A Big Game Expert Becomes a Conservation Champion in Colorado

Meet the TRCP volunteer keeping a watchful eye on energy development and habitat management in elk country

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 John Ellenberger, our newest volunteer ambassador representing the great state of Colorado. For three decades, Ellenberger worked as a wildlife biologist and big game manager with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and he’s seen it all. Over the years, he’s also learned that, in conservation as in hunting and fishing, there’s a time for restraint—passing on a small bull to get a chance at a monster next year or sacrificing a productive hunt to share the experience with a squirmy grandchild—and a time for action. Learn more about our Colorado ambassador and why we’re glad to have him on our side.

TRCP’s Colorado ambassador with his rocky mountain bull. Photo courtesy of John Ellenberger.

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

Ellenberger: My earliest outdoor memory is going rabbit hunting with my Dad and older sister. I had to be only 3 or 4 years old at the time, so it didn’t take very long before my sister and I would get tired and didn’t want to walk anymore. Dad would then carry both of us, plus his shotgun, and any rabbits he had killed, back to our car. Now that I have children and grandchildren of my own, I have a great deal of respect for the patience that my father must have had. He was willing to take two youngsters hunting with him even though he knew it would likely result in his outing being cut short because we would get tired or bored. I applaud his efforts in attempting to include us in his outdoor activities, and I try to do the same with my grandkids now, no matter how short their attention spans.

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

Ellenberger: Approximately three or four years ago, Joel Webster called asking for help assessing the impacts of energy development on deer and elk habitat in northwestern Colorado. I was referred to TRCP because of my years of experience working as a wildlife biologist with Colorado Parks and Wildlife in the northwestern portion of the state. We developed a working relationship on that original issue and several others. The work TRCP was doing impressed me—your staff wasn’t simply blaming wildlife managers for declining wildlife populations or dropping hunter success rates. The organization understood the importance of protecting habitat as a way to preserve and protect wildlife populations, and you are willing to take that message to the public and try to influence them to take action in support of habitat protection issues. I wanted to be a part of that.

Beginning as a field biologist in the Northwest Region of the state in 1976, I worked for the Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW), what is now Colorado Parks and Wildlife, for 33 years. I was the senior terrestrial biologist for the NW region of CDOW from 1979 to 1996, before becoming the state big game manager, and I held that position until I retired in 2004. My experience has provided me with a wealth of information about terrestrial wildlife populations in northwestern Colorado, I maintain good working relationships with wildlife managers, and I understand how the agency manages various wildlife populations for which they are responsible. Compared to the average sportsmen, all of this gives me a leg up when it comes to making science-based recommendations for conservation issues that the TRCP is involved in.

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

Ellenberger: Sportsmen can influence political decisions that affect wildlife populations and their habitat by first informing themselves about the issues and then contacting natural resource managers and elected officials to express their educated opinions and preferences. In Colorado and other Western states, there are numerous issues that have the potential to have negative impacts on wildlife populations and their habitats. Unless sportsmen share their opinions on projects affecting wildlife and wildlife habitat, decisions will be made that might negatively impact wildlife and sportsmen’s opportunities to utilize and enjoy wildlife resources.

In addition to hunting and fishing, Ellenberger enjoys hiking, mountain biking, and photographing wildlife. Photo courtesy of John Ellenberger.

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

Ellenberger: There are a number of important conservation issues in western Colorado, but first and foremost is the impact of energy development­—primarily drilling for natural gas—on wildlife and habitat. The need to oppose the transfer of ownership and management of public lands is also very important.

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

Ellenberger: One of my most memorable hunts was the year I drew a bull elk tag for unit 201 in northwest Colorado. On the first day of that hunt I called a young bull to within nine yards. Although I chose not to harvest that particular bull, it was very exciting to experience that animal up close and personal, to the point that I could watch him blink and flare his nostrils as he breathed. My patience paid off as I harvested a larger bull a few days later, but it was almost anti-climactic compared to the experience of calling in that first bull.

