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MODERN HUNTSMAN VOLUME TWO


“I don’t know of any hunters that only hunt anymore. They’re all snowboarders, and skiers, and fishermen. It’s the same thing with climbers, too, and it’s all dependent on having wild places.” YVON CHOUINARD CEO & FOUNDER, PATAGONIA

PHOTO: PACE BROTHERS

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PHOTO: STEVEN DRAKE


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PHOTO: STEVEN DRAKE


OUR MISSION

For those of you who don’t know, Modern Huntsman is a biannual publication for like-minded conservationists, creatives, and outdoor enthusiasts. Born out of frustration with the way hunting is often misrepresented today, this publication is told from the perspective of hunting purists and the diplomatically-minded, unaltered by the skews of mainstream media, corporate interests, or misinformed emotional rants. For many of us, hunting is a way of life, a tradition passed down by our grandfathers, fathers, and brave mothers. It’s a way of staying connected to the land, harvesting wild food to sustain our families, and is a shared passion in most countries the world over. Hunting also plays a major role in conservation, which ensures that wildlife populations thrive and expanses of land stay untamed — something we’re discussing in greater detail this issue. But this isn’t just for hunters, and while we know that there will be opposition, we believe that through our collective stories, photographs, and films, we’ll be able to educate some folks about overlooked realities, and win the minds and hearts of those who still have them open. Through presenting stories based in virtue and ethics, as well as alternative perspectives on otherwise controversial topics, we aim to inspire, educate, challenge, and set the record straight in some cases. Tired of being spoken against and labeled things we are not, it’s time to write a new story about hunting. We created Modern Huntsman to be the banner under which those with common cause can gather, in hopes of bringing about constructive conversation and sensible solutions. We hope you’ll continue this journey with us.

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PHOTO: ANDY TRAN


OUR MISSION

For those of you who don’t know, Modern Huntsman is a biannual publication for like-minded conservationists, creatives, and outdoor enthusiasts. Born out of frustration with the way hunting is often misrepresented today, this publication is told from the perspective of hunting purists and the diplomatically-minded, unaltered by the skews of mainstream media, corporate interests, or misinformed emotional rants. For many of us, hunting is a way of life, a tradition passed down by our grandfathers, fathers, and brave mothers. It’s a way of staying connected to the land, harvesting wild food to sustain our families, and is a shared passion in most countries the world over. Hunting also plays a major role in conservation, which ensures that wildlife populations thrive and expanses of land stay untamed — something we’re discussing in greater detail this issue. But this isn’t just for hunters, and while we know that there will be opposition, we believe that through our collective stories, photographs, and films, we’ll be able to educate some folks about overlooked realities, and win the minds and hearts of those who still have them open. Through presenting stories based in virtue and ethics, as well as alternative perspectives on otherwise controversial topics, we aim to inspire, educate, challenge, and set the record straight in some cases. Tired of being spoken against and labeled things we are not, it’s time to write a new story about hunting. We created Modern Huntsman to be the banner under which those with common cause can gather, in hopes of bringing about constructive conversation and sensible solutions. We hope you’ll continue this journey with us.

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PHOTO: ANDY TRAN


In This Issue

PA R T 2 : N E X U S O F PU B L I C A N D P R I VAT E L A N D

16

CONTRIBUTING EDITORS

156

REWILDING OF LAND AND SELF

18

EDITOR’S LETTER

162

A LEGACY OF LAND

20

ECO LO G Y U PDAT E

168

CO L L A B O R AT IVE CO N S E R VAT I O N

174

IN CONTEXT

180

HOME IS WHERE THE LAND IS

PA R T 1 : PU B L I C L A N D S I N T H E U N I T E D S TAT E S

24

OUR AMERICAN LEGACY

28

AN INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS BURKARD

40

HUNTING, PUBLIC LANDS, AND SOCIAL IDENTITY

42

IT’S NOT A HORSE PROBLEM, IT’S A PEOPLE PROBLEM

54

C H E F F E ATU R E - E D UA R D O G A R C I A

70

HERE, I LIVE MY LIFE

82

TWO WINS FOR THE WEST

94

OUR LAND

100

GO FOR A HIKE, GIVE A DAMN

102

CITIZEN SCIENCE

108

LAND FOR GRANTED

114

HUNTING IS NOT ENOUGH

120

WE ARE ALL PUBLIC LAND OWNERS

122

B H A CO N S E R VAT I O N L EG E N D S

126

T H E M I G H TY M O U N TA I N S A N D T H E B E A R

138

AN ODE TO WILD SALMON

144

HUNTING LIGHT, LANDSCAPES , AND WILD FOOD

by Simon Roosevelt; photos by Tyler Sharp

by Erin Kiley; photos by Max Kilibarda by Tyler Sharp by Jay Kleburg by Adam Foss by Becca Skinner PA R T 3 : G L O B A L C A S E S T U D I E S

by Charles Post

188

by Greg Blascovich

196

by Charles Post by Tyler Sharp by Jillian Lukiwski by Tyler Sharp

208

NO MAN’S LAND

218

CO M M U N I TY B A S E D CO N S E R VA N C I E S

244

by Lindsey Elliott; photos by Camrin Dengel by Andy Tran by Sam Soholt by Grant Alban; photo by Nick Kelley

LOS GAUCHOS

by Nick Kelley CARVING A LIVING FROM CROWN LAND

236

by Greg Peters

by Byron Pace; photos by The Pace Brothers

204

230

by Brad Christian

SCOTLAND: A LAND OF FREEDOM

by Rachel Ahtila; photos by Adam Foss by Ryan Youngblood by Jason Goldman; photos by Joel Caldwell CONTINENTS CONVERGE

by Danny Christensen R I S E A N D FA L L O F A M O U N TA I N K I N G

by Byron Pace; photos by the Pace Brothers IN SEARCH OF THE PEOPLE’S TROUT

by Reid Bryant; photos by Adam Foss

250

SPECIAL THANKS

252

FROM THE FIELD

254

PA R T I N G T H O U G H T S

by Joel Caldwell K A D I E S M I T H is the Art Director

by Danny Christensen

and designer behind Modern Huntsman. She also owns a branding studio in Dallas, TX called Drop Cap Design.

by Charles Post Artist Feature: Rachel Pohl by Charles Post

@DROPCAPDESIGN DROPCAPDESIGN.COM PHOTO: STEVEN DRAKE

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In This Issue

PA R T 2 : N E X U S O F PU B L I C A N D P R I VAT E L A N D

16

CONTRIBUTING EDITORS

156

REWILDING OF LAND AND SELF

18

EDITOR’S LETTER

162

A LEGACY OF LAND

20

ECO LO G Y U PDAT E

168

CO L L A B O R AT IVE CO N S E R VAT I O N

174

IN CONTEXT

180

HOME IS WHERE THE LAND IS

PA R T 1 : PU B L I C L A N D S I N T H E U N I T E D S TAT E S

24

OUR AMERICAN LEGACY

28

AN INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS BURKARD

40

HUNTING, PUBLIC LANDS, AND SOCIAL IDENTITY

42

IT’S NOT A HORSE PROBLEM, IT’S A PEOPLE PROBLEM

54

C H E F F E ATU R E - E D UA R D O G A R C I A

70

HERE, I LIVE MY LIFE

82

TWO WINS FOR THE WEST

94

OUR LAND

100

GO FOR A HIKE, GIVE A DAMN

102

CITIZEN SCIENCE

108

LAND FOR GRANTED

114

HUNTING IS NOT ENOUGH

120

WE ARE ALL PUBLIC LAND OWNERS

122

B H A CO N S E R VAT I O N L EG E N D S

126

T H E M I G H TY M O U N TA I N S A N D T H E B E A R

138

AN ODE TO WILD SALMON

144

HUNTING LIGHT, LANDSCAPES , AND WILD FOOD

by Simon Roosevelt; photos by Tyler Sharp

by Erin Kiley; photos by Max Kilibarda by Tyler Sharp by Jay Kleburg by Adam Foss by Becca Skinner PA R T 3 : G L O B A L C A S E S T U D I E S

by Charles Post

188

by Greg Blascovich

196

by Charles Post by Tyler Sharp by Jillian Lukiwski by Tyler Sharp

208

NO MAN’S LAND

218

CO M M U N I TY B A S E D CO N S E R VA N C I E S

244

by Lindsey Elliott; photos by Camrin Dengel by Andy Tran by Sam Soholt by Grant Alban; photo by Nick Kelley

LOS GAUCHOS

by Nick Kelley CARVING A LIVING FROM CROWN LAND

236

by Greg Peters

by Byron Pace; photos by The Pace Brothers

204

230

by Brad Christian

SCOTLAND: A LAND OF FREEDOM

by Rachel Ahtila; photos by Adam Foss by Ryan Youngblood by Jason Goldman; photos by Joel Caldwell CONTINENTS CONVERGE

by Danny Christensen R I S E A N D FA L L O F A M O U N TA I N K I N G

by Byron Pace; photos by the Pace Brothers IN SEARCH OF THE PEOPLE’S TROUT

by Reid Bryant; photos by Adam Foss

250

SPECIAL THANKS

252

FROM THE FIELD

254

PA R T I N G T H O U G H T S

by Joel Caldwell K A D I E S M I T H is the Art Director

by Danny Christensen

and designer behind Modern Huntsman. She also owns a branding studio in Dallas, TX called Drop Cap Design.

by Charles Post Artist Feature: Rachel Pohl by Charles Post

@DROPCAPDESIGN DROPCAPDESIGN.COM PHOTO: STEVEN DRAKE

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VOLUME TWO

PUBLIC LAND

PHOTO: JILLIAN LUKIWSKI

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VOLUME TWO

PUBLIC LAND

PHOTO: JILLIAN LUKIWSKI

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MODERN HUNTSMAN

C R E AT IVE D I R ECTO R , EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

Tyler Sharp ECOLOGY EDITOR

Charles Post GUEST EDITORS

Chris Burkard Brad Christian Andy Tran DESIGN & ART DIRECTOR

Kadie Smith CO N S E R VAT I O N A DVI S O R

Simon Roosevelt CO-FOUNDERS

Brad Neathery Elliott Hillock EDITORIAL MANAGER

Victoria Ruble

EMAIL

| info@modernhuntsman.com •

I N STAG R A M | ADVERTISING |

@M O D E R N H U N T S M A N

CONTRIBUTORS

Greg Blascovich Jillian Lukiwski Greg Peters Lindsey Elliott Camrin Dengel Sam Soholt Grant Alban Danny Christensen Joel Caldwell Erin Kiley Max Kilibarda Jay Kleberg Adam Foss Becca Skinner Byron Pace Nick Kelley Rachel Ahtila Ryan Youngblood Jason Goldman Reid Bryant Stephen Drake Yogesh Simpson

WEB

| www.M O D E R N H U N T S M A N .com

• STOCKISTS |

www.modernhuntsman.com/advertise •

www.modernhuntsman.com/stock

SUBMISSIONS |

www.modernhuntsman.com/submit

Cover Photo: Chris Burkard

PRINTED IN LOS ANGELES

Red Car Media www.redcar-media.com

© 2018 Modern Huntsman LLC

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PHOTO: BRAD CHRISTIAN


MODERN HUNTSMAN

C R E AT IVE D I R ECTO R , EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

Tyler Sharp ECOLOGY EDITOR

Charles Post GUEST EDITORS

Chris Burkard Brad Christian Andy Tran DESIGN & ART DIRECTOR

Kadie Smith CO N S E R VAT I O N A DVI S O R

Simon Roosevelt CO-FOUNDERS

Brad Neathery Elliott Hillock EDITORIAL MANAGER

Victoria Ruble

EMAIL

| info@modernhuntsman.com •

I N STAG R A M | ADVERTISING |

@M O D E R N H U N T S M A N

CONTRIBUTORS

Greg Blascovich Jillian Lukiwski Greg Peters Lindsey Elliott Camrin Dengel Sam Soholt Grant Alban Danny Christensen Joel Caldwell Erin Kiley Max Kilibarda Jay Kleberg Adam Foss Becca Skinner Byron Pace Nick Kelley Rachel Ahtila Ryan Youngblood Jason Goldman Reid Bryant Stephen Drake Yogesh Simpson

WEB

| www.M O D E R N H U N T S M A N .com

• STOCKISTS |

www.modernhuntsman.com/advertise •

www.modernhuntsman.com/stock

SUBMISSIONS |

www.modernhuntsman.com/submit

Cover Photo: Chris Burkard

PRINTED IN LOS ANGELES

Red Car Media www.redcar-media.com

© 2018 Modern Huntsman LLC

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PHOTO: BRAD CHRISTIAN


When a new path is forged, those who come after must help maintain it. For over a decade, YETI has been pioneering the resurgence and acceptance of hunting, fishing, and sporting traditions in mainstream media. Through their films, photography, and surrounding culture, they have supported countless creatives, conservation and wildlife management organizations, and emerging small businesses like Modern Huntsman. YETI’s efforts have undoubtedly made hunting more socially acceptable, and as many more of us try to continue the work that they started, we just wanted to say thank you. Our community is far better for it. The Modern Huntsman team could not be more proud to have YETI as our title sponsor for Volume Two, and we look forward to continued collaboration in protecting hunting legacies, and the wild places where we pursue them.

PHOTO:YOGESH SIMPSON

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When a new path is forged, those who come after must help maintain it. For over a decade, YETI has been pioneering the resurgence and acceptance of hunting, fishing, and sporting traditions in mainstream media. Through their films, photography, and surrounding culture, they have supported countless creatives, conservation and wildlife management organizations, and emerging small businesses like Modern Huntsman. YETI’s efforts have undoubtedly made hunting more socially acceptable, and as many more of us try to continue the work that they started, we just wanted to say thank you. Our community is far better for it. The Modern Huntsman team could not be more proud to have YETI as our title sponsor for Volume Two, and we look forward to continued collaboration in protecting hunting legacies, and the wild places where we pursue them.

PHOTO:YOGESH SIMPSON

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“Humanity is an integral part of the ecosystem. We are not separate from it. These ecosystems and public lands we share are undeniably shaped by our hands, and we, in turn, are shaped by these places. This realization is fundamental to nature’s underlying value, and the accountability we must bear. Fostering a future where ecosystem thinking impacts the daily decisions we make is critical to combat the threats our environments face today. The march forward must be rooted in environmentalism, guided by conservation and defined by an understanding that our actions are writing the future for wildlife and our wild, suburban and urban ecosystems. This truth is the core of our DNA. Every action we make has an impact. Let’s lead by example through stewardship and ecosystem thinking. This is the path that SITKA is going to take. This is the path we will champion. Join Us.”

JONATHAN HART SITKA FOUNDER & CEO

PHOTO:ADAM FOSS

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“Humanity is an integral part of the ecosystem. We are not separate from it. These ecosystems and public lands we share are undeniably shaped by our hands, and we, in turn, are shaped by these places. This realization is fundamental to nature’s underlying value, and the accountability we must bear. Fostering a future where ecosystem thinking impacts the daily decisions we make is critical to combat the threats our environments face today. The march forward must be rooted in environmentalism, guided by conservation and defined by an understanding that our actions are writing the future for wildlife and our wild, suburban and urban ecosystems. This truth is the core of our DNA. Every action we make has an impact. Let’s lead by example through stewardship and ecosystem thinking. This is the path that SITKA is going to take. This is the path we will champion. Join Us.”

JONATHAN HART SITKA FOUNDER & CEO

PHOTO:ADAM FOSS

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CONTRIBUTING EDITORS

CHRIS BURKARD

CONTRIBUTING EDITORS

GUEST EDITOR

GUEST EDITOR

MUDDYSHUTTERMEDIA.COM

CHRISBURKARD.COM // @CHRISBURKARD

Chris Burkard is an accomplished explorer, photographer, creative director, speaker, and author. Traveling throughout the year to pursue the farthest expanses of Earth, Burkard works to capture stories that inspire humans to consider their relationship with nature, while promoting the preservation of wild places everywhere. Layered by outdoor, travel, adventure, surf, and lifestyle subjects, Burkard is known for images that are punctuated by untamed, energized landscapes and peak moments of adventure. He has accumulated an audience of over three million followers to become a globally recognized social influencer. At the age of 30, Burkard has established himself as a global presence, amassing a prolific portfolio, connecting people from around the world and producing some of the most recognized creative work of our time.

BRAD CHRISTIAN

ANDY TRAN

// @MUDDYSHUTTERMEDIA

Andy was born in Ontario, Canada where he spent his early childhood roaming the city streets. While he yearned for the natural landscapes seen in picture books, it was not until later in life that he took up hunting and fishing. Andy’s love for photography and storytelling emerged from the desire to authentically share the beauty and mystery surrounding us, especially that of the outdoors. His creative eye aims to capture the often overlooked smaller details, the parts that together compose the larger grandeur and meaning of our experiences. As Founder and Creative Director of Muddy Shutter Media, Andy’s role not only involves leading his team, but also fostering friendships, sharing stories, and getting a little muddy along the way. In his free time, he enjoys hiking, camping, and cooking with his wife and two dogs. His camera and his curiosity continue to lead him on unique adventures both urban and wild alike.

GUEST EDITOR

C O N S E R VAT I O N A D V I S O R

@BRADSCHRISTIAN

S I M O N RO O S E V E LT

AMERICANCONSERVATIONPROJECTS.ORG

Brad Christian is a bowhunter, photographer and outdoor brand director whose personal and professional stories document ethical hunting and outdoor life. As a seasoned bowhunter, Brad is often the subject of stories, but is equally accomplished behind the lens. He is best known in the industry for bringing a brand’s ethos to life through storytelling that elevates the context of hunting — that it is a way of living which permeates every day life. He’s led top brands such as Mathews Archery and currently serves as Brand Director for SITKA Gear. As the leader of one of the outdoor industry’s iconic brands, Brad serves as a steward for wildlife, the environment, and others who seek to experience nature in its rawest form. Christian grew up in Colorado and now lives in Bozeman, Montana with his wife and two daughters.

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Simon is an avid hunter and conservationist involved in a wide variety of environmental and conservation projects in North America, South America and Africa. In the US, he is the founder of the Conservation Roundtable, a periodic gathering of the heads of leading conservation organizations to discuss and take action on shared issues. Simon is also a co-founder of the Friends of the Elkhorn Ranch, a private initiative that successfully organized the purchase and transfer of the last remaining parcel of unprotected private land ranched by Theodore Roosevelt in the Badlands of North Dakota to the US Forest Service’s Dakota Prairie Grasslands. Simon is a member of the Boone & Crockett Club (America’s first private wildlife conservation club), a member of the President’s Advisory Council of the National Wildlife Federation, Chairman of the Scenic Hudson Land Trust, and is Commissioner of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation for the New York City Region.

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CONTRIBUTING EDITORS

CHRIS BURKARD

CONTRIBUTING EDITORS

GUEST EDITOR

GUEST EDITOR

MUDDYSHUTTERMEDIA.COM

CHRISBURKARD.COM // @CHRISBURKARD

Chris Burkard is an accomplished explorer, photographer, creative director, speaker, and author. Traveling throughout the year to pursue the farthest expanses of Earth, Burkard works to capture stories that inspire humans to consider their relationship with nature, while promoting the preservation of wild places everywhere. Layered by outdoor, travel, adventure, surf, and lifestyle subjects, Burkard is known for images that are punctuated by untamed, energized landscapes and peak moments of adventure. He has accumulated an audience of over three million followers to become a globally recognized social influencer. At the age of 30, Burkard has established himself as a global presence, amassing a prolific portfolio, connecting people from around the world and producing some of the most recognized creative work of our time.

BRAD CHRISTIAN

ANDY TRAN

// @MUDDYSHUTTERMEDIA

Andy was born in Ontario, Canada where he spent his early childhood roaming the city streets. While he yearned for the natural landscapes seen in picture books, it was not until later in life that he took up hunting and fishing. Andy’s love for photography and storytelling emerged from the desire to authentically share the beauty and mystery surrounding us, especially that of the outdoors. His creative eye aims to capture the often overlooked smaller details, the parts that together compose the larger grandeur and meaning of our experiences. As Founder and Creative Director of Muddy Shutter Media, Andy’s role not only involves leading his team, but also fostering friendships, sharing stories, and getting a little muddy along the way. In his free time, he enjoys hiking, camping, and cooking with his wife and two dogs. His camera and his curiosity continue to lead him on unique adventures both urban and wild alike.

GUEST EDITOR

C O N S E R VAT I O N A D V I S O R

@BRADSCHRISTIAN

S I M O N RO O S E V E LT

AMERICANCONSERVATIONPROJECTS.ORG

Brad Christian is a bowhunter, photographer and outdoor brand director whose personal and professional stories document ethical hunting and outdoor life. As a seasoned bowhunter, Brad is often the subject of stories, but is equally accomplished behind the lens. He is best known in the industry for bringing a brand’s ethos to life through storytelling that elevates the context of hunting — that it is a way of living which permeates every day life. He’s led top brands such as Mathews Archery and currently serves as Brand Director for SITKA Gear. As the leader of one of the outdoor industry’s iconic brands, Brad serves as a steward for wildlife, the environment, and others who seek to experience nature in its rawest form. Christian grew up in Colorado and now lives in Bozeman, Montana with his wife and two daughters.

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Simon is an avid hunter and conservationist involved in a wide variety of environmental and conservation projects in North America, South America and Africa. In the US, he is the founder of the Conservation Roundtable, a periodic gathering of the heads of leading conservation organizations to discuss and take action on shared issues. Simon is also a co-founder of the Friends of the Elkhorn Ranch, a private initiative that successfully organized the purchase and transfer of the last remaining parcel of unprotected private land ranched by Theodore Roosevelt in the Badlands of North Dakota to the US Forest Service’s Dakota Prairie Grasslands. Simon is a member of the Boone & Crockett Club (America’s first private wildlife conservation club), a member of the President’s Advisory Council of the National Wildlife Federation, Chairman of the Scenic Hudson Land Trust, and is Commissioner of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation for the New York City Region.

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Editor’s Letter can choose a recreational pursuit, instead of being forced into one for survival, as it is in many places across the globe. I believe it is our duty, a matter of virtue really, that those of us who enjoy this privilege should not take it for granted, or let it quietly be taken away while squabbles over lifestyle differences abound. While we’re arguing over the potential merits or faults of holding either a rifle or a rod, a chalk bag or a bow, the livelihood and expanse of the wild places we as Americans hold may be at risk.

As I sit here in Livingston, Montana, reflecting on the amazing journey our team has been on, I’m reminded that it was exactly one year ago in this very spot that I wrote the script for the launch of Modern Huntsman. We had no money, even fewer guarantees, and plenty of naysayers. However, we had passion and conviction bordering on delirium that willed us forward. We were told: “that’s not going to work,” “I’ll believe it when I see it,” or “come back if you make it to a second issue.” Well folks, beyond all doubt, and in a world where print is supposedly dead, we did it.

Therefore, I feel it’s urgently important that we put petty conflicts aside; put down the ice axe, the lightweight backpack, the bamboo rod or the vintage shotgun, and come together under common cause: to appreciate, conserve, protect and preserve our public lands, as well as uphold the integrity of the agencies that manage them and whichever private landowners adhere to the same ethos.

Astonishingly, we’ve sold over 8000 copies of Volume One. With your continued support, along with our incredible sponsors for this issue, we’ve got just as many copies of Volume Two on the way. To everyone who backed us thus far, we cannot thank you enough. You’ve literally made this dream come true. But we are not resting on our laurels, instead forging on with a spirit of improvement. While we are incredibly proud of Volume One, I can confidently say that Volume Two is even better. To start, we welcomed Charles Post onto the Modern Huntsman team as our Ecology Editor, and his input, wisdom, and thoughtful scrutiny have been invaluable to this issue and hopefully many more to come. Additionally, we are joined by three Guest Editors of immense talent and varied perspectives; Chris Burkard, Brad Christian, and Andy Tran. We also have the recurring honor of Simon Roosevelt joining us as Conservation Advisor. With their contributions, our task of navigating the turbulent topic of public lands was made much more manageable.

Regardless of who has access to it, and what you’re allowed to do or not on it, all land is part of a larger ecosystem that we as humans have significantly marred. If we’re to continue pursuing our passions or preserve them for generations to come, we need to address the damage we’ve done, and come up with sensible solutions. You can’t hunt if healthy populations of game don’t exist, you can’t fish if trout are dying from water pollution, you can’t ski without ample snowfall, and you can’t hike if trails have been decimated by rampant forest fires. Each of these issues require close examination, often of our own intentions, and we hope that our presentation of what we feel are constructive perspectives will help you make an informed decision for yourself.

In this issue we’re celebrating the freedom and privilege that we as Americans have to explore, hunt, fish, and recreate on public lands, as well as highlighting contributions from private landowners to wildlife corridors, and honoring some of those who help maintain and manage the parks, trails, and forests that we so deeply love. We also dive into the realities of land access in other parts of this diverse world, hoping that it will illuminate the differences that exist between home and abroad, for good or ill, and reinforce why it’s important to protect what we have.

That being said, we could not be more proud to present Volume Two of Modern Huntsman Magazine, and we truly hope you enjoy it. In both purpose and practice, aim true, and shoot straight. SEE YOU IN THE FIELD,

And while we realize that not everyone is familiar with these nuanced situations, we’re trying to provide context and resources to learn about them and begin to contribute in a productive manner, if you so wish. So whether you’re a hunter, hiker, angler, climber, rider or skier, we hope this issue accentuates the importance of participation, cooperation, and even collaboration in matters surrounding public lands. We need to be thankful for residing in a country where we

Tyler Sharp Editor-in-Chief | @tylersharpphoto

Photo of Tyler by Byron Pace on the Glen Ogil Estate in Angus Glens, Scotland

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Editor’s Letter can choose a recreational pursuit, instead of being forced into one for survival, as it is in many places across the globe. I believe it is our duty, a matter of virtue really, that those of us who enjoy this privilege should not take it for granted, or let it quietly be taken away while squabbles over lifestyle differences abound. While we’re arguing over the potential merits or faults of holding either a rifle or a rod, a chalk bag or a bow, the livelihood and expanse of the wild places we as Americans hold may be at risk.

As I sit here in Livingston, Montana, reflecting on the amazing journey our team has been on, I’m reminded that it was exactly one year ago in this very spot that I wrote the script for the launch of Modern Huntsman. We had no money, even fewer guarantees, and plenty of naysayers. However, we had passion and conviction bordering on delirium that willed us forward. We were told: “that’s not going to work,” “I’ll believe it when I see it,” or “come back if you make it to a second issue.” Well folks, beyond all doubt, and in a world where print is supposedly dead, we did it.

Therefore, I feel it’s urgently important that we put petty conflicts aside; put down the ice axe, the lightweight backpack, the bamboo rod or the vintage shotgun, and come together under common cause: to appreciate, conserve, protect and preserve our public lands, as well as uphold the integrity of the agencies that manage them and whichever private landowners adhere to the same ethos.

Astonishingly, we’ve sold over 8000 copies of Volume One. With your continued support, along with our incredible sponsors for this issue, we’ve got just as many copies of Volume Two on the way. To everyone who backed us thus far, we cannot thank you enough. You’ve literally made this dream come true. But we are not resting on our laurels, instead forging on with a spirit of improvement. While we are incredibly proud of Volume One, I can confidently say that Volume Two is even better. To start, we welcomed Charles Post onto the Modern Huntsman team as our Ecology Editor, and his input, wisdom, and thoughtful scrutiny have been invaluable to this issue and hopefully many more to come. Additionally, we are joined by three Guest Editors of immense talent and varied perspectives; Chris Burkard, Brad Christian, and Andy Tran. We also have the recurring honor of Simon Roosevelt joining us as Conservation Advisor. With their contributions, our task of navigating the turbulent topic of public lands was made much more manageable.

Regardless of who has access to it, and what you’re allowed to do or not on it, all land is part of a larger ecosystem that we as humans have significantly marred. If we’re to continue pursuing our passions or preserve them for generations to come, we need to address the damage we’ve done, and come up with sensible solutions. You can’t hunt if healthy populations of game don’t exist, you can’t fish if trout are dying from water pollution, you can’t ski without ample snowfall, and you can’t hike if trails have been decimated by rampant forest fires. Each of these issues require close examination, often of our own intentions, and we hope that our presentation of what we feel are constructive perspectives will help you make an informed decision for yourself.

In this issue we’re celebrating the freedom and privilege that we as Americans have to explore, hunt, fish, and recreate on public lands, as well as highlighting contributions from private landowners to wildlife corridors, and honoring some of those who help maintain and manage the parks, trails, and forests that we so deeply love. We also dive into the realities of land access in other parts of this diverse world, hoping that it will illuminate the differences that exist between home and abroad, for good or ill, and reinforce why it’s important to protect what we have.

That being said, we could not be more proud to present Volume Two of Modern Huntsman Magazine, and we truly hope you enjoy it. In both purpose and practice, aim true, and shoot straight. SEE YOU IN THE FIELD,

And while we realize that not everyone is familiar with these nuanced situations, we’re trying to provide context and resources to learn about them and begin to contribute in a productive manner, if you so wish. So whether you’re a hunter, hiker, angler, climber, rider or skier, we hope this issue accentuates the importance of participation, cooperation, and even collaboration in matters surrounding public lands. We need to be thankful for residing in a country where we

Tyler Sharp Editor-in-Chief | @tylersharpphoto

Photo of Tyler by Byron Pace on the Glen Ogil Estate in Angus Glens, Scotland

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Ecologist’s Letter pursue may thrive, and consider the natural world as one organism woven amongst plants and animals, rock and water, wind and fire, ice and sun.

Mountains aren’t elk vending machines. Nor are rivers and wetlands duck factories. And those seas of grass and rolling plains are not where whitetail or mule deer are born simply to grow huge antlers, be pursued, and hunted. These are ecosystems: complex, dynamic webs of relationships, ephemeral and deeply rooted. These systems create the wildlife we love when they are functioning wholly, stewarded and given an inch so wildlife can take a mile. The healthiest bulls, biggest bucks, tides of mallards, and plumes of geese exist because wild landscapes exist, and because we’ve stewarded the ecosystem in such a way that these populations don’t just survive, but thrive. The difference between the two is vast and cannot be understated. The healthier a population, the more resilient it becomes, and resiliency is the currency of stewardship; that’s what we’re after; that’s where we should set our sights.

And in case all that sounded straightforward, consider this: every piece of the natural world is in flux, changing over space and time along an infinite continuum. What you think you know about a place today may not stand true tomorrow. That’s the beauty of our planet, the DNA of an ecosystem, the building blocks of evolution. The passing of time is the only guarantee. Attempting to forecast how time will be met with the known and unknown is where you come in: the managers, ecologists, stewards, farmers, hunters, hikers, and outdoors enthusiasts. It’s your eyes and ears, observations and emotions, morals and ethics that may inform how we treat the land, give it the room it needs to survive, and know when to say “no” because the risk might be too great, or there’s too much at stake. It is this understanding that nature is not a bottomless resource ripe for the taking. It’s our duty to steward it because no one else will. If we want our kids and grandkids to experience the vast and wild natural world, we need to work at it. And the fruits of your labor may not be realized for a year or ten or even a lifetime, but it’s the conviction that society’s collective swing of the axe is imminent. Without those willing to stand up for our public lands and shared resources, that axe will have its way. There’s too much at stake to sit back and wait for others to step in. This is your public land and this is all you’ll ever have. There’s no public land factory creating more, only strong forces making less. It takes a groundswell to create the change and stewardship we need now more than ever. Leave behind a legacy your grandkids can be proud of.

With our eyes, hearts, and minds fixed on the long game, we should remember a few things. Manage at the landscape level and place tremendous value on the soil, plants, water, fungi, and bacteria. You see, without them, the nutritious grasses, flowers, and browse that feed elk and deer, bighorn, and pronghorn wouldn’t exist. And without these grazers, our apex predators who maintain healthy ecosystems wouldn’t exist. We need the bottom to have the top. It’s a system not a singular, unassociated, detached suite of species. We fit in there, too. We are part of the ecosystem. Our place has been carved deeply into the fabric of our natural world. And we are here to stay. This is the Anthropocene, the age of humans, a time when our signature is omnipresent. Take a close look and you’ll find our fingerprints on every square inch of the planet. Removing humans from the equation is not realistic nor possible. And with this understanding comes our obligation to lead by example so that others may follow, to steward the ecosystem so the animals we

Charles Post CHARLES POST

Ecology Editor | @charles_post Photo of Charles taken by @rachel.pohl on the Napali Coast of Kauai / Opposite page photo by Forest Woodward

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Ecologist’s Letter pursue may thrive, and consider the natural world as one organism woven amongst plants and animals, rock and water, wind and fire, ice and sun.

Mountains aren’t elk vending machines. Nor are rivers and wetlands duck factories. And those seas of grass and rolling plains are not where whitetail or mule deer are born simply to grow huge antlers, be pursued, and hunted. These are ecosystems: complex, dynamic webs of relationships, ephemeral and deeply rooted. These systems create the wildlife we love when they are functioning wholly, stewarded and given an inch so wildlife can take a mile. The healthiest bulls, biggest bucks, tides of mallards, and plumes of geese exist because wild landscapes exist, and because we’ve stewarded the ecosystem in such a way that these populations don’t just survive, but thrive. The difference between the two is vast and cannot be understated. The healthier a population, the more resilient it becomes, and resiliency is the currency of stewardship; that’s what we’re after; that’s where we should set our sights.

And in case all that sounded straightforward, consider this: every piece of the natural world is in flux, changing over space and time along an infinite continuum. What you think you know about a place today may not stand true tomorrow. That’s the beauty of our planet, the DNA of an ecosystem, the building blocks of evolution. The passing of time is the only guarantee. Attempting to forecast how time will be met with the known and unknown is where you come in: the managers, ecologists, stewards, farmers, hunters, hikers, and outdoors enthusiasts. It’s your eyes and ears, observations and emotions, morals and ethics that may inform how we treat the land, give it the room it needs to survive, and know when to say “no” because the risk might be too great, or there’s too much at stake. It is this understanding that nature is not a bottomless resource ripe for the taking. It’s our duty to steward it because no one else will. If we want our kids and grandkids to experience the vast and wild natural world, we need to work at it. And the fruits of your labor may not be realized for a year or ten or even a lifetime, but it’s the conviction that society’s collective swing of the axe is imminent. Without those willing to stand up for our public lands and shared resources, that axe will have its way. There’s too much at stake to sit back and wait for others to step in. This is your public land and this is all you’ll ever have. There’s no public land factory creating more, only strong forces making less. It takes a groundswell to create the change and stewardship we need now more than ever. Leave behind a legacy your grandkids can be proud of.

With our eyes, hearts, and minds fixed on the long game, we should remember a few things. Manage at the landscape level and place tremendous value on the soil, plants, water, fungi, and bacteria. You see, without them, the nutritious grasses, flowers, and browse that feed elk and deer, bighorn, and pronghorn wouldn’t exist. And without these grazers, our apex predators who maintain healthy ecosystems wouldn’t exist. We need the bottom to have the top. It’s a system not a singular, unassociated, detached suite of species. We fit in there, too. We are part of the ecosystem. Our place has been carved deeply into the fabric of our natural world. And we are here to stay. This is the Anthropocene, the age of humans, a time when our signature is omnipresent. Take a close look and you’ll find our fingerprints on every square inch of the planet. Removing humans from the equation is not realistic nor possible. And with this understanding comes our obligation to lead by example so that others may follow, to steward the ecosystem so the animals we

Charles Post CHARLES POST

Ecology Editor | @charles_post Photo of Charles taken by @rachel.pohl on the Napali Coast of Kauai / Opposite page photo by Forest Woodward

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PART ONE

Public Lands in the United States

PHOTO:ADAM FOSS

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PART ONE

Public Lands in the United States

PHOTO:ADAM FOSS

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Our

American Legacy STORY BY

SIMON ROOSEVELT PHOTOGRAPHY BY

TYLER SHARP

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Our

American Legacy STORY BY

SIMON ROOSEVELT PHOTOGRAPHY BY

TYLER SHARP

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which had charge of surveying and disposing of federal lands, turned to sustainable management of those resources; the Forest Reserves, previously under the GLO were put under management of a newly created Forest Service in 1905; the National Park Service was created in 1916, at which time there already were eight national parks and nearly three dozen national monuments, and the growing number of wildlife refuges were ultimately brought together under what is now known as the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Today, the majority of US public lands, including those on which we hunt, hike, and fish are managed by these same agencies and the stated mission of each includes their sustainable management for the benefit of present and future generations of all Americans.

A

merica’s lands have been its single greatest advantage and legacy. They are vast, they are rich, and they are beautiful. Their exploration and exploitation by grit and gumption produced the strongest parts of the American character. Their preservation has proven to be the wisest of policies. In the balance of these things has been forged the American Conservation Model, which has brought and continues to bring prosperity from the lands and wildlife to all Americans. It is our proud legacy. The first of our nation’s public lands were created following the Revolutionary War, when the colonies ceded their claims to lands westward — from the Appalachians to the Mississippi — to the new federal government. Thus began the Public Domain, and new Americans poured into the new territory. By force and by purchase, and sometimes other than honorably, we conquered our way across this continent. Americans were encouraged to spread out, work the lands, and lay claim to them: railroads were granted large swaths to encourage construction and development along the new lines and western territories received land grants on statehood. We plowed up prairies and planted, cut down seemingly endless forests, panned and mined myriad precious metals, and gave away all the land we could to fulfill the American destiny. Early on we thought also to save the most spectacular of our new lands. Abraham Lincoln signed legislation in 1864, in the middle of the Civil War, transferring land including the Yosemite Valley to the state of California on the condition that it be protected for public use and enjoyment. Yellowstone became the first national park in 1872. And we began early to set aside lands for conservation. We did this because while at first it seemed that the land and its resources would be inexhaustible, clear cutting of the Eastern forests and the environmental effects of doing so convinced us that a better plan was needed, and taught us that the prosperity from our common natural resources was available to more than just the present if we

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planned for the future. And so federal legislation in 1873 encouraged the planting of trees in deforested areas and the Forest Reserve Act of 1891 authorized the government to set aside forested lands for managed timber harvesting. More such legislation followed, and by the end of the 19th Century and the turn of the 20th Century, with the race to make the continent American won, the focus of interest in the public domain became conservation for the future. An essential part of this movement toward conservation of America’s natural resources was the conservation of its wildlife. Wherever found, these too belong to every American citizen and are held in trust by the government. America’s game species and its inland fish easily fed its westward moving population, but we were building and growing cities that needed to be fed and clothed too. To meet this demand, market hunters likewise went west, and they hunted and trapped American wildlife to dangerously low levels. Sadly, the American Bison didn’t so much sustain westward conquest as stand in its way, and so tens of millions were reduced to only 300 in just a few decades. American sport hunters were among the first and most effective advocates for conservation of America’s wildlife species, proposing and supporting laws limiting the taking of wildlife, ending commercial hunting, and setting aside refuges for these species to rebuild their numbers. In 1900, the Lacy Act prohibited the taking of illegally hunted game from one state into another, giving a big bite to state game laws. In 1902 the Alaska Game Laws established seasons and limits on hunting for the federal District of Alaska (as it was then known) and in 1903 the first national wildlife refuge was established. Conservation, particularly in the midst of a large and growing population and economy, requires planning and oversight, and so into the 20th Century federal agencies were re-missioned and created, and a class of managers was born and began to acquire the necessary knowledge and experience. The General Land Office,

As we move into the 21st Century, American public lands have become the topic of increasing debate. Much of the debate is driven by the obnoxious character of our present politics, which increasingly emphasizes zero-sum party position over compromise in the larger and long-term public interest. The two broadest areas today focus on the proper balance of development with protection and how best to balance the often competing interests of the many public users. To a significant degree, these debates are not new. But as Americans have moved to cities and suburbs, and at the same time have built vacation homes at the edges of public lands, they have increasingly thought of public lands as places of recreation (i.e. parks). They increasingly don’t want their recreation areas disturbed by traditional uses like forestry, yet they want their homes protected from fires, even those naturally occurring for forest benefit.

— if ever — and hold distinct and increasingly valuable ecosystems. Surely the short-term gain from the cutting and immediate sale of such trees is insufficient to justify their loss. Moreover, our National Parks are frequently bordered by National Forests with their own recreation areas and trails. We are no longer mainly a rural nation of loggers, but an increasingly urban and suburban nation of recreation seekers. Every year, more Americans visit their public lands for recreation. Last year, some 150 million of us ventured into the outdoors for one form of recreation or another, with a governmentestimated economic impact of more than $300 billion. These same debates, over the proper balance of uses and users, occur with regard to the lands managed by the other major land agencies too. Traditional uses of our natural resources remain important sources of rural jobs, conservation funding, and supplemental state income. But we must also recognize that recreation has come to be a much higher value use than it was in the last century. The point is that harvesting, hunting, and hiking all are equally legitimate uses, but require balance to ensure prosperity for the long term. Greater recollection of the common benefits enjoyed by those before us, and greater recognition of our common rights will lead to better decisions for our lands, ourselves, and our future.

An essential part of this movement toward conservation of America’s natural resources was the conservation of its wildlife. Wherever found, these too belong to every American citizen.

We should remember that the US Forest Service was established in the Department of Agriculture to manage the sustainable harvest of trees, not as an adjunct manager of parks. Trees are a renewable resource, and their cutting for building materials and for paper is a good thing — a better thing surely than relying on more concrete and synthetic materials. We have learned a good deal about forest ecology and logging practices since we clear cut the eastern forests and began to do so in the West — those days have passed. And climate change has combined with increased fire fuel loads on forest floors, from decreased harvest and fire suppression, to create disastrous fire conditions that are more harmful to our forests because of it. And yet, some groups loudly (and often by obstructionist litigation) object to any forest management plan. The resultant metaphorical logjam prevents proper management of our forests and, no less dangerous, adds fuel to the specious and self-interested arguments of some for the “return” of “their” public lands to the states.

Of course, not all forests are equal and not all management plans are the same. Thus, it seems reasonably obvious that old growth forests (i.e. undisturbed forests that are, say, 120 years or older) should be off limits from logging. Such places won’t regrow for several lifetimes

Proper conservation of what used to be known as the “common wealth” (our lands and the natural resources found on and under them, whether oil and gas, trees and grass, or spectacular park sites) calls for compromise solutions. All Americans share in their ownership equally, and so all have a stake in their stewardship, present and future. We should remember this as we consider the debates we hear about our public lands and how we think it best to balance our common interests. They do not call for short term ideas or solutions, for that is not how one safeguards public resources for future generations of Americans. Solutions to our current debates require perspective and compromise. That is how those who created the system that conserved the lands and resources we now enjoy ensured this remarkable legacy remained for our generation — and our generation must do no less. We are hunters, anglers, hikers, climbers, paddlers, birders, and a myriad of other passions and interests in the outdoors. There is enormous potential strength in our numbers, and yet more often we see ourselves as divided by our separate interests rather than united by our shared love of the outdoors. As American citizens, all of us are inheritors of the great legacy of American lands and wildlife. This legacy carries responsibility too, to do what we can to support their conservation, not just for ourselves, but for all. Let us support good conservation uses and policies, whether ours or not. Hunters support hikers and hikers support hunters. Let us each not lose sight of the forest for the trees.

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which had charge of surveying and disposing of federal lands, turned to sustainable management of those resources; the Forest Reserves, previously under the GLO were put under management of a newly created Forest Service in 1905; the National Park Service was created in 1916, at which time there already were eight national parks and nearly three dozen national monuments, and the growing number of wildlife refuges were ultimately brought together under what is now known as the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Today, the majority of US public lands, including those on which we hunt, hike, and fish are managed by these same agencies and the stated mission of each includes their sustainable management for the benefit of present and future generations of all Americans.

A

merica’s lands have been its single greatest advantage and legacy. They are vast, they are rich, and they are beautiful. Their exploration and exploitation by grit and gumption produced the strongest parts of the American character. Their preservation has proven to be the wisest of policies. In the balance of these things has been forged the American Conservation Model, which has brought and continues to bring prosperity from the lands and wildlife to all Americans. It is our proud legacy. The first of our nation’s public lands were created following the Revolutionary War, when the colonies ceded their claims to lands westward — from the Appalachians to the Mississippi — to the new federal government. Thus began the Public Domain, and new Americans poured into the new territory. By force and by purchase, and sometimes other than honorably, we conquered our way across this continent. Americans were encouraged to spread out, work the lands, and lay claim to them: railroads were granted large swaths to encourage construction and development along the new lines and western territories received land grants on statehood. We plowed up prairies and planted, cut down seemingly endless forests, panned and mined myriad precious metals, and gave away all the land we could to fulfill the American destiny. Early on we thought also to save the most spectacular of our new lands. Abraham Lincoln signed legislation in 1864, in the middle of the Civil War, transferring land including the Yosemite Valley to the state of California on the condition that it be protected for public use and enjoyment. Yellowstone became the first national park in 1872. And we began early to set aside lands for conservation. We did this because while at first it seemed that the land and its resources would be inexhaustible, clear cutting of the Eastern forests and the environmental effects of doing so convinced us that a better plan was needed, and taught us that the prosperity from our common natural resources was available to more than just the present if we

- 26 -

planned for the future. And so federal legislation in 1873 encouraged the planting of trees in deforested areas and the Forest Reserve Act of 1891 authorized the government to set aside forested lands for managed timber harvesting. More such legislation followed, and by the end of the 19th Century and the turn of the 20th Century, with the race to make the continent American won, the focus of interest in the public domain became conservation for the future. An essential part of this movement toward conservation of America’s natural resources was the conservation of its wildlife. Wherever found, these too belong to every American citizen and are held in trust by the government. America’s game species and its inland fish easily fed its westward moving population, but we were building and growing cities that needed to be fed and clothed too. To meet this demand, market hunters likewise went west, and they hunted and trapped American wildlife to dangerously low levels. Sadly, the American Bison didn’t so much sustain westward conquest as stand in its way, and so tens of millions were reduced to only 300 in just a few decades. American sport hunters were among the first and most effective advocates for conservation of America’s wildlife species, proposing and supporting laws limiting the taking of wildlife, ending commercial hunting, and setting aside refuges for these species to rebuild their numbers. In 1900, the Lacy Act prohibited the taking of illegally hunted game from one state into another, giving a big bite to state game laws. In 1902 the Alaska Game Laws established seasons and limits on hunting for the federal District of Alaska (as it was then known) and in 1903 the first national wildlife refuge was established. Conservation, particularly in the midst of a large and growing population and economy, requires planning and oversight, and so into the 20th Century federal agencies were re-missioned and created, and a class of managers was born and began to acquire the necessary knowledge and experience. The General Land Office,

As we move into the 21st Century, American public lands have become the topic of increasing debate. Much of the debate is driven by the obnoxious character of our present politics, which increasingly emphasizes zero-sum party position over compromise in the larger and long-term public interest. The two broadest areas today focus on the proper balance of development with protection and how best to balance the often competing interests of the many public users. To a significant degree, these debates are not new. But as Americans have moved to cities and suburbs, and at the same time have built vacation homes at the edges of public lands, they have increasingly thought of public lands as places of recreation (i.e. parks). They increasingly don’t want their recreation areas disturbed by traditional uses like forestry, yet they want their homes protected from fires, even those naturally occurring for forest benefit.

— if ever — and hold distinct and increasingly valuable ecosystems. Surely the short-term gain from the cutting and immediate sale of such trees is insufficient to justify their loss. Moreover, our National Parks are frequently bordered by National Forests with their own recreation areas and trails. We are no longer mainly a rural nation of loggers, but an increasingly urban and suburban nation of recreation seekers. Every year, more Americans visit their public lands for recreation. Last year, some 150 million of us ventured into the outdoors for one form of recreation or another, with a governmentestimated economic impact of more than $300 billion. These same debates, over the proper balance of uses and users, occur with regard to the lands managed by the other major land agencies too. Traditional uses of our natural resources remain important sources of rural jobs, conservation funding, and supplemental state income. But we must also recognize that recreation has come to be a much higher value use than it was in the last century. The point is that harvesting, hunting, and hiking all are equally legitimate uses, but require balance to ensure prosperity for the long term. Greater recollection of the common benefits enjoyed by those before us, and greater recognition of our common rights will lead to better decisions for our lands, ourselves, and our future.

An essential part of this movement toward conservation of America’s natural resources was the conservation of its wildlife. Wherever found, these too belong to every American citizen.

We should remember that the US Forest Service was established in the Department of Agriculture to manage the sustainable harvest of trees, not as an adjunct manager of parks. Trees are a renewable resource, and their cutting for building materials and for paper is a good thing — a better thing surely than relying on more concrete and synthetic materials. We have learned a good deal about forest ecology and logging practices since we clear cut the eastern forests and began to do so in the West — those days have passed. And climate change has combined with increased fire fuel loads on forest floors, from decreased harvest and fire suppression, to create disastrous fire conditions that are more harmful to our forests because of it. And yet, some groups loudly (and often by obstructionist litigation) object to any forest management plan. The resultant metaphorical logjam prevents proper management of our forests and, no less dangerous, adds fuel to the specious and self-interested arguments of some for the “return” of “their” public lands to the states.

Of course, not all forests are equal and not all management plans are the same. Thus, it seems reasonably obvious that old growth forests (i.e. undisturbed forests that are, say, 120 years or older) should be off limits from logging. Such places won’t regrow for several lifetimes

Proper conservation of what used to be known as the “common wealth” (our lands and the natural resources found on and under them, whether oil and gas, trees and grass, or spectacular park sites) calls for compromise solutions. All Americans share in their ownership equally, and so all have a stake in their stewardship, present and future. We should remember this as we consider the debates we hear about our public lands and how we think it best to balance our common interests. They do not call for short term ideas or solutions, for that is not how one safeguards public resources for future generations of Americans. Solutions to our current debates require perspective and compromise. That is how those who created the system that conserved the lands and resources we now enjoy ensured this remarkable legacy remained for our generation — and our generation must do no less. We are hunters, anglers, hikers, climbers, paddlers, birders, and a myriad of other passions and interests in the outdoors. There is enormous potential strength in our numbers, and yet more often we see ourselves as divided by our separate interests rather than united by our shared love of the outdoors. As American citizens, all of us are inheritors of the great legacy of American lands and wildlife. This legacy carries responsibility too, to do what we can to support their conservation, not just for ourselves, but for all. Let us support good conservation uses and policies, whether ours or not. Hunters support hikers and hikers support hunters. Let us each not lose sight of the forest for the trees.

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A N I N T E RV I E W W I T H

C2hris B2urkard BY

CHARLES POST

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A N I N T E RV I E W W I T H

C2hris B2urkard BY

CHARLES POST

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Preface: By Charles Post

C

hris and I first met on a trip to Alaska back in 2015 to work on a project that celebrated Denali National Park’s centennial. Thanks to a now close friend, mentor, and former Denali National Park mountain ranger, we had the opportunity to drive a private vehicle into the park, explore some of the area’s most remote corners, witness the northern lights with bellies full of wild picked blueberries, and even spend the night in Adolf Murie’s log cabin on the banks of a wild river where he conducted his landmark research on the wolf ecology that transformed the way society saw and came to understand the important role wolves play in ecosystems across the globe. To put it lightly, that trip to Alaska trip was epic, transformative on a cellular level and shaped my view of conservation and wilderness in a deep way. Following our trip, Chris and I became close friends, having worked on various projects and now diving into a multi-year book project, Why Wilderness, which aims to explore the notion of wilderness in today’s rapidly changing and urbanizing world. His passion for adventure and storytelling is contagious. His approach is illuminating and his mentorship has been invaluable. Chris and I sat down to dive into his relationship with public lands, conservation and how his craft has inspired millions of people to get outside. It’s that first step out the front door that has the power to sprout the next generation of stewards we need now more than ever.

CHARLES

What is your relationship with public land? What do they mean to you, and how did this whole love affair start off?

CHRIS

Well, it’s interesting because I grew up in the Southwest, and as a young person I thought Northern California was the most exotic place I figured I would ever travel to. Ever. That was pretty much it for me. Never had a passport. Never really went anywhere, and I guess I didn’t quite understand at the time when I was growing up, the value that these places — national parks and BLM — were public land. I had no clue. I just thought, “Oh, these are the sweet places that we get to go experience, and just have fun.” I think it took me a little bit of time to really digest that. As I got older, I realized that these places that I’m drawn to, working in, and am inspired by, have been set aside for our use, and we own them, in fact. We’re also the ones that are kind of in charge of protecting them. Overall, it was a huge eye-opener for me to realize and consider that we all have a responsibility to, in some way, protect them because they’re not going to protect themselves. That’s the biggest shocker, that we all start to realize pretty quickly. It’s like, “Oh, well these aren’t places that politics or politicians are going to necessarily protect.” You would hope they would, but the reality is it’s probably not going to happen. I think we’re all kind of put to the charge of understanding the risks and what’s at stake, especially over the last couple of years. It’s easy to think, “Oh, that would never happen; that place would never lose its National Monument status,” or “Nobody would ever compromise Iceland’s wilderness for aluminum smelters.” They will and that will happen. It is happening, and it will continue to happen if we don’t do anything about it. That’s what I’ve realized. “I can’t just sit back and hang out and wait.” This is kind of a big deal, and it’s a big topic that I think every person who wields a camera, or who uses social media, or who in some way hopes to share their experience and needs to address and talk about at times if they’re so willing. I’ve learned that even though I work in these environments — I may have a more vested interest than others because it’s my workplace too — I feel very passionate about protecting them.

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Preface: By Charles Post

C

hris and I first met on a trip to Alaska back in 2015 to work on a project that celebrated Denali National Park’s centennial. Thanks to a now close friend, mentor, and former Denali National Park mountain ranger, we had the opportunity to drive a private vehicle into the park, explore some of the area’s most remote corners, witness the northern lights with bellies full of wild picked blueberries, and even spend the night in Adolf Murie’s log cabin on the banks of a wild river where he conducted his landmark research on the wolf ecology that transformed the way society saw and came to understand the important role wolves play in ecosystems across the globe. To put it lightly, that trip to Alaska trip was epic, transformative on a cellular level and shaped my view of conservation and wilderness in a deep way. Following our trip, Chris and I became close friends, having worked on various projects and now diving into a multi-year book project, Why Wilderness, which aims to explore the notion of wilderness in today’s rapidly changing and urbanizing world. His passion for adventure and storytelling is contagious. His approach is illuminating and his mentorship has been invaluable. Chris and I sat down to dive into his relationship with public lands, conservation and how his craft has inspired millions of people to get outside. It’s that first step out the front door that has the power to sprout the next generation of stewards we need now more than ever.

CHARLES

What is your relationship with public land? What do they mean to you, and how did this whole love affair start off?

CHRIS

Well, it’s interesting because I grew up in the Southwest, and as a young person I thought Northern California was the most exotic place I figured I would ever travel to. Ever. That was pretty much it for me. Never had a passport. Never really went anywhere, and I guess I didn’t quite understand at the time when I was growing up, the value that these places — national parks and BLM — were public land. I had no clue. I just thought, “Oh, these are the sweet places that we get to go experience, and just have fun.” I think it took me a little bit of time to really digest that. As I got older, I realized that these places that I’m drawn to, working in, and am inspired by, have been set aside for our use, and we own them, in fact. We’re also the ones that are kind of in charge of protecting them. Overall, it was a huge eye-opener for me to realize and consider that we all have a responsibility to, in some way, protect them because they’re not going to protect themselves. That’s the biggest shocker, that we all start to realize pretty quickly. It’s like, “Oh, well these aren’t places that politics or politicians are going to necessarily protect.” You would hope they would, but the reality is it’s probably not going to happen. I think we’re all kind of put to the charge of understanding the risks and what’s at stake, especially over the last couple of years. It’s easy to think, “Oh, that would never happen; that place would never lose its National Monument status,” or “Nobody would ever compromise Iceland’s wilderness for aluminum smelters.” They will and that will happen. It is happening, and it will continue to happen if we don’t do anything about it. That’s what I’ve realized. “I can’t just sit back and hang out and wait.” This is kind of a big deal, and it’s a big topic that I think every person who wields a camera, or who uses social media, or who in some way hopes to share their experience and needs to address and talk about at times if they’re so willing. I’ve learned that even though I work in these environments — I may have a more vested interest than others because it’s my workplace too — I feel very passionate about protecting them.

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CHARLES

How would you say public lands affects you on a personal level?

CHARLES

CHRIS

I think public lands give us all respite from our chaotic lives. This is where I, especially over the last couple years, have spent so much time on the road, working, living. I’ll tell you what, the place that I feel the most inspired, the most at peace, is on the weekends when I’m able to go escape to Yosemite Valley. That’s a huge deal for me. This is where I gather my inspiration. It’s a really important thing that I found as a kid who, like I said, didn’t have a chance to grow up with these experiences. For me, that was everything. I felt like I was learning about myself and about wilderness. That was what first really drew me to public lands, and made me feel the need and desire to want to spend time there and work there, and make it a big part of my life. But like I said, to each person, it’s personal. To each person it’s a little different. Why are we drawn to these locations? Why do we want to spend time there? Why do we care? I think we all find different answers.

CHARLES

In your opinion, why do these public lands need to be treasured and stewarded? What’s the reason?

CHRIS

I’ve literally met people who would say their lives have been changed by going to locations that they at first thought were overwhelming or scary, and after spending time there they were changed forever. Whether it’s Iceland or whether it’s remote Alaska, the impact these places have and offer is something I take really seriously. The ability to change someone’s perspective, to go somewhere they may not have ever gone before. What an amazing tool that we have for inspiration, to change the world, to allow people to break beyond the bonds of what they originally thought they were capable of. For me, that understanding has been really significant, and something that I don’t take lightly. That potential is something I really care about and love, and I want to cultivate that reverence for nature in other people so they can fall in love with those places. I think our society is moving more and more towards cities. Right? It’s easier to live in a city. That’s where society is moving. Everything is increasingly set up for that shift, and I think that more and more we’re going to need to preserve wild places.

- 32 -

I know Ansel Adams is one of your heroes. Why? And what did he do that really inspires you?

CHRIS

Ansel was an incredible photographer. But even more than that he understood the power and importance of his voice, and what he had to do to help people connect with nature. He understood that photographs were important, but even more important was the fact that he had to learn to express himself, learn to utilize his voice, and learn to utilize his opportunities to photograph national parks, and be an unwavering advocate. He had to use his craft, voice and platform as a means to preserve, promote, and save the places that he cared about. The way he started to do that was to create awareness. One of the biggest topics that you and I can talk about is this concept of awareness. I’m using the word “awareness” in lieu of social media, because we all know that there are other ways beyond just social media to create awareness of public lands and the outdoor world. For him [Ansel], it was all about creating awareness: creating awareness for Yosemite National Park, for wild landscapes, and public land. That’s what John Muir did, too. John Muir, as much as he was an environmentalist was also a lobbyist, and he lobbied for Yosemite to become a national park. That’s how Muir was able to get President Teddy Roosevelt to experience Yosemite. That’s what secured its status and future as a National Park. I think that the beauty in Ansel’s legacy is that his images were one portion of his talent, his skillset. The other was learning to express himself: learning to write, lobby, and speak. I think that’s something that I’ve really been impressed with. They’re important skills to keep in mind when considering the birth of a potential conservationist or environmental advocate. Where does that start? I’ll tell you what, the first thing I thought when I picked up a camera wasn’t, “Oh, I’m going to care about the environment.” No, I just wanted to travel, and that’s totally fine. I don’t think that everybody who picks up a camera has to have some altruistic goal in mind. But at a certain point, I think that you learn to feel a sense of responsibility to protect these wild places, and that’s really, really important.

- 33 -


CHARLES

How would you say public lands affects you on a personal level?

CHARLES

CHRIS

I think public lands give us all respite from our chaotic lives. This is where I, especially over the last couple years, have spent so much time on the road, working, living. I’ll tell you what, the place that I feel the most inspired, the most at peace, is on the weekends when I’m able to go escape to Yosemite Valley. That’s a huge deal for me. This is where I gather my inspiration. It’s a really important thing that I found as a kid who, like I said, didn’t have a chance to grow up with these experiences. For me, that was everything. I felt like I was learning about myself and about wilderness. That was what first really drew me to public lands, and made me feel the need and desire to want to spend time there and work there, and make it a big part of my life. But like I said, to each person, it’s personal. To each person it’s a little different. Why are we drawn to these locations? Why do we want to spend time there? Why do we care? I think we all find different answers.

CHARLES

In your opinion, why do these public lands need to be treasured and stewarded? What’s the reason?

CHRIS

I’ve literally met people who would say their lives have been changed by going to locations that they at first thought were overwhelming or scary, and after spending time there they were changed forever. Whether it’s Iceland or whether it’s remote Alaska, the impact these places have and offer is something I take really seriously. The ability to change someone’s perspective, to go somewhere they may not have ever gone before. What an amazing tool that we have for inspiration, to change the world, to allow people to break beyond the bonds of what they originally thought they were capable of. For me, that understanding has been really significant, and something that I don’t take lightly. That potential is something I really care about and love, and I want to cultivate that reverence for nature in other people so they can fall in love with those places. I think our society is moving more and more towards cities. Right? It’s easier to live in a city. That’s where society is moving. Everything is increasingly set up for that shift, and I think that more and more we’re going to need to preserve wild places.

- 32 -

I know Ansel Adams is one of your heroes. Why? And what did he do that really inspires you?

CHRIS

Ansel was an incredible photographer. But even more than that he understood the power and importance of his voice, and what he had to do to help people connect with nature. He understood that photographs were important, but even more important was the fact that he had to learn to express himself, learn to utilize his voice, and learn to utilize his opportunities to photograph national parks, and be an unwavering advocate. He had to use his craft, voice and platform as a means to preserve, promote, and save the places that he cared about. The way he started to do that was to create awareness. One of the biggest topics that you and I can talk about is this concept of awareness. I’m using the word “awareness” in lieu of social media, because we all know that there are other ways beyond just social media to create awareness of public lands and the outdoor world. For him [Ansel], it was all about creating awareness: creating awareness for Yosemite National Park, for wild landscapes, and public land. That’s what John Muir did, too. John Muir, as much as he was an environmentalist was also a lobbyist, and he lobbied for Yosemite to become a national park. That’s how Muir was able to get President Teddy Roosevelt to experience Yosemite. That’s what secured its status and future as a National Park. I think that the beauty in Ansel’s legacy is that his images were one portion of his talent, his skillset. The other was learning to express himself: learning to write, lobby, and speak. I think that’s something that I’ve really been impressed with. They’re important skills to keep in mind when considering the birth of a potential conservationist or environmental advocate. Where does that start? I’ll tell you what, the first thing I thought when I picked up a camera wasn’t, “Oh, I’m going to care about the environment.” No, I just wanted to travel, and that’s totally fine. I don’t think that everybody who picks up a camera has to have some altruistic goal in mind. But at a certain point, I think that you learn to feel a sense of responsibility to protect these wild places, and that’s really, really important.

- 33 -


CHARLES

With the rise of public lands and public lands-centric activism, is there anything that has stood out to you, has inspired you or changed the way that you perceive public lands?

CHRIS

Yeah, it’s hard because I kind of have a couple of different views on that. I’ve read all these articles claiming “Social media’s killing the outdoors,” and I see all these clickbait things. But then I also see this groundswell from people who are realizing that we’ve kept these places and environments a secret for so long, now they’re under threat, and need public support and advocacy, like in the case of Bears Ears. We may have lost the battle because nobody really knew about it, and nobody really had the opportunity to experience it. I think that reality goes right along with the concept that you’re never gonna care about something that you don’t experience or know about. How can we educate, use our voices, allow people to have a greater sense of why these places are important, why they need to be experienced? How do we learn to teach people the importance of a place, while at the same time educating them on how to not exploit it? It’s a very complicated issue that I don’t have the answer to, and I think that’s one of the biggest challenges: how do we best use social media and other means of bringing awareness to people in a positive way? I think Bears Ears was a good example of a place that was, in the beginning very, largely unknown to a lot of people. I always knew it as a declining area, Indian Creek, and it was kind of like a secret in many ways. But then, all of a sudden, there was this huge resurgence of, “Bears Ears! Bears Ears! Everybody, Bears Ears! Jump on the bandwagon.”

- 34 -


CHARLES

With the rise of public lands and public lands-centric activism, is there anything that has stood out to you, has inspired you or changed the way that you perceive public lands?

CHRIS

Yeah, it’s hard because I kind of have a couple of different views on that. I’ve read all these articles claiming “Social media’s killing the outdoors,” and I see all these clickbait things. But then I also see this groundswell from people who are realizing that we’ve kept these places and environments a secret for so long, now they’re under threat, and need public support and advocacy, like in the case of Bears Ears. We may have lost the battle because nobody really knew about it, and nobody really had the opportunity to experience it. I think that reality goes right along with the concept that you’re never gonna care about something that you don’t experience or know about. How can we educate, use our voices, allow people to have a greater sense of why these places are important, why they need to be experienced? How do we learn to teach people the importance of a place, while at the same time educating them on how to not exploit it? It’s a very complicated issue that I don’t have the answer to, and I think that’s one of the biggest challenges: how do we best use social media and other means of bringing awareness to people in a positive way? I think Bears Ears was a good example of a place that was, in the beginning very, largely unknown to a lot of people. I always knew it as a declining area, Indian Creek, and it was kind of like a secret in many ways. But then, all of a sudden, there was this huge resurgence of, “Bears Ears! Bears Ears! Everybody, Bears Ears! Jump on the bandwagon.”

- 34 -


CHARLES

CHRIS

Maybe you could speak of

That’s a great question. It’s something that I’ve had to think about a lot because I’ve been working alongside Iceland’s environmental agency, basically, their political arm that’s working to create a National Park inside the interior of the country mainly to protect a number of wild and pristine glacial fed river systems. The goal is to unite a large portion of the country and protect it mainly from aluminum smelters, dams, and development that could ruin the rivers for the long-term. It would affect everything. It would of course affect the beauty of the place, but also the heartbeat of the country.

the outdoors as a place that attracts creatives, climbers, backpackers, hunters, anglers, and day hikers. It seems like there’s a very explicit lack of camaraderie and synergy between those different camps. Is that something that you’ve experienced, and if so, do you have any thoughts on how to bring these people and different positions together?

What I was realizing is that Iceland is like a microcosm for a lot of our culture. Most states in the U.S. have more people than Iceland, right? There’s only 800,000 people on the whole island, in the entire country. In an environment like Iceland you have a lot of people and voices trying to be heard, which resembles these environmental campaigns that have captured a lot of attention in the U.S. From an outsider’s perspective you could think, “Oh, it’s so simple. Why wouldn’t everybody just want to protect this place? It’s so beautiful. It’s meaningful. Everybody who goes here has a memorable experience. Tourism is a huge part of their country’s revenue now. This makes sense.

If there’s one thing that I’ve realized it’s that politically, we’re in an environment and landscape where we seem to build more walls than bridges.

