Tax season is always a bit of a crap shoot for me—I always aim for no surprises and in turn am actually willing to pay a good accountant to insure that I get there. Recent years past have resulted in everything from owing nothing to small state checks, so I assumed 2015 would be no different. But thanks to a second job with a low income and a high expense column, I actually netted a little over a thousand dollars in 2015—something that set off a chain of gear-laden daydreams.
Like any passionate outdoors person, unexpected income of this variety is immediately filed into the “gear budget” column. I mean, I didn’t really expect it and it’s sort of a gift from the heavens, right? And because it’s not often that this line item gets unexpected infusions of cash, I feel justified in shopping for new bows, rifles, optics, mountain bikes, fly rods, tents….really important stuff. After about a week of carefully considering my options for this divine windfall, I brought it to the committee, otherwise known as the First Lite sales team. I had whittled it down to a mountain bike or bow, the only question was what type that I could afford. I don’t know if you’ve been in the mountain bike marketplace lately but they seem to have confused their pricing with used cars and college educations, so it’s not easy finding a bike for under $2K. And a fully set up bow is no picnic, either. The Committee suggested several different bikes and we landed on one that would cover my bases while meeting my budgetary constraints so I was set to lean that way.
That night I sat on my couch, watching the Oregon ducks systematically destroy their Utah Pac 12 counterparts in the Conference Championships, confident in my decision. I began opening my mail from the week prior, tossing the usual credit card offers, carefully perusing the latest catalog from Victoria Secret (on behalf of my wife, I assure you) and of course paying bills. Then I happened upon a letter from my friends at Backcountry Hunters and Anglers informing me that my annual membership was set to expire. I retrieved my wallet and logged into www.backcountryhunters.org and clicked through to the membership page, set to renew my pledge for somewhere in the neighborhood of $35. For the uninformed, BCA is an organization out of Montana that is 100% devoted to protecting the general public's access to hunting and fishing, largely by protecting public land itself.
It was then that it hit me: I could buy a new mountain bike, new rifle, new bow, new boots or even accessories for my upcoming llama-assisted big game hunt this fall, or I could blow the whole thing on a lifetime membership to BHA—something I’d always wanted to do but never felt I could quite justify.
My brain went into high gear, weighing the decision, but it took all of about 2 minutes for me fire off the email to Land Tawney, Executive Director and Caitlin Twohig, Outreach and Marketing Manager informing them that I was ready to go big.
It’s 2016. I’m 39 years old with an 8 month old daughter. I live in a small town in the middle of the Idaho Rockies and obviously work for a hunting company and also guide bird hunting on the side. In my free time, I’m either hunting, fishing, hiking or otherwise enjoying the millions of acres of public land Idaho has to offer. While my daughter is only 8 months old, I spend every day waiting for the point where I can watch her explore the same hills and rivers that I do, fostering that appreciation and wonderment of the wilderness and its inhabitants that I have largely allowed to shape my life. In our house, getting outside is our equivalent to going to church—it’s how we leave everything behind, pause and pay respect to everything truly bigger than us, even if it’s a single Hungarian Partridge or 10” rainbow trout. Our access to the wilderness is more important than anything else—it’s why I worked hard to stay in this small town for 16 years and why my wife is willing to commute to her job in the Bay Area each and every week, all the while calling Idaho home.
And it’s 2016—one of the most pivotal years in regard to the general public’s access to wilderness in our great nation’s history. Utah has been systematically selling off public land under the guise of a balance sheet while using tax payer money to build a federal lawsuit against the US Government for access to more. Oregon, my home state and where I was first introduced by my parents to the wonders of the outdoors, is also under fire as private interests do their best to lobby their way to an auction block. And even Idaho—a state known for its heritage in protecting public land with a hyper protective eye towards privatization--is trying to sneak a few land transfer bills through their state government, telling their constituents “we can manage it better than the feds” even though the state can’t adequately pay for education nor seem to get itself out of poverty via heavy tax incentives. It doesn’t take Magnum PI or his mustache to tell you it’s a shell game—our state legislatures have no intention of managing anything other than a sale to their cronies.
So why should I spend $1500 on a lifetime membership? I'll get a Kimber 1911 for starters, thanks to Kimber's continuing partnership with BHA (there are other sweet gifts to choose from). But really it's because that’s my land, my daughter’s land, my wife’s land, and your land and we don’t want to sell it, plain and simple. I’ve been fortunate in that my career allows me to hunt all over this country and I’m well aware that being able to get off work at First Lite, drive less than a mile and set foot in millions of acres of wilderness is not even close to the norm. Unfortunately, in many states, setting foot in the woods of any sort for the average American is becoming more and more difficult.
So imagine a world where only those citizens with access to private land—via either economic means or personal connections like the very representatives pushing for it—would be able to pass their heritage on to their children. Sound pretty bleak to you? I wonder what those same representatives would say if we tried to sell their church to our buddies, then kicked them out? Well it’s already a reality in many parts of the country and if many of our elected “representatives” have their way, it will become the norm. Fighting that very real possibility is worth $1500 to me, without question. And the Kimber is nice, too!
Ross Copperman is a sales guy at First Lite HQ in Ketchum, Idaho. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org