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posted in: Farm Bill

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. 

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posted in: Farm Bill

January 14, 2016

Private Land Conservation Keeps Turkey Habitat from Getting Gobbled Up

Why CRP works for wild turkeys, farmers, and sportsmen

Image courtesy of Pheasants Forever.

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.

Many readers will be familiar with the phenomenal comeback of the wild turkey in America, but considering how prevalent these big birds are in some parts of the country today, some may be shocked to learn that turkeys were widely extirpated by the beginning of the 20th century. While no one conservation innovation is responsible for the wild turkey’s rebound, the Conservation Reserve Program continues to ensure that a profound amount of turkey habitat is not lost or converted to crops.

Talking Turkey Restoration

According to the National Wild Turkey Federation, wild turkey populations began to shrink not long after the first Europeans arrived in North America. Native wild turkeys (of which there are five distinct subspecies) were an important source of food for a growing population of settlers, who hunted the birds year-round without regulation. Meanwhile, vast northern forests were being cleared for agriculture, industry, and other societal needs. As a result, by 1920 the wild turkey had all but disappeared from 18 of the 39 states in its historic range, and by the 1930s the continental population was estimated at fewer than 30,000 birds—found only in the most rugged and inaccessible environments.

Want more info? Watch Steven Rinella discuss the History of the American Wild Turkey.

Thankfully, early conservation laws—such as the 1905 Lacey Act and the 1937 Pittman-Robertson Act—and the creation of our National Forest System resulted in the slow restoration of the landscape, and wild turkey populations increased substantially as a result. Successful trap-and-transplant programs were launched mid-century to help accelerate population growth, which reached a high of nearly 7 million wild turkeys across North America. Today, wild turkeys are found in every U.S. state except Alaska and, including populations in Canada and Mexico, the game bird now occupies more miles of habitat than any other in North America.

Still, Threats Exist

NWTF estimates that 6,000 acres of wild turkey habitat is lost each day to the development of roads, homes, and industrial agriculture, and the overall population has shrunk from 7 million to about 6.2 million birds in recent years. While there are other downward pressures on wild turkey populations (lack of rainfall in the West, severe winters up north, and even the widespread presence of feral hogs in the South), loss of turkey habitat, often due to poor farm and forest management, is the biggest threat to the gobbler’s success.

As we’ve explained before, rising prices for commodity crops, like corn, have motivated landowners to farm their old Conservation Reserve Program acreage and other marginal lands, in order to increase production. These marginal farmlands frequently include prime turkey habitat full of brushy cover and a variety of food sources. Once converted, a heavily-managed soybean field is no place to raise a brood.

Whereas today’s farmland is overly managed for production, forested land tends to be under managed for a turkey’s habitat needs: The amount of logging and thinning in many forests has decreased, which can result in a too-thick understory of young trees and invasive plants—once again, unsuitable habitat for turkey nesting, brooding, and roosting.

Wild turkey habitat is at risk not just because it’s disappearing by the acre—the acreage that does exist is frequently a victim of neglect.

CRP Can Help!

The home range of a wild turkey flock varies from 350 acres to more than 60,000 acres. Flocks need space to roam and a mixture of habitat components like fresh water, food, and diverse cover. In some areas of the country, it may seem impossible for one property to offer this much habitat, but landowners enrolling as few as 10 acres in CRP can provide crucial habitat support to wild turkeys. Just one component—like a CRP food plot—needs to be present on the land, as long as adjacent lands can address the others—water and cover. Even a few acres of CRP here and there, along stream beds, utility rights-of-way, or farm fields bordering forests, can help support habitat connectivity in fragmented rural areas.

In other parts of the country, where landowners are able to enroll vast parcels of land in the program, CRP has helped to convert large fields of production agriculture, like cotton in the Southeast, into bottomland timber forests or permanent native grasslands. These CRP areas make for excellent hunting grounds (with landowner permission, of course), especially when properly managed as part of a business plan. For instance, today, the commercial harvesting of southeastern CRP pine stands planted 20 years ago is increasing the value of those forests to wild turkeys.