CHARLES

You bring up a great point

Well, I can tell you it’s not that easy. The thing that I’ve really been able to learn is that there are all these interest groups who all have an opinion and voice. The interest groups being anglers, off road and 4x4 advocates, farmers, tourism, hikers and all these other people who are equally concerned for different reasons. They’re all worried that if this place becomes a National Park it may impact their wants and needs.

which is that people can go to

Collaboration has never been more critical. It’s so crucial, and it kind of made me understand that trying to lobby for all these groups is really hard. Speaking all their languages is impossible. If there’s one thing that I’ve realized it’s that politically, we’re in an environment and landscape where we seem to build more walls than bridges. That seems to be what people want. They want to separate themselves from one another. Nobody’s in a realm of trying to connect and trying to listen to one another, to truly hear what others have to say. And that’s really challenging for me. I see it online. I see it in conversations. I see it all over the place. It’s pervasive.

influence the way that the

I guess to answer your question, there’s a real need to communicate more effectively with everyone, and to hear people’s sides, and to understand all sides: the die-hard liberals and the conservatives. You’re going to have to make compromises in order to make real progress. There’s no right or wrong, black or white. You need to be flexible and malleable because you’re never gonna be able to appease everyone. To get right into the thing that I feel is the most important concept, is that it kills me when people go to places like Iceland, jump in a plane, fly over the country with a goal to just snap a few pictures. To go there without the willingness to learn about it is really challenging for me to grasp because each visitor has an opportunity to make a difference, no matter how big or small. Consciously missing that opportunity is hard for me to understand. Given the fact that everybody has thousands of followers these days, why isn’t everybody doing their part to teach, educate, and offer their community a little more insight?

other countries’ public lands, and through their voices and platforms and content, public lands are perceived and maybe protected.

CHRIS

Yeah. For good or for bad, and that’s a hard thing. Sometimes I get messages from people who are jumping down my throat. “Why aren’t you addressing this issue with this?” I respond by saying, “because I don’t know anything about it, because it’s not significant to me, because as much as I want to say something, I have no clue what the real issue is.” I’ll be the first one to say I’m not educated on everything, and that’s fine. It’s better to acknowledge that than to just try to act like you are a master at every subject, and understand everything that’s going on. That’s just my two cents on it. I see a lot both ways, and sometimes it kind of kills me if I think, “You don’t all need to know everything.” I would rather see people be specialists at something, be really passionate about it and direct their attention and energy accordingly. Which is why when I have a question about aspects of ecology, I just go to you. Because I know that you’re going to have done your research. I value your opinion, and that’s important too. It’s how I get a lot of the insight I need. You know? It’s really cool to think about the fact that people care about our opinion. You and I have done a good job, we’ve set a good example. Obviously, there’s tons of room to grow, but I’m proud of that. Super proud of that.

CHARLES

When we talk about stewardship, legacy and impact, what’s your vision? You’re obviously using your voice in Iceland, you’re using your voice in America,

CHRIS

I don’t want to illustrate myself to be anything I’m not. I’m not out there like Paul Nicklen trying to really save the world. What I share is along the line of pure inspiration. I still really love to just share the beauty of a place, and allow people to go, and inspire them to experience it for themselves and hopefully make a difference. The best way we’re going to make change is by allowing people to experience something for themselves and let them form their own opinion, develop their own passions and reverence. Long-term care and concern is usually created from or by the desire to want to experience or know a place.

and you’re certainly reaching people from across the globe. What impact do you hope to have?

- 36 -

- 37 -


CHARLES

CHRIS

Maybe you could speak of

That’s a great question. It’s something that I’ve had to think about a lot because I’ve been working alongside Iceland’s environmental agency, basically, their political arm that’s working to create a National Park inside the interior of the country mainly to protect a number of wild and pristine glacial fed river systems. The goal is to unite a large portion of the country and protect it mainly from aluminum smelters, dams, and development that could ruin the rivers for the long-term. It would affect everything. It would of course affect the beauty of the place, but also the heartbeat of the country.

the outdoors as a place that attracts creatives, climbers, backpackers, hunters, anglers, and day hikers. It seems like there’s a very explicit lack of camaraderie and synergy between those different camps. Is that something that you’ve experienced, and if so, do you have any thoughts on how to bring these people and different positions together?

What I was realizing is that Iceland is like a microcosm for a lot of our culture. Most states in the U.S. have more people than Iceland, right? There’s only 800,000 people on the whole island, in the entire country. In an environment like Iceland you have a lot of people and voices trying to be heard, which resembles these environmental campaigns that have captured a lot of attention in the U.S. From an outsider’s perspective you could think, “Oh, it’s so simple. Why wouldn’t everybody just want to protect this place? It’s so beautiful. It’s meaningful. Everybody who goes here has a memorable experience. Tourism is a huge part of their country’s revenue now. This makes sense.

If there’s one thing that I’ve realized it’s that politically, we’re in an environment and landscape where we seem to build more walls than bridges.

CHARLES

You bring up a great point

Well, I can tell you it’s not that easy. The thing that I’ve really been able to learn is that there are all these interest groups who all have an opinion and voice. The interest groups being anglers, off road and 4x4 advocates, farmers, tourism, hikers and all these other people who are equally concerned for different reasons. They’re all worried that if this place becomes a National Park it may impact their wants and needs.

which is that people can go to

Collaboration has never been more critical. It’s so crucial, and it kind of made me understand that trying to lobby for all these groups is really hard. Speaking all their languages is impossible. If there’s one thing that I’ve realized it’s that politically, we’re in an environment and landscape where we seem to build more walls than bridges. That seems to be what people want. They want to separate themselves from one another. Nobody’s in a realm of trying to connect and trying to listen to one another, to truly hear what others have to say. And that’s really challenging for me. I see it online. I see it in conversations. I see it all over the place. It’s pervasive.

influence the way that the

I guess to answer your question, there’s a real need to communicate more effectively with everyone, and to hear people’s sides, and to understand all sides: the die-hard liberals and the conservatives. You’re going to have to make compromises in order to make real progress. There’s no right or wrong, black or white. You need to be flexible and malleable because you’re never gonna be able to appease everyone. To get right into the thing that I feel is the most important concept, is that it kills me when people go to places like Iceland, jump in a plane, fly over the country with a goal to just snap a few pictures. To go there without the willingness to learn about it is really challenging for me to grasp because each visitor has an opportunity to make a difference, no matter how big or small. Consciously missing that opportunity is hard for me to understand. Given the fact that everybody has thousands of followers these days, why isn’t everybody doing their part to teach, educate, and offer their community a little more insight?

other countries’ public lands, and through their voices and platforms and content, public lands are perceived and maybe protected.

CHRIS

Yeah. For good or for bad, and that’s a hard thing. Sometimes I get messages from people who are jumping down my throat. “Why aren’t you addressing this issue with this?” I respond by saying, “because I don’t know anything about it, because it’s not significant to me, because as much as I want to say something, I have no clue what the real issue is.” I’ll be the first one to say I’m not educated on everything, and that’s fine. It’s better to acknowledge that than to just try to act like you are a master at every subject, and understand everything that’s going on. That’s just my two cents on it. I see a lot both ways, and sometimes it kind of kills me if I think, “You don’t all need to know everything.” I would rather see people be specialists at something, be really passionate about it and direct their attention and energy accordingly. Which is why when I have a question about aspects of ecology, I just go to you. Because I know that you’re going to have done your research. I value your opinion, and that’s important too. It’s how I get a lot of the insight I need. You know? It’s really cool to think about the fact that people care about our opinion. You and I have done a good job, we’ve set a good example. Obviously, there’s tons of room to grow, but I’m proud of that. Super proud of that.

CHARLES

When we talk about stewardship, legacy and impact, what’s your vision? You’re obviously using your voice in Iceland, you’re using your voice in America,

CHRIS

I don’t want to illustrate myself to be anything I’m not. I’m not out there like Paul Nicklen trying to really save the world. What I share is along the line of pure inspiration. I still really love to just share the beauty of a place, and allow people to go, and inspire them to experience it for themselves and hopefully make a difference. The best way we’re going to make change is by allowing people to experience something for themselves and let them form their own opinion, develop their own passions and reverence. Long-term care and concern is usually created from or by the desire to want to experience or know a place.

and you’re certainly reaching people from across the globe. What impact do you hope to have?

- 36 -

- 37 -


CHARLES

CHRIS

That’s such an important point because,

I totally agree, and that’s always been my thought. If someone goes to the Grand Canyon, and they have their selfie stick and they walk to the edge, and they take a picture, people always look at that and say “well that’s not the way that it’s supposed to be experienced.” That’s reality. What would you rather have them do, be at their house playing video games? Isn’t the whole point, isn’t the reason we take all these pictures and share all these things to get people out of the house, and get them into environments that we hope can inspire them? If their first experience is literally just doing that, then that’s awesome. That’s a huge advantage, what an amazing thing. For me, my first experiences in those environments were simple and similar. I didn’t even want to get out of the car. My grandpa had to beg me to, “Hey, check this out. This is amazing.”

for example, Yosemite gets touted as this overcrowded, over-visited park. But I would argue that Yosemite is an ambassador for these wild places that people can’t visit as easily, and that they might view Yosemite with this newfound respect for wild landscapes or beautiful, epic landscapes in general, and in turn convert that experience into caring about their own backyards or places that they visit in the future.

Just try to give people the benefit of the doubt. It’s really cool to think that you and I have this penchant for wanting to go deeper and explore these places, and really experience it. But hey, that’s because this is what we’ve grown up doing; it’s our life. I think that it’s important to understand and realize that this can take a little bit of time for people to grasp that whole concept of nature and the outdoors. It doesn’t happen overnight. For most people, it takes a while to get to the place where you actually want to protect the environment or a particular ecosystem. It’s not gonna happen right away, and it usually doesn’t. All these things take time. They take time to really digest, take time to fully embrace. It’s a complicated thing that we can’t just expect everybody to grasp onto right away. Because you and I were born in California, raised outside, and have this in our DNA. It doesn’t work like that for everybody. It’s a love story, and it takes a long time for that relationship to grow. Who are we to judge the selfie stick person on the edge of the Grand Canyon?

CHARLES

CHRIS

When you talk about a legacy, Ansel

Good question. One of the things about Ansel and a lot of the early photographers is that they shot photographs guided by the understanding that their work would be around far longer than them. That was their goal. It wasn’t about getting famous right in the moment. For me, a big part of my approach is knowing that now it’s easier, more than ever, to achieve some level of fame or notoriety in our work. I’m trying to consider every time I take a picture: “Is this something that’s meant to last, or something that’s meant to be a flash in the pan? Go away in a day? Go away in a week, or a year, or once the cycle of likes and engagement falls off?”

Adams left behind this legacy that really inspired you. What do you hope you leave behind, the content you’ve created and the signature you’ve left on the land?

A big part of it for me is thinking about my work over the long-term — making sure that what I’m shooting is meant to last and inspire people over the course of years to come. You know? It’s been a good reminder for me. I don’t always achieve that, or hit that mark, but it’s something that I’m trying to work towards. CHARLES

CHRIS

Last question. If you could offer one

Things may seem black and white to us but they might not be to everybody else. Communicating with the intent to listen, the intent to understand is going to set ourselves up for so much more success in the long run when it comes to being able to move forward from a place of positivity and growth, and in turn gives us a chance to actually make a difference. And in terms of public lands, making a difference is one of the most important things we can do.

piece of advice, or words of wisdom to our readers, and it’s through the lens of public lands, what would it be?

- 38 -

- 39 -


CHARLES

CHRIS

That’s such an important point because,

I totally agree, and that’s always been my thought. If someone goes to the Grand Canyon, and they have their selfie stick and they walk to the edge, and they take a picture, people always look at that and say “well that’s not the way that it’s supposed to be experienced.” That’s reality. What would you rather have them do, be at their house playing video games? Isn’t the whole point, isn’t the reason we take all these pictures and share all these things to get people out of the house, and get them into environments that we hope can inspire them? If their first experience is literally just doing that, then that’s awesome. That’s a huge advantage, what an amazing thing. For me, my first experiences in those environments were simple and similar. I didn’t even want to get out of the car. My grandpa had to beg me to, “Hey, check this out. This is amazing.”

for example, Yosemite gets touted as this overcrowded, over-visited park. But I would argue that Yosemite is an ambassador for these wild places that people can’t visit as easily, and that they might view Yosemite with this newfound respect for wild landscapes or beautiful, epic landscapes in general, and in turn convert that experience into caring about their own backyards or places that they visit in the future.

Just try to give people the benefit of the doubt. It’s really cool to think that you and I have this penchant for wanting to go deeper and explore these places, and really experience it. But hey, that’s because this is what we’ve grown up doing; it’s our life. I think that it’s important to understand and realize that this can take a little bit of time for people to grasp that whole concept of nature and the outdoors. It doesn’t happen overnight. For most people, it takes a while to get to the place where you actually want to protect the environment or a particular ecosystem. It’s not gonna happen right away, and it usually doesn’t. All these things take time. They take time to really digest, take time to fully embrace. It’s a complicated thing that we can’t just expect everybody to grasp onto right away. Because you and I were born in California, raised outside, and have this in our DNA. It doesn’t work like that for everybody. It’s a love story, and it takes a long time for that relationship to grow. Who are we to judge the selfie stick person on the edge of the Grand Canyon?

CHARLES

CHRIS

When you talk about a legacy, Ansel

Good question. One of the things about Ansel and a lot of the early photographers is that they shot photographs guided by the understanding that their work would be around far longer than them. That was their goal. It wasn’t about getting famous right in the moment. For me, a big part of my approach is knowing that now it’s easier, more than ever, to achieve some level of fame or notoriety in our work. I’m trying to consider every time I take a picture: “Is this something that’s meant to last, or something that’s meant to be a flash in the pan? Go away in a day? Go away in a week, or a year, or once the cycle of likes and engagement falls off?”

Adams left behind this legacy that really inspired you. What do you hope you leave behind, the content you’ve created and the signature you’ve left on the land?

A big part of it for me is thinking about my work over the long-term — making sure that what I’m shooting is meant to last and inspire people over the course of years to come. You know? It’s been a good reminder for me. I don’t always achieve that, or hit that mark, but it’s something that I’m trying to work towards. CHARLES

CHRIS

Last question. If you could offer one

Things may seem black and white to us but they might not be to everybody else. Communicating with the intent to listen, the intent to understand is going to set ourselves up for so much more success in the long run when it comes to being able to move forward from a place of positivity and growth, and in turn gives us a chance to actually make a difference. And in terms of public lands, making a difference is one of the most important things we can do.

piece of advice, or words of wisdom to our readers, and it’s through the lens of public lands, what would it be?

- 38 -

- 39 -


Hunting, Public Lands, and Social Identity STORY BY

GREG BLASCOVICH CHARLES POST

PHOTO BY

H

unting and public lands: two concepts, intimately connected. One promotes wildlife and the other, habitat. Both have decades-long records as models of effective policy that benefit all Americans. When it comes to advocacy on behalf of these concepts, we should have it relatively easy. Often, however, conversations surrounding these issues devolve into needless antagonism. I believe that we, as hunters and public land users, often stand in our own way when it comes to advocating for these causes. For one, hunting according to our current management structure, often referred to as the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, has produced a century of inspired results. By establishing a series of effective regulations — and a structure that ties hunters directly to wildlife and habitat conservation — we’ve seen scores of species brought back from the precipice of extinction since the early 1900s.

Likewise, our uniquely American system of public lands has enriched our nation by any number of measures. These lands conserve critical habitat for fish and wildlife. They’re central to local economies across the country, supporting ranching, timber, and mining operations, as well as providing resources for energy. They also provide the settings for our adventures, allowing us to camp and hike, hunt and fish, to connect with natural beauty while also contributing to a booming outdoor recreation and tourism economy worth $887 billion, at last count. These myriad benefits are due in large part to federal management. A coherent system of federal regulation ensures that public lands accomodate a tapestry of stakeholders, enable long-term revenue generation, and remain accessible to all Americans. A state model, touted by land transfer zealots, simply can’t compete. Recent fiscal audits from state legislatures underscore this reality. Even if states were to drastically curtail public access and maximize extraction-based profit, they would be unable to create the revenues needed to keep their budgets afloat, especially when factoring in the crippling costs of wildland firefighting. In short, state ownership would rapidly result in a tax hike or land sale. It’s not hard to predict which option an incumbent facing re-election would pick.

Hunters purchase licenses, tags, and stamps, generating state revenue. If the states direct that revenue to their corresponding fish and wildlife agencies, as opposed to spreading it across the general budget, they become eligible to receive federal funds. This money, generated by an excise tax on hunting equipment, supports designated conservation projects. All told, it’s an impressive system As I said earlier, the structures behind hunting and that harnesses hunters’ passion to incentivize (and pay for) public lands should be easy sells. Why then, is dialogue surrounding hunting and public lands often contentious? sound conservation policy.

- 40 -

I’m of the opinion that social identity plays a considerable role. One of the enduring findings of research into social identity, which posits that people derive their sense of self from group memberships (e.g. ‘hunter’, ‘American’, ‘Democrat’, ‘Republican’), is the tendency for individuals to favor the ingroup while regarding the outgroup with hostility and suspicion. While we’d all like to think of ourselves as objective operators, this tendency seems almost hardwired. The phenomenon appears consistently through decades of experiments, even in scenarios where groups are based on arbitrary and virtually meaningless distinctions, such as t-shirt color.

In the case of hunting, this “us versus them” mentality feels pervasive. As an example, I frequently hear the term “anti-hunter” used synonymously with “non-hunter.” While I’m sure the folks using these terms interchangeably recognize the difference, this slip of the tongue underscores an unproductive antagonism. Often, it seems, hunters assume an adversarial posture to those outside of the “tribe,” rather than engaging in a thoughtful conversation explaining how and why their pastime serves a larger purpose. And there is reason to believe such an approach would be fruitful: recent experimental research has demonstrated that the more non-hunters know about hunting, the more favorably they perceive it.

In the case of public lands, it’s no secret that partisanship presents a challenge. After all, a diverse federal management system, regardless of its advantages, stands at odds with the fundamental inclination many Americans have towards “small government” policy. Yet our public lands have a rich history of bipartisan support, and there are countless examples of blue and red seeing eye to eye. It seems, in large part, that party identity is only an issue to those who have yet to dig into the details of public lands, or those for whom ideological consistency outweighs issue-based pragmatism. When it comes to politics’ influence on public land, I often think of my good buddy Curtis Thomas. Curtis runs cattle out in Nevada, and has a considerably different background and political perspective from my own, but we’re in lockstep when it comes to public lands. He sums it up nicely: “If we can’t cut the bullshit for something as obvious as public land, what the hell are we doing?” I won’t pretend to have an answer to overcome the pitfalls of group identity, but I think recognizing the impact it plays in this space is a step in the right direction. It’s all too easy to split into camps and assume a defensive mentality. But it’s counterproductive, and in the case of advocacy for hunting or public lands, wholly unnecessary. Both are tremendous success stories with a century of evidence backing them up. And call me naive, but I still think the fact that data favors hunting and public lands is a huge advantage. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t appreciate the existence of healthy populations of wildlife. You’d also have a challenge finding someone who doesn’t benefit from public lands, from the most urbane city-dweller who just wants to know that wild landscapes exist, to cattle ranchers who rely on public grazing for their livelihood, and everyone inbetween. If we’ve got ideas as fundamentally good as that, we ought to do our best to represent them right.

G R E G B L A S C O V I C H is driven by adventure and exploration. After studying political polarization during his PhD studies at Stanford University, he developed a commitment to preventing public lands from becoming political fodder, founding the nonprofit @keep_it_public. This love for wild places also fostered a passion for hunting, be it stalking kelp forests with a spear gun back home in Santa Barbara, or bowhunting elk in the mountains of Idaho. @GREGBLASCOVICH / KEEPITPUBLIC.ORG

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Hunting, Public Lands, and Social Identity STORY BY

GREG BLASCOVICH CHARLES POST

PHOTO BY

H

unting and public lands: two concepts, intimately connected. One promotes wildlife and the other, habitat. Both have decades-long records as models of effective policy that benefit all Americans. When it comes to advocacy on behalf of these concepts, we should have it relatively easy. Often, however, conversations surrounding these issues devolve into needless antagonism. I believe that we, as hunters and public land users, often stand in our own way when it comes to advocating for these causes. For one, hunting according to our current management structure, often referred to as the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, has produced a century of inspired results. By establishing a series of effective regulations — and a structure that ties hunters directly to wildlife and habitat conservation — we’ve seen scores of species brought back from the precipice of extinction since the early 1900s.

Likewise, our uniquely American system of public lands has enriched our nation by any number of measures. These lands conserve critical habitat for fish and wildlife. They’re central to local economies across the country, supporting ranching, timber, and mining operations, as well as providing resources for energy. They also provide the settings for our adventures, allowing us to camp and hike, hunt and fish, to connect with natural beauty while also contributing to a booming outdoor recreation and tourism economy worth $887 billion, at last count. These myriad benefits are due in large part to federal management. A coherent system of federal regulation ensures that public lands accomodate a tapestry of stakeholders, enable long-term revenue generation, and remain accessible to all Americans. A state model, touted by land transfer zealots, simply can’t compete. Recent fiscal audits from state legislatures underscore this reality. Even if states were to drastically curtail public access and maximize extraction-based profit, they would be unable to create the revenues needed to keep their budgets afloat, especially when factoring in the crippling costs of wildland firefighting. In short, state ownership would rapidly result in a tax hike or land sale. It’s not hard to predict which option an incumbent facing re-election would pick.

Hunters purchase licenses, tags, and stamps, generating state revenue. If the states direct that revenue to their corresponding fish and wildlife agencies, as opposed to spreading it across the general budget, they become eligible to receive federal funds. This money, generated by an excise tax on hunting equipment, supports designated conservation projects. All told, it’s an impressive system As I said earlier, the structures behind hunting and that harnesses hunters’ passion to incentivize (and pay for) public lands should be easy sells. Why then, is dialogue surrounding hunting and public lands often contentious? sound conservation policy.

- 40 -

I’m of the opinion that social identity plays a considerable role. One of the enduring findings of research into social identity, which posits that people derive their sense of self from group memberships (e.g. ‘hunter’, ‘American’, ‘Democrat’, ‘Republican’), is the tendency for individuals to favor the ingroup while regarding the outgroup with hostility and suspicion. While we’d all like to think of ourselves as objective operators, this tendency seems almost hardwired. The phenomenon appears consistently through decades of experiments, even in scenarios where groups are based on arbitrary and virtually meaningless distinctions, such as t-shirt color.

In the case of hunting, this “us versus them” mentality feels pervasive. As an example, I frequently hear the term “anti-hunter” used synonymously with “non-hunter.” While I’m sure the folks using these terms interchangeably recognize the difference, this slip of the tongue underscores an unproductive antagonism. Often, it seems, hunters assume an adversarial posture to those outside of the “tribe,” rather than engaging in a thoughtful conversation explaining how and why their pastime serves a larger purpose. And there is reason to believe such an approach would be fruitful: recent experimental research has demonstrated that the more non-hunters know about hunting, the more favorably they perceive it.

In the case of public lands, it’s no secret that partisanship presents a challenge. After all, a diverse federal management system, regardless of its advantages, stands at odds with the fundamental inclination many Americans have towards “small government” policy. Yet our public lands have a rich history of bipartisan support, and there are countless examples of blue and red seeing eye to eye. It seems, in large part, that party identity is only an issue to those who have yet to dig into the details of public lands, or those for whom ideological consistency outweighs issue-based pragmatism. When it comes to politics’ influence on public land, I often think of my good buddy Curtis Thomas. Curtis runs cattle out in Nevada, and has a considerably different background and political perspective from my own, but we’re in lockstep when it comes to public lands. He sums it up nicely: “If we can’t cut the bullshit for something as obvious as public land, what the hell are we doing?” I won’t pretend to have an answer to overcome the pitfalls of group identity, but I think recognizing the impact it plays in this space is a step in the right direction. It’s all too easy to split into camps and assume a defensive mentality. But it’s counterproductive, and in the case of advocacy for hunting or public lands, wholly unnecessary. Both are tremendous success stories with a century of evidence backing them up. And call me naive, but I still think the fact that data favors hunting and public lands is a huge advantage. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t appreciate the existence of healthy populations of wildlife. You’d also have a challenge finding someone who doesn’t benefit from public lands, from the most urbane city-dweller who just wants to know that wild landscapes exist, to cattle ranchers who rely on public grazing for their livelihood, and everyone inbetween. If we’ve got ideas as fundamentally good as that, we ought to do our best to represent them right.

G R E G B L A S C O V I C H is driven by adventure and exploration. After studying political polarization during his PhD studies at Stanford University, he developed a commitment to preventing public lands from becoming political fodder, founding the nonprofit @keep_it_public. This love for wild places also fostered a passion for hunting, be it stalking kelp forests with a spear gun back home in Santa Barbara, or bowhunting elk in the mountains of Idaho. @GREGBLASCOVICH / KEEPITPUBLIC.ORG

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It’s Not a Horse Problem, It’s a People Problem STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY

CHARLES POST

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- 43 -


It’s Not a Horse Problem, It’s a People Problem STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY

CHARLES POST

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P A R T

T

here are more feral horses on public land than bison, and there are more cattle grazing public lands than feral horses and bison combined. Society, past and present, created this.

Can bison overgraze a landscape? Yes. Can horses overgraze a landscape? Yes. Can cattle overgraze a landscape? Yes. The reality is that miles of barbed wire, roads, communities and development have carved up North America. Only slivers of what once was still exists. The key thread that should be kept in mind is management. We live in the Anthropocene, a global epoch defined by our collective swing of the axe. Management is crucial. A hands-off approach doesn’t work in today’s America. Wild bison exist but within the confines of managed public and private lands. Populations are managed because we don’t live in a time where bison can roam across thousands of miles like they once could. Cattle, if managed appropriately and especially on lands that coevolved with high density ungulates like bison, can be grazed in a way that benefits the land, mimicking their foraging behavior before we tamed the West: high intensity, rapid rotation. A prudent stockman can influence the timing and number of cattle grazing as forage and water becomes more or less available. Like any slice of society or industry, there are cattle operators who do this with best practices, and others who could improve their approach. Feral horses and burros exist in this emotionally charged gray area. It’s not always how it seems. Take one look at this picture. It evokes a story. A wild mustang, weathered, skinny. The next image evokes a different story. A wild horse at home in the American

- 44 -

O N E

West. But, unless you’re actually out there, on the range, seeing the wild horse issue first hand, it’s hard to know the real story; what’s happening on the ground hours from any town, away from the media and propaganda. Any remote bystander can dream up a narrative they see fit, ripe for a dose of romanticism or oversimplification. What do you see? A wild horse living a romantic existence in the American West? A feral horse competing with native wildlife? A wild mustang, a totem of America? A lone stud, eating from a garbage bag in the shadow of a huge gold mine? A wild horse simply trying to survive? Here’s the reality. We came across Nevada’s Black Rock Playa on a hundred-degree day. No water for miles. This lone stud stood on the side of a dusty road pulling bits and pieces from a garbage bag. A mile down the road lights from a huge gold mine glowed in the evening sun. Beer bottles, rusted car parts, barbed wire fencing and a decrepit barn lay on the ground, tired and broken. It’s easy to see this photo and paint your own picture, dream up a setting this mustang lives within. It’s harder to spend a week in the desert learning from experts with decades and decades of on the ground experience, and study the realities unfolding before you. The situation at hand is not sustainable. Conversations anchored to facts and an intention to listen, with a determination to take the best available science as our guide, not fear, emotion or propaganda. This is what’s needed.

- 45 -


P A R T

T

here are more feral horses on public land than bison, and there are more cattle grazing public lands than feral horses and bison combined. Society, past and present, created this.

Can bison overgraze a landscape? Yes. Can horses overgraze a landscape? Yes. Can cattle overgraze a landscape? Yes. The reality is that miles of barbed wire, roads, communities and development have carved up North America. Only slivers of what once was still exists. The key thread that should be kept in mind is management. We live in the Anthropocene, a global epoch defined by our collective swing of the axe. Management is crucial. A hands-off approach doesn’t work in today’s America. Wild bison exist but within the confines of managed public and private lands. Populations are managed because we don’t live in a time where bison can roam across thousands of miles like they once could. Cattle, if managed appropriately and especially on lands that coevolved with high density ungulates like bison, can be grazed in a way that benefits the land, mimicking their foraging behavior before we tamed the West: high intensity, rapid rotation. A prudent stockman can influence the timing and number of cattle grazing as forage and water becomes more or less available. Like any slice of society or industry, there are cattle operators who do this with best practices, and others who could improve their approach. Feral horses and burros exist in this emotionally charged gray area. It’s not always how it seems. Take one look at this picture. It evokes a story. A wild mustang, weathered, skinny. The next image evokes a different story. A wild horse at home in the American

- 44 -

O N E

West. But, unless you’re actually out there, on the range, seeing the wild horse issue first hand, it’s hard to know the real story; what’s happening on the ground hours from any town, away from the media and propaganda. Any remote bystander can dream up a narrative they see fit, ripe for a dose of romanticism or oversimplification. What do you see? A wild horse living a romantic existence in the American West? A feral horse competing with native wildlife? A wild mustang, a totem of America? A lone stud, eating from a garbage bag in the shadow of a huge gold mine? A wild horse simply trying to survive? Here’s the reality. We came across Nevada’s Black Rock Playa on a hundred-degree day. No water for miles. This lone stud stood on the side of a dusty road pulling bits and pieces from a garbage bag. A mile down the road lights from a huge gold mine glowed in the evening sun. Beer bottles, rusted car parts, barbed wire fencing and a decrepit barn lay on the ground, tired and broken. It’s easy to see this photo and paint your own picture, dream up a setting this mustang lives within. It’s harder to spend a week in the desert learning from experts with decades and decades of on the ground experience, and study the realities unfolding before you. The situation at hand is not sustainable. Conversations anchored to facts and an intention to listen, with a determination to take the best available science as our guide, not fear, emotion or propaganda. This is what’s needed.

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P A R T

I

t’s clear the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) doesn’t have the needed tools, resources, personnel or legal latitude to manage them appropriately. There are over 80,000 feral horses and burros living on public lands across the American West, and more in Nevada than any other state. To date, public ecosystem managers have determined that there are over 55,000 more horses and burros than these lands can support. And that number may double every four years. Adoption rates and round up efforts are far below the annual reproduction rate. Birth control (PZP) and sterilization are not effective or practical tools when it comes to managing horses across America. Ask unbiased, science-based experts, and this is what you’ll hear. The key is emotion-free, science-backed, foresight-minded, ecologically-guided management. That’s the story, not some simplified, romanticized Disney narrative. The best tool available to manage these wild horses and burros — those not tied up in litigation — have been roundups and adoptions. We visited an adoption center where captured horse and burros are relocated. They’re either full or filling up quickly, and look like dirt parking lots where wild horses go to be less wild and live out a life behind a fence. Adoption rates are so far below the birth rate that adoptions really have no impact on the overall wild horse and burro population.

- 48 -

T W O

In terms of options available to the BLM, there aren’t any others that make sense. Some people say birth control or sterilization is the way to go. It’s not. There may be isolated herds where it’s possible, but I can tell you most of these herds have never been within 1000 feet of a person. We just spoke with half a dozen people who have dedicated their entire careers on the topic either as BLM or state wildlife experts, and they all echoed a similar sentiment: if wild horse populations continue to balloon out of control then the wildlife and ecosystems that sustain them will continue to decline. Nobody is winning. A wild life isn’t an easy one, and management plans that address the elephant in the room should be considered. It’s gotten to this point because we’ve allowed it. It’s not the horses’ fault, the horses are just doing what they can to survive. It’s easy to see the headlines focused on the clickbait conflict of horse lovers against the inhumane treatment of wild horses by way of roundups or lethal population control measures. I’d say to anyone who is conflicted about the topic: go spend a week out there, talk to experts, and see what it’s like. It’s not what the headlines are reporting. There’s a platform for biologists to recommend and inform cattle grazing practices. There’s a platform for wildlife to be managed. There’s no working platform for wild horses to be managed.

- 49 -


P A R T

I

t’s clear the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) doesn’t have the needed tools, resources, personnel or legal latitude to manage them appropriately. There are over 80,000 feral horses and burros living on public lands across the American West, and more in Nevada than any other state. To date, public ecosystem managers have determined that there are over 55,000 more horses and burros than these lands can support. And that number may double every four years. Adoption rates and round up efforts are far below the annual reproduction rate. Birth control (PZP) and sterilization are not effective or practical tools when it comes to managing horses across America. Ask unbiased, science-based experts, and this is what you’ll hear. The key is emotion-free, science-backed, foresight-minded, ecologically-guided management. That’s the story, not some simplified, romanticized Disney narrative. The best tool available to manage these wild horses and burros — those not tied up in litigation — have been roundups and adoptions. We visited an adoption center where captured horse and burros are relocated. They’re either full or filling up quickly, and look like dirt parking lots where wild horses go to be less wild and live out a life behind a fence. Adoption rates are so far below the birth rate that adoptions really have no impact on the overall wild horse and burro population.

- 48 -

T W O

In terms of options available to the BLM, there aren’t any others that make sense. Some people say birth control or sterilization is the way to go. It’s not. There may be isolated herds where it’s possible, but I can tell you most of these herds have never been within 1000 feet of a person. We just spoke with half a dozen people who have dedicated their entire careers on the topic either as BLM or state wildlife experts, and they all echoed a similar sentiment: if wild horse populations continue to balloon out of control then the wildlife and ecosystems that sustain them will continue to decline. Nobody is winning. A wild life isn’t an easy one, and management plans that address the elephant in the room should be considered. It’s gotten to this point because we’ve allowed it. It’s not the horses’ fault, the horses are just doing what they can to survive. It’s easy to see the headlines focused on the clickbait conflict of horse lovers against the inhumane treatment of wild horses by way of roundups or lethal population control measures. I’d say to anyone who is conflicted about the topic: go spend a week out there, talk to experts, and see what it’s like. It’s not what the headlines are reporting. There’s a platform for biologists to recommend and inform cattle grazing practices. There’s a platform for wildlife to be managed. There’s no working platform for wild horses to be managed.

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P A R T

T H R E E

I

t’s chaos at the waterhole. 95 degrees and rising. Hundreds of horses pour in from every direction all day and night, their approach signaled by the dust trails rising into the parched air. Heat waves blur incoming bands as burly studs lead the way. The real warriors with the biggest bands have coats of scars, reminders of what’s at stake. We found a horse tail that had been ripped off where two studs battled on the fringe of the watering hole. It’s life or death out here. We saw bones, busted legs, jaws and more than a few who were barely hanging on. Others looked like the driest state in the nation was suiting them well with full stomachs and sturdy foals. Even with a single watering hole for more than five miles in any direction, and a rangeland that was pretty well beaten to shit, a surprising number of wild horses seemed alright for the time being. Don’t for a moment think life’s easy out here. Each day is a fight to survive. There’s nothing mellow about these public lands, the circumstances, or what’s on the line. By 9 am it’s starting to get really hot. The wind whisks the moisture out of you with each passing gale of desert air. It’s July and the water and forage is more scarce than the day before. And it’s not just wild horses out here; scores of pronghorn drift in and out trying to get a sip before the desperate bands push them off the water. The sagebrush sea that once covered this valley is mostly dirt and cheatgrass, an invasive plant that burns easily and renders the system an ecological skeleton of what it once was. A few islands of winter fat or white sage pepper the valley floor. Many are browsed to the stem out of starvation. Desperation dictates life out here. It’s the theme of this place. The story of America’s wild mustangs is one of inherent conflict: cattle vs wild horses, native vs exotic species, sage grouse vs development, overgrazing and fragmentation, invasive grasses vs the sagebrush community, and range management vs mustang advocacy; all with the BLM, science, human emotion, local communities and land ethics at the crux of a complex issue that spans millions of

- 52 -

acres of public lands in the American West. What’s at stake? The ecological integrity of a public landscape the size of 15 Yellowstone National Parks. The question remains, how do we manage unchecked populations of feral horses on public land? Horses, like the American cheetah went extinct thousands of years ago. Today’s wild mustangs are descendents of those horses early settlers introduced to the continent. It’s true, early horses evolved in North America, but the mustangs of today did not. We have created a disaster. A growing number of wild horses and burros are living in holding facilities as adoption rates decline. Our arid western public lands are experiencing record droughts and wildfires along with mounting pressure from special interest groups like developers and resource extraction. Now more than ever the federal government is low on resources and tools to effectively manage these western public lands. It’s the social roadblocks, the elected officials and political paralysis that’s making a bad situation worse. Who’s to blame? Us. The horses are just trying to survive. The wildlife and ecosystems are losing along with the horses. It’s the divide between those who believe the horses should be left free and wild, and those stakeholders who occupy the other end of the spectrum and identify with a western landscape completely devoid of wild horses. Neither side will win. In my opinion, the middle ground is where we should focus. This is where compromises are born, and where pragmatism and cooperative efforts can sprout. This is our public land. If we intend to save it then we need to listen to the facts, shed our egos and emotions, and focus on working together to protect a sensitive ecosystem disappearing before our eyes simply because society can’t figure out how to work together under the guidance of good, objective science.

- 53 -


P A R T

T H R E E

I

t’s chaos at the waterhole. 95 degrees and rising. Hundreds of horses pour in from every direction all day and night, their approach signaled by the dust trails rising into the parched air. Heat waves blur incoming bands as burly studs lead the way. The real warriors with the biggest bands have coats of scars, reminders of what’s at stake. We found a horse tail that had been ripped off where two studs battled on the fringe of the watering hole. It’s life or death out here. We saw bones, busted legs, jaws and more than a few who were barely hanging on. Others looked like the driest state in the nation was suiting them well with full stomachs and sturdy foals. Even with a single watering hole for more than five miles in any direction, and a rangeland that was pretty well beaten to shit, a surprising number of wild horses seemed alright for the time being. Don’t for a moment think life’s easy out here. Each day is a fight to survive. There’s nothing mellow about these public lands, the circumstances, or what’s on the line. By 9 am it’s starting to get really hot. The wind whisks the moisture out of you with each passing gale of desert air. It’s July and the water and forage is more scarce than the day before. And it’s not just wild horses out here; scores of pronghorn drift in and out trying to get a sip before the desperate bands push them off the water. The sagebrush sea that once covered this valley is mostly dirt and cheatgrass, an invasive plant that burns easily and renders the system an ecological skeleton of what it once was. A few islands of winter fat or white sage pepper the valley floor. Many are browsed to the stem out of starvation. Desperation dictates life out here. It’s the theme of this place. The story of America’s wild mustangs is one of inherent conflict: cattle vs wild horses, native vs exotic species, sage grouse vs development, overgrazing and fragmentation, invasive grasses vs the sagebrush community, and range management vs mustang advocacy; all with the BLM, science, human emotion, local communities and land ethics at the crux of a complex issue that spans millions of

- 52 -

acres of public lands in the American West. What’s at stake? The ecological integrity of a public landscape the size of 15 Yellowstone National Parks. The question remains, how do we manage unchecked populations of feral horses on public land? Horses, like the American cheetah went extinct thousands of years ago. Today’s wild mustangs are descendents of those horses early settlers introduced to the continent. It’s true, early horses evolved in North America, but the mustangs of today did not. We have created a disaster. A growing number of wild horses and burros are living in holding facilities as adoption rates decline. Our arid western public lands are experiencing record droughts and wildfires along with mounting pressure from special interest groups like developers and resource extraction. Now more than ever the federal government is low on resources and tools to effectively manage these western public lands. It’s the social roadblocks, the elected officials and political paralysis that’s making a bad situation worse. Who’s to blame? Us. The horses are just trying to survive. The wildlife and ecosystems are losing along with the horses. It’s the divide between those who believe the horses should be left free and wild, and those stakeholders who occupy the other end of the spectrum and identify with a western landscape completely devoid of wild horses. Neither side will win. In my opinion, the middle ground is where we should focus. This is where compromises are born, and where pragmatism and cooperative efforts can sprout. This is our public land. If we intend to save it then we need to listen to the facts, shed our egos and emotions, and focus on working together to protect a sensitive ecosystem disappearing before our eyes simply because society can’t figure out how to work together under the guidance of good, objective science.

- 53 -


Eduardo Garcia CHEF FEATURE

PREFACE AND INTERVIEW BY

TYLER SHARP

E

duardo Garcia is a world-renowned chef, author and speaker who lives an adventurous life based out of Southwest Montana. Famed for his dedication to foraging and hunting wild foods, Eduardo has become an important voice in the movement to better understand where our food comes from and how to be more connected with it. His philosophy was recently spotlighted in a five-part film series launched in partnership with YETI, called Hungry Life. I had the honor of sitting down with Eduardo at his Montana home to discuss his inspiring life, his love affair with the outdoors, and of course food.

PHOTO: YOGESH SIMPSON

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Eduardo Garcia CHEF FEATURE

PREFACE AND INTERVIEW BY

TYLER SHARP

E

duardo Garcia is a world-renowned chef, author and speaker who lives an adventurous life based out of Southwest Montana. Famed for his dedication to foraging and hunting wild foods, Eduardo has become an important voice in the movement to better understand where our food comes from and how to be more connected with it. His philosophy was recently spotlighted in a five-part film series launched in partnership with YETI, called Hungry Life. I had the honor of sitting down with Eduardo at his Montana home to discuss his inspiring life, his love affair with the outdoors, and of course food.

PHOTO: YOGESH SIMPSON

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TYLER

At what point did your perspective shift towards seeing the outdoors as a source of food through foraging and hunting?

EDUARDO

For me the outdoors has always offered opportunity to access foods in the wild, but when I really made the connection was when I was 13 or 14, catching rainbow trout, and selling them for two bucks apiece. That was probably the first time that I thought, “Wow there’s value in the act of foraging, hunting or fishing, and I can turn it into some cash flow.” In high school, I had buddies who would go shoot ducks in season and trade them to the Chinese restaurant for credit, because the guys that were working at the restaurant were all Asian cooks and loved their duck. They couldn’t poach it off of the inventory at the restaurant, but a local kid could go out with 12-gauge, drop a mallard, bring it in, do a quick alley trade and all of a sudden have like 30 dollars credit for a little meal after high school. So in high school I started to connect a little bit more that the outdoors had this grocery element to it, where you could go shopping if you had the skills, the wherewithal, or the interest. You could go find food, and turn it into a resource, whether it’s for your own consumption or someone else’s. It was great to recognize that.

PHOTO: YOGESH SIMPSON

TYLER

To start, can you talk a little bit about your background, where you grew up, and when you first fell in love with the outdoors?

TYLER

Did you grow up around public land and did you use it?

EDUARDO

I was born in California in the early 80s and moved to Montana in 1987 to what we affectionately call the Greater Yellowstone area. It’s region three for hunters in southwest Montana close to Gardiner. My love affair with the outdoors started when we moved here, when I was six years old. As a kid in school or in church I was being told, “Sit still. Shh, quiet. Control yourself, don’t be so active.” Yet in the outdoors there was no structure, and they’d say, “Go for it, go get exhausted. Run up that hill, dig a hole, chop some wood, catch a fish.” The outdoors for us was being outside after school, early in the morning and then weekends, but it was a self-guided tour of young kids playing truth or dare, slip and sliding on the mud cliffs or learning how to swim in watering holes and creek pockets. So yeah, moving to Montana and being outside all of the time was the intro there for sure. EDUARDO

Absolutely, but I didn’t know it was called public land. I just knew it was open land, and part of the reason public land has significance for me as an adult now is this reflection that I’ve just always only known it as land, as Mother Earth, as the forest, the creek, the stream, the mountaintop, the prairie. Over time I recognized that there are rules that we need to play by as an adult, and one of them is that there’s a difference between public and private land. It doesn’t mean you can’t go on private land, but you have to talk to another individual first. Whereas with public land I could go into those woods and stay there for years. It’s insane to think that every other scenario for human life in the United States requires a mortgage payment and land taxes, but I think that public land offers the ultimate freedom. It’s the essential place where a human has the opportunity to be completely liberated, but it took me awhile to realize that.

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PHOTO: BECCA SKINNER


TYLER

At what point did your perspective shift towards seeing the outdoors as a source of food through foraging and hunting?

EDUARDO

For me the outdoors has always offered opportunity to access foods in the wild, but when I really made the connection was when I was 13 or 14, catching rainbow trout, and selling them for two bucks apiece. That was probably the first time that I thought, “Wow there’s value in the act of foraging, hunting or fishing, and I can turn it into some cash flow.” In high school, I had buddies who would go shoot ducks in season and trade them to the Chinese restaurant for credit, because the guys that were working at the restaurant were all Asian cooks and loved their duck. They couldn’t poach it off of the inventory at the restaurant, but a local kid could go out with 12-gauge, drop a mallard, bring it in, do a quick alley trade and all of a sudden have like 30 dollars credit for a little meal after high school. So in high school I started to connect a little bit more that the outdoors had this grocery element to it, where you could go shopping if you had the skills, the wherewithal, or the interest. You could go find food, and turn it into a resource, whether it’s for your own consumption or someone else’s. It was great to recognize that.

PHOTO: YOGESH SIMPSON

TYLER

To start, can you talk a little bit about your background, where you grew up, and when you first fell in love with the outdoors?

TYLER

Did you grow up around public land and did you use it?

EDUARDO

I was born in California in the early 80s and moved to Montana in 1987 to what we affectionately call the Greater Yellowstone area. It’s region three for hunters in southwest Montana close to Gardiner. My love affair with the outdoors started when we moved here, when I was six years old. As a kid in school or in church I was being told, “Sit still. Shh, quiet. Control yourself, don’t be so active.” Yet in the outdoors there was no structure, and they’d say, “Go for it, go get exhausted. Run up that hill, dig a hole, chop some wood, catch a fish.” The outdoors for us was being outside after school, early in the morning and then weekends, but it was a self-guided tour of young kids playing truth or dare, slip and sliding on the mud cliffs or learning how to swim in watering holes and creek pockets. So yeah, moving to Montana and being outside all of the time was the intro there for sure. EDUARDO

Absolutely, but I didn’t know it was called public land. I just knew it was open land, and part of the reason public land has significance for me as an adult now is this reflection that I’ve just always only known it as land, as Mother Earth, as the forest, the creek, the stream, the mountaintop, the prairie. Over time I recognized that there are rules that we need to play by as an adult, and one of them is that there’s a difference between public and private land. It doesn’t mean you can’t go on private land, but you have to talk to another individual first. Whereas with public land I could go into those woods and stay there for years. It’s insane to think that every other scenario for human life in the United States requires a mortgage payment and land taxes, but I think that public land offers the ultimate freedom. It’s the essential place where a human has the opportunity to be completely liberated, but it took me awhile to realize that.

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PHOTO: BECCA SKINNER


TYLER

EDUARDO

Is this what started your

I was cooking in high school, flipping burgers at 15 or 16 years old, and started to make the connection that working provided a paycheck, which put you in a position to decide who you want to be. Do I want to own car, do I want to buy a season pass? My mom wasn’t giving us any handouts. We had a roof over our head, morals, ethics, and clothes, but that was it. There was no allowance or money to go around. So for me, cooking was work and work was opportunity, and the opportunity was whatever I wanted to do with it.

journey as a chef? Tell us a bit more about the path that led you here.

When I graduated high school, I was becoming a total outdoor fanatic. I wasn’t really chasing concerts or putting money into cars or dirt bikes or anything else. I would put money into climbing gear and being outside whenever I could, and was already fishing till dark with a threadbare hook that had one wing left on it just to see if I could get something. I was addicted to being outside and I just knew that if I didn’t put myself into some structure, I would have disappeared into the world of recreational Nirvana — which may not be a bad thing — but I would’ve loved the dirtbag lifestyle too much and it would’ve been the end of me. So I made the intentional decision to pursue cooking, to get educated, and take it seriously. I was enjoying the work and thought the best thing to do was to get a culinary arts degree. EDUARDO

Working in the yachting industry for 10 years was a major factor, because it’s an industry where your clients are asking you to source the best of the best. Sometimes the best is a mushroom that Fast forwarding a bit, you became still has dirt and pine needles on it and comes in this beautiful little white box from a mushroom a yacht chef, got some professional picker in Tuscany. So on the subconscious side, I’m connecting the dots of perceived value with organic content. When someone was on board, my job was to know what food they loved. I experience, and traveled all over realized that nine times out of ten, no matter what walk of life they were from, they wanted a meal cooked over coals outdoors. It was the setting and scenario of being back in nature that they the world. During that journey, loved, and that started to really meld my personal love affair with nature to my professional love how did you get to a place that of food. I thought, “Wait a minute, there’s a connection here, and the real value is these organic foods in their natural environments, and this is one of most important things we have.” focused on organic eating and TYLER

living?

Halfway through that yachting stint I started to push my clients to always eat on the beach or in the woods. I started to experiment with how I could create food experiences outside, and was trying to share the importance of having that connection between food and the outdoors. I’ve learned now that the most valuable food experiences we can have is to find food in its element, and to experience it through harvesting it from the source, or through planting and growing, which all adds to the nutrition. This is my love affair now and it flows into all of the media projects I do, as well as brand messaging with Montana Mex. EDUARDO

TYLER

I’m certainly familiar with Montana Mex, as I use your spices every single day, but tell us more about the company, the journey up to this point, and what it stands for.

PHOTO: YOGESH SIMPSON

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So we started Montana Mex with the same premise that leads into my thinking as a conservationist, hunter, and outdoorsman – first and foremost our products need to just be food, not adulterated or processed to the point that it is no longer organic. The more organic it can be, the higher value it has, because I believe that organic and natural foods have a benefit outside of nutrition. It’s this core soul DNA taproot into the fact that we are from the earth. We were club wielding cavemen that knew and still know somewhere deep inside us how to live off the land, that from the land is our lineage, our legacy, and our future, and we need to stay closely rooted to that. I really believe in order to find success we have to maintain that connection. So with the brand I thought, “All right, well we believe there is a way to create a manufacturing company that produces foods that are as natural as possible.” We want it to be as if we pulled it from the land and immediately cooked it here at home. Do I think that those core values are important? Unarguably, without question. They’re the most important.

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TYLER

EDUARDO

Is this what started your

I was cooking in high school, flipping burgers at 15 or 16 years old, and started to make the connection that working provided a paycheck, which put you in a position to decide who you want to be. Do I want to own car, do I want to buy a season pass? My mom wasn’t giving us any handouts. We had a roof over our head, morals, ethics, and clothes, but that was it. There was no allowance or money to go around. So for me, cooking was work and work was opportunity, and the opportunity was whatever I wanted to do with it.

journey as a chef? Tell us a bit more about the path that led you here.

When I graduated high school, I was becoming a total outdoor fanatic. I wasn’t really chasing concerts or putting money into cars or dirt bikes or anything else. I would put money into climbing gear and being outside whenever I could, and was already fishing till dark with a threadbare hook that had one wing left on it just to see if I could get something. I was addicted to being outside and I just knew that if I didn’t put myself into some structure, I would have disappeared into the world of recreational Nirvana — which may not be a bad thing — but I would’ve loved the dirtbag lifestyle too much and it would’ve been the end of me. So I made the intentional decision to pursue cooking, to get educated, and take it seriously. I was enjoying the work and thought the best thing to do was to get a culinary arts degree. EDUARDO

Working in the yachting industry for 10 years was a major factor, because it’s an industry where your clients are asking you to source the best of the best. Sometimes the best is a mushroom that Fast forwarding a bit, you became still has dirt and pine needles on it and comes in this beautiful little white box from a mushroom a yacht chef, got some professional picker in Tuscany. So on the subconscious side, I’m connecting the dots of perceived value with organic content. When someone was on board, my job was to know what food they loved. I experience, and traveled all over realized that nine times out of ten, no matter what walk of life they were from, they wanted a meal cooked over coals outdoors. It was the setting and scenario of being back in nature that they the world. During that journey, loved, and that started to really meld my personal love affair with nature to my professional love how did you get to a place that of food. I thought, “Wait a minute, there’s a connection here, and the real value is these organic foods in their natural environments, and this is one of most important things we have.” focused on organic eating and TYLER

living?

Halfway through that yachting stint I started to push my clients to always eat on the beach or in the woods. I started to experiment with how I could create food experiences outside, and was trying to share the importance of having that connection between food and the outdoors. I’ve learned now that the most valuable food experiences we can have is to find food in its element, and to experience it through harvesting it from the source, or through planting and growing, which all adds to the nutrition. This is my love affair now and it flows into all of the media projects I do, as well as brand messaging with Montana Mex. EDUARDO

TYLER

I’m certainly familiar with Montana Mex, as I use your spices every single day, but tell us more about the company, the journey up to this point, and what it stands for.

PHOTO: YOGESH SIMPSON

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So we started Montana Mex with the same premise that leads into my thinking as a conservationist, hunter, and outdoorsman – first and foremost our products need to just be food, not adulterated or processed to the point that it is no longer organic. The more organic it can be, the higher value it has, because I believe that organic and natural foods have a benefit outside of nutrition. It’s this core soul DNA taproot into the fact that we are from the earth. We were club wielding cavemen that knew and still know somewhere deep inside us how to live off the land, that from the land is our lineage, our legacy, and our future, and we need to stay closely rooted to that. I really believe in order to find success we have to maintain that connection. So with the brand I thought, “All right, well we believe there is a way to create a manufacturing company that produces foods that are as natural as possible.” We want it to be as if we pulled it from the land and immediately cooked it here at home. Do I think that those core values are important? Unarguably, without question. They’re the most important.

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We think it’s important that your fingers smell like cilantro when you’re done cooking, or have a little nick on your hand and the acid burns so you think, “I’m alive, I’m human.” All of those things add tremendous value to our experience here. We’re providing the tools, and hopefully folks feel empowered with a newfound love for cooking. Now you’ve got an individual who is on their own journey of rediscovering that you’re a homosapien, you’re a hardcore killer. You harvest from the earth whether you like it or not. Whether you shop at Whole Foods, or whether you shop at Mother Nature foods, you are a killer. Now that’s so much stronger than Montana Mex’s brand trying to preach that. Our ultimate goal is to move the needle enough in regards to the human experience. If food is our language, our goal is to move the needle not just on the plate, but with the person, because the person is in charge of the plate. If the influence we can have is with our jalapeno seasoning on your sashimi plate at night, somehow boosting your mojo tomorrow when you’re going to the office and you’re Pinteresting or Instagramming it, that’s winning. Now that humble little seasoning has just upped the heartbeat of a single individual that now trickles to another individual. I think that we can build businesses that have so much influence on humans, on the people that actually make business work. I also I think that every brand doing a million plus bucks in business has a responsibility to be contributing to the regeneration of raw materials and making this place more sustainable. This was the genesis for Montana Mex and becoming a celebrity chef – for lack of a better way of saying it – was okay but I realized that working 20 hours a day and cruising around the world on a boat, as glamorous as it may sound, there was no real hope for me to truly build a family or share this message. I was missing being on land and I wanted to be back in Montana. I wanted to be back bow hunting, and I wanted to have more impact with my passions. So I thought, “Let’s start a food brand – that’s how we get this natural food message out. Let’s start a TV show and that’s what gets my name out. The two will complement, cross-pollinate, it’ll be brilliant.” Then I got zapped, and things slowed down. TYLER

You almost lost your life, but had a courageous recovery story that was shown through the Charged documentary.

EDUARDO

So with Charged, I was part of the team, but being the subject of a documentary, I did not make the film. That was the most reflective time period of my life. In 2011 I had my injury which has highly publicized – I got electrocuted with 2400 volts in a backcountry archery hunt. Totally freak injury and miraculously I survived and went through years of rehabilitation. Then over subsequent years following that, started to pick up the pieces of my life. Being a Montanan, Charged came about about because my friends, family, and business partners all said, “Your story is remarkable on its own. Plug it into that scenario and how remarkable it is that you survived.” It’s uncomfortable at times to be put in the spotlight, but then it’s also equally uncomfortable to be recognized and awarded, or applauded for whatever it may be. I was being told, “Hey, the way you’ve recovered or the way you’ve taken this on, or the just sheer positivity you’ve been able to bring out of the shambles is remarkable. You should share that with others.” I realized that by sharing my story I could really help others going through similar scenarios. Maybe they didn’t get electrocuted, but maybe it’s a similar scenario where that individual is being really challenged by something, and they’re up against the wall and having a hard time seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. That was my tipping point. So my experience with Charged was incredibly exhilarating. It was three years of working on it and it really removed the focus from my work and private life, but I felt so purpose driven. I felt like that was my role, and how I should contribute, by just being totally accessible. I’ve always been committed to helping and serving others, but Charged created the platform to do that. It became this conduit for me to get out and try to positively impact others. Kind of messed up that I had to lose a hand and nearly die to have a platform like that, but who wouldn’t take that opportunity for all the right reasons? If someone hands you a baton and says you can change the world with that baton, and if you believe in that even for a second, you have to look into it. Who wouldn’t? At some point you look at the race you’re running and think, “Okay, this checks out. Right reason, right motive, right cause. I can see why this would help others and I could see myself really wanting to do this, and in turn by doing good, this will serve me and bring some positivity to my life. I’m down to run that race, let’s go.” So what an opportunity to not squander.

I’d love to hear about how it has changed your life, your perspective, and your outreach efforts.

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PHOTOS: STEVEN DRAKE


We think it’s important that your fingers smell like cilantro when you’re done cooking, or have a little nick on your hand and the acid burns so you think, “I’m alive, I’m human.” All of those things add tremendous value to our experience here. We’re providing the tools, and hopefully folks feel empowered with a newfound love for cooking. Now you’ve got an individual who is on their own journey of rediscovering that you’re a homosapien, you’re a hardcore killer. You harvest from the earth whether you like it or not. Whether you shop at Whole Foods, or whether you shop at Mother Nature foods, you are a killer. Now that’s so much stronger than Montana Mex’s brand trying to preach that. Our ultimate goal is to move the needle enough in regards to the human experience. If food is our language, our goal is to move the needle not just on the plate, but with the person, because the person is in charge of the plate. If the influence we can have is with our jalapeno seasoning on your sashimi plate at night, somehow boosting your mojo tomorrow when you’re going to the office and you’re Pinteresting or Instagramming it, that’s winning. Now that humble little seasoning has just upped the heartbeat of a single individual that now trickles to another individual. I think that we can build businesses that have so much influence on humans, on the people that actually make business work. I also I think that every brand doing a million plus bucks in business has a responsibility to be contributing to the regeneration of raw materials and making this place more sustainable. This was the genesis for Montana Mex and becoming a celebrity chef – for lack of a better way of saying it – was okay but I realized that working 20 hours a day and cruising around the world on a boat, as glamorous as it may sound, there was no real hope for me to truly build a family or share this message. I was missing being on land and I wanted to be back in Montana. I wanted to be back bow hunting, and I wanted to have more impact with my passions. So I thought, “Let’s start a food brand – that’s how we get this natural food message out. Let’s start a TV show and that’s what gets my name out. The two will complement, cross-pollinate, it’ll be brilliant.” Then I got zapped, and things slowed down. TYLER

You almost lost your life, but had a courageous recovery story that was shown through the Charged documentary.

EDUARDO

So with Charged, I was part of the team, but being the subject of a documentary, I did not make the film. That was the most reflective time period of my life. In 2011 I had my injury which has highly publicized – I got electrocuted with 2400 volts in a backcountry archery hunt. Totally freak injury and miraculously I survived and went through years of rehabilitation. Then over subsequent years following that, started to pick up the pieces of my life. Being a Montanan, Charged came about about because my friends, family, and business partners all said, “Your story is remarkable on its own. Plug it into that scenario and how remarkable it is that you survived.” It’s uncomfortable at times to be put in the spotlight, but then it’s also equally uncomfortable to be recognized and awarded, or applauded for whatever it may be. I was being told, “Hey, the way you’ve recovered or the way you’ve taken this on, or the just sheer positivity you’ve been able to bring out of the shambles is remarkable. You should share that with others.” I realized that by sharing my story I could really help others going through similar scenarios. Maybe they didn’t get electrocuted, but maybe it’s a similar scenario where that individual is being really challenged by something, and they’re up against the wall and having a hard time seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. That was my tipping point. So my experience with Charged was incredibly exhilarating. It was three years of working on it and it really removed the focus from my work and private life, but I felt so purpose driven. I felt like that was my role, and how I should contribute, by just being totally accessible. I’ve always been committed to helping and serving others, but Charged created the platform to do that. It became this conduit for me to get out and try to positively impact others. Kind of messed up that I had to lose a hand and nearly die to have a platform like that, but who wouldn’t take that opportunity for all the right reasons? If someone hands you a baton and says you can change the world with that baton, and if you believe in that even for a second, you have to look into it. Who wouldn’t? At some point you look at the race you’re running and think, “Okay, this checks out. Right reason, right motive, right cause. I can see why this would help others and I could see myself really wanting to do this, and in turn by doing good, this will serve me and bring some positivity to my life. I’m down to run that race, let’s go.” So what an opportunity to not squander.

I’d love to hear about how it has changed your life, your perspective, and your outreach efforts.

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PHOTOS: STEVEN DRAKE


P H O T O : N AT H A N N O R B Y

in innumerable ways. That is super beautiful and to me there is no difference between making an educated act on an animal food source and making one on a plant food source. That’s one of the most blatant disconnects that I think is out there, separating those two. They are the same and I would love to have a conversation with anyone that would like to educate me as to otherwise. We are humans and are a total active part of this earth. We belong here, and we were created with all animals and all plants, and I just feel like we forgot that. We have really forgotten how to participate in that harmoniously, and we’re in this huge catch-up process. I think the clear separating factors that skews the two parties that sit on either side is the method of harvest, and the tone in which it’s communicated.

Beyond my culinary approach and a public platform that’s being built around my organic philosophy, I think I have a lot to offer individuals. I want to share this passion, and am making sure that I’m no longer taking it for granted, so Montana Mex is now actively involved as a corporate partner with Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. It’s a big deal for us as a company, and we’re getting involved in support of our public lands, because that is where food really comes from. So right now I guess my encouragement to others is to take a stance, don’t be passive, be educated, be aware. Go for a walk, go for a hunt, go fishing. Go smell some sweet air somewhere and say, “Does this matter?”

So communication is really important, and if you do it correctly and genuinely then it can lead to education. But unfortunately, not everyone is going to look into these things themselves, often just taking what they see online for face value, so I think it’s our job as responsible hunters to educate people wherever we can. You guys are doing a great job of this with Modern Huntsman, and I hope that it’s an example that others will follow.

I totally agree, and think that it’s important to assess your

TYLER

situation, your role in this system, whether or not it’s contributing or being detrimental, and how you could potentially fix that. EDUARDO

TYLER TYLER

TYLER

Well thank you. I completely agree that communication

Well Charged has deservedly received critical acclaim,

As someone who hunts for and cooks with wild meat,

is really important, and that is exactly what we’re

has helped catapult your career forward, and opened up

how important do you think communication is with

hoping to achieve with Modern Huntsman. To circle

all sorts of new opportunities. One I’m really excited to

non-hunters to help bridge the gaps in our lifestyles or

back to public lands, is there anything you think we can

hear more about is your new film series with YETI:

help normalize the perception of hunting?

do to foster collaborations between organizations and

Hungry Life. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

even recreational interests? What can we do to ensure

EDUARDO

EDUARDO

Absolutely. I’m so grateful that YETI picked up the option to produce a short five-part film series, that just came out. Hungry Life is an outdoor cooking show based on food adventures related to outdoor pursuits. For example, we’d go fly fishing down on the Gulf Coast in Texas, or in Hawaii, or hunting in Montana, but the show follows the adventure of arriving, exploring, and finally getting to that place where you’re hungry. Hopefully along the way you’ve found some spices, some aromatics, some fruits, some proteins, and as the host I’m sharing techniques and methods of harvesting that I think will be user-friendly for anyone interested in getting outside to start having their own food adventures. We’re showing what a day looks like for a recreationist or a harvester, and putting the two together to create a food adventure television show. It’s for the person that wants to get outside, have fun and cook a little while they’re at it. YETI has been so supportive of the project, and is really helping us get the word out about it. Such a great company to work with for something like this and it’s been really well received so far. My hope is that it will tee up an opportunity to pitch and sell to broadcast, another network, or whomever. I’d love the opportunity to do a larger show.

Education comes by communication. Those two elements go handin-hand and are the building block of understanding. I don’t expect an individual who lives in an urban environment with very little access to the natural world for foraging, fishing or hunting, to completely understand this lifestyle. If they haven’t experienced it, I’m not going to rake them over coals for not knowing, but my opinion is that it’s vital for those individuals to at least know where food lives, how it’s sourced, and how it ends up on your plate. There’s a lot of disconnect there.

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I have yet to meet someone who is as adamant as I am about the fact that yanking a radish out of the ground is the same as dropping an animal. For me, it’s the same. You’re ripping a radish from the ground with its roots and everything, and that radish has a vital essence, and now it’s dying, which is part of the life cycle. An apple goes through its entire life cycle naturally with the cadence of this world – the first frost hits and it really starts the degradation process and the sugars are condensing. When it’s dying, then it’s ready to be picked, and we as humans have learned that’s when you go harvest these things. It’s macabre that we’re yanking this apple off a tree, pulling this organic element off in the middle of its death, but celebrating it

that our lands stay public and our ability to pursue the life that you feel is so important stays protected? EDUARDO

There’s a no-bullshit clause these days with me, and it started with the Charged documentary. I think there’s a real quick wake up and smell the coffee type moment when you agree to have a documentary film made about you. It’s not scripted and it’s really an exposé of you as fact, about what you think, who you are, and what you are. It made me realize that I have largely taken public lands for granted. So honestly, I don’t have a ton to offer from an educational point of view for how readers could get involved. What I can offer is accountability. Beyond my personal approach to the harvest, whether it’s plant or animal harvest, I think a big part of bringing new hunters, people that don’t hunt or don’t eat meat, or don’t understand our lifestyle into the conversation, is a welcoming tone. It’s important that as harvesters, whether we’re hunters, fishermen, gardeners, or foragers, that we’re showcasing it in a way that’s not polarizing, that you’re not trying to just get in the face of that vegan person down the street just to make them feel uncomfortable. There needs to be some grace in communication there.

Yeah, there is undeniable value in making that connection. The connection is already there whether we are aware of it or not. That’s our primal connection to what we are, born as an animal, as a human. Someone may or may not own a home but what’s cool is when you live in the United States, we have a large holding of public lands that will hopefully last far into the future. That is everyone’s home, that is everyone’s place of refuge whether we remember it or not. That is where everybody can go get a meal if they really want to. Those public lands, those wild places serve as a reset button that I think is vital for humans. So it’s about recognition and ownership. I’ve never met an individual that honestly could argue their way out of being human. Never met an alien yet. We need to eat, we need oxygen, we need water; those things are born of the natural world. How can you say you have no interest in the natural world and where those aquifers come from and how it all happens? TYLER

Are there any other upcoming projects that you’d like to tell us about? EDUARDO

Absolutely. I’m really trying to pursue opportunities as they come, and one that I’m really excited about is with a mentor of mine, Steven Rinella. He has a company called MeatEater and they are aiming to be this home for outdoor hunting, fishing, harvesting content, and they’ve asked me to be a contributor. It’s something I’m really proud to be a part of, and I’ll be publishing stories, recipes, and thoughts about harvesting wild foods. Again, it’s another opportunity to share my love affair with the natural world as it relates to food. It’s exciting

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P H O T O : N AT H A N N O R B Y

in innumerable ways. That is super beautiful and to me there is no difference between making an educated act on an animal food source and making one on a plant food source. That’s one of the most blatant disconnects that I think is out there, separating those two. They are the same and I would love to have a conversation with anyone that would like to educate me as to otherwise. We are humans and are a total active part of this earth. We belong here, and we were created with all animals and all plants, and I just feel like we forgot that. We have really forgotten how to participate in that harmoniously, and we’re in this huge catch-up process. I think the clear separating factors that skews the two parties that sit on either side is the method of harvest, and the tone in which it’s communicated.

