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July 28, 2015

Bison, Beer, and the Public Lands Backbone of Montana’s Economy

Welcome to the 13th Annual TRCP Western Media Summit, held July 27 to 30, in Bozeman, Mont. 

Whit Fosburgh, President and CEO, TRCP: “Bozeman exemplifies the outdoor economy.”

Influential policy makers, outdoor industry leaders, and more than two dozen members of the media kicked off three days of conservation discussion and discovery last night in Bozeman, Mont. The mission of the TRCP’s 13thannual Western Media Summit is to arm journalists to tell the most timely conservation stories impacting the Western states, including the controversial movement to transfer federal public lands to the states, the impending endangered species listing decision for the greater sage-grouse, and the economic value of safeguarding sportsmen’s access.

Despite the heavy rain, anomalous 48-degree temperatures, and dark clouds shrouding the nearby Gallatin Mountains, the ballroom of the Baxter Hotel, a refurbished landmark in the heart of historic Bozeman, was packed for the very first event of this year’s summit. The TRCP’s CEO and president, Whit Fosburgh, welcomed attendees by sharing some history of the organization’s longstanding tradition of bringing media together for a frank discussion of conservation over campfires and beer, with some hunting and fishing thrown in. He also praised the region for its significance to the summit’s themes. “We’re thrilled to be in Bozeman,” said Fosburgh.  “Conservation works in concert with good access to hunting and fishing and a thriving outdoor economy, and this town is a perfect example.”

TRCP Board Chair Weldon Baird also spoke, emphasizing the positive role that journalists play in explaining complex environmental issues and conservation policies to the public. “Over the next couple of days, we’d like to share what’s important to us as an organization, and we’d also like to hear from you,” said Baird.

Paul Wilkins, TRCP’s chief conservation officer, then stepped up to the podium to welcome the evening’s headlining speaker, Montana Governor Steve Bullock, who recently vetoed a bill aimed at studying federal public lands in the state, likely to make the case for transferring or selling them. “Public lands are part of the Montana ethos and a big sector of our economy. They represent a promise to future generations. But perhaps, like no other time before, that promise could be in jeopardy,” said Bullock. “Out-of-state interests hiring lobbyists to float the idea that the states should demand their lands back from the federal government certainly haven’t fooled me or Montanans. The true cost would be too great for us, or any other state, to handle. So, I vetoed the one bill that made it to my desk.”

Montana Governor Steve Bullock: “Thank you Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership for being an unyielding advocate for sportsmen.”

Bullock also expressed gratitude for the media’s coverage of conservation issues. “Thank you to the journalists for what you do in educating the public about Montana’s and America’s public lands,” he said, pointing out that the gathering of science and policy experts with media at the TRCP summit could serve as an apt celebration for the end of Montana’s inaugural Open Land Month, established by Bullock’s executive order. “Our state is home to immeasurable opportunities to experience public lands and waterways, which I believe are a great equalizer,” he said. “Whether you’re a CEO or a single mom, you have access to them.”

Bullock, who will serve as governor through 2016, ultimately shared some of his conservation goals for Montana: He supports Congress setting aside partisan politics to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and he’d like to prevent a greater sage-grouse listing with cooperation from a diverse group of stakeholders. And, importantly, he said: “I’ll continue to stand and defend the public lands that Montanans hold so dear.”

Weldon Baird, TRCP Board Chair
(from left to right): Weldon Baird, TRCP Board Chair; Montana Governor Steve Bullock; Whit Fosburgh, TRCP President and CEO
More than 60 guests crowded into the ballroom of Bozeman’s Baxter Hotel for the opening night of TRCP’s Western Media Summit.

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Steve Kline

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July 27, 2015

Glassing the Hill: July 27-31

The TRCP’s scouting report on sportsmen’s issues in Congress

Both the House and the Senate are in session this week. Members of the House are likely to depart for the August recess on Friday, while the Senate still has one more week planned.