I have two sons-in-law and two grandchildren, and I hope to be able to instill a strong interest in hunting, fishing, and conservation in all of them. Hunting and fishing trips with them would be on my bucket list.

TRCP: Where can we find you this fall?

Ellenberger: I already had the opportunity to hunt bull elk during the first rifle elk season here in Colorado. Although I wasn’t lucky enough to harvest an animal, we saw a number of elk and the total experience was enjoyable. I plan to pursue chukar partridges later this fall, and if the warm weather continues, I hope to be able to make a few more fly fishing trips to the Gunnison River. In addition to hunting and fishing, I will be out and about hiking, mountain biking, and photographing wildlife.

More Funding for Wildlife Refuges is Needed, But Midwesterners Won’t Wait

The communities around these five National Wildlife Refuges won’t let their public lands fall into disrepair—they’re stepping up to make conservation happen

The National Wildlife Refuge System (NWRS) spans more than 150 million acres in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, and with 337 refuges open to hunting and 276 boasting great fishing opportunities, these federal lands are a piece of our nation’s unique and complex public lands system. Despite the value of our public lands, gifted to future generations by people like Theodore Roosevelt and celebrated by sportsmen and Americans of every stripe, the agencies that work to maintain and restore habitat in parks, forests, and refuges have been systematically underfunded by Congress, fueling discontent with federal land managers.

However, when I recently visited five refuges in the Midwest with the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE) Coalition, I saw collaborative attempts to close the gap created by lack of funds. Local communities weren’t resentful of the backlogs or shortfalls—they were stepping up to help.

These partnerships illustrate the power of public lands to bring people together, and the resulting enhancements are providing habitat connectivity between private and public lands and improved outdoor recreation opportunities that help drive local spending.

Here’s what cool, collaborative conservation looks like:

Prairie meets pavement. One of our nation’s newest refuges, the Hackmatack NWR in Ringwood, Illinois is in the process of conserving and connecting critical wetland, prairie, and oak savanna habitat in the greater Chicago, Rockford, and Milwaukee metropolitan areas. This refuge is mainly funded by the Friends of Hackmatack and partners, like the local Audubon and Ducks Unlimited chapters, and without this financial aid the refuge staff would not be able to conserve habitat for 109 species in the area. Friends of Hackmatack and on-the-ground nonprofits coordinate on restoration projects that enhance monarch butterflies and other pollinators’ habitat, too.

Private landowners, partners, and public dollars unite. Once the site of Aldo Leopold’s vacation home, the Leopold Wetlands Management District in Portage, Wisconsin honors the father of wildlife management by safeguarding 12,000 acres of Waterfowl Production Areas (WPAs). The WPAs are areas where habitat is restored using funds from the sale of the Federal Duck Stamp to restore critical wetland and grassland habitat for migratory birds. The community plays a supportive role in maintaining and conserving these lands, as well. With help from the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, private landowners can receive financial and technical assistance to improve waterfowl habitat on their own land adjacent to the refuge. Traveling with the CARE Coalition, I was fortunate enough to be welcomed by landowners Dave and Shelly, who showed us habitat improvements on their hundreds of acres of property. They explained how the Leopold Wetlands Management District’s fire management team schedules controlled burns to restore lupine vegetation for Karner blue butterflies, an endangered pollinator species, and to provide cover for upland game birds, such as pheasant.

Understaffed, but rallying on. The Necedah NWR in Tomah, Wisconsin hosts stopover habitat for migratory birds, including mallards, northern pintails, and other waterfowl species. While great jobs are available, many positions remain vacant at the refuge due to lack of funds. The current staff conducts critical wetland projects that enhance habitat for these birds. They’re hurting for additional staff, but they’ve done a fantastic job providing hunting and fishing services for the local community, including whitetail, waterfowl, and wild turkey hunts. The refuge also hosts the national Junior Duck Stamp contest where youth can submit their artwork and possibly have it displayed on the five-dollar stamp. While designing the stamps, children learn about wetlands and waterfowl conservation.

Trout Unlimited restoration project in Bloomington, Wisconsin.

