State Report Confirms What Sportsmen Already Know About the State Takeover of Public Lands

A study mandated by Wyoming state legislators finds that the realities of public land management make transfer an unworkable idea

A new state-mandated report on the feasibility of transferring management authority for 25 million publically owned acres to the state of Wyoming concludes that the process would be a financial, administrative, and legislative burden.

Ultimately, the report prepared for the Office of State Lands and Investments (OSLI) says that the state would inherit costly land management issues, like wildfire and litigation, if it were to manage the lands that currently belong to all Americans. The report also cautions that any transfer of land ownership would mean local governments would lose important federal funding sources, such as Payments in Lieu of Taxes.

Image courtesy of Scott Horvath via Flickr.

“We’re not surprised by the findings, although sportsmen in the West should be heartened by the independent confirmation of what experts have been saying for years—the transfer or sale of America’s public lands to individual states would be a financial disaster for local governments and would threaten our access to hunting and fishing,” says Nick Dobric, Wyoming field representative for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. The organization has been calling for lawmakers to oppose state takeover of public lands since January 2015 and has collected more than 34,000 signatures—2,200 of which are from Wyoming hunters and anglers—on a petition.

The report echoes the concerns that sportsmen have raised about the fundamental differences in the way state and national lands are managed. It reads:

State trust lands are in no way required to be managed for multiple use. In fact, the fiduciary obligation to generate sustainable revenue may be mutually exclusive of the ability to manage for multiple use, and this dichotomy significantly affects program revenues and associated costs. As an example, the OSLI issues grazing leases based on market value and has the ability to exclude other uses on the property (i.e., hunting or camping) because they do not generate revenue and could have a negative impact to the livestock producer.

Image courtesy of Alan Levine via Flickr.

Cheyenne sportsman Earl DeGroot, one of the local hunters responsible for the popular Wyoming Sportsmen for Federal Lands page on Facebook, hopes this will be the last talk of public land transfer from state lawmakers. “I hope the legislature will consider the findings of this report, and the overwhelming opposition that Wyoming sportsmen have expressed, and finally put an end to this effort,” says DeGroot. “I feel very fortunate to have hunted elk, deer, antelope, and even bighorn sheep and black bears on federal public lands in Wyoming, and sportsmen are tired of seeing our access jeopardized. The focus of our legislators should be on the real land management solutions and partnerships that will benefit our state.”

A rally in support of public lands, organized by the TRCP and many other hunting, fishing, and outdoor organizations, will take place in Casper on November 5, 2016. Featured speakers will include Chris Madson, conservation writer and former editor of Wyoming Wildlife Magazine, and Land Tawney, president and CEO of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers.

For more information on the would-be impacts of land transfer in Wyoming, and a record of meaningful opposition from elected leaders and counties in the Cowboy State, visit

For the full OSLI report, click here.

A Private-Land Pronghorn Hunt Built on Stewardship, Trust, and a Budding Bromance

Getting permission to hunt private lands can be a win-win situation for you and a conservation-minded landowner

The walk to a private landowner’s door to ask permission to hunt on his ground is always a quiet one. Today’s is no different, except for the crunch of gravel under my hunting boots. I fidget with my keys as I rehearse my opening line.

“Hello, sir. Can I have a minute to ask for permission to hunt on your property?”

I don’t get to the door. Craig Bare is sitting on a deck, enjoying drinks with company. His smile is friendly, his hands calloused. I botch the introduction, racing through my speech like a nervous teen asking for a date.

Farmer Craig Bare grows alfalfa along the border he shares with the Idaho National Laboratory, a massive refuge for big game that makes depredation a problem on Bare’s property. To slow the effects, farmers like Bare allow hunters onto their private lands. Image courtesy of Rob Thornberry.

At its core, asking for permission like this is very intrusive. You are interrupting a person at their home—in my case, somehow, always during a meal—and asking to use their roads, gates, and crops. You offer little in return unless they’re charging a trespass fee. From their perspective, at best, you are an early-morning or late-night commotion in their quiet part of the world. At worst, you are the prospect of open gates, litter, and boorish behavior.

Their reception can easily be warm or hostile, especially if the landowner has been ill-treated in the past. Fortunately, on this windy September afternoon, Bare is all smiles. He said he is celebrating fall, Idaho style: well dressed and in the wind.

