Ariel Wiegard

by:

posted in: General

January 21, 2016

Private Lands Conservation Combats a Different Kind of Empty Nest Syndrome

How CRP delivers “duck factory” products nationwide

The national Conservation Reserve Program is 30! The CRP was signed into law by President Reagan as part of the Farm Bill on December 23, 1985, to help agricultural producers to voluntarily conserve soil, water, and wildlife. The TRCP and our partners are celebrating the 30th anniversary of CRP throughout 2016, by highlighting the successes of this popular bipartisan program—regarded by many as the greatest private lands conservation initiative in U.S. history. Here on our blog, we’re devoting a series of posts to the critters that have seen tremendous habitat benefits: upland birds, wild turkeys, waterfowl, and freshwater fish. CRP works for wildlife, and it works for sportsmen.

Image courtesy of Pheasants Forever.

Land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program can currently be found in 47 states and Puerto Rico, but nowhere is the program as important to waterfowl as in the Prairie Pothole Region.

The PPR—covering parts of Iowa, Minnesota, the Dakotas, and Montana before extending north into Canada—is a globally unique ecosystem of wetlands and grasslands, formed when the glaciers retreated 10,000 years ago. Millions of depressions that became “pothole” wetlands, intermixed with lush grasslands, make up some of the world’s best migratory bird nesting habitat.

Waterfowl do nest elsewhere, of course, but there’s a reason the PPR is called North America’s “Duck Factory.” It’s estimated that as much as 70 percent of American waterfowl—millions of canvasbacks, mallards, pintails, gadwall, teal, and other subspecies—originate in the PPR, and migrate to every state, province, and territory in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, plus several South American countries. It’s possible that you have a PPR duck or two in your freezer right now!

Threats Are Abundant, Too

For better or worse, however, the unique ecology of the PPR is highly valued by more than just waterfowl. Ranchers have long found the prairie well-suited to raising cattle, and farmers know the soil to be ideal for sowing crops. Today, more than 90 percent of the region is privately-owned, and when crop prices are high, critical habitat is at great risk of being turned into corn or soybean fields.

As of 2009, approximately 61 percent of the 17 million acres of historical wetlands had already been lost, and about 1,500 acres of temporary and seasonal wetlands, disproportionately favored by breeding ducks, continue to be plowed up each year. Grassland—once 80 percent of total PPR land cover—now only comprises about 22 percent of the region, even when you add up native prairie, CRP grassland, and other planted pasture. Nearly all—95 percent—of these total losses have been attributed to agricultural conversion.

When the Conservation Reserve Program peaked at 36.8 million acres nationwide in 2007, just under a quarter of those acres (8.2 million) were located in the PPR and played an outsized role in protecting wetland and prairie habitat. However, as we’ve written about here and here, CRP has decreased over the last several years to just 23.4 million acres (as of November 2015), and the program in the Pothole region has taken a direct hit—only about 6.5 million acres of CRP are currently enrolled across the five PPR states, and not all of that is in “pothole country.” Degradation and fragmentation of the habitat that remains in the region, including existing CRP lands, are major threats to hundreds of wildlife species that live and breed on the prairie.

Ducks Love CRP—and So Do We

There is a lot for sportsmen to worry about when it comes to loss of waterfowl habitat. Thankfully, people are paying attention and providing data we can use to advocate for more CRP in the Prairie Potholes.

Image courtesy of Ryan Hagarty/USFWS.

Last year, for instance, the Prairie Pothole Joint Venture published a study detailing how to best target CRP enrollment to maximize benefits for migratory birds. The organization’s work builds upon years of research which, in a nutshell, once showed that more than two million waterfowl are produced each year in this region on CRP land alone. That’s equivalent to one-third of the entire U.S. harvest of waterfowl species studied in a single year. Unfortunately, the recent report lowers that estimate to about 1.5 million birds (still a lot of ducks to be thankful for). C

The study also found that all types of ducks preferred CRP over all other cover types, and that nest success was higher in CRP lands than elsewhere.

So what is it about CRP that ducks are so fond of? The answer is fairly simple: The number of waterfowl settling and breeding in the PPR is driven by the number of available permanent, temporary, and seasonal wetlands surrounded by upland grasses. And CRP provides incentives to landowners to protect the very wetlands and grasslands favored by waterfowl. There’s even a special “duck nesting habitat” practice within CRP, only available in the PPR states, which can help landowners to restore wetlands that had once been used for agriculture.

CRP is also often used to help separate wetlands from crop land, allowing perennial grasses and wildflowers to improve water storage in the soil, contribute to cleaner water with lower concentrations of pesticides, and promote increased plant and insect diversity and abundance (read: duck food!). In some documented cases, CRP is providing habitat that is better than public lands habitat managed specifically for waterfowl.