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

The Senate held votes yesterday, in a rare Sunday session, to continue working towards a conclusion on the Highway Bill. The Senate agreement that has taken shape in the last week is a six-year reauthorization, with three years of guaranteed funding for the Highway Trust Fund. Majority Leader McConnell “filled the amendment tree” on this bill, controlling the process in an attempt to pass the legislation no later than Wednesday. The House would then have time to consider the bill before the expiration of the current Trust Fund extension (July 31) and prior to the August break. The House has already cleared a five-month extension of the Highway Trust Fund, and if the Senate cannot complete its work, or if the House doesn’t take up the Senate bill for lack of support in that chamber, it is likely the Senate will have to take up the House-passed extension or risk an expiration of the trust fund.

It also promises to be a busy week in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which moves forward with a mark-up of comprehensive and bipartisan energy legislation. The bill includes measures to streamline hydropower, geothermal production, natural gas exports, and efficiency, and permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund. You can see the bill and a section by section breakdown here.

On the Floor:

The Senate will spend the majority of the week on the Highway bill, with several amendment votes planned, including a vote on reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank.

The House will spend the week considering HR 427, the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (RIENS) Act, which would require a joint resolution of approval from Congress before “major administrative rules” can take effect. The House may also consider several bills dealing with Veterans Administration reform.

In Committee:

Tuesday, July 28

Conservation Funding Alert: Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee business meeting to markup comprehensive energy legislation (Additional markup sessions are possible for Wednesday and Thursday)

Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs hearing on lifting crude exports ban

Wednesday, July 29

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on EPA management

House Natural Resources hearing on federal agencies selective enforcement of Endangered Species Act consultation

Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs markup of regulatory reform bills

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July 24, 2015

How to Better Prepare for Drought

With water resources in the western United States stretched to a breaking point, due to over-allocation, sustained drought, and population growth, the TRCP worked with the National Drought Resilience Partnership (NDRP) to bring nearly 40 diverse stakeholders together at the White House Drought Symposium on July 15, 2015. Participants discussed the federal government’s role in building drought resilience into our water management systems, as well as steps that federal agencies should take to forestall future drought crises.

Symposium participants gather at the White House Drought Symposium on July 15, 2015, to discuss the federal role in building drought resiliency. TRCP President and CEO Whit Fosburgh is in the foreground.

“Last week’s symposium underscored the importance and value of addressing difficult issues, like the sustained droughts in the West, collaboratively and constructively,” said Doug Robotham, water policy director at The Nature Conservancy. “Symposium participants from a diversity of perspectives freely exchanged ideas and solutions, which gives hope that we can meet the needs of people, irrigated agriculture and the environment if we truly work together.”

“A common theme discussed at the symposium is the need to focus federal actions in ways that reduce risk, create flexibility, and improve reliability across entire watersheds,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the TRCP. “That kind of approach will ensure that we have more options available to us when drought occurs, so we aren’t sacrificing the water needed for healthy species or risking farmers’ livelihoods. We are all in this together, and we need solutions that integrate benefits across sectors and preserve working lands and functioning habitat.”

The NDRP agreed to produce a compendium of ideas generated by symposium participants. Sportsmen are calling on the NDRP to continue this dialogue and identify action items, like the advancement of widely-supported conservation and efficiency measures to meet water demands, while protecting and restoring healthy river flows.

Deputy Secretary of the Interior Mike Connor (center left) and Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Robert Bonnie (center right) discuss with symposium participants the actions DOI and USDA, respectively, are taking in response to drought.

The discussion comes at a busy time for drought action in Washington, D.C. The House of Representatives has just approved legislation to address drought in California—legislation that has been roundly rejected by sportsmen as bad for fish and wildlife. Senator Diane Feinstein of California has been promising an alternative response to her state’s drought, and the leadership of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is preparing a region-wide drought bill for the Western states.

