December 5, 2019

Stay Off My Land You SOB

Or something like that. This morning I was reading George Smith’s article in which he stated that it was time for the Maine Legislature to enact two new laws. One would make it legal to provide “wild game” dinners and charge money for them.

Probably in this day and age, it is about time. But before Mainers go changing and/or creating more laws, they should understand that this law was first created in conjunction with commercial hunting. Lawmakers at the time believed that allowing commercial establishments to continue selling and serving “wild game” dinners, after the prohibition of commercial hunting, might promote illegal hunting. Perhaps those days are over? I dunno.

The second proposed law would be to make it illegal for people to enter private land and “pick crops on private land, such as mushrooms and fiddleheads.” He also suggests that, “No one else should be able to take those crops from our woodlot, without our permission.” And, “What gave him the idea that this was ok without asking us? Time to stop this bad behavior and show more respect for private landowners.

I’m not disagreeing with Smith’s notions. But is making a law that bans access to private land to “pick crops” the right choice and the direction Maine residents really want to go in? I would think and support an education program to teach people about respect of private land and the benefits all residents have by keeping private land accessible. Learning respect involves the act of seeking permission from a landowner – which is much more common today than ten or more years ago. What exists for education programs is working but more effort and time, and patience, is needed. Whatever is done, it will never stop them all. No law ever does.

Can we conclude that respectful people will seek permission, especially if it involves “taking” something from the land and that those, either ignorant or brazen enough to steal, probably will continue to do it even if a law is passed?

Maine is one of those rare states where private land is considered open to the public unless the landowner legally posts his/her property. This is a benefit to all people of the outdoors, some of whom may not fully understand that benefit, perhaps because they have never experienced locked-up private land. By forcing a law through the Legislature to prohibit access to private land to “pick crops,” steers the state in a direction toward reversal of the existing state of private land access. If a law is passed intended to prevent somebody from stealing mushrooms and fiddleheads, what is to stop the next person from seeking a law to prevent taking a walk, or fishing, etc.?

Outdoor recreation, including hunting and fishing, will drastically change when private land becomes closed and written permission needed to access it for any reason.

From my perspective, and yes, I am a landowner in Maine, Smith’s proposed law is a bit draconian. There is a difference between simple trespass and theft. There already exists laws on the books that make it illegal to take something that is not yours. What makes Smith believe that a law stating a specific event will make any difference?

Piling laws up on the books has proven to be a waste of time. There are so many laws now, few can or are ever enforced. This is a thoughtless reaction we often hear when someone says, “There ought to be a law!” In this case there doesn’t need to be a law, because there already is one. There needs to be some education that will target the disrespectful, but generally law-abiding people citizens, to learn that taking mushrooms and fiddleheads, apples, potatoes, Christmas trees, or any other privately owned property is already illegal.


Wyoming Project Secures Access to 47,000 Acres of Public Land

Press Release from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

MISSOULA, Mont.—Hunters, anglers, hikers and those who enjoy other forms of outdoor recreation will benefit from a recent Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation project in Wyoming.

RMEF worked with a private landowner, Linda Zager, and several other partners to permanently protect and open access to 160 acres of prime elk and riparian habitat in southwest Wyoming.

“This small piece of property provides important habitat for elk and other wildlife but since we conveyed it to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), it is also now open to the public and improves additional access to approximately 47,000 acres of surrounding public land,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer.

The tract is nestled in the Wyoming Range at the confluence of Miller and La Barge Creeks which feature vital spawning and rearing habitat for the Colorado River cutthroat trout. In addition, it provides winter range for elk and is a key migration route for elk, moose, mule deer and other wildlife.

RMEF also worked with the BLM and a local contractor to repair what was an impassible road through the property.

The project links the Lake Mountain Wilderness Study Area, Miller Mountain Management Area, additional BLM lands and the Bridger-Teton National Forest while also providing public access and parking.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund’s Sportsmen Recreational Access and RMEF provided funding for this project.


20,000-Acre Ranch Opened to North Dakota Hunters

Press Release from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

MISSOULA, Mont.—The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, North Dakota Game and Fish Department (NDGF) and other partners joined forces with dedicated landowners to create North Dakota’s largest hunter access tract.

The Richard Angus Ranch Access Project covers 20,153 acres. It also improves access to two adjacent state land sections covering another 1,280 acres.

