in 1992. We both suspected Katrina would be worse.

All that work readying the house seemed a waste the next day, when Katrina’s winds pushed an 80-foot-tall oak tree right across the roof, allowing torrents of rain to pour in. The feelings of grief, disgust, and helplessness at the sight of that destruction were nothing compared to what my dad felt when he stepped out of a boat onto the roof of my grandmother’s house in New Orleans four days later.

Thankfully my grandmother was safe. Far too many were not. She never returned to the house my grandfather built. It was just a mile or so from Lake Pontchartrain and a couple blocks from the London Avenue Canal. Like other homes on Pasteur Boulevard and all across New Orleans, her house remains empty a decade later, still wearing the watermarks imprinted upon the bricks and stucco, a reminder of the failed federal levee system that turned the city into Lake Pontchartrain’s backwater.

Nearly everyone in south Louisiana and Mississippi has a Katrina story. If they don’t, they have a story about Rita, the oft forgotten storm that brought wind and surge equal to Katrina’s into southwest Louisiana just a month later. I didn’t lose my house. Many of my family members lost their homes, and the memories and possessions that went with them, but they didn’t lose their lives. The struggles of living in Baton Rouge, where the population swelled by 100,000 overnight, even without electricity, paled in comparison to what was unfolding in New Orleans, Lafitte, St. Bernard Parish, Slidell, and Biloxi.

The very least that my roommate and I could do to help was to welcome strangers into our home for a couple of nights. So, we hosted a father and young son who had nowhere else to go. We delivered food and clothes to shelters and helped elderly neighbors clean debris from their yards. We did anything we could to help in a time of such overwhelming helplessness.

Fishing is never far from my mind, but it was hard to even envision the pleasure of heading to the coast amid such chaos. The reality was that places I had fished just days before the storm made landfall, like Grand Isle, Shell Beach, Slidell and Lafitte, were flattened. Roads were broken to pieces, covered in boats, houses, trees, and anything else the storm shook loose. No tackle shops were open. No marinas. Camps and houses were ripped apart. Grocery stores and gas stations had been pushed off their foundations. Bridges were completely washed out.

Friends who made their living as fishing guides lost their businesses overnight. Other friends who sold live bait and owned boat launches had nothing left but the slabs their bait tanks once rested on. Bayous and canals were choked with debris and sediment, making many impassable.

My first post-Katrina fishing trip was in mid-October to Lake Pontchartrain. The fishing was pretty good, despite fears that floodwaters draining and being pumped into the lake would suck the oxygen from the water. The fishing was unremarkable compared to how awestruck I was by the destruction of literally every camp and house along the lake’s northern and eastern shorelines. It was living embodiment of the cliché term—“war zone”—that reporters used to describe everything, almost casually and nauseatingly, in the weeks since the storm. It was absolute destruction on a scale I had never seen. A dozen or more sailboat masts broke the lake’s surface, while the boats themselves rested 14 feet below, and root balls of a half-dozen pine trees were driven top-down, like nails, into the Pontchartrain’s sand and mud bottom.

Image courtesy of NOAA.

In the 10 years since Katrina and Rita, communities have been rebuilt, some smaller but smarter, with homes elevated and constructed to better weather the next big storm. Marinas, boat launches, tackle shops, and gas stations—some of which had to be rebuilt again after Gastav, Ike, and Isaac pounded and swamped our coast over the last seven years—are back and bustling.

Those who rebuilt their homes, communities, and businesses in Katrina’s wake generally aren’t interested in the press conferences, commemorative speeches, and hour-long TV retrospectives on the 10 years that have passed. Those spectacles help only if they come with a renewed and unyielding commitment to continue to fix the failures that occurred at every level and led to Katrina and Rita’s destruction.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was rightly ashamed in admitting that its levees failed. Lawmakers had no choice but to commit the funds needed to fix those mistakes, because many of them shared in that shame. But culpability and urgency is still lacking in addressing the policies that have led to the loss of nearly 2,000 acres of wetlands which once helped to shield Louisiana’s communities from devastating storm surges. Chief among those policies is one that does not permit the lower Mississippi’s waters and sediment to feed and sustain its delta’s swamps and marshes.