You break it, they fix it. During our time at the Upper Mississippi River NWR in the La Crosse, Minnesota, we saw the damage created by the Army Corps of Engineers through the lock and dams and dredging projects. The refuge staff is working on restoring the wetlands back to their original state by flooding the river and removing invasive species. The dredging of the Mississippi River in Winona, Minn., decreases sediment, but the Gulf Coast feels the burden because lands in Louisiana and other Gulf states are eroding. The importance of funding restoration projects in the river is critical for about 45 percent of the world’s canvasback duck population and for fisheries located in the Gulf of Mexico.

Vandalism creeping in. The Upper Mississippi River NWR is a great example of where people can exercise their right to access public forests, grasslands, and wetlands, even if they live in a populous city, Minneapolis. Another example, the Minnesota Valley NWR, provides education and access opportunities for Bloomington, a suburban area around the Twin Cities. Unfortunately, the refuge is understaffed and has difficulty keeping up enough of a presence to prevent vandalism, which also contributes to maintenance backlogs. Pollution, such as litter, is also a conservation challenge here, so volunteers and partners help fill the void by providing additional hands in restoring habitat.

While these collaborative efforts between local and federal agencies and organizations are something to celebrate, they can only do so much for the National Wildlife Refuge System without adequate funding. The NWRS needs more funding to help broaden collaborative efforts and not fatigue partners. When our public land managers see budget cuts, our hunting and fishing opportunities are on the chopping block. Congress has until December 9 to figure out the full funding picture for 2017 or punt these decisions to the next Congress. Whatever they decide, we’ll continue pushing for better investments in conservation as the cornerstone of our proud public lands traditions and the outdoor recreation economy that supports local spending.

Public Lands Are Where We Can All Heal, Hope, and Harvest

At a critical time for America’s public lands, hunters and anglers—the country’s original conservationists—are asking everyone who enjoys outdoor recreation: Will you go outside with us?

It’s safe to say that, as Americans, we’ve been through a lot in this election cycle. From the 24-7 media circus to the contention between the two candidates, no one would blame you for feeling overstimulated or just plain exhausted.

Sounds like it’s time to go outside.

Oregon’s Deschutes River. Image courtesy of Marty Sheppard/Little Creek Outfitters.

The outdoors have a true healing effect on the mind and body, and the hunting and fishing sports, especially, have an ability to transport. Whether you’re brought back to your earliest memories of watching the woods wake up at dawn or so lost in listening for the footfall of approaching game that you’ve completely forgotten your worries, the natural world provides us with serenity. Out there, we are part of something bigger than ourselves. It’s where we are challenged, and as we find ourselves capable, we feel validated.

That’s why the TRCP is proud to join a growing coalition of more than 400 groups who, inspired by outdoor retailer REI’s movement to #OptOutside the day after Thanksgiving, are finding unity and purpose in the outdoors.

As we come back together as a nation, the question of where we go to spend time outside is an important one. The abundance of public lands in our country, and the right to access them for recreation, makes the U.S. unique in all the world. All Americans are richer for being able to share in their ownership. And the landscapes that are appealing to hunters, anglers, hikers, bikers, climbers, and American families drive spending and support jobs in adjacent communities. Still, a movement to offload or privatize national public lands continues to find traction in Western states and on Capitol Hill.

Image courtesy of Kevin Farron.

This is not just unacceptable, it’s a threat to our national identity. Hunters and anglers who follow our blog know this—it has been a central fight for TRCP and our conservation partners since January 2015, and more than 35,000 sportsmen and women have signed a petition opposing threats to our public lands legacy.

But, to anyone else who heads outside to escape, heal, sweat, bond, or breathe a little deeper, I’d like to say to YOU that we can’t do this alone.

For every benefit that public lands provide, there’s an interest group ready to seize upon the opportunity. Even within our broader outdoor recreation community, there’s admittedly some mistrust between niches—those who ride versus those who run, those who watch wildlife versus those who harvest. With so much at stake, we cannot allow these unspoken hierarchies to divide us—it weakens the base of support that is absolutely critical to America’s public lands legacy.

