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September 19, 2014

House votes against sportsmen and clean water

Image by Dusan Smetana.

In a bipartisan display of contempt for sportsmen’s priorities last week, 262 members of the U.S. House of Representatives – 227 Republicans and 35 Democrats – voted to kill a rulemaking process to clarify the reach of the Clean Water Act.

Never mind that everyone up to and including the Supreme Court agrees the rulemaking is needed. Never mind that the public comment process – where sportsmen and any member of the public can provide input on and improve the proposed rule – is ongoing. And never mind that 13 leading sportsmen’s organizations wrote to Congress as recently as Sept. 8, 2014, urging the House to oppose the bill.

The message sportsmen should take away from this vote is these congressmen believe it is better to perpetuate the confusion that hinders effective use of the Clean Water Act in this country than restore protections for our wetlands and headwater streams.

You may have thought that the appearance this summer of a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico covering an area the size of Connecticut – an annual occurrence that is becoming all too commonplace – or an algal bloom in Lake Erie that cut off drinking water to 400,000 Ohioans would have persuaded Congress to consider ways to improve water quality. But the House is going in the opposite direction, and it threatens to continue the acceleration we are seeing in wetland loss and risks to headwater streams.

Fortunately, the legislation approved by the House stands little chance of becoming law in the near term. But these types of attacks against hunter and angler priorities should give all sportsmen pause. If we don’t let Congress know where we stand, they may eventually succeed.

To see if your member of Congress supported this attack on fisheries and waterfowl habitat, click here. (A “Yes” vote represents a vote against sportsmen in this case.)

Then let your representatives in Congress know you support healthy fisheries and vibrant, working wetlands.

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September 17, 2014

TRCP holds annual Western Media Summit Sept. 7-11, 2014 (Day Three)

More than 60 members of the media and other stakeholders concerned about pressing sportsmen conservation issues attended TRCP’s annual Western Media Summit in Great Falls, Montana. The 10th annual summit explored public lands issues and water topics, including federal water budgeting, the “waters of the U.S.” rulemaking, BLM backcountry conservation and the agency’s Planning 2.0 process, and ongoing efforts to conserve sage grouse and sagebrush ecosystems. The following are highlights from the event with short presentation recaps and photos.

Wednesday afternoon, September 10

Following a cold, misty morning of fishing on the Missouri River and hunting, Summit attendees gathered at the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center for the final sessions and closing night dinner. The first session covered the Bureau of Land Management Conversation and Planning about public lands and featured Don Thomas, Traditional Bowhunter Magazine; Hal Herring, TRCP Field Representative; Ryan Callaghan, First Lite; and moderator Joel Webster, TRCP. The panel explored how sportsmen are working to conserve lands in and around the beautiful Missouri River Breaks. At the conclusion of the session, Ryan Callaghan revealed that more than 90 hunting- and fishing-dependent businesses signed a letter to the Bureau of Land Management urging the BLM to sustain public lands to hunt and fish, stand up for outdoor-related businesses, and support high-quality habitat.

The final session of the afternoon focused on sage grouse conservation and balancing multiple land uses. Panelists included Dr. Ed Arnett, TRCP; Tim Baker, Policy Advisor for Natural Resources, the Governor’s Office (MT); Ken Mayer, Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies; and Dan Bailey, Pheasants Forever.

Before dinner was served at the Center, Jim Martin, TRCP Board Vice Chair, gave a rousing speech where he hammered home the theme that the job of the TRCP is to amplify the voice of the sportsman. “The Media Summit is the beating heart of TRCP,” he said. He also announced that he was stepping down from the Board.

Attendees also had the opportunity to participate in a sunglass fitting by Summit sponsor Costa, led by Peter Vandergrift, the sunglass manufacturer’s flying fishing community leader.

Don Thomas, Co-Editor, Bowhunter Magazine: “The Breaks can’t be managed in bits and pieces. There needs to conservation on the Breaks.”

Hal Herring, Montana Field Representative, TRCP, on the Cemetery Road Backcountry: “This is sage grouse core territory. The wealth of this piece of ground is astounding. This is a big wildlife-rich area.”

Ryan Callaghan, Marketing Manager, First Lite: “Public land hunting is absolutely paramount to our business.”

Joel Webster, Director of the TRCP Center for Western Lands: “You think no one cares about a piece of land until you try to do something with it.”

Dr. Ed Arnett, Director of the TRCP Center for Responsible Energy Development: “Sage grouse are a unique and iconic species in the West. This is a species that loves big open species. This is why we love the West.”

Tim Baker, Policy Advisor for Natural Resources, Governor’s Office (MT): “Sixty-four percent of sage grouse habitat is in private land and that is a particular problem.”

