Monday, January 30th, 2023
Monday, January 30th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

NABF: three years old and growing

The North American Bear Foundation is a new kid on the block as
far as conservation groups go, but that doesn’t mean it’s short on
members or large-scale plans.

Almost three years old, the NABF already has more than 1,000
members but wants upwards of 4,000 members by next spring. It also
has plans for a national bear center and museum located in

NABF’s mission is to promote public awareness, educate, and
advocate for sound management of natural resources not just for
bears, but for all wildlife.

“We are not an organization that is so narrow that we only
advocate the side of what’s best for our certain interest,” said
NABF CEO Brian Bachman. “If it’s good for bears, we’ll support it
as long as it’s good for the rest of our natural resources as well.
If it’s good for the majority of natural resources but not good for
bears, we won’t fight it.”

Example: the current debate in Minnesota over whether or not to
allow bear hunting with hounds.

“We are not going to take an official stand on this issue
because we support all legal forms of hunting,” Bachman said. “If
the state decides it’s important, then we’ll support it. It makes
no sense to take sides because it only divides our membership and
the community, which is exactly what anti-hunters want.”

The NABF is not only committed to bears, but is committed to the
preservation of hunting. All NABF members share a strong belief in
America’s hunting heritage, said NABF Vice President of Field
Operations Tom Katt.

Both Bachman and Katt are avid bear hunters and work throughout
the country promoting the NABF. Katt is one of the original
founders of WE Fest, and he’s the master of ceremonies each year at
the event, which draws more than 150,000 people.

“It’s one of the many places where I talk to people about bears
and the NABF,” Katt said.

As a national organization, NABF worked to halt a law that
banned bear hunting in New Jersey. As a continental organization,
NABF tried to stop a law that banned the spring bear hunt in
Ontario. Neither measure was defeated, and it only goes to show the
power of the anti-hunting lobby, Katt said.

“The anti-hunting groups have a lot of money to misinform the
public, and that’s exactly what they did,” he said.

The primary goal of the NABF is education, and Katt believes
that today, hunting and conservation laws are largely being decided
by the uninformed general public.

“That’s not an insult but a fact. As long as the public is going
to be called upon to decide these issues, they need to be educated
and we see that as our mission,” Katt said.

NABF is a national non-profit organization, which allows it to
form chapters around the country. Already, NABF has 20 chapters in
Minnesota and is finalizing the foundation of several in

“We have a lot of interested people around the country,
especially in the five-state area,” Katt said.

New members are recruited to NABF through banquets around the
state as well as by word of mouth from other members. Most banquets
are held in late-winter and early fall around the region.

“Last year we had about 30 banquets throughout Minnesota,
Wisconsin, and North Dakota,” Katt said. “We have a huge list of
other cities that are interested in having us.”

Bachman said each banquet generates another 150 members, but he
anticipates more as word gets out. “People who are into bears don’t
always know about us until they hear about us from a friend or come
to one of our events,” he said.

A new chapter is formed once an area has enough members to form
a committee of 10 in addition to a chapter president, vice
president, and treasurer. Recruiting new members and chapters is
crucial to the NABF right now, Bachman said, because all of NABF’s
funding comes from members.

NABF has a 10-member board of directors that oversees operations
of the organization.

“We have a great board of directors, many of whom are heavy
hitters and really have a great vision for the NABF,” Katt

The NABF and its members are working to obtain outside funding
for a national bear center, which also will house NABF
headquarters. It is examining several different sites around
Brainerd. The bear center’s primary mission would coincide with
NABF’s mission of educating the


“We want to be able to get groups of people in their like
hunters, as well as school children so they can learn about
subjects like natural history, management, environmental issues,
and safety in the outdoors,” Katt said.

The center also would house a museum, which would focus on the
bears of North America, their natural history, environment and
interactions with their surroundings. A live animal exhibit is also
in the plans.

There will be large roaming pens with the bears placed in
natural settings allowing people to drive through to view them.
Even though bears hibernate in the winter, there would still be a
unique way to view them, Katt said.

“We are going to have a culvert system with a bear den where you
can walk through a glass tunnel and see bears hibernating, see the
birth of bear cubs, and see bears in a setting very few people ever
get to see,” Katt said.

The biggest hold-up in the construction of such a building is
adequate funding.

“We are going to go to the state and try to get some money
through the LCMR process,” Bachman said. “This does not mean that
we want the state to pay for it. We also are working with several
major corporations to secure support.”

The current national headquarters is located in Fort Ripley,
just south of Brainerd. The NABF has a webpage at and
can be contacted via e-mail at or by phone at (218)

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