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Serving Veterans on the Public Lands

For our veterans returning from service to their country, the public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management can provide not only a wide variety of recreational activities, but also an opportunity to enhance physical and emotional well-being while connecting with the lands they fought to protect.  For many veterans, the BLM lands have a true healing effect.

The BLM honors the men and women of the military who have served and sacrificed for our country.  The BLM believes that these men and women possess special leadership skills that would greatly benefit the agency across all of its programs.    

On this page, we will share stories of veterans who have found solace, rejuvenation, and a sense of adventure on the BLM-managed lands.  We will also share stories of BLM military veterans who have found successful careers at the BLM.  If you have a story for us to share here and on our Facebook page, please email us at veterans@blm.gov .

 

  Featured Veteran: Stacy Bare

Stacy Bare, National Military and Veterans Representative, Sierra Club

As a veteran, I have not only experienced the healing powers of the public lands first hand, but have been lucky enough to hear others tell me about their experiences.  The first testimony was a powerful one, as it happened somewhat in reverse.  In a discussion with a representative of the National Conservation Organization, while I explaining to him why they needed to work with us on the military outdoors issue he said, "One of the highest levels and expressions of freedom is using our public lands. I may not be a rich man, but I have access to desert, to tundra, to forests, to mountains, rivers, seaside, and lakes. Thanks for protecting that." This simple act of thanks, connected to a specific reason why to say thank you to a veteran made a strong impact on my land ethos. It was especially powerful as it had come only a few months after a training hike for Longs Peak with several veterans and active duty Marines.
 
At the foot of the trail that would take us to Arapahoe Pass in Colorado, an Active Duty Marine who had served two tours in Afghanistan and grew up in Denver, not more than two and a half hours from the trail head, approached me before the hike, and grabbing my shirt near my collar, he said, almost angrily:
 
“I don’t want to hear any thing about the environment, and I don’t want to hear any thing about healing. I just want to hike!”
 
I smiled and off we went. Several hours later, overlooking Arapahoe Pass on a windy but sunny Colorado day, the same Marine turned to me after looking out on the vista high in the mountains and said, “This is what we fought for.”
 
Indeed, we fought not just for an ideal, but for the land, for the sea; not just people, but place.  I could go on for hours about concepts like Wilderness Diplomacy, how critical and fundamental time outdoors is to the integration of our veteran population, how it can lead to healing, etc., but for now I’ll leave this story at its rest.


The BLM Provides:

Partnerships: The BLM engages in partnerships with outfitters, guides, and non-profit organizations or adaptive recreation providers that expand opportunities and provide services.  These partnerships focus on working with service providers to help groups or individuals activelyparticipate in recreational activities on the public lands. 

Accessibility: In addition, BLM has and continues to enhance accessible facilities for camping, hiking, picnicking, biking, off-highway vehicle (OHV) rides, rivers or lake access and infrastructure that support a multitude of other activities.  To read more about our accessibility program, click here.

Employment: Through partnerships with programs like the Wounded Warrior project the Feds Hire Vets initiative, the BLM is committed to providing veterans the opportunity to start their next careers on the very public lands they are committed to preserving.  Click here for more information.


The Science Behind the Healing

Summary of  Effectiveness of Adaptive Outdoor Sports Therapy (Rivers of Recovery)
By: Elizabeth Vella, PhD, University of Southern Maine, 2010

Psychological Symptoms

Improvement 
Perceptual Stress19% 
PTSD Symptoms19%
Sleep Quality11%
Brief Symptom Inventory35% 
Somatic Stress28%
Depression44%
Anxiety31%
Reduction in Guilt14%
Reduction in Hostility16%
Reduction in Fear15%
Reduction in Sadness17%
Reduction in Neg. Affect14%


Featured Event:

SSgt Mike Henrie holds up a salmon caught while flyfishing during Project Healing Waters.  Photo provided by SSgt Henrie

Glennallen, Alaska: On August 26-28, the BLM-AK Glennallen Field Office partnered with Project Healing Waters, Fly Fishing, to host a fishing trip to the Delta Wild and Scenic River.  Project Healing Waters is a national nonprofit organization that organizes fly fishing outings to help physically and emotionally rehabilitate wounded soldiers and veterans and their families. The project teaches injured vets and soldiers and their families the healing powers of flyfishing and being on the water in the great outdoors.


Other Activities:

Wyoming (Rawlins FO) allows hunting access for hunters with special needs.  Hunter can receive a permit to travel cross-country on BLM only after they have received a disabled hunter permit from WG&F.

Montana (Missoula Field Office) offers access to disabled hunters behind a locked gate. Allows disabled persons special vehicle access to retrieve game and access off-road to areas closed seasonally to the general public during hunting season are considered on a case by case basis

Colorado (Little Snake FO) issues outfitter permits for big game hunts and makes special arrangements for disadvantaged, disabled or veteran hunters. 

Click here to learn about other accessible opportunities for military veterans and their families.


Partnership with DS/USA

Disabled Sports USA LogoThe BLM is working with DS/USA to improve recreation opportunities for disabled veterans. more>

The Joining Forces Initiative

Joining Forces logoThe BLM is joining forces with the White House to serve America's military families. more>

Veteran Careers at the BLM

FedsHireVets logoThe BLM provides new careers for America's veterans on the National System of Public Lands.
more>