After a decade of leading one of the most influential grassroots organizations in the outdoors, Land Tawney is stepping away. Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (BHA), a conservation organization headquartered in Missoula, Mont., has been one of the most vocal lobbies in the hunting and fishing space. Its mission is pretty clear:
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers seeks 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, waters, and wildlife.
Mike Beagle, Dick Hentze, Tim Lillebo, James Montieth, Tony Heckard, Michelle Halle, and Brian Maguire formed BHA in 2004. The group of friends founded the group while hanging out at a campfire.
Tawney has been at the helm for the majority of the organization’s existence, taking his seat as president in 2013. His sudden departure is sending more than a few shockwaves. Details on the reason for Tawney’s departure were not immediately available.
“My time at BHA has been the most gratifying of my conservation career,” Tawney said in a press release. “A lot of people think their voice doesn’t count and feel disenfranchised from decisions affecting our public lands, waters and wildlife. Together, the dedicated volunteers, members and staff at BHA have turned that notion on its head. Margaret Mead’s quote couldn’t ring more true: ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.’”
Land Tawney Steps Down: A Decade of Conservation Success
GearJunkie’s staff has worked closely with Tawney over the years. Our former Hunt & Fish Editor, Nicole Qualtieri, worked for BHA at its headquarters in Montana.
I have spent some time on the board of the MT Chapter. I’ve seen, firsthand, Land’s dedication to the wild spaces BHA has promised to protect. I’ve ridden through some of the controversies the org has faced as well as been party to the successes.
Under Tawney’s leadership, BHA has achieved some notable policy victories. These include securing permanent reauthorization and full funding for the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, implementing a ban on drones for hunting and scouting across much of North America; thwarting various ill-conceived attempts to sell, transfer, or privatize public lands and waters; safeguarding the long-term conservation of the Boundary Waters Wilderness; and recently, protecting public access through corner crossing in Wyoming.
Also on Tawney’s watch, BHA established several essential programs, including the Armed Forces Initiative, Collegiate Club, and Hunting for Sustainability.
The Search for a New Leader Begins
With a politically diverse membership, BHA maintains a youthful demographic, with 63% of its members aged 45 and younger, and nearly equal representation among Republicans, Democrats, and Independents.
BHA lauded Tawney’s tenure in a press release today:
“Over the course of Tawney’s tenure, BHA vaulted from a small, volunteer-based, Western-centric organization with less than a thousand members to a North American-wide influential powerhouse with chapters in 48 states, Washington, D.C., two Canadian provinces and one Canadian territory. With an engaged community of more than half a million members, supporters and partners and 30-plus staff, BHA is impacting policy from a local to federal level, playing an increasing role in the stewardship of North America’s public lands and waters, winning fights for conservation and access, and creating a ‘big tent’ gathering point for outdoorsmen and women of all stripes.”
The BHA board of directors is in the planning phases of finding Tawney’s replacement. BHA vice president of policy and government relations John Gale and vice president of operations Frankie McBurney Olson will be sharing the responsibilities of that role in the interim.