Additionally, the slow-but-steady return of fire to CRP is a boon to turkeys and other wildlife. It has long been taboo to intentionally set fire to the landscape, even as part of a conservation management plan, but prescribed and rotational burning can clear downed trees from the forest understory, open the forest floor to promote new growth, control for invasive species, and help to diversify the number of native grasses, forbs, legumes, and shrubs on the ground. In many cases, landowners in CRP can receive cost-share funding to implement prescribed burns and other invaluable management practices.

As untouched native savannahs and forests give way to working landscapes, the importance of CRP to the wild turkey will continue to grow in importance. By enrolling in the program, landowners can help add habitat to the landscape and better manage their own private lands for wild turkeys, deer, and other game species.

‘Dead Turkeys Don’t Lie’

Unfortunately, it’s hard to find comprehensive, quantifiable data on the impacts of CRP for wild turkeys, but one wildlife biologist put it succinctly when he said, “I’m like the old fellow from East Texas, in that ‘I ain’t got no data, but I know what I’ve seen,’ and dead turkeys do not lie.” Here’s hoping that CRP continues to work for wild turkeys and wild turkey hunters, far into the future.

To read the other blogs in our series click here and here.

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posted in: Farm Bill

December 9, 2015

The Undeniable Upland Benefits of Habitat Conservation on Farms and Ranches

Why CRP works for pheasants and quail

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 will be celebrating the 30th anniversary of CRP throughout the month of December and into 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’ll devote a series of posts to the critters that have seen tremendous habitat benefits: upland birds, waterfowl, forest dwellers, and freshwater fish. CRP works for wildlife, and it works for sportsmen.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Habitat loss is one of the greatest threats to sportsmen in this country. This is especially true in the midwestern, eastern, and southern states, where vast amounts of public lands aren’t available to provide habitat for game species. Many hunters and anglers rely on the generosity of private landowners who allow outdoor recreation on their property. Even if you have all the access you need, a landowner’s decision to either maintain habitat or convert land for crops dramatically affects wildlife and your experiences afield.

According to one report, 11 out of 19 non-migratory game birds in the U.S. depend on private lands for more than 50 percent of their habitat. For seven of these species, 80 percent of the population resides on private lands—the Northern bobwhite quail is a perfect example, with 97 percent located on private lands.

So how can we maintain sustainable populations, for the sake of the birds and our sports? Enter the Conservation Reserve Program.

CRP Equals Habitat

America’s rural landscape changed dramatically in the latter half of the 20th century, as urban areas sprawled and farm technology became more sophisticated. In the Prairie Pothole Region, for instance, 60 to 90 percent of original native grasslands have been lost to agriculture and other development. As a result, we’ve seen equally dramatic declines in upland bird populations. Some estimates show a 15-percent annual decline in upland bird numbers until 1986, the first year that farmers and ranchers were eligible to enroll lands in the CRP.

Image courtesy of Ariel Wiegard.

Since that time, upland bird population declines have thankfully slowed or even reversed, due to the reestablishment of habitat on private lands. In pheasant country, Nebraska only showed a 5-percent annual population decline following the introduction of CRP, and in Iowa, pheasant numbers increased 30 percent in the first five years of the program. Through 2006, the U.S. Department of Agriculture associated a 4-percent annual increase in CRP acreage with a 22-percent increase in pheasant counts. And at the height of CRP’s enrollment in 2006 to 2008, 32 million acres nationwide were credited with producing pheasant numbers unmatched since the 1960s.

Around the same time that CRP peaked, in 2004 the USDA made a new category of lands eligible for the program: habitat buffers for upland birds. Where pheasants benefit from a wide range of conservation practices, including whole-field CRP enrollments and planted food plots, bobwhite quail can do very well in small, 30- to 120-foot-wide strips of buffer habitat, generally placed on marginal or less productive farmland. These buffers often represent an insignificant change for landowners (as little as 5 percent of a farm operation), but they can also provide important nesting, brood rearing, and escape cover for upland species, and serve as travel corridors between fragmented habitat areas. A National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative study estimates that this new CRP initiative added 30,000 coveys to the landscape each year from 2006 to 2011, or approximately 1.5 bobwhites per acre of native grassland enrolled in the program. Compared to their small average enrollment size, these buffers can have an exponentially positive impact on wildlife.