Beyond my culinary approach and a public platform that’s being built around my organic philosophy, I think I have a lot to offer individuals. I want to share this passion, and am making sure that I’m no longer taking it for granted, so Montana Mex is now actively involved as a corporate partner with Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. It’s a big deal for us as a company, and we’re getting involved in support of our public lands, because that is where food really comes from. So right now I guess my encouragement to others is to take a stance, don’t be passive, be educated, be aware. Go for a walk, go for a hunt, go fishing. Go smell some sweet air somewhere and say, “Does this matter?”

So communication is really important, and if you do it correctly and genuinely then it can lead to education. But unfortunately, not everyone is going to look into these things themselves, often just taking what they see online for face value, so I think it’s our job as responsible hunters to educate people wherever we can. You guys are doing a great job of this with Modern Huntsman, and I hope that it’s an example that others will follow.

I totally agree, and think that it’s important to assess your

TYLER

situation, your role in this system, whether or not it’s contributing or being detrimental, and how you could potentially fix that. EDUARDO

TYLER TYLER

TYLER

Well thank you. I completely agree that communication

Well Charged has deservedly received critical acclaim,

As someone who hunts for and cooks with wild meat,

is really important, and that is exactly what we’re

has helped catapult your career forward, and opened up

how important do you think communication is with

hoping to achieve with Modern Huntsman. To circle

all sorts of new opportunities. One I’m really excited to

non-hunters to help bridge the gaps in our lifestyles or

back to public lands, is there anything you think we can

hear more about is your new film series with YETI:

help normalize the perception of hunting?

do to foster collaborations between organizations and

Hungry Life. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

even recreational interests? What can we do to ensure

EDUARDO

EDUARDO

Absolutely. I’m so grateful that YETI picked up the option to produce a short five-part film series, that just came out. Hungry Life is an outdoor cooking show based on food adventures related to outdoor pursuits. For example, we’d go fly fishing down on the Gulf Coast in Texas, or in Hawaii, or hunting in Montana, but the show follows the adventure of arriving, exploring, and finally getting to that place where you’re hungry. Hopefully along the way you’ve found some spices, some aromatics, some fruits, some proteins, and as the host I’m sharing techniques and methods of harvesting that I think will be user-friendly for anyone interested in getting outside to start having their own food adventures. We’re showing what a day looks like for a recreationist or a harvester, and putting the two together to create a food adventure television show. It’s for the person that wants to get outside, have fun and cook a little while they’re at it. YETI has been so supportive of the project, and is really helping us get the word out about it. Such a great company to work with for something like this and it’s been really well received so far. My hope is that it will tee up an opportunity to pitch and sell to broadcast, another network, or whomever. I’d love the opportunity to do a larger show.

Education comes by communication. Those two elements go handin-hand and are the building block of understanding. I don’t expect an individual who lives in an urban environment with very little access to the natural world for foraging, fishing or hunting, to completely understand this lifestyle. If they haven’t experienced it, I’m not going to rake them over coals for not knowing, but my opinion is that it’s vital for those individuals to at least know where food lives, how it’s sourced, and how it ends up on your plate. There’s a lot of disconnect there.

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I have yet to meet someone who is as adamant as I am about the fact that yanking a radish out of the ground is the same as dropping an animal. For me, it’s the same. You’re ripping a radish from the ground with its roots and everything, and that radish has a vital essence, and now it’s dying, which is part of the life cycle. An apple goes through its entire life cycle naturally with the cadence of this world – the first frost hits and it really starts the degradation process and the sugars are condensing. When it’s dying, then it’s ready to be picked, and we as humans have learned that’s when you go harvest these things. It’s macabre that we’re yanking this apple off a tree, pulling this organic element off in the middle of its death, but celebrating it

that our lands stay public and our ability to pursue the life that you feel is so important stays protected? EDUARDO

There’s a no-bullshit clause these days with me, and it started with the Charged documentary. I think there’s a real quick wake up and smell the coffee type moment when you agree to have a documentary film made about you. It’s not scripted and it’s really an exposé of you as fact, about what you think, who you are, and what you are. It made me realize that I have largely taken public lands for granted. So honestly, I don’t have a ton to offer from an educational point of view for how readers could get involved. What I can offer is accountability. Beyond my personal approach to the harvest, whether it’s plant or animal harvest, I think a big part of bringing new hunters, people that don’t hunt or don’t eat meat, or don’t understand our lifestyle into the conversation, is a welcoming tone. It’s important that as harvesters, whether we’re hunters, fishermen, gardeners, or foragers, that we’re showcasing it in a way that’s not polarizing, that you’re not trying to just get in the face of that vegan person down the street just to make them feel uncomfortable. There needs to be some grace in communication there.

Yeah, there is undeniable value in making that connection. The connection is already there whether we are aware of it or not. That’s our primal connection to what we are, born as an animal, as a human. Someone may or may not own a home but what’s cool is when you live in the United States, we have a large holding of public lands that will hopefully last far into the future. That is everyone’s home, that is everyone’s place of refuge whether we remember it or not. That is where everybody can go get a meal if they really want to. Those public lands, those wild places serve as a reset button that I think is vital for humans. So it’s about recognition and ownership. I’ve never met an individual that honestly could argue their way out of being human. Never met an alien yet. We need to eat, we need oxygen, we need water; those things are born of the natural world. How can you say you have no interest in the natural world and where those aquifers come from and how it all happens? TYLER

Are there any other upcoming projects that you’d like to tell us about? EDUARDO

Absolutely. I’m really trying to pursue opportunities as they come, and one that I’m really excited about is with a mentor of mine, Steven Rinella. He has a company called MeatEater and they are aiming to be this home for outdoor hunting, fishing, harvesting content, and they’ve asked me to be a contributor. It’s something I’m really proud to be a part of, and I’ll be publishing stories, recipes, and thoughts about harvesting wild foods. Again, it’s another opportunity to share my love affair with the natural world as it relates to food. It’s exciting

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to have a place to share on a larger platform through broadcast, print, and film. Let the larger world know, “Hey, this is the magic that’s out there, are you ready? Check this recipe out, go buy your first knife, get plucking.” TYLER

Final question here. It seems that more than ever we need to foster collaboration between organizations, socio-economic situations, and even recreational interests. Is there anything you feel could be done to improve the public lands conversation? EDUARDO

Well there’s a tragic side to all of this. What would happen if everyone decided to go hunt and fish on public lands? Resources would likely be depleted and that chanterelle mushroom patch across the street wouldn’t be there anymore. Where would it be? Honestly, it would be on private land, on these huge private tracts that serve as buffer zones. Public land is really important in how I get my food, and how I eat right. But it’s interesting that I am a public land owner and a public land user, but I’m also a private land owner and a private land user.

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I would love to see more collaboration between public and private. I know it happens on a very influential level with some of these huge landowners, but unfortunately not all of them. I’m talking about where the private landowners are an added buffer for wildlife corridors, this safe zone that heavily influences the public experience in hunting and fishing. A private landowner that has 20 sections but no one can touch those limestone crags doesn’t really benefit the rock climber on the public land. So this is a disconnect in this public land conversation between the people that are eating and hunting and fishing — they are really the loudest being heard right now. It’s not the recreational outdoor users. It’s the hunters. For me, I wish there was more of a land conversation in the public and private sector, and just what we’re doing as land owners whether it’s public or private, to preserve nature, period. That’s the crux of where we’re at right now: How do we continue to just protect our ecosystems while moving at light speed to put ourselves in a capitalized position to have influence? That’s where we’ve got ourselves, this crazy place where it’s just really tough to know how to be a responsible human these days. I’m doing my best to live an honest life rooted in the natural world and whenever I’m given the chance I try to encourage others to do the same. Hopefully through my projects like Hungry Life, MeatEater and with the continued growth of Montana Mex we’ll be able to win more hearts and minds to the cause.

A huge thank you to YETI for helping bring Eduardo’s story to life. Their products have truly revolutionized our ability to transport and preserve wild game, and without them, our backcountry meals just wouldn’t be the same.

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PHOTO: STEVEN DRAKE


to have a place to share on a larger platform through broadcast, print, and film. Let the larger world know, “Hey, this is the magic that’s out there, are you ready? Check this recipe out, go buy your first knife, get plucking.” TYLER

Final question here. It seems that more than ever we need to foster collaboration between organizations, socio-economic situations, and even recreational interests. Is there anything you feel could be done to improve the public lands conversation? EDUARDO

Well there’s a tragic side to all of this. What would happen if everyone decided to go hunt and fish on public lands? Resources would likely be depleted and that chanterelle mushroom patch across the street wouldn’t be there anymore. Where would it be? Honestly, it would be on private land, on these huge private tracts that serve as buffer zones. Public land is really important in how I get my food, and how I eat right. But it’s interesting that I am a public land owner and a public land user, but I’m also a private land owner and a private land user.

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I would love to see more collaboration between public and private. I know it happens on a very influential level with some of these huge landowners, but unfortunately not all of them. I’m talking about where the private landowners are an added buffer for wildlife corridors, this safe zone that heavily influences the public experience in hunting and fishing. A private landowner that has 20 sections but no one can touch those limestone crags doesn’t really benefit the rock climber on the public land. So this is a disconnect in this public land conversation between the people that are eating and hunting and fishing — they are really the loudest being heard right now. It’s not the recreational outdoor users. It’s the hunters. For me, I wish there was more of a land conversation in the public and private sector, and just what we’re doing as land owners whether it’s public or private, to preserve nature, period. That’s the crux of where we’re at right now: How do we continue to just protect our ecosystems while moving at light speed to put ourselves in a capitalized position to have influence? That’s where we’ve got ourselves, this crazy place where it’s just really tough to know how to be a responsible human these days. I’m doing my best to live an honest life rooted in the natural world and whenever I’m given the chance I try to encourage others to do the same. Hopefully through my projects like Hungry Life, MeatEater and with the continued growth of Montana Mex we’ll be able to win more hearts and minds to the cause.

A huge thank you to YETI for helping bring Eduardo’s story to life. Their products have truly revolutionized our ability to transport and preserve wild game, and without them, our backcountry meals just wouldn’t be the same.

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PHOTO: STEVEN DRAKE


RECIPE

R O A S T L E G of V E N I S O N photos by Yogesh Simpson

MONTANA MEX TRIPLE THREAT

5 teaspoons of Montana Mex mild Chile seasoning

PREPARATION TIME COOK TIME

2

10

MINUTES

HOURS

4 teaspoons of Montana Mex Sweet seasoning 1/2 teaspoon of Montana Mex Jalapeño seasoning INGREDIENTS

5 1/2 pounds of bone-in leg of Venison (lamb as substitute) 2 heads of fresh garlic cloves, separated into cloves & peeled 2 tablespoons Montana Mex Avocado Oil 2 tablespoons of Montana Mex Triple Threat

1. Preheat oven to 425 Degrees. 2. Using a paring knife, pierce all sides of the venison with 1-inch holes. Insert all the garlic cloves into the holes, making sure that you can still see the very top of each garlic clove; too deep, and the garlic won’t cook through. 3. Rub the Venison with Montana Mex Avocado Oil, and then dust the entire leg evenly with 2 tablespoons of the Montana Mex Triple Threat seasoning. 4. Place the leg of lamb in a roasting pan, and then cover tightly with foil. If you have a probe thermometer, insert the probe into the thickest part of the leg, close to the bone but not touching the bone, so that you can keep track of the meat thermometer. 5. Cook the venison to medium 155 degrees, about 2 hours (if using lamb, cook to medium-rare at 135 degrees.) Remove from the oven, and reserve the drippings for Jus. Lightly cover venison with foil and allow to rest for 20–25 minutes before serving.

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RECIPE

R O A S T L E G of V E N I S O N photos by Yogesh Simpson

MONTANA MEX TRIPLE THREAT

5 teaspoons of Montana Mex mild Chile seasoning

PREPARATION TIME COOK TIME

2

10

MINUTES

HOURS

4 teaspoons of Montana Mex Sweet seasoning 1/2 teaspoon of Montana Mex Jalapeño seasoning INGREDIENTS

5 1/2 pounds of bone-in leg of Venison (lamb as substitute) 2 heads of fresh garlic cloves, separated into cloves & peeled 2 tablespoons Montana Mex Avocado Oil 2 tablespoons of Montana Mex Triple Threat

1. Preheat oven to 425 Degrees. 2. Using a paring knife, pierce all sides of the venison with 1-inch holes. Insert all the garlic cloves into the holes, making sure that you can still see the very top of each garlic clove; too deep, and the garlic won’t cook through. 3. Rub the Venison with Montana Mex Avocado Oil, and then dust the entire leg evenly with 2 tablespoons of the Montana Mex Triple Threat seasoning. 4. Place the leg of lamb in a roasting pan, and then cover tightly with foil. If you have a probe thermometer, insert the probe into the thickest part of the leg, close to the bone but not touching the bone, so that you can keep track of the meat thermometer. 5. Cook the venison to medium 155 degrees, about 2 hours (if using lamb, cook to medium-rare at 135 degrees.) Remove from the oven, and reserve the drippings for Jus. Lightly cover venison with foil and allow to rest for 20–25 minutes before serving.

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RECIPE

T R O U T on C E D A R P L A N K photos by Steven Drake

1 whole head-on rainbow trout, cleaned

PREPARATION TIME

1 cedar plank, soaked overnight in water

COOK TIME

20

10

MINUTES

MINUTES

1 teaspoon Montana Mex Sweet Seasoning 1 teaspoon Montana Mex JalapeĂąo Seasoning 2 teaspoons Montana Mex mild Chile Seasoning 1/2 fresh lemon, cut into thin rounds, plus more for garnish 8 sprigs of fresh thyme 1-2 tablespoons butter, cut into slices

1. Start charcoal or gas grill and preheat to medium heat. 2. In a small bowl, thoroughly combine all the Montana Mex Seasoning salts. 3. Evenly sprinkle half the seasoning salt mixture in the inner cavity of the trout. Place thyme sprigs, lemon slices, and the butter in the cavity. 4. Sprinkle the remaining seasoning evenly on outside of the trout, making sure to cover both sides. 5. Place the trout on the cedar plank and grill, covered, until the trout is cooked to desired doneness, about 15–20 minutes. 6. Garnish with the remaining lemon slices and serve immediately.

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RECIPE

T R O U T on C E D A R P L A N K photos by Steven Drake

1 whole head-on rainbow trout, cleaned

PREPARATION TIME

1 cedar plank, soaked overnight in water

COOK TIME

20

10

MINUTES

MINUTES

1 teaspoon Montana Mex Sweet Seasoning 1 teaspoon Montana Mex JalapeĂąo Seasoning 2 teaspoons Montana Mex mild Chile Seasoning 1/2 fresh lemon, cut into thin rounds, plus more for garnish 8 sprigs of fresh thyme 1-2 tablespoons butter, cut into slices

1. Start charcoal or gas grill and preheat to medium heat. 2. In a small bowl, thoroughly combine all the Montana Mex Seasoning salts. 3. Evenly sprinkle half the seasoning salt mixture in the inner cavity of the trout. Place thyme sprigs, lemon slices, and the butter in the cavity. 4. Sprinkle the remaining seasoning evenly on outside of the trout, making sure to cover both sides. 5. Place the trout on the cedar plank and grill, covered, until the trout is cooked to desired doneness, about 15–20 minutes. 6. Garnish with the remaining lemon slices and serve immediately.

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Here, I Live My Life STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY

JILLIAN LUKIWSKI

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Here, I Live My Life STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY

JILLIAN LUKIWSKI

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Summer It’s late in the evening when I reach the gorge and I’m in a thunderous mood. My workload is heavy, I’m struggling to keep the farm up and running. I’m tired. The fire season seems eternal when we’re in the heart of it and today I am filled with hopelessness. I should be home working on any number of things that are past their deadlines but I know I’ll wilt up and die if I don’t do something selfish. I’ve left the dogs at home, I tell myself it’s for fear of rattlesnakes but the truth is, I’m fed up with them too — I can’t even tolerate unconditional love right now. I put my rod together, link guides with leader and line, tie on a hopper-dropper combination (always a good mid-summer starting point) and bushwack down to the water avoiding the clumps of poison ivy as I go. It measured 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade today and the sight of this high desert spring river immediately clears my heat-cluttered mind. I slip into the water and feel it tug at my knees, I walk deeper until the current is at my waist and I let the rest of my body drop under. I stay like that for a moment, swaying like water grasses, allowing the sweat and stink of the day to wash away. I rise up refreshed, brand new, and I begin to cast. I toss my faux bugs above a boulder and watch the current zip them down into the eddy. I mend my line just as

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a trout rises for my dry fly. I set the hook, bring the fish to my net, and pull out my phone to take a quick photo for Robbie who is somewhere in Nevada tonight, parachuting into wildfires. I haven’t heard from him for a few days. All the smokejumper bases are busy. It’s simply that time of year. He’ll be proud that I’m out fishing. He’ll be more proud of that than my catches. He’s always delighted when I take a dog out for an evening hunt without him or when I fish without him. I think it makes him happy because it’s proof I genuinely like to fish and hunt, but it occurs to me, right then as I handle my fish, that he also knows the healing quiet of being alone on the water or on the windswept steppe at the fast heels of a bird dog. He knows. He’s glad for me when I venture out into the contours of solitude; those contours beget honesty. I find it difficult to go anywhere important in life until I’m truthful with myself, earnest and humble in my growth and learning. Being alone in these spaces helps me see who I’m becoming and release myself from who I used to be. I reach down to set my fish free and I see my reflection in clear, spring water. I see that the tension has slipped from my face, I am lit brightly from within, I am strong enough to handle the rest of this day and the next — the river is always honest with me.

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Summer It’s late in the evening when I reach the gorge and I’m in a thunderous mood. My workload is heavy, I’m struggling to keep the farm up and running. I’m tired. The fire season seems eternal when we’re in the heart of it and today I am filled with hopelessness. I should be home working on any number of things that are past their deadlines but I know I’ll wilt up and die if I don’t do something selfish. I’ve left the dogs at home, I tell myself it’s for fear of rattlesnakes but the truth is, I’m fed up with them too — I can’t even tolerate unconditional love right now. I put my rod together, link guides with leader and line, tie on a hopper-dropper combination (always a good mid-summer starting point) and bushwack down to the water avoiding the clumps of poison ivy as I go. It measured 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade today and the sight of this high desert spring river immediately clears my heat-cluttered mind. I slip into the water and feel it tug at my knees, I walk deeper until the current is at my waist and I let the rest of my body drop under. I stay like that for a moment, swaying like water grasses, allowing the sweat and stink of the day to wash away. I rise up refreshed, brand new, and I begin to cast. I toss my faux bugs above a boulder and watch the current zip them down into the eddy. I mend my line just as

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a trout rises for my dry fly. I set the hook, bring the fish to my net, and pull out my phone to take a quick photo for Robbie who is somewhere in Nevada tonight, parachuting into wildfires. I haven’t heard from him for a few days. All the smokejumper bases are busy. It’s simply that time of year. He’ll be proud that I’m out fishing. He’ll be more proud of that than my catches. He’s always delighted when I take a dog out for an evening hunt without him or when I fish without him. I think it makes him happy because it’s proof I genuinely like to fish and hunt, but it occurs to me, right then as I handle my fish, that he also knows the healing quiet of being alone on the water or on the windswept steppe at the fast heels of a bird dog. He knows. He’s glad for me when I venture out into the contours of solitude; those contours beget honesty. I find it difficult to go anywhere important in life until I’m truthful with myself, earnest and humble in my growth and learning. Being alone in these spaces helps me see who I’m becoming and release myself from who I used to be. I reach down to set my fish free and I see my reflection in clear, spring water. I see that the tension has slipped from my face, I am lit brightly from within, I am strong enough to handle the rest of this day and the next — the river is always honest with me.

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Autumn I am where the ramparts of the river press against the low, gray ceiling of the sky. The Snake River is far below me, furious and roiling, shaking and thundering like a Pentecostal on a church floor as it passes through the deepest water-cut canyon in the United States. I am at the very top of this stone throat and I think I hear the river murmuring at the sky, praying to something higher than itself, asking to be made mighty again with snowmelt and rains. I am laying on my stomach in a puff of snow; the powder creeps in through the cracks between my coat and my pants, my boots and my socks, my gloves and sleeves. I dressed well and remain in the liminal space between warm and chilled. The breeze is lucky, carrying pieces of me off the canyon wall instead of further in. I press my eye to my scope, steady my breathing and watch the herd. They are bedded down, contentedly chewing their cud, oblivious to me. I am 320 yards away, blending in with a rock outcropping, bunch grass, and shallow snowdrifts. I am patient. I am a secret. I have all the time in the world, so I wait. I know one will eventually stand up to kick a stone from its bed or rearrange itself. Behind me, and below me Robbie is watching my hunt unfurl. I turn and gesture to him, “Everything is good. Stay where you are. I’m waiting.” How long have I been waiting? Since I drew this elk tag in the heat of summer. This is my first elk hunt. I am expectant, like a woman at nine months, waiting for my moment to emerge. I enjoy the quiet. I enjoy the view. I take a close look at my herd, they remain quiet and restful. I regret that I will soon shatter the silence and peace with my gun. To reach this place, I hiked, I climbed, step by step, crushing clumps of bunchgrass in my gloved hands, huffing like a chain smoker. I’m not so different from the herd I am waiting on, bedded down, digesting, slowly blinking at the white of the world around me. The sun is low. I’m nearly at the edge of my patience, on the cusp of coldness, when one stands up. I pull my eye in tight to my scope, check for horns, check behind her and in front of her, check left and right of her. She stands alone and silent across the distance. Stoic and broadside, giving

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herself to me. She paws once, twice, three times at her bed and then straightens up again. I wedge the toes of my boots into stone, press my cheek tight to stock, breathe, breathe, breathe and squeeze. I know it’s a hit. I shot like I was taught. I heard the bullet make its mark, the dull, resounding whomp that speaks of heat, flesh and bone. The rest of the herd leaps up and bounds around, spooked but curious. I fix my gaze on her through the scope. She’s standing alone and I know I’ve hurt her badly. She hangs her head lower, her outward focused alertness is redirected inwardly. All remains clear before her and behind her. The view through my scope is uncluttered. I chamber a new bullet. I remember what I have been told, “Shoot until your elk is down.” She is still perfectly broadside. I whisper, “Don’t you take a step. Don’t you run. Just go down.” I wait. She stands. In my mind is a great debate, I feel the hands of time zooming. I squeeze through my trigger once more and I hear my bullet mark her again. I immediately reach up and reload. I look through my scope I see she has turned one hundred eighty degrees but remains perfectly broadside to me. I wait. I trust my first two shots, but I know how these big animals can move on adrenaline, cross big territory even if they are mortally wounded, leave the country while they paint it red. I want my harvest, I want it here and now. I bring my sights up, rest them slightly above her shoulder, try my best to account for the breeze, for the distance, and I take her shoulder blade from her with my third shot. She topples over. I watch through my scope for movement. I feel the air temperature descending with the setting sun. I watch as she does not get up. The distance feels greater than it looked as I trudge down and up a ravine beneath the weight of my pack and my sheathed rifle. When I find her, she is warm to my touch, gorgeous and whole in the snow, an island of beauty on an already beautiful mountain slope. I caress her ears and her muzzle, press my palm to her cheek, investigate the evidence of my bullets. The first two shots were perfect, mirror images of each other. My third true bullet was prudent but unnecessary — I’m still glad I took it. This is one of the only places I believe in employing insurance. We shrug out of our packs, draw our knives and begin our work.

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Autumn I am where the ramparts of the river press against the low, gray ceiling of the sky. The Snake River is far below me, furious and roiling, shaking and thundering like a Pentecostal on a church floor as it passes through the deepest water-cut canyon in the United States. I am at the very top of this stone throat and I think I hear the river murmuring at the sky, praying to something higher than itself, asking to be made mighty again with snowmelt and rains. I am laying on my stomach in a puff of snow; the powder creeps in through the cracks between my coat and my pants, my boots and my socks, my gloves and sleeves. I dressed well and remain in the liminal space between warm and chilled. The breeze is lucky, carrying pieces of me off the canyon wall instead of further in. I press my eye to my scope, steady my breathing and watch the herd. They are bedded down, contentedly chewing their cud, oblivious to me. I am 320 yards away, blending in with a rock outcropping, bunch grass, and shallow snowdrifts. I am patient. I am a secret. I have all the time in the world, so I wait. I know one will eventually stand up to kick a stone from its bed or rearrange itself. Behind me, and below me Robbie is watching my hunt unfurl. I turn and gesture to him, “Everything is good. Stay where you are. I’m waiting.” How long have I been waiting? Since I drew this elk tag in the heat of summer. This is my first elk hunt. I am expectant, like a woman at nine months, waiting for my moment to emerge. I enjoy the quiet. I enjoy the view. I take a close look at my herd, they remain quiet and restful. I regret that I will soon shatter the silence and peace with my gun. To reach this place, I hiked, I climbed, step by step, crushing clumps of bunchgrass in my gloved hands, huffing like a chain smoker. I’m not so different from the herd I am waiting on, bedded down, digesting, slowly blinking at the white of the world around me. The sun is low. I’m nearly at the edge of my patience, on the cusp of coldness, when one stands up. I pull my eye in tight to my scope, check for horns, check behind her and in front of her, check left and right of her. She stands alone and silent across the distance. Stoic and broadside, giving

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herself to me. She paws once, twice, three times at her bed and then straightens up again. I wedge the toes of my boots into stone, press my cheek tight to stock, breathe, breathe, breathe and squeeze. I know it’s a hit. I shot like I was taught. I heard the bullet make its mark, the dull, resounding whomp that speaks of heat, flesh and bone. The rest of the herd leaps up and bounds around, spooked but curious. I fix my gaze on her through the scope. She’s standing alone and I know I’ve hurt her badly. She hangs her head lower, her outward focused alertness is redirected inwardly. All remains clear before her and behind her. The view through my scope is uncluttered. I chamber a new bullet. I remember what I have been told, “Shoot until your elk is down.” She is still perfectly broadside. I whisper, “Don’t you take a step. Don’t you run. Just go down.” I wait. She stands. In my mind is a great debate, I feel the hands of time zooming. I squeeze through my trigger once more and I hear my bullet mark her again. I immediately reach up and reload. I look through my scope I see she has turned one hundred eighty degrees but remains perfectly broadside to me. I wait. I trust my first two shots, but I know how these big animals can move on adrenaline, cross big territory even if they are mortally wounded, leave the country while they paint it red. I want my harvest, I want it here and now. I bring my sights up, rest them slightly above her shoulder, try my best to account for the breeze, for the distance, and I take her shoulder blade from her with my third shot. She topples over. I watch through my scope for movement. I feel the air temperature descending with the setting sun. I watch as she does not get up. The distance feels greater than it looked as I trudge down and up a ravine beneath the weight of my pack and my sheathed rifle. When I find her, she is warm to my touch, gorgeous and whole in the snow, an island of beauty on an already beautiful mountain slope. I caress her ears and her muzzle, press my palm to her cheek, investigate the evidence of my bullets. The first two shots were perfect, mirror images of each other. My third true bullet was prudent but unnecessary — I’m still glad I took it. This is one of the only places I believe in employing insurance. We shrug out of our packs, draw our knives and begin our work.

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Winter Tater Tot begins his deranged barking as soon as we hit gravel. The Tacoma rattles and shakes and squawks as the front wheels hit washboard, George Strait is crooning something cool and long-legged on the radio and I sigh aloud. The heater is broken. Afterall, it is 20 years old. It turns on full blast or not at all, whistling like a stuck pig, accosting me with hot wind and the dust it collected over summer. I unzip my jacket and crack a window to allow fresh air to mingle with the heat. My boobs knock about in the confines of my sports bra which I chose to wear for the drive, not the hiking. Getting out to the canyons is a slog for man, woman, machine and beast, and we’ve not even reached the BLM two-track that will take us further into the canyons. We plunge in and out of fog banks, the sage is suffused with hoarfrost. Old growth, wizened forests of pale green are transmogrified into a plantation of diamonds; all the country I can see is shining beneath a cold sun, daring to be brilliant and precious and astounding. Daring to win hearts and repair souls with its strange, otherworldly loveliness. This is a cinderella story, a revelation of inner beauty illuminated. When the sun emerges, everything will shake free of wintry glamor and the landscape will be washed in the clever disguise of its normal self, beauty camouflaged in harshness, until the next sunrise, sunset, or snowstorm.

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I hop out of our jalopy to open a gate. The wind greets me with a vicious slap in the face. I struggle to slip the post and wire back in place, throwing my weight against it repeatedly as my boots skitter on a frozen puddle. Two vibram soles grip onto a shard of cow manure and I have traction once more. The struggle continues. Who the heck built this stupid gate? My ponytail whips around in the gale and crams itself in my mouth, a gag order sent from God. I look over at the truck beseechingly and Robbie hops out to help me, laughing like he does when he’s charmed by my need for his physical strength. With the gate shut we cross over onto open BLM range, onto land I love, onto land few others can comprehend loving or exploring. Now the road is truly rough, jarring my bones, shaking my fillings from my molars, strumming my tendons and ligaments like I’m a flesh and blood banjo. I think I cannot bear much more when Robbie finally pulls off and says, “Let’s work this rim.” We step out, straighten the kinks in our bones, tighten our boot laces, pee on bitterbrush, turn the collar and beeper on, cast the dog off, and step out into space that is humble and regal and nowhere at all. We walk out into country that is sublimely expansive, a landscape that continually surprises and delights us. We are as wealthy as the horizon line that goes on without end, deeper into winter and beyond. We are sagebrush royalty and we rule with compassion and fairness — it’s what the land demands.

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Winter Tater Tot begins his deranged barking as soon as we hit gravel. The Tacoma rattles and shakes and squawks as the front wheels hit washboard, George Strait is crooning something cool and long-legged on the radio and I sigh aloud. The heater is broken. Afterall, it is 20 years old. It turns on full blast or not at all, whistling like a stuck pig, accosting me with hot wind and the dust it collected over summer. I unzip my jacket and crack a window to allow fresh air to mingle with the heat. My boobs knock about in the confines of my sports bra which I chose to wear for the drive, not the hiking. Getting out to the canyons is a slog for man, woman, machine and beast, and we’ve not even reached the BLM two-track that will take us further into the canyons. We plunge in and out of fog banks, the sage is suffused with hoarfrost. Old growth, wizened forests of pale green are transmogrified into a plantation of diamonds; all the country I can see is shining beneath a cold sun, daring to be brilliant and precious and astounding. Daring to win hearts and repair souls with its strange, otherworldly loveliness. This is a cinderella story, a revelation of inner beauty illuminated. When the sun emerges, everything will shake free of wintry glamor and the landscape will be washed in the clever disguise of its normal self, beauty camouflaged in harshness, until the next sunrise, sunset, or snowstorm.

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I hop out of our jalopy to open a gate. The wind greets me with a vicious slap in the face. I struggle to slip the post and wire back in place, throwing my weight against it repeatedly as my boots skitter on a frozen puddle. Two vibram soles grip onto a shard of cow manure and I have traction once more. The struggle continues. Who the heck built this stupid gate? My ponytail whips around in the gale and crams itself in my mouth, a gag order sent from God. I look over at the truck beseechingly and Robbie hops out to help me, laughing like he does when he’s charmed by my need for his physical strength. With the gate shut we cross over onto open BLM range, onto land I love, onto land few others can comprehend loving or exploring. Now the road is truly rough, jarring my bones, shaking my fillings from my molars, strumming my tendons and ligaments like I’m a flesh and blood banjo. I think I cannot bear much more when Robbie finally pulls off and says, “Let’s work this rim.” We step out, straighten the kinks in our bones, tighten our boot laces, pee on bitterbrush, turn the collar and beeper on, cast the dog off, and step out into space that is humble and regal and nowhere at all. We walk out into country that is sublimely expansive, a landscape that continually surprises and delights us. We are as wealthy as the horizon line that goes on without end, deeper into winter and beyond. We are sagebrush royalty and we rule with compassion and fairness — it’s what the land demands.

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Spring I ride out from the front gate of the farm. My horse is wooly with winter. He snorts, testing the breadth of his lungs, expressing his effort with hot air, breathing in the space that unfolds before us. His blood is up, he flexes and collects beneath the saddle, his ears are fixed forward. We move with comfortable haste across the BLM land that flanks the farm, along the Snake River, to the place the black boulders rest above the canyon like a hallowed henge. I shout at the stone wall across the water and an echo flings itself back at me reminding me I’m alone but not lonely. We ride on and drop down into the shelter of a coulee, picking our way through basalt rubble, weaving a path around sagebrush. As we climb up and out a glimmer of white catches the corner of my eye. I turn to look and I see a heavy, fourpoint shed — a nice little buck for this area. I

always knew I would eventually find antlers here. It simply looks like a place a mule deer would take his rest the same way that some sections of river look like they hold fish. I learn these things about places as I explore them and notice the delicate details that make them. I dismount and pick the shed up off the ground, then turn on my heels and look around for the match and laugh aloud when I see it eight feet away. Elation! I measure their heft in my hands and hug them to my chest, laughing still. A place I cherish has given me a gift. I am all alone in the wind and the grass with my treasure and I am filled with a sense of belonging. I realize I cannot imagine living somewhere I don’t have immediate access to public lands right outside my front door. This space is always here: empty, expansive and waiting for me. Here, I make my story. Here, I live my life. Here, I’m home.

J I L L I A N L U K I W S K I hails from Canada but has found home on the Snake River in Idaho. Drawing inspiration from the natural spaces she abides in, she is a silversmith, writer and photographer committed to revealing the indelible spirit of the West with her work. She values creative process over finished products, and honesty and courage over accolades. Jillian takes her time most everywhere she goes, and lives expansively along the way. @THENOISYPLUME / THENOISYPLUME.COM

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Spring I ride out from the front gate of the farm. My horse is wooly with winter. He snorts, testing the breadth of his lungs, expressing his effort with hot air, breathing in the space that unfolds before us. His blood is up, he flexes and collects beneath the saddle, his ears are fixed forward. We move with comfortable haste across the BLM land that flanks the farm, along the Snake River, to the place the black boulders rest above the canyon like a hallowed henge. I shout at the stone wall across the water and an echo flings itself back at me reminding me I’m alone but not lonely. We ride on and drop down into the shelter of a coulee, picking our way through basalt rubble, weaving a path around sagebrush. As we climb up and out a glimmer of white catches the corner of my eye. I turn to look and I see a heavy, fourpoint shed — a nice little buck for this area. I

always knew I would eventually find antlers here. It simply looks like a place a mule deer would take his rest the same way that some sections of river look like they hold fish. I learn these things about places as I explore them and notice the delicate details that make them. I dismount and pick the shed up off the ground, then turn on my heels and look around for the match and laugh aloud when I see it eight feet away. Elation! I measure their heft in my hands and hug them to my chest, laughing still. A place I cherish has given me a gift. I am all alone in the wind and the grass with my treasure and I am filled with a sense of belonging. I realize I cannot imagine living somewhere I don’t have immediate access to public lands right outside my front door. This space is always here: empty, expansive and waiting for me. Here, I make my story. Here, I live my life. Here, I’m home.

J I L L I A N L U K I W S K I hails from Canada but has found home on the Snake River in Idaho. Drawing inspiration from the natural spaces she abides in, she is a silversmith, writer and photographer committed to revealing the indelible spirit of the West with her work. She values creative process over finished products, and honesty and courage over accolades. Jillian takes her time most everywhere she goes, and lives expansively along the way. @THENOISYPLUME / THENOISYPLUME.COM

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TWO WINS FOR THE WEST

STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY

TYLER SHARP

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TWO WINS FOR THE WEST

STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY

TYLER SHARP

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“There is an old saying that a man will probably only have one good bird dog in his life…

I

’ve had a lot of them. I’ve even had a handful of them that were really good, probably some of the best,” Ben told me in his matter-of-fact manner, and as humbly as a man of his experience can be expected to. You see, Ben is a bit of an authority on bird dogs, being that he’s trained and bred upwards of 350, and had 163 of his own. In fact, it’s one of the things he’s most known for. But whether you know him as the Brittany guy, Mr. Hun, Western Wings or that crazy old school teacher who hunts, chances are that if you’ve spent any time around Livingston, Montana, or have any interest in upland tradition, then you’ve heard of Ben O. Williams. While Livingston has had its fair share of legends (some more outspoken than others), Ben’s campaign for infamy has been more subtle, albeit steady over the past 60 years. Author, teacher, architect, photographer, naturalist, dog trainer, coach, world class fly fisherman, conservationist, and arguably the most bona-fide and pioneering upland hunter in North America (if not the world), Ben’s accolades and accomplishments in varied genres number many. But ask the lion’s share of people, or Ben himself, and they’d tell you that he’s mainly reputed for his hard-nosed, dogged pursuit of upland game birds in the expansive lands of the American West before most knew you could, were otherwise preoccupied with big game, or believed that dogs were for herding cattle. I met Ben in the fall of 2014 on an editorial assignment of herculean nature: to chronicle his career of contributions to not only upland hunting, but to literature, bird ecology, and as I’d come to find out the most significant of all, public land and water access in Montana. Needless to say it seemed a daunting task, and being almost 55 years his junior, I was a bit nervous and skeptical that someone who rubbed shoulders with Tom McGuane, Jim Harrison and Norman Maclean would ever take me seriously. But when I first drove onto the sprawling homestead of Ben’s design, set between the southern

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bank of the Yellowstone River and the shadow of Sheep Mountain, the grandeur transformed nerves into determined curiosity and we became fast friends. Those first few days on assignment we walked the high plains of areas he’s been hunting for nearly 60 years, both public and private land, and Ben gave me an abridged account of what brought him out West, how he carved a career from it, and made a name for himself. Between points and flushes from his famed bloodlines of big-running Brittany spaniels, a few birds fell, and I gained a surface level education of Ben’s curriculum vitae. But the real treasure I’d find later, during the countless visits I’ve paid him over the past four years, earning the privilege to learn more about his personal life, philosophy, and even some of his highly-coveted favorite hunting and fishing spots. To me he’s part teacher, friend, and mentor, almost like my own Ben Kenobi, except we talk about upland hunting and conservation instead of the Force. And though it’s taken me years to write this story, I’m honored to impart some of what I’ve learned from this man, and hope to do it justice by shepherding it to a new, perhaps younger audience. Ben grew up in Northern Illinois and started bird hunting with his grandfather in the second grade. They would walk the fields of whatever public land they could find or sometimes abandoned railroad tracks. “He was from England, and always talked about how hunting was better if you had a bird dog like a pointer,” Ben told me as we thumbed through old photo albums, the pages faded and cracked with age from time’s relentless march. But they didn’t have a pointer at the time, so Ben instead acted as his grandfather’s bird dog. Yet the idea of pointers stuck in his mind. Years later, after service in the Navy, attending NYU, and degrees in architecture and teaching from Northern Illinois University, it was time to get his first bird dog.


“There is an old saying that a man will probably only have one good bird dog in his life…

I

’ve had a lot of them. I’ve even had a handful of them that were really good, probably some of the best,” Ben told me in his matter-of-fact manner, and as humbly as a man of his experience can be expected to. You see, Ben is a bit of an authority on bird dogs, being that he’s trained and bred upwards of 350, and had 163 of his own. In fact, it’s one of the things he’s most known for. But whether you know him as the Brittany guy, Mr. Hun, Western Wings or that crazy old school teacher who hunts, chances are that if you’ve spent any time around Livingston, Montana, or have any interest in upland tradition, then you’ve heard of Ben O. Williams. While Livingston has had its fair share of legends (some more outspoken than others), Ben’s campaign for infamy has been more subtle, albeit steady over the past 60 years. Author, teacher, architect, photographer, naturalist, dog trainer, coach, world class fly fisherman, conservationist, and arguably the most bona-fide and pioneering upland hunter in North America (if not the world), Ben’s accolades and accomplishments in varied genres number many. But ask the lion’s share of people, or Ben himself, and they’d tell you that he’s mainly reputed for his hard-nosed, dogged pursuit of upland game birds in the expansive lands of the American West before most knew you could, were otherwise preoccupied with big game, or believed that dogs were for herding cattle. I met Ben in the fall of 2014 on an editorial assignment of herculean nature: to chronicle his career of contributions to not only upland hunting, but to literature, bird ecology, and as I’d come to find out the most significant of all, public land and water access in Montana. Needless to say it seemed a daunting task, and being almost 55 years his junior, I was a bit nervous and skeptical that someone who rubbed shoulders with Tom McGuane, Jim Harrison and Norman Maclean would ever take me seriously. But when I first drove onto the sprawling homestead of Ben’s design, set between the southern

- 84 -

bank of the Yellowstone River and the shadow of Sheep Mountain, the grandeur transformed nerves into determined curiosity and we became fast friends. Those first few days on assignment we walked the high plains of areas he’s been hunting for nearly 60 years, both public and private land, and Ben gave me an abridged account of what brought him out West, how he carved a career from it, and made a name for himself. Between points and flushes from his famed bloodlines of big-running Brittany spaniels, a few birds fell, and I gained a surface level education of Ben’s curriculum vitae. But the real treasure I’d find later, during the countless visits I’ve paid him over the past four years, earning the privilege to learn more about his personal life, philosophy, and even some of his highly-coveted favorite hunting and fishing spots. To me he’s part teacher, friend, and mentor, almost like my own Ben Kenobi, except we talk about upland hunting and conservation instead of the Force. And though it’s taken me years to write this story, I’m honored to impart some of what I’ve learned from this man, and hope to do it justice by shepherding it to a new, perhaps younger audience. Ben grew up in Northern Illinois and started bird hunting with his grandfather in the second grade. They would walk the fields of whatever public land they could find or sometimes abandoned railroad tracks. “He was from England, and always talked about how hunting was better if you had a bird dog like a pointer,” Ben told me as we thumbed through old photo albums, the pages faded and cracked with age from time’s relentless march. But they didn’t have a pointer at the time, so Ben instead acted as his grandfather’s bird dog. Yet the idea of pointers stuck in his mind. Years later, after service in the Navy, attending NYU, and degrees in architecture and teaching from Northern Illinois University, it was time to get his first bird dog.


Enter Walter Oberlin, one of the first to raise Brittany spaniels in the U.S, and a hall of fame breeder as a result. “Originally I wanted a setter, but all Walter had were Brittanys, and though I’d never heard of them, I immediately fell in love with the breed. But I didn’t have enough money to buy one, so instead Walter offered me a job to help train his dogs for field trials. So I took the job, he showed me the ropes, and in the four years I was there probably trained 50 dogs. But I didn’t want to stay in Illinois, I wanted to go west to hunt and fish. Of course everyone objected, but I told them I didn’t care if I was dirt poor forever, I was going to do what I want with my life,” Ben recalled with a sense of confident satisfaction on his face. Go west he did, and as I’ll detail further on, Montana was better for it. Originally destined for a job in Washington state, Ben stopped in Livingston on the way out to fish the Yellowstone River. It hooked him as it has hooked me, and he decided that Washington “was beyond the true West.” So after a brief two year stint in the evergreen state, Ben found his way back to Montana, landing a job as a naturalist in Yellowstone National Park, and has been here ever since. “In Yellowstone I was giving the evening talks on flora and fauna in the park, photographing wildflowers once a week, guiding folks on hikes, and working in the museum. It was a good job, but kind of like the military, and because they wouldn’t let me have my dogs there, I wasn’t going to do that anymore.” So instead Ben got a teaching job at Livingston High School, where over the course of 30 years taught art, biology, shop, architecture, coached basketball and football, and even sculpted the steel statue of the Rangers mascot in front of the school. Despite having retired from teaching, his instructive nature is ever present, best evidenced as he walks the hunting grounds with his hands clasped behind his back, offering palpable disapproval with a subtle “hmh” for shots missed on birds. Between that and the look of disbelief on the dog’s faces, lessons are learned quickly, and shot placement improves. Once a teacher, always a teacher. “The nice thing about teaching was that I’d be done by 4 pm, could be out hunting by 4:15 and go until dark. The first year I did that for

100 days straight and hunted all over this country on both public and private lands. Back then if something wasn’t posted you could hunt it. If it was posted, I’d start knocking on doors and asking if I could run my dogs and look for birds on their property. One guy told me that besides the coyotes and rattlesnakes I’d pretty much have the place to myself,” Ben said with a chuckle. “Within three years everybody in Park County knew about this crazy school teacher in a blue Volkswagen with two dogs that would hunt pretty much every day and night. So I got a reputation for being a bird hunter in Montana.” Presently, Ben’s reputation as a bird hunter reaches far beyond Montana, and I would even go so far to say that he wrote the book on upland hunting in the American West. Actually he’s written 10 and co-authored five, many of which are driven by his fascination and dedication to bird biology, behavior, and the habitat that sustains them, echoing his naturalist past. And while his pursuit and chronicling of bird species ranges, his largest contribution has been mostly focused on the Hungarian partridge, or “huns,” a non-native species that is generally agreed upon to be the fastest North American game bird. Few, if any, had learned their elusive ways in the West before Ben, or at least they didn’t tell anyone if they had. “They’re extremely difficult to hunt with dogs. When I first came to Montana the game warden told me that it was impossible to hunt huns, so that pretty much made my mind up for me.” Ben looked the game warden in the eye, and confidently said “I’m gonna learn.” Not only did he learn, but mastered the art, and has taught many others since, earning him the endearing moniker “Mr. Hun.” It even says it on the license plate of his custom-made hunting truck. While chasing huns, as well as quail and grouse of all varieties, Ben has scoured a staggering amount of public land in the West, ranging into Wyoming, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, even into the Midwest and the South to extend the season. “I used to hunt about 250 days a year when I was younger, but I’ve slowed down since then.” Depending on the weather, he’ll hunt close to 100 days this year, all at age 86.

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Enter Walter Oberlin, one of the first to raise Brittany spaniels in the U.S, and a hall of fame breeder as a result. “Originally I wanted a setter, but all Walter had were Brittanys, and though I’d never heard of them, I immediately fell in love with the breed. But I didn’t have enough money to buy one, so instead Walter offered me a job to help train his dogs for field trials. So I took the job, he showed me the ropes, and in the four years I was there probably trained 50 dogs. But I didn’t want to stay in Illinois, I wanted to go west to hunt and fish. Of course everyone objected, but I told them I didn’t care if I was dirt poor forever, I was going to do what I want with my life,” Ben recalled with a sense of confident satisfaction on his face. Go west he did, and as I’ll detail further on, Montana was better for it. Originally destined for a job in Washington state, Ben stopped in Livingston on the way out to fish the Yellowstone River. It hooked him as it has hooked me, and he decided that Washington “was beyond the true West.” So after a brief two year stint in the evergreen state, Ben found his way back to Montana, landing a job as a naturalist in Yellowstone National Park, and has been here ever since. “In Yellowstone I was giving the evening talks on flora and fauna in the park, photographing wildflowers once a week, guiding folks on hikes, and working in the museum. It was a good job, but kind of like the military, and because they wouldn’t let me have my dogs there, I wasn’t going to do that anymore.” So instead Ben got a teaching job at Livingston High School, where over the course of 30 years taught art, biology, shop, architecture, coached basketball and football, and even sculpted the steel statue of the Rangers mascot in front of the school. Despite having retired from teaching, his instructive nature is ever present, best evidenced as he walks the hunting grounds with his hands clasped behind his back, offering palpable disapproval with a subtle “hmh” for shots missed on birds. Between that and the look of disbelief on the dog’s faces, lessons are learned quickly, and shot placement improves. Once a teacher, always a teacher. “The nice thing about teaching was that I’d be done by 4 pm, could be out hunting by 4:15 and go until dark. The first year I did that for

100 days straight and hunted all over this country on both public and private lands. Back then if something wasn’t posted you could hunt it. If it was posted, I’d start knocking on doors and asking if I could run my dogs and look for birds on their property. One guy told me that besides the coyotes and rattlesnakes I’d pretty much have the place to myself,” Ben said with a chuckle. “Within three years everybody in Park County knew about this crazy school teacher in a blue Volkswagen with two dogs that would hunt pretty much every day and night. So I got a reputation for being a bird hunter in Montana.” Presently, Ben’s reputation as a bird hunter reaches far beyond Montana, and I would even go so far to say that he wrote the book on upland hunting in the American West. Actually he’s written 10 and co-authored five, many of which are driven by his fascination and dedication to bird biology, behavior, and the habitat that sustains them, echoing his naturalist past. And while his pursuit and chronicling of bird species ranges, his largest contribution has been mostly focused on the Hungarian partridge, or “huns,” a non-native species that is generally agreed upon to be the fastest North American game bird. Few, if any, had learned their elusive ways in the West before Ben, or at least they didn’t tell anyone if they had. “They’re extremely difficult to hunt with dogs. When I first came to Montana the game warden told me that it was impossible to hunt huns, so that pretty much made my mind up for me.” Ben looked the game warden in the eye, and confidently said “I’m gonna learn.” Not only did he learn, but mastered the art, and has taught many others since, earning him the endearing moniker “Mr. Hun.” It even says it on the license plate of his custom-made hunting truck. While chasing huns, as well as quail and grouse of all varieties, Ben has scoured a staggering amount of public land in the West, ranging into Wyoming, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, even into the Midwest and the South to extend the season. “I used to hunt about 250 days a year when I was younger, but I’ve slowed down since then.” Depending on the weather, he’ll hunt close to 100 days this year, all at age 86.

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Despite being a public lands advocate, Ben also hunts a lot on private land, because sometimes that’s just where the birds are. “I’ve always had a lot of respect for private landowners, and have made some great friends over the years just from knocking on doors, being courteous, and trying to get to know them. I call it kicking gravel. You stop by and have a polite conversation, even if they say no. But there have been plenty of times where they ended up calling a friend or neighbor to see if I could hunt their place instead. It’s all about respect and good stewardship of the land.” Wise words, made even more poignant by our current societal climate of us vs them, right vs left, public vs private. In some cases, Ben’s diplomacy has helped grandfather in his hunting rights on certain private ranches as they changed ownership over the years. But with this privilege comes great responsibility, and Ben does not abuse it. In contrast, he has actually persuaded a few of the more conservation-minded landowners to open their properties to walk-in hunting or block management to help increase access: a perfect example of how the public and private landowners can cooperate for mutual benefit. “I still hunt public land, especially because Montana has so much of it. Our state forests have some of the best blue and ruffed grouse hunting around because it’s high altitude, and that just happens to be where the birds live. But I just don’t walk as much anymore. When I first started, I’d be out at 8 am with my two Brittanys and we’d walk 24 or 25 miles a day. Pretty soon I started to realize that if I got bigger running dogs, I could walk less and cover more ground.” And that right there was the founding principle for the big-running Brittany spaniel bloodlines of Mr. Ben O. Williams. Sourcing a male Brittany from his old pal Walter Oberlin, he started breeding his two females, and over the years has developed a dog that will outrun most, including pointers and setters. I’ve witnessed it first-hand on many occasions, almost needing binoculars to see them in the distance. Which is of course part of the reason that Ben bred them to be mostly white in coat – for visibility. As I said before, it’s just one more thing he’s known for, another feather in an already heavily-plumed hat. “These dogs are a major part of my life. Practically my whole existence now is training and running my bird dogs. I dearly love them, and take care of them as best as I possibly can. They help keep me young too. You might not be crazy at my age to get four puppies, but it sure helps,” his words half broken off by a laugh that only further illustrates his devotion to the dogs. I’ve been fortunate to know a handful of these dogs over the years, my favorite of which is Mary Mary, who has since retired to the coveted rank of house matron. The way Ben tells it, she is fond of me too, remembering that we’ve hunted together. Every time I come to visit, her energy and enthusiasm go through the roof as her nature to hunt kicks in, a reality that is only betrayed by her failing hips.

- 90 -

But you can be damn sure she’s at least riding in the hunting truck with us. Over the years and miles, Ben has also slowed his personal hunting down, focusing instead on the performance of his dogs, and enjoyment of the outdoors. There have been many recent years where he didn’t even shoot a bird, bucking the concept that a good dog is made by a plethora of bagged game. Well not in Ben’s heavily field tested book, and when I asked recently, he told me, “I only take enough birds for the edification of my dogs, and for the glory of the table.” Historically, when he put the shotgun down, he usually picked the camera up, amassing a body of photographic work that is quite broad. Using his knowledge of habitat and bird behavior, Ben was able to capture some breathtaking images in his day, having contributed to most major upland publications out there. There have been a few visits where we did nothing but look through his archive of slide film that showcases Montana “as it used to be” in the classic tones of Fuji Provia. Other times I just tried to convince him to give me one of his dogs, but I don’t hunt enough to run them properly, which is his main discerning factor for finding suitable owners. But that’s just the bird hunting part of Ben’s story, a single facet on a multisided diamond in the ruffed grouse country of southwest Montana. For just about as long as Ben has hunted birds, if not longer, he has been a fly fisherman. Tales of blue ribbon waters were part of what originally drew him out west, so it’s little surprise that upon arrival he quickly immersed himself in the Livingston fly fishing scene, and emerged as a stalwart conservationist. Within the first year of arriving, Ben befriended the late Dan Bailey, another Livingston legend of angling, conservation and public access advocacy. As the friendship forged, along with fly fishing greats like Charlie Waterman, Joe Brooks, and Bud Morris, they held court from Dan’s fly shop downtown. But designing and tying flies, field-testing rods, and chasing trout was not enough for this determined group, so they formed the first working chapter of Trout Unlimited in Montana to instigate some change. By recruiting like-minded anglers and conservationists who visited Dan Bailey’s fly shop, membership quickly grew from five to 50. As soon as those membership numbers were up, they aspired to create another four chapters to qualify as a state council. So after contacting cohorts in Butte, Helena, Lewistown, and Kalispell, the chapters were formed, and the state council was legitimized. Their mission was accomplished, but the real battle was about to begin. Let me preface this by saying that the historical narrative I’m about to unfurl is an exercise in brevity, as both situations have a long and complex history spanning many years, have heroes and villains on both sides, and is more than I can detail in this already waning story. Both acts of legislation deserve tales of their own, being still

- 91 -


Despite being a public lands advocate, Ben also hunts a lot on private land, because sometimes that’s just where the birds are. “I’ve always had a lot of respect for private landowners, and have made some great friends over the years just from knocking on doors, being courteous, and trying to get to know them. I call it kicking gravel. You stop by and have a polite conversation, even if they say no. But there have been plenty of times where they ended up calling a friend or neighbor to see if I could hunt their place instead. It’s all about respect and good stewardship of the land.” Wise words, made even more poignant by our current societal climate of us vs them, right vs left, public vs private. In some cases, Ben’s diplomacy has helped grandfather in his hunting rights on certain private ranches as they changed ownership over the years. But with this privilege comes great responsibility, and Ben does not abuse it. In contrast, he has actually persuaded a few of the more conservation-minded landowners to open their properties to walk-in hunting or block management to help increase access: a perfect example of how the public and private landowners can cooperate for mutual benefit. “I still hunt public land, especially because Montana has so much of it. Our state forests have some of the best blue and ruffed grouse hunting around because it’s high altitude, and that just happens to be where the birds live. But I just don’t walk as much anymore. When I first started, I’d be out at 8 am with my two Brittanys and we’d walk 24 or 25 miles a day. Pretty soon I started to realize that if I got bigger running dogs, I could walk less and cover more ground.” And that right there was the founding principle for the big-running Brittany spaniel bloodlines of Mr. Ben O. Williams. Sourcing a male Brittany from his old pal Walter Oberlin, he started breeding his two females, and over the years has developed a dog that will outrun most, including pointers and setters. I’ve witnessed it first-hand on many occasions, almost needing binoculars to see them in the distance. Which is of course part of the reason that Ben bred them to be mostly white in coat – for visibility. As I said before, it’s just one more thing he’s known for, another feather in an already heavily-plumed hat. “These dogs are a major part of my life. Practically my whole existence now is training and running my bird dogs. I dearly love them, and take care of them as best as I possibly can. They help keep me young too. You might not be crazy at my age to get four puppies, but it sure helps,” his words half broken off by a laugh that only further illustrates his devotion to the dogs. I’ve been fortunate to know a handful of these dogs over the years, my favorite of which is Mary Mary, who has since retired to the coveted rank of house matron. The way Ben tells it, she is fond of me too, remembering that we’ve hunted together. Every time I come to visit, her energy and enthusiasm go through the roof as her nature to hunt kicks in, a reality that is only betrayed by her failing hips.

- 90 -

But you can be damn sure she’s at least riding in the hunting truck with us. Over the years and miles, Ben has also slowed his personal hunting down, focusing instead on the performance of his dogs, and enjoyment of the outdoors. There have been many recent years where he didn’t even shoot a bird, bucking the concept that a good dog is made by a plethora of bagged game. Well not in Ben’s heavily field tested book, and when I asked recently, he told me, “I only take enough birds for the edification of my dogs, and for the glory of the table.” Historically, when he put the shotgun down, he usually picked the camera up, amassing a body of photographic work that is quite broad. Using his knowledge of habitat and bird behavior, Ben was able to capture some breathtaking images in his day, having contributed to most major upland publications out there. There have been a few visits where we did nothing but look through his archive of slide film that showcases Montana “as it used to be” in the classic tones of Fuji Provia. Other times I just tried to convince him to give me one of his dogs, but I don’t hunt enough to run them properly, which is his main discerning factor for finding suitable owners. But that’s just the bird hunting part of Ben’s story, a single facet on a multisided diamond in the ruffed grouse country of southwest Montana. For just about as long as Ben has hunted birds, if not longer, he has been a fly fisherman. Tales of blue ribbon waters were part of what originally drew him out west, so it’s little surprise that upon arrival he quickly immersed himself in the Livingston fly fishing scene, and emerged as a stalwart conservationist. Within the first year of arriving, Ben befriended the late Dan Bailey, another Livingston legend of angling, conservation and public access advocacy. As the friendship forged, along with fly fishing greats like Charlie Waterman, Joe Brooks, and Bud Morris, they held court from Dan’s fly shop downtown. But designing and tying flies, field-testing rods, and chasing trout was not enough for this determined group, so they formed the first working chapter of Trout Unlimited in Montana to instigate some change. By recruiting like-minded anglers and conservationists who visited Dan Bailey’s fly shop, membership quickly grew from five to 50. As soon as those membership numbers were up, they aspired to create another four chapters to qualify as a state council. So after contacting cohorts in Butte, Helena, Lewistown, and Kalispell, the chapters were formed, and the state council was legitimized. Their mission was accomplished, but the real battle was about to begin. Let me preface this by saying that the historical narrative I’m about to unfurl is an exercise in brevity, as both situations have a long and complex history spanning many years, have heroes and villains on both sides, and is more than I can detail in this already waning story. Both acts of legislation deserve tales of their own, being still

- 91 -


contested to this day, but for the purposes of keeping the focus on Ben’s philosophy and legacy of conservation, I’ll try to summarize this complex story, and the implications it left behind. To remove the shroud, I’m referring to the designation of the AbsarokaBeartooth Wilderness in 1975 and the Stream Access Bill of 1985, both of which were caringly forged long before those dates. “The whole point of us creating a Montana state council for Trout Unlimited was so we could help influence things like the Stream Access Bill and the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness designation, which was a lot of work. I remember sitting in a room with Dan Bailey, Joe Holderman, Bob Anderson, and Joe Gobb, who was the Game Warden at the time. We got out a big map, drew the borders around the area we thought should be wilderness, then took it to Lee Metcalf, one of our Senators at the time, and asked that he introduce it as a bill. Besides Trout Unlimited, we got other organizations like Sierra Club, Wilderness Society and a few others to write in and sponsor the bill. It took years, and there was some opposition for sure, but it finally went through shortly after Lee Metcalf passed away. I mean you want to talk about public lands, it’s 944,000 acres, one of the largest wilderness designations in Montana’s history!” Ben recalled, even pulling a few books from his quaint but well-stocked office library for reference. “You know, there’s only so much land, and it’s not likely something like that would pass today. But we’ve got to protect every single piece of our public land, because in most cases once land goes private it’s gone forever. Of course there are some private landowners who are very supportive of public lands and even allow block management, but we’ve still got to remain vigilant. The population in the West is growing, and people need to remember that public lands are not just for hunting but they’re also for skiing, hiking, horseback riding, and climbing. Those people need to do their part to protect these public lands too.” Ben took a deep breath, satisfied with his informed diatribe, then steam rolled ahead. “It’s like the Stream Access Bill that we got passed, which basically

- 92 -

allows anyone to float the Montana rivers or walk below the highwater mark freely. I mean nobody should own rivers, and we felt that it was really important for people to have access to our waters. A lot of states have tried to do it, and people are still fighting the bill today because ranch owners thought that folks were going to be walking their irrigation ditches and trespassing. Unfortunately some people do abuse the law, but it goes both ways. A lot of rich people were buying up land, saying that it was their stream, and were denying access or harassing anglers. That’s certainly not right, but it’s really important to respect the private landowners’ rights too.” The Stream Access Bill was a major win for the concerted group efforts of the Trout Unlimited chapters in Montana, with noted contributions from Butte fly fishermen Tom Bugni, Tony Schoonan, and the late Jerry Manley. Despite numerous challenges the law has faced over the decades, it still stands, which is a testament to the strength of the original case and Montana’s belief in public access rights. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t conflicts between private landowners who seek to thwart access and public anglers who abuse the privilege. Regardless, it is a fascinating odyssey that toes the most complex line of what we as the public have a right to do, and what is held as forbidden ground through private ownership. To Ben it’s a mix of both, bolstered with a healthy dose of respect, and often guided by where the birds are. His approach of discerning the merits of public and private land is admirable, especially exemplified by his uncanny ability to navigate both, and even bring them to the same table at times. To me it seems a much more sensible and pragmatic approach, and one that shines brightly amidst a world of opposing forces, would be strong-armings, and heated conflicts. And though Ben’s activist days may be done, having already aided two of the largest public access wins in Montana’s history, you can be sure he’s still got his ear to the ground and his beloved dogs’ noses to the wind. Because a man who’s walked as many miles as he has in this country stays connected to the fate of the land.


contested to this day, but for the purposes of keeping the focus on Ben’s philosophy and legacy of conservation, I’ll try to summarize this complex story, and the implications it left behind. To remove the shroud, I’m referring to the designation of the AbsarokaBeartooth Wilderness in 1975 and the Stream Access Bill of 1985, both of which were caringly forged long before those dates. “The whole point of us creating a Montana state council for Trout Unlimited was so we could help influence things like the Stream Access Bill and the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness designation, which was a lot of work. I remember sitting in a room with Dan Bailey, Joe Holderman, Bob Anderson, and Joe Gobb, who was the Game Warden at the time. We got out a big map, drew the borders around the area we thought should be wilderness, then took it to Lee Metcalf, one of our Senators at the time, and asked that he introduce it as a bill. Besides Trout Unlimited, we got other organizations like Sierra Club, Wilderness Society and a few others to write in and sponsor the bill. It took years, and there was some opposition for sure, but it finally went through shortly after Lee Metcalf passed away. I mean you want to talk about public lands, it’s 944,000 acres, one of the largest wilderness designations in Montana’s history!” Ben recalled, even pulling a few books from his quaint but well-stocked office library for reference. “You know, there’s only so much land, and it’s not likely something like that would pass today. But we’ve got to protect every single piece of our public land, because in most cases once land goes private it’s gone forever. Of course there are some private landowners who are very supportive of public lands and even allow block management, but we’ve still got to remain vigilant. The population in the West is growing, and people need to remember that public lands are not just for hunting but they’re also for skiing, hiking, horseback riding, and climbing. Those people need to do their part to protect these public lands too.” Ben took a deep breath, satisfied with his informed diatribe, then steam rolled ahead. “It’s like the Stream Access Bill that we got passed, which basically

- 92 -

allows anyone to float the Montana rivers or walk below the highwater mark freely. I mean nobody should own rivers, and we felt that it was really important for people to have access to our waters. A lot of states have tried to do it, and people are still fighting the bill today because ranch owners thought that folks were going to be walking their irrigation ditches and trespassing. Unfortunately some people do abuse the law, but it goes both ways. A lot of rich people were buying up land, saying that it was their stream, and were denying access or harassing anglers. That’s certainly not right, but it’s really important to respect the private landowners’ rights too.” The Stream Access Bill was a major win for the concerted group efforts of the Trout Unlimited chapters in Montana, with noted contributions from Butte fly fishermen Tom Bugni, Tony Schoonan, and the late Jerry Manley. Despite numerous challenges the law has faced over the decades, it still stands, which is a testament to the strength of the original case and Montana’s belief in public access rights. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t conflicts between private landowners who seek to thwart access and public anglers who abuse the privilege. Regardless, it is a fascinating odyssey that toes the most complex line of what we as the public have a right to do, and what is held as forbidden ground through private ownership. To Ben it’s a mix of both, bolstered with a healthy dose of respect, and often guided by where the birds are. His approach of discerning the merits of public and private land is admirable, especially exemplified by his uncanny ability to navigate both, and even bring them to the same table at times. To me it seems a much more sensible and pragmatic approach, and one that shines brightly amidst a world of opposing forces, would be strong-armings, and heated conflicts. And though Ben’s activist days may be done, having already aided two of the largest public access wins in Montana’s history, you can be sure he’s still got his ear to the ground and his beloved dogs’ noses to the wind. Because a man who’s walked as many miles as he has in this country stays connected to the fate of the land.


OUR LAND STORY BY

BRAD CHRISTIAN STEVEN DRAKE

PHOTOGRAPHY BY

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- 95 -


OUR LAND STORY BY

BRAD CHRISTIAN STEVEN DRAKE

PHOTOGRAPHY BY

- 94 -

- 95 -


“I like to play indoors better ‘cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are.” -4TH GR AD E STUD ENT, SAN D IEGO, CA “L AST C HILD IN THE WOOD S”

I

’m fascinated by technology. I waited hours in line for the release of the first iPhone and I upgrade every year. I’m a power user of AI and may wear Google glasses one day at the risk of getting harassed. That being said, I also live deeply connected with the natural world on the side of a river in the heart of Montana and regularly venture far beyond. While I’m required to spend a good bit of my life on the grid, I am most alive while removed from it. Living in the wild brings out the essence of who I am. It is my core. I feel most free, most essentially me when the cord has been cut. When WiFi fades and LTE quits, a massive weight is lifted from my shoulders; a weight I don’t notice most of the time that I surely wasn’t meant to carry. It’s as if I’ve removed a pack from my shoulders full of rocks that others had secretly placed inside as a joke. The wilderness forces simplicity. It narrows my focus on life’s most basic needs — to eat, drink, and stay alive. In the wild I experience a deep reverence for life, the ecosystem, my truest self, and their interconnectedness. I remember the fact that life begets and sustains life. My exposure to the elements humbles me and sometimes humiliates me. In the presence of vast mountain ranges I feel small and that’s a valued lesson in a world that promotes big dog wins. The majesty of God’s creation inspires me and the crack of thunder, roar of a raging storm or cry of a wild animal awe me. It is in their presence I feel purpose and find answers to questions I didn’t know I was asking. It is in the wild that I find my why. My lifestyle is possible because of public lands and I’ve often imagined what life would be like if such precious space were inaccessible — the feeling is daunting. My mental, physical, and spiritual health depend on my connectedness to these wild places and I can’t imagine a life absent of the bugle of a rutting bull elk, the joy of harvesting clean meat or the simple pleasure of observing rare birds. My epiphany in those moments is as significant as old prospectors striking gold.

