Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Montana: State leaders and outdoor groups launch new public land access program - Full Article

Governor Steve Bullock hosted state leaders and outdoor groups in Helena on Monday to officially kick off a new program to expand access to public lands in Montana.

Posted: Dec 18, 2017 10:41 PM
Updated: Dec 18, 2017 9:46 PM PST
By: Jonathon Ambarian - MTN News

The Montana Public Land Access Network, or MT-PLAN, will collect private donations from individuals and groups.

That money will then be offered as grants to landowners who open access through their property to public lands that aren’t otherwise accessible or who improve existing public access.

The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation will administer MT-PLAN and make recommendations on grant applications. The projects must then be approved by the state Land Board.

Bullock pointed to a study by the Center for Western Priorities, which found Montana has nearly two million acres of public lands that are currently inaccessible for recreation.

“This network will allow Montanans, each and every one of us, to help further chip away at those two million acres and unlock more areas of public lands for all of us to enjoy,” he said...

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Monday, December 18, 2017

Winter Riding: Anza Borrego, California - Full Article

This place is big. Really big. Covering 916 square miles Anza Borrego State Park is the largest state park in California and the second largest state park in the entire US. The park includes 12 wilderness areas, 500 miles of gravel roads and over 100 miles of designated trails. And at only two hours from the cities of San Diego and Riverside it’s easy to get to.

The park is named for Juan Bautista de Anza, a Spanish explorer from the late 1700’s and the Spanish word borrego, or bighorn sheep. Portions of the 1,210-mile-long Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail run through the park as it travels from Nogales, AZ to San Francisco, CA. Anza Borrego is also home to the largest number of endangered Peninsular Bighorn Sheep in California. About 280 of these magnificent animals remain and 200 of those call Anza Borrego home. Riders with sharp eyes may also catch a glimpse of speedy roadrunners and graceful golden eagles...

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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Podcast: Nat'l Forest Service Trails Bill Discussed on Equestrian Legacy Radio - Listen in

Listen to the podcast with BCHA Jim McGarvey, Jaime Schmidt & Deb Caffin with USFS.  Jaime is the National Program Manager for Trails and the one AERC signed the MOU with.  Deb Caffin is the Recreation Program Manager for Trails Region 8.  They talk about implementation of the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act that was passed last year.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Fight for Public Land in Montana's Crazy Mountains - Full Article

Christopher Solomon
Dec 6, 2017

In the last 18 months, long-simmering disputes have boiled over amid claims of trespassing, political meddling, government bullying, and retaliation. Some worry that what’s happening there may harbinger what’s to come on public land across the nation. It’s enough to call the situation, well, you know.

In the fall of 2016, Rob Gregoire, a hunter and nearly life-long Montanan, won a state lottery for a permit to take a trophy elk in the Crazy Mountains, which rise from the plains about 60 miles north of Yellowstone National Park. Landowners around the mountains were charging about $2,000 for private hunts on their ranches. “That’s just not what I do, on principle,” Gregoire says. So he found a public access corridor that would take him into prime Crazies elk country—the federal land covered by the permit, which in total cost about $40.

Such trails have led into the Crazies for generations. And disputes between landowners and those who would cross their properties on these trails reach back nearly that far, too. By 2016, the trailhead Gregoire found was “the last non-contested public access point on the 35-mile-long eastern flank of the Crazy Mountains,” he would write later to his U.S. senators.

Yet even on what Gregoire thought was a public throughway, the Hailstone Ranch had posted game cameras and signs claiming that the Forest Service didn’t have an easement to use the segment that crossed the private property. After consulting with the Forest Service, Gregoire was convinced he had the right to hike the route. Once on it, he used an app to stay on trail where it seemed faint, to make sure he kept to public land. Then one evening as he returned toward the trailhead after an unsuccessful hunt, Gregoire found a deputy sheriff from Sweet Grass County waiting for him. The deputy handed Gregoire a ticket for criminal trespass. After court costs, the ticket cost $585...

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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Apply for a Grant from the National Trails Fund - Starting January 15, 2018

Does your organization want to complete a trail project but lack the funding to do so? American Hiking Society will be accepting applications for National Trails Fund grants for amounts between $500 and $3,000 thanks to the generosity of L.L.Bean. The application period will end on February 15. 

The National Trails Fund benefits Alliance of Hiking Organizations, American Hiking Society's network of trail organizations that build and maintain America's foot trails.