Speaking for hunters and anglers, I hope that the rest of #OptOutside nation—at more than 1.3 million strong—will unite with us in the outdoors, celebrate the camo AND the climbers that you see in your social feeds, and check politics at the trailhead. If we can’t come together, we may just find ourselves united outside a locked gate.

Welcome to the Next Four Years of Conservation in America

After an election night upset, the Trump camp takes up the immediate task of assembling a new administration. Our work for fish and wildlife, as always, continues

Sportsmen and women from across the country offer their congratulations to President-elect Donald Trump and wish him the best of luck as he begins his first term as the president of the United States. Indeed, we tip our camo hats to all of those who threw their names in the ring for elected offices, up and down the ballot and at the local, state, and national level. It is an honorable sacrifice of time and energy, and we thank you all.

But, of course, there is no job quite as tall as the one before President-elect Trump. The business of running the executive branch of the government is an immense task, and after an unprecedented election season, Trump only has about two and a half months before the inaugural kicks off his official presidency. In order to hit the ground running, things have to be well under way: Cabinet secretaries must be nominated, and the process of filling thousands of jobs must be started. To do this, not long after the nominating conventions, both presidential candidates started to assemble their transition teams—the folks, usually organized by cabinet department, who will help a new president enter the White House ready to get to work on day one.

Now, in this time of incredibly high activity, priorities are being determined and the rhetoric of campaign season is being turned into workable policy proposals, so it is imperative that sportsmen-conservationists are communicating clearly and repeatedly to new administration leaders. Over the past several weeks, the TRCP staff has been crafting transition documents that outline all of our policy priorities for the next four years of conservation success, including a 100-day agenda and goals for one year and two years into the new administration. Here are our top three asks.

Sunset behind the White Mountain National Forest. Photo via flickr user weesam2010.

Quality Places to Hunt and Fish
We’ll be making sure that our next president continues to hear from sportsmen and women that the defense of our national public lands is a line in the sand that cannot be crossed. This is a fundamental priority that both candidates heard from hunters and anglers throughout the course of the long campaign. Along with key partners, we will also work to make sure new public officials understand the importance of full implementation for the conservation plans in core sage grouse habitat across the West, as well as the need to defend those plans on Capitol Hill.

We anticipate that President-elect Trump will seek an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy plan, an idea we think makes good sense, as long as commonsense rules apply for oil and gas development and the production of renewable energy on public lands. Namely, we’ll push for a robust planning process that accounts for impacts to fish and wildlife habitat, as well as recreational access, and identifies places where energy production of all kinds can proceed with little impact to resources or places that might be too special to hunters and anglers to become energy production zones. And, just like oil and gas, renewables should be contributing a reasonable percentage of their profits from production on public lands into a trust fund that pays for mitigation of impacts on habitat and access.

Better Investments in Conservation
One of the very first things that the new administration will have to do is send Congress a budget outlining funding priorities for fiscal year 2018. Insufficient funding continues to be a major barrier to all kinds of conservation goals, like collecting reliable offshore recreational fishing data in order to improve fisheries management or providing technical assistance to our nation’s farmers and landowners who are interested in implementing wildlife habitat and water quality projects on private lands. And, of course, a litany of active management and restoration projects on national public lands has stalled out for want of funding, so it is well time to put the conservation house back in order.

We will make sure the next administration prioritizes conservation in their first budget, and every subsequent budget.

More Champions for Fish, Wildlife, and Sportsmen
Finally, as new folks are considered for leadership roles at the Department of Interior, Department of Agriculture, and key agencies—like the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Marine Fisheries Service, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and many more—we’ll be helping to make sure that those chairs are filled with bona fide collaborators. This would include practitioners who are committed to the North American model of wildlife conservation and expanding access to quality fish and wildlife habitat, yes, but perhaps also those who are sportsmen and women themselves.

Election Day is the great reset button for American politics and policy making, but TRCP’s priorities, and our defense of the fish and wildlife habitat that America’s hunters and anglers depend on, won’t be subject to any transition.