Louisiana has developed a coastal restoration and hurricane protection master plan since Katrina and Rita, and there is an agency to ensure the plan’s implementation. The state has eliminated many of the divisive bureaucratic processes that often had levee-building and coastal restoration agencies at odds, competing for the same small pools of funding. With those impediments put aside, the state has admirably advanced science-based projects and initiatives that recognize the value of multiple lines of defense, including the vital role of wetlands, barrier islands, and natural ridges, in ensuring the integrity of levee systems and the safety of our citizens. But, the diversion of sediment back into a delta that’s wasting away from sediment starvation, a large-scale restoration of the delta’s ecosystem, has yet to be addressed. Some politicians have even suggested diversions not be built at all, bowing to pressure from constituents who insist the move will cripple fisheries and that compromises can be made.

As painful as it is for Gulf residents to be reminded of Katrina’s toll this August, hopefully those reminders reinforce our resolve. Hurricanes don’t take pity on us for poor policies and bureaucratic morass. They don’t stop threatening while politicians sort through their priorities. And, as Louisianans have seen three times since Katrina and Rita, storms continue to bring devastation while we wait to protect our communities and restore our wetlands.

There is no such thing as compromise when it comes to restoring our coast, unless we’re ready to accept that the next Katrina could take this coast from us completely.

Why Fisheries Management Needs an Upgrade to Serve the Modern Angler

“Hope burns always in the heart of a fisherman.” —Zane Grey

While the hearts of fishermen may not have changed much since 1919, when Grey wrote that, a lot about saltwater recreational fishing certainly has changed over the years. Today, saltwater anglers can go farther and faster in bigger boats with more advanced engines. Sophisticated electronics and navigation help put us on fish quicker and more reliably.

With these changes comes the need to modernize our federal fisheries management laws, especially considering that the hope of catching “the big one”—a timeless ambition—drives 11 million recreational anglers to get out on salt waters and contribute $70 billion in economic activity each year.

Participants in the Kenai Classic Roundtable with Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). Image courtesy of Fitzgerald Photography.

That’s why I was proud to participate in the Kenai River Classic Roundtable in Soldotna, Alaska, last week. Organized by Yamaha and the Kenai River Sportfishing Association, the roundtable convened the who’s who of conservation leaders in saltwater recreational fishing—including the American Sportfishing Association, Center for Coastal Conservation, Coastal Conservation Association, and the National Marine Manufacturers Association—to talk about the long-term future of our sport, our economy, and the marine fisheries resources that support them.

We talked about where things stand today, including the real conservation and management challenges that saltwater anglers face, and presented our positive unified vision for where we need to go as a community in order to address these challenges.

Image courtesy of Fitzgerald Photography.

First and foremost, we need a new Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA) reauthorization—one that reflects and respects the true economic and conservation values of saltwater recreational fishing—to modernize our fisheries laws. Over the years, MSA has been successful at doing what it was designed to do best:  manage commercial fisheries, Americanize our commercial fleets, and end overfishing. Given the far greater economic impact now provided by recreational anglers, changes must be made in order to manage fisheries effectively and fairly. To ensure a bright future for our marine fisheries and natural resources, we must encourage a management system that provides access and opportunity to more recreational anglers.

American sportsmen are the original stewards and financiers of good conservation: As a group, we contribute $1.5 billion annually through excise taxes, fishing license sales, and direct donations. That is a tradition that we should all take pride in, and it’s also a tradition that will be critical to the future of sportfishing.

We want more anglers on the water for economic reasons, but we actually need more anglers on the water for conservation reasons.

