Coloradans: Tell the BLM to Prioritize Public Land Hunting and Fishing
This is YOUR chance to play a role in how our public lands are managed and ensure that sportsmen and women have a say about the places where we love to hunt and fish
Bureau of Land Management lands in the Arkansas and South Platte River drainages offer world-class trout fishing, provide crucial habitat for Colorado’s most iconic critters, and offer some of the best backcountry hunting opportunities near the Front Range.
The BLM is in the process of revising a plan that will guide management on 668,000 acres of these public lands over the next 20 years, and sportsmen and women need to speak up.
Please attend a local public meeting in the next few weeks (see schedule below) and share your perspective as a public land user.
These events will offer updates on the planning process, allow the public to share their ideas and opinions on the draft plan, and explain ways for interested citizens to stay involved.
The best way to see that our priorities are included in the plan is to have a presence and provide input at these meetings. Meeting dates, locations, and times, as well as suggested talking points are listed below.
Thank you for taking the time to support our public lands.
Where and When
SteamPlant Event Center, 220 W. Sackett Ave, Salida, CO 81201
The Abbey Event Center, Benedict Room, 2951 East Hwy 50, Canon City, CO 81212
Fairplay Community Center, 880 bogue Street, Fairplay, CO 80440
Washington School, Auditorium, 201 E. Fifth Street, Walsenburg, CO 81089
Denver Marriott West, Monart Room, 1717 Denver West Blvd., Golden, CO 80401
Westside Community Center, 1628 W. Bijou Street, Colorado Springs, CO 80904
Greeley Recreation Center, Room 101 ABC, 651 10th Ave, Greeley, CO 80631
Suggested Talking Points
Conservation of unfragmented, functional habitats: I ask that the BLM safeguard our best hunting and fishing areas by adopting the Backcountry Conservation Area management tool that would conserve important big game habitat, prioritize active habitat restoration and enhancement, and support important public access for hunting and other forms of recreation.
Conservation of big game migration corridors and seasonal habitat: I request that the BLM take steps to ensure the conservation of identified big game migration corridors and winter range. This should include not only conserving corridors that have already been mapped and analyzed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, but also in ensuring that the RMP is able to conserve migration corridors that will be mapped in the future.
Public access: Public access is necessary for outdoor recreation. I encourage the BLM to identify opportunities to increase access to public lands that are landlocked or difficult to access because there are few or no access points across private land that enable the public to reach BLM lands.
Community-driven planning: I support conservation measures to maintain the scenic, wildlife, and recreational values of the South Park valley. The management direction for this iconic Colorado landscape should align closely with the community recommendations developed by local stakeholder groups and the county.
Take up our rallying cry for sportsmen and women who step up and speak out about the things that matter most
If you’ve ever set up on a turkey roost in pitch darkness or stalked into a remote treestand before daylight, you’ve felt it: The woods coming alive with the first hopeful rays of sun and your own awareness starting to prickle.
It happens on the water, too—all is calm as your lure drifts, and suddenly there’s the faintest nudge, a slight tension, and you’re compelled to react. Or you’re scanning the open ocean, bobbing along peacefully, until you spot dozens of gulls diving at a feeding frenzy of stripers and you kick your engine into high gear.
The time we spend in the outdoors is split between contemplative, watchful moments and decisive periods of action—and it’s this second part that is the spirit of the TRCP’s #WakeTheWoods movement. Because there are times when it pays to be silent and stealthy, but when it comes to conservation, there are some things worth making noise about. We have to act, as sure as we do when we set the hook or squeeze the trigger.
Today, being an advocate for habitat, clean water, sportsmen’s access, and the outdoor recreation economy means doing more, digging in further, and speaking our minds. No one is going to come find you on the sidelines and ask for your perspective on conservation funding or how to combat chronic wasting disease and mismanagement of public lands.
Having seen what you’ve seen in the outdoors—closer to our lands, waters, and wildlife than many Americans ever hope to be—who could say it better than you?
Sure, we all have busy lives. That’s why we choose to slow down and seek out the natural world the same way that hunters and anglers have been doing for generations. If you can take the time to watch the forest wake up, to wait for a long-legged critter to step into shooting range, or perhaps to attempt that drift for the 25th time… you can take the time to make sure the future of these traditions is secure.