I’ve been hunting for pronghorn with a muzzleloader west of Idaho’s Mud Lake. I hold a unique tag, available to keep pronghorn from taking up residence on alfalfa fields that abut a 900-square-mile property owned by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), so I’m restricted to traditional weaponry only. The vast majority of the site is closed to hunting, giving elk, mule deer, and pronghorns a massive desert sanctuary, outside of which trophy-size animals can be found—so can conflicts between wildlife and landowners.

The sign looks foreboding, but the reality on the ground is more nuanced. Cooperation between landowners and state and federal agencies have created a unique hunting opportunity along the boundaries of the Idaho National Laboratory. Image courtesy of Rob Thornberry.

I ask Bare if I can cross his land and set myself up where the ever-skittish antelope leave the DOE property to feed in his green field. He not only gives permission but starts outlining the pronghorn routes he knows of and his neighbor’s boundaries. I meet three landowners during my hunt and all have the same basic instruction: Don’t clean the animals in the fields, park out of the way of heavy equipment, and if you have any problem with my neighbors, tell ’em I sent you.

Bare’s warm reception is especially encouraging because pronghorn have plagued Mud Lake farmers for decades. The relationship got so bad that in the late 1980s, agriculture interests lobbied the state legislature to overrule the Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s management plans and started a massive effort to trim antelope numbers.

The Idaho National Laboratory is a nuclear research facility in eastern Idaho. There is no hunting on the 900-square-mile federal property, but cooperation between landowners and state and federal agencies have created a unique hunt along the edges of the lab. Image courtesy of Rob Thornberry.

Cooler heads ultimately prevailed. Fish and Game increased harvest limits and designed hunts, like mine, to keep pronghorns at bay. Programs to compensate landowners for crop losses were also bolstered. And the site expanded its trespass rules for hunters, allowing sportsmen to hunt just within the site’s boundaries.

Bare knows the history well, but he doesn’t see hunters—or antelope—as a problem. I thank him for the warm welcome and the access. “We want the same things,” he says as we prepare to part. “We want Idaho to stay Idaho.”

That night’s hunt is nearly perfect, except for the fact that the largest buck stays out of range. The chance is ultimately spoiled by my impatience. But I head back to the truck with the reassurance that hunters have powerful allies as we look to protect our heritage for decades to come. That is, perhaps, just as important as all the public land access in the world.

Later, my friend Jim Hardy teased me about my budding bromance with the farmer. All jokes aside, I am glad I mustered the courage to ask a favor of a private landowner. It could have ended poorly, but that day’s interaction was perfect. I made a friend and represented the best of hunters and anglers.

Meet Our Final #PublicLandsProud Contest Judge: Allie D’Andrea

Say ‘hello’ to our final #PublicLandsProud contest judge, Allie D’Andrea of First Lite.  Growing up in Pittsburgh, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in emergency medicine and worked for a while as a paramedic. D’Andrea had the intentions of becoming a physician’s assistant, but after working as a medic, she quickly found that she lacked a true passion for the medical field. In short, she loved learning about medicine, but not practicing medicine. Feeling unfulfilled, and uninspired, she changed course and landed an internship with First Lite, then packed up, and moved to Idaho. Now when she’s not managing the social media accounts and contributing to the marketing efforts of one of hunting’s most loved and recognized brands, you’ll find her out exploring and appreciating public lands like never before.

Image courtesy of Allie D’Andrea.

TRCP: How do you spend your time outside? Break it down for us by season.

Allie D’Andrea:

  • Spring – bear hunting, turkey hunting, scouting, running, hiking, fishing
  • Summer – Shooting bow, drinking beer, enjoying the sunshine
  • Fall – hunting, hunting, hunting, mystified by the mountains
  • Winter – pretending I can ski, creating recipes out of the game I shot that fall

TRCP: What type of photo captures the essence of fall for sportsmen and public land users?

Image courtesy of Allie D’Andrea.

Allie: Any photo that highlights the experience of being on public land is a winner to me. Whether it is summiting a mountain, gutting your first deer, or laying under the stars, something that captures the feeling of freedom or discovery is what best represents the essence of public lands to me!

TRCP: What makes you #PublicLandsProud?

Allie: I am proud of the public lands I have explored and the lessons I have learned while being there. My admiration and connection to the natural world has flourished on public lands. Where ever I am, public land will always be my doorway to the great outdoors. This is why I am so proud to represent a company like First Lite that shares the same values and works to conserve this land that provides us with such incredible experiences. 

