by:

posted in: General

August 24, 2016

Celebrating Our National Parks: Public Lands Feed the Soul (and Six Hungry Young Men)

Hard-earned fish and forage in a national park that’s far from the crowds

Freshman-year procrastination still in full effect, a handful of my closest friends and I picked up the last of our food, fuel, and supplies on our way to the Queen IV ferry dock in Copper Harbor, Mich. We figured we had enough. Ready or not, we watched the shoreline creep away. Our weeklong public lands adventure in Isle Royale National Park had begun.

Isle Royale is a 45-mile-long island on the north end of Lake Superior. Only accessible by seaplane or on a wavy 3.5-hour ferry ride, the park hosts fewer visitors in a year than Yellowstone National Park sees in a single day, but that’s just the way we like it. None of us had ever attempted a trip like this. We were car campers at best, with most of our fishing days spent on the decks of our parents’ motorboats. Canoeing and portaging our way from one waterway to the next through a secluded national park would be exciting, unchartered territory.

Lunch break and rock hunting at one of the many historic light houses of Isle Royale. Image courtesy of Ethan Hornacek.

The remote island is protected by 450 smaller islands and peppered with dozens of inland lakes, making the archipelago an ideal destination for anglers but also quite a challenge. Fishing while paddling six miles against the wind on big water proved difficult, and we ended our first day with sore backs, blistered hands, and exactly zero fish.

On day two, we tried a calmer three-mile paddle into a protected cove of Lake Superior. From here, we conducted the first of our trip’s seven portages, lugging our 60-pound backpacks to the destination, doubling back, and then making the trek a third time with our aluminum canoes over our heads.

No wonder we were the only fools doing this.

Our campsite that night was on an inland lake 2.5 miles in, making it a 7.5-mile afternoon. We were quickly rewarded, though, with a plethora of northern pike. We ate our fill that night.

The author holds up his bruiser of a lake trout caught jigging on Siskiwit Lake, Isle Royale’s largest inland lake at 4,150 acres. Image courtesy of Ethan Hornacek.

It is critical for any hunter or angler to know the regulations of the area—it’s the part we all play in conservation—and we were armed with a Michigan fishing license for Lake Superior and its banks. We were surprised to learn that no license at all is needed to fish the island’s inland lakes, where you’re only limited by how much you can eat—no need to catch more than that, though you could. Additional rules apply, of course: Barbless hooks are required and, to keep the fishery productive, instead of minimum size requirements, park regs insist that we don’t keep fish above a certain size. Brook trout are off-limits, too.

Once we hit the island’s lakes, we couldn’t keep the fish out of our canoes. We caught northern pike, walleyes, and even some big lakers. We coated the fillets in fry mix and seasonings, then pan-fried them over our camp stove. Our remaining rations—flaked potatoes, pasta, beans, and rice—became side dishes instead of entrees. The chipmunks looked mighty jealous.

Even with the bounty of fish, we quickly realized that we underestimated the number of calories needed for six men on a weeklong backcountry excursion; our food supplies were getting low and we couldn’t eat enough. Fires are not allowed at most campsites, and frying fish over a camp stove uses quite a bit of fuel. Once we ran out, we’d have no way of cooking the fish or boiling water. We were saved when a group camping nearby watched us pull fish in one after another and commented on how tasty a fresh fish dinner would be. Turns out they had overpacked on fuel and were happy to shed some pack weight. Some good ol’ backcountry bartering ensued and we struck a deal: three filleted walleye for two cans of isobutene-propane.

We hit Lake Superior again the next day and pulled in a 41-inch northern pike, a Coho salmon, and two whitefish. We chilled the stringer in the frigid waters of the deepest and biggest of the Great Lakes to stretch our supply over multiple meals. Just when we thought it couldn’t get much better, we stumbled upon a jackpot of wild blueberries.

Late August is berry season on Isle Royale, and there are no bears to compete with at this National Park. Pictured here, wild blueberries. Image courtesy of Ethan Hornacek.