- 96 -

As a boy, my dad told me we owned the public land around our home. I was fired up. From the humble public park to the National Park, we owned it all. I was an heir to an amazing fortune! None of my friends understood how rich we were. Admittedly, I was a little confused, but I was willing to share “our” land. As I got older, he explained that we owned it with other people who’d also been paying for it through federal and state payroll deductions. And he said we all stood on the shoulders of those who preceded us, like the many native American tribes and later John Muir, Ansel Adams, and Teddy Roosevelt. No paths we walked were untrod. He then educated me and my siblings about the meaning and responsibility of our rights of ownership. It was held in trust. That trust encompassed a promissory note that while we use it in our lifetimes, it is necessary that we leave it better than we found it. But the future of our public land is in jeopardy. There are currently more than 9 million acres of U.S. public land that are landlocked by private owners. I don’t know about you, but I want our land back. It’s land we own — paid for by us and generations before of hard-working taxpayers — and now it’s as inaccessible to us as Fort Knox. The gates are locked. It’s like we’ve all pooled a percentage of our paychecks to buy a resort, only to find it posted with “No Trespassing” signs. Sadly, not many people notice or even care it’s gone missing. The events of my childhood shaped my worldview. My adventures on public land since then have cultivated a deep love of wilderness. My literal perspective on ownership taught me to protect them. As humans, we innately guard the things we love and own. If you don’t believe me, try and take a child’s XBOX and see how it goes. If we love this land and want it to endure, we must give our children the same experiences that caused us to care so deeply. We must usher them into these wild places so they might care, or even notice, if they go missing.


“I like to play indoors better ‘cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are.” -4TH GR AD E STUD ENT, SAN D IEGO, CA “L AST C HILD IN THE WOOD S”

I

’m fascinated by technology. I waited hours in line for the release of the first iPhone and I upgrade every year. I’m a power user of AI and may wear Google glasses one day at the risk of getting harassed. That being said, I also live deeply connected with the natural world on the side of a river in the heart of Montana and regularly venture far beyond. While I’m required to spend a good bit of my life on the grid, I am most alive while removed from it. Living in the wild brings out the essence of who I am. It is my core. I feel most free, most essentially me when the cord has been cut. When WiFi fades and LTE quits, a massive weight is lifted from my shoulders; a weight I don’t notice most of the time that I surely wasn’t meant to carry. It’s as if I’ve removed a pack from my shoulders full of rocks that others had secretly placed inside as a joke. The wilderness forces simplicity. It narrows my focus on life’s most basic needs — to eat, drink, and stay alive. In the wild I experience a deep reverence for life, the ecosystem, my truest self, and their interconnectedness. I remember the fact that life begets and sustains life. My exposure to the elements humbles me and sometimes humiliates me. In the presence of vast mountain ranges I feel small and that’s a valued lesson in a world that promotes big dog wins. The majesty of God’s creation inspires me and the crack of thunder, roar of a raging storm or cry of a wild animal awe me. It is in their presence I feel purpose and find answers to questions I didn’t know I was asking. It is in the wild that I find my why. My lifestyle is possible because of public lands and I’ve often imagined what life would be like if such precious space were inaccessible — the feeling is daunting. My mental, physical, and spiritual health depend on my connectedness to these wild places and I can’t imagine a life absent of the bugle of a rutting bull elk, the joy of harvesting clean meat or the simple pleasure of observing rare birds. My epiphany in those moments is as significant as old prospectors striking gold.

- 96 -

As a boy, my dad told me we owned the public land around our home. I was fired up. From the humble public park to the National Park, we owned it all. I was an heir to an amazing fortune! None of my friends understood how rich we were. Admittedly, I was a little confused, but I was willing to share “our” land. As I got older, he explained that we owned it with other people who’d also been paying for it through federal and state payroll deductions. And he said we all stood on the shoulders of those who preceded us, like the many native American tribes and later John Muir, Ansel Adams, and Teddy Roosevelt. No paths we walked were untrod. He then educated me and my siblings about the meaning and responsibility of our rights of ownership. It was held in trust. That trust encompassed a promissory note that while we use it in our lifetimes, it is necessary that we leave it better than we found it. But the future of our public land is in jeopardy. There are currently more than 9 million acres of U.S. public land that are landlocked by private owners. I don’t know about you, but I want our land back. It’s land we own — paid for by us and generations before of hard-working taxpayers — and now it’s as inaccessible to us as Fort Knox. The gates are locked. It’s like we’ve all pooled a percentage of our paychecks to buy a resort, only to find it posted with “No Trespassing” signs. Sadly, not many people notice or even care it’s gone missing. The events of my childhood shaped my worldview. My adventures on public land since then have cultivated a deep love of wilderness. My literal perspective on ownership taught me to protect them. As humans, we innately guard the things we love and own. If you don’t believe me, try and take a child’s XBOX and see how it goes. If we love this land and want it to endure, we must give our children the same experiences that caused us to care so deeply. We must usher them into these wild places so they might care, or even notice, if they go missing.


“In the presence of vast mountain ranges, I feel small. And that’s often a good lesson in a world that teaches you the big dog wins.” BR AD C HR ISTIAN

- 98 -

- 99 -


“In the presence of vast mountain ranges, I feel small. And that’s often a good lesson in a world that teaches you the big dog wins.” BR AD C HR ISTIAN

- 98 -

- 99 -


Go for a Hike, Give a Damn. STORY BY

GREG PETERS

T

he rod bent and shuddered. I jerked it haphazardly, totally unprepared for a fish on my first cast. When does that happen? Forcing calmness, I put my hand on the reel, watching the bright green line zag through the crystal water. Slowly, I brought the glistening cutthroat trout closer to the multi-hued cobble bank. It wasn’t a big fish, and I gently released it back into the current. Pausing, I looked up from the river at the mountains that surrounded me. Draped in dark green spruce and fir trees, the slopes pushed into dark gray skies for miles and miles. I felt the right kind of small.

Of course, numbers don’t tell the whole story of our National Forests. All of America’s public lands are vast, empowering, and welcoming. I would argue that none are more so than our National Forests.

I cast a second time and within moments, another cutty hit my fly. I’d never had such good luck fishing and I relished it. My buddies and I were in the middle of a five-day packrafting trip through Montana’s famed Bob Marshall Wilderness. We’d needed no permit, had no schedule beyond getting home for our first day back at work, and we were alone in one of the wildest places you can be. The ginclear South Fork of the Flathead River provided our route through the wilderness and, as it turned out, the opportunity to catch a fish on nearly every cast. Between the magic of river time, the sprawling scenery, and the unparalleled fishing, there wasn’t anywhere else we wanted to be.

The NFF works hard to bring more Americans into the National Forest fold. And we work hard to improve these landscapes for the communities, both human and natural, who rely on healthy forests, clean water, and open spaces. We raise funds that heal our forests and restore our trails. We plant trees after fires and insect outbreaks. We improve watersheds that provide life’s most precious resource to homes and for agriculture and industry. We work for the forests and the wildlife, but also for the hunters, hikers, anglers, skiers, climbers, photographers, and families who spend their weekends and vacations stalking their prey: whether a full-curl ram, a ten pound rainbow, a perfect send, a desktop worthy photo, or a cherished memory. We encourage you to enjoy your forests — and to help them. Plant a tree. Take a hike. Bag a peak. Catch a fish. Capture the perfect sunset. Give a damn. These lands are ours and they need us, today, tomorrow, and forever. Learn more about “The People’s Lands” at www.nationalforests.org.

The “Bob” is part of the Flathead National Forest, which is, in turn, part of the 193-million-acre National Forest System. These lands stretch from Alaska to Florida and host some of the best recreational opportunities, wildlife habitat, and scenic vistas in the world. The numbers speak for themselves: more than 5,000 campgrounds, 158,000 miles of trails, 4,400 miles of streams and rivers, 122 ski resorts, 3,000 species of animals and 80 percent of the big-game habitat in the U.S.

As the Communications Director of the National Forest Foundation, a congressionally chartered nonprofit partner of the U.S. Forest Service, I’ve been preaching the values our National Forests provide for nearly a decade. I’ve also been sharing the challenges these lands face every day from climate change, wildfires, and a complicated management legacy.

G R E G P E T E R S is the Communications Director at the @nationalforests Foundation. When he’s not lost in a mountain of paperwork, he’s probably lost in the actual mountains of Montana. @GREGMPETERS / GREGMPETERS.com

NATIONALFORESTS .ORG - 100 -

- 101 -


Go for a Hike, Give a Damn. STORY BY

GREG PETERS

T

he rod bent and shuddered. I jerked it haphazardly, totally unprepared for a fish on my first cast. When does that happen? Forcing calmness, I put my hand on the reel, watching the bright green line zag through the crystal water. Slowly, I brought the glistening cutthroat trout closer to the multi-hued cobble bank. It wasn’t a big fish, and I gently released it back into the current. Pausing, I looked up from the river at the mountains that surrounded me. Draped in dark green spruce and fir trees, the slopes pushed into dark gray skies for miles and miles. I felt the right kind of small.

Of course, numbers don’t tell the whole story of our National Forests. All of America’s public lands are vast, empowering, and welcoming. I would argue that none are more so than our National Forests.

I cast a second time and within moments, another cutty hit my fly. I’d never had such good luck fishing and I relished it. My buddies and I were in the middle of a five-day packrafting trip through Montana’s famed Bob Marshall Wilderness. We’d needed no permit, had no schedule beyond getting home for our first day back at work, and we were alone in one of the wildest places you can be. The ginclear South Fork of the Flathead River provided our route through the wilderness and, as it turned out, the opportunity to catch a fish on nearly every cast. Between the magic of river time, the sprawling scenery, and the unparalleled fishing, there wasn’t anywhere else we wanted to be.

The NFF works hard to bring more Americans into the National Forest fold. And we work hard to improve these landscapes for the communities, both human and natural, who rely on healthy forests, clean water, and open spaces. We raise funds that heal our forests and restore our trails. We plant trees after fires and insect outbreaks. We improve watersheds that provide life’s most precious resource to homes and for agriculture and industry. We work for the forests and the wildlife, but also for the hunters, hikers, anglers, skiers, climbers, photographers, and families who spend their weekends and vacations stalking their prey: whether a full-curl ram, a ten pound rainbow, a perfect send, a desktop worthy photo, or a cherished memory. We encourage you to enjoy your forests — and to help them. Plant a tree. Take a hike. Bag a peak. Catch a fish. Capture the perfect sunset. Give a damn. These lands are ours and they need us, today, tomorrow, and forever. Learn more about “The People’s Lands” at www.nationalforests.org.

The “Bob” is part of the Flathead National Forest, which is, in turn, part of the 193-million-acre National Forest System. These lands stretch from Alaska to Florida and host some of the best recreational opportunities, wildlife habitat, and scenic vistas in the world. The numbers speak for themselves: more than 5,000 campgrounds, 158,000 miles of trails, 4,400 miles of streams and rivers, 122 ski resorts, 3,000 species of animals and 80 percent of the big-game habitat in the U.S.

As the Communications Director of the National Forest Foundation, a congressionally chartered nonprofit partner of the U.S. Forest Service, I’ve been preaching the values our National Forests provide for nearly a decade. I’ve also been sharing the challenges these lands face every day from climate change, wildfires, and a complicated management legacy.

G R E G P E T E R S is the Communications Director at the @nationalforests Foundation. When he’s not lost in a mountain of paperwork, he’s probably lost in the actual mountains of Montana. @GREGMPETERS / GREGMPETERS.com

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CITIZEN SCIENCE STORY BY

LINDSEY ELLIOTT CAMRIN DENGEL

PHOTOGRAPHY BY

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CITIZEN SCIENCE STORY BY

LINDSEY ELLIOTT CAMRIN DENGEL

PHOTOGRAPHY BY

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I

am a first-generation female hunter. I live in a city and spend the majority of my days in an office as the CEO of an online marketplace for outdoor women called Wylder. I could be defined by many different outdoor pursuits including biking, fishing, climbing, and rafting. I care deeply about food systems and ecosystem health — so much that I wrote my thesis in 2009 on genetically modified organisms, biodiversity, and the global food supply. Learning the intersections of natural resource management, food systems, wildlife and culture has been and will continue to be a lifelong passion of mine. Turning into a hunter is one of the greatest surprises of my life. Since I was 13, I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to eat meat, including abstaining, being a locavore, harvesting roadkill, raising and butchering my own animals, and eventually hunting big game in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah. I’ve spent the majority of the last decade realizing stewardship through my own hands, learning holistic land management and permaculture, building a home off the grid, and practicing habitat restoration and conservation at the community scale. Living in an urban area now after years of a different pace and way of living is another great surprise. I would love to paint a romantic picture of the scenic cabin I’m writing from, but the reality is that my home is in a densely populated urban area, with construction and bad air quality, in Salt Lake City, Utah. This is a unique place. Salt Lake sits in a mountain valley, with the Uinta-Wasatch Cache National Forest wrapping the northeast and eastern sides. Settled in the valley and along the Wasatch Front are nearly two million people who call it home, and depend on its public lands, natural resources, and living systems. Out of

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anywhere in the country, the Wasatch-Cache is the most recreated National Forest, seeing nine million visitors annually. That’s four million more than all of the National Parks in Utah combined, with six million of these visitors coming from the Salt Lake Valley. Residents of Salt Lake rely on the seven streams coming out of the Wasatch for all of our drinking water. While being the driest, Utah is the tenth most biologically diverse state in the country, known amongst scientists as a stronghold for endemic biological diversity. Our isolated mountain ranges due to giant swathes of desert, create species differentiation and limited breeding capabilities, especially in plants, which lends itself to this diversity. The Wasatch front, where the city meets the National Forest, is one of the most prominent wildlife to urban interfaces in the US, where human impact meets intact ecosystems. For the last three months I’ve been participating in a citizen science study called Wasatch Wildlife Watch. It is a mammal camera trapping project directed by the University of Utah Biodiversity and Conservation Ecology Lab, the Wild Utah Project, the Natural History Museum of Utah, the Department of Wildlife Resources, Salt Lake City Parks and Public Lands and the US Forest Service. The goal of the study is to measure how wildlife activity is affected by human traffic and development, and enact conservation strategies based on key habitat areas found throughout the region. I am one of over 75 volunteers collectively monitoring non-invasive, motion sensored cameras at over 200 locations throughout the Wasatch. This is what conservation across a mountain range looks like. Of this group of volunteers, 40 percent are hunters. The lead biologist for the project told me hunters are a uniquely capable and pre-trained group, already aware of camera traps, and one of the most dedicated groups for conservation and the protection of

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I

am a first-generation female hunter. I live in a city and spend the majority of my days in an office as the CEO of an online marketplace for outdoor women called Wylder. I could be defined by many different outdoor pursuits including biking, fishing, climbing, and rafting. I care deeply about food systems and ecosystem health — so much that I wrote my thesis in 2009 on genetically modified organisms, biodiversity, and the global food supply. Learning the intersections of natural resource management, food systems, wildlife and culture has been and will continue to be a lifelong passion of mine. Turning into a hunter is one of the greatest surprises of my life. Since I was 13, I’ve been trying to figure out the best way to eat meat, including abstaining, being a locavore, harvesting roadkill, raising and butchering my own animals, and eventually hunting big game in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah. I’ve spent the majority of the last decade realizing stewardship through my own hands, learning holistic land management and permaculture, building a home off the grid, and practicing habitat restoration and conservation at the community scale. Living in an urban area now after years of a different pace and way of living is another great surprise. I would love to paint a romantic picture of the scenic cabin I’m writing from, but the reality is that my home is in a densely populated urban area, with construction and bad air quality, in Salt Lake City, Utah. This is a unique place. Salt Lake sits in a mountain valley, with the Uinta-Wasatch Cache National Forest wrapping the northeast and eastern sides. Settled in the valley and along the Wasatch Front are nearly two million people who call it home, and depend on its public lands, natural resources, and living systems. Out of

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anywhere in the country, the Wasatch-Cache is the most recreated National Forest, seeing nine million visitors annually. That’s four million more than all of the National Parks in Utah combined, with six million of these visitors coming from the Salt Lake Valley. Residents of Salt Lake rely on the seven streams coming out of the Wasatch for all of our drinking water. While being the driest, Utah is the tenth most biologically diverse state in the country, known amongst scientists as a stronghold for endemic biological diversity. Our isolated mountain ranges due to giant swathes of desert, create species differentiation and limited breeding capabilities, especially in plants, which lends itself to this diversity. The Wasatch front, where the city meets the National Forest, is one of the most prominent wildlife to urban interfaces in the US, where human impact meets intact ecosystems. For the last three months I’ve been participating in a citizen science study called Wasatch Wildlife Watch. It is a mammal camera trapping project directed by the University of Utah Biodiversity and Conservation Ecology Lab, the Wild Utah Project, the Natural History Museum of Utah, the Department of Wildlife Resources, Salt Lake City Parks and Public Lands and the US Forest Service. The goal of the study is to measure how wildlife activity is affected by human traffic and development, and enact conservation strategies based on key habitat areas found throughout the region. I am one of over 75 volunteers collectively monitoring non-invasive, motion sensored cameras at over 200 locations throughout the Wasatch. This is what conservation across a mountain range looks like. Of this group of volunteers, 40 percent are hunters. The lead biologist for the project told me hunters are a uniquely capable and pre-trained group, already aware of camera traps, and one of the most dedicated groups for conservation and the protection of

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public lands. Getting to know the progressive hunting community over the last few years, I agree and am becoming proud to call this my community. Citizen science and camera trapping are incredible tools for collecting data. By training and equipping the public, scientists can execute a research study with an incredible amount of latitude, and realize conservation at a much larger scale. The cameras allow us to monitor animals in their natural state, and get fine scale data with high levels of confidence. This allows biologists to create habitat profiles for each species and identify pockets of high occurrence, along with habitat pinch points throughout the canyons of the Wasatch. We know the obvious: roads, ski resorts, trails and high use areas disturb animal’s ability to move freely throughout the ecosystem. What we’re learning, is that when human activity is high, animals can change their behavior profiles. A recent BYU study concluded that there is a noticeable difference in animal behavior on weekends in the Wasatch Mountains, specifically in deer, elk and moose. Known as the “weekend effect,” these animals will be active for a certain amount of time during the week and then on Saturday and Sunday, become active during different parts of the day. This leads to new overlap in the ecosystem between species, shorter feeding hours, and more competition. Conclusively, animal activity patterns are changing in response to human traffic. Though no one here likes to admit it, increased recreation presence and development in the Wasatch is inevitable. The hope of the Wasatch Wildlife Watch study is to provide management agencies with wildlife data for strategic development in the region. With the cameras, we can identify areas of high species density and advocate for their protection and connectivity, while focusing development where there is less species persistence. A healthy population relies on genetic diversity, and the ability to breed with other groups. Individual variation makes animals capable of withstanding the stressors of their environment, including disease. Connectivity is one of the biggest ways animals cope with pressure. In order to prolong the health of these populations, there has to be dispersal between them, by way of strategic corridors between key habitat areas. With the human population and impact only increasing, it is critical we focus our efforts on habitat connectivity.

There is a long-standing debate amongst recreationalists about whose impact is more detrimental to wildlife and ecosystem health. Historically, the literal ‘taking’ of animals and fish by hunters and anglers has received the most attention, and precipitated increased conservation efforts. In 1937, the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, most often referred to as the Pittman–Robertson Act was created to tax tags, licences, and hunting, angling, and archery equipment to provide funds to each state to better manage animals and habitat. Prior to the creation of the PR Act, many species of wildlife were driven near or to extinction due to hunting pressure and habitat degradation from humans. The money collected goes to research, surveys, management of wildlife and habitat, and the acquisition of land. With nearly two billion dollars generated from this tax, there have been some incredible successes in habitat improvement. Notably, white-tailed deer populations have recovered and expanded, along with American black bears, elk, and cougars being able to expand their ranges. In Utah, the funds generated from hunting tags alone are the primary source of income for the Department of Wildlife Resources’ conservation budget, besides state funding. To this day, there is no tax on ski passes, mountain bikes, backcountry permits, or climbing equipment funding conservation. The excise tax on hunters and anglers is justified because of the ‘consumptive’ nature of the activity. But what if we looked at our impact differently? What if hikers, bikers, skiers, and ultramarathoners knew that our recreation presence changed the patterns of wildlife so much that some diurnal ungulates were shifting to nocturnal feeding patterns? We might be practicing Leave No Trace, but our presence has a measured effect on animal behavior. Through this study, I am beginning to understand hunting as a vehicle to healing landscapes and managing populations. What if skiers, climbers, and bikers were given the same opportunity? In a time where the defense of our public lands is bringing historically isolated recreation groups together, can we consider a unified perspective when it comes to our impact on ecosystems and wildlife? Could we pull the viewfinder open, and create a broader recreational effort for the management of our public lands, and bridge recreational impact and biodiversity? For more information or to get involved in Citizen Science, please visit: emammal.si.edu and www.zooniverse.org

L I N D S E Y E L L I O T T is an advocate

C A M R I N D E N G E L is a lifestyle

for ecological and social change, and a life-long outdoorswoman from the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. She is the co-founder and CEO of Wylder - the online marketplace for the modern outdoorswoman.

photographer living in rural Idaho. Originally from Alaska, her work focuses on life in wild places and is threaded with themes of selfsufficiency and of returning to our roots.

@LINDSEY. A .ELLIOTT WYLDERGOODS.COM

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@CAMRINDENGEL CAMRINDENGEL.COM

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public lands. Getting to know the progressive hunting community over the last few years, I agree and am becoming proud to call this my community. Citizen science and camera trapping are incredible tools for collecting data. By training and equipping the public, scientists can execute a research study with an incredible amount of latitude, and realize conservation at a much larger scale. The cameras allow us to monitor animals in their natural state, and get fine scale data with high levels of confidence. This allows biologists to create habitat profiles for each species and identify pockets of high occurrence, along with habitat pinch points throughout the canyons of the Wasatch. We know the obvious: roads, ski resorts, trails and high use areas disturb animal’s ability to move freely throughout the ecosystem. What we’re learning, is that when human activity is high, animals can change their behavior profiles. A recent BYU study concluded that there is a noticeable difference in animal behavior on weekends in the Wasatch Mountains, specifically in deer, elk and moose. Known as the “weekend effect,” these animals will be active for a certain amount of time during the week and then on Saturday and Sunday, become active during different parts of the day. This leads to new overlap in the ecosystem between species, shorter feeding hours, and more competition. Conclusively, animal activity patterns are changing in response to human traffic. Though no one here likes to admit it, increased recreation presence and development in the Wasatch is inevitable. The hope of the Wasatch Wildlife Watch study is to provide management agencies with wildlife data for strategic development in the region. With the cameras, we can identify areas of high species density and advocate for their protection and connectivity, while focusing development where there is less species persistence. A healthy population relies on genetic diversity, and the ability to breed with other groups. Individual variation makes animals capable of withstanding the stressors of their environment, including disease. Connectivity is one of the biggest ways animals cope with pressure. In order to prolong the health of these populations, there has to be dispersal between them, by way of strategic corridors between key habitat areas. With the human population and impact only increasing, it is critical we focus our efforts on habitat connectivity.

There is a long-standing debate amongst recreationalists about whose impact is more detrimental to wildlife and ecosystem health. Historically, the literal ‘taking’ of animals and fish by hunters and anglers has received the most attention, and precipitated increased conservation efforts. In 1937, the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, most often referred to as the Pittman–Robertson Act was created to tax tags, licences, and hunting, angling, and archery equipment to provide funds to each state to better manage animals and habitat. Prior to the creation of the PR Act, many species of wildlife were driven near or to extinction due to hunting pressure and habitat degradation from humans. The money collected goes to research, surveys, management of wildlife and habitat, and the acquisition of land. With nearly two billion dollars generated from this tax, there have been some incredible successes in habitat improvement. Notably, white-tailed deer populations have recovered and expanded, along with American black bears, elk, and cougars being able to expand their ranges. In Utah, the funds generated from hunting tags alone are the primary source of income for the Department of Wildlife Resources’ conservation budget, besides state funding. To this day, there is no tax on ski passes, mountain bikes, backcountry permits, or climbing equipment funding conservation. The excise tax on hunters and anglers is justified because of the ‘consumptive’ nature of the activity. But what if we looked at our impact differently? What if hikers, bikers, skiers, and ultramarathoners knew that our recreation presence changed the patterns of wildlife so much that some diurnal ungulates were shifting to nocturnal feeding patterns? We might be practicing Leave No Trace, but our presence has a measured effect on animal behavior. Through this study, I am beginning to understand hunting as a vehicle to healing landscapes and managing populations. What if skiers, climbers, and bikers were given the same opportunity? In a time where the defense of our public lands is bringing historically isolated recreation groups together, can we consider a unified perspective when it comes to our impact on ecosystems and wildlife? Could we pull the viewfinder open, and create a broader recreational effort for the management of our public lands, and bridge recreational impact and biodiversity? For more information or to get involved in Citizen Science, please visit: emammal.si.edu and www.zooniverse.org

L I N D S E Y E L L I O T T is an advocate

C A M R I N D E N G E L is a lifestyle

for ecological and social change, and a life-long outdoorswoman from the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. She is the co-founder and CEO of Wylder - the online marketplace for the modern outdoorswoman.

photographer living in rural Idaho. Originally from Alaska, her work focuses on life in wild places and is threaded with themes of selfsufficiency and of returning to our roots.

@LINDSEY. A .ELLIOTT WYLDERGOODS.COM

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@CAMRINDENGEL CAMRINDENGEL.COM

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Land for Granted ANDY TRAN MUDDY SHUTTER MEDIA

STORY BY PHOTOGRAPHY BY

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Land for Granted ANDY TRAN MUDDY SHUTTER MEDIA

STORY BY PHOTOGRAPHY BY

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“O

wnership” is a concept that has mostly eluded me, as the idea of anyone truly owning something did not manifest itself until my latter years. I was born into a small family in a less-than-fortunate area between Chinatown and Little Italy in the city of Ottawa, Canada — a far cry from nature and the vast open lands I now cherish. At the time, my parents were constantly working, often leaving my brothers and I to explore and play together. We were raised in a community composed of a wide range of ethnicities, personalities, and life situations. It was often the case that many of us did not speak the same languages, yet we always found a way to resolve our differences. While we were all dramatically different, there was one thing we held in common: we treasured our neighborhoods. There was always a strange and unspoken code amongst the community that whatever we did have access to, we took meticulous care of. No one truly owned the streets we lived on, yet they were in essence ours. As a result of this sense of ownership, my brothers and I felt as if we were urban kings, riding our bikes up and down our neighborhood dominion, exploring to our hearts’ content.

around the density of a metropolis. However, most have the constant itch to explore, roam, and reconnect with the natural order. Contrary to what social media can lead one to believe, not everyone lives in the mountains and hunts as a full-time profession, no matter how many followers they might have. Many of these hunters are often hybrids of both non-hunting outdoor recreation and hunting pursuits that come from all walks of life. Through hunting, I have met wonderful individuals and families who passionately keep the pursuit alive, regardless of their urban environment. A lawyer who is crazy for ducks, a mechanic who loves to squirrel hunt on the outskirts of DC, and a real estate developer who bow hunts year-round only a few miles away from the White House. Regardless of their life situation, they always find a way to pursue their passion, and often the easiest way to see this pursuit come to fruition is accessing public lands. When the words “Public Land” are used in a western context, many think of the miles upon miles that compose high-elk country or the vast open spaces of the prairie. However, on the eastern side of the country public land might only mean a few hundred acres, or even 50. While these small patches of land seldomly yield the vast amounts of game one would find out west, the satisfaction of being able to have access is one that is not taken for granted. Its scarcity out east is even more cause for us to protect it.

Those days on Arthur Street are now close to two decades ago and I currently find myself living in another sprawling metropolis on the opposite side of the border — Washington, DC — an epicenter of politics, money, and plenty of conflict to go around (as the media so often portrays). This place, of all places, was where I took it upon myself to learn how to hunt and fish. I quickly discovered that this endeavor would prove to be quite difficult, as the only open spaces in DC were often filled with manicured green lawns, domesticated pets, and young folks on blankets drinking wine. As a hunter in an urban environment, I quickly found that the sheer mention of the act of hunting or fishing was cause for unease and discomfort amongst city dwellers. I was often met with repulse or disgusted comments that, in many instances, challenged my lifestyle to a point where I doubted if being a hunter was truly worth the effort in this day and age. But as I progressed further into the hunting industry, I learned that this was common.

Sometimes this is a harsh reality to most outdoorsmen and women that must be the ambassadors for our pursuits. More collective eyes are on them — non-hunting eyes. Boat ramps are often shared with non-hunters, bowhunters share trails with joggers, and duck hunters on the Potomac River are likely to have kayaks or canoes paddle right through their spread. However, we realize that it is a necessity to keeping our public lands accessible and that synergy amongst both hunting and nonhunting activities are imperative to uphold our lifestyle in the most favorable light. I have found for the most part that encountering a fellow hunter or fisherman in this urban environment is like finding a good friend you never knew you had. Conversations come easy, and the mention of public land and the struggles we collectively share usually ends in a beer or four. A hearty handshake follows and new promises are made to go afield together in the near future as Modern Huntsmen.

These thoughts are often a reality for hunters who live in a suburban or urban area with ordinary jobs, families, and lives that revolve

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“O

wnership” is a concept that has mostly eluded me, as the idea of anyone truly owning something did not manifest itself until my latter years. I was born into a small family in a less-than-fortunate area between Chinatown and Little Italy in the city of Ottawa, Canada — a far cry from nature and the vast open lands I now cherish. At the time, my parents were constantly working, often leaving my brothers and I to explore and play together. We were raised in a community composed of a wide range of ethnicities, personalities, and life situations. It was often the case that many of us did not speak the same languages, yet we always found a way to resolve our differences. While we were all dramatically different, there was one thing we held in common: we treasured our neighborhoods. There was always a strange and unspoken code amongst the community that whatever we did have access to, we took meticulous care of. No one truly owned the streets we lived on, yet they were in essence ours. As a result of this sense of ownership, my brothers and I felt as if we were urban kings, riding our bikes up and down our neighborhood dominion, exploring to our hearts’ content.

around the density of a metropolis. However, most have the constant itch to explore, roam, and reconnect with the natural order. Contrary to what social media can lead one to believe, not everyone lives in the mountains and hunts as a full-time profession, no matter how many followers they might have. Many of these hunters are often hybrids of both non-hunting outdoor recreation and hunting pursuits that come from all walks of life. Through hunting, I have met wonderful individuals and families who passionately keep the pursuit alive, regardless of their urban environment. A lawyer who is crazy for ducks, a mechanic who loves to squirrel hunt on the outskirts of DC, and a real estate developer who bow hunts year-round only a few miles away from the White House. Regardless of their life situation, they always find a way to pursue their passion, and often the easiest way to see this pursuit come to fruition is accessing public lands. When the words “Public Land” are used in a western context, many think of the miles upon miles that compose high-elk country or the vast open spaces of the prairie. However, on the eastern side of the country public land might only mean a few hundred acres, or even 50. While these small patches of land seldomly yield the vast amounts of game one would find out west, the satisfaction of being able to have access is one that is not taken for granted. Its scarcity out east is even more cause for us to protect it.

Those days on Arthur Street are now close to two decades ago and I currently find myself living in another sprawling metropolis on the opposite side of the border — Washington, DC — an epicenter of politics, money, and plenty of conflict to go around (as the media so often portrays). This place, of all places, was where I took it upon myself to learn how to hunt and fish. I quickly discovered that this endeavor would prove to be quite difficult, as the only open spaces in DC were often filled with manicured green lawns, domesticated pets, and young folks on blankets drinking wine. As a hunter in an urban environment, I quickly found that the sheer mention of the act of hunting or fishing was cause for unease and discomfort amongst city dwellers. I was often met with repulse or disgusted comments that, in many instances, challenged my lifestyle to a point where I doubted if being a hunter was truly worth the effort in this day and age. But as I progressed further into the hunting industry, I learned that this was common.

Sometimes this is a harsh reality to most outdoorsmen and women that must be the ambassadors for our pursuits. More collective eyes are on them — non-hunting eyes. Boat ramps are often shared with non-hunters, bowhunters share trails with joggers, and duck hunters on the Potomac River are likely to have kayaks or canoes paddle right through their spread. However, we realize that it is a necessity to keeping our public lands accessible and that synergy amongst both hunting and nonhunting activities are imperative to uphold our lifestyle in the most favorable light. I have found for the most part that encountering a fellow hunter or fisherman in this urban environment is like finding a good friend you never knew you had. Conversations come easy, and the mention of public land and the struggles we collectively share usually ends in a beer or four. A hearty handshake follows and new promises are made to go afield together in the near future as Modern Huntsmen.

These thoughts are often a reality for hunters who live in a suburban or urban area with ordinary jobs, families, and lives that revolve

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NOT ENOUGH HUNTING IS

STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY

SAM SOHOLT

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NOT ENOUGH HUNTING IS

STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY

SAM SOHOLT

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P

ublic land: two simple words that I’ve taken for granted most of my life. It was never a topic of discussion, a cause of controversy, or a trendy phrase thrown around to gain entry to the “in crowd.” I never really thought about it at all. In my world, public land meant an easily accessible hunting opportunity. A place that if it potentially held ducks, pheasants or deer, I was likely already on my way there. Today, however, those two words mean so much more. Public land is now a rallying cry amongst hunters and outdoor enthusiasts alike with campaigns such as Keep it Public, Public Land Owner, Public Lands in Public Hands, and many other variations being touted in the ongoing battle to protect one of the greatest American inheritances in history, which we all have a stake in. If you had asked me 10 years ago what I would be doing by the time I was 30, I might’ve said some marketing position, maybe a sales job, or possibly a project manager. It was realistic that I’d have one of those positions somewhere within the hunting industry simply based on an upbringing immersed in hunting and fishing. I really had no idea what career path I was going to take beyond finishing my undergrad in business administration and likely continuing on to get my MBA. But the outcome in life that I could have never predicted was that I would become a school-bus-driving public land advocate. The Public Land Bus Project stemmed from a passion for wild places and my duty as a sportsman to protect those places for future generations. Really, it is the duty of all sportsmen to pass this tradition on, I just decided to address it with a rolling billboard of sorts. The goal with the bus project was, and still is, to travel around to various tracts of public land and raise awareness about the importance of those lands, the threat they are under, and the steps we can take to protect them. Admittedly, this is somewhat of a selfish endeavor, because I love hunting and exploring on public land and the last thing I want is to see that land sold off and privatized. Teddy Roosevelt said it best: “The thought of all the people within the womb of time not having the opportunity to enjoy those same wild places made me downright sick to my stomach.”

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So on New Years Eve in 2016, I purchased a 1993 Blue Bird bus, and after a full summer of learning how to be a carpenter, painter, and electrician, the bus was ready. In August of 2017, I hit the road, and for the past year I have been traveling all over the US, hunting, promoting public land protection, and raising money for conservation organizations that lobby to protect all those things I value. When I took off on the bus journey, I had way more enthusiasm than an actual plan. I wanted to spend time on public lands and talk about what is at stake through photos and video. But last fall I partnered with Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (who both helped promote my project and photography work) and awareness has grown quickly. The original plan continues to evolve and going into the fall of 2018, I am working closely with conservation minded companies that have given me the tools to spread the message further than I could ever have imagined. The content produced surrounding the bus project will be pushed through a myriad of platforms including Instagram, Youtube, Facebook, OnX Hunt App, and several websites. In addition to content, I am trying to coordinate actual boots on the ground work with local chapters of conservation organizations. The message is still consistent: keep public lands public, but it will now be shared and experienced on a much larger scale. I am proud to call myself a sportsman. Not just because that is part of who I identify as, but I’m proud to be part of a group of people that have been at the forefront of protecting wildlife and wild places. Looking at history, it has almost always been that way. In the mid 1800s, after unregulated commercial hunting brought certain species near extinction, it was sportsmen who first realized that we needed to protect wildlife and wild places. In the early 1900s, it was people like Theodore Roosevelt who helped shape the North American Model of Conservation, and set aside vast tracts of land to be protected for all time. It was sportsmen and women that were the first to fight in support of keeping public lands public, as well as spearheading the Migratory Bird Act of 1918, which helped set

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P

ublic land: two simple words that I’ve taken for granted most of my life. It was never a topic of discussion, a cause of controversy, or a trendy phrase thrown around to gain entry to the “in crowd.” I never really thought about it at all. In my world, public land meant an easily accessible hunting opportunity. A place that if it potentially held ducks, pheasants or deer, I was likely already on my way there. Today, however, those two words mean so much more. Public land is now a rallying cry amongst hunters and outdoor enthusiasts alike with campaigns such as Keep it Public, Public Land Owner, Public Lands in Public Hands, and many other variations being touted in the ongoing battle to protect one of the greatest American inheritances in history, which we all have a stake in. If you had asked me 10 years ago what I would be doing by the time I was 30, I might’ve said some marketing position, maybe a sales job, or possibly a project manager. It was realistic that I’d have one of those positions somewhere within the hunting industry simply based on an upbringing immersed in hunting and fishing. I really had no idea what career path I was going to take beyond finishing my undergrad in business administration and likely continuing on to get my MBA. But the outcome in life that I could have never predicted was that I would become a school-bus-driving public land advocate. The Public Land Bus Project stemmed from a passion for wild places and my duty as a sportsman to protect those places for future generations. Really, it is the duty of all sportsmen to pass this tradition on, I just decided to address it with a rolling billboard of sorts. The goal with the bus project was, and still is, to travel around to various tracts of public land and raise awareness about the importance of those lands, the threat they are under, and the steps we can take to protect them. Admittedly, this is somewhat of a selfish endeavor, because I love hunting and exploring on public land and the last thing I want is to see that land sold off and privatized. Teddy Roosevelt said it best: “The thought of all the people within the womb of time not having the opportunity to enjoy those same wild places made me downright sick to my stomach.”

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So on New Years Eve in 2016, I purchased a 1993 Blue Bird bus, and after a full summer of learning how to be a carpenter, painter, and electrician, the bus was ready. In August of 2017, I hit the road, and for the past year I have been traveling all over the US, hunting, promoting public land protection, and raising money for conservation organizations that lobby to protect all those things I value. When I took off on the bus journey, I had way more enthusiasm than an actual plan. I wanted to spend time on public lands and talk about what is at stake through photos and video. But last fall I partnered with Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (who both helped promote my project and photography work) and awareness has grown quickly. The original plan continues to evolve and going into the fall of 2018, I am working closely with conservation minded companies that have given me the tools to spread the message further than I could ever have imagined. The content produced surrounding the bus project will be pushed through a myriad of platforms including Instagram, Youtube, Facebook, OnX Hunt App, and several websites. In addition to content, I am trying to coordinate actual boots on the ground work with local chapters of conservation organizations. The message is still consistent: keep public lands public, but it will now be shared and experienced on a much larger scale. I am proud to call myself a sportsman. Not just because that is part of who I identify as, but I’m proud to be part of a group of people that have been at the forefront of protecting wildlife and wild places. Looking at history, it has almost always been that way. In the mid 1800s, after unregulated commercial hunting brought certain species near extinction, it was sportsmen who first realized that we needed to protect wildlife and wild places. In the early 1900s, it was people like Theodore Roosevelt who helped shape the North American Model of Conservation, and set aside vast tracts of land to be protected for all time. It was sportsmen and women that were the first to fight in support of keeping public lands public, as well as spearheading the Migratory Bird Act of 1918, which helped set

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the stage for advocacy and wildlife conservation in the US. We were the first to form rallies at state capitals to have our collective voices heard, and the first to speak up and educate others on the dangers of things like land transfer. Sportsmen and women were also the first to pour money into conservation minded lobby groups that help fight legislation designed to sell off and privatize our public lands. It was sportsmen that implemented hunting seasons, game limits, and protections for wildlife to ensure their population growth.

a rift has grown over time, where both parties largely focus on all the ways we differ, instead of commonalities. But it is time to bridge the gap and find that common ground again, because too much is at stake. We need to look at organizations like Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and Patagonia, who are leading by example in cooperation, and have in recent months found a way to set aside differences and come together to have a conversation about ways we can have a collective voice to protect all of the things that we value.

In 1937, sportsmen were the first to tax ourselves through the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act, which uses 11% of funds from the purchase of guns, ammunition, and archery equipment to aid in wildlife and land conservation. In 1950, the Dingell-Johnson Act was passed which placed a similar tax on fishing equipment. In addition to legislation, we have founded a slough of conservation organizations that raise billions of extra dollars which are used for habitat and wildlife protection and restoration. In short, we not only have an emotional investment in the game we pursue, but a massive financial investment as well.

In my year on the road I have learned more than I ever thought I would. I figured I would get out there, talk about what I believe in and want to protect, and if I was lucky, a few people would be inspired to look at hunting and conservation differently. But it has gone so far beyond that, and the very fact that you’re reading this in Modern Huntsman is a testament to that. It’s been an amazing journey, and I’m thankful for the opportunities that continue to arise that help me spread this message. And so I’d like to end this with three lessons I have learned from the bus.

Our group as a whole has largely footed the bill for over 100 years, and that has given us a very strong voice in the decision making process to determine the future of things like public land. But it goes so far above and beyond that. The involuntary tax is a good baseline, but that alone doesn’t make a hunter a conservationist. Hunters need to get involved with all aspects of conservation. Whether it be volunteering their time for a conservation project, lobbying for pro-conservation legislation, or supporting conservation groups financially, sportsmen should continue to heed the call to do whatever necessary to protect habitat and wildlife species as a whole. Unfortunately, hunters’ efforts alone are no longer enough. As much good as we have done in regards to wildlife and land conservation, we need more voices in this fight. With a dwindling number of hunting license holders and 30% of the hunting population aging out over the next 10–15 years, we are going to need major help. That help, in my opinion, is not going to come from new hunter recruitment, as we do not have enough time to enlist enough people to make a difference. It will need to come from people that value all of the same things that hunters do, who already exist in large numbers, and who use the same land and resources for other forms of recreation that happen on our public lands. In short, we need help from the folks in the outdoor industry. Long before public lands became the cornerstone for an $887 billion industry that includes the purchases of hunting, fishing, and general outdoor goods, everyone who enjoyed the outdoors had common ground. That common ground is the value we place on the land, the wildlife, and protecting those things for the future. Unfortunately

First, true conservation takes time. Yes, we as hunters have made a very large splash in a short period of time, taking to the internet with our opinions and cries for the protection of public land, but none of that changes the way policy works. Creating airtight laws and protections takes time and money, and we need to be willing to give those tools to the organization out there fighting for all of us. Second, the small stuff matters more than you think it does. Sending an email or making a phone call to a legislator, joining a local chapter of a conservation group of your choice, having a conversation with a non-hunter, being cautious of what you post online in regards to hunting and fishing, the list goes on and on. All of these little things are the building blocks of the conservation castle that we are trying to defend, and each of you reading this is a soldier in that battle. We need your help in this fight. Third, regardless of what public land user group you belong to, the common ground we have has to be the glue that holds us together. Public land allows each of us to fill our cup and feed our soul. And while everyone’s cup might be different, whether exploration, connection, escape, relaxation or soul searching, whatever a person is searching for, it can be found in the space we all own. It is time to get educated and get involved. It doesn’t matter if you hunt, fish, climb, bike, camp, hike, kayak, ski, stargaze or simply escape the rigors of daily life on public land, we all have the same thing to lose, and it’s worth protecting. So from this day forward, should we cross paths on the trail, I truly hope that we can move forward in collaboration and comradery, standing shoulder to shoulder in this fight to protect our wealth of inheritance and privilege in public lands.

S A M S O H O L T is a photographer, sportsman, and public land advocate living a nomadic life out of a retrofitted Blue Bird school bus. Originally from the great plains of South Dakota, a life spent outdoors eventually led to a career in film and photography for brands in the hunting industry. @ S A M S O H O LT / P U B L I C L A N D T E E S . C O M

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the stage for advocacy and wildlife conservation in the US. We were the first to form rallies at state capitals to have our collective voices heard, and the first to speak up and educate others on the dangers of things like land transfer. Sportsmen and women were also the first to pour money into conservation minded lobby groups that help fight legislation designed to sell off and privatize our public lands. It was sportsmen that implemented hunting seasons, game limits, and protections for wildlife to ensure their population growth.

a rift has grown over time, where both parties largely focus on all the ways we differ, instead of commonalities. But it is time to bridge the gap and find that common ground again, because too much is at stake. We need to look at organizations like Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and Patagonia, who are leading by example in cooperation, and have in recent months found a way to set aside differences and come together to have a conversation about ways we can have a collective voice to protect all of the things that we value.

In 1937, sportsmen were the first to tax ourselves through the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act, which uses 11% of funds from the purchase of guns, ammunition, and archery equipment to aid in wildlife and land conservation. In 1950, the Dingell-Johnson Act was passed which placed a similar tax on fishing equipment. In addition to legislation, we have founded a slough of conservation organizations that raise billions of extra dollars which are used for habitat and wildlife protection and restoration. In short, we not only have an emotional investment in the game we pursue, but a massive financial investment as well.

In my year on the road I have learned more than I ever thought I would. I figured I would get out there, talk about what I believe in and want to protect, and if I was lucky, a few people would be inspired to look at hunting and conservation differently. But it has gone so far beyond that, and the very fact that you’re reading this in Modern Huntsman is a testament to that. It’s been an amazing journey, and I’m thankful for the opportunities that continue to arise that help me spread this message. And so I’d like to end this with three lessons I have learned from the bus.

Our group as a whole has largely footed the bill for over 100 years, and that has given us a very strong voice in the decision making process to determine the future of things like public land. But it goes so far above and beyond that. The involuntary tax is a good baseline, but that alone doesn’t make a hunter a conservationist. Hunters need to get involved with all aspects of conservation. Whether it be volunteering their time for a conservation project, lobbying for pro-conservation legislation, or supporting conservation groups financially, sportsmen should continue to heed the call to do whatever necessary to protect habitat and wildlife species as a whole. Unfortunately, hunters’ efforts alone are no longer enough. As much good as we have done in regards to wildlife and land conservation, we need more voices in this fight. With a dwindling number of hunting license holders and 30% of the hunting population aging out over the next 10–15 years, we are going to need major help. That help, in my opinion, is not going to come from new hunter recruitment, as we do not have enough time to enlist enough people to make a difference. It will need to come from people that value all of the same things that hunters do, who already exist in large numbers, and who use the same land and resources for other forms of recreation that happen on our public lands. In short, we need help from the folks in the outdoor industry. Long before public lands became the cornerstone for an $887 billion industry that includes the purchases of hunting, fishing, and general outdoor goods, everyone who enjoyed the outdoors had common ground. That common ground is the value we place on the land, the wildlife, and protecting those things for the future. Unfortunately

First, true conservation takes time. Yes, we as hunters have made a very large splash in a short period of time, taking to the internet with our opinions and cries for the protection of public land, but none of that changes the way policy works. Creating airtight laws and protections takes time and money, and we need to be willing to give those tools to the organization out there fighting for all of us. Second, the small stuff matters more than you think it does. Sending an email or making a phone call to a legislator, joining a local chapter of a conservation group of your choice, having a conversation with a non-hunter, being cautious of what you post online in regards to hunting and fishing, the list goes on and on. All of these little things are the building blocks of the conservation castle that we are trying to defend, and each of you reading this is a soldier in that battle. We need your help in this fight. Third, regardless of what public land user group you belong to, the common ground we have has to be the glue that holds us together. Public land allows each of us to fill our cup and feed our soul. And while everyone’s cup might be different, whether exploration, connection, escape, relaxation or soul searching, whatever a person is searching for, it can be found in the space we all own. It is time to get educated and get involved. It doesn’t matter if you hunt, fish, climb, bike, camp, hike, kayak, ski, stargaze or simply escape the rigors of daily life on public land, we all have the same thing to lose, and it’s worth protecting. So from this day forward, should we cross paths on the trail, I truly hope that we can move forward in collaboration and comradery, standing shoulder to shoulder in this fight to protect our wealth of inheritance and privilege in public lands.

S A M S O H O L T is a photographer, sportsman, and public land advocate living a nomadic life out of a retrofitted Blue Bird school bus. Originally from the great plains of South Dakota, a life spent outdoors eventually led to a career in film and photography for brands in the hunting industry. @ S A M S O H O LT / P U B L I C L A N D T E E S . C O M

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A

sk 100 people to define the word backcountry and you’ll likely hear 100 different answers. An Alaska resident might describe backcountry as land that is 50 miles from a road. A Vermonter might identify the bottom of a gorge between two county roads as backcountry. Which one is right? Both of them.

We Are All Public Land Owners

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA) defines backcountry as public lands and waters where you can find solitude, challenge, and should you need it, solace. While the word conjures an image of distant ridges and deep horizons, backcountry is as much a mental state as a physical one. And BHA’s goal is to unite people — not divide them — around a shared love of backcountry, in order to protect it.

STORY BY

GRANT ALBAN

In 2004, seven individuals sat around an Oregon campfire discussing the state of conservation. They landed on a realization that while certain conservation groups did a great job of looking out for particular species or types of recreation, the hunting and angling community lacked a unifying group working to make sure that our wild public lands stayed just that: wild and public. They identified three areas of focus: 1) Access and opportunity: defending stream access and enhancing public land access 2) Conservation of habitat and priority landscapes: maintaining quality wildlife habitat, protecting special places, and ensuring public lands stay public 3) Fair Chase: working to maintain the challenge and integrity of hunting and fishing. Led by a board of passionate volunteers, BHA’s membership hovered around 1,000 members for its first five years of existence. In 2011, BHA received a critical grant from a conservation-focused foundation to hire its first full-time staff member, and the organization started to grow. After two brief stints by interim Executive Directors, a nationwide search led the hiring committee to bring on Land Tawney, a fifthgeneration Montanan. Before joining BHA, Land had spent nearly 15 years leading sportsmen advocacy campaigns for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and National Wildlife Federation. As a natural born leader, Land jumped at the chance to build his own army for conservation. And build an army he has.

PHOTO: NICK KELLEY

G R A N T A L B A N spent over a decade in the West working on wildlife studies. With a B.S. in Wildlife Management, he joined the staff of BHA in 2014 and now handles Corporate Partnerships and Special Events. He lives in Missoula, Montana with his wife, Jill. Both are life members of BHA. BACKCOUNTRYHUNTERS.ORG / @GRANT_ ALBAN

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BHA has doubled its membership every year since hiring Tawney in 2013, and now boasts over 23,000 members as of July 2018 with a goal to hit 30,000 by the end of 2018. While a bump of 7,000 in four months seems ambitious, BHA expects to meet or exceed the mark, namely because people across the continent are recognizing BHA as the driving force behind the effort to keep public lands in public hands. When individuals, groups, or factions in government push the agenda to sell off federal public lands — or similarly, transfer them to states — BHA is first to respond, tapping into the youth and digital savviness of its members to conjure a maelstrom of criticism across social media in order to force politicians to recant statements, and even withdraw proposed legislation. In early 2017, Rep. Chaffetz of Utah felt BHA’s sting in a mighty way — after submitting a bill that proposed the transfer of three million acres of federal public land, BHA members took to Instagram and Facebook with such a firestorm of derision that he withdrew his bill within days.

For some, public lands are a place to escape city life. For others, they are a place to practice a favorite form of recreation. Unfortunately, with countless ways to enjoy the wild places of North America we’ve divided ourselves into many factions, and sadly, individual preferences often rank higher than a unified goal or strategy for protecting public lands. And the forces trying to steal these lands from American taxpayers would prefer that we didn’t unite under one mission. BHA is changing the state of conservation in America by actively focusing on ways to bring people together. In 2018, Yvon Chouinard, the founder and owner of Patagonia and outspoken critic of any attempt to wrest our public lands, joined 1500 BHA members at the seventh annual North American Rendezvous in Boise, Idaho. And not only did Chouinard participate on the Stream Access Panel, he also spent hours sitting in the hallways sharing stories and thoughts with young men and women. As he took the stage as one of seven featured storytellers on the final evening of the weekend, Chouinard looked around at the throngs of young people amassed in the room and shook his head in mild disbelief. “This is the most amazing group I’ve ever seen,” he said, and the crowd erupted in applause. Ask yourself, do you define your identity based on one specific outdoor activity? Do you call yourself an elk hunter when you also hunt grouse? Should a mountain biker have to stick to biking even though they also enjoy fly fishing? The answer is, of course not. Unfortunately, we are already a divided people in America with religion, politics, and even dietary choices, so why must we add to the division and segregate based on our preferred outdoor activity? Some find it easier to simply call themselves “public land users.” However, the word “user” connotes no accountability, and it has no ties to responsibility. Because of this, BHA coined the term Public Land Owner. If you own it, you must look after it and care for it. And we are all Public Land Owners. We are all accountable. Backcountry Hunters & Anglers offers people from all walks of life an opportunity to exercise their position as public land owners. Our members recognize the important role that public lands and waters play in their lives and in their happiness. To think that billionaires and politicians could profit off the sale of what is rightfully ours is a sobering thought. And it’s also a call to action. So, what can the average person do? At BHA we say, “Do what you’re good at.” If you can make a meme that conveys a simple public lands message in one image, create it and share it with your community. If you can produce a film that conveys the wonder of public lands to a person who has never seen them, submit it to the BHA’s Film Fest. If you can bring a room to tears or laughter with your storytelling, do it. If you’re a natural leader, join your state chapter board. We’ve shown what’s possible when we get involved. Legislators do withdraw bills, like Chaffetz’s, and lands are set aside for future generations. When we come together and recognize our power not simply as hunters or anglers, but as public land owners, there is no limit to what we can do.

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A

sk 100 people to define the word backcountry and you’ll likely hear 100 different answers. An Alaska resident might describe backcountry as land that is 50 miles from a road. A Vermonter might identify the bottom of a gorge between two county roads as backcountry. Which one is right? Both of them.

We Are All Public Land Owners

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA) defines backcountry as public lands and waters where you can find solitude, challenge, and should you need it, solace. While the word conjures an image of distant ridges and deep horizons, backcountry is as much a mental state as a physical one. And BHA’s goal is to unite people — not divide them — around a shared love of backcountry, in order to protect it.

STORY BY

GRANT ALBAN

In 2004, seven individuals sat around an Oregon campfire discussing the state of conservation. They landed on a realization that while certain conservation groups did a great job of looking out for particular species or types of recreation, the hunting and angling community lacked a unifying group working to make sure that our wild public lands stayed just that: wild and public. They identified three areas of focus: 1) Access and opportunity: defending stream access and enhancing public land access 2) Conservation of habitat and priority landscapes: maintaining quality wildlife habitat, protecting special places, and ensuring public lands stay public 3) Fair Chase: working to maintain the challenge and integrity of hunting and fishing. Led by a board of passionate volunteers, BHA’s membership hovered around 1,000 members for its first five years of existence. In 2011, BHA received a critical grant from a conservation-focused foundation to hire its first full-time staff member, and the organization started to grow. After two brief stints by interim Executive Directors, a nationwide search led the hiring committee to bring on Land Tawney, a fifthgeneration Montanan. Before joining BHA, Land had spent nearly 15 years leading sportsmen advocacy campaigns for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and National Wildlife Federation. As a natural born leader, Land jumped at the chance to build his own army for conservation. And build an army he has.

PHOTO: NICK KELLEY

G R A N T A L B A N spent over a decade in the West working on wildlife studies. With a B.S. in Wildlife Management, he joined the staff of BHA in 2014 and now handles Corporate Partnerships and Special Events. He lives in Missoula, Montana with his wife, Jill. Both are life members of BHA. BACKCOUNTRYHUNTERS.ORG / @GRANT_ ALBAN

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BHA has doubled its membership every year since hiring Tawney in 2013, and now boasts over 23,000 members as of July 2018 with a goal to hit 30,000 by the end of 2018. While a bump of 7,000 in four months seems ambitious, BHA expects to meet or exceed the mark, namely because people across the continent are recognizing BHA as the driving force behind the effort to keep public lands in public hands. When individuals, groups, or factions in government push the agenda to sell off federal public lands — or similarly, transfer them to states — BHA is first to respond, tapping into the youth and digital savviness of its members to conjure a maelstrom of criticism across social media in order to force politicians to recant statements, and even withdraw proposed legislation. In early 2017, Rep. Chaffetz of Utah felt BHA’s sting in a mighty way — after submitting a bill that proposed the transfer of three million acres of federal public land, BHA members took to Instagram and Facebook with such a firestorm of derision that he withdrew his bill within days.

For some, public lands are a place to escape city life. For others, they are a place to practice a favorite form of recreation. Unfortunately, with countless ways to enjoy the wild places of North America we’ve divided ourselves into many factions, and sadly, individual preferences often rank higher than a unified goal or strategy for protecting public lands. And the forces trying to steal these lands from American taxpayers would prefer that we didn’t unite under one mission. BHA is changing the state of conservation in America by actively focusing on ways to bring people together. In 2018, Yvon Chouinard, the founder and owner of Patagonia and outspoken critic of any attempt to wrest our public lands, joined 1500 BHA members at the seventh annual North American Rendezvous in Boise, Idaho. And not only did Chouinard participate on the Stream Access Panel, he also spent hours sitting in the hallways sharing stories and thoughts with young men and women. As he took the stage as one of seven featured storytellers on the final evening of the weekend, Chouinard looked around at the throngs of young people amassed in the room and shook his head in mild disbelief. “This is the most amazing group I’ve ever seen,” he said, and the crowd erupted in applause. Ask yourself, do you define your identity based on one specific outdoor activity? Do you call yourself an elk hunter when you also hunt grouse? Should a mountain biker have to stick to biking even though they also enjoy fly fishing? The answer is, of course not. Unfortunately, we are already a divided people in America with religion, politics, and even dietary choices, so why must we add to the division and segregate based on our preferred outdoor activity? Some find it easier to simply call themselves “public land users.” However, the word “user” connotes no accountability, and it has no ties to responsibility. Because of this, BHA coined the term Public Land Owner. If you own it, you must look after it and care for it. And we are all Public Land Owners. We are all accountable. Backcountry Hunters & Anglers offers people from all walks of life an opportunity to exercise their position as public land owners. Our members recognize the important role that public lands and waters play in their lives and in their happiness. To think that billionaires and politicians could profit off the sale of what is rightfully ours is a sobering thought. And it’s also a call to action. So, what can the average person do? At BHA we say, “Do what you’re good at.” If you can make a meme that conveys a simple public lands message in one image, create it and share it with your community. If you can produce a film that conveys the wonder of public lands to a person who has never seen them, submit it to the BHA’s Film Fest. If you can bring a room to tears or laughter with your storytelling, do it. If you’re a natural leader, join your state chapter board. We’ve shown what’s possible when we get involved. Legislators do withdraw bills, like Chaffetz’s, and lands are set aside for future generations. When we come together and recognize our power not simply as hunters or anglers, but as public land owners, there is no limit to what we can do.

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BHA CONSERVATION LEGENDS STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY

JOEL CALDWELL

JIM POSEWITZ THE DEMOCRACY OF THE WILD

Poz is more than a retired field biologist, he’s a historian of the American Conservation Movement (which he calls the BEST DAMN THING THAT EVER HAPPENED) who speaks of people like Teddy Roosevelt, D’ing Darling, and Aldo Leopold with familiarity. He’s an outdoorsman and author who’s now published five books and has done as much as anyone to shape the modern hunter’s ethic. Now — perhaps most importantly — he’s into his eighth decade of practicing what he preaches, embodying the ideology of the American hunter and steward, grateful for his time spent in wilderness and doing his best to see that it continues to exist for future generations and the betterment of the world. THE ROLE OF THE HUNTER IN CONSERVATION

“I was born in ’35. By this time we had just about liquidated the continent clean of wildlife. When I was two years old, Congress passed the PittmanRobertson Act. That put a tax on firearms and ammunition. The industry and the hunter backed it. Now I am 83 and we have deer in our cities, bears in our orchards, and goose dung on every golf shoe in America. They were put back there by the hunter. As our culture and society matures, we must instill the conservation ethic in hunting to continue having it within a democracy. There would be no hunting if there were no wild animals. The fact that there would be few wild animals if there were no hunters is not as obvious.” TELL THE STORY

“Most people enjoying wildlife and wild places have no idea what it’s been through. When you take the time to learn your history — how this restoration occurred and what it required — you have a much higher level of respect and appreciation for it. We must conclude that hunting is a cultural value worth nurturing. And so we must tell the story of a place, not from the perspective of those who stumbled in to exploit it first, but rather from those who came along to restore and preserve its finest assets. Ever since the conservation movement began, there have been sources in our society trying to undo the gains, trying to get rid of public lands or exploit them. Knowing the backstory will empower each generation to defend the principles and values of the conservation movement.”

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BHA CONSERVATION LEGENDS STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY

JOEL CALDWELL

JIM POSEWITZ THE DEMOCRACY OF THE WILD

Poz is more than a retired field biologist, he’s a historian of the American Conservation Movement (which he calls the BEST DAMN THING THAT EVER HAPPENED) who speaks of people like Teddy Roosevelt, D’ing Darling, and Aldo Leopold with familiarity. He’s an outdoorsman and author who’s now published five books and has done as much as anyone to shape the modern hunter’s ethic. Now — perhaps most importantly — he’s into his eighth decade of practicing what he preaches, embodying the ideology of the American hunter and steward, grateful for his time spent in wilderness and doing his best to see that it continues to exist for future generations and the betterment of the world. THE ROLE OF THE HUNTER IN CONSERVATION

“I was born in ’35. By this time we had just about liquidated the continent clean of wildlife. When I was two years old, Congress passed the PittmanRobertson Act. That put a tax on firearms and ammunition. The industry and the hunter backed it. Now I am 83 and we have deer in our cities, bears in our orchards, and goose dung on every golf shoe in America. They were put back there by the hunter. As our culture and society matures, we must instill the conservation ethic in hunting to continue having it within a democracy. There would be no hunting if there were no wild animals. The fact that there would be few wild animals if there were no hunters is not as obvious.” TELL THE STORY

“Most people enjoying wildlife and wild places have no idea what it’s been through. When you take the time to learn your history — how this restoration occurred and what it required — you have a much higher level of respect and appreciation for it. We must conclude that hunting is a cultural value worth nurturing. And so we must tell the story of a place, not from the perspective of those who stumbled in to exploit it first, but rather from those who came along to restore and preserve its finest assets. Ever since the conservation movement began, there have been sources in our society trying to undo the gains, trying to get rid of public lands or exploit them. Knowing the backstory will empower each generation to defend the principles and values of the conservation movement.”

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TONY SCHOONEN SR. Eighty-five years ago Tony Schoonen Sr. was taken from an orphanage and raised on a cattle ranch in southwestern Montana’s Madison County. On that ranch the Big Hole River meets the Beaverhead, forming the headwaters of the Jefferson. Tony spent his childhood on the Big Hole, gaining a lifelong appreciation for free-flowing water, boating, and fly fishing. Over the last 40 years he’s done as much for public stream access and public lands in general in the state of Montana as just about anyone. At 88, he’s still at it. HIS WORK

“Back in ’83 a wealthy rancher was stopping people from floating, thinking the river was his property. So we formed the Montana Coalition for Stream Access. After two years of fighting we finally got it through the legislature. The way the bill reads, ‘Any water capable of recreational use shall so be used by the public.’ Didn’t cover lakes, but opened up every stream, river and creek. Best access in the Union!” “In 1989, three of us formed the Coalition for Appropriate Management of the School Trust Lands. We wanted people to have access to these lands, but the legislature had a lot of cowboys and they thought the land was theirs, even though the state constitution says it’s public. We managed to get the bill through, but it was weak and needed amending from public input. So myself and two buddies held meetings all over the state. Some people tried to intimidate us, but we got the damn thing through just the three of us. Opened up 5.2 million acres to the public!” HIS WARNING

“In all my years I’ve never seen this much pressure on public lands. Christ, it’s coming right out of Washington! Used to only be local, but big money has found Montana. It’s in the state and national platforms — privatize it all. It’s on a fast track and people don’t realize it. Public lands are hard to win but easy to lose. Time to get off our asses or we’re going to lose ’em.”

J O E L C A L D W E L L is an expedition photographer and writer living in New York City. He has developed an appreciation for the role hunting plays in conservation. He has gained an understanding of the complexities and nuance of trying to protect wildlife while also attempting to provide people with opportunity and a better quality of life. @J O E LWCA L DWE L L / J O E LCA L DWE L L .CO M

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TONY SCHOONEN SR. Eighty-five years ago Tony Schoonen Sr. was taken from an orphanage and raised on a cattle ranch in southwestern Montana’s Madison County. On that ranch the Big Hole River meets the Beaverhead, forming the headwaters of the Jefferson. Tony spent his childhood on the Big Hole, gaining a lifelong appreciation for free-flowing water, boating, and fly fishing. Over the last 40 years he’s done as much for public stream access and public lands in general in the state of Montana as just about anyone. At 88, he’s still at it. HIS WORK

“Back in ’83 a wealthy rancher was stopping people from floating, thinking the river was his property. So we formed the Montana Coalition for Stream Access. After two years of fighting we finally got it through the legislature. The way the bill reads, ‘Any water capable of recreational use shall so be used by the public.’ Didn’t cover lakes, but opened up every stream, river and creek. Best access in the Union!” “In 1989, three of us formed the Coalition for Appropriate Management of the School Trust Lands. We wanted people to have access to these lands, but the legislature had a lot of cowboys and they thought the land was theirs, even though the state constitution says it’s public. We managed to get the bill through, but it was weak and needed amending from public input. So myself and two buddies held meetings all over the state. Some people tried to intimidate us, but we got the damn thing through just the three of us. Opened up 5.2 million acres to the public!” HIS WARNING

“In all my years I’ve never seen this much pressure on public lands. Christ, it’s coming right out of Washington! Used to only be local, but big money has found Montana. It’s in the state and national platforms — privatize it all. It’s on a fast track and people don’t realize it. Public lands are hard to win but easy to lose. Time to get off our asses or we’re going to lose ’em.”

J O E L C A L D W E L L is an expedition photographer and writer living in New York City. He has developed an appreciation for the role hunting plays in conservation. He has gained an understanding of the complexities and nuance of trying to protect wildlife while also attempting to provide people with opportunity and a better quality of life. @J O E LWCA L DWE L L / J O E LCA L DWE L L .CO M

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THE

MIGHTY M O U N TA I N S AND THE

BEAR STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY

DANNY CHRISTENSEN

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THE

MIGHTY M O U N TA I N S AND THE

BEAR STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY

DANNY CHRISTENSEN

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Ignorance held me, necessity drove me.

I

’ve spent the majority of my life with my bare feet in the dirt, connected to the earth, and roaming the land wherever I was, but the concrete and steel of New York City captured me. The highrises of Manhattan forced me to a life of confinement, loneliness and solitude. Empty souls walked right past me every day, leaving a faint trace of human connection that meant less and less each fleeting moment. In the reflection of the glittering shop windows I saw a man, who although successful in the eyes of the common city dweller, looked transparent staring back at me: the dead give no reflection. Six years in that prison shapes a man. I was shielded from nature and the very matter that defines my soul — a connection to the wild. So out of necessity to break the selfimposed jail sentence, my alter ego was born: The Urban Huntsman. This new persona could break free and live a life where balance existed, where eternal connections with Mother Earth thrived, where food ran wild, demanded respect, and fought for survival. Life has never been the same since, and my pursuits with The Urban Huntsman define me as a person. I now grow, forage, and hunt my food, then share the experiences in hopes that some of my fellow city dwelling humans might find something similar. But there are powerful, growing forces threatening this way of life, and we only have ourselves to blame. We have allowed misconceptions and misunderstandings of hunting and hunters for too long. Unfortunately, many hunters have shown a lack of empathy and understanding of the world we live in, how modern media works, and the damage it can cause through negative publicity. By ignoring this reality, or lacking self-censorship, much of the public thinks negatively of hunters, and it’s time to do some cleaning up within our own ranks.

