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HR 4089 Calls for Revisions of Antiquities Act, TR Rolls Over in Grave

April 27, 2012

One day, if I’m really lucky, I’ll draw a permit to hunt elk or, more excitingly, bighorn sheep in the Missouri River Breaks National Monument of central Montana. “The Breaks” are one of the most sought after tags in Montana. I’ve watched 380 class bull elk there fight in battles that bring to mind old Greek gods, going toe-to-toe, after some mythical goddess. You may share a similar dream. Thousands of dreams like that come true every fall because of the outdoor public lands legacy handed down by President Theodore Roosevelt. Back in his day, Roosevelt was called every name in the book by industry lobbyists who hated his policies. They called it a “federal land grab.” History has defined it as protecting hunting and fishing access and opportunity for generations to come. That’s why Americans carved his face on Mt. Rushmore.

1 | Read the full entry

Guide to America's Public Land

Click on your state in the map below.

Find the top public-land destinations in your state, including:

  • Wildlife Refuges
  • State WMAs
  • National Forests
  • Fishing Access Sites

About Open Country

Hunters and anglers across the nation consistently list one challenge as their primary obstacle to spending more time in the field: Access.

Outdoor Life's Open Country program aims to tackle that issue head on and with boots on the ground. The program highlights volunteer-driven efforts to improve access along with habitat improvements to make existing public lands even better places to hunt and fish. The program's goal is to substantially increase sportsman's access across the country by promoting events that make a difference.

Here on Open Country's blog page, contributors take a close look at access issues across the country. Some are public-policy discussions, where we investigate the nuances of public access. In other blogs, we shine a light on attempts to turn public recreation opportunities into private hunting and fishing domains. In still other blogs, we interview decision makers about access issues. Together, we fight for the ability of America's hunters and anglers to have a place to swing a gun or wet a line.

We promise the discussion is always lively, interesting, and fresh, so visit this page frequently to tune into the latest access issue.

The Open Country program culminates in grants and awards with top projects and participants being honored.

Submit a project for the Open Country Grant Award.
Nominate an individual for the Open Country Award.

Open Country



Event Calendar

  • June 1: Red Oak Planting in Gwinn Forest Management Unit
  • June 7: Pinegrass Restoration, Willamette River (Eugene, OR REMF Chapter). Contact.
  • June 7-8: Lower Deschutes River Thistle Cut (OR Foundation for North American Wild Sheep and OR Fish and Wildlife). Contact.
  • June 13-15: Prairie City Aspen Habitat Enhancement (Oregon Hunters Association, Capitol Chapter) Contact: 503-399-1234
  • June 21: Smith Ridge Meadows (Eugene, OR Chapter RMEF). Contact.

  • April 26, 2012

    A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Sportsmen's Heritage Act-2


    I’m not a fan of politics. Democracy, on the other hand, is something I value. The recent passage of H.R. 4089, the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act, is a bit of both. At its core, the legislative package is designed to ensure that hunting and fishing are protected uses of public land.

    But, as always seems to happen in Washington, the full scope of the bills has been complicated thanks in part to politics. Some of the add-ons (like preventing greenie-weenie lawyers from continuing to push for lead bans in ammunition and fishing tackle) are certainly interesting and needed but do complicate things. In a previous Open Country post, Ben Lamb did an excellent job of breaking down some of the areas of concern and I won’t rehash those here.

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • April 26, 2012

    HR 4089 Protects Recreational Shooting Rights on Public Land-1


    Our public lands aren’t just for hunting. They’re for hiking, catching frogs and watching birds...and shooting.

    The Bureau of Land Management oversees lots of these places, the ultimate multi-use properties. They have names like Coal Creek Road. Or 17 Mile, which is north of Billings, Montana and is one of the most popular places in the state for shooters to unleash a few rounds. These pieces of public land aren’t all tailor-made shooting ranges, but a lot of them are. They usually have a few refrigerators, a junked out 1978 Datsun and enough shell casings to refinance a 2500 square foot Colonial with the price of recycled brass.

