October 25, 2023

Anglers and Hunters Applaud Senate Introduction of MAPWaters Act

New legislation would help digitize fishing regulations and recreational access information 

Today, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership celebrated the introduction of the Modernizing Access to Our Public Waters Act that would enhance recreation on federal waterways by investing in modern technology to provide anglers, hunters, boaters, and other water users the information they need to safely and legally access and utilize public waters administered by federal agencies.

The bipartisan legislation was introduced by U.S. Senators John Barrasso (R-Wyo) and Angus King (I-Maine).

“Anglers, hunters, and boaters must interpret complex rules when they are out using public waterways, and the MAPWaters Act would direct federal agencies to clarify that information in geospatial form,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “TRCP thanks Senator Barrasso and Senator King for their leadership on this important legislation that will help people discover and enjoy new water-based recreation opportunities and keep them safe and legal.”

The MAPWaters Act builds on the success of the recently passed MAPLand Act by directing federal agencies to digitize water and fishing access and recreational use information on federal waterways and to make those resources readily available to the public. Federal waterways include any portion of a body of water managed, or partially managed, by one or more of the following federal agencies: the Bureau of Reclamation, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Forest Service.

This newly digitized public information would include:

• Status information on which waterways are open or closed to entry or watercraft, including watercraft inspection or decontamination requirements.

• The areas of waterways with restrictions on motorized propulsion, horsepower, or gasoline fuel.

• Types of watercraft that are restricted on each area of a waterway, including the permissibility of canoes, rafts, motorboats, airboats, oversnow vehicles on frozen bodies of water, etc.

• The location and geographic boundaries of fishing restrictions on recreational and commercial fishing, including full or partial closures, no-take zones, and fishing restrictions within or surrounding marine protected areas.

• Fishing restrictions concerning specific types of equipment or bait, such as restrictions on the use of barbed hooks or live bait and requirements with respect to catch and release.

Presently, much of this information is housed in agency documents and difficult for the public to discover and access. For example, in the Code of Federal Regulations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service includes 42 pages worth of National Wildlife Refuge specific recreation rules, many of which are tied to waterway navigation, use, and fishing.

The clarity and accessibility of regulations for both the public, and the agencies entrusted to manage these waters, will result in more Americans confidently accessing and enjoying their public waters.

“Digital navigation and mapping tools connect America’s 54.5 million anglers to the outdoors, helping them discover new fishing spots,” said Mike Leonard, vice president of government affairs at the American Sportfishing Association. “We thank Senator Barrasso and Senator King for introducing the MAPWaters Act, which will improve spatial information on fishing and boating regulations, as well as the locations of boat launches and access points. Standardized and digitized mapping data from federal agencies will support the software and electronics that are increasingly important to anglers.”

“Knowing where to go fishing and what you can do when you get there, is basic information all anglers need for a successful day on the water,” said Lindsay Slater, vice president of government affairs for Trout Unlimited. “The MAPWaters Act will standardize and simplify information for anglers to access and use waters managed by federal agencies, including decontamination requirements to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species. We look forward to this bill becoming law and helping to better inform anglers who fish on public waters.”

“Access to water is just as important to hunters, anglers, and other outdoor recreationists as access to land,” said Laura Orvidas, CEO of onX. “Yet, regulations regarding water access are even more complex. Having water access information and regulations publicly available in a digital format is critical for communicating intended water use for responsible access and protecting aquatic species and their habitats. Through the MAPWaters Act, we can help empower the outdoor community to not only enjoy our nation’s vast waterways, but also recreate responsibly.” 

“Improved national mapping data from federal agencies about watercraft restrictions and fishing regulations will help outdoor enthusiasts, anglers, and other water users discover and access new recreational opportunities,” said Zachary Pope, founder of TroutRoutes, a fishing focused navigation application. “For the benefit of millions of American anglers, we support this bill and encourage Congress to advance the MAPWaters Act into law.”

Photo credit: Jim Pennucci

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October 19, 2023

Montana State of Mind

Cameron Smith and Harrison Creed of The Omni Collective witness the intensity of Big Sky fly fishing culture and learn about the conservation efforts that make these adventures possible

October in the West brings its own kind of quiet to the rivers. Cottonwood galleries catch the light at all angles, while aspen leaves flicker like minnows in the shallows. Most tourists have returned to their states far away, and the locals are trying to find that one bull still bugling or chasing pronghorn on the prairie.

Cameron Smith and Harrison Creed likely couldn’t have picked a better window for their ten-day, five-state fly fishing sojourn across the mountain west. The two former football stars connected over their common passion for the outdoors and photography and took a leap of faith to spend over a week on the road together having shared little more than a meal before.