Show us your #PublicLandsProud moment and you could be featured on our blog and win a #PublicLandsProud prize package. It includes a new pair of Costa sunglasses, a copy of Steven Rinella’s new book, The Complete Guide to Hunting, Butchering, and Cooking Wild Game, a TRCP hat, a First Lite merino wool neck gaiter, TRCP/Sitka-branded YETI rambler tumbler, Orvis fishing shirt, and Bantam® Buck® knife. 

From the CEO’s Desk: Keeping Conservation Relevant in a Changing World

As we learn and grow our outdoor skills each season, we must also teach and grow our community, recognizing one fundamental truth—the next generation of sportsmen and women may not look like us

This week, at the SHIFT Festival in Jackson Hole, Wyo., the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is sponsoring a workshop on the topic of cultural relevancy and being more inclusive of diverse audiences. Workshop leaders will explore, in other words, how we maintain hunting, angling, and outdoor recreation in a rapidly changing America.

This is a topic that every conservation organization is dealing with in one way or another. The future of our membership base depends on reaching new communities, and the future of conservation in America depends on our success.

According to a 2011 survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), more than 37 million U.S. residents age 16 and older participated in hunting and/or fishing. Almost 12 million children from ages 6 to 15 also hunted and/or fished, making the overall number of hunters and anglers about 49 million. Collectively, sportsmen and women spent almost $90 billion to pursue those passions.

Every time we purchase fishing rods, tackle, motor boat fuel, guns, and ammunition, we pay a 10- or 11-percent federal excise tax that is returned to the states to pay for conservation. In 2011, excise taxes going toward sportfish restoration topped $667 million, and more than $484 million went to wildlife restoration.

Collectively, sportsmen and women provide 80 percent of funding for all wildlife species—not just the game and fish we like to pursue.

While overall hunting and fishing numbers have remained fairly stable over the last 20 years, the average hunter/angler is white, male, and getting older. Numerous federal and state studies show similar trend lines. Recognizing the long-term implications of these trends for hunting and fishing businesses, not to mention state and federal conservation efforts, many states and NGOs have launched initiatives to improve the recruitment, retention, and reactivation (collectively known as R3) of hunters and anglers.

Image courtesy of Vamos a Pescar via Instagram

By far the most significant is an effort by the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF) known as Take Me Fishing. The RBFF has also launched a parallel effort to engage Hispanics in boating and fishing with their Vamos a Pescar campaign, which is based on some simple demographic facts:

  • There are 55 million Hispanics in the U.S., representing 17 percent of the U.S. population.
  • Hispanics accounted for 48 percent of all population growth from 2012 to 2013.
  • The Hispanic population is projected to reach 65 million (or 20 percent of the U.S. population) by 2020.
  • The median age of Hispanics in the U.S. is 29, versus 43 years old for non-Hispanic whites.
  • And 24 percent of kids under the age of 18 are Hispanic, while 26 percent of kids under 5 years old are Hispanic.

While the Hispanic population is one example, our community also needs to reach out to women, African Americans, Asian Americans, and others who are not a major part of the outdoor community today. We also need to get our kids away from screens and back outside.

One positive step is the effort to modernize the Pittman-Robertson program—the federal excise tax on guns, ammunition and archery equipment—to allow a portion of what’s collected to be used for R3 activities, like Vamos a Pescar and Take Me Fishing. This is already possible on the fishing side, thanks to Dingell-Johnson legislation, but it’s not currently permitted with the P-R funds, although a bill is currently before Congress that would change this.

Beyond policy efforts, it is incumbent on all of us to welcome new constituencies into our community. We should be the ones—conservation professionals, like me, and license-carrying hunters and anglers, like you—to explain the role that hunters and anglers have played in making the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation a global success story. We need to welcome new faces to the campfire and help them understand that hunting and fishing, as well as the 640 million acres of public lands available for every American to enjoy, is our heritage and birthright.

Fundamentally, we must also embrace the idea that the next generation of sportsmen and women may not look like us. We can’t afford to be left behind.

Learn more about SHIFT here and the Cultural Relevancy Workshop here. And tune into a live feed of Steven Rinella’s keynote address, with a special Q&A session led by Whit Fosburgh, on TRCP’s Facebook page on Saturday, October 15, starting at 8:30 pm ET. 

