November 27, 2012

Congressional Bickering Leaves Sportsmen in the Lurch

We called the Sportsmen’s Act easy to love for a reason. Until yesterday it appeared that a large majority of lawmakers in Congress agreed.

The bill recognizes the broad economic and social impacts of conservation, improves access for sportsmen and supports habitat conservation. It integrates 17 separate bills, including the Making Public Lands Public Access Act, the Permanent Electronic Duck Stamp Act and the Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act. It also would reauthorize the North American Wetlands Conservation Act and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Yet the Sportsmen’s Act failed to garner enough support from Senators last night to pass a procedural vote, and thus its prospects of success remain uncertain at best.

The Sportsmen’s Act failed to garner enough support to pass a procedural vote and thus its prospects of success remain uncertain at best. Photo by Dusan Smetana.

Until yesterday’s Senate vote, the Sportsmen’s Act had passed all legislative hurdles with widespread support from both political parties – a rarity in such a divisive political environment. But somehow, even after Americans expressed strong distaste for partisan politics, dysfunctional gridlock returned to Congress.

With their backs up against the so-called fiscal cliff, elected officials from both sides of the aisle locked antlers again. American sportsmen are paying the price.

Hunters and anglers are experiencing the fallout from congressional inaction as access dwindles, development diminishes opportunities for sportsmen and funding for conservation disappears.

More than 91 million U.S. residents fished, hunted or wildlife watched in 2011 – that is more 25 percent of the U.S. population. From big-game hunters in Wyoming to carp fishermen in suburban lakes and everyone in between, we are a force to be reckoned with. And we vote.

A diverse alliance of powerful groups ranging from the National Rifle Association to The Nature Conservancy has joined forces in support of the Sportsmen’s Act. Together, in the spirit of Theodore Roosevelt, we will continue to stand up for sportsmen.

The TRCP and our partners are working with congressional leaders and members of the sporting community to form partnerships on the Hill and in the field that will benefit our sporting traditions for current and future generations.

In the coming days and weeks we will be asking for your voice in this fight. Be ready.

8 Responses to “Congressional Bickering Leaves Sportsmen in the Lurch”

  1. The fact is that 98% of Democrats supported the bill, and 98% of Republicans opposed it on a procedural point of order related to the duck stamp increase in the bill – a provision the NRA, hunting and angling community fully supported. Not a partisan shot – just factual representation of the vote which can be found on the link below.

    http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=112&session=2&vote=00204#position

    Yesterday’s vote will likely kill the bill this Congress. This is an astonishing turn of events considering 84% of all Senators supported moving the bill forward just 2 months ago.

    http://www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=112&session=2&vote=00200

  2. bnameless

    this is sad. makes one wonder if this would have passed with a different administration. as outdoorsmen we need to know better how to have a voice that will be listened to in keeping the outdoors available for what we believe in and the government out of the way in telling us how to best participate in one of this countries greatest assets.

  3. Matt Johnson

    Well I have to say I hunt and didn’t support this bill… I can’t believe you guys would.

    1. It makes it so that we can’t get lead banned in ammunition. So many people are waking up to this problem, it’s making kids/families/wildlife sick. The Minnesota Deer Hunters Association just released a story to this affect in the most recent copy of Whitetails… so yeah, this upsets people. What the hell are people thinking?

    2. Importing polar bear trophies after they’ve been banned? Dumb! How about we allow some illegal ivory to come into the country too in a special bill.

    So why not remove the controversial portions of it and pass the rest… that would be a win win for nature and hunters. The other two provisions are ignorant and of course they’re going to cause health and environmental groups to baulk at the bill.

    Let’s get the bill fixed TRCP and try again.

    Cheers from Minnesota,
    Matt

  4. Tom Johnson

    I have to agree with Matt on this one even after reading the newspaper correction to its article. The verbage you use to explain the lead ammunition issue has all the earmarks of an end run around public safety issues and the importation of 41 bear parts (taken before the ban on polar bear trophy importation) looks like a gimme to some special interest (maybe Ted Nugent). The duck stamp issue should have been a no brainer, but some members of congress have taken the “pledge” don’t you know. As written I would support it threw gritted teeth. Seems all the steps should be forward; not a bunch forward but a couple back for those “special” friends.

  5. Tom Kovalicky

    I am not unhappy with this failure to Pass…It is not a well though-out piece of Legislature for many Biological, economic, and social reasons…We can do better…Lets concentrate on what we can keep intact rather than tear apart……I would love to know who is in Charge of the environment for our Grandchildren. Todays Adults need to think about the next 7 generations, not just 2013 tom kovalicky, Grangeville, Idaho

  6. larry harbert

    ” Importing polar bear trophies after they’ve been banned? Dumb! How about we allow some illegal ivory to come into the country too in a special bill.”

    The polar bear trophies in question were taken PRIOR to the ban being enacted,importation was not allowed-all the bill would do is allow these trophies taken PRIOR to the ban to be imported.

