Whit Fosburgh

July 10, 2012

Sportsmen and the Farm Bill: A Match Made in Heaven

Iowa Barn
Photo by Scott Bauer/USDA.

Not long ago, I was graphically reminded of the critical importance of the Farm Bill to conservation of privately owned lands in the American West.

A map of our federal lands I saw during a presentation depicted the western half of the country largely in various shades of green, showing public ownership in one form or another. Lands east of the Great Plains, however, remained largely devoid of color, indicating areas under private ownership. I realized that here – on these lands that provide key habitat to fish and wildlife species prized by sportsmen, offer unmatched outdoor recreational opportunities and feed the world – the Farm Bill’s central role in our sporting heritage becomes paramount.

The current Farm Bill expires on Sept. 30, 2012. In its present iteration, the bill has assisted farmers and landowners in conserving millions of acres of fish and wildlife habitat and making improvements to farming operation that have reduced soil erosion and nutrient runoff. If the bill is allowed to expire, private lands conservation in this country may come to a screeching halt.

By keeping nutrients and topsoil out of streams and rivers, Farm Bill conservation programs reduce the need for costly, often ineffective, water quality mitigation efforts. By conserving and restoring wetlands, these also can help reduce the impacts of downstream flooding as well as restore groundwater aquifers.

In places like the Chesapeake Bay and in Montana and Wyoming, Farm Bill programs help farmers reduce their potential regulatory burden. The Chesapeake Bay watershed initiative incentivizes farmers to reduce their nitrogen runoff to improve the health of the nation’s largest estuary, and the sage grouse initiative in the Inter-Mountain West assists ranchers in keeping this iconic bird off the endangered species list. As these conservation goals are met, farmers, ranchers and landowners can focus on making a living and not on the threat of new or expanding regulations.

For sportsmen, the list of benefits we derive from the Farm Bill is a long one. The bill’s conservation programs restore and conserve habitat for a litany of waterfowl and upland game birds, and the Voluntary Public Access program is the only federal program aimed at increasing public access to private lands for hunting and angling, thereby enhancing the quality of our days afield.

Learn more about Farm Bill programs.

Watch an episode of “TRCP’s Conservation Field Notes” in which Steven Rinella discusses key benefits of the Farm Bill.

2 Responses to “Sportsmen and the Farm Bill: A Match Made in Heaven”

  1. […] “In places like the Chesapeake Bay and in Montana and Wyoming, Farm Bill programs help farmers reduce their potential regulatory burden. The Chesapeake Bay watershed initiative incentivizes farmers to reduce their nitrogen runoff to improve the health of the nation’s largest estuary, and the sage grouse initiative in the Inter-Mountain West assists ranchers in keeping this iconic bird off the endangered species list. As these conservation goals are met, farmers, ranchers and landowners can focus on making a living and not on the threat of new or expanding regulations,” according to the TRCP. […]

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Whit Fosburgh

July 2, 2012

Sportsmen to Congress: ‘Our Jobs Count, Too’

US Capitol
Photo courtesy NPS.gov.

When “jobs, jobs, jobs” seems to be the refrain coming from the halls of Congress, you’d think these elected officials would embrace the economic importance of our nation’s conservation programs. Unfortunately, the House of Representatives proved last week that it is not ready to give these programs the respect they deserve.

Funding levels and policy riders approved by the House Appropriations Committee in its fiscal year 2013 Interior appropriations bill would slash operating budgets for agencies like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Numerous programs critically important to the sportsmen’s community, such as the North American Wetlands Conservation Act and the Land and Water Conservation Fund, face deep cuts and damaging impacts from policy riders in the bill. State and tribal wildlife grants, which support cooperative projects with states and private landowners to keep species from being listed under the Endangered Species Act, would be cut by 50 percent.

If the proposed cuts – including a $50 million reduction for the National Wildlife Refuge System – advance, look for major layoffs of biologists and law enforcement personnel, closures of visitor centers and reductions in such activities as managed hunts.

Ironically, the committee’s action comes on the heels of a report by the Outdoor Industry Association that documents the substantial economic contributions of hunting, fishing and other forms of outdoor recreation. The report shows that outdoor recreation in the United States is big business, to the tune of $646 billion in direct consumer spending, $39.9 billion in federal tax revenue and $39.7 billion in state/local tax revenue each year.

Our recreation economy creates 6.1 million American jobs that cannot be exported overseas. Unfortunately, these facts were lost on members of the House Appropriations Committee, as it cut the very programs upon which the recreation economy depends.

While sportsmen are willing to help shoulder our share of the nation’s economic burdens, the fact remains that conservation programs did not create the budget deficit, and slashing conservation funding cannot solve the problem. As a percentage of federal spending, conservation has decreased from about 2.5 percent in the 1970s to about 1.25 percent today.

Congress could eliminate every conservation program and barely make a dent in the deficit. Moreover, as all of us who work on conservation projects in our communities know, every dollar of federal funds is leveraged several times over by state and private funds as well as volunteer labor.

