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October 18, 2009

Better Than You Found It

"How grateful I once was to arrive at a cabin on a cold, wet night and find a good stack of dry wood left behind by some thoughtful user who’d come before me." Cabin in the Gallatin National Forest. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service.

Recently, I was talking with an old friend of mine who loves to spend as much time as he can in big, wild country hiking, fishing and hunting. Like most of us, he is a person of modest means. That’s not an impediment to his fulfilling his desire for adventure, however, because he lives surrounded by the Gallatin National Forest in Montana. In addition to nearly limitless places to camp, the Gallatin offers the public the opportunity to rent 24 different Forest Service cabins, located in wonderful settings, for $20-$30 per night. Most cabins sleep between four and eight people. You do the math!

During our conversation, which was sprinkled with stories of grizzly bears, good trout streams, big bull elk and a cougar sighting, he reminded me of a phenomenon I’ve witnessed – and even participated in – but never gave much thought to until he mentioned it, in a tone invoking pride and even reverence.

“Forest Service cabins and fire lookouts are invariably clean as a whistle when you arrive to use them,” he said. “That’s really something, because no Forest Service staff is assigned to clean them on any kind of regular basis. Keeping the cabins clean is the responsibility of the last people who used them. In my experience, most people try and leave them even cleaner and in better shape than they were in when they arrived. There’s a kind of an unwritten rule among users: You leave them better than you found them.”

I know he’s right about this, because I have swept and mopped a cabin floor, even when it was already clean. I’ve left a spare can of coffee for the next visitors, repaired a broken hinge, and made sure the wood box is overflowing with kindling and dry wood, all the time remembering how grateful I once was to arrive at a cabin on a cold, wet night and find a good stack of dry wood left behind by some thoughtful user who’d come before me. These cabins and lookouts aren’t just somebody else’s property, you see; they belong to me and my family and to you and your family and to a great many other people and their families. Along with this ownership comes a sense of value and pride – and just as important, the realization that someday my grandchild or yours may want to use them. I have a vested interest in them and the forests where they’re located, and so do millions of others. They’re part of the legacy that I was left and that I hope to leave to future generations. Like almost all who use them, I want to leave them better than I found them in the hopes that the next user-owners will do the same.

I believe Teddy Roosevelt had just such thoughts in mind when he set aside our great public land’s estate, realizing that in a democracy their ownership … by the people … would be the safest and best way to assure their future and continued well-being.

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September 14, 2009

Christopher Merritt

“My introduction to the outdoors is not your normal, ‘raised in the country, went hunting with my dad, lived near a dam’ type of story,” says Christopher Merritt, general manager for Beretta USA and TRCP board member. Instead, Merritt developed his love of the outdoors through his professional career in the clothing industry.

“I was introduced to conservation and its impact while I was working for Orvis,” says Merritt. “My first impression was that hunting, fishing and conservation were for rich guys who wanted to make sure ‘their’ hunting and fishing spots were kept pristine and forget about the average guy. I have found this to be false in the past 11 years in the outdoor industry.”

Merritt joined the TRCP board of directors in 2007 and has been active in supporting both the TRCP and the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance both personally and through his work at Beretta.

“Supporting the TRCP is my way of ensuring that every person who wants to hunt and fish has access to do just that,” says Merritt. “Whether it’s through the USA or through the TRCP’s hard work done at the federal level to ensure that there are funds available for states to provide access to anyone who wants to enjoy them, I couldn’t be happier with the TRCP’s results.”

Through his career in the outdoor industry, Merritt has become an avid fly fisherman and bird hunter. His outdoors experience also has inspired him to advocate for better access programs and an increase in hunter education.

“If there is no place for the average person to go, who is not a landowner, then Beretta and the entire outdoor industry is not going to be in business for much longer,” says Merritt. “If we miss one generation from understanding our sporting heritage, we will no longer need to worry about access. We have to continually pave the way for people to have the right of access to hunt and fish not just in parts of our country but throughout the United States. One of my favorite stories that Jim Range, the TRCP’s former chairman and co-founder, told me was about how people formed lifelong friendships with each other through the simple act of kindness of a landowner allowing a sportsmen to hunt or fish on his land and the respect that is shown by the sportsmen to that property. It’s like asking your neighbor for a cup of sugar and, next thing you know, you’re both eating a great piece of pie.”


posted in:

August 19, 2009

3 Toms

These three toms were taken within 10 minutes of each other in northwest Indiana by Gene Clifford, retired Local 4 Indiana/Kentucky bricklayer (left); Joe Valtolina, union Sheetmetal worker from the south suburbs of Chicago (right); and Tom McNabb, union dispatcher for Roadway Trucking. Send photos of your outdoor adventures with a detailed caption to brianm@trcp.org. Whoever submits the winning picture will receive a navy blue T.R. Sesquicentennial Hat.


