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posted in: Policy Updates

August 14, 2012

Sportsmen and Climate Change: A Long, Hard Look at Reality

Hunter Crossing River by Dusan Smetana
Science has made it abundantly clear that climate change is real, and it already is affecting our natural resources, fish and wildlife and outdoor opportunities. Photo by Dusan Smetana.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the United States writhes in one of the driest and hottest summers in history, with nearly two-thirds of the lower 48 states experiencing some form of drought, millions of Americans (including farmers and ranchers) are struggling from the resulting loss of income and higher prices for food and fuel.  Other recent disturbing news illustrates the practical implications this weather event can have on fish and wildlife. Millions of fish – sturgeon, large- and smallmouth bass, channel catfish and other species – are dying in the Midwest as water temperatures skyrocket to as high as 100 degrees.

What is clear:  both the human toll and the impacts to fish and wildlife caused by a changing climate and warmer temperatures have real consequences and cannot be ignored.

A new NASA report states that climate change is responsible for recent extreme weather events and that the probability of unusually warm summers has greatly increased. Now, Dr. Richard A. Muller, a physicist known for his staunch denial of global warming, has concluded that global warming is in fact real, with human production of carbon dioxide causing the world to slowly warm.

“I’m personally very worried,” says Dr. Muller. “I personally suspect that it will be bad.”

Of course, many continue to refute the science underlying climate change and indict the majority of scientists who accept its existence for promulgating a political agenda. In my opinion, as the TRCP’s climate change initiative manager, these individuals are simply resistant to accepting the reality of what science has made abundantly clear: climate change is real, and it already is affecting our natural resources, fish and wildlife and outdoor opportunities.

I recently wrote a guest article in The Seattle Times arguing that to develop an effective approach to addressing climate change, we cannot rely solely on public opinion polls. We must pay attention to those who are “voting with their feet” – the fish and wildlife that cannot debate habitability in the public square and must adapt to or migrate from changing habitat or die.

At the TRCP, we accept the growing evidence that climate change is real and that changes go well beyond disturbances driven by entirely natural forces. We regularly consult with fish and wildlife biologists in state and federal agencies throughout the United States on the habits, distribution and abundance of fish and wildlife.

The facts leave no doubt that climate change is undeniable. Here are a few examples:

  • Even before this year’s Midwestern fish kills from hot water, smallmouth bass have been migrating upstream nearly 40 miles in the warming Yellowstone River, displacing Yellowstone cutthroat that require colder water.
  • Warming winters and summers have led to an explosion in mountain pine beetle infestations over millions of acres in many Western pine forests, causing a dramatic conversion of forest cover to grass and shrub meadows in elk habitat. This leads to changes in elk populations and distribution during hunting seasons.
  • In a direct response to warmer springs and summers and elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, invasive cheatgrass has out-competed sagebrush and native grasses and shrubs throughout 100 million acres of the sagebrush steppe in the West, leading to decreased mule deer and greater sage-grouse habitat and populations, as well as diminished hunting opportunities.

What is the TRCP doing now? We are actively working to inform, educate and mobilize sportsmen by reporting timely data from state fish and wildlife agencies and federal land management agencies. Our state-specific presentations highlight the implications of a changing environment on fish and wildlife and the consequences for sustainable hunting and fishing. We’ve developed presentations for Montana, Washington and Colorado – with Oregon and New Mexico in the works.

Rather than debating specific points of air temperature or carbon dioxide data, the TRCP focuses on the cascading effects of a changing climate in the biological world, including impacts to species of fish and game most important to sportsmen. We highlight on-the-ground projects that help fish and wildlife adapt to a changing environment.

We are taking these state-specific presentations directly to sportsmen-based clubs throughout the West with the goal of providing factual evidence on climate change. Take five minutes to watch the video below and draw your own conclusions.

14 Responses to “Sportsmen and Climate Change: A Long, Hard Look at Reality”

  1. Give me a break, Climate change is real of course but it is not man made or from the release of that toxic gas carbon dioxide that we all exhale. This is just more alarmism designed to cause fear and to get support for a dubious cause. If the planet is warming slightly thank god because I really don’t want glaciers in NYC like there were during the ice age.