Help us speak up for the species you love to pursue and the wild places that make our traditions possible—consider making a donation to the TRCP.




From the AT to the Tetons, How a Career in Conservation Led to the TRCP

TRCP’s Idaho ambassador discusses his first bull elk, his love of the Snake River, and how his family cabin in Massachusetts started it all

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 Bob Breckenridge, our volunteer ambassador out of Idaho. He’s a veteran of conservation work who won’t let retirement stop him from giving something back to hunting and fishing, and we’re glad to have him on our side. Here’s what he loves about chasing Idaho elk, exploring the Tetons, and searching for giant, elusive browns on the Snake River.

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

Breckenridge: Just off the Appalachian Trail in Massachusetts, my family cabin was built in the 1850s and had no running anything. Our family spent two weeks each summer in the woods, playing in our creek and having great times around the campfire. These days, I am often in the Tetons, or biking and hiking trails in Idaho. We have a cabin 12 miles east of Ashton, Idaho, that provides great access to fishing and hunting in Eastern Idaho.

Image courtesy of Bob Breckenridge.

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

Breckenridge: I recently retired from a career working on conservation and stewardship issues in Idaho and around the world, and I’m anxious to put my talents to good use for TRCP. I’m particularly well-versed in working with many environmental agencies, and as a volunteer I will help the TRCP spread the word about the importance of conservation and ensuring the future of our resources for our children and grandchildren to enjoy.

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

Breckenridge: Sportsmen and sportswomen should tap into their passion and speak up for millions of Americans who enjoy the outdoors. TRCP is in a position to reach across traditional boundaries, build consensus, harness the power of individual voices, and be an agent of positive change for fish and wildlife, anglers, and hunters.

Image courtesy of Bob Breckenridge.

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

Breckenridge: In Idaho, fragmentation of critical habit is the most immediate conservation issue. Natural forces (fire and drought) and a number of anthropogenic pressures (development, roads, growth, etc.) cause large, continuous landscapes to be broken up into isolated patches of habitat, which is a bad situation for wildlife. Management of fragmentation pressures requires a comprehensive conservation strategy, which can only be tackled through strategic partnerships, like the ones TRCP is working to create.

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

Breckenridge: The hunt during which I shot my first bull elk in Idaho comes to mind. I hunted in northern Idaho’s Unit 10, and driving all the way up there from Idaho Falls gave me a lot of time to practice bugling. On the morning of opening day, I caught up with a bugling bull. After three hours pursuing him over several ridges, I shot him at 20 yards. He was my first bull—a nice six-point.

As for my bucket list, I would like to catch a five-pound brown on the South Fork of the Snake River, a public waterway that has been known to produce big trout.

Image courtesy of Bob Breckenridge.

TRCP: Where can we find you this fall?

Breckenridge: This fall I can be found floating the Salmon River and spending time mountain biking in the Targhee and Teton National Forests. I am also lucky enough to be going to Europe to explore three major rivers and travel from Amsterdam to Budapest. I’m interested to see how the Europeans have addressed conservation after being on their land for centuries longer than U.S. settlers. I will also be fishing the South Fork of the Snake and going on a black powder elk hunt once the weather cools.

We’ll be introducing more of our volunteer ambassadors throughout the fall. Read more about our other ambassadors here.

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

Moving Forward from the Malheur Standoff Decision

Three ways you can turn shock and anger into proactive solutions for our public lands

Like many sportsmen and women, I was shocked and angry when I first learned that the seven armed outlaws who took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for 41 days earlier this year were acquitted of any wrongdoing. These radicals trashed public property and blocked public access to land that belongs to all of us, and they did it while brandishing weapons and talking tough. It is impossible to comprehend how some people, armed from head to toe, could seize a federal facility and not face any consequences for their actions, but that’s exactly what happened just last week. (Hatch Magazine points out that the verdict came down, in a cruel twist, on the birthday of conservation’s patron saint.)