Farm Run-Off and Why Sportsmen Should Care About This Sh*t

Does it seem like you’re reading more and more headlines about algal blooms, dead zones, and water crises across our country? Here’s why

Water is always moving. The Lake Erie waters dripping off a just-landed walleye contain billions upon billions of molecules that traveled untold miles over time, picking up all kinds of chemical hitchhikers, which include nutrients—nitrogen and phosphorus—from farm fertilizer. While the word “nutrient” is often associated with positive effects on human health, they can become dangerous pollutants in our watersheds.

On September 22, the Environmental Protection Agency released a memo renewing a single call to action: reduce nutrient pollution. Why? Because it “remains one of the greatest challenges to our Nation’s water quality and presents a growing threat to public health and local economies.” In other words, nutrient pollution makes our water toxic to drink and costs communities millions of dollars to treat.

Harmful algal bloom on Kelley’s Island in Lake Erie. Photo courtesy of NOAA Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory.

Nutrient pollution comes from many sources, including storm run-off from cities, but a lot of it drains into our water via poorly managed agricultural land. Nutrients in fertilizers make farms more productive, but when rain washes over those fields, nutrients can pollute entire watersheds. The Des Moines Water Works lawsuit, which is perhaps the biggest legal action on water quality in decades, specifically addresses pollution caused by nitrogen, one of the major components of fertilizer. The downstream impacts are bad for human health, sportfish, waterfowl, and even your Labrador retriever.

While the nutrients themselves can be toxic, the effects of added nitrogen and phosphorus can ripple out with devastating effects. Nutrient pollution leads to algal blooms, which decimate fish and wildlife populations not only near the agricultural lands where nutrients are sourced, but also downstream at some of the best freshwater fishing, saltwater fishing, and hunting spots—on both private and public lands and waters.

That’s why you, the hunting and angling community, should care deeply about this problem.

What’s Feeding the Beast

Nutrients facilitate algae growth, just like fertilizer on a farm facilitates crop growth, and the algae need little else to survive. While there is typically more than enough light and water to keep algae reproducing, the presence, or lack, of nutrients in water is the limiting factor keeping algae populations in check. Reduce nutrients and growth stops. Add them, and growth explodes uninhibited.

How nutrient pollution impacts fish and waterfowl. Up arrows indicate an increase in amount/population, and down arrows indicate a decrease.

The critters that we love—fish, ducks, and more—thrive in conditions with low levels of algae. When we add fertilizer to the equation, everything gets out of whack, and resulting algal blooms become a big, big problem. Here’s why:

First, and most simply, some types of algae are toxic if consumed by fish, wildlife, and humans. When these toxic algae bloom, they can create dire scenarios for public health. This has led to states of emergency in cities and towns across the country, including parts of Florida, the Great Lakes, and Utah. In 2014, half a million residents of Toledo, Ohio, were banned from drinking the city’s water, or using it to cook or brush their teeth, for three days. Similarly, algal blooms are also toxic for fish, wildlife, and pets (including your bird dog) and can cause massive die-offs.

Second, algal blooms lead to a depletion of oxygen. As algae dies it decomposes, and the business of decomposition requires a lot of oxygen. All that oxygen consumption leads to hypoxia, the absence of dissolved oxygen in water, which causes sportfish such as trout and salmon to literally suffocate. This is what’s happening in the Gulf of Mexico and Chesapeake Bay dead zones.

Third, mats of algae block sunlight from entering the water, harming aquatic plants by limiting their ability to convert sunlight into energy. This causes vegetation to disappear from wetland and coastal areas, removing an important food source for fish and waterfowl and a source of oxygen that is urgently needed in water where algae are decomposing.

All of this is to say that when you read or hear about clean water initiatives, you should be as concerned as you would about a threat to your public access, because toxic water means losing opportunities to hunt and fish.

And when you think about conservation, remember that watersheds often start on private lands and that landowner conservation practices—like restoring wetlands, maintaining stream buffers, and planting cover crops—are critical to maintaining healthy fish and wildlife habitat. Visit to learn about one of the most successful programs for conservation on private lands, and take action to support even better habitat initiatives in the next Farm Bill.


