Ariel Wiegard

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posted in: General

February 18, 2016

POTUS Proposes Payout for Private Lands

You heard from us last week about the final budget proposal of President Obama’s administration, including the fact that this (largely symbolic) financial framework indicates that conservation of natural resources, like the fish and wildlife species important to sportsmen, will be a key priority through the end of this presidency. Now, considering that the US Department of Agriculture administers the largest pot of funding for private lands conservation anywhere in the world, it’s worth going into a little detail on how the president’s budget would give fish and wildlife a boost in farm country.

Image courtesy of Ariel Wiegard.

For 2017 alone, the president is proposing to invest roughly $4.72 billion dollars in landowner conservation projects through just one USDA agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), for which we owe him a hearty “thank you.” This extraordinary amount of support for conservation is made even greater by the fact that this is the first time in his presidency that Obama has not proposed any cuts to the private lands conservation funding established by the Farm Bill.

You may know that every five years or so, Congress passes a Farm Bill, which sets mandatory spending amounts for a whole suite of agriculture programs, including those impacting conservation. In this case, “mandatory” means that certain funding levels are pre-determined, and so do not need to be appropriated by Congress and given to NRCS through annual appropriations bills, as is required for the Forest Service or other agencies. Despite this mandatory designation, Congress and the president have a habit of raiding the Farm Bill conservation accounts to some degree, every single appropriations season, in order to justify paying for other, unrelated programs.

Although the president’s budget proposal for 2017 is non-binding, and Congress will still vigorously debate how much money to appropriate for conservation, Obama has put an offer on the bargaining table that is too good for sportsmen to ignore. By choosing not to cut key Farm Bill programs, he is proposing to restore approximately $540 million in mandatory funding to farm country’s conservation budget. Obama is also proposing a discretionary increase of $9.5 million (total: $860 million) to help NRCS staff guide and support more farmers, ranchers, and foresters who want to put conservation on the land.

That’s something we’d like to see become more than just symbolic.

The president has sent a strong signal to Congress that the voluntary, incentive-based private lands conservation programs run by the USDA are important for rural America, wildlife, water quality, and our sporting traditions. Sportsmen want to see this trend continue, and we hope that Congress sits up and listens.

One Response to “POTUS Proposes Payout for Private Lands”

  1. Craig Coelho

    I have an idea, rather than using US taxpayer dollars to give agrigiants massive payoffs for not polluting or otherwise corrupting the lakes streams and wetlands they privately control, how about we implement resource monitoring and a system of fines and asset seizures with enough bite to ensure compliance with EPA-conservation rules.

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Kristyn Brady

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posted in: General

February 11, 2016

TRCP Expands Western Operations, Opens Office in Montana

Organization magnifies its reach to advocate on behalf of hunters and anglers

After more than a decade of conservation work and advocacy on behalf of sportsmen in the western U.S., the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership has hired several new field staff in the region, and the group is opening a Western office in Missoula, Montana. The new regional headquarters will support the organization’s ongoing efforts to improve fish and wildlife habitat, protect and expand public access to hunting and fishing, and conserve the outdoor resources that power businesses and communities in the Western states.

“This is not only a big deal for the TRCP, it’s a big deal for the future of hunting and fishing across the West,” says Joel Webster, TRCP’s Western lands director. “We now have more capacity to fight for our public lands, fish and wildlife habitat, and sportsmen’s access, so the collective power of hunters and anglers will resonate from our local communities all the way to the halls of Washington, D.C.”

Image courtesy Evan Lovely/Flickr.

The TRCP’s presence in the West has grown significantly over the past few years: Currently, field staff in eight Western states are working collectively with more than 100 sportsmen’s groups, 200 outdoor businesses, and thousands of rank-and-file hunters and anglers to guarantee all Americans quality places to hunt and fish. The organization recently hired four field representatives in Montana, Idaho, Nevada, and Wyoming.

