Kristyn Brady

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posted in: General

February 24, 2016

Bills Up for House Debate Are an Affront to America’s Public Lands Legacy

House committee takes up legislation that overtly attempts to undermine public lands

On Thursday, the House Natural Resources Committee’s subcommittee on Federal Lands will discuss a handful of bills that promote the idea of transferring America’s public lands to individual states.

Image courtesy of Nicolas Raymond.

Two of these bills, in particular—Rep. Don Young’s H.R. 3650 and Rep. Raul Labrador’s H.R. 2316—are overt attempts to undermine public land ownership. Young’s bill is sweeping in its impact, allowing states to select and acquire millions of acres of national forests to be completely owned and operated by states and managed primarily for timber production. The Labrador bill would transfer management authority for large segments of our national forests to “advisory committees” and exempt these lands from bedrock conservation laws like the Clean Water Act, all while expecting the American taxpayer to continue to fund costs associated with wildfires on these once-public lands.

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) has sent subcommittee members a letter signed by 115 national and state-based hunting and fishing organizations urging lawmakers to reject attempts to seize America’s public lands. The group has also collected nearly 25,000 signatures on a petition opposing the seizure of America’s public lands and loss of sportsmen’s access.

“Even preliminary discussion of this legislation undermines the businesses that rely on public lands to keep their doors open, ignores the very real economic contribution that hunters and anglers make in this country, and panders to private interests at the expense of the public benefit,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the TRCP. The group and its partners have been calling for decision-makers to end this conversation since January 2015.

“We’ve seen this movement flare up and get stamped out this month at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation. In the last year, we’ve seen 37 bills at the state level, 31 of which were defeated. Now, this is the most overt discussion of seizing or selling off public lands to take place on Capitol Hill. At what point will lawmakers see that this is a non-starter with hunters, anglers, and American families who enjoy public access to outdoor recreation?” asks Fosburgh.

The TRCP is urging sportsmen across the country to contact members of the committee. Here’s the easiest way.

To learn more about efforts to transfer, sell off, or privatize public lands, click here.

5 Responses to “Bills Up for House Debate Are an Affront to America’s Public Lands Legacy”

  1. Todd Curell

    Dear TRCP,
    As a concerned Sportsman, and someone who makes their living as a purveyor of the sporting lifestyle, I am curious to know the TRCP stance on federal land leases. Specifically as they relate to leases that restrict public use such as USFS leases to Ski Resorts, BLM Leases to oil & gas companies etc… I understand the incentive to “keep public lands public” but these programs seem to contradict that mind set. In fact, all I have heard from TRCP in the wake of the recent protests in Oregon are very pro BLM and Federal agency statements. This is troubling to one who lives in the West and sees the overstep of these particular organizations along with the USFS virtual abandonment of “multi-use management” in favor of a strategy more akin to the preservation strategy of the National Park Service. I want to support your cause, but please help me connect the dots as it is becoming more difficult for Western Sportsmen to see TRCP as an advocate for us.

    • Matt Hart

      Todd,

      I would have to argue those things you mention (leases to ski resorts, BLM leases to oil/gas companies) are exactly the multi-use management of the land that the Federal Government is supposed to abide by. Fortunately, like you say, they are leases and not permanent. It may suck sometimes, but it’s probably much better than the alternative of private ownership…which could last forever. The reality is, in order for the states to pay for and manage these large chunks of land, if given control, they would have to sell the resources and rights to the highest bidders. I guarantee that won’t be the western sportsman. It would be logging, mineral, and oil and gas interests. Look at any situation in our country or in the rest of the world where land is privatized and I bet you won’t like what you see. Would you want to pay daily use fees to fish a 1/2 mile stretch of any river in the west? That’s what they have in England. Do you want to pay a land owner or a club membership fee to hunt on private property every time you go out hunting? That’s basically all you’ve got in Texas. That’s why TCRP is so pro public lands. It’s in MOST peoples best interest.

    • John Childs

      Todd

      Obviously, I don’t speak for TRCP, but I have a hunch that many of my fellow members would more or less agree with some of my objections to delivering over management of public lands to the states. And I’m sure there are plenty of other good reasons I’ve missed.