The park fed us, and I’ll never forget how proud I was of our self-reliance. With so few visitors, it felt like we owned those waters and wild areas. As the debate over federal land ownership continues, I realize this is exactly the case: We do own these lands. So, as we celebrate the National Park Service Centennial, I’m proud to remind others of the true value of public lands and the treasures they hold.

Even if you’re months away from your next backcountry hunt or hike, you can sign the petition to keep public lands in public hands right now.

Andrew Farron holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan. He resides in Traverse City, Mich. with his fiancé, Sarah, and black Labrador, Luna. Andrew seems to always catch more – and bigger – fish than his older brother, Kevin.

All month long, we’re celebrating the National Park Service centennial with a blog series about our most significant experiences in the parks. Check back here for new posts from the TRCP staff and special guests, and follow the hashtag #PublicLandsProud on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

 

Do you have any thoughts on this post?

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Dani Dagan

by:

posted in: General

August 18, 2016

Beyond the Parks: Hidden Gems of the National Park Service

While America’s iconic national parks get all the glory, the National Park Service Centennial is also a time to celebrate these three types of public lands and what they offer sportsmen

Being from California and living most of my life in the West, I have spent a whole lot of time on public lands. Between hiking, climbing rocks, and road-tripping in my free time, and working as a wildlife field technician after college, I have logged countless hours learning what folks are (and are not) allowed to do on various types of public land. I have learned that they are not all created equal, and while national parks get a lot of publicity and love, the exclusion of hunting and fishing – not to mention heavy crowds – can leave sportsmen behind.

In honor of the National Parks Centennial, I’d like to shine the spotlight on a few National Parks Service lands that aren’t national parks ­– there are, in fact, more than 20 NPS designations. The opportunities that exist on these lands just might surprise you.

 

Badlands National Park. Image courtesy of Dani Dagan.

National Recreation Areas

A special designation for areas located around major water reservoirs or urban centers, all 18 national recreation areas allow fishing and/or hunting of some kind. However, before you pack up your rod, rifle, or bow, be aware that the rules vary from unit to unit. In the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SAMO), for example, hunting is only allowed on private property nested within park boundaries.

I grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, just a 15-minute ride away from SAMO—a huge patchwork landscape of federal, state, and private property, and even a strip of the pacific coast, that’s full of rock climbing opportunities and purple sage. This was where I fell in love with fresh air and solitude, and to this day the smell of sage makes me feel like I’m on summer vacation. Later, when I was working as a wildlife intern at SAMO, I saw firsthand the value of this multi-purpose land designation, which focused on human use rather than pristine preservation, as a “gateway drug” – turning city rats into public lands advocates.

Biological survey site in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Image courtesy of Dani Dagan.

National Seashores and Lakeshores

Just last week, I visited Assateague Island, a national seashore with opportunities for shore fishing and limited hunting seasons for waterfowl, foxes, rabbits, and mourning doves. There are ten national seashores and four national lakeshores in the country, and fishing and/or hunting is permitted on all of them. Again, site regulations may vary. For example, at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore,  Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore hunting is prohibited, but fishing for trout and salmon is permitted—and popular.

Assateague Island National Seashore permits fishing, oversand parking, hunting, crabbing, and an assortment of other recreational activities. Image courtesy of Dani Dagan.

National Preserves

There are 19 national preserves, where extractive activities, including hunting and fishing, are permitted. Some of these are adjacent to other NPS lands that prohibit hunting and fishing, allowing for multiple uses of a contiguous landscape.

Theodore Roosevelt Island

I’d like to give a final shout out an NPS site that allows neither hunting nor fishing, but does pay homage to our number one guy here at TRCP. If you’ve ever visited Washington, D.C., you may have noticed that the presidential monuments are governed by NPS. Theodore Roosevelt Island is no exception. However, in contrast to those massive blocks of expertly sculpted concrete and stone, T.R.’s capitol city memorial is a lush island comprised of upland woods and swampy bottoms—very fitting for the foremost conservationist president.

