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Nearly 3,000 hunters will take to the field in the Ruby Mountains this fall, but first we must defend this habitat
Results for the Nevada Department of Wildlife big game tag drawings came out late last month, and tags are currently making their way to the mailboxes of successful applicants.
More than 2,700 tags were issued to hunters who will be able to pursue deer in area 10, which includes the backbone of Nevada’s largest mule deer herd—the unparalleled Ruby Mountains. Additionally, 150 elk tags were given out for a depredation hunt in the Rubies under the statewide elk management plan. Finally, eight very lucky hunters have drawn what could be called the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hunt mountain goats in three units within the Ruby and East Humboldt ranges.
In the coming months, these tagholders and their families and friends will be making scouting trips, most likely to be combined with fishing, camping, and hiking in Rubies, as well as the Ruby Lakes Wildlife Refuge, an area known to Nevadans as the Ruby Marshes. Approximately 10 percent of these sportsmen and women will be from out of state, and their spending will bring substantial income to rural Nevada businesses.
Many of these recreationists will be enjoying the area for the first time, while others will be returning to traditional hunting grounds, where they have a long history. All will be building lifelong memories of a special place. I know what that is like.
I tagged my first mule deer buck in the Ruby Mountains more years ago than I care to admit. At just 13 years old, it was where I learned some of the most formative lessons about woodsmanship and the outdoors from close friends and relatives. That November hunt was an adventure I’ll never forget and is still one of my favorite stories to tell.
The Rubies are indeed a special place. But this habitat could be changed forever if we don’t speak out for fish, wildlife, and our outdoor recreation opportunities.
A Landscape Under Threat
Sportsmen and women need to be aware of an ongoing threat to the Ruby Mountains and how they can help. Nearly two years ago, 54,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service land in the Rubies were nominated for oil and gas leasing. After months of careful consideration, the forest supervisor officially decided not to allow leasing of those parcels.
In late January 2019, Senator Catherine Cortez Masto went even further and introduced the Ruby Mountain Protection Act (S. 258) to withdraw 450,000 acres of Forest Service land on the Rubies and East Humboldt Range from oil and gas leasing. The bill had a hearing in May and now awaits further action.
At approximately the same time, additional “expressions of interest”—the mechanism by which parcels are nominated for leasing—were filed for some of the same areas as the original request, as well as other parcels in the southern Rubies. Mule deer migration corridors flank both sides of the mountains, where Nevada’s largest deer herd moves from the high-elevation summer and fall range to its southern winter range.
Oil and gas exploration could negatively impact those corridors. But Cortez Masto’s bill would be a major step forward in protecting and conserving these critical habitats.
Time to Act
S. 258 would be a huge win for anyone who care about this special place, and sportsmen and women need to speak up in support of this legislation.
Still, we can do even more to protect the outdoor opportunities in this area. The Ruby Marshes, nestled against the southeastern corner of the Ruby Mountains, are managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and now is our opportunity to see that they are protected as part of the larger bill. Please ask lawmakers to add the Ruby Lakes National Wildlife Refuge to the lands included in Cortez Masto’s bill to ensure that the hunting and fishing traditions in this area remain intact for future generations.
Learn more and take action at SportsmenfortheRubies.com.
Photo: Tom Hilton via Flickr
Draft public lands management plan shows some promising provisions in the preferred alternative, some areas in need of improvement
Canon City, Colo. – On Monday the Bureau of Land Management made public its Royal Gorge Field Office (RGFO) draft Resource Management Plan, which when finalized will guide management decisions over the next few decades on 600,000 surface and 6.8 million subsurface acres of public lands.
A coalition of ten hunting- and fishing-related groups and 23 local businesses have been working alongside a wide range of stakeholders over the past several years to ensure that high-value backcountry hunting and fishing areas are accessible and big game populations conserved in the Royal Gorge Field Office. While sportsmen would like to see some changes to the final plan, the response to the draft plan was generally positive.
“South Park-area BLM public lands offer some truly amazing and wide-ranging opportunities for sportsmen and women,” said Nick Payne, Colorado field representative with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “This is particularly true in the Upper Arkansas River area, which supports a great deal of recreation. By making a few adjustments to secure sportsmen’s priorities in the final plan – especially for key backcountry hunting areas – the BLM could make this land use plan a success.”
Safeguards for key hunting and fishing lands have been one focus of a years-long community-driven planning process for the South Park area. While some changes have been made to management provisions in the South Park Area, hunting and fishing groups believe this part of the plan remains largely true to the desired outcomes expressed by the community and various stakeholders.
“Although there have been some changes in presentation of the South Park management in the draft RMP, we feel good about where this planning process is headed and believe the community’s priorities can be represented in the final plan,” said Suzanne O’Neill, executive director of the Colorado Wildlife Federation, who has been on the forefront of these efforts since the first discussions in 2011. “Sportsmen, women, and wildlife enthusiasts will remain involved in this process as constructive partners to ensure that the final plan benefits the iconic South Park landscape and community.”
Terry Meyers, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Society, pointed out the importance of this plan to Colorado’s bighorn sheep hunters, “Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep hunting units in the RGFO offer hunters the chance to pursue this iconic Western species in Colorado every year. We encourage the BLM to conserve valuable intact habitat and hunting areas in the final plan”
“This process isn’t over yet and there are some things we’d like to see improved,” continued Payne. “But we also appreciate the work put into this plan by the BLM and we will remain at the table to see this process through to completion. We believe it can be a success.”