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We need to show the world the beauty of who we are and the world we roam, how the game feeds our families and brings us closer to each other and to the earth. Let’s show them how we protect and honor our shared planet, and illuminate our unbroken way of life. I started hunting 24 years ago. Everything I have learned, every skill I have mastered, and every instinct I’ve sharpened was all a part of a passage to get me ready for this pursuit. And while I’ve harvested a lot of wild food on public lands, my trip to the strikingly beautiful mountains of the Adirondacks State Park in upstate New York to hunt the mighty and powerful black bear would be the culmination of it all. After a six-hour drive, The Blueberry Inn’s sign appeared in the distance, in the northwestern part of the park, where I would spend my first night before heading into the wilderness. The next morning came early, or rather not at all, because I didn’t sleep. I don’t know if it was the anticipation of the adventure ahead, the terrible bed at The Blueberry Inn, the unsettled feeling in my stomach after too many spicy chicken wings at dinner, or all of the above. With a canoe on the back and a barely awake hunter in the cab, the truck drove me to the last boat launch spot at the end of a very, very long dirt road. Four hours of paddling later, I arrived at the first planned campsite, set up the tent, and collected firewood so I’d be ready for tonight’s feast. Then I headed back towards the big rock ridge behind to look for bear. The plan was to hunt with the rifle going up the ridge, and hopefully find a spot to hunt over the blueberries with my bow. Going up, I saw a few very large stones that were tipped over, a clear sign of a big bear, looking for larva, worms or fresh roots. At the day’s end, I’d seen no bear but enjoyed the widespread fiery ocean of trees as far as the eye could see in the

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Ignorance held me, necessity drove me.

I

’ve spent the majority of my life with my bare feet in the dirt, connected to the earth, and roaming the land wherever I was, but the concrete and steel of New York City captured me. The highrises of Manhattan forced me to a life of confinement, loneliness and solitude. Empty souls walked right past me every day, leaving a faint trace of human connection that meant less and less each fleeting moment. In the reflection of the glittering shop windows I saw a man, who although successful in the eyes of the common city dweller, looked transparent staring back at me: the dead give no reflection. Six years in that prison shapes a man. I was shielded from nature and the very matter that defines my soul — a connection to the wild. So out of necessity to break the selfimposed jail sentence, my alter ego was born: The Urban Huntsman. This new persona could break free and live a life where balance existed, where eternal connections with Mother Earth thrived, where food ran wild, demanded respect, and fought for survival. Life has never been the same since, and my pursuits with The Urban Huntsman define me as a person. I now grow, forage, and hunt my food, then share the experiences in hopes that some of my fellow city dwelling humans might find something similar. But there are powerful, growing forces threatening this way of life, and we only have ourselves to blame. We have allowed misconceptions and misunderstandings of hunting and hunters for too long. Unfortunately, many hunters have shown a lack of empathy and understanding of the world we live in, how modern media works, and the damage it can cause through negative publicity. By ignoring this reality, or lacking self-censorship, much of the public thinks negatively of hunters, and it’s time to do some cleaning up within our own ranks.

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We need to show the world the beauty of who we are and the world we roam, how the game feeds our families and brings us closer to each other and to the earth. Let’s show them how we protect and honor our shared planet, and illuminate our unbroken way of life. I started hunting 24 years ago. Everything I have learned, every skill I have mastered, and every instinct I’ve sharpened was all a part of a passage to get me ready for this pursuit. And while I’ve harvested a lot of wild food on public lands, my trip to the strikingly beautiful mountains of the Adirondacks State Park in upstate New York to hunt the mighty and powerful black bear would be the culmination of it all. After a six-hour drive, The Blueberry Inn’s sign appeared in the distance, in the northwestern part of the park, where I would spend my first night before heading into the wilderness. The next morning came early, or rather not at all, because I didn’t sleep. I don’t know if it was the anticipation of the adventure ahead, the terrible bed at The Blueberry Inn, the unsettled feeling in my stomach after too many spicy chicken wings at dinner, or all of the above. With a canoe on the back and a barely awake hunter in the cab, the truck drove me to the last boat launch spot at the end of a very, very long dirt road. Four hours of paddling later, I arrived at the first planned campsite, set up the tent, and collected firewood so I’d be ready for tonight’s feast. Then I headed back towards the big rock ridge behind to look for bear. The plan was to hunt with the rifle going up the ridge, and hopefully find a spot to hunt over the blueberries with my bow. Going up, I saw a few very large stones that were tipped over, a clear sign of a big bear, looking for larva, worms or fresh roots. At the day’s end, I’d seen no bear but enjoyed the widespread fiery ocean of trees as far as the eye could see in the

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most amazing colors that nature has to offer. If I’d gone blind in the next second, that sight would have been all worth it. Back at camp, the night offered violent thunderstorms and no sleep. I’m not sure what actually kept me awake the most, the damn water dripping on me all night, or the evolving plans in my head to dispatch the salesperson that sold me this wonderful steal-of-a-deal, state-ofthe-art “waterproof” tent. When morning came I was already awake, and despite the rain, was relatively dry. I ventured into the wild again with high spirits, determined to be eating bear meat for dinner, but it was not yet meant to be. Although I found some fresh tracks in the mud, I saw no bear all day. Something had to change. That night I woke up twice, soaked in sweat, despite the nearfreezing temperatures outside. Remembering what my Native American friends had told me about how they use the sweat lodge as a sort of transformation, I understood that to be a sign, and the cause for the change in my energy the next morning. Before daylight, I packed up everything, loaded the canoe, and pushed off. I was headed to a different location, supposedly the “Promised Land” with bears aplenty. With only my bow on my back I climbed, and with every step I took toward higher elevation, I felt an increase in the energy around me. It’s hard to explain, but it was like I was getting closer to something divine. The hour-long hike delivered me to a patch of blueberries on the top of a ridge. I found a good spot, put my back against a boulder and sat down. The big fern leaves in front of me swayed gently from side to side, and as my eyes followed them I was slowly hypnotized, and fell asleep. But when you are out here, you never really sleep. Your body might be dormant, but your brain is still on high alert. Suddenly I was jolted by the sound of a branch breaking on the trail that led down the mountain. It went quiet again though, and I wondered if I’d only dreamt that the branch had broken the silence of the magical autumn forest. Then, another branch broke, and another. I knew it wasn’t a deer — it was a bear. The noise got closer and closer, but the bushes covered my line of sight down the trail. It was close now and I placed the bow on my hip, ready to draw it. In the same instance I saw a glimpse of something black through the remaining colorful fall leaves, only 25 yards out. It disappeared from sight again and I felt as if someone had stolen time and everything was on pause. It was the most exhilarating and primal moment of my entire life. I turned a little to my left towards the trail, where I expected the bear to appear again, and came to a full draw with my sights toward the small clearing where my shot option would be. In that same second, I heard branches breaking in a different direction, much closer and directly towards me. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the bear coming from my left, only 12 or 13 yards out. It rose up with its front paws on a fallen log and

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looked straight at me, moving its head from side to side, like it knew something was there. But with the wind straight in my face, it could not smell me. As it turned slightly to the left, I let the arrow fly and it instantly connected at merely 10 yards away. The bear sprinted a few yards, but then its time was up and it lay still on the ground. My heart pumped at a rate that would seem like a heart attack if it wasn’t for the amount of adrenaline in my bloodstream. I was speechless, even voiceless, and my entire body was shaking so hard that I had to sit down. With my eyes locked on the bear, I slowly started to breathe normally again and somewhat regained my senses. Then the emotions came, and they hit me like a freight train. My eyes welled with tears, and I was overwhelmed with emotion. I had taken a mighty bear, the one above me on the food chain, and I felt both humbled and uneasy. Hunter’s remorse: the mixed feelings of elation, respect for an incredible animal, sadness for its demise, and thankfulness for the meal to ensue. I slowly walked closer and knelt down next to it, and as I lay my hand on the beautiful black fur, I felt the energy transfer from the bear to me. I can’t explain it, but thought back to the sweat lodge moment, and how my energy had changed. As I sat eye-to-eye, it finally sank in; I had taken a mighty bear, and it was now time to honor it. Shortly after I set to work skinning and preparing the meat. Once I was back at camp, I got my fire going, and my ingredients organized. As with all of my hunts, the cooking of the meal afterwards is what truly makes it worthwhile. I felt so fortunate to have been able to harvest such a beautiful creature, even more so on public land that’s only a few hours from New York City. I ate with complete contentment, satisfied that I had closed the circle in my hunt for connection and a good meal. A wild harvested meal tastes best.

DANNY CHRISTENSEN is a storyteller who splits his time between New York City, upstate New York in the Catskill Mountains and Italy. He started @theurbanhuntsman four years ago. Together with good friends and colleagues, new and old, he has tried to build bridges between a modern urban life and the raw, merciless nature along the American east coast. @DANNYCDREAMS / DANNYCHRISTENSEN.COM

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most amazing colors that nature has to offer. If I’d gone blind in the next second, that sight would have been all worth it. Back at camp, the night offered violent thunderstorms and no sleep. I’m not sure what actually kept me awake the most, the damn water dripping on me all night, or the evolving plans in my head to dispatch the salesperson that sold me this wonderful steal-of-a-deal, state-ofthe-art “waterproof” tent. When morning came I was already awake, and despite the rain, was relatively dry. I ventured into the wild again with high spirits, determined to be eating bear meat for dinner, but it was not yet meant to be. Although I found some fresh tracks in the mud, I saw no bear all day. Something had to change. That night I woke up twice, soaked in sweat, despite the nearfreezing temperatures outside. Remembering what my Native American friends had told me about how they use the sweat lodge as a sort of transformation, I understood that to be a sign, and the cause for the change in my energy the next morning. Before daylight, I packed up everything, loaded the canoe, and pushed off. I was headed to a different location, supposedly the “Promised Land” with bears aplenty. With only my bow on my back I climbed, and with every step I took toward higher elevation, I felt an increase in the energy around me. It’s hard to explain, but it was like I was getting closer to something divine. The hour-long hike delivered me to a patch of blueberries on the top of a ridge. I found a good spot, put my back against a boulder and sat down. The big fern leaves in front of me swayed gently from side to side, and as my eyes followed them I was slowly hypnotized, and fell asleep. But when you are out here, you never really sleep. Your body might be dormant, but your brain is still on high alert. Suddenly I was jolted by the sound of a branch breaking on the trail that led down the mountain. It went quiet again though, and I wondered if I’d only dreamt that the branch had broken the silence of the magical autumn forest. Then, another branch broke, and another. I knew it wasn’t a deer — it was a bear. The noise got closer and closer, but the bushes covered my line of sight down the trail. It was close now and I placed the bow on my hip, ready to draw it. In the same instance I saw a glimpse of something black through the remaining colorful fall leaves, only 25 yards out. It disappeared from sight again and I felt as if someone had stolen time and everything was on pause. It was the most exhilarating and primal moment of my entire life. I turned a little to my left towards the trail, where I expected the bear to appear again, and came to a full draw with my sights toward the small clearing where my shot option would be. In that same second, I heard branches breaking in a different direction, much closer and directly towards me. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the bear coming from my left, only 12 or 13 yards out. It rose up with its front paws on a fallen log and

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looked straight at me, moving its head from side to side, like it knew something was there. But with the wind straight in my face, it could not smell me. As it turned slightly to the left, I let the arrow fly and it instantly connected at merely 10 yards away. The bear sprinted a few yards, but then its time was up and it lay still on the ground. My heart pumped at a rate that would seem like a heart attack if it wasn’t for the amount of adrenaline in my bloodstream. I was speechless, even voiceless, and my entire body was shaking so hard that I had to sit down. With my eyes locked on the bear, I slowly started to breathe normally again and somewhat regained my senses. Then the emotions came, and they hit me like a freight train. My eyes welled with tears, and I was overwhelmed with emotion. I had taken a mighty bear, the one above me on the food chain, and I felt both humbled and uneasy. Hunter’s remorse: the mixed feelings of elation, respect for an incredible animal, sadness for its demise, and thankfulness for the meal to ensue. I slowly walked closer and knelt down next to it, and as I lay my hand on the beautiful black fur, I felt the energy transfer from the bear to me. I can’t explain it, but thought back to the sweat lodge moment, and how my energy had changed. As I sat eye-to-eye, it finally sank in; I had taken a mighty bear, and it was now time to honor it. Shortly after I set to work skinning and preparing the meat. Once I was back at camp, I got my fire going, and my ingredients organized. As with all of my hunts, the cooking of the meal afterwards is what truly makes it worthwhile. I felt so fortunate to have been able to harvest such a beautiful creature, even more so on public land that’s only a few hours from New York City. I ate with complete contentment, satisfied that I had closed the circle in my hunt for connection and a good meal. A wild harvested meal tastes best.

DANNY CHRISTENSEN is a storyteller who splits his time between New York City, upstate New York in the Catskill Mountains and Italy. He started @theurbanhuntsman four years ago. Together with good friends and colleagues, new and old, he has tried to build bridges between a modern urban life and the raw, merciless nature along the American east coast. @DANNYCDREAMS / DANNYCHRISTENSEN.COM

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RECIPE

CONSOM MÉ serves 4

5 egg whites FOR ALL BEAR MEAT

1 lb / 500 gram chopped beef of the shank

cook to a min of 165 F (74 C) to avoid trichinosis infection

1 medium onion, chopped 1 celery, chopped in coarse pieces 1 carrot, chopped in coarse pieces

1.

Whip the egg whites until they are airy.

0.4 lb / 200 gram chopped tomatoes

2.

In a big pot, stir egg whites, chopped beef, chopped onion, celery, carrot and tomatoes together. Pour the bear stock and set the pot on medium heat, until close to boiling point, and the meat rises to the surface and forms a “lid”.

3.

Make a small whole in the “lid” so that the stock is able to evaporate. Let the stock simmer for an hour and a half and sift the liquid through a clean cheesecloth or something similar.

4.

Now the consommé is ready and can be tasted if necessary. Serve in a small glass or big deep spoon.

10 cups / 2 ½ liter homemade bear stock (from the bones) or beef stock 2 bay leaves 1/2 teaspoon dried or fresh thyme 4-5 aggressive cranks from black pepper mill 8 parsley stalks 2 cloves of garlic Generous pinch of salt

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RECIPE

CONSOM MÉ serves 4

5 egg whites FOR ALL BEAR MEAT

1 lb / 500 gram chopped beef of the shank

cook to a min of 165 F (74 C) to avoid trichinosis infection

1 medium onion, chopped 1 celery, chopped in coarse pieces 1 carrot, chopped in coarse pieces

1.

Whip the egg whites until they are airy.

0.4 lb / 200 gram chopped tomatoes

2.

In a big pot, stir egg whites, chopped beef, chopped onion, celery, carrot and tomatoes together. Pour the bear stock and set the pot on medium heat, until close to boiling point, and the meat rises to the surface and forms a “lid”.

3.

Make a small whole in the “lid” so that the stock is able to evaporate. Let the stock simmer for an hour and a half and sift the liquid through a clean cheesecloth or something similar.

4.

Now the consommé is ready and can be tasted if necessary. Serve in a small glass or big deep spoon.

10 cups / 2 ½ liter homemade bear stock (from the bones) or beef stock 2 bay leaves 1/2 teaspoon dried or fresh thyme 4-5 aggressive cranks from black pepper mill 8 parsley stalks 2 cloves of garlic Generous pinch of salt

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RECIPE

GREEN SALAD with chimichurri marinated bear flank steak serves 4

1 lb / 500 gram bear flank steak FOR ALL BEAR MEAT

1 tablespoon of dried broadleaved parsley

cook to a min of 165 F (74 C) to avoid trichinosis infection

1 handful of mint (wild) 4 cloves of garlic 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar

1.

Blend the herbs, garlic and vinegar. Mix in oil slowly until the desired consistency is reached. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

2.

Rub the chimichurri on the flank steak and let marinade at room temperature for a minimum of 2–3 hours. Spear it on a debarked maple or willow stick. Cut fresh Y-shaped sticks as spear holders. Place the flank steak about 18 inches from the fire, so the flames don’t lick the meat. Let it broil for about 12 minutes on each side and rest for 10 minutes.

Dandelion Leaves

3.

Rinse the salad and cut the tomatoes in boats. Arrange on 4 plates

8 green tomatoes

4.

Cut the meat into the desired slices perpendicular to the grain and serve it over the fresh salad. Top off with a little chimichurri.

Lots of olive oil Salt Freshly ground pepper Wasabi Arugula

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RECIPE

GREEN SALAD with chimichurri marinated bear flank steak serves 4

1 lb / 500 gram bear flank steak FOR ALL BEAR MEAT

1 tablespoon of dried broadleaved parsley

cook to a min of 165 F (74 C) to avoid trichinosis infection

1 handful of mint (wild) 4 cloves of garlic 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar

1.

Blend the herbs, garlic and vinegar. Mix in oil slowly until the desired consistency is reached. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

2.

Rub the chimichurri on the flank steak and let marinade at room temperature for a minimum of 2–3 hours. Spear it on a debarked maple or willow stick. Cut fresh Y-shaped sticks as spear holders. Place the flank steak about 18 inches from the fire, so the flames don’t lick the meat. Let it broil for about 12 minutes on each side and rest for 10 minutes.

Dandelion Leaves

3.

Rinse the salad and cut the tomatoes in boats. Arrange on 4 plates

8 green tomatoes

4.

Cut the meat into the desired slices perpendicular to the grain and serve it over the fresh salad. Top off with a little chimichurri.

Lots of olive oil Salt Freshly ground pepper Wasabi Arugula

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An Ode to Wild Salmon STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY

CHARLES POST

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An Ode to Wild Salmon STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY

CHARLES POST

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I

t wasn’t long ago that California’s great rivers brimmed with the hooked jaws of salmon. Today, most if not all of that wildness, has disappeared under the chopping block of western progress at any cost. To be able to drift back in time to a place where salmon continue to flood August rivers is perhaps my greatest inspiration. These wild rivers and the salmon that sustain them are not impervious or immune to human progress, and more than anything I hope my grandkids get to stand in the wild salmon waters one day.

But even in the face of this decline, wild salmon strongholds still exist around the Pacific, for now at least. Out in a remote Alaskan bay I found what I had been dreaming of: waters teeming with salmon; a lone bear scouring the bank’s edge; puffins, murrelets and eagles racing by with fish on their mind. The world slowed to a crawl as my wife, Rachel Pohl, gently rowed through the rainforest with smiling eyes. It rained and rained and rained, and we sat in the middle of the sea drenched from an Alaskan deluge.

I grew up hearing the stories of our backyard creek in northern California and the thousands of wild coho salmon that arrived each October. But by the time I was born, most had disappeared from the coastal creeks of northern California. I dreamed of seeing those gin-clear streams with so many salmon that the water swirled and churned with life. If it rained, my dad would load us into his old Volvo and we’d head down to the creek to watch the ancient migration unfold.

She caught her first salmon on the end of a borrowed fishing pole, and we cooked it for dinner, full of gratitude for these pristine corners and the local community hell-bent on stewarding these places that have no voice. Our smiles tell the story. That was one of my proudest moments: to see her catch, gently handle, and create a moment that definitely cultivated a deep reverence for this fish and the landscapes and waters that sustain them. It was a dream come true, especially because I’ve spent most of my adult life studying freshwater ecology, salmon streams, and working as a field scientist. To share that with my partner was a moment I’ll never forget, and is something I hope to share with others as the years march on.

Most days we saw nothing save for a churning, muddy creek. No salmon broke the water’s surface, or lept up the braided falls. But that didn’t stop us from coming back day after day until we saw what we were after, a wild coho salmon. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we still have wild places that need our voice, reverence and eyes, so that we might find inspiration to protect what we love. Decades of development, logging, mining, overfishing, and an itch for blind progress at any cost left most of America’s wild salmon rivers beaten down, degraded, and a remnant of a once wild and vibrant ecosystem. And it’s not just the fall runs that have disappeared, it’s the summer, spring and winter runs too. They’ve mostly faded away with the health of their watersheds and marine ecosystems that have sustained them for millennia.

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It’s a reminder that these ecosystems are not just wild salmon strongholds, but also serve as a fountain for memories and transformative experiences: a gift from nature. What happens to our own humanity when we lose what’s wild? What happens when we’ve lost these wild salmon rivers for good? How can we possibly look back on and feel proud for leaving behind a legacy marred by the reality that we could have done more, saved those last salmon strongholds while we had time, while we had the chance? I’ve read that wilderness without wildlife is just scenery. Truer words may not have been said.

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I

t wasn’t long ago that California’s great rivers brimmed with the hooked jaws of salmon. Today, most if not all of that wildness, has disappeared under the chopping block of western progress at any cost. To be able to drift back in time to a place where salmon continue to flood August rivers is perhaps my greatest inspiration. These wild rivers and the salmon that sustain them are not impervious or immune to human progress, and more than anything I hope my grandkids get to stand in the wild salmon waters one day.

But even in the face of this decline, wild salmon strongholds still exist around the Pacific, for now at least. Out in a remote Alaskan bay I found what I had been dreaming of: waters teeming with salmon; a lone bear scouring the bank’s edge; puffins, murrelets and eagles racing by with fish on their mind. The world slowed to a crawl as my wife, Rachel Pohl, gently rowed through the rainforest with smiling eyes. It rained and rained and rained, and we sat in the middle of the sea drenched from an Alaskan deluge.

I grew up hearing the stories of our backyard creek in northern California and the thousands of wild coho salmon that arrived each October. But by the time I was born, most had disappeared from the coastal creeks of northern California. I dreamed of seeing those gin-clear streams with so many salmon that the water swirled and churned with life. If it rained, my dad would load us into his old Volvo and we’d head down to the creek to watch the ancient migration unfold.

She caught her first salmon on the end of a borrowed fishing pole, and we cooked it for dinner, full of gratitude for these pristine corners and the local community hell-bent on stewarding these places that have no voice. Our smiles tell the story. That was one of my proudest moments: to see her catch, gently handle, and create a moment that definitely cultivated a deep reverence for this fish and the landscapes and waters that sustain them. It was a dream come true, especially because I’ve spent most of my adult life studying freshwater ecology, salmon streams, and working as a field scientist. To share that with my partner was a moment I’ll never forget, and is something I hope to share with others as the years march on.

Most days we saw nothing save for a churning, muddy creek. No salmon broke the water’s surface, or lept up the braided falls. But that didn’t stop us from coming back day after day until we saw what we were after, a wild coho salmon. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we still have wild places that need our voice, reverence and eyes, so that we might find inspiration to protect what we love. Decades of development, logging, mining, overfishing, and an itch for blind progress at any cost left most of America’s wild salmon rivers beaten down, degraded, and a remnant of a once wild and vibrant ecosystem. And it’s not just the fall runs that have disappeared, it’s the summer, spring and winter runs too. They’ve mostly faded away with the health of their watersheds and marine ecosystems that have sustained them for millennia.

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It’s a reminder that these ecosystems are not just wild salmon strongholds, but also serve as a fountain for memories and transformative experiences: a gift from nature. What happens to our own humanity when we lose what’s wild? What happens when we’ve lost these wild salmon rivers for good? How can we possibly look back on and feel proud for leaving behind a legacy marred by the reality that we could have done more, saved those last salmon strongholds while we had time, while we had the chance? I’ve read that wilderness without wildlife is just scenery. Truer words may not have been said.

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“The most important lesson we can learn from a wild Alaskan river in 2018 is that there’s still so much to save, so many wild salmon hanging in the balance.” It boggles the mind to think these wild salmon are born in distant watersheds — often miles from the sea — where they grow and develop from eggs amongst ancient cottonwoods, before migrating downstream past hungry mouths to mature in the great blue. They will more than triple in size then point their noses landward to migrate back to the very stream they were born; it’s a journey unlike any other. Millions return home each year to simply reproduce and then die. This event is one of nature’s largest single doses of nutrients returned back to the system from which they were born. Bears, gulls, stone and caddisflies, ravens, wolves and eagles will drag these fish into the forest where salmon will feed them and the alder leaves that shade the stream will fall and feed aquatic insects that will in turn feed the next generation of salmon. These trees will grow old and sag into the stream below to create shelter for young salmon and pools for migrating salmon to rest on their way upstream. This cycle is perfect, self-sustaining, dynamic and ancient. To witness this is a chance to look into the heart of one of nature’s greatest spectacles. The most important lesson we can learn from a wild Alaskan river in 2018 is that there’s still so much to save, so many wild salmon hanging in the balance. They need an inch from us so they can take a mile. They’re survivors, and they just need a chance. We have an opportunity to learn from our mistakes, and craft a future for wild salmon that may well ensure they persist into the future. If we hope to save them we also need to save the ecosystems and wilderness,

marine and terrestrial, that supply their livelihood. Without healthy watersheds and oceans there’s no hope. But if we can leverage our voices, dollars and votes to support the groundswell of energy committed to the preservation of wild salmon, we have a chance to rewrite their future and secure their place on Earth. And it’s not just for these majestic fish, it’s for the experiences and inspiration provided by their presence that holds the potential to cultivate a new generation of reverent, curious and fierce defenders of wilderness. Right now, a fight is playing out in Alaska as citizens attempt to do just that, give salmon an inch, in their world-famous rivers. This November, Alaska will be voting on measures that may help save one of the world’s last great salmon strongholds, Bristol Bay, which supports millions of salmon and the countless families, plants and animals who rely on this cornerstone fish species. They are now under threat from a proposed pebble mine, that if approved, will jeopardize one of the last truly wild ecosystems we have left in North America. A mine has a shelf life, a wild salmon ecosystem does not; if we give it a chance, it will continue to do what is has for millenia: thrive. Let’s give it that chance. To learn more about wild salmon and an upcoming Alaska ballot initiative that holds the power to write the future of Bristol Bay visit WildSalmonCenter.org.

C H A R L E S P O S T is an ecologist, Environmental Lead at SITKA Gear and an award-winning filmmaker inspired by the confluence of society and wild landscapes. He spent nearly a decade studying at U.C. Berkeley while earning his Bachelor of Science and Master’s degree in ecology. Charles and his wife, Rachel Pohl, call Montana home. @CHARLES_ POST / CHARLESPOST.com

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“The most important lesson we can learn from a wild Alaskan river in 2018 is that there’s still so much to save, so many wild salmon hanging in the balance.” It boggles the mind to think these wild salmon are born in distant watersheds — often miles from the sea — where they grow and develop from eggs amongst ancient cottonwoods, before migrating downstream past hungry mouths to mature in the great blue. They will more than triple in size then point their noses landward to migrate back to the very stream they were born; it’s a journey unlike any other. Millions return home each year to simply reproduce and then die. This event is one of nature’s largest single doses of nutrients returned back to the system from which they were born. Bears, gulls, stone and caddisflies, ravens, wolves and eagles will drag these fish into the forest where salmon will feed them and the alder leaves that shade the stream will fall and feed aquatic insects that will in turn feed the next generation of salmon. These trees will grow old and sag into the stream below to create shelter for young salmon and pools for migrating salmon to rest on their way upstream. This cycle is perfect, self-sustaining, dynamic and ancient. To witness this is a chance to look into the heart of one of nature’s greatest spectacles. The most important lesson we can learn from a wild Alaskan river in 2018 is that there’s still so much to save, so many wild salmon hanging in the balance. They need an inch from us so they can take a mile. They’re survivors, and they just need a chance. We have an opportunity to learn from our mistakes, and craft a future for wild salmon that may well ensure they persist into the future. If we hope to save them we also need to save the ecosystems and wilderness,

marine and terrestrial, that supply their livelihood. Without healthy watersheds and oceans there’s no hope. But if we can leverage our voices, dollars and votes to support the groundswell of energy committed to the preservation of wild salmon, we have a chance to rewrite their future and secure their place on Earth. And it’s not just for these majestic fish, it’s for the experiences and inspiration provided by their presence that holds the potential to cultivate a new generation of reverent, curious and fierce defenders of wilderness. Right now, a fight is playing out in Alaska as citizens attempt to do just that, give salmon an inch, in their world-famous rivers. This November, Alaska will be voting on measures that may help save one of the world’s last great salmon strongholds, Bristol Bay, which supports millions of salmon and the countless families, plants and animals who rely on this cornerstone fish species. They are now under threat from a proposed pebble mine, that if approved, will jeopardize one of the last truly wild ecosystems we have left in North America. A mine has a shelf life, a wild salmon ecosystem does not; if we give it a chance, it will continue to do what is has for millenia: thrive. Let’s give it that chance. To learn more about wild salmon and an upcoming Alaska ballot initiative that holds the power to write the future of Bristol Bay visit WildSalmonCenter.org.

C H A R L E S P O S T is an ecologist, Environmental Lead at SITKA Gear and an award-winning filmmaker inspired by the confluence of society and wild landscapes. He spent nearly a decade studying at U.C. Berkeley while earning his Bachelor of Science and Master’s degree in ecology. Charles and his wife, Rachel Pohl, call Montana home. @CHARLES_ POST / CHARLESPOST.com

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HUNTING LIGHT, LANDSCAPES, AND WILD FOOD An Artist Feature on Rachel Pohl STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY

CHARLES POST

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HUNTING LIGHT, LANDSCAPES, AND WILD FOOD An Artist Feature on Rachel Pohl STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY

CHARLES POST

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S

he didn’t know any different. Public lands were there. They always had been. It’s where she grew up, where she fell in love with light and color, where she cut her teeth as a skier, mountaineer, climber and outdoorswoman. Rachel would say she’s an artist first and foremost, but I’d argue she’s a student of public lands and wild ecosystems first. Her art is the bridge, her paintings are the vehicle, and instilling a reverence for the natural world is the message woven throughout her work. Her paintings carry a certain weight and energy. Take a look. You can’t miss it. Rachel Pohl and I will be married by the time you read this. September 15th, our wedding date, will have just passed and I expect we will be happily embarking on her first bowhunting season on public lands. She’s not someone most would peg as a hunter, but as a sixth-generation Montanan, hunting wasn’t something placed on a pedestal. For her family, historically it was an important way for food to be put on the table, an anchor point to an old cabin and slice of land that has been in her family for generations, an excuse to get outside and explore the woods. Hunting was just something they did. Rachel caught the art bug well before hunting, but I’d argue the former prepared her well for the latter. Art, I’ve learned, stems from an obsession to observe, to freeze a moment and interpret it through color and light. Rachel’s art does this but with a unique twist: bright colors, whimsical scenes, and an attention to detail that brings her muse, the mountains, to life. And you won’t find a single painting of private lands in her portfolio. Public lands catch her eye because they have been the landscapes that shaped her from the time she first walked. She didn’t grow up with 50,000 acres of private land to explore, but instead had a backyard that spilled into the vast sea of public lands that pour across the West. By six, Rachel was ski-touring in the backcountry with her dad and brother. By the time she was a teenager Rachel was quickly

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becoming one of the more seasoned female skiers, seeking lines in some of the lower forty-eight’s most rugged and remote ranges. In 2013, when Rachel was just 20 years old, she embarked on a 20 day expedition with Conrad Anker, John Krakauer, Jeremy Jones and a host of the world’s top mountaineers to summit Denali, the tallest peak in North America, but was forced to turn back just minutes from the summit as a lightning storm swept in. She later went on to star in National Parks Adventure (2016), an IMAX film about Rachel’s exploration of America’s National Parks alongside Conrad Anker and his son Max Lowe narrated by the champion of conservation, Robert Redford. Since then she’s continued to ski and explore mountain ranges across the West while her paintings and art career have quietly erupted on a national scale. Today, her art still leans on the vibrant colors and reverence for nature that first tugged her eyes mountainward, but she’s also begun adding new depth to her work by incorporating not-so-subtle messages of conservation and stewardship. For example, a recent trip to Chilean Patagonia resulted in a massive painting of the Torres del Paine. Most might discount the Andean condor flying through the right corner of the canvas, but to Rachel the bird symbolizes the fragility of nature and the condors rebounding from the brink of extinction. By adding these symbols to her work Rachel has been able to cultivate a space for conservation around the elements that define these wild and public lands. The American naturalist and filmmaker, Lois Crisler, once said “Wilderness without wildlife is just scenery,” and this is a sentiment that guides much of Rachel’s work. It’s the underlying message that define the places she paints. A lone glacier within a painting of Glacier National Park is a subtle reminder of what’s at stake, while a painting of a smoky horizon illuminated by summer sun speaks to the future of the American West as massive forest fires continue to shape and define the landscape. And the conversation doesn’t just stop at the edge of the canvas, it’s continued in Rachel’s social

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S

he didn’t know any different. Public lands were there. They always had been. It’s where she grew up, where she fell in love with light and color, where she cut her teeth as a skier, mountaineer, climber and outdoorswoman. Rachel would say she’s an artist first and foremost, but I’d argue she’s a student of public lands and wild ecosystems first. Her art is the bridge, her paintings are the vehicle, and instilling a reverence for the natural world is the message woven throughout her work. Her paintings carry a certain weight and energy. Take a look. You can’t miss it. Rachel Pohl and I will be married by the time you read this. September 15th, our wedding date, will have just passed and I expect we will be happily embarking on her first bowhunting season on public lands. She’s not someone most would peg as a hunter, but as a sixth-generation Montanan, hunting wasn’t something placed on a pedestal. For her family, historically it was an important way for food to be put on the table, an anchor point to an old cabin and slice of land that has been in her family for generations, an excuse to get outside and explore the woods. Hunting was just something they did. Rachel caught the art bug well before hunting, but I’d argue the former prepared her well for the latter. Art, I’ve learned, stems from an obsession to observe, to freeze a moment and interpret it through color and light. Rachel’s art does this but with a unique twist: bright colors, whimsical scenes, and an attention to detail that brings her muse, the mountains, to life. And you won’t find a single painting of private lands in her portfolio. Public lands catch her eye because they have been the landscapes that shaped her from the time she first walked. She didn’t grow up with 50,000 acres of private land to explore, but instead had a backyard that spilled into the vast sea of public lands that pour across the West. By six, Rachel was ski-touring in the backcountry with her dad and brother. By the time she was a teenager Rachel was quickly

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becoming one of the more seasoned female skiers, seeking lines in some of the lower forty-eight’s most rugged and remote ranges. In 2013, when Rachel was just 20 years old, she embarked on a 20 day expedition with Conrad Anker, John Krakauer, Jeremy Jones and a host of the world’s top mountaineers to summit Denali, the tallest peak in North America, but was forced to turn back just minutes from the summit as a lightning storm swept in. She later went on to star in National Parks Adventure (2016), an IMAX film about Rachel’s exploration of America’s National Parks alongside Conrad Anker and his son Max Lowe narrated by the champion of conservation, Robert Redford. Since then she’s continued to ski and explore mountain ranges across the West while her paintings and art career have quietly erupted on a national scale. Today, her art still leans on the vibrant colors and reverence for nature that first tugged her eyes mountainward, but she’s also begun adding new depth to her work by incorporating not-so-subtle messages of conservation and stewardship. For example, a recent trip to Chilean Patagonia resulted in a massive painting of the Torres del Paine. Most might discount the Andean condor flying through the right corner of the canvas, but to Rachel the bird symbolizes the fragility of nature and the condors rebounding from the brink of extinction. By adding these symbols to her work Rachel has been able to cultivate a space for conservation around the elements that define these wild and public lands. The American naturalist and filmmaker, Lois Crisler, once said “Wilderness without wildlife is just scenery,” and this is a sentiment that guides much of Rachel’s work. It’s the underlying message that define the places she paints. A lone glacier within a painting of Glacier National Park is a subtle reminder of what’s at stake, while a painting of a smoky horizon illuminated by summer sun speaks to the future of the American West as massive forest fires continue to shape and define the landscape. And the conversation doesn’t just stop at the edge of the canvas, it’s continued in Rachel’s social

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media account where over 117,000 followers actively engage with her on topics ranging from stewardship and conservation to storytelling, self-worth, perseverance, community and inspiration. Her feed has become a hub rooted within the confluence of art and nature. With bow season just days away, I’ve had the chance to imagine Rachel at full draw, and the instances leading up to that moment. Her ability to move across a landscape has grown from a lifetime in the mountains. Her knowledge of wildlife stems from decades of following their trails and watching their every move; the elk who grazed just beyond the front door of her childhood home to the mountain goats and bighorns who adorned the

ridges she explored on foot and ski. She’s been hunting her whole life, but until now it’s been a pursuit of views, summits and ridgelines. On our final day of bow hunting last season, moments after I was able to harvest my first bull elk on public land with a bow, she looked at me with smiling eyes and said “I’ll get mine next year.” I never pushed her to hunt. She found her own connection to it, and I’m sure she will continue to love the pursuit of summits, ridgelines, and peaks, but now has the potential to harvest a big bull elk crossing her path on a piece of public land she’s hiked and skied her entire life.

FIND RACHEL ONLINE RACHELPOHLART.COM / @RACHEL .POHL

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media account where over 117,000 followers actively engage with her on topics ranging from stewardship and conservation to storytelling, self-worth, perseverance, community and inspiration. Her feed has become a hub rooted within the confluence of art and nature. With bow season just days away, I’ve had the chance to imagine Rachel at full draw, and the instances leading up to that moment. Her ability to move across a landscape has grown from a lifetime in the mountains. Her knowledge of wildlife stems from decades of following their trails and watching their every move; the elk who grazed just beyond the front door of her childhood home to the mountain goats and bighorns who adorned the

ridges she explored on foot and ski. She’s been hunting her whole life, but until now it’s been a pursuit of views, summits and ridgelines. On our final day of bow hunting last season, moments after I was able to harvest my first bull elk on public land with a bow, she looked at me with smiling eyes and said “I’ll get mine next year.” I never pushed her to hunt. She found her own connection to it, and I’m sure she will continue to love the pursuit of summits, ridgelines, and peaks, but now has the potential to harvest a big bull elk crossing her path on a piece of public land she’s hiked and skied her entire life.

FIND RACHEL ONLINE RACHELPOHLART.COM / @RACHEL .POHL

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PART TWO

Nexus of Public and Private Land

PHOTO:TYLER SHARP

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PART TWO

Nexus of Public and Private Land

PHOTO:TYLER SHARP

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Rewilding of Land & Self STORY BY PHOTOGRAPHY BY

ERIN KILEY MAX KILIBARDA

T

his next story, presented by EPIC Provisions, is a fitting example of how ethical hunting and ranching principles can work together to create a system of food sourcing that is mindful and simultaneously beneficial to humans, animals, and land. May it inspire your next walk on the range, or meal from the field.

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Rewilding of Land & Self STORY BY PHOTOGRAPHY BY

ERIN KILEY MAX KILIBARDA

T

his next story, presented by EPIC Provisions, is a fitting example of how ethical hunting and ranching principles can work together to create a system of food sourcing that is mindful and simultaneously beneficial to humans, animals, and land. May it inspire your next walk on the range, or meal from the field.

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T

his is not a story of pointing fingers at where our food system started failing us. The moral of this story is not to deepen the division that exists between schools of thought in ranching or in hunting. Instead, this is a story of celebrating a way of connecting to the land that is dear to me. I’m a rancher and grazier by trade. I manage grasslands with carefully planned grazing of livestock. The root of my work is to attempt to more closely mimic natural systems and utilize megafauna (in my case, cows) as a tool to restore healthy ecosystems. Managing land and animals in this way is not a new concept; it draws from ancient wisdom and relationships between humans, wilderness, and the natural processes interweaving them all. As hunter-gatherers, we devoted generations to becoming intimate with a piece of land and knowing it like the lines on the face of our beloved ones, learning the ridges, where the rain collected and the ground was most fertile, where streams and rivers carved through valleys, and wild, migrating herds gathered. As a means of survival, our ancestors were well versed in how to use our human bodies to move efficiently over the landscape with intent and purpose and with minimal disturbance. And from that deep relationship connecting person to place grew an understanding of the animals that we shared the land with, and not just the deer and the elk we hunted for meat, but also the songbird, the salmon, the coyote, the bear. By thoughtfully placing and moving herds of cattle across grasslands, they take the role that natural herds historically played on the landscape. When great attention is given to timing and design, livestock fulfill a fundamental and age-old role in ecosystems: reducing erosion, providing disturbance, cycling nutrients, sequestering carbon into the soil, and creating flourishing habitat. I am not alone in the practice of this management. There is a growing community of ranchers who think holistically about managing land and livestock. Yes, these ranchers work tirelessly to produce meat that nourishes us, but it goes much deeper than that. I believe that when we place value on conservation and lift our gaze to broaden our view, our meat reflects that. For those ranchers devoting their lives and livelihoods to regenerating the land, the meat produced is a testament to the joy and suffering, to the broken bones, to the children born, to the endless sweat and hours spent. I believe the meat produced in holistic systems, meat produced as a result of soil building, of increasing perennial grasses, of improving native wildlife populations, becomes a physical manifestation of our work and is food to be revered.

This is my narrative. This is also the narrative that has been lost from our food system. - 158 -

And so, understandably, we as humans have lost our connection to food. For this and a myriad of other reasons, consumers often struggle to draw direct connections between the meat they eat and how it is intrinsically tied to watersheds or whole intricate ecosystems. Through this uncoupling of consumers from active participation in the production of their food, misunderstanding seeps in to fill the void. I am not immune to this phenomenon. What is misunderstood about ranching, I believe, rings true for hunting. Misunderstanding defined my personal history with hunting. Through misunderstanding, I had falsely conflated hunting with a paradigm of command and control. Where I could have drawn deep connections between regenerative ranching and my innate heritage as a hunter, I only saw a mindset of dominance over ecosystems I painstakingly work to build up. That changed when I found the community that makes up Modern Huntsman. The voices of Modern Huntsman offered a very real, very visceral story of how hunting ethically and with reverence for wild places is a seamless extension of my love of land. Reading the collective narrative was like a familiar garment that I could visualize putting on and mental barriers around identifying as a hunter crumbled. Clothed in a new hunting mythology, I suddenly found a sense of belonging to my humanness, an archetype I could see myself in. I found an outlet to deepen my experience in Human Nature Hunting School in Kettle Falls, Washington, a community of learning for those seeking to hone skills and awareness around conscious hunting. During my time at an Awaken the Hunter course, the school’s founder, Bruce McGlenn, agreed to let me tag along on a turkey hunt in the Douglas fir around his mountain cabin. The morning of the hunt, I walk through the predawn darkness from my tent in a creek bottom, headlamp like a searchlight, to Bruce’s cabin, bleary-eyed, hoping in the quiet there would be a full press of coffee. We walk in silent stride through the dark and the sky starts to streak with blue. My ankles collect dew from the grass; we cross a meadow to a lone ponderosa pine. I sit and scoot my back against the trunk, Bruce hands the Beretta 12 gauge to me and then clambers down under the boughs and sits next to me to share my bark backrest. Soil still wet from earlier rains soaks my well worn camouflage pants, a gem of a thrift store find, and I feel the damp on the backs of my legs like there is no barrier between myself and the ground. I’m now alert and unaffected by the early hour and the air is charged in my chest. Bruce asks in his measured cadence how many yards I think a tree stump is out across the field. I’m sheepish in my reply, but I shove down the self doubt and silence it. I pause and ponder, rolling around the lessons from the past several days in my mind like polished stones. I recall our shooting practice from the day before and try to mentally overlay the target. “35 yards” is my answer. Bruce glances at me and offers no hint to my accuracy. He brings a rangefinder up to his eye and tinkers with it for a couple seconds, “35.” The lines around his eyes gather and he flashes me an ingenuous grin. He passes me a box call and I muster up my best lonely hen, pulling the wooden top across the chalked edges of the box. The

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T

his is not a story of pointing fingers at where our food system started failing us. The moral of this story is not to deepen the division that exists between schools of thought in ranching or in hunting. Instead, this is a story of celebrating a way of connecting to the land that is dear to me. I’m a rancher and grazier by trade. I manage grasslands with carefully planned grazing of livestock. The root of my work is to attempt to more closely mimic natural systems and utilize megafauna (in my case, cows) as a tool to restore healthy ecosystems. Managing land and animals in this way is not a new concept; it draws from ancient wisdom and relationships between humans, wilderness, and the natural processes interweaving them all. As hunter-gatherers, we devoted generations to becoming intimate with a piece of land and knowing it like the lines on the face of our beloved ones, learning the ridges, where the rain collected and the ground was most fertile, where streams and rivers carved through valleys, and wild, migrating herds gathered. As a means of survival, our ancestors were well versed in how to use our human bodies to move efficiently over the landscape with intent and purpose and with minimal disturbance. And from that deep relationship connecting person to place grew an understanding of the animals that we shared the land with, and not just the deer and the elk we hunted for meat, but also the songbird, the salmon, the coyote, the bear. By thoughtfully placing and moving herds of cattle across grasslands, they take the role that natural herds historically played on the landscape. When great attention is given to timing and design, livestock fulfill a fundamental and age-old role in ecosystems: reducing erosion, providing disturbance, cycling nutrients, sequestering carbon into the soil, and creating flourishing habitat. I am not alone in the practice of this management. There is a growing community of ranchers who think holistically about managing land and livestock. Yes, these ranchers work tirelessly to produce meat that nourishes us, but it goes much deeper than that. I believe that when we place value on conservation and lift our gaze to broaden our view, our meat reflects that. For those ranchers devoting their lives and livelihoods to regenerating the land, the meat produced is a testament to the joy and suffering, to the broken bones, to the children born, to the endless sweat and hours spent. I believe the meat produced in holistic systems, meat produced as a result of soil building, of increasing perennial grasses, of improving native wildlife populations, becomes a physical manifestation of our work and is food to be revered.

This is my narrative. This is also the narrative that has been lost from our food system. - 158 -

And so, understandably, we as humans have lost our connection to food. For this and a myriad of other reasons, consumers often struggle to draw direct connections between the meat they eat and how it is intrinsically tied to watersheds or whole intricate ecosystems. Through this uncoupling of consumers from active participation in the production of their food, misunderstanding seeps in to fill the void. I am not immune to this phenomenon. What is misunderstood about ranching, I believe, rings true for hunting. Misunderstanding defined my personal history with hunting. Through misunderstanding, I had falsely conflated hunting with a paradigm of command and control. Where I could have drawn deep connections between regenerative ranching and my innate heritage as a hunter, I only saw a mindset of dominance over ecosystems I painstakingly work to build up. That changed when I found the community that makes up Modern Huntsman. The voices of Modern Huntsman offered a very real, very visceral story of how hunting ethically and with reverence for wild places is a seamless extension of my love of land. Reading the collective narrative was like a familiar garment that I could visualize putting on and mental barriers around identifying as a hunter crumbled. Clothed in a new hunting mythology, I suddenly found a sense of belonging to my humanness, an archetype I could see myself in. I found an outlet to deepen my experience in Human Nature Hunting School in Kettle Falls, Washington, a community of learning for those seeking to hone skills and awareness around conscious hunting. During my time at an Awaken the Hunter course, the school’s founder, Bruce McGlenn, agreed to let me tag along on a turkey hunt in the Douglas fir around his mountain cabin. The morning of the hunt, I walk through the predawn darkness from my tent in a creek bottom, headlamp like a searchlight, to Bruce’s cabin, bleary-eyed, hoping in the quiet there would be a full press of coffee. We walk in silent stride through the dark and the sky starts to streak with blue. My ankles collect dew from the grass; we cross a meadow to a lone ponderosa pine. I sit and scoot my back against the trunk, Bruce hands the Beretta 12 gauge to me and then clambers down under the boughs and sits next to me to share my bark backrest. Soil still wet from earlier rains soaks my well worn camouflage pants, a gem of a thrift store find, and I feel the damp on the backs of my legs like there is no barrier between myself and the ground. I’m now alert and unaffected by the early hour and the air is charged in my chest. Bruce asks in his measured cadence how many yards I think a tree stump is out across the field. I’m sheepish in my reply, but I shove down the self doubt and silence it. I pause and ponder, rolling around the lessons from the past several days in my mind like polished stones. I recall our shooting practice from the day before and try to mentally overlay the target. “35 yards” is my answer. Bruce glances at me and offers no hint to my accuracy. He brings a rangefinder up to his eye and tinkers with it for a couple seconds, “35.” The lines around his eyes gather and he flashes me an ingenuous grin. He passes me a box call and I muster up my best lonely hen, pulling the wooden top across the chalked edges of the box. The

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resulting sound is too high in pitch but the intonation has much improved over the past days. The dust from the chalk creates tiny billows that fall and settle in the pine needles. I pause my strokes and we listen. A gobbler retorts in the east. I practice bringing the shotgun to shoulder and let everything but the bead fade into the periphery. I fidget a couple more times, sinking my elbow deeper to find the hollow where my arm meets my chest and let the shotgun butt rest there. The tom turkey glides from his lofty eastern perch across the meadow and leaves little clearance between his generous breast and the tip top of the ponderosa. He flies on and crash lands on a fir bough, and it violently falls and rises, determined to hold his weight. I feel excited energy creeping up from my belly into the bottom reaches of my ribcage like a shock when I mistakenly brush against electrified livestock fence on the prairie. When working cattle properly and with minimal stress, it’s a lot about pressure. As prey animals, cattle are sensitive to pressure directed from our body positioning, our movement, our power, our attitudes. Thinking about the presence of pressure, the right kind of pressure, shapes how I interact with the world. When I connect with a cow through good stockmanship, I can feel and read the energy between our two bodies and that connection is pure magic. What I learned about hunting while under that pine tree is that the

energy is transcendent. The silent connection I make when moving cattle is the same connection I made for an instant with the turkey as it flew overhead, an unspoken exchange of everything sacred. What I know to be true is cattle follow good movement. Stock that are moving with good energy, good direction, draw the herd with them, and the movement perpetuates and maintains momentum. Modern Huntsman is good movement. Deep in my gut I know this community of conservationists, creatives and outdoor enthusiasts is irrevocably altering the direction of hunting and reconnecting us with our birthright as humans who honor the land. The turkey never did fly down into the meadow. But in that moment, I let myself settle and center — I’m hunting. It’s no longer an intangible concept, it’s now much more than a dialogue with myself on what it means to be a hunter. At once I felt a heavy pang of sadness that I’m just now discovering these timeless feelings, a nostalgia for childhood lessons in the woods left untaught. In the same moment I felt wholly happy, leaving me answerless when I muse on the question of places I’d rather be. I have to think my best life or some semblance of the earth’s center must be tucked up in those Northwest hills, sitting in the pine straw under a lone ponderosa, looking out across an expanse of meadow waiting silently for a bird.

E R I N K I L E Y is a grassland manager and grazier by trade and has managed cattle on ranches and large landbases across the West. Her work focuses on the convergence of wild landscapes, holistic grazing systems, and human participation in nature. In seeking a deeper connection to land, Erin has chosen to start the journey in learning to hunt. @LITTLEHOLISTONTHEPRAIRIE

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resulting sound is too high in pitch but the intonation has much improved over the past days. The dust from the chalk creates tiny billows that fall and settle in the pine needles. I pause my strokes and we listen. A gobbler retorts in the east. I practice bringing the shotgun to shoulder and let everything but the bead fade into the periphery. I fidget a couple more times, sinking my elbow deeper to find the hollow where my arm meets my chest and let the shotgun butt rest there. The tom turkey glides from his lofty eastern perch across the meadow and leaves little clearance between his generous breast and the tip top of the ponderosa. He flies on and crash lands on a fir bough, and it violently falls and rises, determined to hold his weight. I feel excited energy creeping up from my belly into the bottom reaches of my ribcage like a shock when I mistakenly brush against electrified livestock fence on the prairie. When working cattle properly and with minimal stress, it’s a lot about pressure. As prey animals, cattle are sensitive to pressure directed from our body positioning, our movement, our power, our attitudes. Thinking about the presence of pressure, the right kind of pressure, shapes how I interact with the world. When I connect with a cow through good stockmanship, I can feel and read the energy between our two bodies and that connection is pure magic. What I learned about hunting while under that pine tree is that the

energy is transcendent. The silent connection I make when moving cattle is the same connection I made for an instant with the turkey as it flew overhead, an unspoken exchange of everything sacred. What I know to be true is cattle follow good movement. Stock that are moving with good energy, good direction, draw the herd with them, and the movement perpetuates and maintains momentum. Modern Huntsman is good movement. Deep in my gut I know this community of conservationists, creatives and outdoor enthusiasts is irrevocably altering the direction of hunting and reconnecting us with our birthright as humans who honor the land. The turkey never did fly down into the meadow. But in that moment, I let myself settle and center — I’m hunting. It’s no longer an intangible concept, it’s now much more than a dialogue with myself on what it means to be a hunter. At once I felt a heavy pang of sadness that I’m just now discovering these timeless feelings, a nostalgia for childhood lessons in the woods left untaught. In the same moment I felt wholly happy, leaving me answerless when I muse on the question of places I’d rather be. I have to think my best life or some semblance of the earth’s center must be tucked up in those Northwest hills, sitting in the pine straw under a lone ponderosa, looking out across an expanse of meadow waiting silently for a bird.

E R I N K I L E Y is a grassland manager and grazier by trade and has managed cattle on ranches and large landbases across the West. Her work focuses on the convergence of wild landscapes, holistic grazing systems, and human participation in nature. In seeking a deeper connection to land, Erin has chosen to start the journey in learning to hunt. @LITTLEHOLISTONTHEPRAIRIE

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A TEXAS LAND LEGACY STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY

TYLER SHARP

A

part from a few stray years here and there, including my current foray in Montana, I’ve lived most of my life in Texas. Growing up, I was always outside climbing trees, fording creeks, exploring ranches, or scouring the arid plains for the ever-elusive horned lizard, AKA the horny toad. We occasionally went to state parks, but the wilds that I roamed as a boy, places that I still hold dear to this day, turns out were mostly on private land. And that’s not because I chose it, or preferred it, but because that’s mostly the way it is in the Lone Star State. Texas is about 95% private, but despite that fact, the sheer size of the state never made me feel confined, or without a place to roam, as someone’s buddy or grandad always had a spot we could go. And if you didn’t have somewhere to go, you just asked. Texans are pretty friendly people if you mind your manners and treat them with respect. Eventually, as I got older and started to hunt these distinctions became more clear, and access was something to consider. Texas doesn’t have the seemingly endless stretches of public land that so many westerners do, some who spit at the first

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mention of the word private. But that was not a contemporary choice (as you’ll read more about in the next essay by Jay Kleberg), rather more of a side effect of retaining our independence as a republic. Despite that small percentage, Texas has nearly two million acres of federal public land, and over 22 million acres of state owned public land spread across incredibly diverse regions. But through recent efforts of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation to transfer private land they acquired to publically accessible hunting areas, that number is growing. What Texas might lack in public land we make up for with a proven track record of conservation and habitat improvement, which affords a richness of wildlife and thriving ecology that has set a high standard for land and species management. But before we go too far down that trail, I’d like to make one thing clear: we at Modern Huntsman are against anything that threatens the livelihood, status or size of our current inheritance of public lands as American citizens, and I am in no way advocating for the transfer of federal lands to state possession, the privatization of public lands, or even that the

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A TEXAS LAND LEGACY STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY

TYLER SHARP

A

part from a few stray years here and there, including my current foray in Montana, I’ve lived most of my life in Texas. Growing up, I was always outside climbing trees, fording creeks, exploring ranches, or scouring the arid plains for the ever-elusive horned lizard, AKA the horny toad. We occasionally went to state parks, but the wilds that I roamed as a boy, places that I still hold dear to this day, turns out were mostly on private land. And that’s not because I chose it, or preferred it, but because that’s mostly the way it is in the Lone Star State. Texas is about 95% private, but despite that fact, the sheer size of the state never made me feel confined, or without a place to roam, as someone’s buddy or grandad always had a spot we could go. And if you didn’t have somewhere to go, you just asked. Texans are pretty friendly people if you mind your manners and treat them with respect. Eventually, as I got older and started to hunt these distinctions became more clear, and access was something to consider. Texas doesn’t have the seemingly endless stretches of public land that so many westerners do, some who spit at the first

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mention of the word private. But that was not a contemporary choice (as you’ll read more about in the next essay by Jay Kleberg), rather more of a side effect of retaining our independence as a republic. Despite that small percentage, Texas has nearly two million acres of federal public land, and over 22 million acres of state owned public land spread across incredibly diverse regions. But through recent efforts of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation to transfer private land they acquired to publically accessible hunting areas, that number is growing. What Texas might lack in public land we make up for with a proven track record of conservation and habitat improvement, which affords a richness of wildlife and thriving ecology that has set a high standard for land and species management. But before we go too far down that trail, I’d like to make one thing clear: we at Modern Huntsman are against anything that threatens the livelihood, status or size of our current inheritance of public lands as American citizens, and I am in no way advocating for the transfer of federal lands to state possession, the privatization of public lands, or even that the

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Texas model would work elsewhere. What I am saying is that Texas has done an admirable job managing the resources they have and are a leading example of how public, private, state and federal agencies can work together to move the conservation needle and implement what’s best for the wildlife and ecosystems of those diverse regions. If Texans are anything, they are dedicated land managers, and as you might know, land management takes money. Well there are a few dollars lying around the state, and through the collaborative efforts of many organizations, much of those funds have been diverted to conservation and habitat improvement for deer, turkey, quail, fish, and countless other species. The dedication to conservation in the state is remarkable, and the cooperation between ranches, owners, and state agencies has allowed Texas to create more than one wildlife success story, which we plan to detail in further issues of Modern Huntsman. But Texas is massive, and while state agencies do an exemplary job of managing wild areas, this work has been supported by countless independent, conservation-minded private landowners who have gone through great effort and personal expense to manage land, and do their part to improve wildlife populations. This is how I met John Dillow, whose philosophy and commitment to conservation are an example for anyone to follow, no matter what piece of land you’re standing on. His son-in-law Douglas Cooper, an avid and early supporter of Modern Huntsman, reached out to me under the auspices

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that we might be interested in documenting John’s stalwart commitment to improving their land, and educating the family about the importance of carrying on the tradition. Upon first meeting John, it became quite clear that he was not only a prime example of how private land ownership can contribute to the health of a larger ecosystem, but that his philosophy might help us bridge the sometimes conflicted gap between public land advocates and virtuous private landowners — who are often villainized at the expense of a few bad examples. Upon arriving at the Dillow property in Comanche, Texas, about two and a half hours southwest of Dallas, I was introduced to the rest of the family, and we embarked on a midday safari around their land holdings, totaling around 2750 acres. I rode in the front seat of the Gator with John, and the rest trailed in a second vehicle more suited for sundowners and recreation than ranch work. As we cruised along, John stopped frequently to point out the diverse array of flora and fauna, both native and not, humbly exhibiting his intimate knowledge of this particular ecosystem – both what it was and what it had the potential to be, given proper management attention. “This land can’t take care of itself because nature’s been interrupted. We don’t have the buffalo coming through here anymore, or the grass fires that we used to before all of these highways and fences. There are so many restrictions nowadays, but you still have to find another way, because nature can’t do it anymore,” John told me in the distinctive drawl of a 4th generation Texan.

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Texas model would work elsewhere. What I am saying is that Texas has done an admirable job managing the resources they have and are a leading example of how public, private, state and federal agencies can work together to move the conservation needle and implement what’s best for the wildlife and ecosystems of those diverse regions. If Texans are anything, they are dedicated land managers, and as you might know, land management takes money. Well there are a few dollars lying around the state, and through the collaborative efforts of many organizations, much of those funds have been diverted to conservation and habitat improvement for deer, turkey, quail, fish, and countless other species. The dedication to conservation in the state is remarkable, and the cooperation between ranches, owners, and state agencies has allowed Texas to create more than one wildlife success story, which we plan to detail in further issues of Modern Huntsman. But Texas is massive, and while state agencies do an exemplary job of managing wild areas, this work has been supported by countless independent, conservation-minded private landowners who have gone through great effort and personal expense to manage land, and do their part to improve wildlife populations. This is how I met John Dillow, whose philosophy and commitment to conservation are an example for anyone to follow, no matter what piece of land you’re standing on. His son-in-law Douglas Cooper, an avid and early supporter of Modern Huntsman, reached out to me under the auspices

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that we might be interested in documenting John’s stalwart commitment to improving their land, and educating the family about the importance of carrying on the tradition. Upon first meeting John, it became quite clear that he was not only a prime example of how private land ownership can contribute to the health of a larger ecosystem, but that his philosophy might help us bridge the sometimes conflicted gap between public land advocates and virtuous private landowners — who are often villainized at the expense of a few bad examples. Upon arriving at the Dillow property in Comanche, Texas, about two and a half hours southwest of Dallas, I was introduced to the rest of the family, and we embarked on a midday safari around their land holdings, totaling around 2750 acres. I rode in the front seat of the Gator with John, and the rest trailed in a second vehicle more suited for sundowners and recreation than ranch work. As we cruised along, John stopped frequently to point out the diverse array of flora and fauna, both native and not, humbly exhibiting his intimate knowledge of this particular ecosystem – both what it was and what it had the potential to be, given proper management attention. “This land can’t take care of itself because nature’s been interrupted. We don’t have the buffalo coming through here anymore, or the grass fires that we used to before all of these highways and fences. There are so many restrictions nowadays, but you still have to find another way, because nature can’t do it anymore,” John told me in the distinctive drawl of a 4th generation Texan.

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Live, post, and spanish oaks flourished on the property, with the hills and plains being also dotted with button willows, pecan trees, bunch grass, Texas blue stem, yucca, milkweed, verbenia, hucklebery bushes, and the ever-present and rampantly spreading mesquite trees — which despite its widespread acceptance and use as a choice barbeque wood, is an invasive species brought north from Mexico during the cattle drives of the late 1800s. “There are parts of the property where mesquite trees have completely taken over, and that’s mostly because we haven’t done as much as we should’ve the past five or six years. It takes a lot of work, and you have to do the same thing year after year after year,” he stated without the slightest hint of exasperation towards the task ahead. Being a sensible land manager, John explained how he planned to keep the mesquites that lined the banks of the various ponds on the property, as they help prevent erosion and maintain water levels. The rest he planned to bulldoze, which will take years and dollars, and even longer for the native grasses and insects to return — something he hopes his children and grandchildren will see the benefit from. Conservation and land management like this is a long game, and John plans to stay the course and do whatever he can to improve the property, remove invasive plants, and help native wildlife flourish. From efforts in recent years alone, the Dillow family has seen quail populations improve, and with the potential help of private biologists, they might be able to increase the scope of that success and contribute to one of the most important factors of thriving ecosystems — wildlife corridors. At the end of the day, it comes down to our responsibility to maintain and improve the land, whether private, state or federal. If private landowners like John can help carry the conservation torch on their own properties, then corridor extensions become a very real thing. The problem is that not everyone is on the same page,

and despite the Dillow family’s best efforts, neighboring ranches owned by out-of-state urbanites who only visit twice a year lack the know-how or wherewithal to continue the management work. However, a potential solution lies in the mere open-mindedness to have this conversation, or the willingness of private landowners to allow outside management, conservation easements or biology consultants to remedy some of those shortcomings. Just because someone is a private landowner doesn’t mean that they can’t be dedicated conservationists or appreciate the merits of access to public land. And vice versa, just because you’re a public land advocate doesn’t mean that you can’t be a private landowner, when in fact that might very well make you a more dedicated conservationist, having gained an intimate knowledge of what it takes to manage and improve land, as well as the costs associated with such ventures. Adages aside, walking in another’s shoes is always an enlightening experience, and where some public land users may not understand what it takes to maintain land in such a way, herein lies an opportunity to learn from virtuous private landowners like John Dillow, who ended by telling me, “I sure do appreciate the work that government employees and other hunters do to manage public lands, but landowners need to do their part to keep things in check. Everybody needs to chip in some.” So the next time you have an encounter with a private landowner, consider asking and listening, as they very well may have a vested interest in habitat improvement, species management, and conservation that is similar to yours. Who knows, you may even get invited back to hunt as I did after a few days with John, Denise, Clay, Katie, and Douglas. And no matter what happens in this crazy world of climate change, urbanization, and habitat destruction, I find it reassuring that there are families out there like this who are dedicated to conservation for generations to come. And I’m proud to say that in the state of Texas, they are damn sure not the only ones.

T Y L E R S H A R P is a photographer, writer and director whose fascination with wild places and wildlife had led him to some of the most remote regions of the planet. Dedicated to communicating the merits of sporting traditions to non-hunters, he strives to cultivate a future where hunting is revered instead of opposed. @TYLERSHARPPHOTO / TYLERSHARP.COM

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Live, post, and spanish oaks flourished on the property, with the hills and plains being also dotted with button willows, pecan trees, bunch grass, Texas blue stem, yucca, milkweed, verbenia, hucklebery bushes, and the ever-present and rampantly spreading mesquite trees — which despite its widespread acceptance and use as a choice barbeque wood, is an invasive species brought north from Mexico during the cattle drives of the late 1800s. “There are parts of the property where mesquite trees have completely taken over, and that’s mostly because we haven’t done as much as we should’ve the past five or six years. It takes a lot of work, and you have to do the same thing year after year after year,” he stated without the slightest hint of exasperation towards the task ahead. Being a sensible land manager, John explained how he planned to keep the mesquites that lined the banks of the various ponds on the property, as they help prevent erosion and maintain water levels. The rest he planned to bulldoze, which will take years and dollars, and even longer for the native grasses and insects to return — something he hopes his children and grandchildren will see the benefit from. Conservation and land management like this is a long game, and John plans to stay the course and do whatever he can to improve the property, remove invasive plants, and help native wildlife flourish. From efforts in recent years alone, the Dillow family has seen quail populations improve, and with the potential help of private biologists, they might be able to increase the scope of that success and contribute to one of the most important factors of thriving ecosystems — wildlife corridors. At the end of the day, it comes down to our responsibility to maintain and improve the land, whether private, state or federal. If private landowners like John can help carry the conservation torch on their own properties, then corridor extensions become a very real thing. The problem is that not everyone is on the same page,

and despite the Dillow family’s best efforts, neighboring ranches owned by out-of-state urbanites who only visit twice a year lack the know-how or wherewithal to continue the management work. However, a potential solution lies in the mere open-mindedness to have this conversation, or the willingness of private landowners to allow outside management, conservation easements or biology consultants to remedy some of those shortcomings. Just because someone is a private landowner doesn’t mean that they can’t be dedicated conservationists or appreciate the merits of access to public land. And vice versa, just because you’re a public land advocate doesn’t mean that you can’t be a private landowner, when in fact that might very well make you a more dedicated conservationist, having gained an intimate knowledge of what it takes to manage and improve land, as well as the costs associated with such ventures. Adages aside, walking in another’s shoes is always an enlightening experience, and where some public land users may not understand what it takes to maintain land in such a way, herein lies an opportunity to learn from virtuous private landowners like John Dillow, who ended by telling me, “I sure do appreciate the work that government employees and other hunters do to manage public lands, but landowners need to do their part to keep things in check. Everybody needs to chip in some.” So the next time you have an encounter with a private landowner, consider asking and listening, as they very well may have a vested interest in habitat improvement, species management, and conservation that is similar to yours. Who knows, you may even get invited back to hunt as I did after a few days with John, Denise, Clay, Katie, and Douglas. And no matter what happens in this crazy world of climate change, urbanization, and habitat destruction, I find it reassuring that there are families out there like this who are dedicated to conservation for generations to come. And I’m proud to say that in the state of Texas, they are damn sure not the only ones.