While it feels satisfying to place blame—on the quirky nature of the charges, an incompetent prosecutor, or a weak jury—doing so won’t change the situation. The decision is made, and anti-government fanatics are likely emboldened as a result.

Image courtesy of the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office.

However, as sportsmen and women who love and rely on public lands, we can’t sit around and accept this outcome as some part of an inevitable future. More than 72 percent of Western hunters depend on access to public lands, and millions of anglers do, as well. Complacency and discontent will only serve to benefit those who wish to steal our heritage, and we need to make sure that this decision stands as an anomaly, one at odds with the course of history.

To that end, I’ve outline three active steps that public lands hunters and anglers can take to defend our public lands legacy moving forward:

  • Most immediately, sportsmen and women should let lawmakers know we need assurances that lawbreakers and extremists cannot take away our lands and our facilities. Congress should give land managers and law enforcement personnel the tools they need to protect our public lands legacy. Sign the Sportsmen’s Access petition—or share it with family and friends who may not have signed—to send a clear message to decision-makers at home and in Washington.
  • Second, be prepared to hold lawmakers accountable for their votes in 2017, as state and federal legislators will be considering a new list of proposals designed to seize your public lands. For our part, we will keep you informed on the best ways to make your voices heard on this and other conservation issues. Sign up for TRCP email alerts and check in with the leading state-based sportsmen’s group in your area, to ensure that you receive a complete picture of upcoming challenges.
  • Finally, get outside and enjoy your public lands this fall. Hunting and fishing opportunities abound this time of year, and it is important that we all get out there to reenergize and remember what we are fighting for. Take plenty of photos and share them with us on social media using the hashtag #PublicLandsProud. Meanwhile, we’ll make sure that lawmakers get the picture—hunters and anglers support and value public lands, and we’re proud to keep them that way.

The Bundy boys aren’t out of the water yet. They’re currently awaiting their next day in court, this time tied to the standoff in Bunkerville, Nevada, in 2014. We’ll be watching and hoping that the rule of law is applied through these proceedings and a clear message is sent to anyone considering attacks on our public lands and our way of life: These lands will not be bullied away from us.

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 CTigert@trcp.org or 208-681-8011.

A New Opportunity to Conserve Our Backcountry and Keep Adventure Alive

Why Backcountry Conservation Areas make sense for eastern Oregon and many other areas important to hunters and anglers

When I was a youngster growing up in central Oregon, I remember how much my dad missed the desolate mountains and yawning deserts of the eastern part of our state—eastern Oregon became an emblem of the absolute best that hunting and fishing had to offer. It represented a dangerously vast and unpopulated place, with real-world consequences for those who dared to explore it. I’d heard countless stories about wild places like the Trout Creek Mountains, Oregon Canyonlands, and Owyhee River long before ever setting foot there.

Image courtesy of Bryan Huskey.

As a kid, I longed to know them, and over the past 40 years, I’ve come to love them.

I strongly believe that the sportsmen and women who frequent these landscapes are uniquely qualified to understand what kind of land management solutions make sense. These places are so remote and rugged that it can take the bulk of a day to drive across them. In recent years, fires and noxious weeds have taken a toll in some of the wildest parts of the backcountry, impacting some of the best chukar and mule deer habitat, and these areas continue to draw interest from industry.

Image courtesy of Bryan Huskey.

I think there is value in allowing parts of this country to remain a working landscape. That’s why I support a new management approach, called Backcountry Conservation Areas (BCA), which the Bureau of Land Management can use to conserve places like the Owyhee uplands and Oregon Canyonlands from fragmentation and development, while at the same time maintaining Americans’ access for traditional uses such as grazing, hunting, and range improvement. The TRCP has been working with many partners to make sure this tool is available to the agencies responsible for America’s public lands, so they can be protected from development while active management continues.

The author, Bryan Huskey, enjoying Oregon’s public lands. Image courtesy of Will Bales.