Now is the time for sportsmen to declare our stake in drought planning, so we don’t end up on the wrong side of the deal again. By partnering with the NDRP on the White House Drought Symposium and developing recommendations from sportsmen, the TRCP is fighting to shape federal actions so they support healthy fish and wildlife and working lands.

Geoff Mullins

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July 23, 2015

Sharing Roosevelt’s Vision for Conservation and Sportsmen’s Access

Of all the senses we engage as sportsmen, vision is perhaps the most essential to having a successful day on the water or in the field. Whether we’re watching for rising fish, scanning the horizon for birds, or glassing a ridgeline for an antlered silhouette, we base our actions off of what we see out there. And the conservation of our fish, wildlife, and sporting opportunities is no exception.

More than 100 years ago, Theodore Roosevelt had a vision and a passion for the outdoors that led to our current model of conservation and management of public resources and wildlife. It’s what sets the United States apart from the rest of the world. These uniquely American principles are found in the hunting and fishing traditions we all enjoy—and easily take for granted.

Preserving this legacy for future generations is worth the fight. That’s why the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership was created: To unite sportsmen and amplify our collective voices around key conservation issues and promotion of sportsmen’s access, so that all Americans have quality places to hunt and fish. Among the many issues we work on related to saltwater fishing, clean water, and private lands conservation is a signature campaign to prevent the seizure of our federal public lands and to keep them open to sportsmen’s access. Through SportsmensAccess.org, hunters and anglers can engage in this conversation by signing a petition to lawmakers or showing their social media networks why they are #PublicLandsProud. We are thrilled that Costa is a supporter of the TRCP and this important sportsmen’s access campaign.

Costa is a company that exemplifies and celebrates the “strenuous life” that Roosevelt talked about. Their commitment to quality and innovation have made their sunglasses an essential piece of gear for millions of sportsmen. Costa also recognizes the role their brand and its customers can play in promoting the conservation of fish and wildlife habitat – it’s an industry-wide responsibility and investment in our future. Through various initiatives, such as The Watery Rave blog and the Kick Plastic campaign, Costa is educating and engaging sportsmen to help make a difference.

TRCP is extremely proud to call Costa our partner. Together, we seek to carry on with Roosevelt’s vision, and our collaboration on a fun and unique technical fishing shirt is your chance to get involved. This shirt will keep you cool on the water and display your proud support of T.R.’s conservation vision. It bears our logo with Roosevelt’s iconic silhouette, but we’ve swapped out his famous spectacles…for a pair of Costas of course!

You can support the TRCP and get your shirt here.

Kristyn Brady

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Both parties—and eight sportsmen’s groups—agree on the conservation package introduced in the House today

Today, the four House leaders of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, Reps. Tim Walz (D-Minn.), Rob Wittman (R-Va.), Gene Green (D-Texas), and Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), introduced the bipartisan “Sportsmen’s Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Enhancement Act,” or SCORE Act (HR 3173), in the 114th Congress. Combined with the previously introduced SHARE Act (HR 2406), these bills constitute a major victory for fish and wildlife habitat, and improved access for America’s hunters and anglers.

Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) and Ron Kind (D-Wis.), all past chairs of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, are also supporting SCORE.

Image courtesy of Dusan Smetana.

“The sportsmen’s community can stand squarely behind this bill as a great step forward in protecting our ability to fund and implement the conservation of at-risk habitats, species, and access,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “It’s a good example of bipartisan legislation that addresses the needs of America’s hunters and anglers, and we’d like to see a lot more of that consensus.”

The bill contains seven provisions to reauthorize or implement legislation that helps fund conservation programs on federal and private lands, which boosts sportsmen’s access to quality hunting and fishing, including reauthorization of the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act (FLTFA). Prior to its expiration in 2011, FLTFA had leveraged strategic federal land sales to fund 39 priority conservation projects, including many that expanded sportsmen’s access to world-class hunting and fishing opportunities.