T Y L E R S H A R P is a photographer, writer and director whose fascination with wild places and wildlife had led him to some of the most remote regions of the planet. Dedicated to communicating the merits of sporting traditions to non-hunters, he strives to cultivate a future where hunting is revered instead of opposed. @TYLERSHARPPHOTO / TYLERSHARP.COM

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COLLABORATIVE CONSERVATION STORY BY

J AY K L E B E RG TYLER SHARP

PHOTOGRAPHY BY

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COLLABORATIVE CONSERVATION STORY BY

J AY K L E B E RG TYLER SHARP

PHOTOGRAPHY BY

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W

ithin Texas’s borders lie a diverse landscape of forests, deserts, mountains, wetlands, prairies, more than 191,000 miles of rivers and streams, and some of the longest barrier islands on the planet. The state sits at one of nature’s great crossroads, where the arid Great Plains and Chihuahuan Desert from the north and west meet the Gulf Coastal Plains and subtropical forests and savannas from the east and south. Although not considered a mountain state, Texas’s topographic diversity is impressive, including 91 mountain peaks that are more than a mile high. In Texas, the continued stewardship of these vast natural resources and expansion of recreational opportunities requires a partnership between private landowners, nonprofit conservation organizations, private philanthropists and state and federal natural resource agencies. Unlike other states, Texas entered the union in 1845 as an independent nation and was able to negotiate the retention of its unappropriated lands in exchange for handling its own debt. Five years later, Texas settled its debt by relinquishing 67 million acres for what would become half of present-day New Mexico, a third of Colorado, and small portions of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Wyoming. Over the remainder of the 19th century, Texas gave away nearly half of its present land area to encourage settlement and development in remote areas. As a result, an overwhelming 95 percent of the state is privately owned, yet benefits from a rich history and tradition of dedicated land stewards, which is one of the primary reasons for the healthy condition of the state’s land, water, and wildlife today. Many of those private land stewards work in collaboration with state and federal agencies to improve ecology, sustainability, and access. The United States government owns and manages just two percent of the land in Texas, but through collaborative efforts, that number is increasing. In the 11 Western States, where its policy of issuing 160 acre land grants stalled, 47 percent of all land is held in public trust and east of the Mississippi, just four percent. In large part due to efforts by local and state conservation advocates, the National Park Service now owns 1.2 million acres of land in Texas across 14 national parks that include the 113,000 acre Big Thicket, the 800,000 acre Big Bend National Park, 70 mile Padre Island National Seashore, Lake Amistad National Recreation Area, 196 miles of Wild and Scenic River on the Rio Grande River and others.

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The first national designations of land began in 1942 when $1.5 million was allocated by the State of Texas to purchase approximately 600,000 acres of present-day Big Bend National Park from private owners. Efforts to establish a park on Padre Island began in 1936 with a proposal by the chair of the Texas State Parks Board and were finally realized by an act of Congress in 1962. In 1964, private conservationists, concerned with commercial activity in The Big Thicket, one of the most biologically-diverse places on earth, succeeded in establishing the first-of-its-kind national preserve designation. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, at the direction of the Texas Legislature, led the study of the Rio Grande River in West Texas that ultimately led to the 1978 Wild and Scenic designation. Other federal organizations have worked collaboratively with Texas for the past half-century to conserve and manage land for the primary benefit of fish, wildlife and plants. These partnerships between public agencies and private land managers are integral to Texas’s conservation successes. Unique to Texas, a handful of luminary private landowners paved the way for conservation across the United States, where they not only worked closely with the federal government as wildlife management standards were being created and implemented across newly established states, but also served as an invaluable source for wildlife. When certain species faced extermination from much of their historic ranges within the lower 48, they were voluntarily relocated from private ranches to populate vast swaths of America. Many of the initial turkey and whitetail deer populations reintroduced across the southeast in fact came from private ranches in Texas. Reason being, wildlife populations outside some of these well managed ranches dwindled so much that, in some cases, the healthiest populations of wildlife resided primarily on private ground where longstanding conservation and management efforts were in place. Thanks to a strong bond between public land managers and conservation minded private landowners, we have thriving populations of whitetail deer and turkey across much of their historic range. This is just one example of private and public entities working together to conserve and protect wildlife populations across the United States, and the importance of these partnerships can not be understated. In terms of public lands, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Texas owns 557,741 acres of national refuges, most notably to provide

habitat for Attwater’s prairie-chicken, Whooping Crane and migratory birds. The U.S. Forest Service manages approximately 757,000 acres of public land in Texas, which is divided into four National Forests in east Texas and the Caddo-Lyndon B. Johnson National Grasslands in northeast Texas. These public lands are administered under multiple-use management methods to protect and obtain the greatest benefit from all forest resources: recreation, timber, range, fish and wildlife, soil, water and minerals. Since the turn of the 20th century, hunters and anglers in Texas have been at the forefront of the conservation movement, providing the impetus for sustainable use of our natural resources and the concept of wildlife preserves and parks. Today, 1.1 million hunters and 2.2 million anglers purchase over 3.2 million hunting and fishing licenses each year in Texas, more than in any other state, and spend an estimated $5.1 billion in pursuit of their passion for the outdoors. Of these expenditures, tens of millions of dollars find their way back into conservation through acquisitions, research, habitat restoration, conservation law enforcement and site operations. Millions more are spent locally on other hunting and fishing-related purchases, thereby providing a boost to rural economies and local communities around the state.

areas and eight fish hatcheries. In all, these recreational assets comprise 1.4 million acres that are managed in the public trust for recreation and conservation. In 2014, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department teamed up with its philanthropic partner, Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, and others to conserve the 17,351-acre Powderhorn Ranch on the mid-coast. At $37.7 million, it was the largest dollar amount ever raised for a conservation land purchase in Texas and represented a new partnership model of achieving conservation goals in an era of rapidly rising land prices. The Powderhorn acquisition conserved the largest remaining tracts of unspoiled coastal prairie in the state, 11 miles of tidal bay front, and thousands of acres of emergent wetlands and tidal marshes that support dozens of species of waterfowl, shorebirds, and wading birds. From the 1950s to the early 1990s, Texas lost more than 200,000 acres of coastal wetlands. At the same time, only two percent of coastal prairie is left on Texas. The Powderhorn acquisition helps combat this trend, protecting local economies, people and property, as well as wildlife.

Prior to World War II, 50 percent of all Texans lived in rural areas. Today, more than 88 percent of Texans live in metropolitan areas. The outdoor recreation economy in Texas generates $52.6 billion in annual consumer spending, 411,000 direct Texas jobs, $15.8 billion in wages and salaries and $3.5 billion in state and local tax revenue. More direct jobs in Texas depend on outdoor recreation than on the oil and gas industry. In addition, the demand for the outdoors and a desire to connect with the natural environment has only increased. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, participation in the outdoors has increased from 51 percent to 55 percent, and consumer spending on outdoor recreation has increased by an astounding 83 percent.

A majority of Powderhorn Ranch will open as a wildlife management area in October 2018 with the remaining acreage opening soon after as a state park, giving generations of Texans and Americans the ability to enjoy this iconic coastal landscape.​ A significant portion of the funding for the nearly $50 million conservation, restoration and public access project was provided by National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, created with dollars paid by BP and Transocean in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Along with Powderhorn Ranch and in collaboration with donors, state and federal natural resource agencies, and Texas’s largest and most prominent conservation nonprofit organizations, more than 47,000 acres of one of the most bio-diverse, yet threatened coastlines in the nation has been conserved in just the past five years.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is the primary lead in creating greater variety, quality and access to recreational opportunities in Texas. Its mission is to manage and conserve the natural and cultural resources of Texas and to provide hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation opportunities for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department currently operates 95 state parks and natural areas, 47 wildlife management

To preserve its unique biological attributes in perpetuity, a conservation easement has been placed on Powderhorn Ranch, which are an important conservation tool in Texas. There are more than 30 land trusts in Texas today, cumulatively conserving more than 1.6 million acres of critical wildlife habitat and working lands. Conservation easements legally restrict development rights and keep ownership and management costs in private hands. They are,

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W

ithin Texas’s borders lie a diverse landscape of forests, deserts, mountains, wetlands, prairies, more than 191,000 miles of rivers and streams, and some of the longest barrier islands on the planet. The state sits at one of nature’s great crossroads, where the arid Great Plains and Chihuahuan Desert from the north and west meet the Gulf Coastal Plains and subtropical forests and savannas from the east and south. Although not considered a mountain state, Texas’s topographic diversity is impressive, including 91 mountain peaks that are more than a mile high. In Texas, the continued stewardship of these vast natural resources and expansion of recreational opportunities requires a partnership between private landowners, nonprofit conservation organizations, private philanthropists and state and federal natural resource agencies. Unlike other states, Texas entered the union in 1845 as an independent nation and was able to negotiate the retention of its unappropriated lands in exchange for handling its own debt. Five years later, Texas settled its debt by relinquishing 67 million acres for what would become half of present-day New Mexico, a third of Colorado, and small portions of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Wyoming. Over the remainder of the 19th century, Texas gave away nearly half of its present land area to encourage settlement and development in remote areas. As a result, an overwhelming 95 percent of the state is privately owned, yet benefits from a rich history and tradition of dedicated land stewards, which is one of the primary reasons for the healthy condition of the state’s land, water, and wildlife today. Many of those private land stewards work in collaboration with state and federal agencies to improve ecology, sustainability, and access. The United States government owns and manages just two percent of the land in Texas, but through collaborative efforts, that number is increasing. In the 11 Western States, where its policy of issuing 160 acre land grants stalled, 47 percent of all land is held in public trust and east of the Mississippi, just four percent. In large part due to efforts by local and state conservation advocates, the National Park Service now owns 1.2 million acres of land in Texas across 14 national parks that include the 113,000 acre Big Thicket, the 800,000 acre Big Bend National Park, 70 mile Padre Island National Seashore, Lake Amistad National Recreation Area, 196 miles of Wild and Scenic River on the Rio Grande River and others.

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The first national designations of land began in 1942 when $1.5 million was allocated by the State of Texas to purchase approximately 600,000 acres of present-day Big Bend National Park from private owners. Efforts to establish a park on Padre Island began in 1936 with a proposal by the chair of the Texas State Parks Board and were finally realized by an act of Congress in 1962. In 1964, private conservationists, concerned with commercial activity in The Big Thicket, one of the most biologically-diverse places on earth, succeeded in establishing the first-of-its-kind national preserve designation. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, at the direction of the Texas Legislature, led the study of the Rio Grande River in West Texas that ultimately led to the 1978 Wild and Scenic designation. Other federal organizations have worked collaboratively with Texas for the past half-century to conserve and manage land for the primary benefit of fish, wildlife and plants. These partnerships between public agencies and private land managers are integral to Texas’s conservation successes. Unique to Texas, a handful of luminary private landowners paved the way for conservation across the United States, where they not only worked closely with the federal government as wildlife management standards were being created and implemented across newly established states, but also served as an invaluable source for wildlife. When certain species faced extermination from much of their historic ranges within the lower 48, they were voluntarily relocated from private ranches to populate vast swaths of America. Many of the initial turkey and whitetail deer populations reintroduced across the southeast in fact came from private ranches in Texas. Reason being, wildlife populations outside some of these well managed ranches dwindled so much that, in some cases, the healthiest populations of wildlife resided primarily on private ground where longstanding conservation and management efforts were in place. Thanks to a strong bond between public land managers and conservation minded private landowners, we have thriving populations of whitetail deer and turkey across much of their historic range. This is just one example of private and public entities working together to conserve and protect wildlife populations across the United States, and the importance of these partnerships can not be understated. In terms of public lands, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Texas owns 557,741 acres of national refuges, most notably to provide

habitat for Attwater’s prairie-chicken, Whooping Crane and migratory birds. The U.S. Forest Service manages approximately 757,000 acres of public land in Texas, which is divided into four National Forests in east Texas and the Caddo-Lyndon B. Johnson National Grasslands in northeast Texas. These public lands are administered under multiple-use management methods to protect and obtain the greatest benefit from all forest resources: recreation, timber, range, fish and wildlife, soil, water and minerals. Since the turn of the 20th century, hunters and anglers in Texas have been at the forefront of the conservation movement, providing the impetus for sustainable use of our natural resources and the concept of wildlife preserves and parks. Today, 1.1 million hunters and 2.2 million anglers purchase over 3.2 million hunting and fishing licenses each year in Texas, more than in any other state, and spend an estimated $5.1 billion in pursuit of their passion for the outdoors. Of these expenditures, tens of millions of dollars find their way back into conservation through acquisitions, research, habitat restoration, conservation law enforcement and site operations. Millions more are spent locally on other hunting and fishing-related purchases, thereby providing a boost to rural economies and local communities around the state.

areas and eight fish hatcheries. In all, these recreational assets comprise 1.4 million acres that are managed in the public trust for recreation and conservation. In 2014, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department teamed up with its philanthropic partner, Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, and others to conserve the 17,351-acre Powderhorn Ranch on the mid-coast. At $37.7 million, it was the largest dollar amount ever raised for a conservation land purchase in Texas and represented a new partnership model of achieving conservation goals in an era of rapidly rising land prices. The Powderhorn acquisition conserved the largest remaining tracts of unspoiled coastal prairie in the state, 11 miles of tidal bay front, and thousands of acres of emergent wetlands and tidal marshes that support dozens of species of waterfowl, shorebirds, and wading birds. From the 1950s to the early 1990s, Texas lost more than 200,000 acres of coastal wetlands. At the same time, only two percent of coastal prairie is left on Texas. The Powderhorn acquisition helps combat this trend, protecting local economies, people and property, as well as wildlife.

Prior to World War II, 50 percent of all Texans lived in rural areas. Today, more than 88 percent of Texans live in metropolitan areas. The outdoor recreation economy in Texas generates $52.6 billion in annual consumer spending, 411,000 direct Texas jobs, $15.8 billion in wages and salaries and $3.5 billion in state and local tax revenue. More direct jobs in Texas depend on outdoor recreation than on the oil and gas industry. In addition, the demand for the outdoors and a desire to connect with the natural environment has only increased. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, participation in the outdoors has increased from 51 percent to 55 percent, and consumer spending on outdoor recreation has increased by an astounding 83 percent.

A majority of Powderhorn Ranch will open as a wildlife management area in October 2018 with the remaining acreage opening soon after as a state park, giving generations of Texans and Americans the ability to enjoy this iconic coastal landscape.​ A significant portion of the funding for the nearly $50 million conservation, restoration and public access project was provided by National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, created with dollars paid by BP and Transocean in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Along with Powderhorn Ranch and in collaboration with donors, state and federal natural resource agencies, and Texas’s largest and most prominent conservation nonprofit organizations, more than 47,000 acres of one of the most bio-diverse, yet threatened coastlines in the nation has been conserved in just the past five years.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is the primary lead in creating greater variety, quality and access to recreational opportunities in Texas. Its mission is to manage and conserve the natural and cultural resources of Texas and to provide hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation opportunities for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department currently operates 95 state parks and natural areas, 47 wildlife management

To preserve its unique biological attributes in perpetuity, a conservation easement has been placed on Powderhorn Ranch, which are an important conservation tool in Texas. There are more than 30 land trusts in Texas today, cumulatively conserving more than 1.6 million acres of critical wildlife habitat and working lands. Conservation easements legally restrict development rights and keep ownership and management costs in private hands. They are,

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in many cases, a more cost-effective tool than fee simple acquisition to protect larger landscapes or agricultural resources. Conservation easements, either donated or acquired using funds from local, state, and federal programs, protect much of the sky island complex of the Davis Mountains in West Texas, parts of the Devils River in the Edwards Plateau and the watersheds of the fast-developing Hill Country in Central Texas. Federal funding programs like the Pittman Robertson Act, DingellJohnson Act, Land and Water Conservation Fund, and the North American Wildlife Conservation Act provide additional funding opportunities, in partnership with states, private landowners and philanthropists for the acquisition of conservation lands and recreation areas in Texas. Texas private lands provide vital wildlife resources, and much of the native flora and fauna is of national and even international significance. Within these private lands there is a great opportunity to work alongside public land managers to maintain, protect and create connectedness between wild landscapes. This effort

alone has a tremendous potential to combat biodiversity loss increasingly threatened by fragmentation. These lands are under increasing land conversion pressure driven by rapid population growth, suburbanization, and rural development, all of which have implications for the state’s rural economies, national security and food security, and the conservation of natural resources. Texas continues to lead the nation in the loss of privately owned farms, ranches and forests. From 1982 to 2010, the USDA National Resources Inventory (NRI) data reported the conversion of more than 4.1 million acres of Texas land to urban uses, with significantly higher conversion rates occurring from 1992 to 2007 (USDA 2013). In Texas, now more than ever, landowners, conservation organizations and user groups are investing in the land, water, and wildlife that are as diverse and resilient as its people. And it is with these efforts and intentions that Texas will continue to be a leader in cooperation between public and private land managers, the vital crossroads where large-scale and long-term conservation efforts are born. All references can be found on the Modern Huntsman website.

J A Y K L E B E R G is Associate Director for Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation. He is part of a team that conserves Texas’s most pristine lands to benefit wildlife and provide recreational opportunities to the public. He is also co-founder of Explore Ranches, who provide exclusive access to private lands. Jay lives in Austin with his wife and three daughters. @JAYKLEBERG / EXPLORERANCHES .COM

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in many cases, a more cost-effective tool than fee simple acquisition to protect larger landscapes or agricultural resources. Conservation easements, either donated or acquired using funds from local, state, and federal programs, protect much of the sky island complex of the Davis Mountains in West Texas, parts of the Devils River in the Edwards Plateau and the watersheds of the fast-developing Hill Country in Central Texas. Federal funding programs like the Pittman Robertson Act, DingellJohnson Act, Land and Water Conservation Fund, and the North American Wildlife Conservation Act provide additional funding opportunities, in partnership with states, private landowners and philanthropists for the acquisition of conservation lands and recreation areas in Texas. Texas private lands provide vital wildlife resources, and much of the native flora and fauna is of national and even international significance. Within these private lands there is a great opportunity to work alongside public land managers to maintain, protect and create connectedness between wild landscapes. This effort

alone has a tremendous potential to combat biodiversity loss increasingly threatened by fragmentation. These lands are under increasing land conversion pressure driven by rapid population growth, suburbanization, and rural development, all of which have implications for the state’s rural economies, national security and food security, and the conservation of natural resources. Texas continues to lead the nation in the loss of privately owned farms, ranches and forests. From 1982 to 2010, the USDA National Resources Inventory (NRI) data reported the conversion of more than 4.1 million acres of Texas land to urban uses, with significantly higher conversion rates occurring from 1992 to 2007 (USDA 2013). In Texas, now more than ever, landowners, conservation organizations and user groups are investing in the land, water, and wildlife that are as diverse and resilient as its people. And it is with these efforts and intentions that Texas will continue to be a leader in cooperation between public and private land managers, the vital crossroads where large-scale and long-term conservation efforts are born. All references can be found on the Modern Huntsman website.

J A Y K L E B E R G is Associate Director for Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation. He is part of a team that conserves Texas’s most pristine lands to benefit wildlife and provide recreational opportunities to the public. He is also co-founder of Explore Ranches, who provide exclusive access to private lands. Jay lives in Austin with his wife and three daughters. @JAYKLEBERG / EXPLORERANCHES .COM

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In Context STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY

ADAM FOSS

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In Context STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY

ADAM FOSS

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A

faint trail in the gray, chalky shale twisted back and forth up the mountainside before disappearing into the hanging basin above. Though I’d yet to lay eyes on what the final climb would reveal, stories of hunting lore affixed images of stunted willows giving way to rolling green hillsides and eventually steep buttresses in the recesses of my mind. But there was a deeper pull than just the standalone beauty and wild ruggedness of the Alberta Rockies; I was pursuing bighorn sheep, an animal that carried a regal reputation equal to the rugged landscape they called home. I shook the thought of thick, curling horns and dark, chocolate colored coats from my mind as I brought my focus back down to the boots below me. With the warm September sun beating down, I urged a pair of stubborn feet to follow the steps of the man who marched steadily on ahead, the distance between us now rapidly expanding. Toting my youth-fit archery gear, I’d followed my Dad — as I did on that day — into stands of poplar and through the rolling coulees of southern Alberta many instances before. But this time things were different. We were on an expedition of sorts, or at least my 14-yearold-self made it feel like one. We’d loaded our packs with food and camping equipment, and wandered wherever our feet and pursuit of game would lead us. The backpack straps cut deeply into into my adolescent shoulders and my feet yearned for reprieve. But we pushed on, stopping for chugs of chilled mountain water pulled right from the creek and nibbled on peanut butter and jelly pitas, smooshed together in just the right way. Finally, after what seemed like the longest half dozen hours of my life, we left the wind-bent spruce trees behind and broke into the alpine. The grass was an even more vibrant green than I’d imagined and the granite faces loomed steeply above jutting into the blue sky so much so I had to crane my neck to see their tops. I squinted to notice the

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several traversing trails my father pointed out. They were etched by precise hoofbeats in the near-vertical slate, a process carried out by time, like the hint of wrinkles beginning to form on an aging man’s forehead. The crisp air carried a hint of spruce on its current and with it came a distinguishable essence — it tasted wilder. These mountains were truly free, formed by an active period of plate tectonics and stripped away by millions of years of nature’s forces and glacial ice. These ancient towers stood nobly, as if welcoming a challenge that was as exquisite as it was intimidating. It was my first time being deeply embedded in classic bighorn sheep country, and I was enamored. Sheep country. A mere muttering of these two words will take the kindred mountain hunter back to a fond reflection of a similar, yet uniquely personal experience I cherish still to this day. For me at least, sheep hunting is as much about the wild places it takes you, both in mind and body, as it is about the pursuit of a single, mountain-hardened animal. Those we swap tales with about chasing the idea of a band of old rams share a glint in the eye and a consistent sentiment whenever the subject is broached. Over the last decade and a half, mountain hunting has developed into an obsession, and sharing the stories of these wild places through photography, film and writing has evolved into a career. The continued exposure to these animals naturally led me towards participating in conservation efforts to help secure and propagate the future of wildlife and their habitat. Still, when I reflect back on countless fond memories — whether it be my upbringing in the shadows of the Alberta Rockies, exploring British Columbian Stone sheep habitat or scaling the wickedly-rugged walls of the Chugach in Alaska — all have one thing in common: they took place on public lands. And though possessing a sheep tag is prohibitively expensive or requires an insurmountable level of luck if you’re not a resident of one of these fabled hunting territories, these wildernesses can be wandered by any man or woman and appreciated solely for the seclusion they provide and their lack of human imprint.

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A

faint trail in the gray, chalky shale twisted back and forth up the mountainside before disappearing into the hanging basin above. Though I’d yet to lay eyes on what the final climb would reveal, stories of hunting lore affixed images of stunted willows giving way to rolling green hillsides and eventually steep buttresses in the recesses of my mind. But there was a deeper pull than just the standalone beauty and wild ruggedness of the Alberta Rockies; I was pursuing bighorn sheep, an animal that carried a regal reputation equal to the rugged landscape they called home. I shook the thought of thick, curling horns and dark, chocolate colored coats from my mind as I brought my focus back down to the boots below me. With the warm September sun beating down, I urged a pair of stubborn feet to follow the steps of the man who marched steadily on ahead, the distance between us now rapidly expanding. Toting my youth-fit archery gear, I’d followed my Dad — as I did on that day — into stands of poplar and through the rolling coulees of southern Alberta many instances before. But this time things were different. We were on an expedition of sorts, or at least my 14-yearold-self made it feel like one. We’d loaded our packs with food and camping equipment, and wandered wherever our feet and pursuit of game would lead us. The backpack straps cut deeply into into my adolescent shoulders and my feet yearned for reprieve. But we pushed on, stopping for chugs of chilled mountain water pulled right from the creek and nibbled on peanut butter and jelly pitas, smooshed together in just the right way. Finally, after what seemed like the longest half dozen hours of my life, we left the wind-bent spruce trees behind and broke into the alpine. The grass was an even more vibrant green than I’d imagined and the granite faces loomed steeply above jutting into the blue sky so much so I had to crane my neck to see their tops. I squinted to notice the

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several traversing trails my father pointed out. They were etched by precise hoofbeats in the near-vertical slate, a process carried out by time, like the hint of wrinkles beginning to form on an aging man’s forehead. The crisp air carried a hint of spruce on its current and with it came a distinguishable essence — it tasted wilder. These mountains were truly free, formed by an active period of plate tectonics and stripped away by millions of years of nature’s forces and glacial ice. These ancient towers stood nobly, as if welcoming a challenge that was as exquisite as it was intimidating. It was my first time being deeply embedded in classic bighorn sheep country, and I was enamored. Sheep country. A mere muttering of these two words will take the kindred mountain hunter back to a fond reflection of a similar, yet uniquely personal experience I cherish still to this day. For me at least, sheep hunting is as much about the wild places it takes you, both in mind and body, as it is about the pursuit of a single, mountain-hardened animal. Those we swap tales with about chasing the idea of a band of old rams share a glint in the eye and a consistent sentiment whenever the subject is broached. Over the last decade and a half, mountain hunting has developed into an obsession, and sharing the stories of these wild places through photography, film and writing has evolved into a career. The continued exposure to these animals naturally led me towards participating in conservation efforts to help secure and propagate the future of wildlife and their habitat. Still, when I reflect back on countless fond memories — whether it be my upbringing in the shadows of the Alberta Rockies, exploring British Columbian Stone sheep habitat or scaling the wickedly-rugged walls of the Chugach in Alaska — all have one thing in common: they took place on public lands. And though possessing a sheep tag is prohibitively expensive or requires an insurmountable level of luck if you’re not a resident of one of these fabled hunting territories, these wildernesses can be wandered by any man or woman and appreciated solely for the seclusion they provide and their lack of human imprint.

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Designated stretches of public lands, wilderness, national, state and provincial parks strung across the Rocky Mountain West are a necessity for survival of the iconic bighorn sheep. Steep cliffside for lambing and untracked, continual habitat for unmolested travel are needed for sheep to eek out a living under such harsh conditions. Additionally, within a protected patchwork of mountainous landscapes bighorns and their cousin species call home, comes protected habitat for dozens of species like mule deer, elk, black and grizzly bears, wolves, mountain lions, birds of prey and others. As a youngster with the extreme privilege to have public land filled with prime bighorn sheep country less than an hour’s drive from my back door, I’d never realized the species had not always been secure. Historically, wild sheep were distributed from Alaska to northern Mexico and stretched from the Pacific Coast to the Dakotas. Pre-European settlement numbers are difficult to accurately represent but anecdotes from early explorers indicate the population to range from 1.5 to 2 million. But by the mid-1950’s, fewer than 25,000 bighorns existed in North America. To blame was unregulated hunting, habitat loss and disease from contact with domestic sheep and goats brought in by settlers. Susceptible to a range of diseases, pneumonia being particularly devastating, sheep in the wild lack the resistance to respiratory ailments their domestic cousins carry. Set up by an infection found widely abundant in farmed sheep called mycoplasma ovipneumoniae (Movi), an afflicted wild sheep’s immune system becomes compromised. With the infection, individuals become unable to expel phlegm from their lungs and deadly pathogens like pneumonia take over. Movi can be spread through sharing of saliva, bodily fluids and even through the air, making it extremely difficult to control in an infected population. As the scientific community develops a clearer picture of disease issues hindering sheep health, there is a strong push from organizations like the Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF) to reduce exposure to the causative agent by limiting or eliminating contact with domestic sheep and goats. But this is particularly challenging

when it comes to public grazing permits that overlap or lie adjacent to bighorns who can be particularly widespread and nomadic at times. Devastation, and in some cases, complete extinction of micro populations of wild bighorns have occurred by rapid disease spreading. The thought of an untamed geography no longer teeming with thick pockets of bighorns is unsettling beyond words. These public lands are of course by their beautiful design accessible to all, and permits allowing domestic sheep and goat grazing in wild sheep country do exist. However, the question should be asked of our public wildlife resources: is the risk of disease spreading to these noble creatures acceptable? Because methods besides separation of wilds and domestics prove ineffective in minimizing the spread of disease, removal of public lands grazing allotments in critical areas should be carefully considered. Additionally, continued education and participation of stakeholders who use this public land for pleasure and profit is necessary in promoting a collaborative effort towards developing sustainable solutions. Our public lands and the wild animals that roam them represent one of North America’s greatest assets, and becoming educated in the issues, challenges and successes of resource management and involved in advocacy groups only strengthens that argument. Without bighorn sheep, my life would be drastically different, undoubtedly less rich and meaningful. I prefer to consider them in the context of their surroundings: the mountains, rivers, forests, valleys and animals they exist with and are predated on by. Whenever possible, the potential risks posed to the species should be kept in plain sight. For these masters of the crags are more than just a kingly creature; they represent all that is free and wild, and their future is in our hands. This story was produced in partnership with Sitka Gear, whose continued support of wildlife and land stewardship is helping increase awareness of ecosystem thinking.

A D A M F O S S is a photographer, filmmaker and ambassador for outdoor brands. With a background rooted deep in mountain bowhunting, and as an athlete for various hunting companies for 7+ years, he’s become known for his ability to help tell unique stories and seek out adventures full of big smiles. @FOSSMAN8 / FOSS.MEDIA

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Designated stretches of public lands, wilderness, national, state and provincial parks strung across the Rocky Mountain West are a necessity for survival of the iconic bighorn sheep. Steep cliffside for lambing and untracked, continual habitat for unmolested travel are needed for sheep to eek out a living under such harsh conditions. Additionally, within a protected patchwork of mountainous landscapes bighorns and their cousin species call home, comes protected habitat for dozens of species like mule deer, elk, black and grizzly bears, wolves, mountain lions, birds of prey and others. As a youngster with the extreme privilege to have public land filled with prime bighorn sheep country less than an hour’s drive from my back door, I’d never realized the species had not always been secure. Historically, wild sheep were distributed from Alaska to northern Mexico and stretched from the Pacific Coast to the Dakotas. Pre-European settlement numbers are difficult to accurately represent but anecdotes from early explorers indicate the population to range from 1.5 to 2 million. But by the mid-1950’s, fewer than 25,000 bighorns existed in North America. To blame was unregulated hunting, habitat loss and disease from contact with domestic sheep and goats brought in by settlers. Susceptible to a range of diseases, pneumonia being particularly devastating, sheep in the wild lack the resistance to respiratory ailments their domestic cousins carry. Set up by an infection found widely abundant in farmed sheep called mycoplasma ovipneumoniae (Movi), an afflicted wild sheep’s immune system becomes compromised. With the infection, individuals become unable to expel phlegm from their lungs and deadly pathogens like pneumonia take over. Movi can be spread through sharing of saliva, bodily fluids and even through the air, making it extremely difficult to control in an infected population. As the scientific community develops a clearer picture of disease issues hindering sheep health, there is a strong push from organizations like the Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF) to reduce exposure to the causative agent by limiting or eliminating contact with domestic sheep and goats. But this is particularly challenging

when it comes to public grazing permits that overlap or lie adjacent to bighorns who can be particularly widespread and nomadic at times. Devastation, and in some cases, complete extinction of micro populations of wild bighorns have occurred by rapid disease spreading. The thought of an untamed geography no longer teeming with thick pockets of bighorns is unsettling beyond words. These public lands are of course by their beautiful design accessible to all, and permits allowing domestic sheep and goat grazing in wild sheep country do exist. However, the question should be asked of our public wildlife resources: is the risk of disease spreading to these noble creatures acceptable? Because methods besides separation of wilds and domestics prove ineffective in minimizing the spread of disease, removal of public lands grazing allotments in critical areas should be carefully considered. Additionally, continued education and participation of stakeholders who use this public land for pleasure and profit is necessary in promoting a collaborative effort towards developing sustainable solutions. Our public lands and the wild animals that roam them represent one of North America’s greatest assets, and becoming educated in the issues, challenges and successes of resource management and involved in advocacy groups only strengthens that argument. Without bighorn sheep, my life would be drastically different, undoubtedly less rich and meaningful. I prefer to consider them in the context of their surroundings: the mountains, rivers, forests, valleys and animals they exist with and are predated on by. Whenever possible, the potential risks posed to the species should be kept in plain sight. For these masters of the crags are more than just a kingly creature; they represent all that is free and wild, and their future is in our hands. This story was produced in partnership with Sitka Gear, whose continued support of wildlife and land stewardship is helping increase awareness of ecosystem thinking.

A D A M F O S S is a photographer, filmmaker and ambassador for outdoor brands. With a background rooted deep in mountain bowhunting, and as an athlete for various hunting companies for 7+ years, he’s become known for his ability to help tell unique stories and seek out adventures full of big smiles. @FOSSMAN8 / FOSS.MEDIA

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Home Is Where The Land Is STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY

BECCA SKINNER

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Home Is Where The Land Is STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY

BECCA SKINNER

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“You can’t make more land.”

T

hose words my aunt used to tell me were imprinted in my mind as the truck hugged the tight corners of the two-track dirt road.

I was born in the West, and have maintained a strong love for it ever since. I talk about it when I’m somewhere else, like I’m missing a part of myself. When I’m away from it, I talk about how coming home is like walking into big, open arms of sky. This is the place I’ve felt most at home, surrounded by the expansiveness. I know that’s why other people move to Montana too: for the wholeness of the place. This state is dotted with parcels of both public and private land. But most people think they see miles of open landscape when they come here. When people think of Montana, they think about the free flowing rivers and rugged mountains. People think about the bears, the parks, and about why it’s called Big Sky Country. They also probably think this is one of the last wild places; a thought that is perpetuated by the amount of land that purely exists here.

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I thought about all these things as I drove through the Flying D, one of a handful of ranches that Ted Turner locked into conservation in the late 80s. As my truck wound around another corner, the valley opened up to a field of bison. I imagined that this is what Montana used to look like, when there were 30 million of these animals spread across the North American landscape, before we moved into subdivisions and laid track across the hills. The Flying D is an extremely important parcel, as it borders multiple plots of public land and creates a bridge of landscape between highways and crucial migration corridors for big game animals. For someone that has seen my small town in Montana expand over the past six years, I’m grateful for spaces like these that make it still feel wild, knowing that no man-made structures will obscure the views here. It wasn’t until a few months back that I had ever heard the idea of private land conservation, let alone talk about it. I was at an event for an Environmental Stewardship Award in a small town in northern

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“You can’t make more land.”

T

hose words my aunt used to tell me were imprinted in my mind as the truck hugged the tight corners of the two-track dirt road.

I was born in the West, and have maintained a strong love for it ever since. I talk about it when I’m somewhere else, like I’m missing a part of myself. When I’m away from it, I talk about how coming home is like walking into big, open arms of sky. This is the place I’ve felt most at home, surrounded by the expansiveness. I know that’s why other people move to Montana too: for the wholeness of the place. This state is dotted with parcels of both public and private land. But most people think they see miles of open landscape when they come here. When people think of Montana, they think about the free flowing rivers and rugged mountains. People think about the bears, the parks, and about why it’s called Big Sky Country. They also probably think this is one of the last wild places; a thought that is perpetuated by the amount of land that purely exists here.

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I thought about all these things as I drove through the Flying D, one of a handful of ranches that Ted Turner locked into conservation in the late 80s. As my truck wound around another corner, the valley opened up to a field of bison. I imagined that this is what Montana used to look like, when there were 30 million of these animals spread across the North American landscape, before we moved into subdivisions and laid track across the hills. The Flying D is an extremely important parcel, as it borders multiple plots of public land and creates a bridge of landscape between highways and crucial migration corridors for big game animals. For someone that has seen my small town in Montana expand over the past six years, I’m grateful for spaces like these that make it still feel wild, knowing that no man-made structures will obscure the views here. It wasn’t until a few months back that I had ever heard the idea of private land conservation, let alone talk about it. I was at an event for an Environmental Stewardship Award in a small town in northern

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Montana. I won’t lie when I say I was out of my comfort zone. I work on the conservation of public land in my daily photography life, and I have to admit that I’ve often villainized private landholders. I’d see “No Trespassing” signs and think about all the giant cutthroat trout that probably reside there that I’ll never have the chance to see. Oftentimes, I’ve seen the red tape before the open landscape. I can’t tell you why, but it had never occured to me that you need both the conservation of public and private land to succeed. Ranchers are the original conservationists, I was told. They were the ones that saw the West as an chance to live off the land when homesteading. They acquired large plots for cattle operations or agriculture. It was, and always is, in their best interest to keep the land healthy to maintain their livelihood — not just for one year, but for their lifetime. After I attended this event, I became obsessed with the idea that private landowners might be doing great things, and might not have the opportunity to talk about it. I met a handful of ranchers that work in collaboration with many governmental organizations to try to better their ecosystems and in turn, are trying to leave the land as good, if not better, than when they started. I met Dusty Hahn at the event when someone told me that his family’s ranch was doing a lot of work on soil health and no-till farming. My fiancé Eduardo and I have our own half-acre of permaculture garden, and no-till is something that we also practice. I immediately asked Dusty what cover crops he was using and what weeds they have issues with. There’s a lot of common ground when you work with the earth and struggle with weeds, so I wanted to visit the Hahn Ranch to see what they were doing so close to my home.

Dusty Hahn and his father, Chuck, have worked hard to make a living as both ranchers and stewards of the land. It’s a full-time, overtime job. They won the Environmental Stewardship Award in 2018 for all of their collaborative efforts and investments of regenerative work on their land, which is butted up against the Elkhorn Mountains of Montana. They’ve been in the small city of Townsend since the early 1900s, when Chuck’s grandfather fell in love with the area. The love for the landscape transcended generations and now, more than a hundred years later, they still love the place. That love was obvious to me when I saw how hard they were working to invest in future generations, even though making moves towards conservation can often be more expensive in the short-term. Wallace Stegner had the idea that there were two types of people on the western landscape: the “boomers” and “stickers.” The boomers are the extractors of the land that see the earth for it’s payouts: mining, oil and gas developments, and real estate to name just a few. The “stickers” are the ones that see the landscape, fall in love and find their place in it. They want to create their life in the middle of it all. Knowing that the American West was founded on Manifest Destiny, there is always a complicated balance with the inevitable development and growth of a place, and the sustainability of the ecosystem. All landowners are in the position to protect what they love and the Hahns did so by putting a large portion of their ranch into a conservation easement. If you look at the band of foothills that is now forever protected, it’s clear that parcel would be houses and subdivisions if it had been given the opportunity to develop.

The side effects of the subdividing of property are not small. Long ago, before fences were put up, the only hurdles for migrating animals were natural: canyons, rivers, cliffs etc. The more fences, roads, or housing developments that are placed in that natural migration corridor, the harder it is for animals to move freely or quickly. As we turned left from the highway onto the two track dirt road, I thought about what it might’ve looked like if we were turning into a subdivision with paved roads instead. I’ve driven past a lot of open land in my life and I’ve driven past the Hahn Ranch more times than I can count. But I had no idea that the prairie needed to be managed. Again, I caught myself feeling ignorant in the conversation as they told me how cattle can play a really important role in the maintenance of a rangeland when it’s managed correctly. By trampling down the grass, they are bending, breaking and aerating the ground to create more opportunity for water to permeate the surface, creating stronger and better root systems for grass growth. Their hooves act as tools for mulching and with the manure and biomass returning to the surface, it, in turn, improves the soil. By rotating cattle through different grazing pastures, they can feed their cows and also slowly improve the landscape. They are making other efforts with their cattle too. We drove to another area where the cows were circled around a stock tank. When

we launched into a conversation about water on their property, they explained why the stock tank was out here in the middle of a pasture. By pulling cattle away from the edges of a creek, the resource of water is left for the big game and other animals that need to use it; it’s no longer a competition for a depletable resource. Also, taking cattle out from a fragile habitat maintains the foundation of banks, willow thickets, etc that are important habitats for birds, deer and fish. This directly impacts those of us that fish down river. There is an article from the Sage Grouse Initiative website that says “​Although wet habitats cover less than 2% of the western landscape, more than 80% are located on private lands.” That statistic stopped me in my tracks. Eighty percent of the two percent of wetlands is on private land, which leaves private landowners in a unique position to act as conservationists. For weeks after I left the ranch, I couldn’t stop thinking about the benefits of cattle rotation and watershed management. By taking the time to learn what was happening on the land I drove past at 65 mph on the highway, I became a better, more informed steward of the land. But more than anything, it inspired me to realize that anyone with a yard is a private landowner, whether it’s a small city lot or thousands of acres. Thus, we are all responsible for leaving this earth better than we found it, because, after all, you can’t make more land.

B E C C A S K I N N E R was born into a family of adventurers who raised her in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and the high plains of Wyoming. This environment fueled a lifelong passion for wild places and exploring. She now resides in Bozeman, Montana, working as an adventure and conservation photographer and writer. @BECCASKINNER / BECCASKINNERPHOTOGRAPHY.COM

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Montana. I won’t lie when I say I was out of my comfort zone. I work on the conservation of public land in my daily photography life, and I have to admit that I’ve often villainized private landholders. I’d see “No Trespassing” signs and think about all the giant cutthroat trout that probably reside there that I’ll never have the chance to see. Oftentimes, I’ve seen the red tape before the open landscape. I can’t tell you why, but it had never occured to me that you need both the conservation of public and private land to succeed. Ranchers are the original conservationists, I was told. They were the ones that saw the West as an chance to live off the land when homesteading. They acquired large plots for cattle operations or agriculture. It was, and always is, in their best interest to keep the land healthy to maintain their livelihood — not just for one year, but for their lifetime. After I attended this event, I became obsessed with the idea that private landowners might be doing great things, and might not have the opportunity to talk about it. I met a handful of ranchers that work in collaboration with many governmental organizations to try to better their ecosystems and in turn, are trying to leave the land as good, if not better, than when they started. I met Dusty Hahn at the event when someone told me that his family’s ranch was doing a lot of work on soil health and no-till farming. My fiancé Eduardo and I have our own half-acre of permaculture garden, and no-till is something that we also practice. I immediately asked Dusty what cover crops he was using and what weeds they have issues with. There’s a lot of common ground when you work with the earth and struggle with weeds, so I wanted to visit the Hahn Ranch to see what they were doing so close to my home.

Dusty Hahn and his father, Chuck, have worked hard to make a living as both ranchers and stewards of the land. It’s a full-time, overtime job. They won the Environmental Stewardship Award in 2018 for all of their collaborative efforts and investments of regenerative work on their land, which is butted up against the Elkhorn Mountains of Montana. They’ve been in the small city of Townsend since the early 1900s, when Chuck’s grandfather fell in love with the area. The love for the landscape transcended generations and now, more than a hundred years later, they still love the place. That love was obvious to me when I saw how hard they were working to invest in future generations, even though making moves towards conservation can often be more expensive in the short-term. Wallace Stegner had the idea that there were two types of people on the western landscape: the “boomers” and “stickers.” The boomers are the extractors of the land that see the earth for it’s payouts: mining, oil and gas developments, and real estate to name just a few. The “stickers” are the ones that see the landscape, fall in love and find their place in it. They want to create their life in the middle of it all. Knowing that the American West was founded on Manifest Destiny, there is always a complicated balance with the inevitable development and growth of a place, and the sustainability of the ecosystem. All landowners are in the position to protect what they love and the Hahns did so by putting a large portion of their ranch into a conservation easement. If you look at the band of foothills that is now forever protected, it’s clear that parcel would be houses and subdivisions if it had been given the opportunity to develop.

The side effects of the subdividing of property are not small. Long ago, before fences were put up, the only hurdles for migrating animals were natural: canyons, rivers, cliffs etc. The more fences, roads, or housing developments that are placed in that natural migration corridor, the harder it is for animals to move freely or quickly. As we turned left from the highway onto the two track dirt road, I thought about what it might’ve looked like if we were turning into a subdivision with paved roads instead. I’ve driven past a lot of open land in my life and I’ve driven past the Hahn Ranch more times than I can count. But I had no idea that the prairie needed to be managed. Again, I caught myself feeling ignorant in the conversation as they told me how cattle can play a really important role in the maintenance of a rangeland when it’s managed correctly. By trampling down the grass, they are bending, breaking and aerating the ground to create more opportunity for water to permeate the surface, creating stronger and better root systems for grass growth. Their hooves act as tools for mulching and with the manure and biomass returning to the surface, it, in turn, improves the soil. By rotating cattle through different grazing pastures, they can feed their cows and also slowly improve the landscape. They are making other efforts with their cattle too. We drove to another area where the cows were circled around a stock tank. When

we launched into a conversation about water on their property, they explained why the stock tank was out here in the middle of a pasture. By pulling cattle away from the edges of a creek, the resource of water is left for the big game and other animals that need to use it; it’s no longer a competition for a depletable resource. Also, taking cattle out from a fragile habitat maintains the foundation of banks, willow thickets, etc that are important habitats for birds, deer and fish. This directly impacts those of us that fish down river. There is an article from the Sage Grouse Initiative website that says “​Although wet habitats cover less than 2% of the western landscape, more than 80% are located on private lands.” That statistic stopped me in my tracks. Eighty percent of the two percent of wetlands is on private land, which leaves private landowners in a unique position to act as conservationists. For weeks after I left the ranch, I couldn’t stop thinking about the benefits of cattle rotation and watershed management. By taking the time to learn what was happening on the land I drove past at 65 mph on the highway, I became a better, more informed steward of the land. But more than anything, it inspired me to realize that anyone with a yard is a private landowner, whether it’s a small city lot or thousands of acres. Thus, we are all responsible for leaving this earth better than we found it, because, after all, you can’t make more land.

B E C C A S K I N N E R was born into a family of adventurers who raised her in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and the high plains of Wyoming. This environment fueled a lifelong passion for wild places and exploring. She now resides in Bozeman, Montana, working as an adventure and conservation photographer and writer. @BECCASKINNER / BECCASKINNERPHOTOGRAPHY.COM

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PART THREE

Global Case Studies

PHOTO:CHRIS BURKARD

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PART THREE

Global Case Studies

PHOTO:CHRIS BURKARD

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Scotland, LAND OF FREEDOM STORY BY

B Y RO N PA C E PA C E B ROT H E RS

PHOTOGRAPHY BY

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Scotland, LAND OF FREEDOM STORY BY

B Y RO N PA C E PA C E B ROT H E RS

PHOTOGRAPHY BY

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A

s the vivid greens of summer fade to a collage of golden browns and yellows, Scotland enters its most vibrant and enticing time of year. The throws of autumn washing a firm grip over the country by mid to late October. The ripple of turning deciduous flora reverses the spring shift, which flowed from the southern lowlands to the northern highlands. Naked, weatherbeaten spindly browns emerge with fresh buds and new life. Snow drops litter the forest floors, and the early blossom of hawthorn offers nectar to emerging pollinators. Now, with winter knocking, it’s the uplands which feel the effect first. The great spectacle of lush pinks and purples, erupting from Scotland’s rolling heather clad hills, have already faded and withered. Wild grasses of the west coast drift to khaki tans, while our native red deer rut falls silent. This passing comes just in time for the last hard push for reserves before the long, dark and wet days ahead. Some of the old warriors won’t see the winter out, depleted from weeks of gathering hinds and holding ground. Their rasping roars of stature and standing reverberate around the mountain hollows for a final time. But that is the way of things. It’s a cycle only interrupted by the hand of man. Many of our seasonal, migratory visitors have already begun to arrive. Waves of pinkfoots follow and graylags file in, with the bulk of our foreign woodcock arriving by the full moon in November. The anticipation of shifting seasons brings what many hunters consider the start of the game season. Although it’s possible to do some form of hunting every day of the year across the United Kingdom, the 12th of August truly marks the beginning. For the all-round hunter, harvest will have brought the abundant resource offered by decoyed wood pigeons. Stalkers will have already enjoyed the heart pounding close encounters of calling roe from late July, but in the uplands, the first marker in any hunter’s diary is the Glorious Twelfth. Argued to be the king of all game birds, great tradition and management, as well as controversy, surround the red grouse. Producing economical, harvestable surpluses requires considerable manpower and financial input. In the past this high cost has encouraged illegal activities for the protection of these grouse — the illegal persecution of raptors being the most highlighted and debated. It has tarnished an industry which feels the weight of political change in Scotland more than any other. Much of this management, focused on the production of wild red grouse, occurs across what is considered to be Scotland’s wild spaces.

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Although, as with much of our planet, there is little which hasn’t been shaped by the will and actions of humans at some point in our past. It is often forgotten that a push for agriculture led to draining much of the uplands, and not grouse shooting. On the contrary, vast projects of peatland restoration and re-wetting are ongoing across many grouse moors today. Close to where I live, on one estate of around 20,000 acres, there would be a dozen gamekeepers solely focused on grouse and the management of the land for this primary purpose. This includes the rotational burning of heather moorland, to obtain an optimum age structure for breeding grouse. This not only offers nesting, shelter and food to the intended quarry, but many studies show a spectrum of bird and insect species which benefit from this aspect of management. Many of these include IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) red and amber listed species such as curlew, dotterel and golden plover. Their common breeding success can also be attributed to the strict vermin control undertaken, trapping stoats, weasels and corvids, and hunting foxes by various methods. Ground nesting birds are particularly susceptible to these types of predators, and as a result, much of a gamekeeper’s time is taken up with this endeavor. With wildfires sweeping the country this year, an interesting side note to the activity of rotational burning, or muirburn as it’s known here, is the reduction in natural fuel loads in upland areas. This also creates fire breaks as a result of the patchwork effect of varying age structures. Gamekeepers are the only group of people in the U.K. undertaking systematic burning, and indeed hold the core specialist skills and equipment for tackling upland fires. After our long, dry and unusually hot summer, the benefits of this valuable public service have never been more pertinent. A service funded entirely by private money. Every instance of managed grouse moors currently in Scotland are in private ownership. As indeed is the vast majority of land here. Between 11-12% of rural Scotland sits in public hands, with around 2.6% owned by environmental NGOs. Currently 2.2% is run by community land owners, which accounts for 405 hectares (1000 acres). Much of the rest is in private ownership, and includes the associated rights to resources. This basic, top level view of land distribution has been the driving force for much of the political change here. The nationalist agenda wants to see more of this land

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A

s the vivid greens of summer fade to a collage of golden browns and yellows, Scotland enters its most vibrant and enticing time of year. The throws of autumn washing a firm grip over the country by mid to late October. The ripple of turning deciduous flora reverses the spring shift, which flowed from the southern lowlands to the northern highlands. Naked, weatherbeaten spindly browns emerge with fresh buds and new life. Snow drops litter the forest floors, and the early blossom of hawthorn offers nectar to emerging pollinators. Now, with winter knocking, it’s the uplands which feel the effect first. The great spectacle of lush pinks and purples, erupting from Scotland’s rolling heather clad hills, have already faded and withered. Wild grasses of the west coast drift to khaki tans, while our native red deer rut falls silent. This passing comes just in time for the last hard push for reserves before the long, dark and wet days ahead. Some of the old warriors won’t see the winter out, depleted from weeks of gathering hinds and holding ground. Their rasping roars of stature and standing reverberate around the mountain hollows for a final time. But that is the way of things. It’s a cycle only interrupted by the hand of man. Many of our seasonal, migratory visitors have already begun to arrive. Waves of pinkfoots follow and graylags file in, with the bulk of our foreign woodcock arriving by the full moon in November. The anticipation of shifting seasons brings what many hunters consider the start of the game season. Although it’s possible to do some form of hunting every day of the year across the United Kingdom, the 12th of August truly marks the beginning. For the all-round hunter, harvest will have brought the abundant resource offered by decoyed wood pigeons. Stalkers will have already enjoyed the heart pounding close encounters of calling roe from late July, but in the uplands, the first marker in any hunter’s diary is the Glorious Twelfth. Argued to be the king of all game birds, great tradition and management, as well as controversy, surround the red grouse. Producing economical, harvestable surpluses requires considerable manpower and financial input. In the past this high cost has encouraged illegal activities for the protection of these grouse — the illegal persecution of raptors being the most highlighted and debated. It has tarnished an industry which feels the weight of political change in Scotland more than any other. Much of this management, focused on the production of wild red grouse, occurs across what is considered to be Scotland’s wild spaces.

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Although, as with much of our planet, there is little which hasn’t been shaped by the will and actions of humans at some point in our past. It is often forgotten that a push for agriculture led to draining much of the uplands, and not grouse shooting. On the contrary, vast projects of peatland restoration and re-wetting are ongoing across many grouse moors today. Close to where I live, on one estate of around 20,000 acres, there would be a dozen gamekeepers solely focused on grouse and the management of the land for this primary purpose. This includes the rotational burning of heather moorland, to obtain an optimum age structure for breeding grouse. This not only offers nesting, shelter and food to the intended quarry, but many studies show a spectrum of bird and insect species which benefit from this aspect of management. Many of these include IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) red and amber listed species such as curlew, dotterel and golden plover. Their common breeding success can also be attributed to the strict vermin control undertaken, trapping stoats, weasels and corvids, and hunting foxes by various methods. Ground nesting birds are particularly susceptible to these types of predators, and as a result, much of a gamekeeper’s time is taken up with this endeavor. With wildfires sweeping the country this year, an interesting side note to the activity of rotational burning, or muirburn as it’s known here, is the reduction in natural fuel loads in upland areas. This also creates fire breaks as a result of the patchwork effect of varying age structures. Gamekeepers are the only group of people in the U.K. undertaking systematic burning, and indeed hold the core specialist skills and equipment for tackling upland fires. After our long, dry and unusually hot summer, the benefits of this valuable public service have never been more pertinent. A service funded entirely by private money. Every instance of managed grouse moors currently in Scotland are in private ownership. As indeed is the vast majority of land here. Between 11-12% of rural Scotland sits in public hands, with around 2.6% owned by environmental NGOs. Currently 2.2% is run by community land owners, which accounts for 405 hectares (1000 acres). Much of the rest is in private ownership, and includes the associated rights to resources. This basic, top level view of land distribution has been the driving force for much of the political change here. The nationalist agenda wants to see more of this land

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in the hands of the people, with greater access for the average person. To this end, large private landowners face increasingly tough legislation, with the advent of the Land Reform Act designed to redistribute ownership. As it stands today, hunting of all species of deer, or stalking as we refer to it in Europe, largely takes place on private land. As too does almost all inland hunting of waterfowl and other game birds. One caveat here is the ability for any individual to hunt wildfowl on crown land. This includes most of our coastal regions, and is available at no cost between high and low tide marks on the foreshore: not publicly owned land, but publicly accessible. Another exception is Forestry Commission ground, spread over most of Scotland. Managed in trust on behalf of our government Ministers, it’s in turn under care for the people of Scotland. Although it’s possible to rent blocks from the commission, or take individual days hunting in certain locations, it’s not as easily accessible as one may expect from what is essentially publicly owned assets funded by the tax paying people of Scotland. With that said, it is a commercial enterprise, and the focus is not on wildlife, but on trees as a harvestable crop. Their deer management policy is based solely on densities to minimise tree damage, and not class or age structure of deer populations. For this purpose, they employ full-time controllers. This contrasts with the bulk of red deer stalking in Scotland, which sits under the private ownership of estates. In these historic deer forests, the management is aimed at balancing habitat impact, regeneration and sustainable, healthy and well-structured populations of deer. There is a lot of tradition surrounding many of these estates, which have often been in the same custodianship for generations, with records going back hundreds of years. For me, an opportunity to hunt any of the historic estates is a great privilege, no matter how many times I have previously traversed the landscape. There is a certain undeniable magic to immersing

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yourself in the old ways, adding your own story to the thousands before. Hunting the same corries, hills and valleys which brought joy, hardship, love and loss to previous generations. For not much has changed. Our stalkers (guides) are still adorned with the same tweed as the very first hunters to wonder the hills in search of deer. Patterns, shades and designs borne from the land itself, varying from estate to estate, from east to west. Hill ponies first used for deer extraction in the 18th century still have their place today, despite all the advances in ATV’s. There are less of them now, but much of the terrain is still only passable by garron, our traditional Scottish hill pony. It would be easy to chalk up the emotions of taking a stag off the hill with a pony as only romantic and nostalgic, but this is far too simplistic. There is a calming, soul-nourishing appreciation which lingers. The rhythmic, steady steps of the garron, following hill tracks long used to move beasts and cattle through upland passes. Bound leather on antler strains under the dead weight of fallen stags. Old saddles creak under load, having seen more than their fair share of ponies come and pass. Pause for a moment in the spectacle, and there is nothing in the world which feels more natural. There is a clarity of purpose and being, and a realisation that this tradition, passed down through the generations, is intrinsically linked to the landscape. They are one and the same. Most of these larger estates will complete a census every year by helicopter to establish population dynamics, usually taking place in the early part of the year. Umbrella management is offered by deer management groups, within which the estates sit. This helps to account for the fact there is mostly no restriction of movement over estate boundaries. Although the micro-management is left up to individual land owners, there is an overarching macro responsibility set out by government to consider habitat impacts and road traffic accidents. At the extreme end, this can see enforced culls undertaken on

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in the hands of the people, with greater access for the average person. To this end, large private landowners face increasingly tough legislation, with the advent of the Land Reform Act designed to redistribute ownership. As it stands today, hunting of all species of deer, or stalking as we refer to it in Europe, largely takes place on private land. As too does almost all inland hunting of waterfowl and other game birds. One caveat here is the ability for any individual to hunt wildfowl on crown land. This includes most of our coastal regions, and is available at no cost between high and low tide marks on the foreshore: not publicly owned land, but publicly accessible. Another exception is Forestry Commission ground, spread over most of Scotland. Managed in trust on behalf of our government Ministers, it’s in turn under care for the people of Scotland. Although it’s possible to rent blocks from the commission, or take individual days hunting in certain locations, it’s not as easily accessible as one may expect from what is essentially publicly owned assets funded by the tax paying people of Scotland. With that said, it is a commercial enterprise, and the focus is not on wildlife, but on trees as a harvestable crop. Their deer management policy is based solely on densities to minimise tree damage, and not class or age structure of deer populations. For this purpose, they employ full-time controllers. This contrasts with the bulk of red deer stalking in Scotland, which sits under the private ownership of estates. In these historic deer forests, the management is aimed at balancing habitat impact, regeneration and sustainable, healthy and well-structured populations of deer. There is a lot of tradition surrounding many of these estates, which have often been in the same custodianship for generations, with records going back hundreds of years. For me, an opportunity to hunt any of the historic estates is a great privilege, no matter how many times I have previously traversed the landscape. There is a certain undeniable magic to immersing

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yourself in the old ways, adding your own story to the thousands before. Hunting the same corries, hills and valleys which brought joy, hardship, love and loss to previous generations. For not much has changed. Our stalkers (guides) are still adorned with the same tweed as the very first hunters to wonder the hills in search of deer. Patterns, shades and designs borne from the land itself, varying from estate to estate, from east to west. Hill ponies first used for deer extraction in the 18th century still have their place today, despite all the advances in ATV’s. There are less of them now, but much of the terrain is still only passable by garron, our traditional Scottish hill pony. It would be easy to chalk up the emotions of taking a stag off the hill with a pony as only romantic and nostalgic, but this is far too simplistic. There is a calming, soul-nourishing appreciation which lingers. The rhythmic, steady steps of the garron, following hill tracks long used to move beasts and cattle through upland passes. Bound leather on antler strains under the dead weight of fallen stags. Old saddles creak under load, having seen more than their fair share of ponies come and pass. Pause for a moment in the spectacle, and there is nothing in the world which feels more natural. There is a clarity of purpose and being, and a realisation that this tradition, passed down through the generations, is intrinsically linked to the landscape. They are one and the same. Most of these larger estates will complete a census every year by helicopter to establish population dynamics, usually taking place in the early part of the year. Umbrella management is offered by deer management groups, within which the estates sit. This helps to account for the fact there is mostly no restriction of movement over estate boundaries. Although the micro-management is left up to individual land owners, there is an overarching macro responsibility set out by government to consider habitat impacts and road traffic accidents. At the extreme end, this can see enforced culls undertaken on

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private land without the consent of the owner. However, this only occurs if reasonable measures are not taken to address and resolve issues. Historically this is enacted on extremely rare occasions. Low ground deer hunting in Scotland is predominantly in pursuit of roe deer. Whereas red deer stalking tends to take place on vast areas, such as Athol Estate which is in excess of 100,000 acres, roe deer tend to be hunted in more arable and partial arable regions. These may be only of a few hundred acres per permission. Here, a patchwork of farms of varying sizes back onto one another, with hunting rights by individual agreement. This may paint a somewhat restrictive picture as to the access of hunting in Scotland, with the clear lack of publicly owned rights. A similar story can also be told when it comes to fishing access. In some ways, what we have here is the polar opposite to North America and New Zealand. However, this isn’t the whole story. The large tracts of land and sprawling water courses are not shut down to the public. Most have easily and readily available ‘over the counter’ possibilities to hunt and fish. When compared to other types of hunting around the world, what is available here often comes at very modest sums of money. Trout fishing country-wide is incredibly cheap, costing only a few dollars equivalent a day. Hind stalking in the winter months can be afforded by most people, with it normally possible to hunt a number of animals a day at no extra charge. Even stag stalking, with all the excitement and tradition of a garron, can be booked for the cost of a set of shoes for your 4x4. Born in Scotland or from the other side of the world, here everyone is treated the same, with no tiering of costs when it comes to hunting and fishing. Many hunters form syndicates of like-minded individuals, renting hunting rights from land owners from season-to-season. This allows affordable access to pheasants, partridges, and a large variety of migratory birds and wildfowl. The forgotten truth by many Scottish natives who yearn for greater ownership by the masses, is that in Scotland, since 2003, legislation came to pass which allowed a ‘right to roam’ for everyone. Not just Scotland’s residents, but anyone who wishes to visit this proud, small country. In short, beyond common sense restrictions around the curtilage of personal buildings, we are free to walk, hike, run, swim, kayak, bike, camp, forage, and use the land almost as we wish,

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within a basic “outdoor access code.” This even holds true inside our National Parks. In many ways, Scotland offers some of the most progressive and free land access in the world. Although at the time, changes in legislation saw some resistance, there are relatively few examples of people abusing these newly found rights. The great question is, do we want our structure of hunting and fishing resources to change? Will an outcome of increased public ownership have a positive or negative net benefit to the wildlife, and habitat within the landscape? In the end, this question should be foremost in our mind. The United Kingdom has more than 70% of the entire planets heather moorland, with Scotland supporting most of this. That makes it rarer than rainforest. This burden has always sat on the shoulders of private enterprise, with the long-term sustainability funded by a very small number of wealthy individuals. The reality of such large-scale management, be that for grouse or deer, is that the viability as a business is often on the margin of being economic. As it currently stands, we have no mechanism for directing national funds towards conservation on a consistent basis. We don’t have a ringfenced pool of funds such as is afforded in North America via the Pittman Robertson Act. Nor do we have tag systems in place. If tomorrow, the management of this land had to be publicly funded, we would be looking around asking who is going to pay. The system isn’t perfect, but before we look to change it, we must be sure that the alternative offers a better future. A future where we can sustain or improve current management and funding for conservation. The reality of the current state is that although certain species may be struggling, wildlife on the whole is abundant in Scotland. We have achieved this in a model of mass private land ownership. It is easy to look overseas and view sprawling public lands with envy, but the reality in Scotland is that we are free to explore it all. The entire country. We just have to make sure that our wildlife always takes a front seat when it comes to decisions which change the current dynamics. Note: deer forests as a term doesn’t specifically refer to a forested area but instead a historic area managed for deer.

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private land without the consent of the owner. However, this only occurs if reasonable measures are not taken to address and resolve issues. Historically this is enacted on extremely rare occasions. Low ground deer hunting in Scotland is predominantly in pursuit of roe deer. Whereas red deer stalking tends to take place on vast areas, such as Athol Estate which is in excess of 100,000 acres, roe deer tend to be hunted in more arable and partial arable regions. These may be only of a few hundred acres per permission. Here, a patchwork of farms of varying sizes back onto one another, with hunting rights by individual agreement. This may paint a somewhat restrictive picture as to the access of hunting in Scotland, with the clear lack of publicly owned rights. A similar story can also be told when it comes to fishing access. In some ways, what we have here is the polar opposite to North America and New Zealand. However, this isn’t the whole story. The large tracts of land and sprawling water courses are not shut down to the public. Most have easily and readily available ‘over the counter’ possibilities to hunt and fish. When compared to other types of hunting around the world, what is available here often comes at very modest sums of money. Trout fishing country-wide is incredibly cheap, costing only a few dollars equivalent a day. Hind stalking in the winter months can be afforded by most people, with it normally possible to hunt a number of animals a day at no extra charge. Even stag stalking, with all the excitement and tradition of a garron, can be booked for the cost of a set of shoes for your 4x4. Born in Scotland or from the other side of the world, here everyone is treated the same, with no tiering of costs when it comes to hunting and fishing. Many hunters form syndicates of like-minded individuals, renting hunting rights from land owners from season-to-season. This allows affordable access to pheasants, partridges, and a large variety of migratory birds and wildfowl. The forgotten truth by many Scottish natives who yearn for greater ownership by the masses, is that in Scotland, since 2003, legislation came to pass which allowed a ‘right to roam’ for everyone. Not just Scotland’s residents, but anyone who wishes to visit this proud, small country. In short, beyond common sense restrictions around the curtilage of personal buildings, we are free to walk, hike, run, swim, kayak, bike, camp, forage, and use the land almost as we wish,

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within a basic “outdoor access code.” This even holds true inside our National Parks. In many ways, Scotland offers some of the most progressive and free land access in the world. Although at the time, changes in legislation saw some resistance, there are relatively few examples of people abusing these newly found rights. The great question is, do we want our structure of hunting and fishing resources to change? Will an outcome of increased public ownership have a positive or negative net benefit to the wildlife, and habitat within the landscape? In the end, this question should be foremost in our mind. The United Kingdom has more than 70% of the entire planets heather moorland, with Scotland supporting most of this. That makes it rarer than rainforest. This burden has always sat on the shoulders of private enterprise, with the long-term sustainability funded by a very small number of wealthy individuals. The reality of such large-scale management, be that for grouse or deer, is that the viability as a business is often on the margin of being economic. As it currently stands, we have no mechanism for directing national funds towards conservation on a consistent basis. We don’t have a ringfenced pool of funds such as is afforded in North America via the Pittman Robertson Act. Nor do we have tag systems in place. If tomorrow, the management of this land had to be publicly funded, we would be looking around asking who is going to pay. The system isn’t perfect, but before we look to change it, we must be sure that the alternative offers a better future. A future where we can sustain or improve current management and funding for conservation. The reality of the current state is that although certain species may be struggling, wildlife on the whole is abundant in Scotland. We have achieved this in a model of mass private land ownership. It is easy to look overseas and view sprawling public lands with envy, but the reality in Scotland is that we are free to explore it all. The entire country. We just have to make sure that our wildlife always takes a front seat when it comes to decisions which change the current dynamics. Note: deer forests as a term doesn’t specifically refer to a forested area but instead a historic area managed for deer.

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LOS GAUCHOS STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY

NICK KELLEY

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LOS GAUCHOS STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY

NICK KELLEY

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T

he Argentines I’ve met are people of routine. Drinking maté, eating meat, being beautiful, riding horses, working outside, and staying up late.