    Maybe you can convince me of the dangers of plate tectonics which would cause untold catastrophe across the globe, maybe we can try and anchor our continents now.

    The plain fact is that earth’s climate is always changing and always will and humans will eventually get wiped out by some event most likely not man made barring nuclear war. If yellowstone erupts I don’t think you will have to worry about global warming for awhile at least until we will be able to see the sun again.

    Too bad your organization wants to get political about everything, that must be the marching orders from PEW who pull your strings.

    • Bill Geer

      Thanks for offering your opinion and for following the TRCP Blog. Our blog post on Climate Change informs folks on recent events and highlights some of the things we are doing to help educate sportsmen about the affects it has of fish and wildlife. As you can see, we encourage sportsmen to ‘draw their own conclusions’.

      It seems that you yourself acknowledge that climate change is occurring. Putting aside debate around any one cause for climate change, if we know it is happening then it is only responsible that we as sportsmen work with state agencies and others to help them adapt their management approaches of our fish and wildlife. Doing so will help keep the critters we love to hunt and the fish we love to catch around for a long time to come.

    • Dave Stalling

      Toner: There is definitive, conclusive and overwhelming and unanimous consensus among scientists all over the world showing a very clear link between current, rapidly-occurring climate change and its link to the emissions of C02 and other greenhouse gasses. Even one of the most previously skeptical of scientists, Dr. Richard Muller (funded by the Koch brothers) has concluded that climate change is indeed being caused by humans. This diverse and worldwide scientific community is hardly “united” in causes and political agendas, other than a desire to reduce C02 emissions. For the most part, the only significant disagreement with this diverse, worldwide scientific consensus is perpetuated by inaccurate, misleading propaganda produced and distributed by the Heartland Institute and the Koch brothers for their dubious political causes. But regardless of whether you want to believe most of the world’s top scientists or a wealthy, ultra-conservative U.S. think tank with a political agenda, the “dubious” cause you refer to is to simply reduce our addiction to and dependence on fossil fuels, reduce our release of toxic pollutants, and develop cleaner, safer, healthier, more sustainable sources of energy. That hardly seems like a bad thing, no?

    • Sidney Wagner

      Toner,
      I agree with you completely.
      During the Little ice Age, 1500 AD to 1850 AD, crops would fail, thousands of poor people starved to death, and superstitious people began to ask why? The tongues would wag and thousands of witches were burned at the stake.
      Today we have the “educated class” and bureaucrats who wish to control and tax us into servitude with these tall tales of impending disaster due to a a trace gas in the atmosphere called CO 2.
      CO 2 is necessary for all the life on earth. Increased CO 2 equals abundant crops.
      Water vapor is responsible for 98% of the temperature stability of the atmosphere.

    • BarryvilleCastNBlast

      Toner,
      Did you take a look at the organizations on the Climate Change working group along with the TRCP?
      American Fisheries Society
      American Fly Fishing Trade Association
      American Sportfishing Association
      Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies
      BASS/ESPN Outdoors
      Coastal Conservation Association
      Ducks Unlimited
      Izaak Walton League of America
      Land Trust Alliance
      Mule Deer Foundation
      The Nature Conservancy
      New York State Conservation Council, Inc.
      Pheasants Forever
      Quail Unlimited
      The Wildlife Society
      Trout Unlimited
      Wildlife Management Institute

      That’s a pretty respectable group right there that all realize that climate change poses a serious threat to the future of hunting and fishing.

  2. Dave Stalling

    A well-stated, informative and important message! It’s good to see a hunter and angler-based group take on this critical issue — Theodore Roosevelt would be proud! Thanks TRCP and Bill Geer!

  3. Very interesting article on climate change. Even though there’s debate as to what is causing the climate to change, it is clear that change is occuring. What effect this will have on the numbers and migration of wildlife is unclear.