Dan Bailey, Montana Regional Representative, Pheasants Forever, on sage grouse habitat: “These are romantic ecosystems…where the deer and the antelope play.”

Sunglass fitting and reception

The Deseret News’ Amy Joi O’Donoghue poses with a pair of Costa sunglasses prior to the Summit’s closing night dinner.

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September 16, 2014

TRCP holds annual Western Media Summit Sept. 7-11, 2014 (Day Two)

More than 60 members of the media and other stakeholders concerned about pressing sportsmen conservation issues attended TRCP’s annual Western Media Summit in Great Falls, Montana. The 10th annual summit explored public lands issues and water topics, including federal water budgeting, the “waters of the U.S.” rulemaking, BLM backcountry conservation and the agency’s Planning 2.0 process, and ongoing efforts to conserve sage grouse and sagebrush ecosystems. The following are highlights from the event with short presentation recaps and photos.

Tuesday, September 9 (morning)

With slate-gray skies occasionally spitting sleet and drizzle and temperatures hovering around 40 degrees, TRCP media summit attendees bundled up for a morning in the field to learn about water conservation efforts along the Sun River. They were bussed about 15 miles west ofGreat Falls to areas along the Sun River and adjacent lands. Trout Unlimited’s Laura Ziemer provided background about the Sun River Collaborative Conservation Project, a public-private partnership that upgrades local irrigation infrastructure. The project overcomes decades of acrimony among water users, conservation interests and government by creating common ground and mutual benefit.

Summit attendees were briefed on the issues by Allan Rollo, Sun River Watershed Group, and Rich Boyle, Fort Shaw Irrigation District. They visited locations including a U.S. Geological Survey gauge, which measured Sun River water flow and temperature. The data are constantly being transmitted to a mainframe computer. The final stop in the morning was a visit to the First People’s Buffalo Jump State Park where reporters and guests warmed up in the park headquarters and learn about the area, which features the largest bison cliff jump in North America.

Rich Boyle: “The soil here is fine … so fine that it can’t hold the ditch.”

Laura Ziemer addresses reporters and guests about the USGS gauge (in the shack on the left) which provides data on the Sun River (background): “The river here sometimes achieves lethal temperature level (for the fish) because of low flow.”

 

Alan Rollo: “There are arguments about water here where guns are pulled and sheriffs are called.”

 

(Images from the top of the Buffalo Jump)

(From left to right): TRCP’s Paul Wilkins and Whit Fosburgh and TRCP board member John Griffin climbed to the top of the buffalo jump.

 

TRCP Board member John Griffin takes a break after the 20-minute uphill hike to the buffalo jump. The park headquarters is a dot in the background.

 

Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 9

TRCP’s Jimmy Hague led the afternoon panels and discussions, which included the challenges and opportunities of Western in-flow conservation projects. EPA Region 8 Advisor Joan Card updated attendees on the status of the contentious federal rulemaking to define which waters receive protection under the Clean Water Act. And John Radtke, water sustainability program manager, Coca-Cola, spotlighted several sustainability programs undertaken by his company.

Patagonia’s Bill Klyn welcomed press and guests to the afternoon discussions. “Water is a huge issue,” he said. “It’s a valuable resource that’s disappearing.” Klyn also urged the audience to watch the DVD of the Patagonia-produced documentary “DamNation,” about obsolete dams in the U.S.

 

David Mannix, Mannix Brothers Ranch, urged cooperation among ranchers, farmers and conservationists: “If they start caring about cows and I start caring about fish, then you can begin to have a conversation. We need to respect each other’s values. That way we’ll avoid litigation and wars.”

 

David Mannix, Mannix Brothers Ranch, and fellow panelist Jennifer Schoonen, water steward, Blackfoot Challenge.

Laura Ziemer, Trout Unlimited: “Every river basin has its own culture.”

John Radtke, water sustainability program manager, Coca-Cola: “We want to show why water is important to a company like ours. We’re pledged to be a leader in water stewardship.”

 

Joan Card, Senior Advisor for Policy, EPA Region 8: “This is not a land grab. This is the Clean Water Act. That’s not to say the programs are not controversial. They impact activities on private lands.”

 

Tuesday evening, Sept. 9

Skeet shooting, dinner and speech by Mike Connor, deputy secretary of the Interior, capped the end of a long day for TRCP media summit attendees. The setting was the Great Falls Trap & Skeet Club in Ulm, Montana. Summit sponsor, Remington Outdoor Company, provided the firearms and ammo for guests. Following a BBQ dinner and refreshments from the Bowser Brewing Co., Deputy Secretary Connor addressed the audience for 20 minutes, touching on numerous conservation topics.

Mike Connor: “Fish and wildlife don’t respect bureaucratic boundaries.”

Freelancer Kelsey Dayton (left) and Laura Lundquist, environmental reporter, the Bozeman Chronicle.

