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We are currently losing more hunters and anglers than we are creating. This decline is a huge problem that extends way beyond the bow or rod. Hunters and anglers pay a big part of the conservation debt. Therefore, one of the ways we can perpetuate public lands, access and our sporting heritage is by exposing non-hunters to hunting in the best ways possible. Typically food, a love of the outdoors, and explanations of game management are the most effective avenues to creating a positive impression of hunting.
This past April, at the annual Backcountry Hunters and Anglers Rendezvous, First Lite co-founder Kenton Carruth and Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard had the opportunity to sit down and discuss bringing the various branches of outdoor recreation together under one roof in defense of the places we all value. In the Rocky Mountain West, your average hunter is also typically a hiker, biker, skier and/or angler. Though some organized special interests wish for a different reality, rarely do outdoor recreationists fall into neat, categories. Moreover, whether you’re a kayaker or a pheasant hunter, we head for the woods and mountains for the same reasons.
Do Kenton and Yvon agree on every issue? Of course not but they are certainly ready to discuss their differences. More critically, First Lite and Patagonia are committed to ensuring that future generations will have the same public land opportunities we've so enjoyed. With that in mind, we sincerely hope that every member of the outdoor recreation community can take the time to educate each other in the woods for the betterment of our mutual playground. Sometimes all it takes is a little trailhead diplomacy.
Ryan Callaghan is the Director of Conservation and PR at FLHQ.
Last year, the National Wildlife Federation (one of the founding First Lite Partners in Conservation) launched a new initiative to protect imperiled bighorn sheep in the West. While bighorn numbers historically were estimated at 2 million nationwide, the population has declined precipitously since the mid-1800s due largely to loss of suitable habitat and disease spread from domestic sheep. Recent estimates place the number of bighorn in this country at 50,000 individuals.
To combat this decline, in 2015 NWF launched a new initiative focused on maintaining separation between domestic and wild sheep and increasing available habitat. We are working closely with our sportsmen partners, including the Wild Sheep Foundation and state wildlife federation affiliates in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming to address challenges and opportunities facing bighorn sheep in the West.
You Gotta Keep ‘em Separated
Specifically, we are addressing the risk of contact between domestic sheep and bighorn sheep on public grazing allotments managed by the Forest Service and The Bureau of Land Management. Region 4 of the U.S. Forest Service (ID, WY, UT, and NV) is completing a risk of contact analysis to identify areas where domestic sheep and bighorn sheep occupy the same habitat.
As a primary method in addressing spatial separation between bighorns and domestic sheep, NWF has developed grazing agreements with willing sellers to retire grazing allotments in areas where there is a high risk of contact. While NWF’s approach to solving bighorn sheep conflicts is relatively new, NWF’s Wildlife Conflict Resolution Program has been working to resolve intractable conflicts between large carnivores and livestock on public lands since 2002.
More Secure Habitat = More Bighorns = More Hunter Opportunity
Over the past 13 years, NWF’s Wildlife Conflict Resolution program has resolved conflicts between livestock and wildlife (native trout, bighorn sheep, wolves, grizzly bears, sage grouse, elk and mule deer) on over 1 Million acres of public lands in the west.
In the past year alone, NWF and our partners developed grazing agreements with sheep producers on nearly 250,000 acres in Wyoming and southern Idaho, securing critical additional habitat and eliminating the risk of contact with domestic sheep. In turn, this will mean larger populations of bighorns and more hunting opportunities for the public. Since the program’s inception, NWF has worked cooperatively with ranchers to eliminate conflict between wildlife and livestock on over 1 Million acres in the west.
These retirements, which are completely voluntary, have received strong support from livestock producers who typically use the payments to secure grazing in new locations without wildlife conflicts. A market approach to changing grazing patterns can turn opponents into partners and provide a positive solution to chronic conflicts between domestic and bighorn sheep. We believe this grazing retirement approach can provide a new conservation model that reduces litigation, sustains agriculture, and re configures grazing to locations where it is compatible and sustainable.
