From supporting American jobs to providing a healthy protein source for our food supply, commercial fishing is enormously important to the United States. Although our overall take is obviously much lower than commercial sectors, saltwater recreational fishing also provides great value to the nation.
Saltwater recreational fishing benefits the U.S. in that it:
-brings economic activity, -connects people to the outdoors and -provides funding for conservation.
All these benefits aside, recreational fishing often is treated as an afterthought in federal saltwater fisheries management.
Did you know that for every 100,000 pounds of fish landed there were 210 recreational fishing jobs but only 4.5 jobs in the commercial sector? Or that saltwater landings used by recreational anglers contribute three times more to the national gross domestic product (GDP, or value-added) than commercial landings?
Ten Tips for Renewable Energy Development on Public Land
Chances are that most sportsmen do not spend much time thinking about energy development. But whether you know it or not, hunters and anglers have much at stake when it comes to our energy resources, including renewable sources such as wind.
As head of the TRCP’s energy program, it is my job to carry the sportsman’s voice in the energy development processes. My objective in this is clear: to ensure our nation’s energy needs are balanced with those of sportsmen.
Sportsmen should be encouraged that renewable resources like wind have shown so much promise. With clean-up still underway on the tail of the three-year-anniversary of the BP oil spill, many in the conservation community are encouraged by the forward momentum on renewable resources.
The concern for sportsmen is that the rush to develop and bring renewable energy resources to the market will negatively impact fish and wildlife and result in loss of access for hunters and anglers.
As with traditional forms of energy development like oil and natural gas, renewable resources must be developed and implemented with what the administration calls a “smart from the start” mentality. The TRCP, along with Trout Unlimited and the National Wildlife Federation, head up the Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development – a coalition dedicated to bringing balance to oil and gas development.
When people learn I work in conservation, it often elicits responses of “that must be exciting!” Truly, sometimes it can be. More often though, the issues that the TRCP deals with on a daily basis, those that have the greatest impact on hunting and fishing, are not the thrilling “in-the-field” projects people envision.
Take the subject of conservation funding for example – this is something every sportsman should be concerned about. However, when I mention it to many avid hunters or anglers, I receive a glazed expression and a swift change in the conversation.
Federal funding for wildlife conservation is an integral part of our economy and allows resource managers to sustain fish and wildlife habitats and sporting opportunities. Since 2011, there has been a frenzy of budget cutting and deficit-focused politics in Washington, DC and unfortunately, federal funding to fish and wildlife conservation programs have taken a disproportionate hit. As a result, many natural resource agency budgets have also been slashed, and my home state of Wyoming is no exception.
Facing a budget shortfall of $7 million, mostly due to increasing costs with no additional revenue, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department recently proposed license and tag fee increases – a measure which was not supported by sportsmen. It’s easy to see why; nobody wants to pay more, especially in these tough economic times. However, I suspect that had more of Wyoming’s hunters and anglers been educated about conservation funding, what it provides and the potential ramifications of a lack of funding, they would have supported the proposed fee increase.
Wyoming sportsmen are about to lose much more than the extra $17.00 it would have cost for a resident antelope tag or $14.00 for an annual fishing license. The proposed budget reductions will have a direct impact on the places we hunt and fish, most importantly the loss of public access through easement reductions on private lands. There is also going to be less game to chase and fewer fish to catch, as Wyoming is losing both wildlife biologists and habitat improvement projects (which will affect future wildlife numbers). By 2014 there will be more than 600,000 fewer fish stocked in our reservoirs annually.
However the losses that will potentially have the greatest long-term impact are the cuts to youth programs. The Wyoming Hunting and Fishing Heritage Expo – a program essential to introducing school age Wyomingites to safe outdoor recreation and the value of wildlife conservation will be cancelled. Department support for the National Archery and Fishing in Schools programs is also disappearing. Without future generations being responsibly introduced to hunting and fishing, declining sportsmen’s numbers are inevitable.
Wyoming sportsmen are no doubt going to weather the challenges resulting from their current conservation funding crisis, but this situation is not limited to the Cowboy State. As belts continue to be tightened nationwide we all need to remember that activities related to hunting and fishing have a significant economic impact, the sporting community is part of an outdoor recreation economic sector that generates more than $1 trillion for the U.S. economy every year.
