BY SCOTT RALL
The Globe outdoors columnist
Backcountry Hunters and Anglers is the new kid on the block. The group has burst onto the scene of conservation and wildlife habitat, connecting with a very different demographic than what has been considered traditional.
The average hunter or fisherman today is an aging white male in his 60s.
The Backcountry group has been successful in attracting a much different demographic, and that is the millennials. The young folks don’t tend to participate or associate with the old white guy mentality.
Backcountry Hunters and Anglers seeks to ensure North America's outdoor heritage of hunting and fishing in a natural setting, through education and work on behalf of wild public lands and waters.
When you say public lands, you get my attention. BHA has a bigger wilderness scale to its efforts. The group defends the wild areas that most of us will never step foot on but still know how important they are.
Development of our wild places has been going on for generations. Not since Ronald Reagan have we designated a wilderness area. Add to that the fact that more and more folks who hunt and fish are becoming overly reliant in new technologies to make their outings easier and less challenging. The traditions of hunting have nothing to do with making it easy.
Even as Backcounty Hunters and Anglers has taken the lead on habitat on a large scale, it is doing something that will help each and every person who cares about habitat. That just might be the small 80 Wildlife Management Area in your county.
And that is engaging young folks and motivating them to participate in their outdoor future. BHA hosts what are called Pint Nights. I am not a fan of microbrew beers. I think some of them taste awful, but the young kids (not really kids -- 21-35-year olds) think sampling different microbrews is one of the best pass times for a weekend outing.
BHA gets a room full of these young and energetic folks and then talks about habitat, conservation, wildernesses and how to harvest and consume foods that have no preservatives in them, aka wild game.
I went on the website and they list three of their most important issues. They include defending stream access, advocating for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and working to improve access to our public lands.
There are parts of the county that are trying to change the way anglers can fish, wade or float on the nation’s public waters. BHA knows that without access to these thousands of miles of rivers and streams, the ability of the angling community to participate in and ultimately pass on these hallowed traditions would be impossible.
The Land and Conservation Fund uses royalties from mining and drilling to acquire and improve public lands for all to use. The fund was recently reauthorized and made permanent by Congress.
This is a great big step in the right direction. The problem is that Congress has continually diverted 50 percent to 75 percent of funds from the dedicated fund to other funding priorities. We need to hold Congress’s feet to the fire to ensure the funds go to where they are intended.
The last mission listed for BHA is to open up access to landlocked public lands. I could never figure out how we got landlocked public lands in the first place, but they are quite common.
There are more than two million acres in the state of Montana that is landlocked. That means these public land acres can only be accessed by the landowners who surround it.
Two million acres exist that only the rich and famous can use because they have the ability to pay for elite access. BHA is working to remedy the situation.
I was scheduled to participate in a podcast with BHA earlier this week, but the scheduling was uncertain as of this writing. The group is interested in learning more about the public lands in Minnesota and how they are acquired and managed.
I hope it works out. I learn a lot from these efforts. BCA is the breath of fresh air we need to attract young folks and add their voice to the traditional old white guy songs. I look forward to learning more about them and lending my support where I can. Check them out at backcountyhunters.org.