Conservation is Part of a Business Plan

It’s clear that when farmers and landowners enroll in the program, CRP works for upland birds. But as recent history shows, the future viability of pheasants, quail, and other upland species is also closely tied to the economic viability of the program as agricultural markets fluctuate.

Almost immediately after CRP hit a 36.8-million-acre peak in 2007, prices for commodities like corn and soybeans skyrocketed, and so did land values. Landowners exited the CRP in droves to take advantage of the strong agricultural market, and upland bird populations once again began to fall. In the heart of pheasant country, CRP declined by 5.5 million acres between 2006 and 2012; pheasant populations simultaneously dropped by almost half, from 5.7 million birds to just 2.9 million.

To be fair, other upland species didn’t take the same hit—bobwhite quail populations have continued to improve in some areas since the creation of the buffer habitat program a decade ago. Some of the decline in pheasants can also be attributed to periods of harsh weather, but these are hearty birds that have proven they can withstand a Dakota winter—if habitat is available.

Whether USDA will have acres available to turn into habitat, however, is an ongoing concern for wildlife advocates and sportsmen. The CRP was cut in the last Farm Bill from 32 million acres to 24 million acres per year in response to high crop prices and a tight federal budget. But lawmakers—including Senator Pat Roberts, the current chairman of the Senate Agriculture committee, and Rep. Frank Lucas, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee during the last Farm Bill debate—have expressed concern that the budget alone had a greater impact on the program than it should have. Commodity prices are now leveling off and conservation programs are once again becoming an economically-competitive alternative to cropping, but the shrinking program is limiting land-use choices for farmers.

Is It Enough?

Because of these economic changes, landowners today are weighing a much different decision on land use than they did in the early days of CRP. The program was created 30 years ago primarily to reduce soil erosion and boost commodity prices, and landowners often signed USDA contracts to enroll entire fields in the program. Now, many farmers are seeking a more diversified business model that includes conservation as part of their financial success—they are working under a new mantra: “Farm the best, conserve the rest.” Enrolling land in habitat buffers and State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement can keep working lands working for farmers and for wildlife—but only if the overall amount of habitat can sustain populations. It is yet to be seen whether this Farm Bill’s 24-million-acre cap can make that possible.

Image courtesy of Ariel Wiegard.

We hope it will, but we’ll continue to advocate for an increase to the program in the next Farm Bill. In the meantime, the TRCP is collaborating with the USDA to make sure each and every acre of CRP works better for wildlife—and for sportsmen seeking the thrill of a flush.

This year, CRP is 30, and we can be thankful that CRP works, plain and simple.

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posted in: Farm Bill

December 3, 2015

Celebrating the Greatest Private Lands Conservation Initiative in Modern History

The USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program has benefitted landowners and habitat for 30 years

Image courtesy of Pheasants Forever.

As D.C. kicks off the holiday season with the lighting of the national Christmas tree this week, a different kind of celebration is taking place on Capitol Hill and across the country to honor the national Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), a Farm Bill initiative that has allowed agriculture producers to voluntarily conserve environmentally sensitive land—including prime wildlife habitat—for 30 years. More than 400,000 farmers and ranchers are currently participating in the program and making conservation a part of their business success. And you may recall Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announcing in May that an additional 800,000 acres would be eligible for enrollment in the CRP, with a good portion devoted to lands with duck-nesting habitat.

It’s clear that this valuable habitat conservation tool, first signed into law by President Reagan as part of the Farm Bill in 1985, has a lot to boast about.