    Your comments about lead from ammo making people sick is nothing more than misinformation-the Minnesota study was discredited long ago-how can you live in the state and NOT know this?
    Modern rifle ammo retains almost all of it’s original weight-most average over 90%,very few bullets do not pass through game-there are few to no bullet fragments left in game aninmals,and very,very rarely are there bullet fragments in gutpiles-all of this is nothing more than misinformatrion-a lot of it put out by the Center for Biologic Diversity to gain support for their continued efforts to ban lead ammo.

    • BarryvilleCastNBlast

      The lead issue is a complicated one, but it’s certainly not black or white. What about lead shot left in gut piles? Those are eventually consumed.

      Even wildlife that ingest lead split-shot and other lead fragments when consuming gravel and small rocks to aid in digestion.

      I don’t support an outright ban on all lead items simply because I don’t think it would work. Increasing taxes on lead products create too much backlash, rhetoric and distractions.

      If we want to resolve this issue, the industry needs to step up and hunters and anglers need to take personal responsibility and make the switch voluntary. The fishing alternatives are out there and they’re pretty darn cheap. As far as ammo goes, we need to think long and hard about how we can make non-toxic alternatives more affordable and more readily available.

      As far as this partisan bickering goes. I get politics. I get that these stand-offs happen, but can’t the GOP just agree with the Democrats for once on this one? There’s always blame to go around on both sides, but in this one instance- can’t we just come together and get it passed? Enough with this crap, get it done.

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posted in: Policy Updates

October 29, 2012

Presidential Candidates Should Make Energy and Public Lands in the West a Priority

“Sportsmen and women understand that not every president can be as passionate an outdoorsman as Theodore Roosevelt. We do expect, however, that candidates for president understand the importance of keeping public lands in public hands while also acting on the need to balance energy development with abundant fish and wildlife populations, clean air and water, and recreational opportunities that include hunting and fishing. Both candidates would do well to listen to sportsmen and women.”

Read more at Denverpost.com.

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posted in: Policy Updates

October 16, 2012

Billfish Conservation Act Passes Congress, Changing Commercial Harvesting Standards

By Jason Schratwieser, Conservation Director, International Game Fish Association

It’s been a long, slow road, but the Billfish Conservation Act of 2011 has been signed into law by the president. The new law prohibits the importation of marlin, sailfish and spearfish in the continental United States. It represents the culmination of nearly four years of sweat equity overcoming hurdles, roadblocks and naysayers.

The Billfish Conservation Act already is making waves around the world, with groups in other countries considering similar measures. Photo by Mac Stone.

The process began from concerns raised from members of the International Game Fish Association, a TRCP partner group, about the large quantities of marlin and sailfish that were being commercially harvested in Central America. For some time, IGFA also had periodically sent letters of opposition to restaurants and grocery stores known to serve or carry marlin and sailfish. However we didn’t really know how big the problem was until went looking.

In 2007 IGFA commissioned a report to investigate the global billfish market. We wanted to find out which countries were harvesting, exporting and importing the most billfish. What we found shocked us. With an average of 2.7 million pounds each year, the U.S. was squarely identified as the world’s biggest importer of billfish.

At that point it became clear that a reactive approach of writing letters to businesses selling billfish was not the answer. To tackle the problem IGFA partnered with the National Coalition for Marine Conservation to develop a proactive campaign to educate the American populace as to what billfish are, their imperiled status and their importance to ocean ecosystems.

The Take Marlin off the Menu campaign was successful in that several very prominent restaurants, grocery stores and even celebrity chefs decided to go “marlin free.” Interactive media polling also showed that the campaign was making an impact in consumers’ perceptions about importing, selling and consuming billfish. Still, we knew the only way we could get rid of America’s dubious distinction was to seek legislation that would end these practices outright.

In 2010 we were successful in introducing legislation in Congress that would ban the commercial harvest, sale and importation of billfish in the U.S. Our billfish report found that annual U.S. billfish market revenues (including harvest and sale from Hawaii) totaled a measly .07 percent of the entire U.S. commercial fishing industry. Nevertheless, Hawaii proved to be an unsurpassable obstacle in the bill’s progress.

By the time the next congressional session convened, we had a new strategy. In order to avoid the ire of commercial fishing interests in Hawaii, we created a carve-out that would exclude Hawaii and the Pacific Insular Territories. Billfish no longer would be able to be imported into the continental U.S., but Hawaii still would be able to harvest and sell billfish commercially. While not our ideal strategy, the strategy allowed us to reach our primary objective: ending the reign of the U.S. as the world’s largest importer of billfish. With the leadership of Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana and Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida, the Billfish Conservation Act of 2011 was introduced in the 112th Congress.

The successful progression of the bill did not come from one person, or one organization. It was made into a law with the help of other recreational fishing organizations including the American Sportfishing Association, Center for Coastal Conservation, Coastal Conservation Association, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, Keep America Fishing, National Marine Manufacturers Association, and numerous other NGOs from the conservation community.