“We are grateful to Byron and Kathy Richard for their willingness to recognize both the conservation values of their land and for allowing hunters free, walk-in access,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer.

The ranch, located approximately 15 miles north of Beach in extreme west-central North Dakota near the Montana border, is now part of NDGF’s Private Lands Open to Sportsmen program. A 10-year agreement allows hunters immediate access to what was formerly known as Beaver Creek Ranch.

The landscape features high-quality grassland with woody draws, bluffs, buttes and a winding Beaver Creek that offers quality habitat for elk, deer, pronghorn, turkeys and a wide array of other wildlife.

Volunteers also removed two miles of old fence and replaced it with wildlife-friendly fencing and better distributed water sources.

RMEF’s Torstenson Family Endowment (TFE) and Project Advisory Committee, NDGF, Pittman-Robertson funds, Mule Deer Foundation, National Wild Turkey Federation and Pheasants Forever provided funding for the project.

RMEF uses proceeds from the TFE solely to further its core mission programs of permanent land protection, habitat stewardship, elk restoration and hunting heritage.


RMEF Tops One Million Acres in Public Access Projects

*Editor’s Note* – While it is encouraging and generally a good thing that land is accessible for public use, one has to question the decision by RMEF to buy and then deed land over to government agencies. Historically, government agencies, all of which are in bed with environmental groups, have a tendency to restrict or limit use of public lands. It seems a shame should RMEF use members’ money to buy up land to protect access for hunting and the promotion of elk growth, only to discover the government later bans hunting and/or access on the same lands. Perhaps there is a better way.

RMEF has opened or secured access to 84 acres per day since its founding in 1984

MISSOULA, Mont.—From its first project in Montana 28 years ago to its most recent this fall in New Mexico, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation just surpassed one million acres in lifetime projects that created, maintained or improved access to public land.

“This is a tremendous milestone that strikes at the heart of our conservation mission,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “Providing public access for hunters, anglers and others allows all of us the opportunity to better value, appreciate and care for our wildlife and wild landscapes. We especially appreciate the strong, continual support of our RMEF volunteers and members for helping make this happen.”

RMEF worked alongside scores of conservation partners over the years including the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), state wildlife agencies and other organizations to complete 249 access projects in 23 different states with wild, free-ranging elk populations.

First project: Robb Creek, Montana (16,440 acres)
RMEF purchased private land and conveyed it to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. It is now called the Robb-Ledford Wildlife Management Area.

Latest project: Alamocita Creek, New Mexico (40,000+ acres)
RMEF purchased 5,867 acres of private land which it conveyed to the BLM. The project also improves access to 35,000 of surrounding public land.

Largest project: Cumberland Forest, Tennessee (74,000 acres)
RMEF granted funding to assist the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency purchase a private forest previously owned by a paper company.

Smallest project: Evandale Township, Montana (.287 acres)
Part of the Royal Teton Ranch project, RMEF purchased and conveyed five small lots to the USFS which lie within the Yellowstone wildlife migration and winter range corridor.

“One million acres of public access is indeed a significant accomplishment but we have much more work to do,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “RMEF has an annual goal of creating or improving public access to 50,000 acres per year. Through our Access Elk Country Initiative, we have our sights set on an additional 150,000 acres of access by 2019.”

RMEF has opened or secured access to 84 acres per day, every day since its founding in 1984. That plays out to 4.6 acres for each of its 219,750 members.

One million acres equates to 1,563 square miles which is roughly the size of 758,000 football fields (end zones included) and slightly less in area than the state of Delaware (1.2 million acres).


3,800 Acres of Public Land Opened to Utah Hunters, Others

Press Release from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

MISSOULA, Mont.—The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation worked with the U.S. Forest Service to purchase a 10-acre tract that permanently protects access to 3,800 acres of public lands in central Utah.

“Opening and securing public access is core to our conservation mission,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “This small transaction has a funnel-like effect in helping hunters, hikers and other people reach a much larger publicly-administered landscape.”

The project is located approximately 25 miles west of Price in the Electric Lake area of the Manti-LaSal National Forest. It secures permanent public access from a parking area on Highway 31 to a trailhead used by elk and deer hunters, many of whom use it to pack in and set up camps.