Their circuitous route took them through the promised land of fly fishing: Montana. Here they fished the Madison and Gallatin Rivers after driving through the southwest corner of the state.

“I felt the gravity of Montana when I entered,” said Creed. “I’m from Kansas and so whenever I come West, I’m in awe. As soon as you cross into the state I feel like ‘it’s on.’

Fly fishing in Montana is like hunting ducks in the timber in Arkansas. It’s special and everyone talks about it, but not everyone gets to do it.”

Smith also sensed the power of the treasure state when it came to fly angling.

“Growing up and not fly fishing that much, I feel more comfortable with a camera in my hand than a rod,” Smith confessed. “So, when I walked into a fly shop in Montana it felt like walking into church after not going for a couple years, but not in a bad way. You can just feel the passion and knowledge about fly fishing across the entire state.”

The duo was able to find an October caddis hatch along the Madison after a slog along the hundred-mile riffle. Eventually they were rewarded with a pod of rising rainbows stacked up behind a deadfall on the riverbank.

“They were gulping those bugs as if they were carp,” said Creed. “They weren’t sipping like you’d expect. Their whole mouths were coming out of the water.”

Taking time to position himself, Creed was able to drop his fly along the seam where the current pushed the bug into the slack water, pausing perfectly to rise the wild rainbow.

“That rainbow was special because it was my first fish in Montana. And on a dry. You can’t get any better than that.”

Smith tied into two others, but unfortunately the river took the trout back before he was able to bring them to hand. Yet he, along with Creed, began this trip with a mindful approach to the fishing. There was no expectation to measure their time on the road together by the lowest metric of success, catching a fish.

“I still felt frustration of those fish shaking off,” Smith chuckled. “But I was able to return to the heart of the trip, which was time spent with a new friend and the adventure.”

“What we really wanted to get out of this trip is to inspire people,” said Harrison. “There are a lot of people who get stuck in the rut of the patterns of life. But through this experience we hope to show people that you can go on a ten-day, five-state fly fishing trip with a buddy. Just go for it. There is a lot of life that people don’t tap into.”

These fishing opportunities, and the open space and wild that raise the quality of the adventure, are only possible because of the conservation efforts of diverse interest groups working together to make Montana the unique place anglers the world over know and love.

Creed and Smith’s trip passed through the southwest corner of the state, and as all folks who have undertaken a journey of this scope know, the best plans usually crumble. Weather and conflicts made their trek for Arctic grayling fizzle out.

Montana’s southwest corner holds the headwaters of the Missouri River where world-class brown and rainbow trout share pools with the only remaining native population of river-dwelling Arctic grayling in the contiguous United States. The largest rivers, along with some of the most productive spawning grounds in the region, flow mostly through private land. The fertile valleys are home to multi-generational ranching and farming families that support a rich tradition and thousands of livelihoods. These open spaces on working, private lands also provide valuable wildlife habitat that enhance the fishing opportunities Creed and Smith experienced.

“The rivers are taken care of in Montana, and having people who genuinely care about the rivers, fishing, and anglers is really special,” said Smith. “You don’t see that everywhere, and there are more places to fish because of that care.”

Currently, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing the Missouri Headwaters Conservation Area that would provide the region’s farmers and ranchers financial support from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to keep their working lands in business by enrolling in voluntary conservation agreements. This kind of investment paints a bright future for keeping working lands in business, while at the same time benefiting anglers and hunters on public land. Comments can be submitted at MOHWCA@fws.gov or through TRCP’s action alert. The comment period extends through November 27, 2023.

Learn more about the ongoing efforts to guarantee you quality places to fish across America by visiting trcp.org, and read about Cam and Harrison’s story here on Flylords.

Follow Cam and Harrison through the @_theomnicollective, and follow Cam @_killacam and Harrison @harrison.creed to keep tabs on their individual adventures. 

Photo credit: The Omni Collective

September 6, 2023

10 Questions with Eastmans’ Brandon Mason

Paper Trails was filmed nearly a year ago, but the memories are still fresh for Mason

With a Wyoming pronghorn antelope hunt as a backdrop, Paper Trails and its characters, including Mason, uncover the challenges hunters and other outdoor recreationists face when accessing and navigating their public lands and describe what’s being done to improve that access.

TRCP: With hunting season around the corner, we have to ask—did you draw another pronghorn tag this year?
Mason: I didn’t, but two of my kids drew the same tag I had last year. So we’re excited to get back out there this season!

TRCP: The buck you took last year was great, and from the film it looked like you put in some serious work to find access. Can you talk about some of the challenges that arise when navigating public access in areas with mixed public-private ownership?
Mason: The biggest challenge is just to make sure you don’t trespass and cause frustrations for local landowners. I study maps and apps intently to ensure I know where to go and where not to go. Even with studying maps, though, there is nothing like ground-truthing. Sometimes access looks easy on a map, but then you get there, and the road on the map either doesn’t exist or isn’t a public road. It can be very frustrating, but very rewarding when you do it right and respect all landowners in the area.