That’s why TRCP makes communicating with key decision-makers far easier than calling in a gobbler or trading bugles with a ghost of a bull elk. On our website, sending a meaningful, targeted message about a legislative priority that could affect habitat, access, or funding probably takes less time and fewer steps than renewing your hunting or fishing license.
And, while we take conservation as seriously as the next NGO, we tell you how legislative and public processes work in language that you can understand. We hope you’ll trust that you can get the facts from us, but we are asking sportsmen and women to band together, whether you are a TRCP member or not.
Because we know you’re not content to sit idly by. We know you have something to say. We know that, united, we can spark change and an awakening in the dimmest corners of our policy-making system. After all, as Theodore Roosevelt said, “The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak, so we must and we will.” Let’s get loud about the things that matter most.
“Securing permanent authorization for LWCF was a significant milestone, but it means very little without predictable, robust funding to unlock inaccessible public lands and create new outdoor recreation opportunities all across the country,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We’re grateful to see lawmakers respond to this fact and remain committed to the success of this important program.”
U.S. Representatives Jeff Van Drew (D-N.J.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) introduced the bipartisan legislation, which directs$900 million annually to the LWCFtrust fund account. The bill also has support from House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and the five Natural Resource Subcommittee Chairs.
When the LWCF was created, Congress intended for the full $900 million, underwritten by a small portion of annual offshore oil and gas leaserevenues, to be used for conservation projects each year. However, only about half of those funds are, in fact, allocated to conservation efforts annually. To date, more than $20 billion in potential LWCF funds have been diverted elsewhere. This legislation would ensure $900 million in funding is directed annually to the LWCF accountand expended only for projects benefitting conservation, outdoor recreation and access as Congress originally intended for the program.
Over its 50-year history, LWCF has expanded access in every state and supported over 41,000 state and local park projects.
“H.R. 3195 and Senate version S. 1081 are the final pieces we need to fulfill our conservation community’s agenda topermanently authorize LWCF with dedicated and full funding,” said Howard K. Vincent, president and CEO of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. “We are grateful to both the House and Senate members that support this effort. If enacted, LWCF will continue to ensure a legacy of access and quality habitat for generations.”
“If you have spent time outdoors at a fishing access site, state park, public lands or local open space, there’s a good chance that you’ve directly benefitted from the Land and Water Conservation Fund,”said Corey Fisher, public land policy director for Trout Unlimited. “But to reach its full potential, LWCF needs full, dedicated funding. We thank our tireless champions in Congress for their work to fulfill the LWCF promise to the American people and ensure that this program continues to sustain our outdoor traditions.”
“The Conservation Fund applauds Congressman Van Drew and his bipartisan colleagues for introducing this bill to ensure full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” said Larry Selzer, president and CEO of The Conservation Fund. “The LWCF is a tremendously successful program that provides unmatched economic, environmental, social, cultural and historical value to Americans. It is also an important tool for reducing the threat of wildfire, supporting local economies, and improving the management of our public lands. While Congress recently enacted permanent authorization of the program, LWCF cannot fully function without full and permanent funding to benefit America’s communities, the environment and the economy for generations to come.”
“There is broad agreement regarding the benefits of LWCF, and on the need for permanent reauthorization, with full, dedicated annual funding,” says Brent Rudolph, chief conservation and legislative officer with the Ruffed Grouse Society and American Woodcock Society. “Sportsmen and women across the nation depend on the access and habitat benefits from this critical program, and we simply cannot wait any longer for Congress to come together and get this done.”
“Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) projects have protected and expanded recreation access for all activities across the country,” said Jessica Wahl, executive director of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable. “Mandatory funding for the LWCF will unleash the program’s true potential – ensuring local communities and economies that depend on sustainable outdoor recreation will continue to flourish – and we stand ready to work with Congress to get this critical measure across the finish line.”
“We applaud the bipartisan leadership from Reps. Jefferson Van Drew (D-NJ), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and the many other representatives who continue to champion the nation’s most successful conservation program,” says Land Tawney, president and CEO at Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “The legislation emphasizes the importance of permanently funding recreational public access for hunting, fishing, recreational shooting or other outdoor recreational activities. Think about all the public lands – currently landlocked – to which we could gain access with $900 million in LWCF funding every year. Passage of this bill would be monumental for hunters, anglers and everyone who enjoys our public resources.”