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • April 24, 2012

    Can I Fish This Stream?-2


    River and stream access regulations involve a confounding tangle of legalese with a heaping helping of misinterpretation. Can’t we just go fishing?

    Perhaps, if you had time enough to conjure such things, you’d see it in your mind’s eye: An impossibly clear river journeying through idyllic valleys and lush meadows. Deep undercuts running along willow-choked banks. Boulders, fallen timber, riffles, pools, and back eddies hiding trout—not ignorant fresh-off-the-hatchery-truck fish, but wild browns, rainbows, cutthroats, and brookies.

    And you’d be welcome to fish its entire length—it says so right in the regulations. Don’t like one river? Fish another—more than 1,500 miles of accessible stream lie at your feet. Pure fantasy? Not in the least.

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • April 20, 2012

    Iowa’s IHAP Opens Private Lands to Public Hunting, Will it Work?-0


    Iowa is one of those “must-hunt” destinations if you’re a serious whitetail hunter. Unfortunately, if you aren’t able to pay an outfitter or have a connection for hunting private land, you’ll find hunting Iowa a real challenge.

    Iowa has precious little public ground, ranking 49th in the country for public land holdings.

    But now the Iowa Department of Natural Resources is trying to remedy that situation with its new Iowa Habitat and Access Program (IHAP). The program encourages landowners to open their land to public hunting and in turn receive funding and guidance for habitat improvements.

    The program is not unlike those in several other Midwestern states that I’ve hunted with mixed results.

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • April 18, 2012

    House Passes Sportsmen's Heritage Act, But is it Really a Win for Outdoorsmen?-7


    It’s a rare day when Congress, especially the House of Representatives, does something helpful for hunters and anglers. But yesterday, it came close.

    On a 274-146 vote, the House passed the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act. Championed by the Safari Club and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, the “Heritage Act” is actually a number of bills crammed into one piece of legislation. On its face, this act looks like a win for outdoorsmen and women, but let's take a closer look at what's actually in it before we break out the champagne...

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • April 11, 2012

    Welcome to Open Country: All Access with Ben Lamb-5


    I used to hunt a place here in Montana that was enrolled in Block Management, a program that helps landowners manage hunting activities while providing the public with free hunting access to private land.

    It was a fantastic piece of river bottom outside of Simms that regularly produced ringnecks, whitetails and more ducks than you could shake a stick at; the brown trout fishing was decent, too. It was a small section and you had to share it with whoever else was out there, but my lord, what a great spot.

    The place was sold one year to a gentleman who had hunted it a year or so before. He fell in love with the spot and just had to have it. Unfortunately, the new owner took it out of Block Management and now nobody gets to hunt it, except a select few.

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • April 11, 2012

    Welcome to Open Country: Ground Truths with Tony Hansen -2


    I’m a public land hunter both by necessity and by choice. Seriously.

    Sure, I have access to a couple of private farms in my home state of Michigan and I scrape together enough cash each year for a couple of small leases as well. But when you live in a state with nearly one million licensed deer hunters, there’s really no such thing as “exclusive access.”

    I hunt several states each fall and the vast majority of my time will be spent hunting public land and I really don’t know that I’d have it any other way. See, I’m not much of a people person really. Knocking on doors and talking to someone is something I enjoy as much as eating bad sushi. Okay, any sushi.

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • April 3, 2012

    Popular Federal Hunting-Access Program Could Lose Funding-0


    The best idea in hunting access since the invention of the cattle guard is in danger of being killed in its crib.

    It’s a federal program that, like most government programs, has an unwieldy name: the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program, or VPA-HIP. Known more popularly as Open Fields, what this program has done, quietly and successfully in its first two years of life, is open the gate to hundreds of thousands of acres of private farmland for hunters and fishermen.

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • April 3, 2012

    Keeping Shooting Ranges Open-0


    Having access to good places to shoot is a top concern among gun owners no matter whether they are hunters who only go to sight-in before opening day or they are serious 3-Gunners or trap shooters whose annual round count is in the thousands.

    Shooting ranges, both public and private, face many challenges to stay open, but fortunately, interest in the shooting sports is not one of them.

    [ Read Full Post ]