Tread Lightly! and its Respected Access Campaign Cited as Vital to Public Lands Management

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Tread Lightly!’s Respected Access is Open Access campaign, created in partnership with the hunting and shooting sports community, was cited by both the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and Wildlife and Hunting Heritage Conservation Council (WHHCC) as being vital to the continued management of recreational shooting on the Sonoran Desert National Monument and other public lands.

Last Friday, BLM announced to the WHHCC its decision to identify suitable areas within the Sonoran to keep open to safe and responsible recreational target shooting. The WHHCC is an official federal advisory committee established with a primary goal to promote and preserve America’s hunting heritage for future generations.  Tread Lightly! and its Respected Access campaign are expected to figure prominently in efforts to educate users of the Sonoran and other public lands on ethical, respectful behavior toward these valuable and fragile public resources.

Tread Lightly!, originally created as a public service campaign by the U.S. Forest Service, transitioned into a nonprofit organization in 1990.  For more than twenty years now, Tread Lightly! and a broad spectrum of public and private partners have been leading a national effort to protect recreation access and opportunities by promoting responsible recreation through ethics education and stewardship initiatives.

“Treading lightly and respecting others and the resource, whether its public or private lands, truly can reduce the burden on land managers and reduce conflicts among various public land users, making it more likely that more public land is open to everyone ,” said Tread Lightly!’s Executive Director Lori McCullough.  “Unethical behavior is not limited to just one segment of the recreation community, rather it is exhibited by a minority within the entire recreation community.  The Respected Access campaign works to prevent specific behaviors like littering and natural resource or property damage across all segments, of the community.”

Early research conducted by the Department of Interior on Tread Lightly! during the creation of the message Respected Access is Open Access concluded that the Respected Access campaign, if implemented properly, should be extremely effective because it focuses on both the outcome of performing the behavior (losing access) and normative pressure (everyone will suffer).

Built on a solid foundation of research, Tread Lightly! created Respected Access as an indispensable tool to reduce the impact of poor behaviors on public lands thereby keeping more land open.

Since the campaign’s official launch in September 2009, Tread Lightly! and its partners have been busy implementing education and outreach strategies while simultaneously ramping up monitoring procedures to evaluate the effectiveness of Respected Access campaign materials and strategic communications. A pilot research project was conducted on the Enoree National Forest in South Carolina shortly after the campaign’s official launch, but programmatic evaluation is about to expand to a grander scale.

Responsive Management has been contracted by Tread Lightly! and partners to develop benchmarks and metrics, then scientifically evaluate through land managers as well as public lands visitors the effectiveness of the campaign.  The entire state of Utah will serve as a site-specific learning laboratory during the next five years where Tread Lightly!, in collaboration with all the public agencies managing lands with Utah, will consistently implement full-fledged, persuasive education and communications strategies while periodic monitoring and evaluation is underway.

New campaign materials coming soon should prove to be especially helpful managing recreation more sustainably on the Sonoran Desert.  Some of the new public service announcements (PSAs) will feature messages from existing PSAs but with new backgrounds – desert backgrounds specifically for BLM managing so many acres of desert lands.  A brand new PSA features a hunter closing a gate with the message “It’s an Open and Shut Case” encouraging all outdoor enthusiasts to leave gates as found or posted.  All PSAs are available for download, free of charge, from our website: www.respectedaccess.org.  Web visitors can also download recreation tips, order decals and find social networking links.

Making recommendations through the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture on policies or programs that foster conservation and ethics within the hunting and shooting sports community is one of the reasons for the very existence of this federal advisory committee. Encouraging partnerships between public agencies and the private sector is also one of the council’s core objectives, and the council’s recommendation to the BLM was just that. Respected Access is Open Access is a true public-private partnership with public agencies including the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service as well as partners from private organizations and industry vested in this young education and outreach campaign.

The campaign was originally made possible by a challenge-cost share agreement from the Forest Service that Tread Lightly! matched with a grant from Yamaha Motor Corporation, U.S.A.  The BLM is also providing long-term assistance.  The National Sports Shooting Foundation, Dallas Safari Club, National Wild Turkey Federation and Boone and Crockett Club have provided additional funding to keep advancing the movement forward.  Given the enormity of the need, the Respected Access campaign must be a long-term alliance of partners consistently and continuously promoting responsible recreation and stewardship through education and outreach.

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