Words by Josh Kaywood
As anglers and general outdoorsmen, we are intimately familiar with maps– the tools that guide us to where we are and where we are going. In the days prior to an adventure, we study our maps in search of access points and effective routs to our destinations. As the planning progresses, we become aware of the boundaries, where we can and cannot be — Public vs. Private water.
In my home state of Georgia, access to water and the legality of floating rivers has been a hot button issue since my childhood, often a barrier to a coveted stretch of whitewater or an out-of-reach trout run. If you follow these sorts of things, public land, water and access have been increasingly in the news. The places we love; where we paddle, fish, hunt, mountain bike, hike and camp seem to be under the constant threat of private interests seeking to line their pockets.
In 2004, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (BHA) was formed with the mission to ensure North America’s outdoor heritage of hunting and fishing in a natural setting, through education and work on behalf of wild public lands and waters. BHA is dedicated to preserving public land and water and access to both, which are critical to the sustainability of the sporting way of life.
BHA has 24 chapters covering 35 states and two provinces. In 2016, I had the opportunity to get involved with the Southeastern chapter’s Board. This opportunity did two things:
First, it tied me into a network of hunters and anglers that are out getting after it! To paraphrase author, podcaster, and accomplished outdoorsman Steven Rinella, BHA members are the "huntingest and fishingest folks I know.”
Second, it made me acutely aware of issues and potential threats that sportsmen, specifically anglers, are facing in the region.
This column will focus on public water, land, access, opportunities and the related issues sportsmen need to be aware of. My hope is to serve as an informational hub as well as an inspiration for readers to get out there, explore new areas, to remove yourself from your comfort zone and to get lost in the vast opportunities available to us, as we are all #publiclandowners.
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