That’s why the TRCP and our partners will be celebrating the CRP throughout the month of December and into 2016, by highlighting the successes of this popular bipartisan program—regarded by many as the greatest private lands conservation initiative in modern U.S. history. Here on our blog, we’ll devote a series of posts to the critters that have seen tremendous habitat benefits: upland birds, waterfowl, forest dwellers, sage grouse, and freshwater fish. CRP works for wildlife, and it works for sportsmen.

Sen. Pat Roberts and TRCP President & CEO Whit Fosburgh. Image courtesy of Cyrus Baird.

We also gathered more than 250 CRP champions on Capitol Hill for a special event last night. Our guests included lawmakers from at least 47 Congressional offices covering 25 states, conservationists from 45 advocacy groups, staff from five federal agencies, and landowners from at least 13 states.

One particular landowner, Senator Jon Tester of Montana, who uses CRP at home, gave some heartfelt remarks at the beginning of the evening. “This is an incredibly good program for production agriculture and for wildlife,” he said. “I entered CRP to stop wind and water erosion, but I didn’t realize all the benefits to sharptail grouse, whitetail deer, and mule deer on my property.”

Senator Jon Tester. Image courtesy of Ariel Wiegard.

Senator Pat Roberts also spoke to the legacy of the program. “CRP has provided a valuable safety net to producers during some of their most trying times, but it has also improved water quality, reduced erosion, and increased habitat for endangered and protected species.” Michael Scuse, undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services at the USDA, went into detail about these benefits: “More than 170,000 stream miles and 2.7 million acres of wetlands have been protected. Pheasants have returned to many Midwestern counties. And when so many of our rural communities were at a crossroads in 2008 and 2009, sportsmen’s spending carried them through.”

Image courtesy of TRCP.

Tester acknowledged that some of the guests in the room were instrumental in creating this program in the 80s and offered his profound appreciation for their efforts, which have had multigenerational benefits. “Thanks for looking out for my kids,” he said.

The event was made possible thanks to a remarkably diverse group of sponsors, which truly speaks to the broad support for private lands conservation programs like CRP. Everyone who values healthy lands, waters, fish, and wildlife should be grateful to the unique community of farmers, lawmakers, conservationists, and sportsmen who created CRP in 1985 and continue to support it in its thirtieth year.

If you are a landowner interested in participating in CRP, a general sign up period launched on December 1 and will run through February 26. Visit USDA for more info. And for more CRP success stories check back here or follow #CRPis30 and #CRPworks on Facebook and Twitter.

Guest Blogger James L. Cummins

June 23, 2015

The Teddy Bear Delisting and ‘That Hunt’

You may know the tale of Theodore Roosevelt’s Mississippi black bear hunt in the fall of 1902, his second year in office. After all, it’s one of the most famous hunts to have taken place on American soil, and it inspired the most famous toy in the world—the Teddy Bear.

Image courtesy of Creative Commons. Above image courtesy of USDA/Flickr.

But shortly after Roosevelt came to Mississippi in the early 1900s, over-hunting and agricultural development in the Delta’s swamps practically eliminated the Louisiana black bear from its native range in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley. It was eventually listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) as a threatened species by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1992, bringing about much concern from landowners, the timber industry, and wildlife professionals. This forward-thinking group hoped that the downward trend could be reversed and suitable black bear habitat within the region could be restored.

That same year, the Wetlands Reserve Program was instituted, building upon the successes of the Conservation Reserve Program, launched in 1985. Together, these programs resulted in the restoration of more than one million acres of black bear habitat, and black bear populations slowly began to rise across the bear’s historic range.

Now, Teddy’s bear is having a moment. After more than two decades of conservation efforts, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell has proposed removing the Louisiana black bear from the list of threatened and endangered species under the ESA. “The Louisiana black bear symbolizes how the Endangered Species Act can be a remarkably effective tool to protect and recover threatened and endangered species when we work in close partnership with states and other stakeholders,” Jewell said. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, state agencies, non-profit organizations, and private landowners are all to thank for the Louisiana black bear’s success.

Image courtesy of USFWS.

