A few months ago, shortly after moving back to Wyoming, I joined Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. BHA is an organization whose main goal is to provide education and action to stop the transfer of public lands in the U.S. into private holdings, thereby preserving the tracts of wilderness set aside by our forefathers, most notably Teddy Roosevelt.
I had been aware of BHA for a while, but the reality of the neccessity of such a group has really begun to sink lately by wacthing the slow but sure erosion of our public lands, and the loss of accessibilty to prime hunting and fishing areas. For various political reasons, there has been a massive move to transfer federal public lands into state management. On the surface, this seems like a great idea. "The dang Feds" mishandle almost everything they do, and those politicians in Washington have no idea how to manage our land. Give it to the states and they will do a much better job. The problem that arises is that the states don't have the financial ability to manage these lands. The first time the land is hit with a forest fire, the state will be forced to clean out it's budget on controling it. So then the state sells the land because it is costing much more money than it is making. This equals less access and opportunity not only for the sportsman, but anyone else who recreates on our abundant public land.
This scenario is not speculation, but is based on the history of events in every case where federal lands have been transferred to state management. The scope of BHA goes far beyond this one issue, but after having lived in a state that has very little publically accessible land, it really hits home. About 4.68% of Georgia's land is owned by Federal or State government, compared to 54% in Wyoming. The danger is that transferring lands will slowly chip away at this number if we sportsmen and other outdoor-loving people are complacent.
Growing up in Wyoming, having a place to hunt was never a concern. There was abundant public land and I took this priveledge for granted during my youth. Living in Georgia, the opportunity is severely limited. There are public hunting areas available, but most of them are over-hunted, and hutning a crowded section of woods is not my idea of a good time. The next step is to find private land to hunt, but that means owning your own land or getting a hunting lease, both of which can be expensive. In a few instances you can get permission to hunt land free of charge but it's never a garantee.
Now that I'm back in Wyoming, I don't want to see that happen here. So I've joined BHA and committed to helping there cause here in the Cowboy State. There is no local chapter here in the southwest part of the state, but hopefully we can generate some more interest here in the near future. If you're not familiar with BHA, I highly encourage you to check them out and join if you can. Don't take your public recreation lands for granted. Get involved.