8 Places Where There Could Be New Public Access to Hunting and Fishing by the Fall Opener
New Interior Department proposal would expand opportunities on some national wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries
In a ceremony at Ottowa National Wildlife Refuge in Ohio this week, Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt announced a proposal to expand hunting and fishing access on some U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-run refuges and fish hatcheries and open new sportsmen’s access on others. This recognizes the value of hunting and fishing to the American economy and addresses one of the major threats to hunting and fishing participation—lost access.
“This announcement will benefit America’s sportsmen and women by providing access to prime hunting and fishing areas,” says Christy Plumer, TRCP’s chief conservation officer. “As public access remains a challenge across the nation, opportunities like this are a shining example of what we can do to support our outdoor recreation economy.”
According to a DOI press statement, there will be a brief public comment period to finalize the proposal, after which these areas could provide new hunting and fishing access to all Americans by the fall opener.
Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Wisconsin
This series of islands in Lake Michigan, off the tip of Wisconsin’s Door County Peninsula, provide critical plant and wildlife habitat that would be open to hunting and fishing for the very first time. On Plum Island, once the site of a U.S. Coast Guard facility, shoreline-only fishing has been discussed, and deer hunting could be expanded to a section of Detroit Island. (According to the Friends of Plum and Pilot Islands, special tags have been available since 2016 to manage the deer herd on Plum Island.)
Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge, Wyoming
Areas already open to some hunting on this refuge in Southwest Wyoming’s high desert plains would allow deer and elk hunting for the first time under the new proposal. Designated units are already open to fishing and hunting for mule deer, pronghorn antelope, moose, ducks, and sage grouse, which actually helped give the refuge its name. Seedskadee is a botched rendition of the native Crow’s name for the Green River: “sisk-a-dee-agie” or “River of the Prairie Chicken.”
St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, Florida
The proposal would expand existing upland and big game hunting to additional acres on this refuge, which is home to both freshwater and saltwater marshes and some of the last remaining longleaf pine forest in the Southeast. This might include additional limited permits for deer, hogs, and turkeys.
Great River National Wildlife Refuge, Illinois and Missouri
This refuge, which straddles 120 miles of the Mississippi River along the Illinois-Missouri border, would expand its season dates for existing deer, turkey, and other upland game hunting to align with state seasons. The proposal would also offer hunters additional methods—currently there is a firearm season for antlerless deer on Fox Island and special permits for muzzleloader-only deer hunting in the 1,700-acre Delair Division.
15 National Fish Hatcheries Across the U.S.
Leadville National Fish Hatchery in Colorado and Iron River National Fish Hatchery in Wisconsin would formally open lands for migratory gamebird, upland game, and big game hunting. Inks Dam National Fish Hatchery in Texas and Little White Salmon National Fish Hatchery in Washington are proposing to formally open their lands to recreational fishing.
Always check and follow all refuge and state regulations before taking advantage of hunting and fishing opportunities on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lands.
Why Public Land Grazing is So Important to the American West
As the demographics of the West change, sportsmen and women can feel good about supporting working ranches that responsibly graze their livestock on public lands—these private landowners and land managers are key partners in conservation and often facilitate hunting and fishing access, unlike the condo complexes that might pop up without them
Private lands make up about 60 percent of the U.S., while hundreds of millions of acres are grazed by livestock. And though it may seem like sportsmen and women only have eyes for public lands, these private lands can also offer critical seasonal habitats and connectivity for fish and wildlife, as well as recreation access.
Working ranches are an incredibly important part of this public-private land fabric—not to mention the Western economy and way of life. But the reliance on public lands for grazing has remained a hot-button issue even after unregulated grazing was curbed by federal law decades ago.
Some of you may immediately think of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and the armed confrontation over his failure to pay grazing fees to the federal government for the use of public lands. Others may have heard groups calling for the outright abolishment of all public land grazing. But smack dab in between these opposing and polarizing views lie most sportsmen and women and tens of thousands of hardworking families who own and manage millions of acres vital to fish and wildlife.
So why does this legitimate use of public lands still get a bad rap?