The area accessed by the trailhead is primarily elk spring through fall habitat, including calving areas, and is used by more than 1,000 elk. It is also home to mule deer, bear, mountain lions and a host of bird and animal life.

Because of liability concerns, there was a very real concern the area may be closed by the previous landowner, but RMEF purchased and plans to convey the property to the Forest Service. RMEF purchase of the property ensures this trailhead will remain open for hunters and recreationists.

RMEF’s Torstenson Family Endowment (TFE) provided funding for the project. TFE funding is used solely to further RMEF’s core mission programs of permanent land protection, habitat stewardship, elk restoration and hunting heritage.


U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Lands in the Northeast Region; Draft Long Range Transportation Plan

SUMMARY: We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the availability of a draft long-range transportation plan (LRTP) for public review and comment. The draft LRTP outlines a strategy for improving and maintaining transportation assets that provide access to Service-managed lands in the Northeast Region (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia) over the next 20 years.<<<Read More>>>


Access Elk Country Taking Longer Strides Thanks to RMEF Supporters

Press Release from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

MISSOULA, Mont.—The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation opened or secured public access to nearly 76,000 acres of elk habitat in 2015.

“Creating, maintaining and securing access to elk country is core to our mission of ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage,” said Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of Lands and Conservation.

In 2015, RMEF carried out 17 land projects in eight different states that permanently protected 12,249 acres of elk habitat and opened or secured access to 75,922 acres, or approximately 119 square miles.

RMEF’s Access Elk Country Initiative calls for accelerated efforts to find common-sense solutions to local access challenges. Its goal is to open or secure access to 50,000 acres of public lands every year for the next five years for a total of 250,000 acres of elk country open to hunters and others to enjoy.

“A lack of access to huntable land is the number-one reason why some people don’t hunt. And since hunters provide the lion’s share of funding for land and wildlife conservation, it is vital that we ramp up our access efforts,” added Henning.

Access Elk Country charter sponsors include Sitka, Kimber, Bushnell, ALPS OutdoorZ, Yeti, Yamaha and Gerber.

“We consider these groups conservation partners because of both their financial backing and their shared support of our mission,” said Steve Decker, RMEF vice president of Marketing. “We are also extremely appreciative of our members and volunteers for their support and dedication.”

Since 1984, RMEF opened or secured access to 852,628 acres of elk country across 21 states.


RMEF Land Project Opens Access to 6,000 Acres of Public Land

Press Release from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

MISSOULA, Mont.—A 93-acre land transaction brokered by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation opens the door to approximately 6,000 acres of previously difficult-to-reach public land just in time for Montana’s big game hunting season.

“Access to our public lands is a key component to RMEF’s mission and is important to sportsmen and women as well as all Americans who seek to enjoy the outdoors,” said Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of Lands and Conservation. “This particular project permanently secures access to huge tracts of public land that are home to elk, mule deer, antelope, sage grouse, bighorn sheep and other wildlife.”

Located near the Missouri River watershed’s Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument and the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in north-central Montana, the property is primarily grassland habitat accompanied by rugged features associated with the Missouri Breaks region.

RMEF plans to transfer the property to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in 2016. Until that happens, BLM will assist in managing this property and provide immediate public access to it as well as adjacent public lands.

“The RMEF has secured access to thousands of acres of BLM land for public use and enjoyment with this acquisition. It also secures an important access for natural resource management,” said Stanley Jaynes, BLM Havre field manager.

Hunters, hikers and others previously parked on a county road (Cow Island Trail Road) and had to walk more than two miles to reach lands administered by the BLM and the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. Now, they will have access to the 6,000 acres of public land by foot, and even greater acreage by horseback.

A RMEF member and hunter who lives nearby notified the RMEF about the property after reading in Bugle magazine about a similar 2013 project that opened the door to access 18,000 acres of public land.

Project partners include the BLM, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and the Cinnabar Foundation.


HR 1555 Forest Access in Rural Communities Act of 2015

*Editor’s Note* – I was asked to post the following statement:

HR 1555 Forest Access in Rural Communities Act of 2015…. introduced 3/23/15 by Greg Walden with over 40 co-sponsors is on the move…. call or contact your congressman requesting their support sign on to the bill and support OPENING ALL RDS in the USFS, statewide and why not nationally. (If contacting Federal Reps also request open all roads in USFS & BLM….)

