Taking a shot at preserving roadless areas

SUNDAY, MARCH 14, 2010

Taking a shot at preserving roadless areas

Joe Mirasole and Jeff Holmes said they were in their element.

The Spokane County sportsmen had shoved off in a drift boat into a roadless stretch of the Grande Ronde River for a winter day of steelheading with jig-and-bobber rigs.

But they said they’d reel themselves indoors and help staff a booth at the Big Horn Outdoor Adventure Show Thursday-Sunday to promote an organization that stands for a wild outdoor experience.

The Washington chapter of the national Backcountry Hunters and Anglers – a newly organized local group with just two dozen members to date – will be among the dozen or so more familiar sportsmen’s groups greeting show visitors at the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center.

Their mission: establishing a sportsman’s voice for protecting roadless areas and the traditions they uphold.

“Other groups tend to be fractured and fragmented,” said Holmes, who teaches English at Eastern Washington University. “We know, because we belong to them and support them.

But he joined BHA to take a clear shot at one target.

“We don’t advocate for political parties; we have no religious preferences,” Holmes said. “Our ranks are comprised of equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats.”

“We don’t discriminate between fly fishers and bait fishers,” said Mirasole, a firefighter from Elk. “We don’t take a position on wolves. Those are all distractions from the fundamentals of protecting roadless areas for wildlife and for our kids.”

The two sportsmen talked candidly about their organization during a short break after landing several steelhead a long haul from the nearest road.

“We openly support wilderness, but that’s not the only kind of backcountry experience,” Holmes said.

“I’m concerned about the elk in northeastern Washington, and making sure they have habitat and the roadless areas they need for security,” said Mirasole, who hunts with a bow as well as with a rifle.

“And I want to make sure there are places where hunters and fishermen can practice traditional skills without being addicted to ATVs and four-wheel drives.”

The national organization already is active in Washington, D.C., on a nonpartisan basis, Holmes said.

“We see a need for an organized voice in land use issues right here in our region,” he said.

“Sportsmen started the modern conservation movement, yet backpackers and other outdoor groups don’t want anything to do with us. We’re quite misunderstood and we need to change that.”

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