Outdoor Life, Tuesday, announced the winners of the first Open Country Awards. The awards honor individuals and groups who are working to help outdoorsmen face their number one challenge: a lack of places to hunt, fish and recreationally shoot. The honorees who are highlighted in December/January issue of the publication, on newsstands now, will also be recognized at an awards ceremony this January in Las Vegas. For more information, please visit www.outdoorlife.com.
"Access is a big complex issue but there are solutions and the three winners we've selected are perfect examples," said Andrew McKean, editor of Outdoor Life. "Rather just complaining they're actively working to improve the situation for all sportsmen."
Outdoor Life's Open Country Awards are the culmination of a year-long program highlighting volunteer-driven efforts to improve access along with habitat improvements to make existing public lands even better places to hunt and fish. Each issue of Outdoor Life features Open Country coverage complimented online by the magazines' Open Country blog. The goal of the Open Country Program is to substantially increase sportsman's access by promoting people and events that are making a difference. Sponsors of Outdoor Life's Open Country Program include Yamaha and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
OUTDOOR LIFE'S OPEN COUNTRY WINNERS:
State Agency Winner: Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
Faced with dwindling funds, Michigan's DNR was left without enough revenue to maintain the public land it oversees. Rather than restrict access by closing unmaintained public lands and facilities, the agency worked to allow private groups and volunteers to help maintain access and even improve wildlife habitat. With the support of new legislation, the DNR launched its "On-the-Ground" initiative which has been an inspiring success in its first year, completing more than a half a dozen projects across the state and retaining critical access to public lands.
"Michigan certainly isn't alone in its budget challenges," said McKean. "Their approach to the problem, however, is unique and it's a model we hope other states will consider. They'll find no group more willing to help than the hunters and anglers who benefit from the work."
Individual Winner: Katie McCrae, Corvallis, OR
Katie McCrae has helped make her Eugene, Oregon chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation one of the most active grassroots chapters in the nation. Under her leadership the chapter has nearly a dozen projects scheduled in 2013, ranging from native plant restoration to road repair and access enhancement projects in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management.
"Katie is one of those remarkable volunteers who understands what a big difference hunters and anglers can make when we're willing to work to protect the lands we love," said McKean. "She embodies the spirit of the Open Country Program and is an inspiration that we should all aspire to."
Non-Profit Organization Winner: Tread Lightly!, Salt Lake City, UT
With access to millions of acres of federal land hanging in the balance, recreational shooters stand to lose out on a large scale when federal agencies limit activities on those lands. Tread Lightly! is working to retain traditional uses on public land, including safe and responsible recreational shooting. The non-profit group is currently testing a pilot program, an extension of its Respected Access is Open Access program, that protects the rights of recreational shooters on public lands on the Sonoran Dessert National Monument in Arizona. They hope to implement that model of respectful public-land use on a national scale.
"This has the potential to preserve millions of acres for recreational shooters," said McKean. "The program is a great example of shooters working with various groups to find areas of mutual respect and come up with access solutions that work for everyone. We look forward to seeing the program implemented in more areas in the future."
For more on Outdoor Life's Open Country Program, including nomination requirements for the Non-Profit, Individual, Corporate, and State Agency awards, please visit www.outdoorlife.com.
Outdoor Life (outdoorlife.com) is the source for hunting and fishing adventure. Outdoor Life is the go-to print and digital magazine for sportsmen who want to improve their hunting and fishing skills. Lively service pieces loaded with tips and information provide readers with everything they need to know to be successful right now. And while reader service is key, every issue of Outdoor Life also explodes with adventure stories and true tales from the wild. Outdoor Life is published 10 times a year by the Bonnier Corporation. The Bonnier Corporation is one of the largest consumer-publishing groups in America and the leading media company serving passionate, highly engaged audiences through more than 40 special-interest magazines and related multimedia projects and events.