We felt that closing the U.S. to billfish imports would do two things: (1) close a sizeable piece of the international billfish market and (2) position the U.S. to take a more aggressive approach to international billfish management and conservation. The Billfish Conservation Act already is making waves around the world, with groups in other countries considering similar measures.

I suppose the old adage “change is slow” is true. But, it sure is sweet when it finally happens.

Joel Webster

October 4, 2012

National Forest Roadless Lands Conserved as Big-game Seasons Commence

As sportsmen head to the fields, forests and streams this fall, we can be assured that some of America’s finest public lands fish and wildlife habitat will be conserved into the future. On Oct. 1, the Supreme Court declined to consider an appeal of a lower court ruling upholding the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule as the law of the land for the management of 45 million acres in 36 states.

This determination effectively ends all legal uncertainty for the 2001 roadless rule and assures its permanence into the foreseeable future.

The roadless rule represents a balanced and reasonable approach for the management of high value, undeveloped public lands. Photo by Dusan Smetana.

Areas managed under the roadless rule include renowned big-game hunting destinations such as the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming, the Elkhorn Mountains in Montana and the Warner Range of Oregon and California.

These large blocks of undeveloped public lands provide the habitat security necessary for wildlife managers to provide substantial public hunting opportunities for game such as mule deer and elk.

The great thing about the roadless rule is that it represents a balanced and reasonable approach for the management of high value, undeveloped public lands. The rule conserves roadless areas while providing management allowances to protect communities from wildfire, restore habitat and ecosystems and even develop oil and gas, as long as this development is done in ways that maintain the areas’ backcountry values.

Over the past decade, wildlife managers, sportsmen’s organizations, and hunting- and fishing-dependent businesses across the nation have spoken in favor of the management assurances and high quality habitat provided by the roadless rule. The TRCP has been working alongside our partners to advance this popular policy since our organization was founded in 2002.

With big-game hunting seasons commencing across the country, sportsmen can celebrate by grabbing our gear and setting out in pursuit of deer, elk and other critters on America’s national forest lands. This Supreme Court decision represents an unqualified victory for our community.

Whit Fosburgh

September 25, 2012

With Economics, Access and Conservation, Sportsmen’s Act is Easy to Love

Early Saturday morning, the U.S. Senate voted to advance the Sportsmen’s Act of 2012 – a package of more than 20 measures that promote public hunting and fishing access, habitat conservation and strongly funded resource management—toward final action when Congress returns to session after the November elections. To describe the bill, authored by Montana Sen. Jon Tester and supported by a bipartisan coalition of senators, as friendly to public hunting, fishing and conservation is an understatement.  The act promotes values central to the TRCP and other hunting and fishing organizations vision of guaranteeing every American a place to hunt and fish.

You may have heard grumblings about how this bill is bad—mostly from those who oppose the current law, which would be reaffirmed by the bill – that the Environmental Protection Agency cannot regulate lead ammunition and fishing tackle. Instead, the bill leaves those decisions to state fish and game agencies and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which currently regulate ammo and tackle.

Driftboat by Dusan Smetana
The Sportsmen’s Act of 2012 has a broad economic and social impact, improves access and supports habitat conservation. Photo by Dusan Smetana.

But the Sportsmen’s Act of 2012 offers a lot more to like than criticize. And in a Congress marked by partisan conflict and divisiveness, the fact that a bill aimed at expanding public access for recreational opportunities – including hunting and fishing – passed by such a wide margin confirms the importance of these activities to our nation’s heritage and our economy.

Why is the Sportsmen’s Act of 2012 important?

It has broad economic and social impacts. Sportsmen and -women have a long history of promoting species and public lands conservation. This bill embraces that legacy. A national survey undertaken in 2011 found that more than 90 million Americans participate in hunting, fishing and wildlife watching. Hunters and anglers alone account for close to $100 billion in annual economic activity and support more than 900,000 sustainable U.S. jobs.

It improves access. Sportsmen cite the loss of access as the No. 1 reason they quit hunting or fishing. This bill reauthorizes the Federal Lands Transaction Facilitation Act, which uses a “land for land” approach to improve access. It also sets aside 1.5 percent from the Land and Water Conservation Fund to specifically address access issues by purchasing in-holdings on existing public lands and securing easements to access-restricted acreage.

It supports habitat conservation. Sportsmen and -women are significant financial contributors to habitat conservation. The bill continues other critical habitat investment programs that have expired, including the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, Partners for Fish and Wildlife, the work of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act. In total, these programs leverage $4 of private investment for each dollar from the program.

After the elections, we’ll reach out to you with an opportunity to contact your elected officials in the U.S. House and Senate to complete work on the Sportsmen’s Act. In the meantime, the Senate’s leadership deserve a “thank you” from all sportsmen. 

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