      1. Instead of diving into what is certain to be a complicated, long-drawn-out political process with no way of knowing how it will turn out (handing over public lands to the states), why not fix what’s broken? You’re right: the Feds overstep bounds all the time, but we’re their bosses. Surely we haven’t gotten so cowed by the Federal Government that we can’t demand that our employees toe the line. And we can draw that line clearly, making sure that well-balanced multi-use is prominent in rule-making. (By the way, I think “well-balanced” use is vitally important here.)
      2. Federal land of all types inevitably crosses state borders. State legislatures being what they are, they are certain to come up with different sets of laws regulating use of these lands. Some states will be friendly to industry, some will be hostile, some will simply not be paying attention. For instance, what happens if one state doesn’t want the responsibility of overseeing formerly federal land, while its neighbor is adamant about having full control? Wildfires don’t care who’s best at fighting fires. They are going to burn over the line from a state that has excellent fire-fighting assets to one that has insufficient resources. Both states will suffer.
      3. I’m don’t know why folks who are opposed to federal interference seem to imply that “local” control (i.e., the legislature) will be more responsive, more efficient, less likely to enact pointless laws and taxes. I’m sure there are state legislatures filled with fine men and women who have their constituents’ interests at heart, whose best friends aren’t oil company execs, who care deeply about not wasting the people’s time with silly stunts and uninformed tirades. We forget, except for a noisy few, most state politicans are not professionals. Say what you will about professional politicians, but at least they desperately want to hang on to their jobs and they don’t want to ruin it by strip-mining Yosemite. On the other hand, if the non-professional state representative’s political career is over, so who cares, and anyway the strip-mining president will remember the politican’s brother-in-law when the CEO hears about an executive slot opening up in the strip-mining industry.
      4. Our natural resources are in big trouble. We don’t have to engage in argument over climate change to know, for example, that we’re running out of water. We’re doing pretty well now with our energy supplies, but it’s not hard to imagine the time in my grandchildren’s future when we’ll be in the same crisis that we’re now in with water, scrabbling over the last small parcel of oil sands. Just as I believe we can fix the out-of-control behavior of some feds, I think we can do the same with oil and timber executives. I know this connects with a lot of other very complicated things—like the role of money in politics—but demanding that federal bureaucrats draw up sane extraction regulations and other land use provisions, and at the same time demanding that oil, timber, and cattle companies obey the law can be done IF Americans stop acting like other Americans are their enemies, and instead act like true patriots by behaving rationally, trying hard always to keep in mind our children’s future, and demonstrating true respect, bordering on reverence, for our natural heritage. Gone are the days when it was the rare family who had the wherewithal and the opportunity to go on a camping trip to the West. Nowadays, for better or worse, America has shrunk. For many Americans, travelling to the public lands of the West to camp, to fish, to hunt, and to gaze in wonder is a kind of national ritual. . What happens when that cherished campground at Jackson Hole, the one you went to as a kid, is needed by the strip-miners, or oil prospectors, or timber interests? Remember when the Dallas Cowboys were “America’s team”? Well, the Tetons are “America’s wilderness” and not the possession of the 584,000 people who live in Wyoming (which is just about the population of Albuquerque). Wyomingites are good people and would probably make good, knowledgeable stewards of Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, and Jackson Hole (their legislature’s another matter). People from Albuquerque are nice, too, but do you want a bunch of people that size selling off the national crown jewels to Marriott’s Resort and Leisure Division? I’m sure the good people of Wyoming could use, and deserve, the money, but still….

      I don’t mean to sound flippant about one of the true crises of modern America life. I did, however, want to respond to your question calmly, non-ideologically, and in the gentlemanly tone in which your comment was written. Thank you for your refreshing sanity..

      Steve Childs

  2. Article One, Section Eight, Clause Seventeen of the Constitution. READ IT. The government only controls a 10 mile square (Washington D.C.). The rest of America is owned by the States. The EPA has gotten out of hand and is unconstitutionally trying to close up land that belongs to “We the People.” The environmental movement is pressuring them to do that. The Federal Government needs to stay out of States Rights.

    • Matt Hart

      Hi Ted,
      I understand that you’re worried about losing your rights to access and enjoy land. But if you’re really concerned about that and that alone, you should be much more worried about what would happen to these lands if they became state owned or private. Just look at Texas. It’s a huge state that is mostly privately owned (~4% public land). You can’t set foot on most of the land in that state without getting a shotgun shoved in your face. That has nothing to do with the EPA and everything to do with land privatization. You go to Arizona on the other hand and you can go almost anywhere in the state, and it’s awesome. The Federal Government may not always get it right, but as long as they have the land they are supposed to manage it to provide for the maximum use possible. Sometimes the sportsman gets shorted, but most of the time we come out much better than we would with private ownership. Also, the Federal Government absolutely does have rights to ownership of the land. It’s the “property clause”, Article 4, Section 3, Clause 2. Grants congress the power to dispose of and make all necessary rules and regulations respecting the territory of the United States.

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posted in: General

February 22, 2016

Glassing The Hill: February 22 – 26

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

After last week’s Presidents Day recess, both the Senate and the House are back in session.

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

Matters of influence and access are up for debate this week. For the first time since the unexpected death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, senators will be in Washington and able to strategize on a way forward. But the clock is ticking—President Obama is expected to send a Supreme Court nomination to the Hill any day. With the loss of a major conservative force, an ideological shift on that bench could have major impacts on all kinds of cases, including those related to conservation and the environment.

Before the recess, there was a flurry of Senate activity around including the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act in a broad energy bill, but that process left lawmakers with more questions than answers. This week, the House looks poised to move forward with their version of the sportsmen’s package, the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act. This legislation would improve sportsmen’s access and enhance recreational shooting opportunities. Last Congress, the House passed similar legislation with bipartisan support. Members had to submit amendments to the Rules Committee by 10am today, and the Rules Committee will meet tomorrow (Feb 23) at 5pm. If all goes well, the SHARE Act is expected to be on the floor in the latter half of the week.

Presidential Primary Update: On Tuesday, Nevada will hold its Republican primary caucus. “The Donald” leads the Republican polls there. And on Saturday, South Carolina, where Hillary Clinton has a very wide lead for the Dems, will hold its Democratic primary.

What We’re Tracking

Budget hearings for the Department of the Interior (where Secretary Jewell will testify), Forest Service, Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Agriculture (where NRCS Chief Jason Weller will testify), and NOAA—the agency that manages our fisheries and restores our coasts

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The 40th anniversary of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, as the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard examines its successes and challenges in a hearing

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Plans for future water resources development will be presented to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment by the Army Corps of Engineers and can be streamed live here

Oversight of the Renewable Fuel Standard—the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will discuss the ongoing effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a hearing

California’s water supply during El Nino could change the outlook for restricted water deliveries. The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans will discuss

Sage grouse and new mitigation regulations, as imposed by the Obama administration, will be examined in a House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Forest management and timber production on public lands, to be discussed in a House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands hearing

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.

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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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

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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