Trailhead on Theodore Roosevelt Island. Image courtesy of Dani Dagan.

The island is a legitimate hiking destination in its own right. In fact, the friend I visited with had been there several times, just to walk the trails, without ever noticing the manicured memorial at its heart.  And I think that’s how T.R. would have wanted it – he urged Americans to not only protect our land, but immerse ourselves in it.

Image courtesy of Dani Dagan.

As we celebrate the National Park Service Centennial this month, I hope that sportsmen and women across the country can be proud of our stake in all of these uniquely American public lands—for every icon, there’s a hidden gem. While the NPS centennial campaign may be branded “find your park,” we hope everyone to finds their public land, whatever designation it may be. With all the opportunities they offer us to wet a line, glass a ridgeline, see our breath in a morning duck blind, or just to be transported from our everyday lives, they all deserve to be celebrated and enjoyed.

All month long, we’re celebrating the National Park Service centennial with a blog series about our most significant experiences in the parks. Check back here for new posts from the TRCP staff and special guests, and follow the hashtag #PublicLandsProud on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Kristyn Brady

by:

posted in: General

Now Is the Time to Tell Lawmakers that CRP Works for Wildlife, Sportsmen, and Landowners

With our launch of CRPworks.org, we’re asking sportsmen to help us call for a better Conservation Reserve Program well ahead of the next Farm Bill

At an outdoor show like the Deer & Turkey Expo in Bloomington, Ill., it’s tough to be the conservation group with a couple of clipboards, a petition, and a handful of stickers to seal the deal. We’d much rather be handing out free samples of wild-game sausage or demonstrating how to hand-knap arrowheads, but it’s just not who we are. Still, last weekend we were delighted to speak to so many sportsmen and landowners who were just as enthusiastic about conservation on private lands as they were about testing bows and tasting venison.

On the whole, these folks agreed that CRP—the Conserve Reserve Program, which incentivizes landowners to put a portion of their acreage into conservation—works for wildlife, sportsmen, and farmers. And they were more than willing to ask their lawmakers for a better CRP.

Images courtesy of Kristyn Brady.

Now, with the help of some of our partners, we’ve made this easy to do. With the launch of CRPworks.org, a coalition of sportsmen’s groups—including the National Deer Alliance, Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, and the TRCP—is rallying conservation advocates who support enhancing the program in the next Farm Bill.

“During the latest CRP sign-up, landowners who demonstrated an overwhelming demand for voluntary conservation practices under CRP were met with the lowest acceptance rates in the program’s 30-year history,” says Dave Nomsen, vice president of governmental affairs for Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. “That’s why we’re calling for sportsmen and women to support strong conservation provisions in the Farm Bill, including a larger and more robust CRP authorization that meets the demand from farmers, ranchers, and other landowners, who improve wildlife habitat and provide us with better recreational and access opportunities.”

Introduced in the 1985 Farm Bill, CRP once supported 37 million acres devoted to conserving soil, water, and wildlife habitat. But Congress has reduced the size of the program to just 24 million acres in the most recent Farm Bill. Today the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is turning down thousands of CRP applications from those who want to enroll millions of private acres in conservation.

The user-friendly website and advocacy app at CRPworks.org allows supporters to add their names to a petition asking lawmakers to reverse this trend, explaining that “without a strong CRP, the northern plains states would lose much of their duck breeding habitat, greater sage grouse in the West would be at greater risk of population decline, and brook trout would disappear from Eastern headwaters. Without CRP, 40 million sportsmen and women would lose access to private hunting and fishing grounds across rural America.”

Image courtesy of Dusan Smetana.

Nick Pinizzotto, president and CEO of the National Deer Alliance, says, “Deer hunters know that CRP works for wildlife and habitat—we’ve got the big buck stories to prove it—so it’s important that sportsmen and women call for better investments in CRP and become a part of the solution, well ahead of the next Farm Bill. This website makes that process very easy.”

