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January 31, 2014

Celebrate World Wetlands Day

February 2 is World Wetlands Day, a day to celebrate wetlands of global ecological significance, like the Chesapeake Bay and the Everglades, and the important role wetlands of all shapes and sizes play in our lives.

Did you know that nine out of every 10 fish caught by recreational anglers in America depend on wetlands at some point in their life cycles? Did you know that 75 percent of our nation’s migratory birds do as well? That’s why wetlands conservation is central to the TRCP’s mission to guarantee all Americans quality places to hunt and fish.

However, the challenge is daunting. For the first time since the 1980s, annual wetland losses are on the rise. Wetland loss is most severe in coastal communities like those in the Gulf of Mexico where 80,000 acres of coastal wetlands disappear each year.

Coastal wetlands are vital to healthy marine fisheries and ecosystems, and the drastic loss of these wetlands is a threat to the future of recreational fishing. Working with recreational fishermen, the TRCP laid out a plan to preserve and protect coastal wetlands throughout the Gulf of Mexico basin.

The TRCP also launched the Barnyard to Boatyard Conservation Exchange to bring South Dakota farmers and ranchers together with Louisiana Gulf fishermen to see firsthand the challenges each faces making a living on the Mississippi River that connects them – and to seek solutions to conserve America’s great native prairies and coastal waters.

The TRCP is also laying the foundation for long-term conservation of wetlands by urging the administration to restore Clean Water Act protections to waters important to America’s sportsmen, such as those in the Prairie Pothole Region, which provides nesting habitat to as many as 70 percent of all the ducks in North America. Too many wetland acres are at risk of pollution and destruction because their Clean Water Act protections are in jeopardy.

Video: Our friend Steven Rinella, host of the show MeatEater on the Sportsman Channel, looks at how we can stem the tide of wetland loss in this video.

U.S. wetlands do much more than provide valuable fish and wildlife habitat. They are the source of drinking water for most Americans, they soak up flood waters, lessen the risk of flood damages, and they filter pollutants out of water that otherwise would have to be treated at great expense to cities and towns.

On World Wetlands Day, take time to think about local wetlands important to you and your family. Then consider taking action to support TRCP’s efforts.

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January 21, 2014

Strength in numbers: TRCP unites sportsmen-conservationists at SHOT Show forum

Sportsmen and industry professionals travel from across the country – and, in many cases, from around the world – to attend the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show, or SHOT Show, every year. The show, which took place Jan. 14-17, is the largest and most comprehensive trade show for the shooting, hunting and related industries.

Attendees cite a wide range of reasons for coming to SHOT, and, with attendance at this year’s show topping a record-breaking 67,000, you’d be hard pressed to generalize about why so many consider it a can’t-miss event.

But one explanation resonates throughout the show’s 635,000 square feet of exhibition space and among the more than 1,600 exhibitors: economics.

The hunting and shooting industries have never been stronger in America. Data released by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which owns and manages SHOT, shows that spending by hunters and shooters had a total impact of more than $110 billion on the U.S. economy in 2011. This supports more than 866,000 jobs.

These numbers won’t surprise many in the sportsmen’s community, including the TRCP and our partner groups, who have been responding to legislative attacks on programs important to hunters and anglers, fish and wildlife, and conservation in America by citing data that illustrates the economic value of hunting, fishing and other forms of outdoor recreation.

Hunting and fishing directly contribute more than $86 billion to the U.S. economy each year and support approximately 1.5 million non-exportable jobs. Sportsmen also are integral to the broader outdoor-recreation and conservation economy, which is responsible for $646 billion in direct consumer spending annually.

There is strength in numbers. Whether those numbers are impressive economic figures or the growing number of sportsmen raising our voices on Capitol Hill, the TRCP is channeling them to promote the outdoor traditions, sporting heritage and vast economic impact of sportsmen by bringing all the stakeholders in our community “to the table” to speak together in a unified voice.

To this end, at the 2014 SHOT Show the TRCP convened our third annual “Sportsmen’s Conservation Forum,” a meeting of some of the greatest minds in conservation, including CEOs, policy experts and influential members of the media, to discuss federal policy impacting sportsmen and the top-line priorities for our community in 2014. More than 40 sportsman leaders – among them U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe, Howard Vincent of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, Miles Moretti of the Mule Deer Foundation, “MeatEater” host Steven Rinella and Field & Stream Editor in Chief Anthony Licata – had a wide-ranging dialogue that touched on the federal budget and sportsmen’s values, the next farm bill, public hunting access (and obstacles to access) and the prospects for passage of comprehensive sportsmen’s legislation in 2014.

While the participants are committed hunters and shooters, all of them also have a stake in responsive policy that supports these outdoor traditions. And while the prospects for sportsman-focused policy and legislation in 2014 remain unclear, our community remains unwavering in our commitment to stand strong, present a united front, and show the strength both of our combined numbers and the economic influence of sportsmen – at events like the SHOT Show and elsewhere in the crucially important time to come.

Learn more about the TRCP’s work to promote strongly funded conservation programs and legislative measures important to sportsmen.

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January 10, 2014

Angler Data Sought to Monitor Fish Recovery

User-driven technology, such as the iAngler app, is becoming a vital resource for fisheries data collection. Do your part.

