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posted in: General

January 27, 2016

Real Conservation Has Been Blocked at Malheur: Who Will Foot the Bill?

A legislative tool could make criminal fines work for wildlife 

For much of the last four weeks, while extremists have occupied Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, we have focused on how sportsmen and women are being robbed of their access to hunt and fish on the refuge and how the militants’ views on public lands management are inconsistent with that of the Burns community. Now, information is being released on just how much damage the incident could inflict to ongoing conservation efforts. With refuge staff barred from the site, years of progress and millions of dollars spent combating invasion species, like common carp, could go to waste.

Image courtesy of Carla Burnside/USFWS.

Fisheries biologists had already installed screens and traps that prevent the carp from moving between bodies of water to spawn in unwanted areas, but the militants’ stakeout interrupted routine maintenance of the screens. Flooding from winter weather has permitted carp again to move freely between these waters. What’s more, the growing carp population could kick up mucky water that would keep sunlight from reaching other aquatic vegetation that is a critical food source for migratory bird species like waterfowl. And when all this is over, taxpayers, including sportsmen, will pay for these losses.

Agencies like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Park Service operate under a law called the Resource Protection Act (RPA), which allows them to benefit from fines collected after an incident like Malheur. The Fish and Wildlife Service is not eligible for RPA funds to help restore damage to the refuge, but it could be.

Image courtesy of Carla Burnside/USFWS.

A bill to divert criminal fines back into the National Wildlife Refuge System has been introduced in previous sessions of Congress, but as of now, the penalties from criminal activity at Malheur will be placed directly into the National Treasury, leaving the Fish and Wildlife Service to pay for the restoration efforts without additional funds. The Malheur occupation is not the first time the refuge system has dealt with criminals jeopardizing conservation efforts. In 2005, a pipeline excavated without permission on the San Bernard NWR in Texas resulted in $7.6 million of damage to fish and wildlife habitat and $11,000 in fines went straight to the Treasury. Eleven years later, the refuge still hasn’t seen the funds to perform the necessary restorations.

Let’s not allow Bundy’s gang to leave a similar legacy at Malheur. If there’s any benefit to their attention grabbing, let it be the discussion of real solutions for funding repairs and mitigation at the refuge and for ongoing land management issues in the West.

2 Responses to “Real Conservation Has Been Blocked at Malheur: Who Will Foot the Bill?”

  1. Glenna Denman

    I have been saying all along that these criminal trespassers should be heavily fined for the damage they’ve done, but I did not realize any fine would not go directly to repairing the damage. That is just plain wrong. The refuge will need a lot of money and manpower to repair the damage to waters, roads, and fences, not to even mention what they may have destroyed in native artifacts. The law needs to be changed, and now, so the refuge can be restored.

  2. Vern Southard

    As a wildlife photographer and birder, like other nature and outdoor enthusiasts whose access to Maltheur have been disrupted, I have said all along that extremists of any kind who occupy federal or state lands set aside for conservation should be immediately arrested as would any other trespassers, and they and their families should be fined and charged heavily for any damage, daily rent, dispruption of services, and loss of use charges, and the costs of law enforcement to monitor and resolve the situation. It is unacceptable that years of work by conservation professionals has been set back and damage done to the area that will affect the safe and normal migration of many species of birds that depend on Maltheur to travel, nest, rest, breed, and as a safe haven and refuge. Laws need to be enforced more rigorously and immediately to prevent any more unlawful occupations of wildlife refuges or state or national parks. The law should be changed so that any and all fines to to repair the damages, and the extremists and/or their families held financially accountable even if they are serving prison terms, or are released from prison.

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posted in: General

January 26, 2016

Public Lands Changed the Way I Hunt

A lifelong private-land hunter becomes a public lands evangelist

Although I’ve been hunting deer, ducks, and turkeys for as long as I can remember, the thought of hunting public lands never really crossed my mind until high school. Having grown up in central Virginia, there was no need—friends, family, and neighbors all provided endless connections for me to pursue my outdoor passion on privately-owned farms or leases. But, when my father and I started planning a hunting trip out West for my 16th birthday, we quickly realized that guide services were well outside our budget and researched what would become my first all-public-lands adventure.

That fall, I spent a week with my bow in the Idaho backcountry, chasing elk and mule deer entirely on public land, and I was completely blown away. The landscape that lay before me every morning was breathtaking—and it was all mine. That trip opened a whole new door to the hunting and fishing world that I’d never considered before.

A few years later, I moved south to attend college. While asking permission to hunt private lands certainly taught me lessons I’d never trade, I found myself in exciting and unchartered territory for my hunting and fishing pursuits, and I didn’t know a single person. Realizing I couldn’t put my passion on hold for four years, I researched public hunting and fishing areas all over the Southeast. I stalked deer in wildlife management areas, called in ducks on national wildlife refuges, and had gobbling toms in close range on national forests and my school’s experimental forest.

I even started exploring publicly accessible areas closer to home on school breaks and made it a point to invite die-hard private land hunters to join me.

I had become a true public land sportsman.

Image courtesy of Cyrus Baird.

After graduation, the first thing I did after securing my new apartment in Memphis was locate all the public access areas within a half-day’s drive. As a result, I had good success duck hunting many of the state-owned lands in western Tennessee that season. When I found out I was being relocated to North Dakota for a campaign assignment, I immediately downloaded the PLOTS (Private Lands Open To Sportsmen) book to map out all my hunts there. In a span of five years, I’d gone from never even considering hunting on public land, to using it for almost 90 percent of my waterfowl and small game needs.

Image courtesy of Cyrus Baird.

I still have friends and relatives who hunt entirely on private spaces, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s more important than ever that all sportsmen understand the critical role that public lands play in the overall future of hunting and fishing, because loss of access is the single largest threat to hunter retention and the livelihood of our sports.

Fewer hunters in the deer woods may seem nice on opening day, but we all realize the impact: Fewer dollars for conservation. Fewer stewards of our lands and waters. Fewer champions to stand up for our traditions.

Image courtesy of Cyrus Baird.
Image courtesy of Cyrus Baird.

Even if you plan to continue to hunt solely on private lands, the opportunities to enjoy public places will always be there for you, should you reconsider. Our hunting and fishing traditions are woven into the fabric and topography of our country through our public lands. If I’d never left my hometown, maybe I wouldn’t have been able to understand this in quite the same way. But I’d urge every sportsman and woman to pledge themselves to preserving our access to public lands for future generations of hunters and anglers.

Here’s a good first step: Sign the petition at sportsmensaccess.org and prevent the sell-off of YOUR public lands.

Kristyn Brady

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posted in: General

January 21, 2016

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

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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

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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.

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