We saw a lot of pronghorn and discovered new areas to access that I couldn’t in the past thanks to a walk-in program.

TRCP: What were your expectations going into the hunt?
Mason: I had hunted this area in the past, but it had been a while. My expectations were to see a few pronghorn on land I could hunt and then make the most of limited opportunities. Thankfully, though, we saw a lot of pronghorn and discovered new areas to access that I couldn’t in the past thanks to a walk-in program administered by the Wyoming Game & Fish and private landowners.

TRCP: Your buck didn’t take a step after the shot—what rifle and cartridge were you shooting?
Mason: I was using a Savage Impulse Mountain Hunter rifle in 6.5 PRC with a 143 grain ELD-X bullet from Hornady in their Precision Hunter line of ammunition. It definitely did the job quickly and cleanly. It was actually the first animal harvested with that new rifle, which was pretty cool for this film. That round is amazingly flat-shooting and accurate.

TRCP: What was uncovered during the research and filming of Paper Trails that surprised you the most?
Mason: The sheer volume of records that are managed by the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, state county offices, etc. It truly was dumbfounding when we were in the Forest Service’s Missoula office, as well as the passion and attention to detail of their personnel like Will Pedde. They see it as their life’s work and are very dedicated to managing all of those records.

TRCP: How will you use the knowledge you gained from that hunt this season?
Mason: I plan to impress upon our audience at Eastmans’, as well as my children, on just how precious our access is to public land and how we all need to do our best to be good stewards on public and private lands to ensure we are able to have that access in the future.

TRCP: What’s your #1 tip for hunting pronghorn?
Mason: Don’t act sneaky! Hahaha…it seems the sneakier I try to act, the more I scare them off. I’ve discovered that if you act too interested in them, they’ll turn tail and be in the next county before you know it. Have patience and have fun. Pronghorn hunting is such a fun way to spend time with family and friends, so don’t take yourself too seriously when you’re out there.

TRCP: What made pronghorn the perfect hunt to highlight the challenges and opportunities of public access?
Mason: Pronghorn live in some of the most checkerboarded landscapes out West. To be successful year in and year out, it is imperative to hunt similar areas as often as possible and do your homework on public land access well in advance of the hunt itself. Pronghorn hunting is often a challenge to the public land hunter, which makes them the perfect species to highlight access opportunities.

TRCP: What are some of the tools you use to help identify and navigate public access?
Mason: Obviously onX has changed the game and made us all more intuitive hunters. I’m also a map geek and love pouring over maps, using a compass, and studying topography and landscape features to not only navigate public access, but also to understand where animals can predictably be out on the landscape, no matter what state I’m in.

TRCP: What advice about access would you give to hunters heading to a new area to hunt this season?
Mason: Start your research early, talk to game and fish officials, land management agencies, other hunters on forums, friends and family that have hunted that same area and/or that same species in the past, and just soak it all in. Life is a series of data points on a graph. Data points form clusters, and the clusters tell a story. It takes time, and each experience helps you have fun and be successful in the next opportunity. That goes for all things in life…not just hunting. I’m always gleaning information from everything and everyone around me in my day-to-day life.

Watch Paper Trails here, and learn more about TRCP’s commitment to expanding public access here.

Photo Credit: Eastmans’ Hunting Journals

August 31, 2023

TRCP Commends USFS for 834,000 acres of Proposed Wildlife Management Areas in the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests

Newly established Wildlife Management Areas and critical management updates seek to protect and enhance high-value habitat for big game

The over three million acres of public land that make up the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests in Western Colorado will soon have an updated management plan thanks to the hard work and years of public and partner engagement by Forest Service staff.

The GMUG National Forests comprise hunting units where approximately 50,000 big game hunting licenses are allocated annually, and support nearly 20 percent of the state’s iconic mule deer and elk populations. The GMUG currently hosts 3,000 miles of sanctioned recreational trails, four scenic byways, six peaks over 14,000 feet, 10 Wilderness areas, and over 3,600 miles of perennial streams. If the Forest Service adopts its preferred alternative in the final environmental impact statement and approves its draft record of decision, 834,000 acres (28% of the GMUG Forests) would be managed with a focus on conserving important seasonal habitats for big game and other wildlife species.

“The management objectives and guidelines specific to over 800,000 acres of newly defined Wildlife Management Areas that seek to maintain and improve habitat connectivity and function, including vegetation management projects designed to improve habitat long term, will benefit hunter and angler opportunity,” praised Liz Rose, TRCP’s Colorado field representative.