    • JohnD @20, perhaps part of the anwesr is for the scientists and journos to collate and publish all the abusive arguments from the skeptics ? Just as Clive Hamilton is indeed doing in his article.The quality of these arguments is so very poor that, subjected to broad daylight, it will surely be seen by most people for what it is? Even by people who are very time-poor, and inclined to accept the general tone of what they read in the media or see on TV, rather than checking the data for themselves.The scientists who are the subject of these attacks need to coordinate and compile a dossier of all the attacks, and publish the lot of it. It will make ugly reading, no doubt.Most people are reasonable human beings, and they will probably come to the appropriate conclusions

  4. The fact is that the earth is in a warming cycle. The question remains what is the normal temperature. Fossilized evidence shows that the Dakotas and New England had tropical environments before the cataclysmic event that caused the ice age. Long before man and the industrial revolution ,the ice cap was receding or in other words melting. As far as I know the sun is as hot as it has been, and the same distance from earth as it has been. When you put an ice cube under a heat lamp it mellts. When the glacial mass was large, it had a cooling effect on the earth and its climate, as the size of this cooling mass decreases it has less cooling capacity to offset the suns heat. The smaller it gets the more the earths average temperature will rise, the faster the temp rises the quicker the ice cap melts. What we are seeing now is an exponential increase in the cycle of melting and increasing temperatures. The point is, the earth will continue to warm at an increased rate as the ice caps melt until the earths climate is at the “normal temperature” before the last ice age. This should be easily calculated when the suns heat, distance to the sun and all the other physics are calculated in. I have not seen or heard any calculation as to what the temp was before the ice age or what it should be after all the ice melts. This makes me highly suspicious that the mantra of never let a good crisis go to waste is in full play when it comes to manipulating energy usage and cost through programs like capand trade. All that needs to be asked is who owns the carbon credits to sell, and who will be getting rich from the brokerage of these credits. The answer is the people that are pushing the global warming agenda, the current administration and its cronies . People like Franklin Raines (who walked away from Fannie mae and Freddie mac with 90 million dollars, and we all know how that turned out, Goldman sacs who seem to always be stretching the boundaries of ethics with derivatives, hedge funds etc. Pelosi who has invested heavily in new energy start ups, etc. The trcp should focus on the inevitable warming of the climate and what impact it will have on ecosystems, not jump on the bandwagon of “green energy’ as if it will change the outcome on global warming.

  5. BarryvilleCastNBlast

    Thank you TRCP for shedding some light on the climate change issue. I don’t quite understand how people get so defensive and angry over the darn issue. Guess that’s politics for ya. In any case- this is an issue sportsmen should be following closely. Keep up the good work.

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Nick Payne

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posted in: Policy Updates

August 6, 2012

A Colorado Sportsman’s Perspective on the State’s New Roadless Rule

Native Trout
The Colorado roadless rule keeps some of the state’s last remaining intact public lands accessible to sportsmen and other citizens. Photo by Nick Payne.

Following numerous revisions and several years of debate, a management plan for Colorado’s 4.2 million acres of roadless national forest backcountry has been published in the federal register, cementing it as the law of the land until another politician or judge sweeps through with enough momentum or gusto for reform.

Considered in the context of the 10th Circuit Court’s recent decision to uphold the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule, the finalization of the Colorado rule – and the importance of maintaining a high standard for backcountry lands in the state – is undeniably clear.

The Colorado roadless rule maintains that standard by including roughly 30 percent, or 1.2 million acres of backcountry, under a higher level of safeguards (i.e., “upper tier” areas) from unneeded development. While the rule keeps these areas intact, it also allows some backcountry lands to be developed for coal mining and ski area expansion. It also allows tree-cutting and some road building in backcountry lands located within 1.5 miles of communities recognized as at risk for wildfires. Colorado’s remaining backcountry areas are managed in a similar fashion to the 2001 rule.

Sportsmen were a consistent, engaged and reasonable presence throughout the multi-year rule-making process. Recommendations from members of our community helped result in the final Colorado rule being a common-sense management tool able to assure conservation of some of the state’s best hunting and fishing grounds and most valuable fish and wildlife habitat. The state of Colorado and the U.S. Forest Service likewise deserve recognition for their efforts to refine and improve the plan for the benefit of Colorado’s backcountry traditions.

As someone who enjoys backcountry hunting and fishing throughout the state and who is well-acquainted with both the Colorado and national rules, I can celebrate the fact that much of Colorado’s most important national forest lands will remain intact and accessible for hunters and anglers into the foreseeable future.