All sportsmen have the obligation to become engaged in more than just the aspect of hunting that rolls around each spring and fall. Behind every thrilling hunting tale are the policies and politics that govern how, when and where we can pursue our passions. We cannot afford to be apathetic when it comes to the less exciting aspects of hunting or fishing; conservation-minded sportsmen must actively support legislation that provides adequate and stable funding for conservation programs to ensure that we all have quality places to hunt and fish, both now and for the future.
Now that the gun debate in Congress has died down, I wanted to address those questions that we got along the lines of “why hasn’t the TRCP taken a position?”
The TRCP was created in 2002 with a very focused mission: to guarantee all Americans quality places to hunt and fish. Our mission has been reaffirmed over the years and is being done so again this year.
Gun owners are very effectively represented in Washington, D.C.; what was lacking before the TRCP was a single organization to pull together the disparate voices of the hunting and fishing community to work together on issues related to conservation and access.
Very simply, others know far more than we do about the Second Amendment, not to mention school safety, the mental health system, weapons trafficking and other key components of the gun-violence debate today.
Mission drift is a concern for all organizations. That is why they create missions, visions and strategic plans to guide their actions.
The range of conservation issues in which the TRCP does engage is diverse and represents the interests of the millions of hunters and anglers in this country. From water quality, private lands conservation and marine fisheries management to responsible energy development and conservation on federal public lands, the TRCP works collaboratively with our partners to develop smarter natural resource policies – policies that promote the conservation of fish and wildlife and their habitat, increase funding for responsive resource management and enhance public access for sportsmen.
We don’t do on-the-ground habitat conservation projects. That’s already being done by Ducks Unlimited, Trout Unlimited, Pheasants Forever and many others. And we don’t do electoral politics – we don’t have a political action committee and we remain fiercely nonpartisan. In short, we focus on what we do best: advocating for habitat, funding and access.
It is worth noting the important role that hunters and anglers play in funding conservation in America. For more than 75 years, the Pittman-Robertson Act, which created an excise tax on guns and ammunition sales, has thrived, providing more than $6.5 billion to state fish and wildlife agencies.
While the gun control debate has dominated the recent news cycle, conservation, funding and access continue to demand our attention and advocacy – and will do so well into the future. The TRCP will remain at the forefront of these issues and will persevere in our efforts to uphold opportunities to hunt and fish for this generation and those that follow.
Take Action: Stand up for Backcountry in the Beaver State
Oregon offers some of the best public upland game bird hunting in the West. Chukar season ended in January, but die-hard bird hunters already are thinking about next season. Last fall, I shared a particularly fine hunt with Walt Van Dyke, retired Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist, and Pat Wray, author of “The Chukar Hunter’s Companion.”
The weather was warm, and the heat of the day penetrated our bones. By noon sweat dripped from our brows. Nelly, my shorthaired pointer, was unaccustomed to the heat and had drunk almost all the water I was carrying. Van Dyke, Wray and I covered territory that hadn’t seen human footprints in weeks. A breeze was blowing, and the coveys of chukar flushed wild. But hitting a bird was a bonus compared to the remarkable views and solitude we found that day in southeast Oregon.
Along with supporting populations of upland birds, Oregon’s semi-arid mountain ranges hold key habitat for mule deer, bighorn sheep, pronghorn and elk. Small streams provide unique fisheries. As a sportsman and a mother, I want to return to these special places with my daughter and see that the landscape hasn’t changed. Better yet, I want to see to it that the habitat has been improved.
To maintain the high-quality fish and wildlife values of these lands, hunters and anglers are calling on the southeast Oregon BLM to implement a new, locally conceived land allocation called a backcountry conservation area, or BCA. As proposed, BCAs would protect public access, honor existing rights and conserve intact fish and wildlife habitat while allowing common-sense activities to restore habitat and protect communities from wildfire.
Under the BCA allocation, the BLM would uphold traditional uses of public land but allow wildlife managers to restore the rangeland and habitat. The proposed plan enables vegetation management to control noxious weeds, restore bunchgrass to benefit wildlife and livestock and reduce the risk of wildfire. BCAs also would allow ranchers to maintain agriculture improvements and continue their operations.