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
The Bureau of Land Management’s Vale District Office manages more than 4.6 million acres of public lands across eastern Oregon including the Trout Creek Mountains and the Owyhee Reservoir. These landscapes provide some of the finest hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation opportunities in the state, as well as important habitat for big game, upland birds, and lahontan cutthroat trout
Currently, the BLM is revising its plan that will determine the future management of these lands for the next 20+ years, and public meetings are scheduled that offer an opportunity for the public to share their ideas directly to the BLM. This process is a key opportunity to help protect habitat of the imperiled sage grouse, determine where Off-Road Vehicles can and cannot travel, and protect wild desert places to camp, hunt and fish. Three main issues will be addressed in this planning process: Lands with Wilderness Characteristics, Off-Road Vehicle and Travel Management and Livestock Grazing. Each meeting will include a brief overview of the alternatives being considered at 6 p.m. Maps, handouts and BLM staff to answer questions will be available for the duration of each meeting. Sportsmen and women must get involved to ensure that the best habitats are conserved and public access for hunting and fishing is maintained.
Please attend one of three local public meetings and make your voice heard – meeting dates, locations, and times, as well as suggested talking points are listed below.
Where and when
Public meetings (All meetings run from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.)
Suggested talking points
Stakeholder Support: The BLM’s preferred alternative to revert to the management plan from 2002 does not reflect recommendations made after countless years of efforts by diverse stakeholders on the local Resource Advisory Council to improve the management of public lands for recreation and wildlife. Urge the BLM to select an alternative that will protect this landscape’s wild places by limiting OHV travel to existing routes and maximizes opportunities for common-sense conservation that improves the health and habitat of this vast landscape.
Conservation of unfragmented, functional habitats: These high-quality habitats benefit countless species including sage grouse, mule deer, and desert bighorn sheep. Over 2 million acres within the planning area have been identified as mule deer winter range and deserve common sense protections. Backcountry public lands also enable hunters to get away from the crowds and enjoy a quality hunting experience.
Wildlife and fisheries restoration and enhancement: We encourage and support efforts to prioritize active habitat restoration and enhancement on the landscape to benefit big game and other wildlife species.
Outdoor Retailer audiences get a sneak preview of a new report from TRCP and onX identifying landlocked state lands across the West
Denver, Colo. — Today, onX and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership revealed a snapshot of new data uncovered in their latest collaborative study to calculate the acreage of landlocked state lands across 11 Western states.
In a press briefing at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, onX founder Eric Siegfried and TRCP’s director of Western lands Joel Webster announced their preliminary findings on access barriers to trust lands in the state of Colorado, including:
There are 2.78 million acres of state trust lands in total across Colorado. All Western states were granted lands by the federal government at statehood, and Colorado is the only state in the Mountain West that does not allow public access to the majority of its trust lands. Webster noted that Colorado’s restrictive access rules are actually a greater hindrance to outdoor recreation on state trust lands than the landlocked land issue, which makes it an outlier among other Western states.
Governor Jared Polis is taking proactive steps to address this challenge. “Colorado is arguably the most beautiful state in America, and I’m committed to expanding the public’s access to our treasured federal and state-owned land,” said Governor Polis. “I’m delighted that Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Public Access Program for sportsmen and women will be growing by more than 100,000 acres in time for the upcoming 2019 hunting season. We will continue looking at more opportunities to increase access in the near future.”
“We appreciate the collaborative work that has already gone into opening state trust lands to public access in Colorado and believe the state currently has perhaps the single greatest opportunity to expand public access in the West,” said TRCP’s Joel Webster. “Without a doubt, Governor Polis’s commitment to expanding public access should be encouraging to everyone who recreates in the outdoors. Other states have come up with innovative ideas for opening access to trust lands, and they offer a model for how Colorado could continue to tackle this issue.”
The project is building on a 2018 report by onX and the TRCP that found more than 9.52 million acres of federally managed public lands in the West are landlocked and lack legal public access. Those findings are available in a new report, “Off Limits, But Within Reach: Unlocking the West’s Inaccessible Public Lands,” which unpacks the issue in unprecedented detail.
“Our company’s mission is to help people find places they can explore to create a memorable outdoor experience,” says onX founder Eric Siegfried. “State lands can be easily overlooked by the recreating public, and more can be done to make these lands accessible to all. We are looking forward to calculating the full extent of access challenges and highlighting constructive opportunities to open lands to the public.”
The full report will delve deeper into the issue of recreational access across 11 Western states by focusing on landlocked lands at the state level. It will be formally presented to the press and public at the TRCP Western Media Summit on August 19, 2019 in Seattle, Washington.
“We’re excited to partner once again with onX on a collaborative project that wouldn’t be possible without their world-class product and commitment to public access,” concluded Webster.
Learn more about the forthcoming report and sign up to be the first to receive it at unlockingpubliclands.org.
In the last two years, policymakers have committed to significant investments in conservation, infrastructure, and reversing climate change. Hunters and anglers continue to be vocal about the opportunity to create conservation jobs, restore habitat, and boost fish and wildlife populations. Support solutions now.Learn More