Getting In Close on Public Lands Pronghorns

It’s a privilege to access public lands, but sometimes that means competing for a shot at filling your tag—here’s one story of a successful bowhunt from a blind that almost didn’t happen

I tried hard to control my breathing as the first pronghorn walked in front of my shooting window. I sat motionless, with my bow ready, as the doe dipped her head to drink. For two hours I had been glassing the pronghorn antelope from a ground blind set up on public land in the dry southeast corner of Oregon. There were ten antelope now just 30 yards from my blind. The biggest of three bucks was last in line as they slowly made their way into the waterhole.

Pronghorn archery hunting on public land is extremely challenging, but I felt lucky to be there. The wide open space and lack of cover in antelope country is not conducive to bowhunting at close range. A ground blind on a well-used waterhole upped my prospects, but it wasn’t easy to find one unclaimed by another hunter.

The author with his public land, DIY Oregon pronghorn. Image courtesy of Mike Roth.

That’s one of the central challenges of hunting public lands—we are so fortunate to have these places to go, but they are a shared resource. Blind hunting, in particular, is first come, first served. From my experience, two blinds with two different hunters on one waterhole will result in neither shooting an antelope. Hunters are much better off simply respecting each other’s right to hunt public land; if someone is there first, move on.

Blind hunting is definitely worth a try. Here’s what I’ve learned:

First, whether your public lands are managed by the BLM, Forest Service, or another agency, check with the local office about restrictions and placement dates. On BLM lands in Oregon, you can place your blind up to ten days before the beginning of the season, but no sooner. And your blind must be removed within seven days of the season’s closure. While all this may seem like a pain, and a longer allowance might be nice, it’s less stressful on the animals if there aren’t blinds set up a month before season and a month after.

As early as you can, based on these restrictions, look to place your blind on the downwind side of some form of natural funnel: a well-traveled trail or an important source of food or water, as was my choice in the arid sage flats of Oregon’s high desert. I’d arrived in my unit four days before opening day, which, having hunted there before, I figured was plenty early. I knew the landscape and that there were only 15 tags given out. Still, I spent an exhausting morning hiking into waterhole after waterhole, all of them occupied by other hunters’ blinds, until I finally got lucky. As I stood in the sage and glassed the hole, I could see it was only occupied by thirsty antelope.

Finding water holes are key to archery pronghorn hunts on public land. Image courtesy of Mike Roth.

Set up your blind, check your shooting lanes, and get comfortable enough to sit all day long. For me, this means a small stool, lots of snacks, and plenty of water. Temperatures inside of a hunting blind in the direct sunlight can reach staggering highs. You want to be alert and ready to shoot when the opportunity presents itself, not lightheaded and dehydrated.

Similarly, as much as I’d like a cross breeze, I usually insist on keeping all but one of the windows closed. The goal is to have it as dark as possible inside the blind. I practice drawing my bow and aiming out the front window to make sure there are no obstructions. Any flaps or screens that are in the way are dealt with now. I also like to remove my hiking boots and put on another pair of socks to keep me quieter in the blind. Antelope will still act especially wary when approaching a waterhole, and any noise or movement from inside of the blind will put them on the run.

Then you wait, with your bow at arm’s length and an arrow ready to fly.

For me, all this preparation paid off. As the doe’s mouth touched the water, a second doe came into view. As she stepped up to the water to drink, I lifted my bow and nocked an arrow. My heart was beating so fast and loud in my own ears that I was sure the antelope could hear it, too. I willed the blind to do its job of concealing me. Suddenly, the big buck charged into view and trotted into the water about knee-deep.

My bow came up, and the arrow touched my cheek as I came to full draw. The buck’s nose hit the water, and my arrow was gone.

I watched the arrow slide into his ribcage and bury itself into his far shoulder. The waterhole exploded as antelope ran every direction. I watched the buck run 60 yards and turn around to look back. The other antelope caught up to him, settling into a walk toward the short sage.  Another 40 yards and the big buck lowered himself to the ground.

Relieved, I too sat back. I set down my bow and started to put on my boots. It was time to get to work.

Patience and persistence pays off. Image courtesy of Mike Roth.

Ground blind hunting was very effective for me this fall, and though the search for my very own piece of public land was frustrating, I remain grateful for the privilege. I guarantee that when a big pronghorn buck walks in to 20 yards and stares right into the dark black rectangle you are sitting in, you’ll forget all about your hike past other blinds and how hot, cramped, and bored you were ten minutes ago.

