The Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (BHA) chapter at Western was recognized by the national BHA organization as October’s Collegiate Club of the Month. It is the first time that the group has received the distinction.
BHA is an international organization that was established in 2004 to help ensure the conservation of public lands by preserving North America’s outdoor heritage of hunting and fishing through education. Western’s student chapter was highlighted for the monthly events they have sponsored throughout the semester to help engage students and members of the Gunnison community with BHA’s mission.
The events included a cleanup of the Lost Canyon Shooting Range where they collected 1,200 pounds of trash and a female-led firearms safety course. The group also hosted Hunting for Sustainability, a weekend-long experience at Timber-to-Table Guide Service in Hotchkiss. Four Western students, two commissioners from Colorado Parks and Wildlife and representatives from Latino Outdoors and Natives Outdoors took part in the event where they were exposed to the importance of ethical and responsible hunting.
Additionally, the group hosted The Bighorn Observation Project on Western’s campus. The presentation featured BHA Southwest Colorado Regional Director Dan Parkinson in conjunction with the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Society. At this free event, the group shared information about bighorn and domestic sheep interactions and encouraged community members to get involved with the club’s citizen science opportunities.
Master in Environmental Management (MEM) student and Gunnison Valley Regional Director of BHA Gabby Zaldumbide has played an integral part in helping to expand the reach of the club.
“I moved [to Gunnison] as a new BHA member knowing that I wanted to get more involved,” Zaldumbide said. “I wanted to be more involved, but it took a while to get things moving.”
“It took until May of this year. I hosted a ‘Learn to Hunt Turkeys’ for Public Lands Day. I decided then that I wanted to do more.”
Do more she did. Zaldumbide was named the director of the Gunnison Valley Regional chapter of BHA and has worked closely with Western’s Collegiate Chapter president Cody Chandler to increase the impact of the group through different community engagement opportunities. She was even profiled in a national BHA article regarding her recruitment efforts.
“Gunnison County is 82% public lands and has a smaller population of folks but people are always outside. They are using public lands all the time and the fact that there wasn’t really a central group that was working specifically for public lands protection and access was kind of shocking to me. There are other efforts on campus to promote public lands, but I wanted to kind of take it to the next level,” Zaldumbide said.
She believes that her time working with this group has enhanced her time as a graduate student at Western.
“Pretty much everything that I want to do but can’t do within the constructs of the MEM program, I just get to do it through BHA. It’s really enriching,” she said.
Students interested in learning more about the work BHA is doing or who would like to join the club are welcome to drop into a meeting—the club meets every other Wednesday at 5 p.m. in Hurst 137. You can also follow the group on Instagram to learn about upcoming events.