The House can and must do better. All sportsmen need to make their voices heard: Conservation is a fundamental part of what makes America great, and it is central to our economy. Congress ignores this at its own peril.

Sign up to receive action alerts on these important issues and consider supporting our work on behalf of your sporting heritage.

Whit Fosburgh

A Win for Wild Sheep

Bighorns on John Day
The removal of the rider marks a victory for wild sheep and a win for good science. Photo courtesy of Mia Sheppard.

Common sense and the best interests of Western wildlife prevailed last week when Representative Mike Simpson withdrew his policy rider to the House appropriations bill for interior, environment and related agencies. The amendment would have prevented the implementation of a management plan in the Payette National Forest in Idaho that would separate bighorn sheep from domestic sheep grazing on public lands.

Keeping the two species apart is critical in the effort to prevent the transmission of a fatal respiratory disease from domestic sheep and goats to bighorn sheep. The respiratory disease has devastated populations of bighorn sheep throughout the West.

Not only was the removal of the rider a victory for wild sheep, it was a win for science-based policy and the consensus on grazing that’s been forged between wildlife professionals, range managers and the hunting community.

The TRCP,  Wild Sheep Foundation, Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies and others look forward to working with Representative Simpson and others to conserve wild sheep in Idaho and other western states.

Learn more about the issue on WAFWA’s website.

Steven Rinella, host of “MeatEater” addressed issues with exotic and invasive species in a recent episode of “TRCP’s Conservation Field Notes.

Whit Fosburgh

June 25, 2012

Welcome to the TRCP Blog

Whit FosburghWe live in a world where we can obtain breaking news by simply looking at a smartphone or firing up a computer. Most of us want to spend our free time afield or on the water – enjoying the outdoors with our families and friends – and not reading headlines.

As president and CEO of the TRCP, I understand the sheer volume of information competing for attention in your mailboxes, inboxes and online. In an effort to respect your time while ensuring you remain up to date on issues affecting hunting and angling, fish and wildlife, and national conservation policy, the TRCP is launching a brand-new email newsletter.

I am pleased to introduce “The Roosevelt Report.” In the spirit of T.R. himself, our new offering pulls no punches and delivers you the most current, most compelling news central to our outdoor traditions. The new layout is streamlined and concise, serving up the latest in policy news of interest to the sportsman-conservation community and complemented by an engaging mix of old and new features – “T.R.ivia,” Featured Conservationist interviews and more.

We look forward to bringing you an in-depth look at conservation and natural resources policy with this weekly newsletter.  These “insider reports” not only will be delivered to your inbox on a weekly basis but will be a headline component of the new, stand-alone TRCP blog which will include engaging stories, entertaining highlights, giveaways and more.

As always, we are proud to feature the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt in both our online efforts and our efforts in the public policy arena. I invite you to explore the “TRCP Blog” and “The Roosevelt Report” and drop us a line with your ideas or input.

Thanks for reading, for your commitment to our outdoors legacy and for your dedication to our goal of “guaranteeing you a place to hunt and fish.” As always, we appreciate your support!

Whit Fosburgh

May 31, 2012

Conservation Finds Renewed Importance in Dire Economic Straits

“Conservation is a luxury we simply can’t afford.”  This is what sportsmen and women were told in 2011 as the House of Representatives passed a budget that eliminated or eviscerated almost every major conservation program, from wetlands conservation and public lands management funding to the Open Fields program that encourages landowners to open their lands to public hunting and fishing.

Finally, anti-conservation members of Congress had their excuse to attack programs that they had never liked, programs they believe thwart the full development of our natural resources. A slew of “riders” unrelated to the budget proved that this was more about ideology than deficit reduction.

But faced with giving up a century of conservation progress, hunters and anglers came together and reached out to the outdoor recreation and historic preservation communities to make the case that conservation is not a luxury; it is fundamental to what makes America great and it provides jobs.  The coalition, called America’s Voice for Conservation, Recreation and Preservation, now boasts more than 1,200 groups, including many of our partners.

It released a comprehensive economic study that showed hunting and fishing, other outdoor recreation, and historic preservation support 9.4 million American jobs, result in $1.06 trillion in annual economic impact and generate $107 billion annually in tax revenue. And these are jobs that cannot be exported.

It’s also important to note that conservation did not create the budget deficit and it cannot solve the problem.  As a percentage of federal spending, conservation has decreased from about 2.5 percent in the 1970 to about 1.26 percent today.

You could eliminate every conservation program and barely make a dent in the deficit.  Moreover, as everyone who has ever worked on a local conservation project knows, every dollar of federal funds is leveraged several times over by state and private funds and volunteer labor.

I am pleased to report that common sense finally ruled the day and the Senate reinstated about $1.8 billion in conservation funds in the final budget agreement.  But the House is now poised to repeat history by passing a bill almost identical to its 2011 disaster.

Once again it is time for sportsmen and women of all stripes to speak up for what Theodore Roosevelt called the common man’s birthright.

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