If you agree that hunts like this are worth the wait, take a minute to support our opportunities to hunt and fish on public lands, especially those undeveloped, pristine BLM lands in the backcountry. Having better tools for managing these lands ensures that “Sportsmen’s Country” can thrive. It only takes a minute, and it might mean a shorter sit next season.

Mike Roth is a born-and-raised Oregonian, and a third-generation hunter. He prefers the intimate experience of bowhunting, and when he’s not chasing big game on public lands, he’s salmon and steelhead fishing from his drift boat.

Until Now, Conservation of Shad and River Herring Has Only Focused On Half Their Habitat

Why anglers support an important step in making conservation efforts whole for this important mid-Atlantic fishery

Each spring, the sportsmen and women of Washington, D.C., head to the Potomac River to shake off the rust of winter and take advantage of the return of the American and Hickory shad. This is a time-honored tradition—George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were shad fishermen—as Americans of all stripes have counted on the return of these fish for thousands of years.


Image courtesy of Steve Kline.

But the shad run, which coincides with the river herring migration, isn’t what it was in the days of the Founding Fathers. Both species of fish spawn in the far reaches of rivers, but spend most of their lives in the open ocean, and are subject to threats and problems in both places. So, any effort to conserve the species and rebuild stocks must combine efforts targeting both their freshwater spawning grounds and their saltwater habitat.

For years, freshwater anglers have supported state-based attempts to address the challenges in rivers and streams: namely poor water quality and fish passages blocked by dams and culverts. Millions of public and private dollars have been spent on fish ladders and stream restoration up and down the rivers of the East Coast, and harvest restrictions have turned a once-important local food supply into an entirely catch-and-release fishery.

Shad dart. Image courtesy of Steve Kline.

But stocks haven’t rebounded. At a time when our waters are literally full of conservation success stories, these highly migratory keystone species have remained stubbornly short of restoration targets. And fishermen and fishery managers are left to scratch their collective heads, wondering when the return on their investments might swing back upstream.

This is because the conservation puzzle for shad and river herring has been missing a glaring piece: the conservation of these stocks in the open ocean.

Generally, shad and river herring are not targeted by commercial fishermen, but they frequently find themselves in commercial nets as untargeted bycatch, mixed in with other saleable bait species, or thrown dead over the side. Without a fisheries management plan that includes shad and river herring, all of this ‘incidental’ take has gone unaccounted for, and no one could really say how many shad and river herring were being harvested as bycatch.

All the money and effort on the state side will continue to be unsuccessful if the fish can just be wantonly harvested on the open ocean.

This week, the Mid Atlantic Fishery Management Council is meeting in New Jersey to vote on a sensible step forward. By including these fish in a formal Fisheries Management Plan, the council could ensure that conservation efforts cover the shad and river herring’s full range, from the skinny waters of their early spring spawn in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia all the way to the open Atlantic. TRCP is strongly supportive of this overdue action, and we are confident that with this step, the conservation strategy for these historic fish will be made whole.

Colorado’s Lake County Opposes Transfer of America’s Public Lands to the State

This is the tenth Colorado county to join a growing movement against state takeover of national public lands, which are the lifeblood of sportsmen’s access in the West

The Board of Lake County Commissioners has passed a resolution opposing the effort to transfer or sell national public lands to the state of Colorado or local governments. This decision supports every American’s ability to hunt, fish, and recreate on public lands and underscores the conservation legacy of leaders like Theodore Roosevelt, who helped create a public lands system that is the envy of the world.

“The commission has proven its commitment to America’s public lands and they should be commended by sportsmen beyond the county limits,” says Nick Payne, Colorado field representative for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Lake County public lands include a frontier mining district with a rich history, and the county is home to the headwaters of the Arkansas River, which is very popular with anglers and rafters. Efforts to restore and reclaim the fishery have been very successful, and more than 100 miles of the Arkansas is now recognized as a having Gold Medal status—that’s worth safeguarding for citizens.”

Image courtesy of Christopher Rosenberger/Flickr.

The county’s resolution recognizes the importance of public lands for:

  • Providing fish and wildlife habitat and opportunities for outdoor recreation—including hunting, fishing, hiking, wildlife-watching, horseback riding, and bicycling—that are essential to residents’ quality of life.
  • Attracting outdoor recreation tourism that drives local spending and employs hundreds of county residents.
  • Preserving historically significant and irreplaceable cultural sites and landscapes.

