Joel Webster

November 2, 2016

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.

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.

10 Responses to “Moving Forward from the Malheur Standoff Decision”

    • Can you provide a citation for this. All I can find is that the tribe “feared” that some artifacts may have been tampered with. I could not find ” indigenous sites that they also destroyed”. Please provide. Thanks

  1. The Gadsen Flag “Don’t Tread On Me” applies both ways. That’s MY public land they’re trashing and NO, they can’t take it away. It’s our American birthright and a darn good reason why we left the “old country” and the royalty who owned it all.

  2. Mike Callan

    Unreal. It’s seriously okay to take over, take arms, and threaten the government on public lands and get away Scott free?!?! Sorry, but what kind of message does this send?!?!? Guess if I want some land I’ll just take it!!!

  3. I have a couple things to say…
    One)
    The whole reason for the occupation was not to remove land from public use… They (we) want control of public lands put back in local control (state or County). Not make it harder to use, but easier for all!
    Two)
    The only people blocking access to the refuge during the occupation was the federal government. Until the last few weeks people were able to move freely in and out.

    and lastly Occupiers did not damage any “Sacred Indigenous Sites”…

  4. It would be nice if you got your facts right before spouting off on the issue of the Bundy’s; both in OR and NV. You apparently bought, hook, line, and sinker, mainstream media’s hype of what actually took place in both locations.
    For your information, the Bundy’s were fighting for public land rights and their own property to keep it from being ‘confiscated’ by the BLM (not Black Lives Matter). They were also fighting for your rights to public land use in OR; but, apparently, you are blind to the facts and want to promote animosity towards these patriots who risked life and freedom to protect those rights.
    Read the Constitution and point out to me or anyone else where our Federal government owns public lands. You’ll be hard pressed to find such a statement anywhere in the Constitution. The Federal government only owns those lands falling within the ten square miles where our nation’s capitol is located, forts, ports and other military bases and Post Offices. The BLM are supposed to be ‘land managers’, not an armed ‘police force’ and they do not own the land they supposedly manage.
    I have to head off to work or I’d add more.

  5. What these fellows did is not lawful but their motivation needs attention. The BLM and Forest Service rules the west like dictators. How about this: for every 100 acres in the west under federal control lets convert 10 acres in the east to federal control. I think many of your views would modify. Wrong action, right cause.

  6. The tone of this article is way out of line. While I might disagree with the Bundy’s thoughts on a whole host of issues I absolutely do not disparage their motivations nor their personalities. Every time I venture into the National Forests near by and see the “no camping” signs all over the place I only feel kinship. The Forest Service now wants to outlaw all recreational shooting up and down the front range in Colorado. Am I too a crackpot for wanting to go camping or wishing for my kids to be able to plink cans with a 22 as kids have done forever?
    The Bundy’s lost their allotment due to a doggone turtle, and the Hammonds of Malheur likewise lost their allotment due to the meddling of some birders and some very poor decisions of the BLM DC office during the last Clinton administration. If you want to complain about poor prosecutorial discretion think first of the Hammonds.
    I want public lands for hunting and fishing, and I also want to share my public lands with all other user groups, and that includes birders and cattle ranchers.

  7. Ben fulton

    I suggest all concerned read Wally Stegner’s book beyond the 100th meridian which points out how the myth of the homestead act (initial acreage 160acre) started a western migration into the aired West that in reality could seldom support a family (as modern day statistics support) current average acreage of western farms and ranches averages 3,000 acres. States demanding land owned by the federal government be given to them have sold of land granted to them at statehood in the 60% range to private interests with no thoughts of recreational uses and value to the states citizens.

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Kristyn Brady

October 19, 2016

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.

“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.

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 sportsmensaccess.org.

For the full OSLI report, click here.

Rob Thornberry

October 18, 2016

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.

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.

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.

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.

Jonathan Stumpf

October 14, 2016

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.

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?

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. 

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posted in: Sportsmens Access

October 11, 2016

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.

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.

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.

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.

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