Scott Laird joined the TRCP as Montana field representative this month, after working for more than 25 years in natural resource conservation work with the state of New Mexico, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and the American Prairie Reserve. Laird, Webster, and a soon-to-be-hired field associate will be based out of the new office in Missoula.

Rob Thornberry joined as the Idaho field representative this month, after three decades of reporting on outdoor issues for the Idaho Falls Post Register. Rob works from Idaho Falls. Coby Tigert, who served as Idaho field representative and a regional field manager in his three years with the organization, has been named deputy director of Western lands.

Nick Dobric became the Wyoming field representative in October 2015, after working as a hunting guide and wildlife biologist. Nick is based in Dubois, Wyo.

Carl Erquiaga, who also joined the organization in October, is the Nevada field representative. He comes to the TRCP after serving on various state wildlife committees and as a director of the Fallon Chapter of Nevada Bighorns Unlimited. Carl works from Fallon, Nev.

Learn more about the TRCP’s work to conserve public lands access, backcountry areas, and wildlife migration corridors.

John Hamill

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posted in: General

Why We Do This: Because This Arizona Mom Needs Quality Places to Hunt with Family

She wins our mapping project prize, while all Arizona sportsmen benefit from the data we’re collecting

When Jennifer Comer from Tucson, Ariz., put in for her first-ever big-game tag, she was hoping to join her husband and teenage son in the field. They’d started hunting just four years earlier, and her son bagged his first deer last year. While she didn’t draw an elk tag, she won a new Kimber rifle and became part of something pretty special in the Grand Canyon State.

Image courtesy of Jennifer Comer.

Last summer in Arizona, the TRCP partnered with the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) and the Arizona Sportsmen for Wildlife Conservation, an alliance of 25 regional sportsmen’s groups, to gather input from sportsmen and women about the state’s most valued places to hunt and fish. We asked a random sample of adults who purchased Arizona hunting and fishing licenses to visit a specially-designed website where they could outline their most valued hunting and fishing areas on a map. As a little incentive, we offered participants a chance to win a Kimber Classic 7mm Remington-08 rifle.

Jennifer weighed in and won, and we’re pretty excited to see this prize go to a family that has a new, deepening interest in our sports. You see, the Sportsmen’s Values Mapping Project was created to protect important wildlife habitat and maintain public access to highly-valued hunting and fishing areas with the hope that we can defend these opportunities for the next generation of Arizona outdoorsmen.

The TRCP launched the Sportsmen’s Values Mapping Project in 2007 in Montana, before expanding to Wyoming, Idaho, and Arizona. What made the project special in my home state was the ease of the survey app, which the AZGFD experts in computer mapping were pivotal in designing to bring the project online—the best way to yield scientifically defensible results.

AZGFD is currently in the process of analyzing all the survey results from more than 1,200 hunters and anglers. Later this year, Sportsmen’s Values Maps will be assembled in a geographic information system (GIS), where they will be used, along with other data, to develop conservation and management strategies. The final maps will be accessible to sportsmen and key decision-makers through the TRCP and AZGFD websites. We’re hopeful that the maps will also be used to help prioritize management actions and funding requests aimed at conserving and restoring high valued wildlife habitat and expanding access, and we’re certainly committed to using this information to insure that Jennifer and her family will have quality places to hunt for many years to come.

For more information about the Sportsmen’s Values Mapping Project in Arizona and across the West, click here.

She wins our mapping project prize, while all Arizona sportsmen benefit from the data we’re collecting

Kristyn Brady

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posted in: General

Congress Should Take a Page from Obama’s Proposed Budget

House and Senate should support increases for conservation funding that would benefit fish, wildlife, and sportsmen

On Tuesday, President Obama unveiled his final budget proposal, a $4.1-trillion total ask for fiscal year 2017, which includes proposed increases for conservation projects across the country. Though largely symbolic, these requests indicate that conservation of natural resources, including the fish and wildlife species important to sportsmen, is a key priority for the administration. As decisions about 2017 funding levels now move to Capitol Hill and the Congressional appropriations process, sportsmen will be looking to Congress to also commit to robust funding for fish, wildlife, and our unmatched American public lands system.