It’s worth noting that the BLM’s Eastern Colorado Resource Management Plan, which is currently being revised, includes Lake County backcountry lands that provide important habitat for bighorn sheep and elk, as well as other game species, and sportsmen are proposing unique protections for these areas. With this resolution, the commission has highlighted the value of these public lands for their benefit to fish, wildlife, and outdoor recreation.

“Backcountry BLM lands in Lake County provide important habitat for bighorn sheep and great fishing opportunities on various drainages of the Arkansas River,” says Tim Hill, owner of Colorado Fly Fishing Guides out of Leadville. “By passing a resolution in favor of these federal public lands, the commission is joining a growing majority of county governments in Colorado and across the West that see how unworkable and insulting the idea of state takeover is to millions of Americans. I hope that other counties across the West will continue to carry this banner in support of our outdoor heritage.”

A total of 21 pro-public-lands resolutions have been passed by county and municipal governments in the past two years. The new, where hunters and anglers can take action and find resources on the would-be impacts of land transfer, has an exhaustive list of these resolutions and other meaningful opposition. Click here to learn more.

Bucks and Bulls: Exploring the Economic Value of Hunting Montana’s Backcountry

New study explores why we cannot afford to lose our backcountry landscapes

Back in August, we posted some beautiful photos of the Missouri Breaks region taken by photographer Charlie Bulla. Clearly, there can’t be much argument against the aesthetic value of these BLM lands outside Lewistown, Mont., but we believe the economic impact of the landscape is equally astonishing. A recent financial study released by Headwaters Economics—an independent, nonpartisan research group headquartered in Bozeman—shows that expenditures from hunting in this region contribute significantly and sustainably to the local economy.

The study looked at expenditures in four adjacent hunting districts, which include lands that the BLM will be addressing in the Resource Management Plan (RMP) currently in development for the Lewistown field office.

A landscape of immeasurable beauty has significant economic value. Image courtesy of Charlie Bulla.

According to the study, big game hunting in these four districts accounted for nearly $4 million in spending, with $3.8 million coming from elk hunters alone. These figures include both resident elk hunters, who, according to Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, spend on average $86 a day, and non-resident elk hunters, who drop a whopping $577 per day on average. And that doesn’t even include the cost of licenses.

Image courtesy of Dennis Lingohr.

It’s clear that big game hunting provides a consistent and significant economic impact to the region, and local businesses rely on it.

“Hunters are filling up at our gas stations, eating in our restaurants, staying in our hotels, and they’re buying guns, ammunition, and gear from my store,” says Charlie Pfau, owner of Don’s Store, a sporting goods store in Lewistown. “Public land isn’t just about hunting, though. The economics of central Montana are not only made up of the folks who come for our outdoor tourism and hunting, but also the folks who choose to live here because of what the area has to offer. If you can do it outdoors, chances are you can do it in central Montana. Public access is about enjoying all of the wonders this area has to offer.”

Family-owned Don’s Store in Lewistown, MT depends on the business generated from public land users, hunters and anglers. Pictured here: Wendy, Dale, Don, Charlie, Carter and Jennifer Pfau. Image courtesy of Charlie Pfau.

To hunters, the wonders are clear: This region of Montana represents some of the most productive big game habitat anywhere in North America. This is thanks, largely, to the fact that these lands are expansive, mostly unfragmented, and undeveloped. And we’re trying to keep it that way.

Much of this country is public land managed by the BLM, and for the first time in more than 20 years, the agency is updating its Resource Management Plan that will guide the future management of these important lands. The TRCP and other sportsmen’s groups are working with local stakeholders and the BLM to advance an important new conservation tool called Backcountry Conservation Areas, which would be used to safeguard places like the Missouri Breaks from fragmentation and development, while maintaining Americans’ access for traditional uses, such as grazing, hunting, and range improvement.

The picturesque BLM lands of the Missouri River Breaks. Image courtesy of Charlie Bulla.

How can you help? The BLM is expected to release a draft of their plan very soon. When they do, your input and comments will matter. Help us urge the BLM to conserve the best backcountry in the Missouri Breaks. Sign up to pledge your support for backcountry conservation, and we’ll keep you informed throughout the BLM’s planning process. Sportsmen like you should continue to have a say in the future management of this unique—and economically important—fish and wildlife habitat.

