TRCP’s Neil Thagard and his wife Catherine recently had the opportunity to enjoy some time on public land chasing Merriam’s turkeys. With Catherine behind the camera and Neil as the caller and shooter, they were able to coax this wily tom away from his hen into their decoy setup, which resulted in a 25 yard shot – enjoy the video!
This past August, I had the opportunity to hunt deer with archery equipment in central Nevada. This would be my first Nevada mule deer tag and I was able to hunt in a pristine backcountry area with abundant deer and little hunting pressure. I was blessed to have the opportunity to hunt this iconic animal in such a spectacular setting.
One reason Nevada consistently provides outstanding opportunities for hunting and fishing are the large areas of intact and undeveloped backcountry on Bureau of Land Management lands. Most people don’t realize it, but just over 86 percent of the land in Nevada is public land. It is these large intact areas of backcountry land that provide the core habitat that gives us some of the finest big game hunting in the West where trophy mule deer, elk, antelope and bighorn sheep are taken every season.
Unfortunately, throughout the West some of our best public lands are threatened by a massive wave of new energy development and deteriorating habitat conditions. Here in Nevada, poorly planned wind energy projects and transmission lines could threaten to further fragment prime fish and wildlife habitat. In other parts of the West, oil and gas developments are being proposed in some of the best remaining big game habitat.
As development pressures continue to grow, the TRCP and partners are working to maintain the high quality fish and wildlife values of our public lands. Western hunters and anglers are working through local land use plans in Colorado, Nevada and Oregon to conserve intact fish and wildlife habitat and are calling on the BLM to manage high value areas as backcountry conservation areas or BCAs.
BCAs would provide BLM land managers with clear guidelines that would help conserve our best wildlife habitat while protecting public access and at the same time would allow common-sense activities to restore habitat and honor existing rights like ranching.
As sportsmen head to the fields, forests and streams this fall, we can be assured that some of America’s finest public lands fish and wildlife habitat will be conserved into the future. On Oct. 1, the Supreme Court declined to consider an appeal of a lower court ruling upholding the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule as the law of the land for the management of 45 million acres in 36 states.
This determination effectively ends all legal uncertainty for the 2001 roadless rule and assures its permanence into the foreseeable future.
Areas managed under the roadless rule include renowned big-game hunting destinations such as the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming, the Elkhorn Mountains in Montana and the Warner Range of Oregon and California.
These large blocks of undeveloped public lands provide the habitat security necessary for wildlife managers to provide substantial public hunting opportunities for game such as mule deer and elk.
The great thing about the roadless rule is that it represents a balanced and reasonable approach for the management of high value, undeveloped public lands. The rule conserves roadless areas while providing management allowances to protect communities from wildfire, restore habitat and ecosystems and even develop oil and gas, as long as this development is done in ways that maintain the areas’ backcountry values.
Over the past decade, wildlife managers, sportsmen’s organizations, and hunting- and fishing-dependent businesses across the nation have spoken in favor of the management assurances and high quality habitat provided by the roadless rule. The TRCP has been working alongside our partners to advance this popular policy since our organization was founded in 2002.
With big-game hunting seasons commencing across the country, sportsmen can celebrate by grabbing our gear and setting out in pursuit of deer, elk and other critters on America’s national forest lands. This Supreme Court decision represents an unqualified victory for our community.