Kristyn Brady

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posted in: General

October 30, 2015

While You Were Sleeping Congress Passed a Bipartisan Budget Deal

Default crisis was averted. Spending levels were moderately increased. But will any of it go toward conservation?

Shortly after 2:30 a.m. today, the U.S. Senate passed a two-year bipartisan budget agreement that will permit a modest reinvestment in important programs through fiscal year 2017 and lift the debt ceiling through March 2017. An additional $80 billion in government spending will be split evenly among defense and non-defense accounts, which could mean a much-needed increase in funding for conservation, natural resource agencies, and public access projects that benefit sportsmen and women.

“In the last four decades, we’ve seen funding for conservation as a percentage of the federal budget get cut in half,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “The increased funding for domestic programs in the new budget deal means more resources could go towards habitat protection, conservation easements, access enhancements, and water quality improvements.”

“It would be an investment in our economy, because quality habitat creates quality hunting and fishing opportunities, and we all know by now that sportsmen and women pour dollars into local businesses in their pursuit of great experiences afield,” says Fosburgh.

Image courtesy of Nicolas Raymond.

Before today’s action, and passage in the House on October 28, the dual threat of a default and a government shutdown was all too real. The outcome of today’s vote creates greater certainty that the government will remain functional—good news for sportsmen who were disproportionately affected by the 16-day government shutdown preceding the passage of the Murray-Ryan bipartisan budget deal in 2013. But, exactly how funding will be appropriated, and what the threat from various legislative riders will be, is left to be determined in the weeks ahead.

Since early this summer, the TRCP and its partners—including the Outdoor Industry Association, The Nature Conservancy, and 30 others—have been urging lawmakers to take up negotiations on a true successor to the Murray-Ryan deal, “the only way Congress is going to be able to make the investments in conservation that American sportsmen deserve,” Fosburgh said in a press release in June. The groups sent a letter to Congress in July.

Keep following the TRCP for news on how this year’s budget will be spent to implement conservation, improve fish and wildlife habitat, and protect America’s heritage of hunting and fishing on public lands.

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Kristyn Brady

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posted in: General

October 29, 2015

Meet our next #PublicLandsProud contest judge: Bill Buckley

Bill Buckley is a Montana-based outdoor photographer who is known for his regular contributions to Field & Stream, Outdoor Life, American Hunter, and Ducks Unlimited magazines, but he’s also a heck of a storyteller. I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Bill every time his work was chosen for F&S’s First Shot section—a two-page spread of a fantastic photo that makes you say, “What’s going on here?” or “I so want to be there.” (Case in point, this shot and this shot.)

From now through November 8, Buckley is guest judging your best dog photos for this round of the #PublicLandsProud photo contest. He’s looking for a winning photo with an intriguing, animated quality, so let your gun dog’s personality shine through.

Image courtesy of Bill Buckley.

TRCP: So, Bill, how do you like to spend your time outside?

Buckley: Living in Montana, I spend a lot of time doing what most folks I know do here: hunting, fishing, hike, and enjoying nature. That’s why I’ve been an outdoor photographer for much of the 24 years I’ve lived out West. I’m probably revealing my age here, but one of my favorite activities is being in my backyard, where I might see anything from mule deer, whitetails, and tons of turkeys to the occasional elk, bear, and even pheasants or ruffed grouse.

TRCP: What makes a great photo of man’s best friend?

Buckley: Great dog photos convey whatever’s animating a dog at that moment, whether it be a Lab focused on a flock of ducks, a pointer snuffling bird scent, or a house dog staring intensely at a ball about to be thrown. I’m always looking for intensity and drive, like whatever the dog’s doing right now is the most important thing he could imagine. And a good catchlight in their eyes never hurts!

TRCP: What makes you #PublicLandsProud?

Buckley: I moved West to have daily access to thousands of acres of public land, from the backcountry to the plains. What satisfies me most is filling my freezer every year with meat largely collected on public land. Downing a good bull elk on private land usually isn’t that big a deal; doing it regularly on public land says you’re a competent hunter.