I want to see this habitat maintained, if not improved, and never developed for any means, and I want the same access I’ve known for my entire life, so I can take my kids to the places that inspire dreams and passion for this land—just as my dad did for me. Considering all the people who enjoy outdoor recreation in these areas, plus all the heritage and history here, including that of ranchers who use these lands, being able to manage them as Backcountry Conservation Areas is an outcome I can fully support.

Image courtesy of Bryan Huskey.

The BLM needs to hear from you, though, to make Backcountry Conservation Areas available to land managers in Oregon and across the West. TRCP has made it easy to speak up for the future of the places we love to hunt and fish—click here to make your opinion count.

Bryan Huskey is a photographer, filmmaker, and all-around outdoor enthusiast based in Boise, Idaho. His works span the topics of fishing & hunting, conservation, and the western lifestyle. Bryan is the founder of the Keepemwet movement which encourages best handling practices of catch & release fish. 

Celebrate National Public Lands Day by Showing the Land Some Love

This Saturday, September 24, is a day for celebrating our heritage – and you can join in by giving back

I love being outside, and I’m guessing that if you’ve found your way to this blog, then you do too. I am happy to live in Washington, DC, because it means I get to work at the TRCP, spending my days fighting for conservation and ensuring that that 640 million acres of public land remain public and remain accessible. However, lately, I’ve been neglecting my need to see the sky, smell the trees, and get my hands dirty. Sportsmen have a long history of getting their hands dirty – literally and figuratively – for conservation, and sometimes I just need to get out there and the work with my own two hands.

This Saturday, Sept 24, I’m going to get my on-the-ground fix – and you can too. In celebration of National Public Lands Day, parks, recreation areas, and more are hosting volunteer events all over the country. Additionally, if you’re in the Wyoming area, consider joining us at a Public Lands Day Celebration in Laramie.

Here are a few examples of Public Lands Day volunteer opportunities, in case you want to join me in celebrating our sporting heritage by taking care of our favorite spaces. Don’t see an event for your area listed here? Check in with your nearby public land agency and find events or start by browsing Find Your Park to find a spot near you.

Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park. Photo courtesy of Dani Dagan.

Click here for more information on National Public Lands Day. Whether or not you get your hands dirty this Saturday, take the future of our public lands into your hands by signing the Sportsmen’s Access petition.

 

Where: Pipestone National Monument, Pipestone, Minn.

What: Seed collection from native tall grass prairie

More information

 

Where: Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, Western Ky. and Tenn.

What: Trail clean-up and work day

More information

 

Where: Red Top Mountain State Park, Cartersville, Ga.

What: Improve outdoor classroom

More information

 

Where: Don Carter State Park, Gainesville, Ga.

What: Shore sweep and trash clean-up

More information

 

Where: Yellowstone National Park

What: Trail maintenance

More information

 

Where: Colt Creek State Park, Lakeland, Fla.

What: Mulching

More information

 

Where: Lake Kissimmee State Park, Lake Wales, Fla.

What: Invasive weed removal

More information

 

Where: Lake Louisa State Park, Clermont, Fla.

What: Invasive weed and vegetation removal

More information

 

Where: 19 sites across Indiana

What: Trash clean-up, garden maintenance, trail work, invasive species removal, and more.

More information

 

Where: Poudre Wilderness, Northern Colo.

What: Trail maintenance

More information

 

Where: Hidden Canyon Community Park, Carlsbad, Calif.

What: Trail maintenance

More information

 

Where: Detroit Lake Campground shoreline, Detroit, Ore.

What: Shoreline and riverside clean-up

More information

 

 

Our First TRCP Ambassador Puts Boots on the Ground for Conservation in Montana

Ambassador Alec Underwood’s commitment to the hunt—and to conservation—runs deep

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 Alec Underwood, our first volunteer ambassador out of Missoula, Montana. One thing you can say about Underwood is that he finishes what he’s started—after blood-trailing a bull elk to where it was bedded down, he stalked up in just his socks, eventually losing track of where he placed his boots in the tall grass. He packed out nearly two miles in just his stocking feet. We’re sure Underwood’s commitment to conservation is just as steadfast, and we’re proud to have him stepping up for sportsmen and women in Montana.  

