MISSOULA, Mont. – The Backcountry Hunters & Anglers 2015 Rendezvous met recently in Spokane, Wash., enabling BHA members to learn about issues important to North American sportsmen and honor community leaders, all while raising funds for conservation and advancing the BHA mission of sustaining North America’s outdoor heritage.
The energetic weekend gathering drew hundreds of BHA members and supporters from across the United States and Canada who attended seminars, got their hands dirty at a conservation workday and socialized at the first annual Backcountry Brewfest and annual Backcountry Bash, which featured guest speaker Randy Newberg, host of “Fresh Tracks” and “On Your Own Adventures.” In addition, hundreds of thousands more participated in the event virtually through social media, online fundraisers and membership drives. Profits increased by 50 percent from the 2014 Rendezvous, with funds dedicated to support BHA efforts on behalf of North American sportsmen, fish and wildlife.
A highlight of the annual BHA event was the presentation of the group’s top honors to four deserving recipients.
The Ted Trueblood Award, bestowed annually for exceptional communications work informing and inspiring people for the benefit of public land, water and wildlife, was presented to Rich Landers, avid sportsman, book author and longtime outdoors editor of the Spokesman-Review in Spokane.
“I first met Rich on the backcountry prairie that is the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in the middle of Montana,” said BHA Executive Director Land Tawney. “Not only does he enjoy the outdoors behind a dog and over a shotgun, he writes eloquently about why we must conserve the wilds we have left. It’s very appropriate that he receive the Ted Trueblood award, as he edited a piece by Ted when he interned at Field & Stream many years ago. Sportsmen are lucky to have such a dedicated advocate.”
The first-ever Larry Fischer Award, which honors the memory and contributions of a longtime BHA board member, recognizes exceptional dedication by a business to America’s backcountry values and public land and water. First Lite, manufacturer of unparalleled hunting apparel and accessories, received the inaugural award in Spokane.
“During 2014, First Lite contributed significant time, energy and company resources to conservation and America’s sportsmen, including supporting Backcountry Hunters & Anglers,” said Tawney. “First Lite leads by example. It is a company that understands that its bottom line – like the future of America’s hunting and fishing heritage – is closely tied to our wild public lands, waters and wildlife.”
BHA’s Aldo Leopold Award for exceptional work and dedication to conservation and backcountry values, especially the conservation of wildlife habitat, was presented to Montana BHA member Joe Gutkowski of Bozeman.
“Field & Stream magazine once called Gutkowski ‘the toughest man in the West,'” said Tawney. “He has been known to stick a peanut butter sandwich in his pocket and keep on a big bull elk until he has it down, regardless of where the elk takes him. And he has inspired generations of us who grew up in the outdoors and feel the responsibility of being good stewards.”
The George Bird Grinnell Award, given annually to a BHA chapter for outstanding group dedication and teamwork in boots-on-the-ground conservation of America’s backcountry, was presented to BHA’s Colorado state chapter.
“During the past year, the Colorado chapter worked tirelessly to ensure that policy relating to hunting, fishing and public lands protection represents BHA values,” said Tawney. “Colorado BHA members spearheaded a successful effort to ban the use of drones for hunting, developed and successfully implemented guidelines for OHVs and enabled conservation of more than 130,000 acres through designation of the Browns Canyon National Monument and passage of the Hermosa Creek Watershed Protection Act. They exemplify the positive influence of which a BHA state chapter is capable – as well as the power of a committed group of individuals to effect good works in the name of sportsmen and conservation.”
Also at the 2015 Rendezvous, the BHA national board voted in favor of the additions of three new board members, T. Edward Nickens, Mike Schoby and Dan Martel.
The 2016 BHA Rendezvous will take place in Missoula, Mont. Dates and other details will be announced shortly.
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is the sportsmen’s voice for our wild public lands, waters and wildlife