I’ve traveled to Argentina, specifically Northern Patagonia, once or twice a year for the last decade, usually in search of big brown trout and sprawling landscapes. I’ve been fortunate to find both, in addition to some lifelong friends that opened their gates and shared their expansive, often dizzying backyards. It wasn’t until last August that I first visited the country during their winter. Over the years, an Argentine friend named Andres Sorzana kept showing me pictures of his hunting adventures during the cold season. Simple shots from his iPhone of these men wandering through the mountains with red berets and barren winter colors looking for wild boar and the occasional red stag. I had to go. Most of the men work on large estancias managing land and livestock, which the invasive boars wreak havoc on through soil destruction, crop damage, and pathways of smelly annihilation. So they hunt them. It’s part of their routine. Many Argentine hunters, like the ones I spent time with, are fortunate to have access in their backyard to what most people see on postcards and screensavers. Access to hunting and fishing land in Argentina is very different compared to much of the world. The private to public land split in most of Patagonia skews heavily toward private. “An organization or community like Backcountry

Hunters and Anglers wouldn’t really work in Argentina, there just isn’t much access,” says Carlos Fernandez, the former director of The Nature Conservancy in Argentina. In the Neuquén province where I photographed this project, some 60% of the land is held privately. Estancias with more than 100,000 acres of land are common, if not the norm. “As with many of the species often associated with Patagonia, wild boar were introduced for recreation purposes in the early 1900s,” says Fernandez. They’re hardy, fast multiplying, and adaptable to a variety of ecosystems. Needless to say, land-managers-turnedhunters now have their hands full. It’s a balancing act between loving the hunt, protecting the land, and trying to keep an exotic species invasion in check. While an Argentine boar or stag hunt isn’t necessarily a public land experience, it is a window into large scale land management and a culture that’s crazy for hunting. Many estancias have opened up their operations for recreation and visiting guests. A week at a well known hunting lodge — yes, it can be expensive — is like having a small national park to yourself. Similar to much of the public land in the U.S., these Patagonian estancias are a chance to experience expansive chunks of earth and intact, healthy ecosystems that are largely untouched. Who doesn’t want to see that? The hunts are a chaotic orchestra, complete with asado breaks, naps, worn leather, guns, and knives. Not a bad routine.

N I C K K E L L E Y is a photographer who lives in Denver, Colorado with his girlfriend Maddie and dog Tuco. He can be found near water, mountains (small ones), people doing what they love, and sometimes by a TV if there is a soccer game or folks playing sports. @NGKELLEY / NICKKELLEYPHOTO.COM

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T

he Argentines I’ve met are people of routine. Drinking maté, eating meat, being beautiful, riding horses, working outside, and staying up late.

I’ve traveled to Argentina, specifically Northern Patagonia, once or twice a year for the last decade, usually in search of big brown trout and sprawling landscapes. I’ve been fortunate to find both, in addition to some lifelong friends that opened their gates and shared their expansive, often dizzying backyards. It wasn’t until last August that I first visited the country during their winter. Over the years, an Argentine friend named Andres Sorzana kept showing me pictures of his hunting adventures during the cold season. Simple shots from his iPhone of these men wandering through the mountains with red berets and barren winter colors looking for wild boar and the occasional red stag. I had to go. Most of the men work on large estancias managing land and livestock, which the invasive boars wreak havoc on through soil destruction, crop damage, and pathways of smelly annihilation. So they hunt them. It’s part of their routine. Many Argentine hunters, like the ones I spent time with, are fortunate to have access in their backyard to what most people see on postcards and screensavers. Access to hunting and fishing land in Argentina is very different compared to much of the world. The private to public land split in most of Patagonia skews heavily toward private. “An organization or community like Backcountry

Hunters and Anglers wouldn’t really work in Argentina, there just isn’t much access,” says Carlos Fernandez, the former director of The Nature Conservancy in Argentina. In the Neuquén province where I photographed this project, some 60% of the land is held privately. Estancias with more than 100,000 acres of land are common, if not the norm. “As with many of the species often associated with Patagonia, wild boar were introduced for recreation purposes in the early 1900s,” says Fernandez. They’re hardy, fast multiplying, and adaptable to a variety of ecosystems. Needless to say, land-managers-turnedhunters now have their hands full. It’s a balancing act between loving the hunt, protecting the land, and trying to keep an exotic species invasion in check. While an Argentine boar or stag hunt isn’t necessarily a public land experience, it is a window into large scale land management and a culture that’s crazy for hunting. Many estancias have opened up their operations for recreation and visiting guests. A week at a well known hunting lodge — yes, it can be expensive — is like having a small national park to yourself. Similar to much of the public land in the U.S., these Patagonian estancias are a chance to experience expansive chunks of earth and intact, healthy ecosystems that are largely untouched. Who doesn’t want to see that? The hunts are a chaotic orchestra, complete with asado breaks, naps, worn leather, guns, and knives. Not a bad routine.

N I C K K E L L E Y is a photographer who lives in Denver, Colorado with his girlfriend Maddie and dog Tuco. He can be found near water, mountains (small ones), people doing what they love, and sometimes by a TV if there is a soccer game or folks playing sports. @NGKELLEY / NICKKELLEYPHOTO.COM

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Carving a Living from Crown Land STORY BY

RACHEL AHTILA ADAM FOSS

PHOTOGRAPHY BY

A

small flame sparks to life in the morning darkness, and the distant jingle of horse bells rings faintly as they make their way back from the evening pasture — a welcome comfort to any wrangler’s ear. The soft clatter of pots and pans as the morning meal is prepared and a rustle of sleeping bags lends to the quiet noise as the crew dresses and makes their way from the tents. The sizzle and pop of bacon frying in a cast-iron skillet is paired with quiet greetings of morning conversation. Then it’s the familiar sound of crinkled tarps being cast aside, horses walking out as they are selected, their quiet feet on soft earth as they are brushed and fussed over before saddles are tossed on. Leather slaps together as latigos are pulled through the D-rings on a familiar piece of rigging, and bells dully chime as they are removed – this sets the tone of anticipation for the day. A final glance over the morning’s handy work and a scratch to a favorite steed are second nature before the smell of fresh-brewed coffee lures you to the cooking hearth. These are simple noises, but make a tune that is raw and enchanting, purposeful yet relaxing, and can’t be recreated elsewhere. My seasonal day job doesn’t require an enroute stop at Starbucks for my morning perk, nor do I turn the keys over in my truck most months for a daily commute. I am a hunting guide, a modern-day backcountry enthusiast, and I make a living off of Canada’s Public Lands. There is a wildly romantic notion about living a life away from it all; something that in today’s fast-paced world might even seem backwards. There isn’t a term that can accurately express it, a picture that can make you feel it, or a video that can truly capture what it is to be fully and presently immersed in the wilderness. But that wilderness, public land, or as we call it in Canada, “Crown Land,” wouldn’t be where it was today if it wasn’t protected in some way. In the old days, the land was there to make a living from, foremost out of survival and necessity. Settlers harnessed the land for agriculture, and fur traders and adventurers explored it as they made their way from one destination to the next. Over the years, wars broke out, countries were established, treaties were made with indigenous peoples, and governments began assigning titles and rights. What was once “everyone’s” land eventually became sectioned up. Nowadays, despite much privatization, we are still able to enjoy what little of that original land is left, and appreciate it for its near untouched nature. Canada is a Commonwealth Country of original British Settlement under the English Crown. Crown land (even land covered by rivers

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or lakes) is owned by the provincial government. This type of land is available to the public for many different purposes including industry, recreation, and research. Some of the activities allowed on our public crown lands include mining, exploration, logging, outfitting, trapping, and recreation tourism. Much like our neighbor to the south, we pride ourselves on what goods our country has to offer, the vast expanse of our geographical landscape, the wildlife that we share it with, and the rich history we have from settling our rugged country. Communities of the most primitive form were born around common gathering places. Clans would travel great lengths to visit the fires of neighbors, learn patterns of the migrating game species for hunting, or share stories to expand their knowledge. Now in the 21st century our handheld devices allow us a global community hearth at the touch of our fingertips. Though we are collectively past the fashion faux pas of leather loincloths, we as humans are still instinctively drawn to our “greater community,” and have an earnest desire to learn. Now, we are largely aided by technology that shares information about our landscapes through a global database, and we’re able to research and dissect remote places in the backcountry with ease. But before going on any kind of backcountry excursion, there is an honest amount of work that has to be put into readying oneself: cartography, first aid, tracking, species identification and knowledge, or good oldfashioned time spent in the field scouting. Now it seems like there is an app, website, or social media post that can help you do just about all that and more, all from the comfort of your service location. While our forefathers might be rolling over in their graves, this technology can be a win. Social media is empowering the outdoor audience with knowledge gained through existing experts. But therein lies one of the greatest questions, is it possible to let an audience know too much too soon, or rather put tools in their hands that might have ecological repercussions they don’t understand? If our plan is to grow an awareness and share with our greater community, where do we draw the line? Where media and global connections grow, a larger footprint on the land follows. The downside of popular access points is a high concentration of human activity and pressure in those areas. Trails have become something that anyone with an app can now find, requiring little research. If a surplus of people who might potentially be inexperienced backcountry users are concentrating on trailheads or

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Carving a Living from Crown Land STORY BY

RACHEL AHTILA ADAM FOSS

PHOTOGRAPHY BY

A

small flame sparks to life in the morning darkness, and the distant jingle of horse bells rings faintly as they make their way back from the evening pasture — a welcome comfort to any wrangler’s ear. The soft clatter of pots and pans as the morning meal is prepared and a rustle of sleeping bags lends to the quiet noise as the crew dresses and makes their way from the tents. The sizzle and pop of bacon frying in a cast-iron skillet is paired with quiet greetings of morning conversation. Then it’s the familiar sound of crinkled tarps being cast aside, horses walking out as they are selected, their quiet feet on soft earth as they are brushed and fussed over before saddles are tossed on. Leather slaps together as latigos are pulled through the D-rings on a familiar piece of rigging, and bells dully chime as they are removed – this sets the tone of anticipation for the day. A final glance over the morning’s handy work and a scratch to a favorite steed are second nature before the smell of fresh-brewed coffee lures you to the cooking hearth. These are simple noises, but make a tune that is raw and enchanting, purposeful yet relaxing, and can’t be recreated elsewhere. My seasonal day job doesn’t require an enroute stop at Starbucks for my morning perk, nor do I turn the keys over in my truck most months for a daily commute. I am a hunting guide, a modern-day backcountry enthusiast, and I make a living off of Canada’s Public Lands. There is a wildly romantic notion about living a life away from it all; something that in today’s fast-paced world might even seem backwards. There isn’t a term that can accurately express it, a picture that can make you feel it, or a video that can truly capture what it is to be fully and presently immersed in the wilderness. But that wilderness, public land, or as we call it in Canada, “Crown Land,” wouldn’t be where it was today if it wasn’t protected in some way. In the old days, the land was there to make a living from, foremost out of survival and necessity. Settlers harnessed the land for agriculture, and fur traders and adventurers explored it as they made their way from one destination to the next. Over the years, wars broke out, countries were established, treaties were made with indigenous peoples, and governments began assigning titles and rights. What was once “everyone’s” land eventually became sectioned up. Nowadays, despite much privatization, we are still able to enjoy what little of that original land is left, and appreciate it for its near untouched nature. Canada is a Commonwealth Country of original British Settlement under the English Crown. Crown land (even land covered by rivers

- 204 -

or lakes) is owned by the provincial government. This type of land is available to the public for many different purposes including industry, recreation, and research. Some of the activities allowed on our public crown lands include mining, exploration, logging, outfitting, trapping, and recreation tourism. Much like our neighbor to the south, we pride ourselves on what goods our country has to offer, the vast expanse of our geographical landscape, the wildlife that we share it with, and the rich history we have from settling our rugged country. Communities of the most primitive form were born around common gathering places. Clans would travel great lengths to visit the fires of neighbors, learn patterns of the migrating game species for hunting, or share stories to expand their knowledge. Now in the 21st century our handheld devices allow us a global community hearth at the touch of our fingertips. Though we are collectively past the fashion faux pas of leather loincloths, we as humans are still instinctively drawn to our “greater community,” and have an earnest desire to learn. Now, we are largely aided by technology that shares information about our landscapes through a global database, and we’re able to research and dissect remote places in the backcountry with ease. But before going on any kind of backcountry excursion, there is an honest amount of work that has to be put into readying oneself: cartography, first aid, tracking, species identification and knowledge, or good oldfashioned time spent in the field scouting. Now it seems like there is an app, website, or social media post that can help you do just about all that and more, all from the comfort of your service location. While our forefathers might be rolling over in their graves, this technology can be a win. Social media is empowering the outdoor audience with knowledge gained through existing experts. But therein lies one of the greatest questions, is it possible to let an audience know too much too soon, or rather put tools in their hands that might have ecological repercussions they don’t understand? If our plan is to grow an awareness and share with our greater community, where do we draw the line? Where media and global connections grow, a larger footprint on the land follows. The downside of popular access points is a high concentration of human activity and pressure in those areas. Trails have become something that anyone with an app can now find, requiring little research. If a surplus of people who might potentially be inexperienced backcountry users are concentrating on trailheads or

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charted ATV routes, we need to be assessing how our interactions are affecting the wildlife and the environment in these causeways. For example, popular apps that pinpoint where past harvests have been or have high-resolution imagery to showcase existing camps, established aircraft landing strips, docks, or other signs of backcountry use directly highlight how these areas can be accessed. Many of these spots that previously required private permits and fees are now available to a much wider audience. While we live in a world driven by “sharing,” posting photographs to social media can sometimes be detrimental to hunting areas. Publications that highlight hunting tips share stories about hunting hotspots that now have to use alternative names instead of their recognized map namesakes. Some companies are turning a profit on apps and knowledge that, until recently, die-hard hunters had to work really hard for. I fear with this increase in technology and influx of free knowledge we might be putting too much into hands that aren’t ready for it. Over the years, the outfitters and recreational hunters that had long worked to secure “honey-holes” for game are now seeing a surplus of users. With a constant influx of foot traffic, animal patterns have changed due to environmental stresses, and the backcountry I’ve grown to love is becoming more congested. But as a guide, you learn to roll with the punches, no matter how nostalgic you might be. I have seen camps go from excited crews that bring their whole families into the mountains for the summer, to recreational outfits starving for workers because the generation of folks that came to the mountains now keep jobs in town to support their lifestyle. Hunting camps are filled up in the preseason with scientists who take to the field trying to soak up what they can before heading back to the labs. Exploration is thriving in most of the commercial sectors with offshore purchasers flying around in suits and pointy shoes eyeing our vast resources with a suite of skills that wouldn’t help them get too far on a sheep hunt. All the while there are those of us on the ground, detached, who are trying to pretend like nothing is changing in our wild and vast landscape.

R A C H E L A H T I L A is a hunting guide by trade, writer, photographer, conservationist, equestrian and apprentice trapper. For the last two decades she has migrated north to cut her teeth as a hand for various outfits as a cook, wrangler and big game guide. The timelessness of living in some of the most epic and untouched landscapes became the drive that lends to her passion for the wild places and the animals that call those lands home. @RACHELAHTILA

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I have worked in the Yukon where motorized vehicle use is still allowed beyond an immediate camp setting and the landscape is scarred as a result. Work has also taken me to the Northwest Territories where the season is shorter, the weather more temperamental, and grass for livestock hard to come by. Horsesavvy backcountry folks are declining and hence hard to find when outfitters need to fill their crews. To combat this, more and more they are turning to aviation assistance. Back in British Columbia, ATV use is regulated, but hunting pressures are increasing with residents making use of digital databases. Tag allocations are governed by the lead scientific minds, but social and political passions around keystone species is an ever-growing worry, led by a small fraction of the population who likely haven’t ever stepped off a groomed trail or coexisted with said species. As a guide, I try to appreciate both sides of the argument, especially as a resident of

a province that boasts a plethora of huntable big game species. But it’s easy to become frustrated with how much the hunting world has changed, especially when some hunt dates are potentially shortened to accommodate the fast-paced turnover of business folks who can’t take very much time off of work. I am a resident hunter in one of the most beautiful places in the world, and I have the right to hunt across my province with over the counter tags or limited entry hunting draws just like every other tax paying resident who wishes to. I am also a hunting guide and share the mountains with other people who are enjoying the same privileges. Because of this I understand the fine equilibrium between frustration and admiration when you coexist on the mountain with others in pursuit of the same game. And while we do not always have the same level of respect, code of ethics, or willingness to work together, there certainly are still folks who hold these same virtues – I just wish there were more of them. Despite all of this, I am reminded that I wouldn’t be able to make a living off of Canada’s Public Lands if someone hadn’t first cared about them enough to protect them. Most days I have to pinch myself that I’m lucky enough to be so immersed in the wilderness in a world full of people who are vying to be more connected. If we are going to be able to share these places with the next generation, it’s important that they not only acknowledge them, but also understand the good they represent, the potential dangers they might hold, and the ecological impacts our increased presence might have. But they won’t know that if we don’t give them the opportunity. The equipment we use in the backcountry is evolving and making our time more enjoyable, allowing us to go farther, hunt harder, go lighter, and hopefully be more successful. If technology can help us achieve this, while also reinforcing our role and recognizing our backcountry footprint, then we can mark it as a success. My only wish is that there were stricter laws and enforcement in places that supported the law-abiding citizens who use legal charter companies, outfitters, or transportation services. Camps left littered with rubbish, or food that isn’t stored properly become a large attractant for bears or other opportunists, which can have fatal consequences. These rules are put in place to regulate the use, maintain the harvest, and protect the future of the backcountry, so if we truly wish to conserve these lands for future generations, we must dutifully adhere to these regulations and understand the strains our concentrated uses put on our public lands. And whether you make your living on public lands like myself, or just enjoy them recreationally, we all are stewards of the land and thus have a responsibility to them. It is an amazing resource, but one that must be respected, regulated, and cherished for the generations who have yet to experience what we are lucky enough to have today.

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charted ATV routes, we need to be assessing how our interactions are affecting the wildlife and the environment in these causeways. For example, popular apps that pinpoint where past harvests have been or have high-resolution imagery to showcase existing camps, established aircraft landing strips, docks, or other signs of backcountry use directly highlight how these areas can be accessed. Many of these spots that previously required private permits and fees are now available to a much wider audience. While we live in a world driven by “sharing,” posting photographs to social media can sometimes be detrimental to hunting areas. Publications that highlight hunting tips share stories about hunting hotspots that now have to use alternative names instead of their recognized map namesakes. Some companies are turning a profit on apps and knowledge that, until recently, die-hard hunters had to work really hard for. I fear with this increase in technology and influx of free knowledge we might be putting too much into hands that aren’t ready for it. Over the years, the outfitters and recreational hunters that had long worked to secure “honey-holes” for game are now seeing a surplus of users. With a constant influx of foot traffic, animal patterns have changed due to environmental stresses, and the backcountry I’ve grown to love is becoming more congested. But as a guide, you learn to roll with the punches, no matter how nostalgic you might be. I have seen camps go from excited crews that bring their whole families into the mountains for the summer, to recreational outfits starving for workers because the generation of folks that came to the mountains now keep jobs in town to support their lifestyle. Hunting camps are filled up in the preseason with scientists who take to the field trying to soak up what they can before heading back to the labs. Exploration is thriving in most of the commercial sectors with offshore purchasers flying around in suits and pointy shoes eyeing our vast resources with a suite of skills that wouldn’t help them get too far on a sheep hunt. All the while there are those of us on the ground, detached, who are trying to pretend like nothing is changing in our wild and vast landscape.

R A C H E L A H T I L A is a hunting guide by trade, writer, photographer, conservationist, equestrian and apprentice trapper. For the last two decades she has migrated north to cut her teeth as a hand for various outfits as a cook, wrangler and big game guide. The timelessness of living in some of the most epic and untouched landscapes became the drive that lends to her passion for the wild places and the animals that call those lands home. @RACHELAHTILA

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I have worked in the Yukon where motorized vehicle use is still allowed beyond an immediate camp setting and the landscape is scarred as a result. Work has also taken me to the Northwest Territories where the season is shorter, the weather more temperamental, and grass for livestock hard to come by. Horsesavvy backcountry folks are declining and hence hard to find when outfitters need to fill their crews. To combat this, more and more they are turning to aviation assistance. Back in British Columbia, ATV use is regulated, but hunting pressures are increasing with residents making use of digital databases. Tag allocations are governed by the lead scientific minds, but social and political passions around keystone species is an ever-growing worry, led by a small fraction of the population who likely haven’t ever stepped off a groomed trail or coexisted with said species. As a guide, I try to appreciate both sides of the argument, especially as a resident of

a province that boasts a plethora of huntable big game species. But it’s easy to become frustrated with how much the hunting world has changed, especially when some hunt dates are potentially shortened to accommodate the fast-paced turnover of business folks who can’t take very much time off of work. I am a resident hunter in one of the most beautiful places in the world, and I have the right to hunt across my province with over the counter tags or limited entry hunting draws just like every other tax paying resident who wishes to. I am also a hunting guide and share the mountains with other people who are enjoying the same privileges. Because of this I understand the fine equilibrium between frustration and admiration when you coexist on the mountain with others in pursuit of the same game. And while we do not always have the same level of respect, code of ethics, or willingness to work together, there certainly are still folks who hold these same virtues – I just wish there were more of them. Despite all of this, I am reminded that I wouldn’t be able to make a living off of Canada’s Public Lands if someone hadn’t first cared about them enough to protect them. Most days I have to pinch myself that I’m lucky enough to be so immersed in the wilderness in a world full of people who are vying to be more connected. If we are going to be able to share these places with the next generation, it’s important that they not only acknowledge them, but also understand the good they represent, the potential dangers they might hold, and the ecological impacts our increased presence might have. But they won’t know that if we don’t give them the opportunity. The equipment we use in the backcountry is evolving and making our time more enjoyable, allowing us to go farther, hunt harder, go lighter, and hopefully be more successful. If technology can help us achieve this, while also reinforcing our role and recognizing our backcountry footprint, then we can mark it as a success. My only wish is that there were stricter laws and enforcement in places that supported the law-abiding citizens who use legal charter companies, outfitters, or transportation services. Camps left littered with rubbish, or food that isn’t stored properly become a large attractant for bears or other opportunists, which can have fatal consequences. These rules are put in place to regulate the use, maintain the harvest, and protect the future of the backcountry, so if we truly wish to conserve these lands for future generations, we must dutifully adhere to these regulations and understand the strains our concentrated uses put on our public lands. And whether you make your living on public lands like myself, or just enjoy them recreationally, we all are stewards of the land and thus have a responsibility to them. It is an amazing resource, but one that must be respected, regulated, and cherished for the generations who have yet to experience what we are lucky enough to have today.

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No Man's Land STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY

RYA N YO U N G B L O O D

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No Man's Land STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY

RYA N YO U N G B L O O D

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I

n the clockless hour of the Congo heat, he smiled back at me through black-tipped rotten enamel; mirra, bush cocaine used for the fight that is chewed by boys and men, yellows and tars the teeth over time. It was a stoic attempt, his mouth sitting there more like a catfish’s dead grin. He was flanked by five of his soldiers, all adorned in tattered and non-matching fatigues, fists and nails clutching kalashnikovs and front pockets barely fitting containers of amber colored glue, huff for when the heat of the war gets too hot. Some were boys. Surrounding us were endless waves of dark green hills of banana trees. And in the distance I could see Mt. Nyiragongo, an active volcano presiding over and seemingly directing Congo’s fury, like a god, and for hundreds of kilometers it spread its shard rock. We were in Mai Mai territory, their land and borders fought and claimed, and no more relevant than the arbitrary Belgian-lines with which their conquered lot sits within. It was their territory today, may not be tomorrow, wasn’t yesterday. The Mai Mai are a piece of a larger complex and are one of many rebel groups active in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In the North Kivu province of the DRC, zones and jurisdictions are carved into messy, incongruent pieces. Each area owned depending on who won the battle, never the war, because over here the war never ends. It’s a revolving door of rebel groups, local militias, and the Congolese military (FARDC), all fighting a war or proxy wars and coated with post-colonial contexts that perpetuate violence. The Mai Mai were more of the militia kind, a protectorate for their communities, but have since their inception and despite their original intent, fallen into the same dark narrative as most armed groups. We were making ground towards a different rebel outfit called M23. They had just staged a coup in the region and currently claimed North Kivu’s capital city, Goma. M23 and the FARDC were about to clash and we wanted to set our position before they did. And in doing so we had to cross contested rebel territory and deal with our present gentleman who began to warm up to us in his John Cena t-shirt, undoubtedly found down river from a humanitarian handme-down overstock. He leaned back in his royal blue, plastic chair and raised a spliff to his cracked lips. After 10 minutes of dialogue that was a French-Swahili cocktail, the kind I liked best because the

- 210 -

only way I can speak Swahili is if it is splinted by French, he smiled through the stumps and said that we could pass safely through his territory. It wasn’t just our good word he took, but a handle of Jack and a carton of Dunhill Blues. Never leave home without them if you’re entering sub-Saharan rebel territory. We got back in our car, a rented 90s cruiser that ran on diesel and a prayer. We left the commander and his men and headed for M23, only to surely cross into enemy territory again. This was 2012, a time that I was living in Rwanda as a freelance photographer and spending much of my time in the Congo and Central Africa covering conflict. East Africa and its stretching savannas were only romanticized day dreams that I took from films. I had never seen South Africa’s iconic sunsets or fields of wild game. My Africa was under canopies, motorcycle rides along red dirt roads lined with hills of green matoke trees, roads like easements that let you pass into something dark and hidden. The further I traveled along these roads, the closer a shared narrative seemed to tether each fractured state or region that I crossed. Land. Whether it be ethnic heritage and history of settlement, cultural differences, corrupt and unstable governments, former colonial suppression, foreign interests and exploitation, one or all of these things seemed to always create a tension over land ownership and land rights. It’s not cut and dry anywhere in the world, but in the West there are at least rules and pursuits of order and fairness. In Africa it’s far more complex and varies by country. Governments can be toppled and in an instant an area once tied to a former president’s interests then becomes an enemy to the successor. Climate change can force cattle herders to cross into a neighboring state, resulting in a bloody conflict fueled by unshared language and culture and a competition for resources. Heads of state can be easily swayed by foreign dollars as they give up protected areas to international companies. This in fact is happening now in the DRC as the government is allowing an oil company to explore Africa’s oldest park, Virunga National Park: a park home to the endangered mountain gorillas. It was 2014 and I was in an old haunt in Kampala with a friend drinking a Nile lager. We were rapping about all of these issues and their implications for the continent and the world. Small talk. He told me of a place that was a collision of all these things

- 211 -


I

n the clockless hour of the Congo heat, he smiled back at me through black-tipped rotten enamel; mirra, bush cocaine used for the fight that is chewed by boys and men, yellows and tars the teeth over time. It was a stoic attempt, his mouth sitting there more like a catfish’s dead grin. He was flanked by five of his soldiers, all adorned in tattered and non-matching fatigues, fists and nails clutching kalashnikovs and front pockets barely fitting containers of amber colored glue, huff for when the heat of the war gets too hot. Some were boys. Surrounding us were endless waves of dark green hills of banana trees. And in the distance I could see Mt. Nyiragongo, an active volcano presiding over and seemingly directing Congo’s fury, like a god, and for hundreds of kilometers it spread its shard rock. We were in Mai Mai territory, their land and borders fought and claimed, and no more relevant than the arbitrary Belgian-lines with which their conquered lot sits within. It was their territory today, may not be tomorrow, wasn’t yesterday. The Mai Mai are a piece of a larger complex and are one of many rebel groups active in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In the North Kivu province of the DRC, zones and jurisdictions are carved into messy, incongruent pieces. Each area owned depending on who won the battle, never the war, because over here the war never ends. It’s a revolving door of rebel groups, local militias, and the Congolese military (FARDC), all fighting a war or proxy wars and coated with post-colonial contexts that perpetuate violence. The Mai Mai were more of the militia kind, a protectorate for their communities, but have since their inception and despite their original intent, fallen into the same dark narrative as most armed groups. We were making ground towards a different rebel outfit called M23. They had just staged a coup in the region and currently claimed North Kivu’s capital city, Goma. M23 and the FARDC were about to clash and we wanted to set our position before they did. And in doing so we had to cross contested rebel territory and deal with our present gentleman who began to warm up to us in his John Cena t-shirt, undoubtedly found down river from a humanitarian handme-down overstock. He leaned back in his royal blue, plastic chair and raised a spliff to his cracked lips. After 10 minutes of dialogue that was a French-Swahili cocktail, the kind I liked best because the

- 210 -

only way I can speak Swahili is if it is splinted by French, he smiled through the stumps and said that we could pass safely through his territory. It wasn’t just our good word he took, but a handle of Jack and a carton of Dunhill Blues. Never leave home without them if you’re entering sub-Saharan rebel territory. We got back in our car, a rented 90s cruiser that ran on diesel and a prayer. We left the commander and his men and headed for M23, only to surely cross into enemy territory again. This was 2012, a time that I was living in Rwanda as a freelance photographer and spending much of my time in the Congo and Central Africa covering conflict. East Africa and its stretching savannas were only romanticized day dreams that I took from films. I had never seen South Africa’s iconic sunsets or fields of wild game. My Africa was under canopies, motorcycle rides along red dirt roads lined with hills of green matoke trees, roads like easements that let you pass into something dark and hidden. The further I traveled along these roads, the closer a shared narrative seemed to tether each fractured state or region that I crossed. Land. Whether it be ethnic heritage and history of settlement, cultural differences, corrupt and unstable governments, former colonial suppression, foreign interests and exploitation, one or all of these things seemed to always create a tension over land ownership and land rights. It’s not cut and dry anywhere in the world, but in the West there are at least rules and pursuits of order and fairness. In Africa it’s far more complex and varies by country. Governments can be toppled and in an instant an area once tied to a former president’s interests then becomes an enemy to the successor. Climate change can force cattle herders to cross into a neighboring state, resulting in a bloody conflict fueled by unshared language and culture and a competition for resources. Heads of state can be easily swayed by foreign dollars as they give up protected areas to international companies. This in fact is happening now in the DRC as the government is allowing an oil company to explore Africa’s oldest park, Virunga National Park: a park home to the endangered mountain gorillas. It was 2014 and I was in an old haunt in Kampala with a friend drinking a Nile lager. We were rapping about all of these issues and their implications for the continent and the world. Small talk. He told me of a place that was a collision of all these things

- 211 -


and a battle for the land was at hand. He spoke of it the same way explorers during the Age of Discovery might have spoken about lost civilizations in the Amazon. It seemed almost mythological, an isolated Eden surrounded by threats that kept it locked away in the center of Africa. This was how I found myself in The Central African Republic (CAR), a country bordering Chad, DRC, Sudan, and Cameroon. A former French colony, followed by a sequence of appointed autocrats and then eventual democracy with overt corruption and special interests. And in a far corner of the country was the vast plot of land that my friend spoke of. It sits like its own autonomous region, not for any cultural or political reason, but rather forgotten by any government attempting to rule the CAR. Its 17,600 square kilometers is known as the Chinko River Basin (Chinko). Communities border it, but otherwise Chinko has no permanent settlements. The ecosystem is an interconnected flow of Congolian tropical rainforests and Sahelian savannas, making it one of the most biodiverse and important habitats in Africa. A mosaic of thick trees and jungle collide into shrubs and barren ground, then is cut through by the curving Mbari River for 71 kilometers. A treetop highway of nearly 10 species of primates populate the second floor of Chinko’s forest. And below, forest and savanna elephants and buffalo co-exist in one place. The ark-like manifest continues through 23 species of hooved animals including the Lord Derby’s eland and bongo, the Central African lion, leopard, serval, the golden cat, and 19 other carnivore species. Chinko at the time was stewarded by a hunting company (CAWA Safaris) and its conservation NGO counterpart (The Chinko Project). I came via both with a desire to hunt and a hope to tell the story of Chinko through a lens of hunting and conservation, how these two groups might be the only thing left at securing and governing this sauvage. A war was at hand in parts of CAR during this time, a sectarian conflict that hadn’t reached Chinko’s isolation. However, inside Chinko’s forest another war was being fought. It was one that I had never seen and one that threatened everything. The tug of war to control Chinko wasn’t a back and forth motion, for there were multiple lines of rope with multiple players pulling each other in all directions. Chinko’s arable land was like water to a dry mouth for the Sudanese Mbororo cattle herders, coming long distances to graze in the savannahs. Militarized elephant poaching units also came from Sudan in a gold rush frenzy for ivory. Evading extradition and ultimate destruction, foreign rebel groups used the Chinko bush for cover and the beltline of communities to fill their stomachs and their ranks. Between the poachers and the rebels, there were plenty of bad guys for the deployed militaries and their ongoing operations deep within the forest. And for the hunters, Bongo and Lord Derby’s Eland under one roof in a place that offered great challenge and tested mettle. The Chinko Project was the connective tissue and the base of the pyramid offering a lasting hope. I could see the poachers like a moving picture in my head. Years chasing rebels were the building blocks to my illustrations and

- 212 -

the stories I heard coming out of Chinko gave it words. I could almost hear their voices. “Yala!” The Arabic imperative is quietly shouted from a tall, thin man as he pushes the rest forward. His shoulders slack and struggle, hands grooved into something that sits on either side of his neck and curves beyond his body like a lion’s front teeth. Eight men adorned in rags and sandals snake through a suffocatingly dense forest at night. The moon flickers through the canopy providing almost no path, but the seasoned eight live in a nocturnal world of crime and any bit of light could result in death. Fires are made small and brief, torches are never used, their pursuers can see at night and from high above the forest ceiling. However, the modernity of weapons is an ironic unmatching of foes when compared to the men’s knowledge and experience of the jungle. An orchestra of sounds follow the men, thuds from the freshly cut elephant tusks living on the man’s shoulders, grunts of fatigue, and the jingling of bullets from an armory of black market weapons. The wet season in the Central African Republic is an attack from above and below, with the grass reaching over eight feet and the rain pelting like hail. The elephant poachers would have given up much earlier if the price per kilo on ivory wasn’t $2000. They’re only middle men, opportunists, desperate and poor, contracted killers that see very little of the payout. They reach the end of the tree line and the moon’s shine reflects cold tones of blood off each man’s black skin. They continue and move across the CAR-Sudan border, a mirage of a line that is pushed or pulled every day. The forest’s shadow takes them in again as fingers hug triggers, ready to kill if ever confronted. The reverie vanished and I was back in the morning, its blue and gray overcast darkening the day as I slid across my foam pad in jungle sweat. I headed for the fire. Every morning was spent eating gozo, a gooey like mashed potato made from cassava root tubers and dipped in okra sauce. I chased a few benadryl with black coffee to temper a swollen forearm from multiple bee stings, city slicker allergies that always flare in the bush. Around me were two trackers from CAWA and a biologist from The Chinko Project. CAWA’s Owner, Erik Mararv, and The Chinko Project’s Park Manager, David Simpson, brought together professional hunters and biologists to rally around the area’s preservation, and it was through the team’s knowledge that I began to understand the layers and complexities of poaching in eastern CAR. Chinko was at the headwaters of an ivory black market. Heavily armed poaching units come in undetected packs, sometimes traveling by horseback like medieval knights, a fantasy looking fever dream from hell if ever seen in person. They’re highly motivated and battle hardened. The profits from ivory either filling pockets to supply an Asian demand or for fueling terrorist organizations’ fanatical missions. At the time, The Chinko Project was pushing for more government buy-in with the hopes of Chinko getting more recognition back in the capital. The more visibility Chinko gained, the greater the chance that the land would inherently be protected and thrive. The morning was over by 7 am and we packed up camp. I had finished filming yesterday so I bagged the camera and grabbed my rifle. It was time to hunt.

- 213 -


and a battle for the land was at hand. He spoke of it the same way explorers during the Age of Discovery might have spoken about lost civilizations in the Amazon. It seemed almost mythological, an isolated Eden surrounded by threats that kept it locked away in the center of Africa. This was how I found myself in The Central African Republic (CAR), a country bordering Chad, DRC, Sudan, and Cameroon. A former French colony, followed by a sequence of appointed autocrats and then eventual democracy with overt corruption and special interests. And in a far corner of the country was the vast plot of land that my friend spoke of. It sits like its own autonomous region, not for any cultural or political reason, but rather forgotten by any government attempting to rule the CAR. Its 17,600 square kilometers is known as the Chinko River Basin (Chinko). Communities border it, but otherwise Chinko has no permanent settlements. The ecosystem is an interconnected flow of Congolian tropical rainforests and Sahelian savannas, making it one of the most biodiverse and important habitats in Africa. A mosaic of thick trees and jungle collide into shrubs and barren ground, then is cut through by the curving Mbari River for 71 kilometers. A treetop highway of nearly 10 species of primates populate the second floor of Chinko’s forest. And below, forest and savanna elephants and buffalo co-exist in one place. The ark-like manifest continues through 23 species of hooved animals including the Lord Derby’s eland and bongo, the Central African lion, leopard, serval, the golden cat, and 19 other carnivore species. Chinko at the time was stewarded by a hunting company (CAWA Safaris) and its conservation NGO counterpart (The Chinko Project). I came via both with a desire to hunt and a hope to tell the story of Chinko through a lens of hunting and conservation, how these two groups might be the only thing left at securing and governing this sauvage. A war was at hand in parts of CAR during this time, a sectarian conflict that hadn’t reached Chinko’s isolation. However, inside Chinko’s forest another war was being fought. It was one that I had never seen and one that threatened everything. The tug of war to control Chinko wasn’t a back and forth motion, for there were multiple lines of rope with multiple players pulling each other in all directions. Chinko’s arable land was like water to a dry mouth for the Sudanese Mbororo cattle herders, coming long distances to graze in the savannahs. Militarized elephant poaching units also came from Sudan in a gold rush frenzy for ivory. Evading extradition and ultimate destruction, foreign rebel groups used the Chinko bush for cover and the beltline of communities to fill their stomachs and their ranks. Between the poachers and the rebels, there were plenty of bad guys for the deployed militaries and their ongoing operations deep within the forest. And for the hunters, Bongo and Lord Derby’s Eland under one roof in a place that offered great challenge and tested mettle. The Chinko Project was the connective tissue and the base of the pyramid offering a lasting hope. I could see the poachers like a moving picture in my head. Years chasing rebels were the building blocks to my illustrations and

- 212 -

the stories I heard coming out of Chinko gave it words. I could almost hear their voices. “Yala!” The Arabic imperative is quietly shouted from a tall, thin man as he pushes the rest forward. His shoulders slack and struggle, hands grooved into something that sits on either side of his neck and curves beyond his body like a lion’s front teeth. Eight men adorned in rags and sandals snake through a suffocatingly dense forest at night. The moon flickers through the canopy providing almost no path, but the seasoned eight live in a nocturnal world of crime and any bit of light could result in death. Fires are made small and brief, torches are never used, their pursuers can see at night and from high above the forest ceiling. However, the modernity of weapons is an ironic unmatching of foes when compared to the men’s knowledge and experience of the jungle. An orchestra of sounds follow the men, thuds from the freshly cut elephant tusks living on the man’s shoulders, grunts of fatigue, and the jingling of bullets from an armory of black market weapons. The wet season in the Central African Republic is an attack from above and below, with the grass reaching over eight feet and the rain pelting like hail. The elephant poachers would have given up much earlier if the price per kilo on ivory wasn’t $2000. They’re only middle men, opportunists, desperate and poor, contracted killers that see very little of the payout. They reach the end of the tree line and the moon’s shine reflects cold tones of blood off each man’s black skin. They continue and move across the CAR-Sudan border, a mirage of a line that is pushed or pulled every day. The forest’s shadow takes them in again as fingers hug triggers, ready to kill if ever confronted. The reverie vanished and I was back in the morning, its blue and gray overcast darkening the day as I slid across my foam pad in jungle sweat. I headed for the fire. Every morning was spent eating gozo, a gooey like mashed potato made from cassava root tubers and dipped in okra sauce. I chased a few benadryl with black coffee to temper a swollen forearm from multiple bee stings, city slicker allergies that always flare in the bush. Around me were two trackers from CAWA and a biologist from The Chinko Project. CAWA’s Owner, Erik Mararv, and The Chinko Project’s Park Manager, David Simpson, brought together professional hunters and biologists to rally around the area’s preservation, and it was through the team’s knowledge that I began to understand the layers and complexities of poaching in eastern CAR. Chinko was at the headwaters of an ivory black market. Heavily armed poaching units come in undetected packs, sometimes traveling by horseback like medieval knights, a fantasy looking fever dream from hell if ever seen in person. They’re highly motivated and battle hardened. The profits from ivory either filling pockets to supply an Asian demand or for fueling terrorist organizations’ fanatical missions. At the time, The Chinko Project was pushing for more government buy-in with the hopes of Chinko getting more recognition back in the capital. The more visibility Chinko gained, the greater the chance that the land would inherently be protected and thrive. The morning was over by 7 am and we packed up camp. I had finished filming yesterday so I bagged the camera and grabbed my rifle. It was time to hunt.

- 213 -


We were moving through thick brush tracking eland. They’re beautiful and majestic. Standing almost eight feet tall, clocking mid 40 mph speed, and can disappear in the thick stuff as if they were a ghost. We moved out into a neighboring savannah and bumped paths with another hunter. We found shade, poured coffee, and talked hunting. He had been hunting in CAR several times and all over Africa. CAR was always his favorite. It attracted the purists and the adventure seekers. And it wasn’t for everyone. Eland will kill you with their keen senses and stamina. Bongo will turn you into a nocturnal animal and drive you to the edge of sanity as each night in the blind comes up empty. But it was addictive. Red river hogs, hartebeest, buffalo, bushbuck, roan, waterbuck, giant forest hogs; in Chinko it was a hunter’s paradise. Russians, French, Arabs, Texans, they all found their way here. Erik Marav started CAWA at 21. He grew up in CAR holding on to his father’s back as they hunted through tall grass. He did everything at CAWA for a long time, everything from maintenance to guiding. You had to in a place this remote. While the civil war in CAR’s capital continued, for the first time hunting in Central Africa was talked about in mainstream media. There was bad press, with individuals condemning hunters for hunting during a war. However, since hunting remained in Chinko, it allowed for greater conservation and The Chinko Project began a partnership with the African Parks Network, arguably the most effective conservation NGO on the continent. The hunting eventually shut down. Pressure from poaching mounted and quotas became impossible to meet, and certain species almost vanished overnight. But its legacy helped begin securing the region, bringing back healthy populations, and giving purpose to an area forgotten. There is a narrative that goes around in our community of outdoorsmen that says “hunting brings about conservation.” I agree with this, but it isn’t a blanket statement and if I can be candid, I at times become jaded by it. However, in Chinko I saw this happen. It proved the theory and became a case study as to what can be accomplished if hunting and conservation work together. In Africa, and especially in a country like CAR, you have to fight for something like the protection of land. It takes stamina and thankfully there are many hunting operators that have it. The sun was high and it was time to start moving again. We finished the coffee and gave farewells and good lucks. Aarifa’s small hands clutched the yellow jerry can between her legs. Her forearms thin and taut with lined muscles, she waddled with an arched back carrying the 50 kg of water fetched from the nearby Mbari River. Like the rest of the Mbororo women from Sudan, she was dressed in a colorful red and blue robe. She was 11 and nearly a woman. She set down the can and rested by her mother. They sat against handmade clay pots, wooden cots, and were cooled by the shade of a tarp. Their camp was like a gypsy’s or a yard sale of faroff goods. Everything they owned always came with them. Aarifa’s mother lifted her baby brother around her shoulder and kissed Aarifa’s forehead. Aarifa looked around and saw the rest of her sisters working and then heard the sound of a high pitched whistle. The cattle would obey her father like dogs. He was tall and wore

- 214 -

a faded red keffiyeh to protect him from the sun. He looked back at Aarifa and smiled. She was his treasure. His smile faded as he wondered if he would always be able to protect her. The land he and his family come from is ashen from civil war and drought. There is nothing left for them in Sudan, instead they must lead a nomadic life to graze their cattle in a greener Chinko, and turn what they kill into a commodity for the market. The Mbororo will enter Chinko with AK’s and pepper rounds into large herds, unsustainably killing animals for bushmeat. Their cattle infect the area with foreign diseases, creating silent epidemics of the wildlife. And to protect their currency from predators they poison meat along their route for unlucky lions and leopards. The Mbororo are just trying to survive and their plight meets Chinko with an unfortunate encounter. A 1,000 kilometer walk into Central Africa and poaching bushmeat is no more of a risk than staying at home surrounded by the beasts that civil wars create. Aarifa jumped at the gunshot. She heard our .22 crack the air with that distinguishable .22 slap, the sound trailing and dying into the trees. We were taking some guinea fowl for the evening to pair with our gozo and iodined water. I began hearing the sound of cattle and men whistling, and for a moment I was transported back to Texas. But the men herding the cattle weren’t the cowboys that I grew up seeing in the Hill Country. Aarifa’s father walked forward along with his brother and we all greeted. “As-Salaam-Alaikum.” “Wa-Alaikum-Salaam.” One of the trackers knew Arabic and spoke on our behalf. I had spent significant time in North Sudan, a desert-like place that resembled Skywalker’s Tatooine, and it was very interesting seeing the iconic bits of Sudanese culture in a Central African forest. They were kind and welcoming and gave us milk. I saw Aarifa move behind her father as he held her hand while he spoke. The tracker listened to Aarifa’s father and then explained to him about the dangers of poaching, poisoning, and grazing. However, he proffered that there was another way for Aarifa’s family. The Chinko Project developed a specific corridor for families like Aarifa’s to graze their cattle. It’s an attempt to protect the area, but to also remain sensitive to the Mbororo way of life. It’s common in Africa for war, famine, and disease to push people from their homes. You learn to shoulder other people’s burdens, but it becomes complicated when their plight infringes upon the sanctity of something like protected land. How do you remain sensitive to their situation, but not compromise something beautiful? It’s an ever present challenge in Africa and land use is not immune. Conversation slowed and we felt the natural moment to leave their family and move on. Everyone shook hands and I waved at Aarifa as she smiled back. There was a palpable emptiness. Ghost town savannahs with varied sightings of warthog and baboons casted most of the shadow. It was beyond 3 pm at this point and we had recently jumped on a new eland track. It was the closest we ever came to taking a large bull. It was like they knew we were there, countering every one of our moves with precision, but only enough to leave room for false hope of a shot.

- 215 -


We were moving through thick brush tracking eland. They’re beautiful and majestic. Standing almost eight feet tall, clocking mid 40 mph speed, and can disappear in the thick stuff as if they were a ghost. We moved out into a neighboring savannah and bumped paths with another hunter. We found shade, poured coffee, and talked hunting. He had been hunting in CAR several times and all over Africa. CAR was always his favorite. It attracted the purists and the adventure seekers. And it wasn’t for everyone. Eland will kill you with their keen senses and stamina. Bongo will turn you into a nocturnal animal and drive you to the edge of sanity as each night in the blind comes up empty. But it was addictive. Red river hogs, hartebeest, buffalo, bushbuck, roan, waterbuck, giant forest hogs; in Chinko it was a hunter’s paradise. Russians, French, Arabs, Texans, they all found their way here. Erik Marav started CAWA at 21. He grew up in CAR holding on to his father’s back as they hunted through tall grass. He did everything at CAWA for a long time, everything from maintenance to guiding. You had to in a place this remote. While the civil war in CAR’s capital continued, for the first time hunting in Central Africa was talked about in mainstream media. There was bad press, with individuals condemning hunters for hunting during a war. However, since hunting remained in Chinko, it allowed for greater conservation and The Chinko Project began a partnership with the African Parks Network, arguably the most effective conservation NGO on the continent. The hunting eventually shut down. Pressure from poaching mounted and quotas became impossible to meet, and certain species almost vanished overnight. But its legacy helped begin securing the region, bringing back healthy populations, and giving purpose to an area forgotten. There is a narrative that goes around in our community of outdoorsmen that says “hunting brings about conservation.” I agree with this, but it isn’t a blanket statement and if I can be candid, I at times become jaded by it. However, in Chinko I saw this happen. It proved the theory and became a case study as to what can be accomplished if hunting and conservation work together. In Africa, and especially in a country like CAR, you have to fight for something like the protection of land. It takes stamina and thankfully there are many hunting operators that have it. The sun was high and it was time to start moving again. We finished the coffee and gave farewells and good lucks. Aarifa’s small hands clutched the yellow jerry can between her legs. Her forearms thin and taut with lined muscles, she waddled with an arched back carrying the 50 kg of water fetched from the nearby Mbari River. Like the rest of the Mbororo women from Sudan, she was dressed in a colorful red and blue robe. She was 11 and nearly a woman. She set down the can and rested by her mother. They sat against handmade clay pots, wooden cots, and were cooled by the shade of a tarp. Their camp was like a gypsy’s or a yard sale of faroff goods. Everything they owned always came with them. Aarifa’s mother lifted her baby brother around her shoulder and kissed Aarifa’s forehead. Aarifa looked around and saw the rest of her sisters working and then heard the sound of a high pitched whistle. The cattle would obey her father like dogs. He was tall and wore

- 214 -

a faded red keffiyeh to protect him from the sun. He looked back at Aarifa and smiled. She was his treasure. His smile faded as he wondered if he would always be able to protect her. The land he and his family come from is ashen from civil war and drought. There is nothing left for them in Sudan, instead they must lead a nomadic life to graze their cattle in a greener Chinko, and turn what they kill into a commodity for the market. The Mbororo will enter Chinko with AK’s and pepper rounds into large herds, unsustainably killing animals for bushmeat. Their cattle infect the area with foreign diseases, creating silent epidemics of the wildlife. And to protect their currency from predators they poison meat along their route for unlucky lions and leopards. The Mbororo are just trying to survive and their plight meets Chinko with an unfortunate encounter. A 1,000 kilometer walk into Central Africa and poaching bushmeat is no more of a risk than staying at home surrounded by the beasts that civil wars create. Aarifa jumped at the gunshot. She heard our .22 crack the air with that distinguishable .22 slap, the sound trailing and dying into the trees. We were taking some guinea fowl for the evening to pair with our gozo and iodined water. I began hearing the sound of cattle and men whistling, and for a moment I was transported back to Texas. But the men herding the cattle weren’t the cowboys that I grew up seeing in the Hill Country. Aarifa’s father walked forward along with his brother and we all greeted. “As-Salaam-Alaikum.” “Wa-Alaikum-Salaam.” One of the trackers knew Arabic and spoke on our behalf. I had spent significant time in North Sudan, a desert-like place that resembled Skywalker’s Tatooine, and it was very interesting seeing the iconic bits of Sudanese culture in a Central African forest. They were kind and welcoming and gave us milk. I saw Aarifa move behind her father as he held her hand while he spoke. The tracker listened to Aarifa’s father and then explained to him about the dangers of poaching, poisoning, and grazing. However, he proffered that there was another way for Aarifa’s family. The Chinko Project developed a specific corridor for families like Aarifa’s to graze their cattle. It’s an attempt to protect the area, but to also remain sensitive to the Mbororo way of life. It’s common in Africa for war, famine, and disease to push people from their homes. You learn to shoulder other people’s burdens, but it becomes complicated when their plight infringes upon the sanctity of something like protected land. How do you remain sensitive to their situation, but not compromise something beautiful? It’s an ever present challenge in Africa and land use is not immune. Conversation slowed and we felt the natural moment to leave their family and move on. Everyone shook hands and I waved at Aarifa as she smiled back. There was a palpable emptiness. Ghost town savannahs with varied sightings of warthog and baboons casted most of the shadow. It was beyond 3 pm at this point and we had recently jumped on a new eland track. It was the closest we ever came to taking a large bull. It was like they knew we were there, countering every one of our moves with precision, but only enough to leave room for false hope of a shot.

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We were in the thick bush now and the wind shifted. They vanished and I never saw another eland the rest of my time in Chinko. Before I could begin reflecting on what went wrong, the voice in my head was overcome with the sound of an aircraft passing nearby. Haseen and I peered up through salty sweat and saw a CV-22 Osprey moving above us and heading back for the Chinko airstrip. The Lord’s Resistance Army wasn’t far and there were current troop movements pursuing them. Seeing an Osprey or any other surveillance aircraft wasn’t necessarily surprising. The rebels known as The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) personify evil, a ghost-like and shape shifter that has evaded and maintained survival for over 20 years. They come from Uganda, orphaning villages by systematic kidnappings and forcing little boys to fight. Girls are less than objects and become wives to husbands in a matrimony of rape. The fight raged in northern Uganda for two decades; however, since 2008 they’ve been pushed into Central Africa’s thick cover. Only so often will the LRA come up for air out of the forest, yet even then their cagey nature offers little window of opportunity for counter attack. Communities around Chinko were beginning to fall under the same fate as those the LRA left behind in Uganda. The Ugandan military (UPDF) were deployed in CAR to settle a score, along with Obamaordered US spec-ops advising on tactics. A storm looked to be brewing and we decided to join Erik back at the airstrip. We arrived to see a few parked helicopters and an incoming 206 with a fresh batch of hunters. The military, hunting, and conservation all shared the runway. The UPDF lived in a pop-up military compound, tents in neat rows creating mini streets and avenues where the Ugandans and foreign military advisors would walk. Erik and a Colonel from the UPDF were sharing intel under a thatched roof. Maps lined the walls and you could hear UPDF soldiers jogging the airstrip singing something in Lugandan. CAWA’s and Chinko’s staff would often come across old LRA camps or tracks and they became a valuable resource to the UPDF. The LRA, along with their human atrocities, had begun poaching elephants and were just as much of a threat as the Sudanese armed poachers. In response, The Chinko Project had just commenced a ranger training program that would be a grueling two month weed out.

A park ranger is defined as a person entrusted with protecting and preserving parklands. They’re not described as men and women “hired out” to protect or “employed” to protect. They’re men and women we give the Earth to. We give them the Earth and everything in it because we entrust what’s left to their stewardship and at times that calls them to lay down their lives. Patrols with African rangers consist of long treks through the bush, quiet nights under the stars, and all the while an unspoken, yet visible edge throughout the troops. Their enemy is almost invisible. The fear of something being near always left your guard up, but their consistent absence would create long periods of redundancy, slowness, and a false sense of peace. However, the calm moments could snap without warning. It takes staggering amounts of bravery to be a ranger. Years later I would find myself even closer to the story, seeing poachers shot and killed from a firefight, and losing a friend who fought to guard elephants against them. They’re heros not just to the wildlife they protect, but to us all. These lands hold treasures and they’re fighting for them at all costs. It serves as a sobering reminder of our privileges in the West, and gives encouragement to never give up on our land and the wild things and places it holds. The storm was nearly overhead and the sky’s gradient orange was turning into night. We left the UPDF base and headed back to the CAWA headquarters. Everything started to feel like Homer’s Odyssey. In Chinko you pass through worlds. I took a smoke and a cup of tea outside while thunder and lightning rolled over the Mbari. A biologist from The Chinko Project sat inside the adjoining brick shelter and thumbed through an electronic pile of camera trap photos. I could see over his shoulder and I felt a bit of hope as leopards, eland, and elephants lit the screen. In the stack were images of poachers as well, their overexposed black and white mug shots reminding us of the stark realities. This place was indeed mysterious and the land itself almost seemed alive. It knows that what lives here is precious and in its arms of forest and dark corners it offers protection. Maybe for that I could leave resolved having seen very little. The rain started and I could see a few stars through the night clouds. I wondered at everyone’s proximity: the poachers, the rebels, the Mbororo, the rangers, the hunters, and the center of their conflict, the one thing that connected all of them, this land. I took it in one last time and retired to bed. Another day passes in a land that holds and evokes beauty. A land that sits at the helm of many, but belongs to no man.

Special thanks to Thierry Aebischer and Raffael Hickisch for access to their camera trap photos. For more information about Chinko and how to get involved, visit www.africanparks.org/the-parks/chinko. R Y A N Y O U N G B L O O D cut his teeth in photography while living in the vibrant and sometimes volatile, Francophone region of Central Africa. He finished university at Texas A&M in 2008 and made his home in Rwanda and The Democratic Republic of Congo for the next five years. Covering conflicts and humanitarian crises, he scoured the earth eventually notching over 70 countries and finding a comfort and truth within the world’s most desolate, dangerous and beautiful places. @RYANYOUNGBLOOD / RYANYOUNGBLOOD.COM

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We were in the thick bush now and the wind shifted. They vanished and I never saw another eland the rest of my time in Chinko. Before I could begin reflecting on what went wrong, the voice in my head was overcome with the sound of an aircraft passing nearby. Haseen and I peered up through salty sweat and saw a CV-22 Osprey moving above us and heading back for the Chinko airstrip. The Lord’s Resistance Army wasn’t far and there were current troop movements pursuing them. Seeing an Osprey or any other surveillance aircraft wasn’t necessarily surprising. The rebels known as The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) personify evil, a ghost-like and shape shifter that has evaded and maintained survival for over 20 years. They come from Uganda, orphaning villages by systematic kidnappings and forcing little boys to fight. Girls are less than objects and become wives to husbands in a matrimony of rape. The fight raged in northern Uganda for two decades; however, since 2008 they’ve been pushed into Central Africa’s thick cover. Only so often will the LRA come up for air out of the forest, yet even then their cagey nature offers little window of opportunity for counter attack. Communities around Chinko were beginning to fall under the same fate as those the LRA left behind in Uganda. The Ugandan military (UPDF) were deployed in CAR to settle a score, along with Obamaordered US spec-ops advising on tactics. A storm looked to be brewing and we decided to join Erik back at the airstrip. We arrived to see a few parked helicopters and an incoming 206 with a fresh batch of hunters. The military, hunting, and conservation all shared the runway. The UPDF lived in a pop-up military compound, tents in neat rows creating mini streets and avenues where the Ugandans and foreign military advisors would walk. Erik and a Colonel from the UPDF were sharing intel under a thatched roof. Maps lined the walls and you could hear UPDF soldiers jogging the airstrip singing something in Lugandan. CAWA’s and Chinko’s staff would often come across old LRA camps or tracks and they became a valuable resource to the UPDF. The LRA, along with their human atrocities, had begun poaching elephants and were just as much of a threat as the Sudanese armed poachers. In response, The Chinko Project had just commenced a ranger training program that would be a grueling two month weed out.

A park ranger is defined as a person entrusted with protecting and preserving parklands. They’re not described as men and women “hired out” to protect or “employed” to protect. They’re men and women we give the Earth to. We give them the Earth and everything in it because we entrust what’s left to their stewardship and at times that calls them to lay down their lives. Patrols with African rangers consist of long treks through the bush, quiet nights under the stars, and all the while an unspoken, yet visible edge throughout the troops. Their enemy is almost invisible. The fear of something being near always left your guard up, but their consistent absence would create long periods of redundancy, slowness, and a false sense of peace. However, the calm moments could snap without warning. It takes staggering amounts of bravery to be a ranger. Years later I would find myself even closer to the story, seeing poachers shot and killed from a firefight, and losing a friend who fought to guard elephants against them. They’re heros not just to the wildlife they protect, but to us all. These lands hold treasures and they’re fighting for them at all costs. It serves as a sobering reminder of our privileges in the West, and gives encouragement to never give up on our land and the wild things and places it holds. The storm was nearly overhead and the sky’s gradient orange was turning into night. We left the UPDF base and headed back to the CAWA headquarters. Everything started to feel like Homer’s Odyssey. In Chinko you pass through worlds. I took a smoke and a cup of tea outside while thunder and lightning rolled over the Mbari. A biologist from The Chinko Project sat inside the adjoining brick shelter and thumbed through an electronic pile of camera trap photos. I could see over his shoulder and I felt a bit of hope as leopards, eland, and elephants lit the screen. In the stack were images of poachers as well, their overexposed black and white mug shots reminding us of the stark realities. This place was indeed mysterious and the land itself almost seemed alive. It knows that what lives here is precious and in its arms of forest and dark corners it offers protection. Maybe for that I could leave resolved having seen very little. The rain started and I could see a few stars through the night clouds. I wondered at everyone’s proximity: the poachers, the rebels, the Mbororo, the rangers, the hunters, and the center of their conflict, the one thing that connected all of them, this land. I took it in one last time and retired to bed. Another day passes in a land that holds and evokes beauty. A land that sits at the helm of many, but belongs to no man.

Special thanks to Thierry Aebischer and Raffael Hickisch for access to their camera trap photos. For more information about Chinko and how to get involved, visit www.africanparks.org/the-parks/chinko. R Y A N Y O U N G B L O O D cut his teeth in photography while living in the vibrant and sometimes volatile, Francophone region of Central Africa. He finished university at Texas A&M in 2008 and made his home in Rwanda and The Democratic Republic of Congo for the next five years. Covering conflicts and humanitarian crises, he scoured the earth eventually notching over 70 countries and finding a comfort and truth within the world’s most desolate, dangerous and beautiful places. @RYANYOUNGBLOOD / RYANYOUNGBLOOD.COM

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COMMUNITY BASED CONSERVANCIES STORY BY

JASON GOLDMAN JOEL CALDWELL

PHOTOGRAPHY BY

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COMMUNITY BASED CONSERVANCIES STORY BY

JASON GOLDMAN JOEL CALDWELL

PHOTOGRAPHY BY

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T

he first time Mahan Atabaev shot an animal he was in the seventh grade. Helping his family procure meat, he was doing the same that the men in his village had done for generations. Hunting was illegal in Tajikistan at the time, so shooting that Siberian ibex — a stocky brown and tan goat that makes a home in the steep, rocky slopes of the Pamir Mountains — made him a poacher.

seen around their village in recent years. Ibex, Marco Polo sheep, the elusive snow leopard, and other species were all in serious trouble. Some had disappeared entirely, in part due to overhunting, but also due to habitat loss. Wild ungulates had to compete with domestic livestock for the few plants available atop the Pamir plateau, which rises above the tree line.

Turns out Atabaev had a knack for hunting. By the time he gave it up, he estimates he had killed around 800 ibex and argali, also known as Marco Polo sheep, each destined for the stewpot. “I was a super poacher,” he told me through a translator in his home in a dusty, windswept village called Alichur, elevation 13,000 feet.

Due to the conservancy’s leadership, poaching in the area has indeed declined, which in part has convinced the government to allow for the limited sale of trophy hunting expeditions.

Ethnically Kyrgyz rather than Tajik, the fewer than 2000 people who live in Alichur descend from generations of yak herders who have long supplemented their diets with meat from the wild animals that live nearby. Hunting is simply a part of his culture, says Atabaev. And during the civil war following Tajikistan’s break from the Soviet Union in the 1990s, hunting — which is to say, poaching — was really the only reliable way to get enough meat to eat in the first place. But then in 2009, the slender, black haired poacher was first exposed to the concept of setting aside land for wildlife while working as a ranger in Tajik National Park. It kindled a radical idea in his mind: rather than thought of as a resource to be exploited, perhaps animals should be considered worthy of protection. It was also there that he learned that the Marco Polo sheep, Ovis ammon poli, the animal he’d always thought of as food, was included on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. If setting aside land for the benefit of wildlife could work in the national park, he thought, “why not do it where I live?” Now 38 years old, Atabaev has been chosen by his peers to lead the Alichur-based Burgut Conservancy. Founded in 2012, the conservancy’s aim is to reverse the wildlife declines

“Every summer,” says Atabaev, “I hear from tourists how bad hunters are. Why can’t people just photograph? I get it. But without income from hunting, there wouldn’t be resources to protect the animals and help them reach old age.” By targeting a few older animals that would soon fall prey to wolves or snow leopards anyway, he argues, the larger population isn’t seriously impacted. Generating revenue by sacrificing a few old animals to preserve an entire, functional ecosystem might indeed seem a reasonable tradeoff when the alternative land uses seem patently worse: mining, agriculture, livestock grazing, and so on. Preserving wildlife and wild lands in a place like this requires a shift in attitude, but it also requires cold, hard cash. Wildlife rangers must be hired and trained in order to patrol the area looking for poachers. They also need equipment: trucks, fuel, binoculars, spotting scopes, camera traps, and more. Community members, who have become accustomed to exploiting wildlife for easily accessible meat, must be able to acquire alternative sources of nutrition. Herders must find ways to feed their livestock without depriving wild animals of teresken, one of the few native shrubs that sprout in the semi-arid conditions atop the plateau. All this in a country with a per capita GDP of just $804 USD.

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T

he first time Mahan Atabaev shot an animal he was in the seventh grade. Helping his family procure meat, he was doing the same that the men in his village had done for generations. Hunting was illegal in Tajikistan at the time, so shooting that Siberian ibex — a stocky brown and tan goat that makes a home in the steep, rocky slopes of the Pamir Mountains — made him a poacher.

seen around their village in recent years. Ibex, Marco Polo sheep, the elusive snow leopard, and other species were all in serious trouble. Some had disappeared entirely, in part due to overhunting, but also due to habitat loss. Wild ungulates had to compete with domestic livestock for the few plants available atop the Pamir plateau, which rises above the tree line.

Turns out Atabaev had a knack for hunting. By the time he gave it up, he estimates he had killed around 800 ibex and argali, also known as Marco Polo sheep, each destined for the stewpot. “I was a super poacher,” he told me through a translator in his home in a dusty, windswept village called Alichur, elevation 13,000 feet.

Due to the conservancy’s leadership, poaching in the area has indeed declined, which in part has convinced the government to allow for the limited sale of trophy hunting expeditions.

Ethnically Kyrgyz rather than Tajik, the fewer than 2000 people who live in Alichur descend from generations of yak herders who have long supplemented their diets with meat from the wild animals that live nearby. Hunting is simply a part of his culture, says Atabaev. And during the civil war following Tajikistan’s break from the Soviet Union in the 1990s, hunting — which is to say, poaching — was really the only reliable way to get enough meat to eat in the first place. But then in 2009, the slender, black haired poacher was first exposed to the concept of setting aside land for wildlife while working as a ranger in Tajik National Park. It kindled a radical idea in his mind: rather than thought of as a resource to be exploited, perhaps animals should be considered worthy of protection. It was also there that he learned that the Marco Polo sheep, Ovis ammon poli, the animal he’d always thought of as food, was included on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. If setting aside land for the benefit of wildlife could work in the national park, he thought, “why not do it where I live?” Now 38 years old, Atabaev has been chosen by his peers to lead the Alichur-based Burgut Conservancy. Founded in 2012, the conservancy’s aim is to reverse the wildlife declines

“Every summer,” says Atabaev, “I hear from tourists how bad hunters are. Why can’t people just photograph? I get it. But without income from hunting, there wouldn’t be resources to protect the animals and help them reach old age.” By targeting a few older animals that would soon fall prey to wolves or snow leopards anyway, he argues, the larger population isn’t seriously impacted. Generating revenue by sacrificing a few old animals to preserve an entire, functional ecosystem might indeed seem a reasonable tradeoff when the alternative land uses seem patently worse: mining, agriculture, livestock grazing, and so on. Preserving wildlife and wild lands in a place like this requires a shift in attitude, but it also requires cold, hard cash. Wildlife rangers must be hired and trained in order to patrol the area looking for poachers. They also need equipment: trucks, fuel, binoculars, spotting scopes, camera traps, and more. Community members, who have become accustomed to exploiting wildlife for easily accessible meat, must be able to acquire alternative sources of nutrition. Herders must find ways to feed their livestock without depriving wild animals of teresken, one of the few native shrubs that sprout in the semi-arid conditions atop the plateau. All this in a country with a per capita GDP of just $804 USD.

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On November 6, 2017, Bill Campbell and his wife Emily touched down in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. After collecting their luggage, passing through customs, and enjoying a quick breakfast, the pair began the three-day drive to Alichur.

began to feel the effects of the altitude on his body and on his aging heart. “Our base camp was like being on top of Mt. Whitney,” he says. “And we went up from there.” Just seven months earlier he had had his chest split open for a coronary bypass surgery.

His first trip to the Central Asian nation the year before was to find and kill a rare wild goat with swirly horns called a Bukharan markhor. By most accounts, this is the most expensive hunt in the world; Campbell had paid some $120,000 US dollars for his prize, which didn’t include his travel expenses, his equipment, nor the tips he paid to each of his 10 hunting guides and scouts. At first glance, Campbell might appear to be what most would consider a stereotypical trophy hunter: wealthy, white, male. But he makes the effort to pursue his quarry in as sustainable a manner possible, and in places where he can ensure — to the best of his knowledge and ability — that as large a portion of the money as possible remains in local communities.