The author quartering an elk he harvested with his bow. Image courtesy of Trevor Anderson.

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

Underwood: My earliest memory in the outdoors is standing near a small stream in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York, where I grew up, with my dad. We didn’t have fly rods, but he showed me where to look for trout by throwing small twigs behind boulders and in eddies. I remember watching small brook trout come up and try to eat the twigs, and I thought that it was the coolest thing in the world. Those small moments inspired my whole lifestyle, which consists of fishing the countless great trout rivers of the West and chasing elk in the mountains of Montana each fall.

TRCP: How do you see yourself helping us achieve our conservation mission?

Underwood: I’ve worked for several state fish and wildlife management agencies, in conjunction with federal land management agencies, and that has given me a broad perspective of how successful conservation policies are achieved on the landscape. This understanding, plus my passion for conservation and background in wildlife biology, will certainly help me further the TRCP’s mission of guaranteeing all Americans quality places to hunt and fish, in whatever small way I can.

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

Underwood: I think that it’s quite simple­—it all starts with passion. Sportsmen who use these resources must be devoted to protecting it. If you really care, don’t just pay your membership dues to whichever conservation organization you support. Go to that organization’s meetings. Invite your friends to those meetings. Lead by example and inspire others to care as much as you do.

Fly fishing a small stream in New York’s Adirondack Mountains. Image courtesy of Alec Underwood.

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

Underwood: The transfer of our federal public lands to state control is a real threat that would result in our treasured public lands disappearing forever through privatization. Sportsmen need to understand the severity of this issue. Once it happens, these lands will no longer be protected. The enormous amount of public lands and wilderness that we currently own (especially in the western US), and the opportunity for all of us to access these lands, is an incredible part of our heritage. Let’s keep it that way.

Mist rises above the Blackfoot River in Western Montana. Image courtesy of Alec Underwood.

TRCP: What current projects are you working on for the TRCP?

Underwood: I have been helping the TRCP become more involved in the BLM’s Regional Management Plan (RMP) planning process for the Missoula field office. The plan will set goals, objectives, and direction for approximately 156,000 acres of BLM land in the Missoula area. To fully comprehend the current status of these lands and how they might be affected with the new RMP, we’ve been meeting with officials from both Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and the BLM. Being more involved with the revision process is something that can only help to strengthen the TRCP’s existing relationship with the BLM.

TRCP: What has been your most memorable hunt?

Underwood: The most memorable was definitely when I took a raghorn bull with my bow last September. After calling the bull in to about seven yards, I couldn’t pass him up. My aim was true, but he bedded down and didn’t expire. So I took off my boots and made a final, short stalk. Hit again, the bull ran down into a draw and finally expired. Tall grass surrounded me, and I suddenly realized my mistake: I discarded my boots into the sea of grass without marking them on my GPS. Thirty minutes of searching later, I decided to quarter the elk before it got too hot. Then, resuming my search, I retraced my steps over and over until I accepted that I was going to have to do the unthinkable. I loaded both a front and hind quarter – as well as the backstraps – and began the most painful 1.8 mile bushwhack of my life. Every step of that first trip out, in just my socks, ached. I had a few buddies come with me to help pack out the last two quarters and the head, and though we combed that small slope for another twenty minutes, we never found those boots. My feet were sore for almost a week after, but I knew I had a good story. (And if you find a pair of Irish Setters in a burn, please let me know!)

Steelhead fishing Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. Image courtesy of Alec Underwood.

TRCP: What’s still on your bucket list?

Underwood: A DIY Alaska caribou hunt is definitely on there.

TRCP: What’s your favorite Theodore Roosevelt quote?

Underwood: “In a civilized and cultivated country wild animals only continue to exist at all when preserved by sportsmen. The excellent people who protest against all hunting, and consider sportsmen as enemies of wildlife, are ignorant of the fact that in reality the genuine sportsman is by all odds the most important factor in keeping the larger and more valuable wild creatures from total extermination.”

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