American Hiking Society’s National Trails Fund offers Micro-Grants to active organizations of our Alliance of Hiking Organizations. Once a year, Alliance Organization Members have the opportunity to apply for a Micro-Grant (value between $500 and $3,000) in order to improve hiking access or hiker safety on a particular trail. If your organization is interested in applying, but is not yet an Alliance Organization Member sign up here.

American Hiking Society’s National Trails Fund is the only privately funded, national grants program dedicated solely to building and protecting hiking trails. Created in response to the growing backlog of trail maintenance projects, the National Trails Fund has helped hundreds of grassroots organizations acquire the resources needed to protect America’s cherished hiking trails. To date, American Hiking Society has funded 217 trail projects through 170 organizations by awarding over $698,000 in National Trails Fund grants.

For more information, see:

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Public-Land Bills We Can All Agree On - Full Article

Two bipartisan bills show how the left and the right can converge on public land policy

Jake Bullinger
Dec 4, 2017

It would seem Republicans and Democrats are wholly divided on public land policy. During the 2016 campaign, the GOP platform called on Congress to “immediately pass universal legislation” to “convey certain federally controlled public lands to states,” while Democrats sought “policies and investments that will keep America’s public lands public” by prioritizing access and environmental safeguards.

But, believe it or not, some consensus exists. A pair of bills introduced this year—including one that would make it easier to transfer federal land to states—shows that Republicans and Democrats can actually agree on certain aspects of public land management.
The land transfer bill, dubbed the Advancing Conservation and Education Act, was introduced on November 6 in the House by Chris Stewart, a Utah Republican, and Jared Polis, a Colorado Democrat. An identical measure in the Senate is backed by Democrat Martin Heinrich of New Mexico and Arizona Republican Jeff Flake. The bill would allow western states to ask the Department of the Interior to swap state-held trust lands surrounded by federal conservation plots for federal parcels that are easier to develop...

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Monday, December 4, 2017

A Private Landowner Almost Cut Off the PCT - Full Article

David Ferry
Nov 29, 2017

The association that manages the West's premier national trail just paid $1.6 million to prevent a property owner from putting up a fence 150 miles shy of the Canadian border

In January 2015, the Pacific Crest Trail Association received a letter from the owner of a 402-acre plot of land near Stevens Pass, roughly 75 miles east of Seattle. The landowner, a family trust, held one of the few remaining privately held patches of the Pacific Crest Trail—a parcel that thousands of Washingtonians use each year to reach alpine wilderness areas and thru-hikers traverse on their way up to the northern terminus at Manning Park. The family trust, the letter said, wanted to sell.

It was good news for the PCTA, a nonprofit that’s been laboring to preserve and protect the 10 percent of the long-distance trail that, surprisingly, still sits in private hands. But the landowner, who remains anonymous, wanted to play hardball. The trust had divvied up the plot, which lies near the popular Stevens Pass ski area, into 16 different parcels, and according to a memo put together by the trust’s real estate adviser, the zoning meant a prospective buyer could build up to 748 dwellings in the pristine Cascade wilderness along the trail. Even more worrying, the letter made clear that the trust was willing to erect a fence across the section of the PCT that crossed its property, bisecting the trail 150 miles short of the border.

“For us, not only was it a big threat they could close the trail,” says Megan Wargo, director of land protection at the PCTA, “but we had done some fieldwork to look at what it would take to reroute the trail. It wasn’t just a simple loop around; it would have taken an extensive reroute to get around some serious topography. It would have had a significant impact on people’s ability to do a thru-hike.” Wargo estimates it would have taken a year to reroute the trail.

The PCT gets severed all the time, usually due to wildfires or the occasional newly discovered endangered species ecosystem on the route. But the threat to the Stevens Pass section of the trail underscores the little-known threat from private developers faced by the PCT and other long-distance trails...

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Saturday, December 2, 2017

How states generate money from the land they own - Full Article

From Arizona to Oregon, states have different tactics to make money off their state trust lands.
Anna V. Smith ANALYSIS Nov. 27, 2017

When Western states joined the Union, the federal government granted them parcels of land in order to provide sustained revenue for public institutions, primarily schools, and to spread democratic ideals in the growing region. Older states, such as California and Oregon, have little acreage left today because they quickly sold off their “trust lands” to generate money — a move that clashed with the federal government’s long-term vision for those lands. So when newer states like Arizona and New Mexico received their trust lands, the federal government, and sometimes the states themselves, placed restrictions on sales, such as minimum prices. Today, these states retain much of their original acreage, and generate money primarily by leasing parcels to developers and the extractive industry. There are 46 million acres of state trust land in the U.S., most of it in the West. Here’s a look at the different approaches Western state take to these lands...

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