As the Prairie Pothole Joint Venture notes in their report, the CRP isn’t the only tool for private land managers who want to improve their conservation practices, but it is an especially important one in the PPR toolbox. It’s great for ducks and waterfowl hunters nationwide get to reap the rewards. That’s why the TRCP will continue to advocate for a CRP that works for wildlife.

Learn how CRP is benefiting other species in the rest of our blog series.

The study also found that all types of ducks preferred CRP over all other cover types, and that nest success was higher in CRP lands than elsewhere. 

Do you have any thoughts on this post?

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Kristyn Brady

by:

posted in: General

Dispatch from the Desert: Talking Conservation at SHOT Show

New products aren’t the only focus at the landmark firearms industry trade show in Las Vegas

Our staff was on the ground in Las Vegas, Nevada, this week for the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show—the largest firearms industry conference of its kind—and I am pleased to report that the spirit of conservation is alive and well at SHOT.

Image courtesy of Jenni Henry.

If you were to stand in the main thoroughfare of the Sands Expo Center—where 62,000 industry professionals, including buyers, marketers, and media, are streaming through the doors to a showroom bursting at the seams with 1,600 exhibitors launching innovative new products—you might only see commerce. And it’s true that, at SHOT, the economic impact of the shooting sports hits you, well, right between the eyes.

But over the last three days, our conversations on the floor, in events, and with colleagues new and old have been about a much bigger picture: collaboration, a sense of responsibility, and an openness to change that will undoubtedly come. Brands want to showcase their commitments to tradition and ethics, including conservation. They want to serve the underserved. They want to examine what’s working (and not working) in the marketplace and in our sports.

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation wants our community to show the country that #HuntingIsConservation. Outdoor Life magazine wants hunters and recreational shooters to think about the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, fed by excise tax dollars—it’s a success story, but should it remain unchanged?

At the TRCP’s annual Conservation Roundtable on Wednesday, competitive shooting luminary Julie Golob stood in front of conservation group leaders, state and federal wildlife agency directors, and members of the outdoor media and called for better collaboration on policy issues outside the scope of the second amendment. As a well-recognized shooter, she’s a champion of the right to bear arms, of course, but as a hunter and a mom, she doesn’t want to feel sequestered from efforts to improve conservation. And now is the time to unite on our issues.

That’s why we asked roundtable attendees to forecast which conservation priorities our community should rally behind in a presidential election year and what one issue they’d ask a candidate to address—an appropriate topic to mull over with Donald Trump waiting in the wings to present at the Outdoor Sportsman Awards ceremony Thursday night.

Image courtesy of Jenni Henry.

The National Wildlife Federation’s Lew Carpenter said, definitively, public lands staying in public hands. Nick Wiley, executive director of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, suggested more creative partnership between state and federal agencies on wildlife management. Miles Moretti, president and CEO of the Mule Deer Foundation, touted using sage grouse conservation as a new model for collaborative solutions in the face of declining species. Some suggested taking a good, hard look at the Endangered Species Act itself.

Howard Vincent, president and CEO of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, pointed out that the idea of clean, abundant water touches all of our issues on public and private lands. It powers the fishing industry, certainly, but it also connects the interests of sportsmen, agriculture, cities, and wildlife under one very basic notion: We all need it. We all need places to pursue our sports, as well. The TRCP’s Joel Webster reiterated that access to hunting and fishing on public lands is the great equalizer—it doesn’t matter whether you get there on a private jet or on a Schwinn, those lands are yours to explore and they should be protected.

Armed with these rallying points and the enthusiasm felt from all sides at SHOT Show, I think we’re all hoping to get caught in an elevator with Mr. Trump.

Joel Webster

by:

posted in: General

A Different Way to Think About Future National Monuments

In areas important for hunting and fishing, engage sportsmen early and commit to maintaining access

Created in 1906 by our group’s namesake, President Theodore Roosevelt, the Antiquities Act is frequently a topic of passionate discussion among public land hunters and anglers. Our organization receives many requests from local, state, and national organizations to weigh in on specific National Monuments proposed under the Act, but it isn’t an easy issue. Still, these land designations impact the hunting and fishing community directly, so we’re rolling up our sleeves and finding common ground to see that the Antiquities Act is used thoughtfully, in the right places, as a tool for conservation.

That’s why the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership decided to collaborate with 27 hunting and fishing organizations and businesses to develop a new report, “National Monuments: A Sportsmen’s Perspective,” that outlines a clear approach for gaining widespread hunter and angler support for new National Monuments.

organ-mountains-desert-peaks-national-monument
Image courtesy of Bob Wick/BLM.