Data from the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife demonstrates that more than 900,000 acres of lands designated as “upper tier” under the new rule provide extremely important habitat for much of Colorado’s bedrock fish and wildlife, including cutthroat and other wild trout species, elk, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, grouse and bighorn sheep.

Backcountry roadless areas are lands already largely devoid of roads and other development. Daily, they are becoming rarer and rarer. The Colorado roadless rule does not close any existing roads or trails. Instead, it keeps some of the state’s last remaining intact public lands intact and accessible to sportsmen and other citizens. That equals thousands of acres that I know I can depend on for a true backcountry experience, and that’s huge in my world.

Whit Fosburgh

July 31, 2012

The Silence of the Lambs

Bighorn lambs
A single truck accident wiped out one-third of the bighorn lambs in the lower Rock Creek drainage. Photo by Neil Thagard.

If you’ve ever doubted the fragility of our nation’s wildlife resources, a recent incident in western Montana will erase those doubts. A single truck accident wiped out one-third of the bighorn lambs in the lower Rock Creek drainage, the Missoulian reported.

This accident is particularly devastating given that the wild sheep in Rock Creek and across the West already was hammered by an outbreak of pneumonia, which is transmitted to bighorns by domestic sheep and goats. In addition to the wild sheep deaths directly attributable to pneumonia, the lingering effects of the disease are predicted to reduce bighorn numbers even further. Several years of poor lamb recruitment will follow a pneumonic outbreak, making the loss of those lambs in Rock Creek particularly tragic.

Physical separation of domestic sheep and goats from wild sheep is essential to prevent the transmission of the respiratory disease. Earlier this year the TRCP, working in concert with the Wild Sheep Foundation and others, successfully removed a damaging amendment to the House appropriations bill for interior, environment and related agencies. The rider would have prevented the implementation of a management plan designed to provide that critical separation between bighorn sheep and domestic sheep grazing on public lands in the Payette National Forest in Idaho. When you consider the fragile state of bighorns throughout the West, the importance of this initiative to help protect them is clear.

Stories like this drive home the importance of proactive wildlife management and highlight the critical work of TRCP and our partners, organizations that are working to ensure healthy fish and wildlife populations through science-based management and policy. Resource management based in current science remains crucially important to strong natural resources policy – not only to wildlife like bighorn sheep, but also to sportsmen.

The tragedy in Rock Creek reminds us that we can never take our fish and wildlife for granted and we must not falter in our efforts to ensure these precious natural resources remain for generations to come.

Watch an episode of “TRCP’s Conservation Field Notes” concerning wild sheep management.

Whit Fosburgh

July 24, 2012

Can Energy, Fish, Wildlife and Sportsmen Coexist?

Pronghorns
Photo by Dusan Smetana.

We know citizens of our nation need energy. But how do the needs of fish, wildlife and wild places fit into the equation?

Like energy, these natural resources are important – a fact that sportsmen know to be true. Yet, as forms of energy development such as oil, gas, solar, wind and geothermal continue to increase, the threats to public-lands hunting and fishing opportunities across the country can be overlooked or outright ignored.

While energy development is a legitimate use of our public lands, projects must be planned and pursued in a way that balances commodity production with conservation of fish and wildlife habitat and upholds the public’s opportunities to access and enjoy these lands, including for uses such as hunting and angling.

Balance. Let’s think about that concept for a moment. A recent study by Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development illustrates several key facts of which sportsmen and all citizens should be aware:

  • While energy development, mining and other extractive industries remain an important part of the Western economy, employment in those sectors has been cyclical.
  •  Counties with a higher percentage of public lands managed for conservation and recreation report higher levels of job and population growth than those with higher percentages of lands managed for commodity production.

Think about it this way: Would you want your entire retirement portfolio in one company’s stock or even one mutual fund? Most people seek a balanced portfolio to weather economic storms and cycles. This is exactly what balancing energy and wildlife can provide our nation’s economy.

Sportsmen fuel an estimated $821 billion dollar per-year economy that provides reliable jobs and economic stability across the country, especially in rural communities. This reality must be a factor when we contemplate energy development that jeopardizes fish and wildlife habitat and our sporting opportunities.