The proposed GMUG National Forests’ Revised Land Management Plan aims to protect and reinforce the forests’ value to recreationists, local communities, and wildlife through active and adaptive management as social and environmental pressures continue to change. A century of fire suppression combined with ever-increasing risks from drought and wildfire and unprecedented increases in recreational use means that planning, active management, and monitoring, all informed by the best available data and science, is needed to restore diverse, healthy, natural systems across the GMUG Forests. 

“Wildlife need healthy forests in the near and long term and status quo is not an option for maintaining them,” explained Patt Dorsey, west region director of conservation operations for the National Wild Turkey Federation. “Forest restoration activities that maintain forest resilience are crucial on the landscape and project level.”

The proposed plan aims to steer future recreational trail expansion away from Wildlife Management Areas, designated and proposed Wilderness, and other special areas such as Research Natural Areas. Furthermore, in Wildlife Management Areas, the Forest Service intends to maintain a lower density of roads and trails in order to minimize habitat fragmentation and year-round disturbance to wildlife. This management standard will help make Wildlife Management Areas high-quality habitats for deer, elk, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, Gunnison sage-grouse, and other wildlife. The TRCP looks forward to working with the Forest Service to finalize the proposed GMUG to benefit Colorado’s fish, wildlife, and outdoorspeople.

The Forest Service will accept formal objections during a 60-day objection period. Following this period, the Forest Service may revise its plan then issue a record of decision and adopt the plan as final. The TRCP encourages the Forest Service to adopt a final plan expeditiously so GMUG staff can begin 2024 with updated direction to improve fish, wildlife, and watershed health, and provide opportunities for people to safely, confidently, and successfully utilize and enjoy time spent on Colorado’s special public lands.

Learn more about TRCP’s commitment to guaranteeing all Americans quality places to hunt and fish here.

August 24, 2023

Idaho Hunters Have 120,800 Reasons to Celebrate

Wildlife and hunters win big in the BLM’s Four Rivers record of decision

Last week, after nearly eight years in the making, the Idaho Office of the Bureau of Land Management signed a Record of Decision on revisions to the Four Rivers Field Office resource management plan.

“This win for hunters is because Idaho’s outdoor community—hunters, outdoor business owners, wildlife professionals, conservationists, and outdoor recreationists—came together to ask for sensible, active management to perpetuate huntable wildlife populations in perpetuity,” said Rob Thornberry, Idaho field representative for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We owe a huge thanks to our wonderful hunting and fishing community.”

The plan, which will set guidance in the 783,000-acre field office for decades to come, includes a major win for hunters: a 120,800-acre Backcountry Conservation Area where BLM “will promote public access to support wildlife-dependent recreation and hunting opportunities and facilitate the long-term maintenance of big game wildlife populations,” according to the ROD.

When successfully implemented by the BLM, the Bennett Hills BCA will be managed to:
• Protect and enhance public access to world-class hunting.
• Conserve intact wildlife habitat, including crucial big game winter range and migratory habitats for six distinct mule deer, elk, and pronghorn herds.
• Prioritize management practices that restore habitat and control noxious weeds (i.e. treat cheat grass, control conifer encroachment, and allow water developments).
• Support and maintain traditional uses of the land such as ranching and hunting.

In addition to the conservation of the Bennett Hills, the new resource management plan will continue wildlife-friendly management in the Boise Foothills and the conservation of habitat for both long-billed curlew south of Emmett and Columbian sharp-tailed grouse near New Meadows.

Release of the final plan follows roughly a decade-long effort by TRCP to make BCAs a reality. That path included the release of a draft environmental impact statement and resource management plan in May 2019 where the agency’s preferred alternative excluded all wildlife protections from the plan, such as the then-proposed BCA, 11 Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, and one area identified as Lands with Wilderness Character.

The TRCP worked with Idaho Wildlife Federation, Trout Unlimited, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Idaho Chukar Foundation, and other independent hunters and anglers to facilitate the return of wildlife friendly protections, including reinstating the Bennet Hills BCA and Boise Front ACEC, to the final plan. The Boise Front ACEC is a key piece in this public land conglomeration puzzle because the area annually hosts thousands of wintering deer, elk, and pronghorn. Like the Bennett Hills BCA, it is critical for the long-term viability of deer, elk, and pronghorn.

Thirty-nine Idaho-based sporting businesses also advocated that BLM include significant conservation measures within the final plan.

Drew Wahlin, executive director of the Idaho Chukar Foundation, echoed those comments and gave special praise to the BLM.

“BLM deserves a huge thank you,” said Wahlin. “These conservation measures wouldn’t have been possible without the thoughtful leadership of BLM.”

Learn more about TRCP’s commitment to guaranteeing all Americans quality places to hunt and fish here.



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.

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