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Pigeon River Country Project Kicks Off Open Country Season

June 13, 2014

It was both symbolic and necessary.More than three dozen volunteers had gathered an impressive pile of barbed-wire fence and paused for a few photos at the end of a long but productive day.That fence was not only an eyesore and a potential hazard for those using this 640-acre tract of the Pigeon River Country in northern Michigan, it was also some of the last remnants of a barrier that no longer belongs.“This is public land and removing those fences – nearly two miles of it – felt pretty good,” said Drew YoungeDyke, grassroots manager for Michigan United Conservation Clubs. “It was a lot of work. But no one complained. This is what we came here to do.”

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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.

  • June 4, 2014

    Open Country Kicks Off Project Season With Michigan Effort-0

    by

    The Open Country project season is about to kick off and the program's first-awarded grant funds will be put to good use.

    On Saturday, June 7, the Open Country efforts begin anew for 2014 when a group of volunteers from Michigan's On The Ground initiative team with up volunteers from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation in assisting the Michigan Department of Natural Resources with work to create and enhance access in the Pigeon River Country area of northern lower Michigan.

    The Black Mountain Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation will be putting $500 to work on the project as the beneficiary of Outdoor Life's newly-founded Open Country grant program.

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • March 19, 2014

    As New York Looks To Limit Landowner Liability, Access Could Get Easier-0

    by

    I have often wondered what the world was like before the days of the electronic media release.

    I suspect there was much of the same with one difference: The barrage of releases cluttered up actual mailboxes instead of those of the virtual variety.

    That said, there are times when one of those releases contains information I'm actually interested in. One such release made its way to my inbox from New York City (of all places).

    The release highlighted New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's list of proposed projects designed to increase and improve public access. But the item that caught my eye might not be the one that you’d expect.

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • March 18, 2014

    President Obama’s Budget is a Mixed Bag for Outdoorsmen-0

    by

    The president recently unveiled his new budget for 2015. For hunters and anglers, it’s a good-news-bad-news scenario. Some things make perfect sense while others will leave you scratching your head.

    Either way, the president’s budget is a starting place, when it comes to protecting access and investing in America’s public lands.

    The Good
    LWCF:
    The president has included full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. LWCF helps pay for fishing access sites, boat ramps, and protecting key habitat, using royalties that oil companies pay for offshore oil drilling. LWCF has given American hunters and anglers some premier spots for chasing big game. Places like the Tenderfoot Acquisition in Montana, the Silvio E. Conte National Wildlife Refuge in New England, and inholdings in the Tahoe National Forest in California.

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • February 4, 2014

    Oregon Chub: First Fish to Escape Endangered Species List Without Going Extinct-1

    by

    After more than two decades of research and recovery efforts, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed Tuesday to remove the Oregon chub from its threatened status under the Endangered Species Act. The three-inch minnow is endemic to the Willamette Valley of western Oregon where it now flourishes in floodplain habitats of sloughs and silty marshes. The chub is the first fish to ever make it off the Endangered Species List — without going extinct.

    The ESA turned 40 years old in December and a great deal of criticism has been aimed its way over the last few decades. Just a few short years after its conception, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the ESA was designed to halt and reverse species extinction “whatever the cost.” But some say that cost is too high. State and federal agencies spent more than $1.7 billion on threatened and endangered species in 2012 alone. Billions of dollars, habitat restrictions, and untold manpower stretching across four decades have recovered just 30 species. There are currently 1,519 threatened and endangered U.S. species on the list.

    Historically the ESA has proven successful at arresting species teetering on the brink of extinction. It’s the recovery process that moves more slowly. Although 40 years is a short time to reverse centuries of human impact, at times the ESA list seems like a conservation black hole from which species rarely escape.

    But this one tiny fish from Oregon is finally making it off the list. Here’s how.

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • November 25, 2013

    In the West, Inaccessible Public Land Tantalizes Sportsmen -1

    by

    No sportsman on this continent has a monopoly on frustration when it comes to access. We all wish we had more, whether we’re Eastern trout anglers, Southeastern turkey hunters, Rocky Mountain elk bums, or Canadian hikers.