Show us your #PublicLandsProud moment and you could be featured on our blog and win a new pair of Costa sunglasses and a copy of Steven Rinella’s new book, The Complete Guide to Hunting, Butchering, and Cooking Wild Game.   

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Attacks on clean water protection are scary no matter what costume they wear

Just in time for Halloween, the Senate is lining up three attacks on fishing and waterfowl hunting that should scare all sportsmen and women. They’re using rhetoric and must-pass legislation to disguise their attempts to take aim at the Clean Water Rule—produced by the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to clarify that small streams and wetlands do indeed deserve protection under the Clean Water Act—so Americans can’t tell if they’re getting a trick or a treat. But, if lawmakers succeed in undermining the rule, it’ll be open season on the small streams and wetlands that are so critical to hunting and fishing opportunities from coast to coast.

Here’s why you should be spooked:

Attack #1: Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa has called for the use of an obscure legislative tool, known as the Congressional Review Act (CRA), to substitute the judgment of Congress for the deliberate and thorough multi-year public rulemaking process that produced the Clean Water Rule. The CRA gives Congress the ability to overturn agency actions using special rules that bypass the normal legislative process, and it has been used successfully only once since it was created in 1996.

Image courtesy of Ian Sane/Creative Commons.

The Clean Water Rule was produced as a result of feedback from more than 400 stakeholder meetings and an extended public-comment period. Nearly 900,000 members of the public commented in support, and a recent poll found that 83 percent of sportsmen and women think the Clean Water Act should apply to smaller streams and wetlands, as the new rule mandates.

Nevertheless, Sen. Ernst wants to wipe away all that good work and send us back to a time when 60 percent of stream miles and millions of wetlands were susceptible to pollution and habitat loss. What’s more, due to the unique nature of the CRA, her bill would lock in the uncertainty that exists in the Clean Water Act indefinitely, offering no constructive path forward for regulatory certainty or better clean water protection.

Attack #2: Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming has introduced a bill deceptively titled “The Federal Water Quality Protection Act” that would send the EPA and Corps back to square one with new, unnecessary, and duplicative requirements that both agencies would have to meet before producing a replacement rule. If Sen. Barrasso’s bill stopped there, it would set the cause of clean water back many years, but unfortunately, it goes even further. The bill would eliminate protections for waters currently covered by the Clean Water Act, disregard the impact on wildlife when deciding how to protect a body of water, make it more difficult to protect smaller headwater streams, and do away with protections for waters the bill calls “isolated.” Many of these areas are prime hunting and fishing grounds or primary breeding grounds for the vast majority of waterfowl in North America.

It’s not clear in which order the Senate will consider the attacks from Sens. Ernst and Barrasso, but either could come up for a vote any day now.

Attack #3: As Congress limps its way to another end-of-the-year deal to keep the federal government open, many members of Congress will be pushing behind-the-scenes to get the Clean Water Rule rolled back by cutting off the funding needed to implement it. Tucking a dirty water provision into a 1,000-page must-pass piece of legislation is no way to deal with our bedrock clean water standards, and sportsmen shouldn’t stand for it.

It’s crunch time for America’s hunters and anglers. The next two months could determine whether we’ll have a Clean Water Act that protects wetlands and headwater streams, and gives certainty to farmers, ranchers, and foresters, or whether we will slip back to a time when trout streams and waterfowl nesting grounds are at increased risk.

Tell your lawmakers where you stand. Tell them you want clean water for hunting and fishing.

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October 26, 2015

Break the Internet to Protect Your Public Access to Hunting and Fishing —– Here’s How

Image courtesy of Library of Congress.

On October 27, 1858, or 157 years ago today, one of the greatest wildlife conservationists in the history of our country was born. Known for his brute toughness and great leadership, Theodore Roosevelt certainly left his mark on America’s wild landscapes while he was here on earth. During his time as President, he established the U.S. Forest Service, created National Parks and National Forests, and was partly responsible for protecting over 230 million acres of land.