Other recent studies have documented dramatic effects to fish and wildlife when the balance is upset. For example, after a decade of intensive oil and gas development in the Pinedale Anticline region in southwestern Wyoming, once-abundant mule deer populations plummeted more than 60 percent. Sage grouse and pronghorn also have sustained negative impacts in the region, resulting in fewer opportunities for sportsmen – and diminished economic benefits for communities.

Yet  some state and federal legislators are moving to eliminate or hinder bedrock conservation laws and programs that have benefited fish, wildlife and sportsmen for decades and sustain some of our best remaining habitats.

Federal energy legislation recently passed in the House of Representatives would undermine responsible public lands energy management and jeopardize our American sporting traditions by prioritizing energy development over other land uses and stifling the public’s ability to participate in decisions regarding the administration of our public resources. Moreover, the House bill is a solution in search of a problem: There are almost 40 million acres of public lands that have been leased for oil and gas development in the last decade. The energy industry is sitting on most of its drilling permits, waiting for prices to increase.

The TRCP is working to safeguard our sporting traditions and ensure that energy development is balanced with the needs of fish and wildlife. Our FACTS for Fish and Wildlife defines principles for balanced development. The TRCP Sportsmen Values Mapping Project utilizes your input to identify high-value areas – with the resulting maps demonstrating to decision makers where energy, fish and wildlife, and sportsmen’s values are or are not compatible.

The TRCP’s Center for Responsible Energy Development will continue to promote sportsmen’s values in land planning processes and in policy debates. We are committed to assuring that energy project planning and execution is balanced with – and not prioritized over – fish, wildlife and the economic benefits supported by you, the American sportsman.

Whit Fosburgh

July 17, 2012

Putting Sportsmen on the Map in Wyoming

TRCP’s Western Outreach Director Neil Thagard talks about the mapping project.

Maps can be a sportsman’s best friend; sportsmen look for those blank areas – devoid of roads – perhaps where two ridges might funnel game. Even land managers love maps, which allow them to plan out land use. They have unit maps with GIS layers ranging from vegetation type to core habitat for threatened and endangered species. Thanks to the TRCP’s Sportsmen Values Mapping Project, sportsmen now have a say in the development of these valuable maps.

The TRCP’s core mission lies in guaranteeing all Americans quality places to hunt and fish – a mission that compelled us to launch the first of our state-based mapping project in Montana in 2007. Last year, we took our efforts on the road again and kicked off a similar project in Wyoming.

The Sportsmen Values Mapping Project captures hunter and angler input to delineate specific lands and waters important for hunting and fishing. Combined with critical habitat maps already in use by federal and state agencies, this information gives decision-makers an up-to-date look at the places sportsmen value the most.

Neil Thagard, TRCP’s Western outreach director, leads the TRCP’s engagement with sportsmen and mapping activities in Wyoming. Neil spent the past year traveling throughout the Cowboy State and meeting with sportsmen to gather input on the exact areas where they love to hunt and fish – areas they would like to see managed for continued use of hunting and fishing.

The TRCP’s ongoing collaboration and engagement with the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission resulted in the commission offering its support – and last year’s official endorsement – of the project and the TRCP’s efforts to involve Wyoming sportsmen in the mapping effort.

More than 20 meetings and 1,000 sportsmen later, a highly valuable set of maps is available to land managers – both at the state and federal levels – to help guide management decisions regarding resources important to hunting and angling. Neil unveiled the final maps to Wyoming officials, the news media and sportsmen last week. These maps will help accomplish the following:

  • identify trends in hunter or angler usage
  • further maintain or enhance access opportunities throughout the state
  • identify areas needing special conservation strategies to help preserve important game and fish resources

As anyone who has ever spent time in the backcountry knows, a map is only useful if you know where you want to go. The challenge now is to use the input to ensure the conservation of these key areas.

In coming years, the TRCP intends to expand the mapping project throughout the West.

What areas would you like to see conserved for future hunting and fishing – and where should the TRCP travel next to implement the Sportsmen Values Mapping Project? Leave us a comment.

View the map.

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