    But Westerners’ access frustrations are born of tantalizing proximity to public land, much of which is inaccessible. The frustrations are detailed in a spot-on piece in last weekend’s Bozeman Daily Chronicle.

    About 5 percent of my home state of Montana is owned by the state, and managed by the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, which manages thousands of 640-acre sections spread from border to border. These lands are a the legacy of our homesteading era a century ago, when two sections—typically 16 and 36—in each township were set aside as rural school sites and funding engines for local education. The idea was that grazing or logging from the sections would fund schools in each township, reducing the property-tax burden on homesteaders.

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • October 14, 2013

    Weyerhaeuser and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Need Volunteers for Access-0

    by

    Here's a statement that should spark your interest:

    "The amount of timberland that can be opened to hunting is directly proportional to the number of volunteers that sign up, so participation is vital to the continuation of this program."

    Those are the words of Sandra Jonker, regional wildlife manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. She's talking about a cooperative access program between WDFW and the Weyerhaeuser timber company -- a project worthy of Open Country designation.

    Weyerhaeuser owns a tremendous amount of timberland across the nation with much of it in the western parts of the country. Those lands represent a substantial chunk of deer and elk habitat that may -- or may not -- be open to public hunting access.

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • October 10, 2013

    Feds to ‘Allow’ States to Fund National Parks, No Word on National Wildlife Refuges-0

    by

    U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on Oct. 10 said the Obama Administration will consider reopening some of the 368 national parks closed by the federal shutdown if their host states agree to pay for it.
                   
    While that is encouraging news -- particularly in Utah, Arizona, South Dakota, and Colorado -- it doesn't mean much for waterfowlers and others closed out of the 329 huntable national wildlife refuges that have been closed to access since the shutdown began on Oct. 1.
                   
    These lands, as well as some Army Corps of Engineers sites, will remain closed unless, that is, states want to pay for them as well. Only select national parks are being considered for state-financed reopening.

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • October 9, 2013

    Federal Shutdown Takes 'Inordinate Toll' on Sportsmen-4

    by

    A consortium of conservation groups claimed during an Oct. 7 conference call that the federal government shutdown is taking an inordinate toll on a routinely abused constituency: sportsmen who pump more than $1.5 billion every year into the economy just in fishing and hunting license fees alone.
                   
    The federal shutdown has closed access to 329 huntable national wildlife refuges, as well as all national parks and other federal public lands.

    "I think Congress's failure to act is really a slap in the face to all of us in this country, but particularly to hunters and anglers," said Dr. Steve Williams, the president of the Wildlife Management Institute and a former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • September 20, 2013

    Compromise Over Hunting and Fishing Access Boosts Odds for New National Park in Maine -2

    by

    Less than a decade after moving into a log cabin in Maine's North Woods, Massachusetts native and San Francisco art school graduate Roxanne Quimby co-founded Burt's Bees personal care products company starting with a roadside stand 50 miles west of Bangor in 1984.
                   
    Burt's Bees blossomed into a multi-million business. In 2007, Quimby sold her share of the company for $350 million and focused on a self-anointed mission to preserve central Maine's forests and purchased more than 120,000 acres in the Katahdin Region and closed it off to hunting, snowmobiling and timber harvesting.
                   
    Already regarded an "outsider," Quimby's disregard for Maine's longstanding tradition of large private landowners -- mostly lumber operations that own huge swaths of the state -- allowing public access to their tracts for hunting, fishing, camping, off-loading, and snowmobiling, made her very unpopular.
                   
    But when Quimby offered to donate more than 70,000 acres of her land -- managed as Elliotsville Plantation Inc. -- to a proposed Maine Woods National Park, many Mainers saw her as a threat to their livelihoods and lifestyles. “Ban Roxanne” bumper stickers became a common sight.

    [ Read Full Post ]
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