While NWF’s bighorn sheep conservation efforts have been effective in increasing habitat and minimizing risk on public lands, there is still plenty of work to be done in restoring bighorns to much of their historical habitat. We look forward to expanding our bighorn conservation efforts in the coming months to Colorado, Oregon, Nevada and Washington as new and exciting opportunities for landscape-level restoration become available.
First Lite Team member Kit Fischer is the Wildlife Conflict Resolution Program Manager for NWF Northern Rockies and Pacific Regional Center.
One of First Lite's founding partners in conservation, the National Wildlife Federation is one of the country's largest and most venerable conservation organizations. For more information on their work or to support NWF's efforts directly please visit www.nwf.org/wcr.
Recently we were notified that the board at Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (BHA), had voted to award First Lite the 1st ever Larry Fischer award. To fill everyone in, BHA is a conservation group that advocates for responsible practices on public land amongst many other things. Larry Fischer was a co founder of Traditional Bowhunter Magazine. 1st ever award, because Larry passed away last year after a long battle with cancer.
The natural person in our company to accept the honor on behalf of First Lite is our founder Kenton Carruth. Kenton and Larry had established a connection over the years, in fact we would on occasion, hear Kenton almost whispering into the phone, in a conspiratorial type of way that would only relate to that of keeping an extra lady on the side. The person on the other end was Larry and the topic was always traditional archery, arrow weights, broad-heads, and shooting styles. We compared schedules, Long story short I, Ryan Callaghan would have to accept the honor on behalf of Kenton and First Lite. I felt seriously that this was almost an inappropriate thing to do.
- The day of, Blake Fischer, son of Larry informs me (via giant bear hug complete with swinging me around like you would a small child) That he is going to introduce his fathers award. If you do not know Blake, he is now a Fish and Game Commissioner representing the SW Region, a public servant, call and torment him over an issue of your choice, please.
- Meridian, ID 83642 (208) 867-2703 firstname.lastname@example.org
Feeling better with Blake making the intro, I dug Kenton' words out of my pocket.
"I first met Larry via the telephone in about 2008 when inquiring about advertising in Traditional Bowhunter magazine. About an hour and a half later he had a new advertiser and I had a new friend, albeit a new friend that made me feel pain fully inadequate for shooting a bow with wheels on it. From then on I would talk to Larry regularly and see him a few times a year at shows. Not so gradually Larry wore me down until last year I made the switch to a traditional bow, I practiced and practiced all through winter, spring, and fall eagerly anticipating hunting season. Once the season was over, for the first time in a long time…I didn’t kill a damn thing. What Larry had neglected to tell me was, that the beauty of the trad-bow is that you get to hunt so much more. Then it all started making sense to me, the reason all these trad-bow guys are so good at hunting is because they get to hunt so much more. While some guys tag out in a week or a day, trad-bow guys get the entire season to hone their craft, from the first day to the last, Learning hard fought lessons of misery , disgust and self loathing until the season ends. Then like any reasonable glutton for punishment, you sell all your compound gear, while eagerly awaiting the next season and convince yourself how great next season is going to be and, with a little bit of luck you will be wearing a path to the taxidermist. Seriously though, Larry was a larger than life individual who was deeply committed to bowhunting the outdoors and accessibility to public lands. It is a huge honor to be given an award in his name, and First lite will do the best we can to help maintain his legacy. Thanks Larry" - Kenton Carruth, Founder.
Larry Fischer was among many other things a big man, he started a successful irrigation business, a magazine, and reared up some kids. Talk to most folks and they would say Larry did not mess around, he got things done. Larry also hosted a semi-invite only 3-D shoot every tuesday. During this shoot as the stories go, Larry would impart some wisdom, joke and generally mentor those around him. Kenton nor I, ever made the time to go to one of these shoots. Insert the stereotypical carpe diem of your choice when reading a story involving death.
We truly believe First Lite will set an example for other businesses to carry on Larry's legacy. We may have taken our opportunity to shoot with a traditional bowhunting legend for granted, but we will not make the same mistake with our commitment to public lands and wildlife. After all, we have the Larry Fischer award as a reminder that outdoor businesses have a commitment to the outdoors.