In his own time, these ideas were not unanimously popular, but no one ever made a move to reverse the legislative steps that would create T.R.’s conservation legacy—until now.

As you may have read on this blog before, a total of 37 bills were introduced in 11 Western states in 2015 to promote the transfer of federal public lands to individual states. If you live in the West, you probably heard that thousands of your friends, neighbors, and fellow sportsmen rallied against this bad idea earlier this year. And you definitely heard from us this spring, when the fight moved to Washington and our U.S. Senate passed a non-binding budget resolution that encourages Congress to “sell, or transfer to, or exchange with, a state or local government any Federal land that is not within the boundaries of a National Park, National Preserve, or National Monument.”

What was once regarded as a silly idea is now on record as something our federal lawmakers support, and that’s why it’s no time to sit back or lower our voices. Even though all but a few of the state bills were defeated, there’s still support—and funding to fuel support—for federal land transfer, which would mean the end of hunting and fishing as we know it on this vast public-land system.

More than 19,600 people have signed a petition to oppose this bad idea, resulting in more than 188,000 letters asking local, state, and federal lawmakers to stand with sportsmen. And we want to crank the volume up even further.

Help us get to 25,000 signatures on Theodore Roosevelt’s birthday—to honor a great man, with great ambition, and an astounding conservation legacy that fuels our sporting traditions. Sign the petition at sportsmensaccess.org.

Then let your friends know that you stand for public access to fish and wildlife resources and quality days afield that are unmatched in any country on the planet. (Yeah, we said it.) Post with #HappyBirthdayTR and #PublicLandsProud and we’ll repost our favorites all day today.

Steve Kline

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posted in: General

Glassing the Hill: October 26 – 30

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

The Senate will be in session Monday through Friday. The House will conduct legislative business Monday through Thursday.

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

The election for Speaker of the House will occur on secret ballots within the Republican caucus on Wednesday of this week, and the (recorded) floor vote will occur the following day. House Ways and Means Chairman and 2012 GOP Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan (R-WI) appears to have the votes to become the next Speaker, although he will immediately find out just how difficult the job will be, as key deadlines loom on a debt ceiling deal, an extension of the highway trust fund, and a long-term budget agreement. His ascendance has already kick-started a fight between Pat Tiberi of Ohio and Kevin Brady of Texas for the powerful Ways and Means gavel.

Last week, House GOP leadership had to pull a deal to pair a debt-ceiling increase with conservative reforms, because it lacked the votes for passage, even in the House. Senate Majority Leader McConnell has said that “the House should go first” on the debt ceiling, which runs out on November 3, but the path forward is unclear. Many in the Senate have a growing sense that, if the House doesn’t move soon on a deal, the Senate will indeed have to take the lead. Both chambers have reserved floor time this week for consideration of a deal. The President has threatened to veto any debt ceiling bill that includes spending cuts.

Last week, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved a bipartisan transportation bill through the next six years, but with the Highway Trust Fund—reminder: that’s funded by the federal tax on gasoline at the pump—set  to expire this Thursday, there is no time to negotiate between the House T&I bill and the long-term bill that the Senate passed in July. A short-term patch of the Highway Trust Fund is expected later this week.

And ICYMI, President Obama kept his word and vetoed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) last week. The NDAA was sent back to Congress with the President’s clear message of disapproval due to “irresponsible” spending caps. The pressure for a budget deal that raises sequester caps and increases funding for things like key conservation programs is certainly growing in advance of the December 11 deadline. This promises to be a very real test for the new Speaker of the House.

Obama also urged Congress to reauthorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund in his weekly address on Saturday. Watch the clip below.

What We’re Tracking

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Stream protection, in a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation, and Enforcement hearing on the proposed rule

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Public lands, to be discussed in a House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands hearing regarding the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Modernization Act of 2015

Legislation on projects related to public lands, water, and tribes, the subject of a House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans hearing

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.

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