 

As a follow-up to my recent post about the recovery of Florida’s snook population in the wake of a devastating freeze in January of 2010, the Snook & Gamefish Foundation is asking anglers to collect data to better manage this highly sought after fish, as well as other species.

SGF created the Angler Action Program for anglers to record the sizes and locations of their catches with the goal of better understanding fish populations and distributions as well as getting anglers involved in fisheries management.

The program began in May of 2010. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission first used Angler Action Program data for its 2011 snook stock assessment and requested that the program expand to include more species.

There are four categories of data:

  1. “Trip” has information about the type of fishing, how many people were fishing, how much time they spent fishing and where they fished.
  2. “Location” includes more detailed information about the water depth, the water condition and, potentially, the GPS coordinates of the fishing took place.
  3.  “Catch data” is recorded for each species that was fished for or caught, how many fish were kept and how many were released. If a species has a size or slot limit, anglers record whether a fish was under, in or over the size or slot limit.
  4. “Length information” is the exact length for some or all of the fish caught. This helps fisheries biologists determine size distributions. Anglers also can record a fish’s weight, its condition upon being released and where it was hooked, which helps scientists calculate survival rates. Anglers can upload photos of their catches.

All data is kept confidential and shared only with researchers. Individual anglers can access their data to get a feel for where, when and under what weather and tidal conditions they catch the most fish.

Angler Action is available online at www.snookfoundation.org and as an app for your handheld. Besides snook, data can be input for more than 100 species: everything from blue marlin and bluegills to porgies and peacock bass. And data can be input on catches no matter where you fish in the world.

Whit Fosburgh

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January 6, 2014

Sportsmen Should Be Optimistic in 2014

No one will remember 2013 as a great year in federal conservation policy. Every day we lost more grasslands and wetlands in the prairies to agricultural development. Congress could not pass a Farm Bill and the administration would not use its powers to reverse or even slow the losses.

Sequestration indiscriminately cut more funds from already strapped federal agencies as Congress failed to pass normal spending bills. In fact, Congress’s political posturing led to a 16-day government shutdown, which happened to coincide with the beginning of hunting season in many states. While federal workers got back pay once the government reopened, the same cannot be said of the guides and local businesses impacted by the shutdown. Billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money was wasted as most government activity came to a halt.

And comprehensive sportsmen’s legislation, once poised to pass Congress, was delayed in early 2013 when partisan politics again trumped good policy.

With this backdrop, it is remarkable that I look to 2014 with optimism. Why? Because the adults appear to be back in charge of Congress, and the administration seems to realize that it has less than three years to leave a conservation legacy. Some examples:

House and Senate conferees appear to be close to finalizing a Farm Bill that may prove to be one of the best pieces of private lands conservation legislation ever passed. If all goes well, it will come before Congress for a final vote by February.

Maybe we had to hit rock bottom before we could move forward. Few of us expect the next year to be free of acrimony and election year politics but, if events fall the right way, 2014 could prove to be a great year for sportsmen. It will take a strong commitment from all in our community to work together and make it happen.

As always, the TRCP and our partners will continue to advocate for legislation that strongly funds responsive fish and wildlife management, conserves important lands and waters and increases access for American hunters and anglers. Join us.

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December 17, 2013

Pheasant Crisis in South Dakota – how could it be?

Largest Pheasant
The $750 million pheasant hunting industry is important to South Dakota economically as well as recreationally.

When the 2013 pre-season pheasant brood survey for South Dakota showed a 64 percent drop from 2012 and a 76 percent decline from the 10-year average, hunters that are familiar with the traditional world-class pheasant hunting in the state took notice. Many canceled their hunting plans altogether.

The statistics caught the attention of South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, who understands what the $750 million pheasant hunting industry means to the state economically as well as recreationally. In response to the crippling drops in pheasant numbers, the governor quickly called together his game and fish, agriculture and tourism departments for a  summit to identify the problems responsible for the pheasant decline and to develop a path forward to reverse the negative trend.

The event was held on a bitterly cold December day in Huron, SD. The town is known for displaying the largest pheasant statue in the world as a symbol of the importance of the state bird. Secretary of South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Jeff Vonk explained that healthy pheasant populations require food, cover and water across the landscape. While weather is also an important short-term factor, habitat is the long-term driver of pheasant abundance.

He quoted the great wildlife manager Aldo Leopold as having the answer to the challenge, “Game can be restored by the creative use of the same tools that have heretofore destroyed it—the axe, cow, plow, fire and gun.  Successful management is the purposeful and continual alignment of those factors to benefit the species.”

So what can be done about this habitat crisis? Summit participants agreed that conservation policy should play a major role and suggested several actions:

  • Pass a Farm Bill with strong conservation features, including a targeted Conservation Reserve, wetlands and grassland protection and conservation compliance features that prevent crop insurance from causing habitat conversion.
  • Pass legislation to tax grazing lands based on actual use rather than on soils capacity to produce crops.
  •  Increase funding for the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks to manage pheasant habitat.

It was encouraging to witness Gov. Daugaard’s attentiveness to the needs of the sportsmen but much work remains. Watch a video from the summit below and stay tuned as the TRCP and our partners provide opportunities for sportsmen to speak up on behalf of key conservation initiatives.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

CONSERVATION ISN’T
RED OR BLUE

But a little green never hurt anyone. Support our work to ensure that all hunters and anglers are represented in Washington.

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