CRPworks.org will also house educational resources on the benefits of the program and the latest news about private land conservation. “CRP acres are often enrolled in access programs to provide public hunting and fishing opportunities on private lands, and where they’re not, CRP acres might provide critical wildlife habitat adjacent to the public lands that receive a lot of hunting pressure,” says Ariel Wiegard, agriculture and private lands policy director for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “This program has served as an important piece of landowners’ business plans and a vital part of working and wild landscapes for 30 years, so it deserves the attention of our lawmakers.”

Learn more about the game and fish species that have benefited from the Conservation Reserve Program here, and sign the petition at CRPworks.org.




John Hamill

by:

posted in: General

August 17, 2016

For the Sake of Conservation, Sportsmen Share Fishing and Hunting Treasure Maps

New data will help land management agencies prioritize the conservation needs of Arizona’s most valued hunting and fishing areas

When it comes to telling others about their “secret” spots, hunters and anglers are famous for holding their cards close to their game vests and wading jackets. Yet, more than 1,200 Arizona sportsmen have willingly tipped their hands to identify their favorite destinations on a map. It’s all part of a national initiative to conserve fish and wildlife habitat while protecting and improving public access for hunting and angling.

This statewide effort was recently completed by the Arizona Game and Fish Department and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP), in cooperation with Arizona sportsmen’s groups. Maps from the Sportsmen’s Values Mapping Project are now available to the public and to state and federal agencies.

Image courtesy of Arizona Fish and Game Department.

“Some of the most valued public hunting and fishing areas in Arizona are at risk because of deteriorating habitat conditions, limited access and increased development pressures,” says John Hamill, TRCP’s field representative in Arizona. “With the help of sportsmen, we’ve been able to pinpoint lands that are cherished for their hunting and fishing values, so that land managers can prioritize habitat conservation and the enhancement of public access in these areas.”

Maps for 15 species or species groups—including elk, mule deer, whitetails, pronghorns, bighorn sheep, turkeys, quail, doves, waterfowl, predators, and fish—are now available on the department’s website. On each map, the most highly valued areas are in red and orange, moderately high-valued areas are in yellow, and less highly valued areas are in green. The maps allow the user to view, pan, and zoom in or out to explore the most highly valued hunting and angling locations in Arizona. The species are also ranked for popularity based on the survey responses.

While the maps will be useful to sportsmen, they were largely developed to guide conservation efforts. The maps have been assembled in a geographic information system (GIS), where they can be overlaid with maps of critical habitat, land ownership, and other data.

The resulting maps will provide important and previously unavailable data to state and federal agencies for the following purposes:

  • To balance other land uses with the needs of fish, wildlife, hunters and anglers.
  • To identify areas where public access needs to be maintained or improved.
  • To identify areas needing stronger conservation efforts, or expansion of hunting and angling opportunities.
  • To identify key high-use areas warranting special conservation strategies, because of their value to sportsmen.
  • To justify actions and funding requests aimed at conserving highly valued wildlife habitat, and hunting and fishing areas.

Last fall, a random sampling of 7,500 Arizona hunting and fishing license holders were mailed a postcard inviting them to participate in the survey. Those who received a postcard were directed to a specially designed website where they could highlight on a map their most valued hunting and fishing destinations. The survey also included questions about why sportsmen identified a particular area as being important. The most highly valued areas are typically those that offer the greatest chance of harvesting game, contain trophy-size game or fish, are closest to home, or have traditionally been the area that sportsman or family has hunted or fished. The results demonstrate the importance of maintaining quality fish and wildlife habitat and providing readily available public access for hunting and angling.

The Sportsmen’s Values Mapping Project is a national initiative that was launched in 2007 by the TRCP. The project has been endorsed by the Arizona Sportsmen for Wildlife Conservation, an alliance of more than two dozen Arizona sportsmen’s groups. Learn more about the Arizona project here.

Value Mapping has also been completed in Montana and Wyoming. The project is ongoing in Idaho.

