Wednesday, August 17, 2016


A group of passionate outdoorsmen and Backcountry Huntersand Anglers (BHA) members gathered at the Backroom Brewery in Middletown, Virginia on Saturday, August 6 to discuss important public lands issues in the East and the formation of a local chapter to include Maryland, D.C., and Virginia. The group, unofficially dubbed the “Capital Region Chapter” of BHA, once voted into existence by the organization’s national board, would become the first chapter in the American Southeast.

Backpacking in the Monongahela National Forest, almost one million acres of forested habitat in WV, within a few hours' drive of D.C. Photo by Matt Reilly
    Backcountry Hunters and Anglers is an organization of sportsmen devoted to the conservation of our public lands, and the subsequent continuation of our outdoor heritage. Founded upon an appreciation for wilderness, BHA speaks for those who benefit spiritually from the opportunity to hunt elk on foot or horseback in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, spend a week fishing for smallmouth bass in the Boundary Waters, and stare into a fire miles from the nearest road and feel what true wilderness really is.

    BHA is an organization brawny by individual passion and, likewise, is effective only because of the existence of local chapters. “BHA's success is built on our boots-on-the-ground volunteers and members,” said BHA President, Land Tawney. “Not only do they have deep passion to carry on our traditions, but they also have an intimate knowledge of their place and what needs to be done to protect it.” As such passionate people mobilize, influence increases dramatically at the state level through interactions with state wildlife agencies, federal agencies, and officials.
    Until rather recently, all of those state chapters have been solely in the West, owing mostly to the fact that public lands come in much greater volume West of the Mississippi. “While the majority of public lands are found in the west, public lands in the east are just as important,” said Tawney. “It is imperative that BHA expand its reach in the east to not only influence policy at a national level, but to also make an impact on the ground to make sure we have access to local public lands and the fish and wildlife habitat found within.”

    It’s celebrating public lands in the East and taking a stand on the issues that oppose them that has James Revercomb, member at large (there are not official titles within the group, yet) and owner of Roanoke MountainAdventures, excited about the burgeoning chapter’s future. “There are lots of people in this part of the country who don’t utilize the public lands we have,” he said. “So it’s exciting to see people getting behind this in the East. The more people—the more interest—the better”

    The group’s meeting in Middletown, which was open to BHA members and non-members both, went fairly informally. Attendants started off telling hunting and fishing stories, but quickly became enraptured in discussion issues such as habitat fragmentation, poaching in D.C., off road vehicle land abuse, and the Sunday hunting ban on public lands.

    “The energy was great,” said Tom Hartland, another member at large and meeting attendee. “When you meet other BHA members, you already know they share the same values, and you get along great.” That energy is contagious and likewise growing. “Some people even overheard us talking and expressed interest in what we are doing,” said Hartland.

    Another meeting is being planned for early in 2017, but for the time being, the Capital Region BHA group hopes to grow its numbers with flyers and word of mouth. Interested members and non-members should visit the “Capital Region Backcountry Hunters and Anglers Members” Facebook page, and check out the BHA national page, The BHA national board will come to a vote on the proposed Capital Region chapter in the spring.

    Despite the vast majority of public land being in the West, as Tawney pointed out, the public lands we have here in the East are just as important, and need boots-on-the-ground volunteers to protect them. It is clear that there is a substantial number of passionate backcountry hunters and anglers within the capital region. However, there is currently no established BHA chapter to harness that passion and potential influence. The establishment of the Capital Region BHA chapter will be a contribution of existing resources to the national voice of sportsmen who care about the management of our public lands, which uphold and serve as an arena for the passing on of our classic traditions of hunting and fishing.

*Originally published in the Rural Virginian


Tom Kloote said...

absolutely LOVE IT!!!!!!

Herdering said...

Fantastic. I'm sure you'll see a similar story around here in Western MD soonest...