Peter Vandergrift, Costa.

 

Paul Wilkins, TRCP, with a Remington VersaMax 12-gauge shotgun.

 

Whit Fosburgh, President and CEO, TRCP, welcomes guests to the dinner at the Great Falls Trap & Skeet Club.

Learn what happened at Day Three of the 2014 Western Media Summit.

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September 9, 2014

TRCP holds annual Western Media Summit Sept. 7-11, 2014

More than 60 members of the media and other stakeholders concerned about pressing sportsmen conservation issues attended TRCP’s annual Western Media Summit in Great Falls, Montana. The 10th annual summit explored public lands issues and water topics, including federal water budgeting, the “waters of the U.S.” rulemaking, BLM backcountry conservation and the agency’s Planning 2.0 process, and ongoing efforts to conserve sage grouse and sagebrush ecosystems. The following are highlights from the event with short presentation recaps and photos.

Monday, September 8 (Welcome Dinner)

Audience at 2014 TRCP Western Media Summit.

The opening night dinner followed a balmy day during which summit attendees toured the renowned elk hunting territory of Montana’s Missouri Breaks a small planes piloted by EcoFlight’s Bruce Gordon. That evening, TRCP CEO and President Whit Fosburgh welcomed guests at the dinner: “You guys – the writers, reporters and bloggers – are the first to get the word out on the issues we’re discussing here. We want you to leave the summit with plenty of stories that you can write about next week, next month or later this year.”

TRCP’s President and CEO Whit Fosburgh.

Dave Perkins, TRCP Board Chair, and Vice Chairman of The Orvis Co.: “Getting the word out is an important part of why we’re meeting this week.”

Dave Perkins, TRCP Board Chair/Orvis, Vice Chairman.

Laura Ziemer, Senior Counsel and Water Policy Advisor, Trout Unlimited’s Western Water Project: “The Sun River is a story of enduring conservation success. It’s with great pleasure that we have the opportunity to tell this story.” [ED: summit attendees will tour the site tomorrow]

Laura Ziemer, Trout Unlimited.

Jimmy Hague, TRCP’s Director of Center for Water Resources: “We need a unified voice in the sportsmen community to get our positions known (about water resources).”

Jimmy Hague, TRCP’s Director of Center for Water Resources

Joel Webster, Director of Center for Western Lands, TRCP: “Public lands are increasingly important for the sporting public.”

Joel Webster, TRCP’s Center for Western Lands Director

Leon Szeptycki, professor at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, was the evening’s guest speaker. He spoke extensively about the severe drought conditions in the west, especially California, and contrasted with other regional droughts over the last 150 years. He noted that 80 percent of water usage in California is for irrigation. “The basic problem is we’re experiencing a bad drought, and it’s likely it will increase in severity and duration,” he said. Szeptycki offered several solutions to managing droughts including water markets, conservation and desalinization.

Leon Szeptycki, Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment

Geoff Mullins, Chief Operating and Communications Officer: “We try to make the media summits interesting and fun.  We try to get everyone out in the field with a gun or a rod.”

Geoff Mullins, TRCP’s Chief Operating and Communications Officer

Many journalists brought their dogs to the TRCP event. Wyoming freelancer Chris Madson traveled to the summit with Flick, his Brittany spaniel, who made an appearance at the conclusion of the dinner. And Montanan Jack Ballard frolicked in the hotel lobby with Percy, his English setter.

Chris Madson

 

Jack Ballard

Many thanks to our sponsors for making this event a success: Remington Arms Company, Pheasants Forever/Quail Forever, Patagonia, Inc., Costa, The Orvis Co., Outdoor Industry Association, Simms Fishing Company, Trout Unlimited, Great Falls Tourism Business Improvement District, and Bowser Brewing Co.

 Learn what happened at Day Two of the 2014 Western Media Summit.

Jonathan Stumpf

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September 7, 2014

Congress, please help celebrate the LWCF’s 50th birthday in full fashion

Congress, we need your help to continue celebrating the Land and Water Conservation Fund’s 50th birthday.

The nation’s leading hunting and fishing conservation organizations are calling on you to fully fund the LWCF, a critical tool for conserving valuable fish and wildlife habitat and improving public access for hunting and fishing.

Please see our request in a report released last week, during the LWCF’s 50th anniversary. “The Land and Water Conservation Fund and America’s sportsmen and women: A 50-year legacy of increased access and improved habitat” features a series of state-based case studies that profile places and people across that country that have benefited as a result of LWCF funding.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

WHAT WILL FEWER HUNTERS MEAN FOR CONSERVATION?

The precipitous drop in hunter participation should be a call to action for all sportsmen and women, because it will have a significant ripple effect on key conservation funding models.

Learn More
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