Image courtesy of 401kcalculator.org/Flickr.

“Investment in conservation is actually an investment in our economy. These funding proposals by the president are positive benchmarks that we hope will kickstart an earnest discussion about investing in conservation through the appropriations process,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “The TRCP is also thinking about the next administration and making it clear that sportsmen and women want a president who is prepared to make these investments in conservation. We won’t stand for seeing wildlife agencies bled dry while habitat suffers.”

Obama’s FY2017 budget reinforces the value of conservation and wildlife management across a broad spectrum, including such sportsmen’s priorities as State Wildlife Grants, conservation of sage steppe landscapes, private lands conservation through USDA, water conservation and resiliency efforts through the WaterSMART program, and data collection improvements at NOAA Fisheries. Notably, this budget proposal includes full funding at $900 million for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and a strategy for permanent reauthorization by 2018. Here’s the list of proposed projects for LWCF dollars.

The President’s budget released today represents the next step in what has been a positive trend for conservation funding, building as it does off of the comprehensive budget deal Congress and the President agreed to in December that made key investments in conservation for fiscal year 2016. Sportsmen need to see this trend continue—especially considering that conservation spending has been cut in half in the past 37 years. This will continue to be a long-term effort, and will require the full engagement of future administrations and future Congresses.

To learn more, review the budget fact sheets for the Department of the Interior, Department of Agriculture, and Department of Commerce.

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posted in: General

February 9, 2016

Glassing The Hill: February 8 – 12

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

The Senate and the House will be in session this week.

Flint could derail a sweeping energy bill while Obama delivers his last budget request. The Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015 enters its third week on the floor of the United States Senate this afternoon, after a Thursday cloture vote to end debate on the measure failed and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) held negotiations over the weekend. Hundreds of amendments have been filed, but the real question is whether the water crisis in Flint, Mich., will hold things up indefinitely. If an agreement on providing aid to Flint can be reached, the Energy Bill is expected to move forward, with a slew of votes and final passage tomorrow. However, without an agreement on Flint, the Senate may be forced to move on to North Korean sanctions later in the week.
Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

The Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act, has also emerged as an issue in the wide-ranging energy bill. Senator Murkowski has offered only the half of the Sportsmen’s Act that passed out of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee as an amendment (reminder: here’s what’s in that half), an action that leaves the other portion of the bill, recently passed by the Environment and Public Works Committee, on the cutting room floor. This would prevent a clear path forward for the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, or the Fish Habitat Conservation Act. We expect all of these issues to be resolved, one way or the other, by the end of the day Tuesday.

On the same day, President Obama will publicly announce his final presidential budget request, for fiscal year 2017. It was revealed last week that the budget proposal will include full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million. Read more about that here. You may remember that Congress passed a two-year bipartisan budget agreement back in October 2015, so the expectation is that Congress will move directly to appropriations measures for FY2017.

What We’re Tracking

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Collaborative fish and wildlife management, to be discussed in a Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife hearing regarding interaction between the feds and the states

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Updates to flood protection and water studies, in a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on the Water Resource Development Act

Invasive fish species, to be discussed in a House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans hearing regarding “The Costly Impacts of Predation and Conflicting Federal Statutes on Native and Endangered Fish Species”

Environmental and energy rules, in a House Science, Space and Technology Committee hearing

The Flint, Mich., water crisis will be the subject of a House Democrats’ Steering and Policy Committee hearing

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Modifying public land boundaries for monuments, to be discussed by the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands

EPA outreach to farmers and ranchers—the Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy will testify before the House Agriculture Committee hearing

Funding for private lands conservation, on deck for a House Appropriations Committee hearing on the Department of Agriculture’s budget

Funding for water conservation, on deck for a House Appropriations Committee hearing on the Bureau of Reclamation budget

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.

Learn More
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