Featured Organization: Backcountry Hunters and Anglers: Protecting Wilderness for Tomorrow's Sportsmen and Women

Approach an empty truck at many trailheads during hunting season and you may see a bumper sticker that reads, “Use the Quads God Gave You.” The truck is empty because the owner is hunting or fishing without the use of an ATV, “quad,” or other vehicle in favor of a quiet, wild and quality backcountry experience. The bumper sticker is courtesy of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, an organization which seeks to ensure America's hunting and fishing heritage by conserving backcountry, healthy watersheds, native wildlife and wilderness.

The idea of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (BHA) began with a group of friends sitting around an Oregon campfire planning their next hunting season and bemoaning the loss of special places to crowds, development and the roar of traffic. Today, because countless traditional hunters and anglers are seeking wild, quiet habitat, BHA has members across the United States and Canada and established chapters in most western states. They are now a recognized and effective voice for sportsmen on issues surrounding public lands, water and wildlife.

Members of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers carry a wide variety of equipment outdoors—rifles, muzzleloaders, bows, shotguns, fly rods and spinning tackle. But they are united by their passion for the rugged, wild habitat that makes North America's hunting and fishing the finest in the world. They share an appreciation for the challenge, solitude and tradition that are found in our nation's backcountry. Today, there are 300 million Americans—all putting unprecedented pressure on our remaining habitat and clean, free-flowing water. America's sportsmen were the country's first conservationists, and BHA knows their voices are needed now more than ever. BHA and its members work to help sportsmen become better advocates for healthy ecosystems and sustainable opportunities for hunting and fishing. The organization is effective because its members believe in a balanced and traditional conservation ethic, enabling them to bring together a wide variety of outdoor interests.

Backcountry Hunters and Anglers is working to protect quality habitat and promote backcountry hunting and fishing on a variety of fronts, including fighting irresponsible off-road vehicle abuse, leading hunter education programs and engaging in advocacy to protect some of our nation's wildest public lands.

In Idaho, BHA is involved in the Clearwater Basin Collaborative (CBC), which aims to resolve long-standing controversies over public lands in the area and find ways to improve the economic vitality of the region by addressing issues that deal with landscape health, recreation, rural economies and land allocation. It is a diverse coalition, which includes conservation organizations, sportsmen, the forest products industry, the Nez Perce Tribe, economic development interests and local off-road vehicle groups.

“We now have consensus support for wild and scenic rivers and wilderness as well as a robust plan for economic development and diversified recreation,” says Holly Endersby, conservation director for BHA. “It takes time, patience, the willingness to really hear the other person and creativity to make collaboration work. When it does, great things can happen.”

The Clearwater Basin is home to millions of acres of roadless forests, meadows and streams little changed since Lewis and Clark passed through the area two centuries ago. It's also home to robust populations of fish and wildlife, which BHA is working actively to preserve and protect.

In Utah, BHA is helping to find local solutions to protect public lands and wildlife habitat, working with diverse constituencies to address public lands issues on a county-by-county basis and cultivate sportsmen's support for wilderness protection.

At the national level, BHA recently took on federal legislation that threatens over 60 million acres of acres of world-class fish and wildlife habitat upon which sportsmen, nationwide, depend. The Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act of 2011 (H.R. 1581/S. 1087) would give away public land—our nation's great outdoors—to polluters and developers.

Whether it is conducting hunter education classes, taking a new friend fishing in a remote mountain stream or working to stop federal legislation that threatens fish and wildlife habitat, BHA continues to grow, and its dedicated and passionate members are playing a vital role in ensuring that more of America's wilderness will be passed down to future sportsmen and women.