On the third morning, the group chanced upon a pool of blood with bits of sheep skin and hooves scattered around a small, partially frozen creek. And there were wolf tracks — perhaps as many as five individuals — along with those made by a single snow leopard.

His target this time was another mountain dweller, the Marco Polo sheep. For the privilege of shooting one, the price tag was a paltryby-comparison $45,000. “I earned my money the old fashioned way,” he says, “seeing patients one-by-one for many years.” Before he retired, Campbell, who also goes by Wild Bill, had a private psychiatry practice in Anchorage, Alaska. “This is basically where my income goes,” he says. Leaving Dushanbe, the Campbells and their guides drove south. Around the time the pavement gave way to dirt, they had reached the Afghan border. There, they took a left turn and continued along the ancient Silk Road. To their left, a rock wall carved into the mountains. On the right, the turquoise Pyanj River, and on the opposite bank, Afghanistan. Towering above are the peaks of the Hazratisho Range, which lead to the even taller Pamir Mountains, which eventually give way to the Himalayas. In the autumn, the Campbells shared the narrow thoroughfare with pedestrians, livestock, and multi-axle trucks carrying supplies to and from China. By wintertime, the road becomes covered with ice. Snow banks pile up on the sides of the road as high as the truck is tall, and higher. To navigate this stretch of the Silk Road is to confront your own mortality. Upon passing the visible aftermath of rockslide after avalanche after rockslide, you briefly consider the odds of survival if your Jeep was to be swept into the churning river below. With the exception of a town called Khorog, which lies near the halfway point, there is no tourism infrastructure. There are no hotels and no restaurants, though some families rent spare rooms in their houses to the few travelers who pass through. Most meals consist of tea, bread, jam, a stew of mutton, domestic goat, or yak, and perhaps a few fresh or preserved fruits and vegetables. After spending one night in Alichur, the 66-year-old Campbell and his ten guides, including Atabaev, left in search of their quarry. When the team reached base camp at 14,000 feet elevation, he

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Together, the American and Tajik hunters pieced together the clues. A small group of sheep would have approached the creek in the early morning to drink, perhaps while it was still dark out. A leopard hid silently in the rock crevices, waiting for the opportune moment to attack. Most of the sheep escaped, but one unlucky individual stumbled across the creek, perhaps slipping on the ice. The cat snatched its prey, crushing her neck between its jaws. Its claws swiftly sliced her abdomen open, spilling her guts across the ice. It would have been a quick, if briefly terrifying, death. “Amazing to think of how fast it happens, the beauty of it. The snow leopard is one of the most elusive and mysterious animals in the world,” says Campbell. “This was probably the closest I’ll ever get to seeing one.” This observation was the high point of his expedition, he says. Sometime later, the five wolves arrived and chased the leopard off its kill. And then the trucks arrived, chasing the wolves over the pass and into the next valley. Finally, the men saw a Lämmergeier, or bearded vulture, arrive eager for a feast of bone marrow. When you consider the defaunation that was ongoing until only a few years ago, it is truly astonishing that these particular animals could ever have come together in this way, in this place. One of the best signs of a healthy ecosystem is a healthy predator population, and here was evidence of at least six. When Burgut Conservancy was founded in 2012, there wasn’t a single snow leopard to be found in the wilderness around Alichur. By 2016, when biologists from the big cat conservation organization Panthera last surveyed the area, they counted three. In that same time, Marco Polo sheep increased their numbers from under 30 to more than 500, according to Tanya Rosen, director of Panthera’s programs to protect snow leopards in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. And ibex increased as well, from fewer than 100 individuals to more than 700. The weather was warm with clear skies on the fourth day. Because there are no trees atop the plateau, a hunter has no opportunity to hide as he attempts to close the distance between himself and his quarry. “We would see animals from far away, but they would see us too,” Campbell says. “We take one step forward, and they take six steps away.”

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On November 6, 2017, Bill Campbell and his wife Emily touched down in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. After collecting their luggage, passing through customs, and enjoying a quick breakfast, the pair began the three-day drive to Alichur.

began to feel the effects of the altitude on his body and on his aging heart. “Our base camp was like being on top of Mt. Whitney,” he says. “And we went up from there.” Just seven months earlier he had had his chest split open for a coronary bypass surgery.

His first trip to the Central Asian nation the year before was to find and kill a rare wild goat with swirly horns called a Bukharan markhor. By most accounts, this is the most expensive hunt in the world; Campbell had paid some $120,000 US dollars for his prize, which didn’t include his travel expenses, his equipment, nor the tips he paid to each of his 10 hunting guides and scouts. At first glance, Campbell might appear to be what most would consider a stereotypical trophy hunter: wealthy, white, male. But he makes the effort to pursue his quarry in as sustainable a manner possible, and in places where he can ensure — to the best of his knowledge and ability — that as large a portion of the money as possible remains in local communities.

On the third morning, the group chanced upon a pool of blood with bits of sheep skin and hooves scattered around a small, partially frozen creek. And there were wolf tracks — perhaps as many as five individuals — along with those made by a single snow leopard.

His target this time was another mountain dweller, the Marco Polo sheep. For the privilege of shooting one, the price tag was a paltryby-comparison $45,000. “I earned my money the old fashioned way,” he says, “seeing patients one-by-one for many years.” Before he retired, Campbell, who also goes by Wild Bill, had a private psychiatry practice in Anchorage, Alaska. “This is basically where my income goes,” he says. Leaving Dushanbe, the Campbells and their guides drove south. Around the time the pavement gave way to dirt, they had reached the Afghan border. There, they took a left turn and continued along the ancient Silk Road. To their left, a rock wall carved into the mountains. On the right, the turquoise Pyanj River, and on the opposite bank, Afghanistan. Towering above are the peaks of the Hazratisho Range, which lead to the even taller Pamir Mountains, which eventually give way to the Himalayas. In the autumn, the Campbells shared the narrow thoroughfare with pedestrians, livestock, and multi-axle trucks carrying supplies to and from China. By wintertime, the road becomes covered with ice. Snow banks pile up on the sides of the road as high as the truck is tall, and higher. To navigate this stretch of the Silk Road is to confront your own mortality. Upon passing the visible aftermath of rockslide after avalanche after rockslide, you briefly consider the odds of survival if your Jeep was to be swept into the churning river below. With the exception of a town called Khorog, which lies near the halfway point, there is no tourism infrastructure. There are no hotels and no restaurants, though some families rent spare rooms in their houses to the few travelers who pass through. Most meals consist of tea, bread, jam, a stew of mutton, domestic goat, or yak, and perhaps a few fresh or preserved fruits and vegetables. After spending one night in Alichur, the 66-year-old Campbell and his ten guides, including Atabaev, left in search of their quarry. When the team reached base camp at 14,000 feet elevation, he

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Together, the American and Tajik hunters pieced together the clues. A small group of sheep would have approached the creek in the early morning to drink, perhaps while it was still dark out. A leopard hid silently in the rock crevices, waiting for the opportune moment to attack. Most of the sheep escaped, but one unlucky individual stumbled across the creek, perhaps slipping on the ice. The cat snatched its prey, crushing her neck between its jaws. Its claws swiftly sliced her abdomen open, spilling her guts across the ice. It would have been a quick, if briefly terrifying, death. “Amazing to think of how fast it happens, the beauty of it. The snow leopard is one of the most elusive and mysterious animals in the world,” says Campbell. “This was probably the closest I’ll ever get to seeing one.” This observation was the high point of his expedition, he says. Sometime later, the five wolves arrived and chased the leopard off its kill. And then the trucks arrived, chasing the wolves over the pass and into the next valley. Finally, the men saw a Lämmergeier, or bearded vulture, arrive eager for a feast of bone marrow. When you consider the defaunation that was ongoing until only a few years ago, it is truly astonishing that these particular animals could ever have come together in this way, in this place. One of the best signs of a healthy ecosystem is a healthy predator population, and here was evidence of at least six. When Burgut Conservancy was founded in 2012, there wasn’t a single snow leopard to be found in the wilderness around Alichur. By 2016, when biologists from the big cat conservation organization Panthera last surveyed the area, they counted three. In that same time, Marco Polo sheep increased their numbers from under 30 to more than 500, according to Tanya Rosen, director of Panthera’s programs to protect snow leopards in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. And ibex increased as well, from fewer than 100 individuals to more than 700. The weather was warm with clear skies on the fourth day. Because there are no trees atop the plateau, a hunter has no opportunity to hide as he attempts to close the distance between himself and his quarry. “We would see animals from far away, but they would see us too,” Campbell says. “We take one step forward, and they take six steps away.”

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He finally laid eyes on a sheep worth shooting, and he managed to creep to within rifle range. From a distance of 580 yards, Campbell squeezed the trigger of his custom-made Blaser single-shot .300 Weatherby Magnum rifle. It takes a bullet a hair under one second to traverse that distance. In that same second the sheep managed to take a single step forward. That one second meant the difference between a quick, clean kill shot, and something rather messier. The bullet pierced its abdomen. “You could tell he was a hit, he lagged behind the other ones,” says Campbell. Still, the sheep had enough energy to climb over the pass and out of sight. The guides quickly assured him the animal would soon perish before jogging off after it. Since he was in no shape to accompany them over the 17,000-foot pass, Campbell returned to camp along with one of his English-speaking guides. During each of the previous two years, the Burgut Conservancy had been permitted by the government of Tajikistan to sell two ibex hunts. Each hunt was sold for about $5,000, of which the conservancy retained some 40% as profit. As a group, the members of the conservancy voted on the best ways to spend the approximately $8000 in their coffers. The first expense was to fund their ongoing anti-poaching efforts by paying for vehicle maintenance, fuel, food, and so on. They paid a part of the school teachers’ salary, and purchased textbooks for the local schools. When Alichur suffered an outbreak of measles, the conservancy voted to pay for medication and a vaccination effort, and around $1000 worth of bedding for the hospital. Last, Atabaev explains, each of the anti-poaching rangers, who until then had been serving on a volunteer basis, was paid a small stipend. That was before Campbell paid for his own, much more expensive expedition, of which Burgut retained about $20,000. Thanks to that one female sheep — and to Wild Bill, who desired the prize for his trophy room — the conservancy purchased batteries for the solar panels belonging to Alichur hospital. This enables them to store electricity during the day, so the facility remains powered through the night. Burgut also funded the construction of a playground next to Alichur’s kindergarten, and the purchase of 100 textbooks for the school. The conservancy next directed some of its income towards the purchase of one and a quarter metric tons of flour, along with six metric tons of coal to keep the homes in Alichur warm through the frigid winter. Coal is generally thought of as an unsustainable form of energy extraction, and it is, but in this case it may be preferable to burning through the few slow-growing woody plants available for wildlife to eat.

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Deposits paid on additional hunts scheduled for 2019 and 2020 have allowed Burgut to develop plans to construct and equip a sports field in the nearby Bash-gumbez and Bulun-kul villages. And the conservancy hopes by 2021 to fund the purchase of instruments for the music club in Alichur. Finally, in what has been perhaps their most creative conservation effort, Burgut has committed a portion of the revenue from Campbell’s hunt to lease an entire valley from the government at the rate of $2500 per year. By doing so, they ensure that the forage there remains available solely to wildlife, rather than to livestock. Multiple conservation organizations have successfully persuaded local governments in Tajikistan to create areas free of hunting, says one Tajik biologist who asked to remain anonymous, “But no NGO has successfully stopped grazing.” He explains that those who once depended on wildlife to meet their nutritional needs have turned in recent decades to pastoralism: cows, yaks, sheep, and goats. The irony is a ban on hunting led local communities to convert otherwise natural ecosystems, depauperate though they were, into de facto livestock ranches. As a result, recovering wildlife populations have little habitat in which to recover, and predators are placed into conflict with humans as they look upon livestock as an easily available source of prey. Indeed, both Burgut Conservancy and Panthera have devoted funds towards the construction of predator-proof livestock enclosures to reduce the chance of conflict between herders and predators. In this way, he argues, limited trophy hunting can be used to discourage poaching while simultaneously preserving natural landscapes for the benefit of wildlife. He is quick to point out that this only works when the entire community feels as if the stakes are personal. “If it was a private concession, the local community would not care about the fate of wild animals or their habitat,” he says. Folks must be able to draw a straight line between the conservation of wildlife and wild lands and the improvements to their daily lives. In other words, they need to become stakeholders in the health and vitality of local wildlife communities. In a way, the development of community-based trophy hunting has also encouraged a return to an older, more sustainable way of coexisting with wildlife, says Munavvar Alidodov, a Tajik wildlife biologist and member of the nearby Yoquti Darshay ibex community-based hunting conservancy. Prior to the introduction of advanced killing technologies, each village had perhaps only one or two skilled hunters. And those men, whose job was to provide meat for an entire village, selected individual animals according to strict guidelines. With the incentive for poaching eliminated, those ethical principles have begun to

return to his community and others, says Alidodov. Even if the fingers pulling the triggers belong to outsiders. And now, those communities have found a clever way to protect wildlife from the impacts of domestic livestock. Tajik herders would be generally unfamiliar with the American concept of public land, but the idea of multiple use is clear, as well as the notion that sometimes those uses come into conflict. By designating certain areas as off limits to grazing, Burgut Conservancy offers a model for other communities to emulate as they work to conserve their wildlife populations. Back at base camp, Campbell began to worry about the guides’ safety as the clock struck midnight. It was cold, it was dark, and they did not have adequate equipment to survive a night in the mountains. “Let’s just forget the sheep, let’s call it off,” he said to the guide who

returned with him. “I don’t want any man’s death on my conscience.” “Don’t worry,” The guide responded. “These guys do this all the time, they live up here.” It was 2 o’clock in the morning when the men finally returned with the animal Campbell had shot. The sheep would go on to provide meat for the guides and their families, while Campbell would return home with the horns and hide to be prepared for taxidermy; the hard-earned spoils of a unique and challenging hunt. The sheep turned out to be less impressive than it first seemed. More medium, he says, than large. His booking agent, who typically includes Campbell’s trophy photos in marketing materials, will not use this one. “This is not something you brag about to your clients,” he says, “but any sheep is a good sheep. For a guy who’d been split open, I was just glad I got a sheep at all.”

J A S O N G O L D M A N is an award-winning science journalist who covers wildlife biology, conservation, and ecology. He’s written for Scientific American, National Geographic, The Washington Post, Biographic, Audubon, Los Angeles Magazine, Teen Vogue, and elsewhere. He leads tropical ecotourism expeditions in partnership with Atlas Obscura, directs an annual science communication retreat and workshop called SciCommCamp, and contributes to Scientific American’s “60 Second Science” podcast. @JGOLD85 / JASONGGOLDMAN.COM

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He finally laid eyes on a sheep worth shooting, and he managed to creep to within rifle range. From a distance of 580 yards, Campbell squeezed the trigger of his custom-made Blaser single-shot .300 Weatherby Magnum rifle. It takes a bullet a hair under one second to traverse that distance. In that same second the sheep managed to take a single step forward. That one second meant the difference between a quick, clean kill shot, and something rather messier. The bullet pierced its abdomen. “You could tell he was a hit, he lagged behind the other ones,” says Campbell. Still, the sheep had enough energy to climb over the pass and out of sight. The guides quickly assured him the animal would soon perish before jogging off after it. Since he was in no shape to accompany them over the 17,000-foot pass, Campbell returned to camp along with one of his English-speaking guides. During each of the previous two years, the Burgut Conservancy had been permitted by the government of Tajikistan to sell two ibex hunts. Each hunt was sold for about $5,000, of which the conservancy retained some 40% as profit. As a group, the members of the conservancy voted on the best ways to spend the approximately $8000 in their coffers. The first expense was to fund their ongoing anti-poaching efforts by paying for vehicle maintenance, fuel, food, and so on. They paid a part of the school teachers’ salary, and purchased textbooks for the local schools. When Alichur suffered an outbreak of measles, the conservancy voted to pay for medication and a vaccination effort, and around $1000 worth of bedding for the hospital. Last, Atabaev explains, each of the anti-poaching rangers, who until then had been serving on a volunteer basis, was paid a small stipend. That was before Campbell paid for his own, much more expensive expedition, of which Burgut retained about $20,000. Thanks to that one female sheep — and to Wild Bill, who desired the prize for his trophy room — the conservancy purchased batteries for the solar panels belonging to Alichur hospital. This enables them to store electricity during the day, so the facility remains powered through the night. Burgut also funded the construction of a playground next to Alichur’s kindergarten, and the purchase of 100 textbooks for the school. The conservancy next directed some of its income towards the purchase of one and a quarter metric tons of flour, along with six metric tons of coal to keep the homes in Alichur warm through the frigid winter. Coal is generally thought of as an unsustainable form of energy extraction, and it is, but in this case it may be preferable to burning through the few slow-growing woody plants available for wildlife to eat.

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Deposits paid on additional hunts scheduled for 2019 and 2020 have allowed Burgut to develop plans to construct and equip a sports field in the nearby Bash-gumbez and Bulun-kul villages. And the conservancy hopes by 2021 to fund the purchase of instruments for the music club in Alichur. Finally, in what has been perhaps their most creative conservation effort, Burgut has committed a portion of the revenue from Campbell’s hunt to lease an entire valley from the government at the rate of $2500 per year. By doing so, they ensure that the forage there remains available solely to wildlife, rather than to livestock. Multiple conservation organizations have successfully persuaded local governments in Tajikistan to create areas free of hunting, says one Tajik biologist who asked to remain anonymous, “But no NGO has successfully stopped grazing.” He explains that those who once depended on wildlife to meet their nutritional needs have turned in recent decades to pastoralism: cows, yaks, sheep, and goats. The irony is a ban on hunting led local communities to convert otherwise natural ecosystems, depauperate though they were, into de facto livestock ranches. As a result, recovering wildlife populations have little habitat in which to recover, and predators are placed into conflict with humans as they look upon livestock as an easily available source of prey. Indeed, both Burgut Conservancy and Panthera have devoted funds towards the construction of predator-proof livestock enclosures to reduce the chance of conflict between herders and predators. In this way, he argues, limited trophy hunting can be used to discourage poaching while simultaneously preserving natural landscapes for the benefit of wildlife. He is quick to point out that this only works when the entire community feels as if the stakes are personal. “If it was a private concession, the local community would not care about the fate of wild animals or their habitat,” he says. Folks must be able to draw a straight line between the conservation of wildlife and wild lands and the improvements to their daily lives. In other words, they need to become stakeholders in the health and vitality of local wildlife communities. In a way, the development of community-based trophy hunting has also encouraged a return to an older, more sustainable way of coexisting with wildlife, says Munavvar Alidodov, a Tajik wildlife biologist and member of the nearby Yoquti Darshay ibex community-based hunting conservancy. Prior to the introduction of advanced killing technologies, each village had perhaps only one or two skilled hunters. And those men, whose job was to provide meat for an entire village, selected individual animals according to strict guidelines. With the incentive for poaching eliminated, those ethical principles have begun to

return to his community and others, says Alidodov. Even if the fingers pulling the triggers belong to outsiders. And now, those communities have found a clever way to protect wildlife from the impacts of domestic livestock. Tajik herders would be generally unfamiliar with the American concept of public land, but the idea of multiple use is clear, as well as the notion that sometimes those uses come into conflict. By designating certain areas as off limits to grazing, Burgut Conservancy offers a model for other communities to emulate as they work to conserve their wildlife populations. Back at base camp, Campbell began to worry about the guides’ safety as the clock struck midnight. It was cold, it was dark, and they did not have adequate equipment to survive a night in the mountains. “Let’s just forget the sheep, let’s call it off,” he said to the guide who

returned with him. “I don’t want any man’s death on my conscience.” “Don’t worry,” The guide responded. “These guys do this all the time, they live up here.” It was 2 o’clock in the morning when the men finally returned with the animal Campbell had shot. The sheep would go on to provide meat for the guides and their families, while Campbell would return home with the horns and hide to be prepared for taxidermy; the hard-earned spoils of a unique and challenging hunt. The sheep turned out to be less impressive than it first seemed. More medium, he says, than large. His booking agent, who typically includes Campbell’s trophy photos in marketing materials, will not use this one. “This is not something you brag about to your clients,” he says, “but any sheep is a good sheep. For a guy who’d been split open, I was just glad I got a sheep at all.”

J A S O N G O L D M A N is an award-winning science journalist who covers wildlife biology, conservation, and ecology. He’s written for Scientific American, National Geographic, The Washington Post, Biographic, Audubon, Los Angeles Magazine, Teen Vogue, and elsewhere. He leads tropical ecotourism expeditions in partnership with Atlas Obscura, directs an annual science communication retreat and workshop called SciCommCamp, and contributes to Scientific American’s “60 Second Science” podcast. @JGOLD85 / JASONGGOLDMAN.COM

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CONTINENTS CONVERGE STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY

DANNY CHRISTENSEN

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CONTINENTS CONVERGE STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY

DANNY CHRISTENSEN

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I

’ve spent the last 17 years in the United States, primarily in New York, as a European immigrant from Denmark. I’ve been privileged to hunt and fish all over this country throughout some of the vast amount of public lands available to everyone with a license. These amazing opportunities are outside everyone’s back door, whether you live in New York City or in the wilderness of Montana; it’s something very unique to the U.S. and a major contrast to what I was used to in Europe. There seems to be a general perception by Americans, hunters and non-hunters alike, that Europe is this closed-off, gun-hating socialist union where hunters are rounded up on the town square to be stoned to death. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth, as hunting in Europe is alive and well!

of hunting laws, ethical laws, preservation, and animal recognition, in addition to passing a shooting test where you have to hit about 60 - 75% of the targets to pass. That might sound intimidating for some, but it really educates the hunter and prepares them for the adventures to come in the best way possible. Compared to the U.S., it’s like a hunter’s education course on steroids. The education is normally free, so there is no entry barrier there. The hunting regulations in Europe are a bit complicated, as each country has a variety of structured systems and laws, similar to individual states in America. But it is a bit more varied between the nearly fifty different countries, all with their own laws. Generally speaking, you have a choice of hunting options in the form of private land leases, government or state leases, public land based on licenses or tags, and public or private land day hunts.

Every European country has long-standing hunting traditions dating back hundreds if not thousands of years. And yes, hunting is done on different terms than in the U.S, but I’ll try to summarize as best as I can. First of all, Europeans consider hunting both a right and a privilege; this is essential to understand. There are very strong traditions and rules, both written in law, or unwritten and passed down through generations of hunters. Hunting is a lifelong pursuit of knowledge and experience with a close-knit community where you have to earn your way in. Now, I know that might sound slightly dramatic, but it’s true.

I was recently introduced to the system in Italy, and true to the Italian spirit of over-complicating everything, it’s labyrinthine. That said, it’s far from impossible to grasp, and if you are a native — same for other countries — you’ll have a wealth of information and guidance into the hunting world through family, fellow hunters, state-run hunting education, and other government institutions. While it’s not as easy to hunt in Italy as some other countries, the opportunities do exist, and in a lot of cases come down to the effort you put into research, and due diligence.

A license to kill is not taken lightly in any European country, and passing a hunting test, both written and practical, is no easy task. In most countries, that means you will have to study hundreds of pages

If you’re a foreign hunter wanting to explore the tremendous European hunting options, there are lots of resources out there. Recently there have been a number of new outfitters adopting a

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I

’ve spent the last 17 years in the United States, primarily in New York, as a European immigrant from Denmark. I’ve been privileged to hunt and fish all over this country throughout some of the vast amount of public lands available to everyone with a license. These amazing opportunities are outside everyone’s back door, whether you live in New York City or in the wilderness of Montana; it’s something very unique to the U.S. and a major contrast to what I was used to in Europe. There seems to be a general perception by Americans, hunters and non-hunters alike, that Europe is this closed-off, gun-hating socialist union where hunters are rounded up on the town square to be stoned to death. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth, as hunting in Europe is alive and well!

of hunting laws, ethical laws, preservation, and animal recognition, in addition to passing a shooting test where you have to hit about 60 - 75% of the targets to pass. That might sound intimidating for some, but it really educates the hunter and prepares them for the adventures to come in the best way possible. Compared to the U.S., it’s like a hunter’s education course on steroids. The education is normally free, so there is no entry barrier there. The hunting regulations in Europe are a bit complicated, as each country has a variety of structured systems and laws, similar to individual states in America. But it is a bit more varied between the nearly fifty different countries, all with their own laws. Generally speaking, you have a choice of hunting options in the form of private land leases, government or state leases, public land based on licenses or tags, and public or private land day hunts.

Every European country has long-standing hunting traditions dating back hundreds if not thousands of years. And yes, hunting is done on different terms than in the U.S, but I’ll try to summarize as best as I can. First of all, Europeans consider hunting both a right and a privilege; this is essential to understand. There are very strong traditions and rules, both written in law, or unwritten and passed down through generations of hunters. Hunting is a lifelong pursuit of knowledge and experience with a close-knit community where you have to earn your way in. Now, I know that might sound slightly dramatic, but it’s true.

I was recently introduced to the system in Italy, and true to the Italian spirit of over-complicating everything, it’s labyrinthine. That said, it’s far from impossible to grasp, and if you are a native — same for other countries — you’ll have a wealth of information and guidance into the hunting world through family, fellow hunters, state-run hunting education, and other government institutions. While it’s not as easy to hunt in Italy as some other countries, the opportunities do exist, and in a lot of cases come down to the effort you put into research, and due diligence.

A license to kill is not taken lightly in any European country, and passing a hunting test, both written and practical, is no easy task. In most countries, that means you will have to study hundreds of pages

If you’re a foreign hunter wanting to explore the tremendous European hunting options, there are lots of resources out there. Recently there have been a number of new outfitters adopting a

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web-based hunting offering, similar to the AirBNB model, as well as offering hunt connections based on a “sharing” or exchange model. One of my favorites is Rainsford Hunting, who provides a platform where private landowners, hunters, and outfitters offer hunts for a fee, booked directly with them. It’s very affordable, you will eat and hunt well, all while being introduced to the hunting traditions of nations that have had them as essential parts of their culture for millennia. To me, this is what sets European hunting apart; having such a strong focus on the social and communal aspects of the sporting traditions. Yet while there may be many different cultures, traditions, or even different ways of thinking, hunters are all of the same tribe, whether across Europe, or across the pond in the United States. In my time spent in America, I have grown to deeply value and appreciate the opportunities that public lands offer here, and it’s something worth fighting for. There have recently been several political discussions to open up some of our most legendary and valued public lands to unsound exploitation of natural resources, directly threatening unique wildlife habitats and our rights to access these places, and we have to do whatever we can to prevent these things from happening. We need everyone we can get in this ongoing fight to join in and have a voice in the matter, both hunters and non-hunters, as the future of public lands depends on it.

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Furthermore, we as hunters in the U.S. need to tell a different, more complete story when facing the general public, as we currently have an image problem on our hands. Perhaps looking to Europe for some inspiration would help us, as many countries have managed to maintain a respectable reputation for hunting through a focus on safety, conservation, tradition, respect, and animal welfare. Much of this disconnect could also be bridged with food, which is a major theme in my work. Nearly 97% of the world’s population are carnivores, very few of whom would call themselves hunters. That’s a lot of non- and/or anti-hunters who could potentially be making a better connection between their food sources, by realizing the opportunities that hunting could offer to ethically harvest meat, instead of blindly paying for their chicken sandwich. We as hunters have a responsibility in all of these matters, as ambassadors for both the traditions and values of ethical hunting. We must continue to convey the importance of being intimately connected to our food sources, as well as the protection and preservation of public lands. And whether you’re in America or Europe, the stakes are the same for all of us, and in that I hope we can continue to come together under a common cause.

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web-based hunting offering, similar to the AirBNB model, as well as offering hunt connections based on a “sharing” or exchange model. One of my favorites is Rainsford Hunting, who provides a platform where private landowners, hunters, and outfitters offer hunts for a fee, booked directly with them. It’s very affordable, you will eat and hunt well, all while being introduced to the hunting traditions of nations that have had them as essential parts of their culture for millennia. To me, this is what sets European hunting apart; having such a strong focus on the social and communal aspects of the sporting traditions. Yet while there may be many different cultures, traditions, or even different ways of thinking, hunters are all of the same tribe, whether across Europe, or across the pond in the United States. In my time spent in America, I have grown to deeply value and appreciate the opportunities that public lands offer here, and it’s something worth fighting for. There have recently been several political discussions to open up some of our most legendary and valued public lands to unsound exploitation of natural resources, directly threatening unique wildlife habitats and our rights to access these places, and we have to do whatever we can to prevent these things from happening. We need everyone we can get in this ongoing fight to join in and have a voice in the matter, both hunters and non-hunters, as the future of public lands depends on it.

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Furthermore, we as hunters in the U.S. need to tell a different, more complete story when facing the general public, as we currently have an image problem on our hands. Perhaps looking to Europe for some inspiration would help us, as many countries have managed to maintain a respectable reputation for hunting through a focus on safety, conservation, tradition, respect, and animal welfare. Much of this disconnect could also be bridged with food, which is a major theme in my work. Nearly 97% of the world’s population are carnivores, very few of whom would call themselves hunters. That’s a lot of non- and/or anti-hunters who could potentially be making a better connection between their food sources, by realizing the opportunities that hunting could offer to ethically harvest meat, instead of blindly paying for their chicken sandwich. We as hunters have a responsibility in all of these matters, as ambassadors for both the traditions and values of ethical hunting. We must continue to convey the importance of being intimately connected to our food sources, as well as the protection and preservation of public lands. And whether you’re in America or Europe, the stakes are the same for all of us, and in that I hope we can continue to come together under a common cause.

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Rise and Fall of a Mountain King B Y RO N PA C E T H E PA C E B ROT H E RS

STORY BY PHOTOGRAPHY BY

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Rise and Fall of a Mountain King B Y RO N PA C E T H E PA C E B ROT H E RS

STORY BY PHOTOGRAPHY BY

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W

hen a passion becomes your work, it’s sometimes hard to truly appreciate the pivotal moments in your life’s story. It’s very easy to allow the gravity of their impact to slip by, never really pausing to absorb the enormity of how it changes the people we become, or how it shifts our understanding of the world around us. In the end, the tales of our adventures are all we really have to hold on to. My camera and pen may have provided a great liberation in experiences, but I have had to teach myself to stop. Stop and clear my mind. Ignore the work. The pictures, the story, the film. Allow myself to breathe. To be at one and connect in a new landscape, with new people and wildlife. When I do, a gaze of appreciation and a familiar grin breaks through. We live in incredible times, and I have so much more of the planet to explore. New Zealand had long been in the cards, and now the trip was upon me. The buildup to my trip had been a year in the making, although I had yearned for the high peaks and glacial fed rivers brimming with fish since my cousin had emigrated some five years before. As my childhood fishing and hunting companion, he was quick to tell me of the wonders of this distant land. A land abundant with public access for hard-fighting wild trout, monster stags and the alpine pursuit of tahr and chamois. My greatest fear was a desire to trade my home in Scotland for a country which embraced hunting as part of their day-to-day culture. From the outside it seemed a paradise. By the time we summited the first peak above base camp, the pains of 40 hours of flying, lay overs, and driving cross-country had long dulled in my memory. With half a day left after staking our tents and a rationalization of gear, we pushed upwards for a view of our

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land. For the next nine days, this was all ours. A long ridge running north to south, situated on the west coast of the South Island of New Zealand – public land for all to enjoy and access as they wished. Weeks of low pressure had brought relentless stacked weather fronts, battering the west coast; but for now the mountains lay unburdened. A sun-kissed glow cascaded over the snow-clad tops. Along the horizon, each peak lit up in succession with a deep ember burn from the falling sun. The evening had brought but a wisp of a breeze, cooling the final moments of the day. Craggy, broken tops lay silent, with the only sound being a distant drone from the river tumbling far below. Fiery snow sheets rode the mountain crests and hollows, sitting pristine and calm in the wilderness. It appeared lifeless, but it wasn’t. Even on these hostile peaks. You only had to look and be patient. There he strolled. Bold and majestic, effortlessly traversing the snowy face of a distant top. Like a bear in search of new lands he walked. A guiding instinct and purpose we couldn’t fully know or understand. His long flowing mane skirted the icy surface as he forged a virgin path increasingly further from us. Yet for all the confidence, he was a stranger in this land. He was unwanted and persecuted as such. There is a certain magic in the pursuit of true free-ranging tahr, and my first sighting fulfilled every intrigue of building anticipation. I was living, and doing it in awe of these mountain kings, humbled by the vastness of the landscape. Like so many foreign hunters, I had made the pilgrimage to these small distant islands during the middle of the tahr rut. The draw for a mountain hunter was unstoppable, and New Zealand holds a reputation for some of the most exciting and challenging hunting

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W

hen a passion becomes your work, it’s sometimes hard to truly appreciate the pivotal moments in your life’s story. It’s very easy to allow the gravity of their impact to slip by, never really pausing to absorb the enormity of how it changes the people we become, or how it shifts our understanding of the world around us. In the end, the tales of our adventures are all we really have to hold on to. My camera and pen may have provided a great liberation in experiences, but I have had to teach myself to stop. Stop and clear my mind. Ignore the work. The pictures, the story, the film. Allow myself to breathe. To be at one and connect in a new landscape, with new people and wildlife. When I do, a gaze of appreciation and a familiar grin breaks through. We live in incredible times, and I have so much more of the planet to explore. New Zealand had long been in the cards, and now the trip was upon me. The buildup to my trip had been a year in the making, although I had yearned for the high peaks and glacial fed rivers brimming with fish since my cousin had emigrated some five years before. As my childhood fishing and hunting companion, he was quick to tell me of the wonders of this distant land. A land abundant with public access for hard-fighting wild trout, monster stags and the alpine pursuit of tahr and chamois. My greatest fear was a desire to trade my home in Scotland for a country which embraced hunting as part of their day-to-day culture. From the outside it seemed a paradise. By the time we summited the first peak above base camp, the pains of 40 hours of flying, lay overs, and driving cross-country had long dulled in my memory. With half a day left after staking our tents and a rationalization of gear, we pushed upwards for a view of our

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land. For the next nine days, this was all ours. A long ridge running north to south, situated on the west coast of the South Island of New Zealand – public land for all to enjoy and access as they wished. Weeks of low pressure had brought relentless stacked weather fronts, battering the west coast; but for now the mountains lay unburdened. A sun-kissed glow cascaded over the snow-clad tops. Along the horizon, each peak lit up in succession with a deep ember burn from the falling sun. The evening had brought but a wisp of a breeze, cooling the final moments of the day. Craggy, broken tops lay silent, with the only sound being a distant drone from the river tumbling far below. Fiery snow sheets rode the mountain crests and hollows, sitting pristine and calm in the wilderness. It appeared lifeless, but it wasn’t. Even on these hostile peaks. You only had to look and be patient. There he strolled. Bold and majestic, effortlessly traversing the snowy face of a distant top. Like a bear in search of new lands he walked. A guiding instinct and purpose we couldn’t fully know or understand. His long flowing mane skirted the icy surface as he forged a virgin path increasingly further from us. Yet for all the confidence, he was a stranger in this land. He was unwanted and persecuted as such. There is a certain magic in the pursuit of true free-ranging tahr, and my first sighting fulfilled every intrigue of building anticipation. I was living, and doing it in awe of these mountain kings, humbled by the vastness of the landscape. Like so many foreign hunters, I had made the pilgrimage to these small distant islands during the middle of the tahr rut. The draw for a mountain hunter was unstoppable, and New Zealand holds a reputation for some of the most exciting and challenging hunting

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in the world. Come June every year, there is only one place most hunters want to be. It is also a land where almost anything goes. As my guide Joseph Peter proclaimed, “New Zealand is the true testing ground for any hunter’s morals and ethics, because if you can dream it, here it’s possible.” The owner of Hard Yards Hunting, Joseph had made contact 12 months previously, inviting me over to experience what wilderness hunting was in New Zealand. Even before departing, I had come to realise very quickly that Joseph’s attitudes and ethos were not typical of those who hunt there. He was not afraid to call out practices which muddied the water when it came to honest, fair and ethical hunting. For him it was most certainly about the experience: working to understand the environment and the species he pursued. He wanted to tell a story where the wildlife and our care of it came at the very core. Once I realised this, I was all in. I always want to understand the inner workings below the surface, and I couldn’t have been in better hands for this quest. Joseph had built a reputation on the back of hard core wilderness experiences. Honest hunting, back to the heart of what it should be. However, this gives a distorted view of the hunting in New Zealand. The reality is, from a commercial standpoint, there are very few guides like him. The hunt we did paints a romantic and nostalgic view, but it would be remiss of me to tell that story without balancing the greater reality. A reality which matters if we are concerned about a future where hunting is portrayed in a positive light, and can be morally justified.

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foreigners in New Zealand, introduced in early 1900, but today it’s their home. Undoubtedly, excessive population densities can have a negative impact on the landscape, like any species in any country can do. But a concerted effort from government over many years has perpetuated a situation where tahr, and all non-native species, are treated with the contempt of a pest. Seen only as detrimental and of negative value to the country. Dead is always better than alive. This mind-set drives the current push on mass culling exercises by their government Department of Conservation (DOC), both shooting from helicopters, and large-scale drops of 1080 poison. Much deeper discussions need to be had on larger population management, and how this can be made economical. Hunting offsets of females as a form or density control would be a starting point, and indeed already practiced by Joseph and his team. There has to be a situation where hunters have a vested interest in a better long-term balance. At this moment in time no strategy exists which addresses the age and sex structure of populations. Government regulated Wild Animal Recovery Operations (WARO) do allow commercial recovery of game to help with population reductions, but again it has little direction or strategy, instead fluctuating by the price of venison. Whichever country in the world one looks at, one fundamental truth will always carry through: for wildlife to exist into the future it has to have a value to society. The following anecdote illustrates the consequences of casting a species aside.

We had spent days watching and studying bulls to determine age class and potential. Passing up younger bulls which on any other day would have found their blood running on the snow. Joseph took great pride in the rising average age of bulls he harvested with clients. Years and condition trumped all else. His respect and longing for tahr to enjoy the reverence they deserved was palpable, and rubbed off on me with every passing day in the mountains. It was the way it should be.

In the days prior to leaving the South Island, Joseph took me to see the area around Mount Cook, traversing ribbons of diverging streams as we crawled up the glacial cut valleys in his Land Cruiser. It was a world away from the west coast. We pulled in to one of the hill huts as we neared the top, mainly so I could have a look around and a nosey at the visitor’s book. Flicking back a few weeks we came to an entry by a group of foreign hunters. Taking up a handful of pages to convey their yarn, the result of their six days hunting left both Joseph and I grasping for something to say. 28 bull tahr taken, shot at ranges between 300 and 900 metres.

In a land of no quotas or restriction on the game hunted, and vast swathes of publicly accessible land for both Kiwis and overseas hunters, it requires a personal understanding and care, along with a deliberate self-restraint to make the right choices. The tahr are

It was easy to tell that the person who had written the story felt like he was playing his part ridding New Zealand of their problem tahr. This is the issue you face when wildlife is given no value. I would doubt very much if any of that meat even made it out.

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in the world. Come June every year, there is only one place most hunters want to be. It is also a land where almost anything goes. As my guide Joseph Peter proclaimed, “New Zealand is the true testing ground for any hunter’s morals and ethics, because if you can dream it, here it’s possible.” The owner of Hard Yards Hunting, Joseph had made contact 12 months previously, inviting me over to experience what wilderness hunting was in New Zealand. Even before departing, I had come to realise very quickly that Joseph’s attitudes and ethos were not typical of those who hunt there. He was not afraid to call out practices which muddied the water when it came to honest, fair and ethical hunting. For him it was most certainly about the experience: working to understand the environment and the species he pursued. He wanted to tell a story where the wildlife and our care of it came at the very core. Once I realised this, I was all in. I always want to understand the inner workings below the surface, and I couldn’t have been in better hands for this quest. Joseph had built a reputation on the back of hard core wilderness experiences. Honest hunting, back to the heart of what it should be. However, this gives a distorted view of the hunting in New Zealand. The reality is, from a commercial standpoint, there are very few guides like him. The hunt we did paints a romantic and nostalgic view, but it would be remiss of me to tell that story without balancing the greater reality. A reality which matters if we are concerned about a future where hunting is portrayed in a positive light, and can be morally justified.

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foreigners in New Zealand, introduced in early 1900, but today it’s their home. Undoubtedly, excessive population densities can have a negative impact on the landscape, like any species in any country can do. But a concerted effort from government over many years has perpetuated a situation where tahr, and all non-native species, are treated with the contempt of a pest. Seen only as detrimental and of negative value to the country. Dead is always better than alive. This mind-set drives the current push on mass culling exercises by their government Department of Conservation (DOC), both shooting from helicopters, and large-scale drops of 1080 poison. Much deeper discussions need to be had on larger population management, and how this can be made economical. Hunting offsets of females as a form or density control would be a starting point, and indeed already practiced by Joseph and his team. There has to be a situation where hunters have a vested interest in a better long-term balance. At this moment in time no strategy exists which addresses the age and sex structure of populations. Government regulated Wild Animal Recovery Operations (WARO) do allow commercial recovery of game to help with population reductions, but again it has little direction or strategy, instead fluctuating by the price of venison. Whichever country in the world one looks at, one fundamental truth will always carry through: for wildlife to exist into the future it has to have a value to society. The following anecdote illustrates the consequences of casting a species aside.

We had spent days watching and studying bulls to determine age class and potential. Passing up younger bulls which on any other day would have found their blood running on the snow. Joseph took great pride in the rising average age of bulls he harvested with clients. Years and condition trumped all else. His respect and longing for tahr to enjoy the reverence they deserved was palpable, and rubbed off on me with every passing day in the mountains. It was the way it should be.

In the days prior to leaving the South Island, Joseph took me to see the area around Mount Cook, traversing ribbons of diverging streams as we crawled up the glacial cut valleys in his Land Cruiser. It was a world away from the west coast. We pulled in to one of the hill huts as we neared the top, mainly so I could have a look around and a nosey at the visitor’s book. Flicking back a few weeks we came to an entry by a group of foreign hunters. Taking up a handful of pages to convey their yarn, the result of their six days hunting left both Joseph and I grasping for something to say. 28 bull tahr taken, shot at ranges between 300 and 900 metres.

In a land of no quotas or restriction on the game hunted, and vast swathes of publicly accessible land for both Kiwis and overseas hunters, it requires a personal understanding and care, along with a deliberate self-restraint to make the right choices. The tahr are

It was easy to tell that the person who had written the story felt like he was playing his part ridding New Zealand of their problem tahr. This is the issue you face when wildlife is given no value. I would doubt very much if any of that meat even made it out.

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The hunting industry in New Zealand will have to change in the long term if it is to survive. Beyond a lack of management direction, the industry openly supports and advertises heli-hunting through a number of operators. Dropping “hunters” off after spotting game from a helicopter, possibly even “hazing” with choppers to herd animals towards waiting guns. One doesn’t have to look very hard on YouTube to see big name hunters and companies happy to participate in this. Facilitated in the name of sport, are we happy to be morally culpable by our lack of comment? (I should note here that these operations are required to shoot offsets, currently at 5 females to one bull, however this does not change the moral question of “hunting” in this way.)

value to a hunting experience. One who cares about the wildlife and it’s future. My experience changed me, and for that I am thankful to Joseph. There is some incredible hunting to be had in New Zealand, from wild stags to tahr and chamois on the knurliest of peaks and valleys. I just hope that will still be possible long into the future.

A discussion on New Zealand’s red deer industry would require an article to itself, with the genetics being a fascinating history alone. The main Scottish blood came from Invermark Estate, only 14 miles from where I sit now. What much of the commercial red deer hunting industry in New Zealand has morphed into, is far removed from where they started in Scotland. It has become artificial, driven by inches, points and weight of antler far and above any other aspect. How many of these monster stags are shot behind a fence? Are we as the greater hunting community content with this kind of hunting? It may be ethical as far as animal welfare, but where does the morality lie when a stag eats from a bucket one day, and is shot for a trophy the next?

In September 2018 the New Zealand government’s Environment Minister announced a tahr culling plan which would see as many as 25,000 to 30,000 tahr culled across New Zealand, with a total eradication in the Mt Cook and Westland National Parks. This would be implemented with 12 days’ notice and no consolation for stakeholders. Best estimates of the current population are around 35,000 although by the governments own admission, this is the median number based on an estimate of between 17,000 and 50,000 animals. At the time of writing all New Zealand hunting bodies and recreational hunters had consolidated behind the NZ Tahr Foundation, asking for an immediate meeting to discuss management plans for the future of tahr. Legal action was being sought to postpone the cull.

Where the blame lies is complex, and ultimately harks back to the classification of game animals as pest species. One can imagine how hard it must be to run a sustainable business in the wild, free spaces, when the resource you want to harness is continually being killed off by government. The sad truth is, the only way to run a business which is profitable, is to heli-hunt and kill stags in paddocks. That still doesn’t make it right, but provides the reason. My time in New Zealand was one of the most informative and eyeopening of any adventure I have embarked upon yet. The reality was far from my preconceived expectation. I was fortunate to be with the best kind of guide, one who sees his role as providing depth and

My parting thought lies with the dichotomy, that while New Zealand’s population of tahr have thrived, in their native habitat the opposite is true. The IUCN list Himalayan tahr in their native range as “near threatened” with population statistics unclear. It is estimated only a few hundred individuals exist in each country of their range, with declines largely as a result of poaching and conflict.

It seems little consideration has been given to the value of the species to the New Zealand people, or indeed the global importance of the only truly viable herd, which surely has to count for something. Whatever happens now, there has to be a sensible balance from hunters and the government, where populations of game are governed by the habitat which sustains them. Long term monitoring of habitat has to be implemented, with both the environmental and social impacts being considered together.

THE PACE BROTHERS Brothers Bryon and Darryl Pace came together in 2015 to start a production company and start telling stories that tackled the misperception of global hunting, and portrayed it more fairly. They both grew up hunting and fishing from a very early age, being raised in rural Scotland. Today, their office is on the east coast of Scotland, on the edge of the highlands, and they fit as much time in the hills or on the river as they can. @PACE _ BROTHERS / THEPACEBROTHERS .COM

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The hunting industry in New Zealand will have to change in the long term if it is to survive. Beyond a lack of management direction, the industry openly supports and advertises heli-hunting through a number of operators. Dropping “hunters” off after spotting game from a helicopter, possibly even “hazing” with choppers to herd animals towards waiting guns. One doesn’t have to look very hard on YouTube to see big name hunters and companies happy to participate in this. Facilitated in the name of sport, are we happy to be morally culpable by our lack of comment? (I should note here that these operations are required to shoot offsets, currently at 5 females to one bull, however this does not change the moral question of “hunting” in this way.)

value to a hunting experience. One who cares about the wildlife and it’s future. My experience changed me, and for that I am thankful to Joseph. There is some incredible hunting to be had in New Zealand, from wild stags to tahr and chamois on the knurliest of peaks and valleys. I just hope that will still be possible long into the future.

A discussion on New Zealand’s red deer industry would require an article to itself, with the genetics being a fascinating history alone. The main Scottish blood came from Invermark Estate, only 14 miles from where I sit now. What much of the commercial red deer hunting industry in New Zealand has morphed into, is far removed from where they started in Scotland. It has become artificial, driven by inches, points and weight of antler far and above any other aspect. How many of these monster stags are shot behind a fence? Are we as the greater hunting community content with this kind of hunting? It may be ethical as far as animal welfare, but where does the morality lie when a stag eats from a bucket one day, and is shot for a trophy the next?

In September 2018 the New Zealand government’s Environment Minister announced a tahr culling plan which would see as many as 25,000 to 30,000 tahr culled across New Zealand, with a total eradication in the Mt Cook and Westland National Parks. This would be implemented with 12 days’ notice and no consolation for stakeholders. Best estimates of the current population are around 35,000 although by the governments own admission, this is the median number based on an estimate of between 17,000 and 50,000 animals. At the time of writing all New Zealand hunting bodies and recreational hunters had consolidated behind the NZ Tahr Foundation, asking for an immediate meeting to discuss management plans for the future of tahr. Legal action was being sought to postpone the cull.

Where the blame lies is complex, and ultimately harks back to the classification of game animals as pest species. One can imagine how hard it must be to run a sustainable business in the wild, free spaces, when the resource you want to harness is continually being killed off by government. The sad truth is, the only way to run a business which is profitable, is to heli-hunt and kill stags in paddocks. That still doesn’t make it right, but provides the reason. My time in New Zealand was one of the most informative and eyeopening of any adventure I have embarked upon yet. The reality was far from my preconceived expectation. I was fortunate to be with the best kind of guide, one who sees his role as providing depth and

My parting thought lies with the dichotomy, that while New Zealand’s population of tahr have thrived, in their native habitat the opposite is true. The IUCN list Himalayan tahr in their native range as “near threatened” with population statistics unclear. It is estimated only a few hundred individuals exist in each country of their range, with declines largely as a result of poaching and conflict.

It seems little consideration has been given to the value of the species to the New Zealand people, or indeed the global importance of the only truly viable herd, which surely has to count for something. Whatever happens now, there has to be a sensible balance from hunters and the government, where populations of game are governed by the habitat which sustains them. Long term monitoring of habitat has to be implemented, with both the environmental and social impacts being considered together.

THE PACE BROTHERS Brothers Bryon and Darryl Pace came together in 2015 to start a production company and start telling stories that tackled the misperception of global hunting, and portrayed it more fairly. They both grew up hunting and fishing from a very early age, being raised in rural Scotland. Today, their office is on the east coast of Scotland, on the edge of the highlands, and they fit as much time in the hills or on the river as they can. @PACE _ BROTHERS / THEPACEBROTHERS .COM

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IN SEARCH OF THE

PEOPLE’S TROUT STORY BY

R E I D B RYA N T ADAM FOSS

PHOTOGRAPHY BY

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IN SEARCH OF THE

PEOPLE’S TROUT STORY BY

R E I D B RYA N T ADAM FOSS

PHOTOGRAPHY BY

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I

n 1999, Travis Smith and Rance Rathie headed south from Montana to spend a season guiding fly fishermen in Patagonian Argentina. They came to the experience well-equipped: both had earned their chops in the Ruby River Valley, pitching flies on the storied waters of the Big Hole, the Beaverhead, the Jefferson, and the Ruby proper. They’d achieved that cowboy swagger of guides who knew as much as anyone, and a good deal more than most. Rance and Travis were young and industrious, toughened by mountains and schooled in the lessons of frontier pragmatism, and the Andean steppe was raw and ragged enough to seem a worthy place for them to make a play. What they found in Patagonia was a landscape not all that dissimilar from the one they’d left behind: big skies, scrub grassland and clear, flowing rivers full of trout. In the broad waters of the Rio Futalefu, in the rising expanse of the Los Alerces National Park, and in the sprawl of the campo’s estancia ranchland they also found the underpinnings from which they eked a living and an identity, namely access and a wealth of natural resource, all set aside and allocated for the wise use of the people. Or so it seemed at the time. In the ensuing years, Rance and Travis managed to carve out a niche guiding international clients on waters up and down a significant slab of Argentine Patagonia, and they made use of both private and public lands, providing an idyllic angling experience for their guests. In doing so, they were forced to reference the realities of access and management in Argentina’s public lands against the American model that bred them. As expat residents of Chubut Province they also looked at land and access through an immediate, local lens. In spending time with Travis, Rance, and their corps of local guides (many of whom have also ventured north to fish the waters of the American West), it becomes clear that despite the idyll of the Patagonian fishery and the seeming abundance of accessible resource, there is a push–pull at play in the southern hemisphere not unlike the one we face here at home. Seemingly, even in Argentina a sustainable natural resource remains at the mercy of sound

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management and a collective ethic, and the monetization of that resource, and access to it, invariably plays a role. From the perspective of the traveling angler, Argentina can be logically compared to the American West of a half-century ago. It is a land teeming with trout and short on people, sprawling over a seemingly endless swath of scrub grassland that rises to the spine of the Andes. In many ways it looks and feels like an angler’s Valhalla. Indeed it is, but most traveling anglers see the best of Argentina from under the umbrella of an operator, be it a guide/outfitter such as Rance and Travis’ Patagonia River Guides, or as guests of a lodge or estancia (ranch). Water in Argentina is public domain, as is the riverbed and the bank halfway up to the high-water mark, but access to this water can be quite tricky. Even 20 years ago, a knock on the door or a loose relation could enable access across private ground and onto encompassed river or spring creek, and though occasional moneys or favors changed hands, the sums were relatively incidental. As interest and media exposures heightened the flow of angling traffic to Argentina, land-owners looked to monetize access, and granted professional operators leases or exclusive access on a payto-play basis. In essence, though the water remains public, reaching it is increasingly private, and public access points at bridge put-ins or river mouths are minimally developed and far between. With measured pressure and enhanced desire for long-term monetization, private water access becomes more advantageous for both operators and traveling anglers with some jingling money, while the more accessible public waters shoulder the load of steady, local pressures. In the remote regions where fishing is concentrated, bag limits and legal angling methods are somewhat overlooked, as the costs of management and enforcement, both culturally and economically, sift away quickly in the high-desert winds. There is, however, a robust formalized National Park system in Argentina that makes some public fishing access possible and

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I

n 1999, Travis Smith and Rance Rathie headed south from Montana to spend a season guiding fly fishermen in Patagonian Argentina. They came to the experience well-equipped: both had earned their chops in the Ruby River Valley, pitching flies on the storied waters of the Big Hole, the Beaverhead, the Jefferson, and the Ruby proper. They’d achieved that cowboy swagger of guides who knew as much as anyone, and a good deal more than most. Rance and Travis were young and industrious, toughened by mountains and schooled in the lessons of frontier pragmatism, and the Andean steppe was raw and ragged enough to seem a worthy place for them to make a play. What they found in Patagonia was a landscape not all that dissimilar from the one they’d left behind: big skies, scrub grassland and clear, flowing rivers full of trout. In the broad waters of the Rio Futalefu, in the rising expanse of the Los Alerces National Park, and in the sprawl of the campo’s estancia ranchland they also found the underpinnings from which they eked a living and an identity, namely access and a wealth of natural resource, all set aside and allocated for the wise use of the people. Or so it seemed at the time. In the ensuing years, Rance and Travis managed to carve out a niche guiding international clients on waters up and down a significant slab of Argentine Patagonia, and they made use of both private and public lands, providing an idyllic angling experience for their guests. In doing so, they were forced to reference the realities of access and management in Argentina’s public lands against the American model that bred them. As expat residents of Chubut Province they also looked at land and access through an immediate, local lens. In spending time with Travis, Rance, and their corps of local guides (many of whom have also ventured north to fish the waters of the American West), it becomes clear that despite the idyll of the Patagonian fishery and the seeming abundance of accessible resource, there is a push–pull at play in the southern hemisphere not unlike the one we face here at home. Seemingly, even in Argentina a sustainable natural resource remains at the mercy of sound

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management and a collective ethic, and the monetization of that resource, and access to it, invariably plays a role. From the perspective of the traveling angler, Argentina can be logically compared to the American West of a half-century ago. It is a land teeming with trout and short on people, sprawling over a seemingly endless swath of scrub grassland that rises to the spine of the Andes. In many ways it looks and feels like an angler’s Valhalla. Indeed it is, but most traveling anglers see the best of Argentina from under the umbrella of an operator, be it a guide/outfitter such as Rance and Travis’ Patagonia River Guides, or as guests of a lodge or estancia (ranch). Water in Argentina is public domain, as is the riverbed and the bank halfway up to the high-water mark, but access to this water can be quite tricky. Even 20 years ago, a knock on the door or a loose relation could enable access across private ground and onto encompassed river or spring creek, and though occasional moneys or favors changed hands, the sums were relatively incidental. As interest and media exposures heightened the flow of angling traffic to Argentina, land-owners looked to monetize access, and granted professional operators leases or exclusive access on a payto-play basis. In essence, though the water remains public, reaching it is increasingly private, and public access points at bridge put-ins or river mouths are minimally developed and far between. With measured pressure and enhanced desire for long-term monetization, private water access becomes more advantageous for both operators and traveling anglers with some jingling money, while the more accessible public waters shoulder the load of steady, local pressures. In the remote regions where fishing is concentrated, bag limits and legal angling methods are somewhat overlooked, as the costs of management and enforcement, both culturally and economically, sift away quickly in the high-desert winds. There is, however, a robust formalized National Park system in Argentina that makes some public fishing access possible and

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cultivates wise use. The Los Alerces National Park in Chubut Province is a glowing example, and a stunning, Yosemite-esque piece of ground that grants access to Patagonia’s Rio Rivadavia and the mighty Rio Frey. The park system in Argentina was initiated in 1934 (and is managed in part with US advisory), largely to grant access to lands of phenomenal physical beauty, and later to help preserve threatened endemic species. Certainly, resource use was a consideration, but a focus on sporting access in the National Parks was something of a secondary consideration, and not particularly well-facilitated for convenience. Access to great fishing within Argentina’s National Parks often requires a long overland approach or a boat, but amenities such as boat ramps and shuttle services are slim to none. With few anglers willing to do the legwork to get to decent water overland, and few travelers or locals other than professional operators able to deploy rafts or drift boats (let alone the means to trailer them), practical use of the available resource is mitigated. Hence the push–pull: in considering a fishing tourism industry that represents a boon for rural regional employment while bringing business to an economically-challenged region, facilitated access for the do-it-yourselfer hasn’t gained much attention from the powers that be. Moreover, professional operators who rely on a sustainable fishing resource have pushed back against a cultural ethos that is not imbued with a widespread consideration for wise management. There are those that would say that public fishing access has not been balanced in synchrony with management and enforcement in Argentina, and greater access would correlate to an increasing incidence of trout on the dinner tables of the local hand-liners. Honestly, in a lean rough country of haves and have-nots, it’s an argument that gets pretty porous with scrutiny.

Alex Knull, who manages the northern operations for Patagonia River Guides, is a fourth-generation Argentine trout angler who brings a slightly different take to the conversation. “There is plenty of public water here, and plenty of public access, but the challenge for the locals is transport.” He goes on to describe the best trout fishing in Argentina as being available to those who are willing to suss it out and work for it, but the reality of getting to the water is a challenge. “People here don’t have cars like they do in the States, or money for gas. You spend your time working to eventually own a vehicle that can get you to the river, and by the time you have achieved that you are too busy to fish, or are able to afford private access. It’s different here. There is good public water available, but reaching it is not easy.” This assertion sheds some light on public sporting access and resources in many foreign countries; in short, even where access and resources exist, the systems that support that access and that resource do not. Therein lies the gulf between a wealth of water and ground and trout, and the paucity of practical, rather than legal, access to it. Rance and Travis, informed by an American system and immersed in an Argentine one have perhaps balanced the scales. As taxpayers and business owners they support the public resources, and they pay the necessary concessions to operate on public waters, as citizens and outfitters in the US might. They also, at times, pay the access fees and procure the leases that allow them to approach great water overland via private roads on private land. Perhaps, in the absence of clear-cut infrastructure to support access and resources, it becomes the responsibility of the local, and/or the traveler, to make informed choices on how they interface with Argentine trout. Whichever the way in, the glittering wealth of fish, pristine water, and unapologetic natural beauty are well worth experiencing, as both Travis and Rance would attest.

This story was produced in partnership with YETI, whose pioneering spirit and enduring products have transformed the way we connect with and experience the great outdoors. R E I D B R Y A N T writes and hunts and fishes in his native New England and beyond, often with the privilege of calling it work. He lives with his wife and two daughters in southern Vermont, and works by day for The Orvis Company. He is a regular contributor to several sporting publications, as well as The Orvis Guide to Upland Hunting. @REID617 / REIDBRYANT.com

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cultivates wise use. The Los Alerces National Park in Chubut Province is a glowing example, and a stunning, Yosemite-esque piece of ground that grants access to Patagonia’s Rio Rivadavia and the mighty Rio Frey. The park system in Argentina was initiated in 1934 (and is managed in part with US advisory), largely to grant access to lands of phenomenal physical beauty, and later to help preserve threatened endemic species. Certainly, resource use was a consideration, but a focus on sporting access in the National Parks was something of a secondary consideration, and not particularly well-facilitated for convenience. Access to great fishing within Argentina’s National Parks often requires a long overland approach or a boat, but amenities such as boat ramps and shuttle services are slim to none. With few anglers willing to do the legwork to get to decent water overland, and few travelers or locals other than professional operators able to deploy rafts or drift boats (let alone the means to trailer them), practical use of the available resource is mitigated. Hence the push–pull: in considering a fishing tourism industry that represents a boon for rural regional employment while bringing business to an economically-challenged region, facilitated access for the do-it-yourselfer hasn’t gained much attention from the powers that be. Moreover, professional operators who rely on a sustainable fishing resource have pushed back against a cultural ethos that is not imbued with a widespread consideration for wise management. There are those that would say that public fishing access has not been balanced in synchrony with management and enforcement in Argentina, and greater access would correlate to an increasing incidence of trout on the dinner tables of the local hand-liners. Honestly, in a lean rough country of haves and have-nots, it’s an argument that gets pretty porous with scrutiny.

Alex Knull, who manages the northern operations for Patagonia River Guides, is a fourth-generation Argentine trout angler who brings a slightly different take to the conversation. “There is plenty of public water here, and plenty of public access, but the challenge for the locals is transport.” He goes on to describe the best trout fishing in Argentina as being available to those who are willing to suss it out and work for it, but the reality of getting to the water is a challenge. “People here don’t have cars like they do in the States, or money for gas. You spend your time working to eventually own a vehicle that can get you to the river, and by the time you have achieved that you are too busy to fish, or are able to afford private access. It’s different here. There is good public water available, but reaching it is not easy.” This assertion sheds some light on public sporting access and resources in many foreign countries; in short, even where access and resources exist, the systems that support that access and that resource do not. Therein lies the gulf between a wealth of water and ground and trout, and the paucity of practical, rather than legal, access to it. Rance and Travis, informed by an American system and immersed in an Argentine one have perhaps balanced the scales. As taxpayers and business owners they support the public resources, and they pay the necessary concessions to operate on public waters, as citizens and outfitters in the US might. They also, at times, pay the access fees and procure the leases that allow them to approach great water overland via private roads on private land. Perhaps, in the absence of clear-cut infrastructure to support access and resources, it becomes the responsibility of the local, and/or the traveler, to make informed choices on how they interface with Argentine trout. Whichever the way in, the glittering wealth of fish, pristine water, and unapologetic natural beauty are well worth experiencing, as both Travis and Rance would attest.

This story was produced in partnership with YETI, whose pioneering spirit and enduring products have transformed the way we connect with and experience the great outdoors. R E I D B R Y A N T writes and hunts and fishes in his native New England and beyond, often with the privilege of calling it work. He lives with his wife and two daughters in southern Vermont, and works by day for The Orvis Company. He is a regular contributor to several sporting publications, as well as The Orvis Guide to Upland Hunting. @REID617 / REIDBRYANT.com

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THANK YOU TO OUR VOLUME TWO

SPONSORS

CO N S E R VAT I O N PA R T N E R S

COMMUNITY SUPPORT

HUCKBERRY T E XA S PA R KS A N D WI L D L I F E F O U N D AT I O N PATA G O N I A CO N G R E S S I O N A L S P O RTS M E N ’ S FO U N DAT I O N M E AT E AT E R B E R E T TA G A L L E RY ST EWA R D S O F T H E WI L D I N T E R N AT I O N A L CO N S E R VAT I O N CAU C U S FO U N DAT I O N WIRED TO HUNT THE MANUAL M O U N TA I N & PR A I R I E P O D CA ST H U N T V A U LT WI D E O P E N S PA C E S J O U R N A L O F M O U N TA I N H U N T I N G WYLDER GOODS

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PHOTO: CHARLES POST


From the Field

C H A S E R E AT H E R FO R D / @ O P 1 C R E AT IVE

ERIK PETERSON / @ERIKPETERSENPHOTO

J A M E S S Y LV E S T E R / @ _ S LY _ S Y LV E S T E R

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From the Field

C H A S E R E AT H E R FO R D / @ O P 1 C R E AT IVE

ERIK PETERSON / @ERIKPETERSENPHOTO

J A M E S S Y LV E S T E R / @ _ S LY _ S Y LV E S T E R

JUSTIN MICHAU / @JUSTINMICHAU

M I C H A E L CA N N A DAY / @ CA N N A DAY _

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A FEW PARTING WORDS For hunters, we ask that you carefully consider the effect that your actions have on not only your environment, but on the perception of this tradition. Whether through deed, word, or photograph, we feel that care should be taken, and respect given, for how quickly news can be spread in today’s world for good or ill. Therefore, choose your steps wisely, and wherever possible, see that they aim in a direction of positive progress and accurate representation instead of confrontational detriment and further divisiveness. For non-hunters, we appreciate your open-mindedness and willingness to hear what we feel is a different, yet very important side of the hunting narrative. While we can’t speak for everyone, it is our aim to give voice to the overwhelming amount of like-minded hunters and conservationists who often lead quiet lives, in hopes of connecting with more folks like yourself, and finding common ground. We’d ask that as situations arise, you recall the beauty and honesty on these pages, as compared to the message that the mainstream media presents, and let respectful passion and conservation statistics win out over the often skewed biases and violent emotions we so often see in news today.

DONT MISS OUT ON

ISSUE THREE MODERNHUNTSMAN.COM/SUBSCRIBE

And while some of you may never pick up a bow or a shotgun to hunt your own food, know that should the day come when you decide to, this community would jump at the opportunity to show you the ropes. Where you may have once felt opposition, you’d now find comradery, and a sense of belonging in one of the oldest traditions known to humankind. In short, we’d love to take you hunting. Until then, and until next issue, we wish everyone the best. Whether in the field, or in metaphor, Happy Hunting.

PHOTO: STEVEN DRAKE

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A FEW PARTING WORDS For hunters, we ask that you carefully consider the effect that your actions have on not only your environment, but on the perception of this tradition. Whether through deed, word, or photograph, we feel that care should be taken, and respect given, for how quickly news can be spread in today’s world for good or ill. Therefore, choose your steps wisely, and wherever possible, see that they aim in a direction of positive progress and accurate representation instead of confrontational detriment and further divisiveness. For non-hunters, we appreciate your open-mindedness and willingness to hear what we feel is a different, yet very important side of the hunting narrative. While we can’t speak for everyone, it is our aim to give voice to the overwhelming amount of like-minded hunters and conservationists who often lead quiet lives, in hopes of connecting with more folks like yourself, and finding common ground. We’d ask that as situations arise, you recall the beauty and honesty on these pages, as compared to the message that the mainstream media presents, and let respectful passion and conservation statistics win out over the often skewed biases and violent emotions we so often see in news today.

DONT MISS OUT ON

ISSUE THREE MODERNHUNTSMAN.COM/SUBSCRIBE

And while some of you may never pick up a bow or a shotgun to hunt your own food, know that should the day come when you decide to, this community would jump at the opportunity to show you the ropes. Where you may have once felt opposition, you’d now find comradery, and a sense of belonging in one of the oldest traditions known to humankind. In short, we’d love to take you hunting. Until then, and until next issue, we wish everyone the best. Whether in the field, or in metaphor, Happy Hunting.

PHOTO: STEVEN DRAKE

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PHOTO:TYLER SHARP

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PHOTO:TYLER SHARP

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Modern Huntsman Volume Two: Public Lands