“There is a lot to like in this legislation,” said Kameran Onley, director of U.S. government relations for The Nature Conservancy. “It shows a significant bipartisan commitment to conservation and wildlife habitat protection, as well as sportsmen’s access and recreational opportunities that help grow our economy. We’re encouraged to see the bill include so many effective, fiscally-sound programs that provide both economic and conservation benefits.”

The Act would reauthorize two conservation grant programs with matched-dollar incentives: the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) and the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act. Each federal dollar invested in these grant programs is matched, on average, three times over by non-federal dollars that have major on-the-ground impacts for the conservation of wetlands, waterfowl, and other wildlife. “Conserving and protecting our nation’s wetlands is at the core of Ducks Unlimited,” said DU’s Chief Policy Officer Margaret Everson. “NAWCA funding is a critical component for DU to carry out our mission of conserving, restoring, and managing wetlands and habitats for North America’s waterfowl. We’re pleased this legislation calls for the reauthorization of these programs and appreciate the continued support for our community from Representatives Wittman, Walz, Duncan, and Green.”

Image courtesy of Joel Webster.

A provision often referred to as Making Public Lands Public, which has garnered significant bipartisan support as a standalone piece of legislation, is also a part of the package. It requires that 1.5 percent of annual Land and Water Conservation Fund monies be made available to establish and expand recreational access to federal public lands. “We are thrilled to see bi-partisan support for the SCORE Act, and we are particularly excited to see the ‘Making Public Lands Public’ provision included,” said Land Tawney, executive director for Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA). “Public lands are the cornerstone of our sporting heritage and public access to these lands is a priority for BHA. We look forward to swift action and ultimate passage of the SCORE Act. The steak has sizzled on the grill long enough—it’s time to set the table and pass a sportsmen’s package.”

SCORE includes a sense of Congressional support for the National Fish Habitat Conservation Act, which was previously introduced in Congress in 2014 to improve fish habitat through partnerships that foster conservation projects or enhance recreational fishing opportunities. These partnerships would “support the economic significance of fish habitat resources and the recreational, subsistence, and commercial fishing linked to these resources in the United States.”

“The recreational fishing industry strongly supports and, in fact, depends on healthy fish habitat that provides abundant fish stocks, which are enjoyed by our nation’s 60 million anglers,” said Mike Leonard, ocean resource policy director for the American Sportfishing Association and National Fish Habitat Partnership board member. “In addition to the other public access and habitat improvement provisions in this bill, we strongly support the National Fish Habitat Conservation Act and hope to see it advance in this Congress as part of a broader sportsmen’s package.”

Finally, SCORE would reauthorize the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, a congressionally-chartered grant-making organization that works with public and private stakeholders, and Partners for Fish and Wildlife, which assists private landowners in preserving habitat for federally-managed species. “It’s vitally important that Congress now pass the SCORE Act, so that these important conservation measures can continue and the investments the American public has made in wildlife conservation programs can reap rewards for years to come,” said David Houghton, president of the National Wildlife Refuge Association. “We’re particularly pleased to see reauthorization of the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, because this important program helps private landowners keep working lands working.”

The National Wild Turkey Federation also supports this legislation, which pairs well with their ‘Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt’ initiative. “This bill helps us protect habitat that supports wildlife and hunting access, thus protecting our hunting heritage for millions of Americans to enjoy,” said Becky Humphries, chief conservation officer for NWTF.

SHARE, which has also been supported by sportsmen’s groups, assures access for hunters and anglers, while SCORE seeks to improve habitat. Together, these bills assure a bright future for American sportsmen and women.

“The SCORE Act has major implications for wildlife habitat conservation in the United States and provides vital funding for partnership efforts to preserve and safeguard America’s outdoor traditions,” said Howard Vincent, president and CEO of Pheasants Forever, Inc. “Pheasants Forever and its members urge Congress to swiftly pass this bipartisan legislation for our nation’s wild places, wildlife, and all who enjoy it.”

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