Oregon’s Public Lands Are a Playground for TRCP’s Beaver State Ambassador

Ambassador Nathan Bailey wants to guarantee his boys have a place to hunt and fish

Launching this fall, TRCP’s ambassador program calls on sportsmen-conservationists to help advance our goals by offering local volunteer support. These #PublicLandsProud hometown heroes are not willing to sit idly by as the wild places we love are lost. They know there’s more to our sports than just hunting, fishing, and going home.

Meet Nathan Bailey, our volunteer ambassador out of Oregon. Bailey has spent a lifetime chasing outdoor pursuits in rural Oregon. He’s determined today to share these experiences with his own kids, and make sure that public lands stay in public hands. Bailey’s commitment to conservation is a big asset for sportsmen and women in Oregon, and we’re proud to have him on our team.

Bailey with his trusty recurve. Image courtesy of Nathan Bailey.

TRCP: What’s your earliest memory in the outdoors and how do you spend your time outside these days?

Bailey: I grew up in the rural Southeast Oregon town named Chiloquin. Like most rural kids, my life consisted of outdoor activities; we had nothing else to do. I was also surrounded by acres and acres of public lands which offered us a playground beyond any young person’s dream. I can’t remember a time in my life when the outside world wasn’t a part of my daily activities. I was ice fishing before I could walk and have never missed a hunting season.

Today, not much has changed, as I continue to spend most of my time in outdoor pursuits. If I’m not guiding people down my home rivers – the Rogue and Williamson – you’ll find me tromping all over Southern Oregon in pursuit of elk, mule deer, and gamebirds of all sorts. I also love to gather wild berries, mushrooms, and anything else our public lands provide.

Image courtesy of Nathan Bailey.

TRCP: What got you interested in TRCP and the work we do? How do you see yourself helping TRCP achieve our conservation mission?

Bailey: TRCP impressed me in their approach to conservation. It’s a breath of fresh air to see a nonprofit that is so passionate about their cause, yet prudent enough to build bridges rather than walls. Being of the same mind, I can help build bridges through a professional sportsman’s influence. Alongside TRCP, I plan on giving sportsmen/women a voice in in the public forums that decide how we get to use OUR public land.

TRCP: How can everyday sportsmen make a difference for fish and wildlife? Why is it so important?

Bailey: First and foremost, hunters and anglers provide a lot of our nation’s conservation dollars. We need to educate the general public about that fact. Sportsmen need to have a strong voice in the law-making process to ensure that wildlife – and the resources that make strong populations possible – continue to be represented. We also need to support organizations who give us such a collective and powerful voice, such as the TRCP.

Wild trout, caught and released. Image courtesy of Nathan Bailey.

TRCP: What’s the most pressing conservation issue where you live?

Bailey: TRANSFER OF PUBLIC LANDS. I can’t say it loudly enough. The big push out West is to sell off public lands. As a sportsmen who as a young man lost miles of river access, trust me when I tell you that we need to keep public lands in OUR HANDS!

TRCP: What has been your most memorable hunt? What’s still on your bucket list?

Bailey: My most memorable hunt was in the Ochoco National Forest in Central Oregon. It was a youth hunt and I had all three of my boys with me. My two youngest stayed with me as we pushed a draw for the oldest.  I’ll never forget trying to get my youngest to silence the BBs that were sloshing around in his Red Ryder BB gun as we made our push.  The plan worked perfectly. We ran two cows right to my oldest, and he quickly harvested one of them. What a great day all the boys had providing for the family!

Bailey packing out elk quarters, a sign of success on public lands. Image courtesy of Nathan Bailey.

TRCP: Where can we find you this fall?

Bailey: I will be chasing wild elk through the cascade wilderness, swinging the Rogue for an elusive steelhead, waiting out a wily blacktail in a gnarled old oak tree, or whispering sweet nothings to a flock of mallards over a set of decoys in the Klamath Basin. It’s a blessing to live in Southern Oregon and have access to its abundant wild lands, and with the help of the TRCP, we can preserve our outdoor heritage to keep it that way.

To find out more about the TRCP Ambassador program, please contact TRCP’s deputy director of Western lands, Coby Tigert, at or 208-681-8011.