Click here for full-length video of the Classic Roundtable.

To read more about our community’s vision for the future of saltwater recreational fishing, click here.

Public Lands Transfers Threaten Sportsmen’s Access: Upper St. Joe and North Fork of Clearwater River

In an increasingly crowded and pay-to-play world, America’s 640 million acres of public lands – including our national forests and Bureau of Land Management lands–have become the nation’s mightiest hunting and fishing strongholds. This is especially true in the West, where according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 72 percent of sportsmen depend on access to public lands for hunting. Without these vast expanses of prairie and sagebrush, foothills and towering peaks, the traditions of hunting and fishing as we have known them for the past century would be lost. Gone also would be a very basic American value: the unique and abundant freedom we’ve known for all of us, rich and poor and in-between, to experience our undeveloped and wild spaces, natural wonders, wildlife and waters, and the assets that have made life and citizenship in our country the envy of the world.

A big game hunter’s bucket list might include a trip to the slopes of Alaska’s Brooks Range for Dall sheep or an excursion deep into the southwestern desert for beautiful little Coues deer. But, one thing is certain: That list will hold a hunt for big bull elk, and there is no better place to do that than on high-country public lands in Colorado.

In Part Five of our series, we head to north-central Idaho.

The narrow trail unfolds before you, cut into a steep side of a hill descending to the creek-bottom, where you can see cutthroats rising in the long green pools. The trail goes on and on, and there’s still a trace of last winter’s snow on the ridge far above you.

This is Kelly Creek, in north-central Idaho, above the North Fork of the Clearwater River. Here, you’ll find backcountry bear, wolf, and elk hunting, fishing for big West-slope cutthroat trout, and freedom—to make camp where night finds you and wake in the morning to wander again.

Image courtesy of Joel Webster.

If you want to car camp and fish, head for the St. Joe River above Avery or the North Fork of the Clearwater out of Pierce. There are dozens of campgrounds and a maze of logging roads to take you up high, where the huckleberries grow in thickets. You could spend a lifetime hunting and fishing here and not see it all, and many people do just that. Every tumbling tributary has wild trout, forest grouse, and game trails leading to other worlds of shadowed glens and big timber.

Nothing cuts this reverie short like the knowledge that the Idaho legislature has been front and center in demanding the transfer of these, and the rest of the 34 million acres of federal public lands in Idaho, from the federal government to the state. The issue has been hotly debated by Idaho residents, because state management of these lands could result in their sale to private interests, just as it did when timber companies began selling off their lands in this area a decade ago. Private ownership of what is now federal land would impact access to lakes and hunting country on which locals – and visitors – have depended for generations.

Image courtesy of Joel Webster.

With its lush forests and excellent, accessible hunting and fishing, the Upper St. Joe contains some of the most desirable real estate in the West. For long-term and big picture investors, the value lies in the area’s water resources—including Kelly Creek, the waterway makes up more than a quarter of the Clearwater River watershed. Those with interests in this area and others were particularly active during the 2015 Idaho legislative session, and four different bills were proposed that would rob Americans of their outdoor heritage. Fortunately, sportsmen worked even harder than the land grabbers, rallying at the Capitol and generating countless newspaper articles and meeting with legislators. Because of their actions, all proposed land transfer bills died in the 2015 Idaho legislature. But sportsmen must remain diligent as it is almost certain that land seizure advocates will make another run at taking your public lands.

When President Theodore Roosevelt created the Clearwater National Forest in July of 1908, he knew exactly what he was doing. The only question now is whether Americans have the will to carry on one of the world’s great legacies of publicly-accessible hunting, fishing, and camping, or whether we will let it disappear in a haze of bad ideas and short-term greed.

Here are three ways you can support sportsmen’s access on public lands. 

Stay tuned. In the rest of this 10-part series, we’ll continue to cover some of America’s finest hunting and fishing destinations that could be permanently seized from the public if politicians have their way.