Montana hunters and anglers lost another giant in conservation at the end of December with the passing of Jack Atcheson, Sr. Atcheson, 85, passed away December 27 in his hometown, Butte America.
Atcheson is well-known around the world as a hunting consultant. But Montana sportsmen and sportswomen remember him as a tireless advocate for wildlife, habitat protection and especially for public access to public land.
Jack was instrumental in the effort to gain hunting access to state school trust lands. His work started in the late 1970s, when he and several friends were bird hunting along the Milk River on state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation land. They had the private lessee of the public land drive up and yell at them to get off “his” land. This experience launched a movement to gain the ability to hunt, fish and recreate on state lands.
That fledgling effort led to the formation of a coalition to gain public access to state trust lands, and later to another effort to pave the way for Montana’s stream access law – the best in the nation. The work of Jack and other activists became the genesis of the Public Land/Water Access Association, the leading organization in the state working to ensure the ability to get to public land.
Atcheson was outspoken, passionate and opinionated. But he always did things with the best interest of wildlife – and the hunters and anglers who loved it – in mind. He had a saying that is still used today, “Go hunting while you can, you’re going to run out of health before you run out of money.”
Jack will be sorely missed by Montana’s sporting community, but he will never be forgotten. Montana, our wildlife, and our sporting traditions are better off because of Atcheson. He was and will always be a giant in conservation circles.
Nick Gevock is the conservation director for the Montana Wildlife Federation.