While some are fortunate enough to gain access to prime private property, the vast majority of bowhunters take to public land each year. But threats to this access — from changes in legislation to mismanagement of resources — put hunting opportunities for the average joe in danger. That's why Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is fighting to keep it public.
BHA was formed in 2004 around an Oregon campfire when a group of friends resolved to effect change on conservation efforts and preserve the 640 million acres of public land across the United States.
What began as a volunteer-led grassroots initiative has grown into a force with a membership of 18,500, 29 on staff and chapters in 39 states, the District of Columbia and two Canadian provinces.
BHA focuses on ensuring outdoorsmen have access to public lands and waters, the habitat is primed for wildlife to thrive and fair-chase principles are upheld by focusing on education and advocacy.
According to BHA, more than two-thirds of Western hunters rely on public land, and outdoorsmen throughout the country enjoy access to these resources. But encroachment on public land, attacks on proper habitat management and advances in technology are endangering the future of wildlife and our hunting heritage.
"It's about keeping public lands in public hands," BHA President and CEO Land Tawney says. "We're fighting for that every day at the local level all the way to Washington D.C."
And they're certainly making waves.
BHA was among the sportsmen leading the charge against a proposed 2017 bill that would have divested Americans of 3.3 million acres of federally owned public land throughout 10 western states. The backlash was so swift and severe that Representative Chaffetz withdrew the bill just a week later.
The organization also worked proactively with state agencies to ban the use of drones for hunting and scouting purposes before the technology even became an issue. Tawney says this is all part of sticking to tactics that are "fair to the hunt."
To generate more awareness and advance the movement, BHA hosts a variety of events which Tawney says "put the fun back in fundraising." From storytelling events to wild game feeds and Pint Nights to Hike to Hunt Challenges, these lively affairs introduce newcomers to the hunting lifestyle, build camaraderie among sportsmen and promote a healthy, active enjoyment of one of our nation's greatest assets â€“ public land.
Hunters can also support the cause by joining Backcountry Hunters & Anglers for just $25.
Tawney says our nation's hunting and fishing heritage is unique and worth fighting to preserve.
"These lands don't care if you're a school teacher in Missoula or an oil tycoon in Texas — they belong to all of us, and I don't think there can be anything more American than that."
To learn more about Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, visit here.