Nick Payne

by:

posted in: General

August 16, 2016

When It Comes to Conservation, We’re Less Divided Than You Think

Many groups are willing to check politics at the door to focus on the best possible management of our public lands

Amidst a historic and unprecedented election season, it seems that our country is more divided—politically and ideologically—than ever. Unfortunately, the conservation and management of our public lands fall prey to this division, and the resulting log jams in Congress, as well. It makes the work we do at the TRCP difficult at times, yet ultimately very rewarding.

In my career—and while I’ve been hunting, fishing, and exploring every nook and cranny of Colorado—I’ve learned a valuable lesson about how much common ground we actually share when it comes to the conservation of our public lands. I’ve spent much of my time at TRCP sitting down with every kind of public land stakeholder: gun shop owners in Cortez, big game guides in Collbran, wildlife biologists in Meeker, politicians in Denver, environmental activists in Salida, and oil and gas operators visiting from Texas. Early on, it was easy to make some assumptions about these different groups and their views on land management, but the reality is different.

Image courtesy of Nick Payne.

What I find when I’m actually face-to-face with these folks is that nearly all of us want the same thing: public lands that we can enjoy in perpetuity; public lands that continue to provide opportunities for outdoor experiences with our families and friends. Even oil and gas developers—whose primary goal is to generate revenue that supports their business—see the value in responsibly managing lands for all the ways American citizens have come to enjoy them.

I’ve realized that no one actually wants this planet to become a barren wasteland, devoid of wildlife and natural places.

Here’s a perfect example. Recently, I joined representatives from the Colorado Wildlife Federation, National Wildlife Federation, and Trout Unlimited to meet with officials from the Colorado State Land Board about the 3,500-acre James Mark Jones State Wildlife Area. These are state-owned lands surrounded by 13,000 acres of backcountry BLM lands that hold crucial migration, stopover, and winter habitat for elk. I explained that we’ve been working closely with the BLM on the Royal Gorge Resource Management Plan, which will dictate management of 6.8 million acres of subsurface lands and 670,000 acres of surface lands that surround the state wildlife area.

South Park and Arkansas River drainage.

Unfortunately, the state lands were on the auction block for private oil and gas leasing, and this was contrary to ongoing collaborative efforts to create a Master Leasing Plan (MLP) for the greater South Park area. As many sportsmen know, the main goal of the State Land Board is to maximize revenue from state lands, which is why 82 percent of state lands in Colorado are closed to hunting and fishing. So, I was sure we were in for an uphill battle in asking the board to defer these leases until after the MLP process had been completed. But, after we stated our case, bolstered by a letter of support from Colorado Parks and Wildlife, we were surprisingly successful.

Contrary to their stated mission, the state board voted 4 to 1 to defer the leases. This is a case where sound judgment and collaboration led to a positive outcome for the management of our public lands. Common sense won out over dogma. In the end, it may be that these lands are the most appropriate place to responsibly develop our energy resources, but at least we’ll know that, through the MLP, the proper time, effort, and consideration have been put into ensuring that this is the case.

Gold medal waters of Colorado’s South Platte River. Image courtesy Nick Payne.

Of course, many of us will continue to disagree on the specifics of how our public lands should be conserved, used, and managed. Yet it’s only the most extreme ideologues, driven politically or by their bottom line, who aren’t willing to roll up their sleeves and collaborate on reasonable solutions. It’s time that the rest of us stand up and force these snags to the side. The conservation and management of our public lands should not be a politically driven issue. It should be the commitment we make to future generations. And I believe we’re less divided than we think.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

CONSERVATION ISN’T
RED OR BLUE

But a little green never hurt anyone. Support our work to ensure that all hunters and anglers are represented in Washington.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

Be The First To Know




  Please leave this field empty

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

Be The First To Know




  Please leave this field empty

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Join the TRCP for free!

Sign up below to help us guarantee all Americans quality places to hunt and fish. Become a TRCP Member today.

Be The First To Know




  Please leave this field empty

You have Successfully Subscribed!