By David A. Lien
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers
Colorado –-(Ammoland.com)- The Colorado chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA) recognized two members, Bill Sustrich and Paul Vertrees, for their sustained contributions to protecting big game habitat in Browns Canyon (a scenic and rugged region between Salida and Buena Vista on the Arkansas River) at their 7th Annual Colorado BHA Chapter Rendezvous (& Browns Canyon National Monument celebration) held June 5-7 2015 in the San Isabel National Forest west of Salida.
Since 2005 Colorado BHA has advocated for (along with multiple other dedicated hunters, anglers, hikers, rafters and conservation groups) the protection of 22,000 acres along the Arkansas River in central Colorado through the protection of Browns Canyon as a National Monument—the designation was made by President Obama on February 19, 2015.
Bill Sustrich, a World War II/U.S. Navy veteran, was born and raised in Pennsylvania coal mine country and started hunting whitetail deer in his early teens, taught by his oldest brother. Bill went on to serve in the Navy as a mine sweeper Gunners Mate during WWII. After an honorable discharge, he moved to Colorado’s high country near Salida and has been there ever since.
Bill says, “I first started hunting Colorado mule deer, then elk. I decided long ago to concentrate on being a meat hunter. No apologies. I decided there was just no way to prepare antlers and make them edible. I raised a family with four youngsters on deer, elk and trout.” Bill’s years of freezer-filling hunting and fishing to feed his family would not have been possible without the quality habitat found in places like Browns Canyon.
And he knows from hard-earned experience that protected public lands are the gold standard for backcountry hunting and angling grounds. “In the simplest terms, without suitable habitat we will have no game; without game, we will have no hunting; without hunting, a precious heritage of our past will be lost forever,” Bill said. Sustrich is also a BHA Life Member and NRA Benefactor.
Paul Vertrees, a 20-year U.S. Army veteran, is a fifth-generation Coloradan who teaches Army Junior ROTC at Cañon City High School and coaches the high school shooting team. In addition, Paul is a senior hunter education instructor for Colorado Parks & Wildlife, serves as a Habitat Watchman for Colorado BHA chapter, and spends his summers guiding for RIGS Flyshop as a professional Tenkara USA guide. Over the years Paul has become intimately familiar with Browns Canyon and the wildlands and wildlife found there.
“As a backcountry hunter, angler, and backpacker, it’s easy for me to recognize Browns for exactly what it is,” Paul says. “A unique 22,000-acre chunk of rugged low-elevation wild land that’s home to a wide variety of wildlife, including mule deer, elk, bighorn sheep, mountain lions, black bears, and a host of small game and fish. The Gold Medal upper Arkansas River serves as its western boundary, is home to brown and rainbow trout, and provides top-notch fishing … Browns is a beautifully wild, special place that deserves permanent protection.”
Paul has spent a lifetime fly fishing, hunting, hiking and backpacking in some of the most wild and rugged public lands anywhere. And thanks to hunters and anglers like Bill, Paul and many other committed outdoorsmen and women, future generations will be able to experience Browns Canyon just as we have.
Colorado BHA chapter chairman David Lien, an Air Force veteran, said: “Thank you Bill and Paul for your tireless work and selfless dedication to protecting wildlands and wildlife in Browns Canyon for future generations of hunters, anglers and others. We need many more like you!”
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is The Sportsman's Voice for Our Wild Public Lands, Waters and Wildlife (www.backcountryhunters.org).
 Paul Vertrees. “Browns deserves protection.” The Mountain Mail (Salida, Colo.): 12/11/14. http://www.backcountryhunters.org/index.php/state-chapters/colorado-bha/co-issues/842-op-ed-browns-canyon-deserves-protection