A Brief History of Grazing in the West
Livestock grazing on both private and public lands dates back to the homesteading era and westward expansion. As iconic and integral as ranching is to the West’s ethos and economy, grazing has also contributed to a long history of controversy and debate over public lands management, from the era of unmanaged sheep and cattle grazing after the Civil War to the Sagebrush Rebellion in the 1970s into the present day.
After decades of unregulated livestock use in the West led to overgrazing and degradation of rangeland and water resources, Congress passed the Taylor Grazing Act in 1934. Today, livestock grazing is much more heavily regulated, yet remains a hot topic, as grazing plays into the complex multiple-use management scheme that must address increasing demands on our federal public lands from a growing human population.
At the heart of this perpetual debate lies a wide range of issues surrounding private property valuation and rights, water quality and usage, endangered species, access to public lands, and habitat for fish and wildlife, among other things. Across Western landscapes, private lands often occur in a “checkerboard” arrangement with federal and state lands, further complicating issues and creating unique challenges for multiple-use management.
Despite the complexities of multiple-use management, maintaining economically viable ranches is of vital importance. The loss of family-owned ranches might mean development on some pretty special landscapes, loss of habitat for native species, or the end of “handshake agreements” for hunting and fishing access.
Not an Either-Or Proposition
So, why is public-land grazing so necessary to keeping these private-lands ranchers in business and on the land? To remain financially solvent, many ranches rely on their own acres AND federal grazing permits. Most of the time, they can’t have one without the other.
The Taylor Grazing Act put tens of millions of acres of public land into grazing districts and smaller units, or allotments. Ranchers apply for renewable 10-year permits to graze on these allotments. Each permittee must own their own base property near the allotment to be eligible and must pay for their use. So, not just anyone can graze their cattle on public lands.
Most Western ranches need both their deeded property and their federal grazing allotments to make an operation economically viable. If ranchers can’t sustain their businesses from the land they own and federal lands they have access to, most will undoubtedly hit a breaking point and sell to a willing buyer. And the sale of existing properties can present new challenges to sportsmen and women.
Private Lands in Other Hands
Much of what happens if a ranch must be sold depends on whether it has a perpetual or long-term easement in place, who buys the land, what their objectives are, and other factors driving the purchase and existing land condition. But a great reason to support responsible ranchers with public land resources is to avoid the risk of what could come next if they sell their property.
While many chunks of land would never be carved up for parking lots, luxury homes, condominiums, commercial real estate, or other development, sub-division of large tracts of land indeed is a real and ominous threat already pervasive across the West. Subdividing private lands does not usually bode well for wildlife conservation or our hunting and fishing access.
Land may transfer hands to another ranching operation—possibly even one with a stronger emphasis on voluntary conservation—but a new landowner could also choose not to re-enroll in a public access program or might move forward with converting wildlife-friendly rangeland to cropland.
The future of private land depends on many things that wind up looking like a roll of the dice in Vegas compared to keeping working lands in knowledgeable working hands.
Partners in Conservation
Landowners are critical to conservation success and thus must be considered necessary partners in conservation. They shouldn’t have to feel threatened by species restoration plans or other resource conservation efforts. Conservation should present opportunities for landowners to keep their lands productive and thriving for both livestock and fish and wildlife.
There can be negative impacts on habitat from improper livestock grazing, and there will likely continue to be issues and disagreements among private landowners and public land users on how public land should be managed. We are all equally accountable to natural resources held in the public trust, whether you own cattle, land, or a hunting license.
Assuming the worst of landowners or attacking their interests does nothing to further conservation. In most cases, they are the worthy stewards of their own lands and our public acres. And losing working ranchlands to development would not bode well for fish, wildlife, or sportsmen in the long run.
Recent angst over sage-grouse conservation, leasing in migration corridors, and water issues should encourage us to strengthen our relationships with all stakeholders interested in finding common ground for conservation and use of our public lands. That includes ranchers who rely on public lands for grazing. The path forward for public and private land management that will sustain conservation is one of continued collaboration and partnership—not polarization.
Aldo Leopold once said: “Conservation will ultimately boil down to rewarding the private landowner who conserves the public interest.” As the contemporary adage goes, the TRCP supports keeping “working lands in working hands.” We will continue working with our organizational partners, plus businesses, landowners, and decision-makers, to ensure that our landscapes provide all Americans quality places to hunt and fish.