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Lawyers, Trout, and Money: The Battle for Public Access on Michigan's Salmon Trout River

May 30, 2012

Editor’s Note: This post is a revision of the original blog entry, which we published last Thursday and then took off-line in order to improve the reporting. Mainly, we wanted to get the perspective of the Huron Mountain Club, and to verify a number of details such as the size of the club, its membership, and the claim that it has hired off-duty law enforcement officers to patrol the Salmon Trout River.This is an access story that has it all: a disputed law, a river with a sacred variety of trout and an exclusive club that is attempting to privatize a road, a river, and even the law to defend what they say is their own property. Here’s what’s at stake.Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is what trout fishing was meant to be. It's a vast expanse of conifer nastiness laced with rivers, creeks and streams. Within you will find some of the finest, purest native brook trout fishing in the country. You won't find a ton of big fish but there are some. But I've never really had much to complain about when it's quite possible to hook 100 colorful, native brook trout in a day. Size be damned.

6 | 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.

  • May 23, 2012

    Why We Should Overturn Sunday Hunting Bans-13


    Norman McLean said, in “A River Runs through It,” that we’re never late for two things in Montana, church and fishing. I’m a bit of a hedonist at heart, so I’m late for church by a couple of decades. What I’m never late for on Sunday in season is a pre-dawn trek to my favorite cathedral to look for the good lord’s finest creation: A big old bull elk.

    From a Westerner’s perspective, there’s not much stranger than banning hunting on Sunday. That old-time tradition, still in force in a half a dozen states, is a relic of a different age, like wearing tweeds when fishing, or dressing up for a driven pheasant shoot. I sometimes enjoy those disconnects from the modern world, as I myself am half Luddite myself.

    But no hunting on Sunday! C’mon. That’s just, well, puritanical.

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • May 18, 2012

    How to Fix the Sportsmen's Heritage Act-1


    It seems so clear: a law that guarantees us the right to hunt and fish on public land is the combination of grand slam, touchdown, hat trick – or whatever other sports analogy you want to apply to it.

    Or is it? I’d make the case that the bill in question, HR4089 (better known as the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act) has more baggage than Madonna on tour. The intent of this bill is essential for America’s public-land hunters and anglers. But lost in the euphoria about this bill, which passed the House and now goes to the Senate for passage, is a lot of election-year nonsense. In the attempt to protect hunting and fishing on public lands, the language of the bill suffers from politics.

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • May 16, 2012

    How Terrorism Ruined a Fishing Hole: An Inside-Look at the Fresno Dam Controversy-2


    It's no secret that the world is a different place since a pair of jetliners guided by cowards slammed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

    We can all agree that some added measures of security in places of obvious interest to lunatics intent upon reaping destruction make sense. But where is that line drawn? And at what price?

    And how does a rural dam fit in? A dam that lies about 14 miles from any semi-major point of human population and seems unlikely to be much of a target for anything other than a day spent casting a line.

    Enter Fresno dam. Located on Montana’s Milk River about 14 miles from Havre (population 9,700) the plunge pool below the dam was once a popular spot for anglers looking to target the abundant pike, walleye and perch populations.

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • May 4, 2012

    Big Fishing Business Confirm That Access is Crucial -3


    I spent a good portion of the afternoon today listening to some High Tech business owners and the CEO of Simms Fishing Products talk about the importance of public lands to their businesses.

    After we got through the mush about corporate tax rates and capital gains taxes, there was a lot of discussion about access -- access to public lands, and stream access in particular.

    KC Walsh, CEO of Simms Fishing Products, said flat out that access to rivers and streams is critical for their business model. States like Utah which are still struggling over allowing its citizens to access their waters have less market share than places like Montana, where our stream access law is the envy of other western states.

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • May 4, 2012

    Senate Reinstates Open Fields in 2012 Farm Bill Markup-0


    For those of us who live in this place called "reality," the numbers we're about to discuss are mind-numbing.

    Late last week, the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee approved a 2012 Farm Bill that cuts some $25 billion from the 2008 bill.

    That's right -- $25 billion in cuts. Just how much money is spent when you can afford to cut $25 billion from the pot and still deliver a fairly robust package? Um, a whole lot. The entire Farm Bill comes in at nearly a half-trillion dollars over five years, which is roughly two percent of the nation's annual budget. The Farm Bill, as you may or may not know, contains some of the nation's most important fish and game habitat programs in its conservation titles. The Farm Bill is also where you'll find funding for programs such as foods stamps in the nutrition titles. It is a huge, sweeping package. 

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • May 3, 2012

    TRCP Program Gives Outdoorsmen the Opportunity to Pick Locations for Conservation-0


    A press release just popped into my e-mail that caught my attention: TRCP Donates $10K to Sportsmen's Access.

    The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) giving $10,000 to help bolster public hunting and fishing access is definitely something of interest. As I read through the release, I learned that TRCP had donated the cash to support the Wyoming Game & Fish Department’s Private Lands Public Wildlife Access Program, which provides hunters and anglers with access to private lands.

    As you’ve likely figured out by now, I’m a big fan of such programs and kudos are in order to TRCP for providing that support. But what really caught my attention was a link to a fairly new effort by TRCP dubbed the Sportsmen Values Mapping Project.

    [ Read Full Post ]