According to Hunter Fordice, a landowner and son of Mississippi’s former governor, Kirk Fordice, “The first documented black bear cubs born in the Mississippi Delta in some 30 years were born in the middle of a 12-year-old Wetlands Reserve Program tract on my property in Issaquena County in 2007. The Wetlands Reserve Program and the Conservation Reserve Program have restored hundreds of thousands of acres of bottomland hardwoods across the Lower Mississippi Valley, which in turn has provided habitat suitable for the Louisiana black bear to once again thrive in its historical home range. As a landowner, it is very gratifying to see these conservation programs working so well.”

We think Roosevelt would be proud to see the population’s rebound and to know that the next generation of outdoorsmen will share the woods with the bear that “bears” his nickname. To celebrate, let’s hear the story of this famous hunt.

A Famous Hunt and Hunter

Almost every aspect of Roosevelt’s 1902 hunt at Smede’s farm was the responsibility of the uneducated, but extremely intelligent, 56-year-old Holt Collier, who was born into slavery and served as a Confederate scout before becoming a legend for his hunting skills. Roosevelt (who announced that he was to be addressed only as “Colonel” throughout the hunt) expressed his desire to participate in the chase. However his demands for a shot on the very first day, and the timidity of his hosts, condemned him to a stationary blind. He was placed to have a clear shot when the bear, driven by Collier’s pack of nearly 40 dogs, would emerge from one of the dense cane thickets on the farm.

Roosevelt and his hunting partner, Huger Foote, waited on the stand all morning. Around mid-afternoon they broke for lunch, annoying Collier, who’d worked extremely hard to bring a bear to that exact spot only to find the stand abandoned.  As Collier recalled,

“That was eight o’clock in the mornin’ when I hit the woods an’ roused my bear where I knowed I’d fin him. Den me an’ dat bear had a time, fightin’ an’ chargin’ an’ tryin’ to make him take a tree. Big ole bear but he wouldn’t climb nary tree. I could have killed him a thousand times… I sweated myself to death in that canebrake. So did the bear. By keeping between the bear and the river, I knew he’d sholy make for the water hole where I left the Cunnel [sic]. After a while the bear started that way and popped out of the gap where I said he’d go. But I didn’t hear a shot, and that pestered me… It sholy pervoked me because I’d promised the President to bring him a bear to that log, and there he was.”

Holt Collier: His Life, His Roosevelt Hunts, and the Origin of the Teddy Bear by Minor Ferris Buchanan 

It was at this time that the bear turned on the dogs. This put Collier in quite the quandary. He had been given specific orders to save the bear for Roosevelt, who was not to be found, and yet he had to protect the dogs from the deadly bear.

Image courtesy of Dale Divers.

Collier dismounted, shouting at the bear. He approached the bear and tried to distract it as someone rode to camp to get the President. In the meantime, the bear and the dogs fought viciously, and at one point his prize dog was caught in the bear’s grip. Collier swung the stock of his gun and landed a blow to the base of the bear’s skull. Stunned, the bear dropped the dog and Collier seized the opportunity to place a lariat around the bear’s neck so that, when Roosevelt and Foote arrived several minutes later, the animal was tied to a tree.

President Roosevelt refused to claim the bear, citing a “true sportsmen’s code” which holds that the taking of any animal that does not have a sporting chance is forbidden. This famous hunting event inspired the first widespread discussion of the modern code of “fair chase,” a tenet of the Boone and Crockett Club which Roosevelt founded. It is the oldest conservation organization in North America and the second oldest in the world.

Although Roosevelt did not count the hunt as “successful,” the press thought it a most delightful story and spread word of it across the country. Roosevelt’s refusal to kill a defenseless animal was far more newsworthy than the taking of a trophy bear, and as the news spread, Brooklyn toy store owners Rose and Morris Michtom wrote to ask his permission to name their stuffed toy bears after him. The President approved, and “Teddy’s Bears” were born.


James L. Cummins is executive director of Wildlife Mississippi, a Regular Member of the Boone and Crockett Club, and a member of the TRCP Policy Council.

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