The report also provides case studies of existing national monuments that offer great hunting and fishing and where sportsmen played an important role in monument establishment. Through review of these success stories—and examples where endorsement from the sportsmen’s community was lacking—it became clear that the most widely-supported national monuments were created through a locally driven, transparent process incorporating science-based management of important fish and wildlife habitat. And, perhaps most importantly, successful monuments continue to offer opportunities for the public to hunt and fish.

Knowing this, here’s what our report suggests is the best use of the Antiquities Act:

  • A monument proposal must be developed through a public process—one that includes hunters, anglers, and state and local governments.
  • A monument proclamation must clearly stipulate that management authority over fish and wildlife populations will be retained by state fish and wildlife agencies.
  • Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service lands must remain under the authority of a land management agency focused on multiple uses of the land.
  • Reasonable public access to hunting and fishing must be retained.
  • The input and guidance of hunters and anglers must be included in management plans for national monuments.
  • Important fish and wildlife habitat must be protected.
  • Sporting opportunities must be upheld and the historical and cultural significance of hunting and fishing explicitly acknowledged in the monument proclamation.

Overall: The proposal must enjoy support from local sportsmen and women.

We believe this approach creates a clear measuring stick to inform the decisions of elected officials and other stakeholders about what needs to be accomplished before future National Monuments are considered in areas important to sportsmen. I hope you’ll read it. It’s in our best interest for sportsmen to engage on National Monument proposals in a constructive manner.

But I recognize that you may still have questions, so please contact me directly if you want to discuss.

Kristyn Brady

by:

posted in: General

January 20, 2016

Senate moves forward with Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act

Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act now poised for time on the Senate floor

Today the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted to advance its portion of the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act (S.659) that would renew important investments in conservation for fish, waterfowl, migratory birds, and other wildlife.

Image courtesy of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Combined with a bill that would enhance public access to hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting, which passed the Energy and Natural Resources Committee in November 2015, today’s actions cement a path forward for a vote of the full Senate on the comprehensive Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act.

“Today’s vote was an important step toward improving habitat and access, which translates to more opportunities for sportsmen across the country to live out our unique outdoor heritage,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We’re very pleased to see that conservation has support in the Senate at a critical time for our nation’s land and water, and fish and wildlife resources.”

The committee approved reauthorization of 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.

Senators also approved proposed amendments to the original bill that would reauthorize the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, a congressionally-chartered grant-making organization that works with public and private stakeholders, and the National Fish Habitat Conservation Act, created to foster partnerships to improve fish habitat and enhance recreational fishing opportunities.

Mia Sheppard

by:

posted in: General

January 19, 2016

An Ode to Oregon, Access, and My Dogs

For our Oregon field rep, the events of the last three weeks are personal. So is her story

Oregon is my home, and it’s an incredibly special place, where I have access to hunting and fishing in rugged country with the most spectacular views, including more than 10 million acres of public land. Practically out my back door, I can float, fish a run, catch a steelhead, and then go for a hike with the dogs and gun searching for chukars on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) backcountry land. I’ve hunted places like the Deschutes River  for years, so I know exactly where to go to find the spots where sagebrush and bitterbrush intermingle and birds are abundant. I’ve crossed many a rusty fence and watched chukars dive from the breaks to escape #6-shot pellets by the dozen.

Image courtesy of Marty Sheppard.

This is the ultimate opportunity to experience wide-open, undisturbed landscapes and watch my dogs work. Cedar, our 10-year-old veteran Pudelpointer, does most of the work while Eddy, the new Munsterlander pup, plays. We’re not even 15 minutes from the boat, at times, before Cedar smells the air vigorously and starts following the scent.

His tail starts wagging faster and faster, his shoulders drop, he points, and starts creeping in. Maybe he stops, moves in a little closer, and suddenly the birds flush, just out of range. No shots taken. We’ll keep working the sagebrush flat while the wind is in our favor. In the distance, I’ve noticed mule deer watching our every move. We hike back and float to the next corner, where we can cover new territory, that hasn’t been hunted today.

These areas—where muleys and bighorn sheep are more likely to be found than reporters and news-trucks—they’re mine and they’re yours. That’s why the last few weeks have been so frustrating. The disruption caused by the extremists occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is taxing for the people who live and recreate here. The Refuge is typically open to hunting and fishing—but not today. What they’re doing is at odds with everything I love about a day like the one I’ve just described.

I’m anxious to get back to the boat, and float to the next corner. I think we all are.

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.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

Be The First To Know




  Please leave this field empty

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

Be The First To Know




  Please leave this field empty

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Join the TRCP for free!

Sign up below to help us guarantee all Americans quality places to hunt and fish. Become a TRCP Member today.

Be The First To Know




  Please leave this field empty

You have Successfully Subscribed!