Okay folks here is YOUR opportunity to make a difference when it comes to access of our federal lands…. The BLM, USDA, Representatives and House members and USFS’s original mandates are to manage the lands for the benefit of our local communities. Somehow over the years the mission of those administrator’s has been reversed by excluding the local public needs; the lack of concerns on impacts of economy, socially and historically.

The USFS & BLM administrations have worked diligently towards road closures on federal lands denying the citizens motorized access, including handicapped, disabled, aging citizens, young children unable to walk long distances, visitors to local communities, recreation, livestock and wildlife management, other multi users and purposes, in addition to handicapping our way of life, abilities to provide public safety, access to valuable resources and the ability to efficiently effectively protect both.

Many road closures are with and without our local county commissioners, yes the local public representatives that we elect with intentions they have our greatest concerns directly under consideration and notify the public PRIOR to taking further political actions… The federal administration has bargained trading projects with the agreement of roads to be closed upon completion of project…. closed roads without authorization from the your county reps, claimed they want the public’s participation and concerns, however when the majority speaks against those decisions our participation and concerns are ignored, resulting in the federal administration taking YET another detour or uses the ESA or other bargaining chips… Well folks we are out of chips, take a stand, make contacts with county commissioners, state and federal representatives and ask them to support HR 1555 and your rights to access ALL of your federal lands.

I heard a comment the other day that this bill ties the USFS’s hands, this depends on which side of the fence you are actually standing on and do not care about protecting the rights of others. If the USFS (or BLM) does not wish to implement policies and procedure for your protection then this bill is YOUR FAMILY’s, FRIEND’s and HERITAGE PROTECTION FOR OUR FUTURE GENERATIONS. Get active UNITE and FIGHT, together this can be accomplished….

“This approach could allow a level of local participation that has not been experienced in decades. It should be noted, however, that many national environmental groups oppose this approach. Shifting power to the local community implies reducing the influence of national groups on local situations.”


In a Rigged System a Bill to Allow Access for Hunting, Fishing

For decades the rigged system many people wrongfully label a democracy or a constitutional republic, has worked at every opportunity to prohibit hunters, trappers and fisherman from as much access to land as can possibly be done. At the same time efforts exist to ban hunting and rob people of their right to keep and bear arms. If they can’t do this outright, they will accomplish the same through what is often called incrementalism or back door regulations to chip away at any and all aspects of hunting, fishing and trapping, including land access.

Then along comes another effort to put an end, at least to some degree, to the continued prohibitions against land access and those who helped to build the rigged system cry foul and claim preferential treatment.

According to Pajamas Media, the Sportsman’s Act of 2015, “builds on previous efforts and adds new provisions to increase access and provide new opportunities for Americans to enjoy our federal lands.”

It appears that in this bill there are provisions that contradict the existing laws surrounding “wilderness” regions – those areas set aside as preferential treatment to only those wishing to see access to federal lands restricted to specific groups or individuals.

And herein we see the hypocrisy and elitist attitudes coming out from those who promote “wilderness” for their own selfish purposes.

“Certain language [in the act] may be interpreted to allow activities in wilderness areas that are not consistent with the Wilderness Act,” Ellis explained.

Leslie Weldon, deputy chief for the National Forest System at the U.S. Forest Service, a division of the Department of Agriculture, expressed concern that the bill seems to give preferential treatment to hunting, fishing and recreational shooting. That could prove problematic given the wide range of activities enjoyed on public lands — and the service’s charge to accommodate everyone from bird watchers and hikers to school groups, photographers and, indeed, hunters and fishermen.

Please understand this. As it exists now, within the rigged system developed and designed to eliminate hunting, fishing and trapping, preferential treatment is being promoted by restricting activities by some in order to promote the desires of others in an exclusive use – and they fear such a bill would be preferential to hunters and fishermen.

Also understand that that those who seem to believe they have a right to own and restrict others, lament that such a bill would cause problems because their choice in recreational activities might be infringed upon in order to accommodate others. This is the result of years of brainwashing that hunting, trapping and fishing is bad and shouldn’t be allowed, giving people the false belief that they have exclusive rights to use the land and that right shouldn’t be at all restricted in order to accommodate others. This is the epitome of blind selfishness.