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August 18, 2009

Westward Ho!

Theodore Roosevelt in Yellowstone National Park during his presidential working Western vacation. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Read the entire excerpt of The Wilderness Warrior on VanityFair.com Excerpted from The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America

That same week [as Roosevelt’s designation of declaring Pelican Island a Federal Bird Reservation], Roosevelt was busy with last-minute plans for a working vacation that would include stops at Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, and Yosemite. Calling it his “Western trek,” Roosevelt had mapped out a 66-day venture that to this day remains the longest, most elaborate cross-country journey ever taken by a sitting U.S. president. Desperate to sneak in some cougar (mountain lion) hunting around Yellowstone, Roosevelt was furiously corresponding with the park’s superintendent, Major John Pitcher, about obtaining a permit and arranging to have the proper hunting dogs available for him upon arrival. “I am still wholly at sea to whether I can take that trip or not,” Roosevelt wrote Pitcher. “[War] Secretary [Elihu] Root is afraid that a false impression might get out if I killed anything, even though it was killed … strictly under Park regulations and though it was only a mountain lion—that is, an animal of the kind you are endeavoring to thin out.”

Just to be safe, the president had Interior Secretary Ethan Hitchcock secretly smuggle three hunting dogs into Yellowstone from a Texas kennel. Roosevelt wrote Pitcher that if word leaked out to reporters that he was plotting 7 to 10 days of cougar shooting, the president would merely shelve the scheme and revert to studying “the game and going about on horseback, or if I get into trim, perhaps on snowshoes.” (As a backup, Roosevelt had the park’s game warden, Charles “Buffalo” Jones, round up even more dogs—two lots of cougar hounds from Aledo, Texas.)

Roosevelt wrote the famed naturalist John Burroughs that March to invite him to join him on the upcoming trip. Burroughs’s popular collections of homespun nature essays had sold millions of copies nationwide. But in the president’s letters he never once mentioned hunting in Yellowstone—even to say that his intention was to go after only cougars, which preyed upon the park’s elk herds. Instead, Roosevelt said he wanted to “see,” in liberal measure, the elk, deer, bears, and antelope. He ended his letter by promising he would make sure “that you endured neither fatigue or hardship.”

Roosevelt’s claim that he intended to kill cougars to help endangered elk had a ring of Good Samaritan to it. But this was a woefully naïve view of the predators’ role in the ecological order. The president knew all too well that cougars and coyotes weren’t a real problem in Yellowstone; he had just wanted to hunt them for fun. Furthermore, Roosevelt was right to be concerned about damaging his reputation by hunting anything in Yellowstone; Congress had begun to view his expensive hunting holidays with increasing disdain. And so, before he left on his sojourn, Roosevelt backpedaled and abandoned his hunting plans entirely. Pitcher would issue a stern statement declaring that the president’s gun, just like any citizen’s, would be sealed by the military when he entered the park. (Even so, as Burroughs would later write, “I did hear him say in the wilderness [of Yellowstone], ‘I feel as if I ought to keep the camp in meat. I always have.’ I regretted that he could not do so on this occasion.”)

What was becoming painfully obvious to the naturalist community was that the president had a bloodlust. For all of his promotion of egrets and pelicans and Kodiaks, Roosevelt preferred to kill big game. And the president never disputed the characterization, though he grew tired of constantly having to explain himself to animal-rights types. His inability to reconcile this penchant for the chase engendered among environmentalists a deep distrust toward him.

Quite simply, Roosevelt viewed all humans, with the exception of vegetarians, as active or passive agents in conservation because of their presence as predators—consumers of food. The hunter, at least, engaged the natural world directly through active culling and harvesting. Non-hunters, the president believed, risked damaging the circle of life because of their failure to recognize the genuine role humans played as a species. Hence, Roosevelt contended that ethical hunters were almost by default first-rate conservationists.


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July 19, 2009

July Photo of the Month

Bob Blanco, southern regional director for the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers and USA member, caught this 25-pound dolphin 40 miles east of Miami, Fla. Send photos of your outdoor adventures with a detailed caption to brianm@trcp.org. Whoever submits the winning picture will receive a navy blue T.R. Sesquicentennial Hat.



Theodore Roosevelt’s experiences hunting and fishing certainly fueled his passion for conservation, but it seems that a passion for coffee may have powered his mornings. In fact, Roosevelt’s son once said that his father’s coffee cup was “more in the nature of a bathtub.” TRCP has partnered with Afuera Coffee Co. to bring together his two loves: a strong morning brew and a dedication to conservation. With your purchase, you’ll not only enjoy waking up to the rich aroma of this bolder roast—you’ll be supporting the important work of preserving hunting and fishing opportunities for all.

$4 from each bag is donated to the TRCP, to help continue their efforts of safeguarding critical habitats, productive hunting grounds, and favorite fishing holes for future generations.

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