Ed Arnett

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posted in: General

February 25, 2016

Better Tech is Getting Us Better Wildlife Data — Here’s How We Use What We’ve Learned

A whole suite of conservation planning tools need a refresh to match what we now know

At the TRCP, we’re constantly urging hunters and anglers to speak up on conservation policy issues at every level—from new bills traveling through Congress to revamped land-use plans by the Bureau of Land Management that might encompass your favorite hunting area. Your support on these issues is always critical, but sometimes it’s hard to explain why the nitty gritty process of updating written policies on land management will have a direct impact on you or the places you hunt and fish.

A mule deer buck has migrated to its winter range in southern Wyoming, where it will stay through spring before following greening vegetation back to its summer range. Photo courtesy of Ed Arnett.

Well, here’s something we can all understand: As new technology becomes available, our society makes choices about how we adapt. We revisit the existing rules, have a debate, and rewrite the rules, if necessary.  For example, now that affordable drones can be used for scouting, our state fish and wildlife agencies are grappling with questions about regulating this technology, which could be used to undermine fair chase hunting principles.

Wildlife management on public lands has benefitted greatly from advancements in technology. In particular, our understanding of how and where big game species migrate has grown exponentially in recent years (more on that later.) But this innovation means nothing if we don’t use it to benefit the conservation of big game populations.

The Triple Stakeout

When I was a graduate student researching Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in the late 1980s, satellite or global positioning system (GPS) radio collars were simply not available. Back then, researchers had to capture their study animals, fit them with collars made with technology of that era, and follow animals around trying to determine their locations and habitat-use patterns.

Sometimes this meant going to one of three separate high points in the landscape near where you thought the animal was and using a telemetry receiver and antenna to determine the direction of the strongest signal emitting from the animal’s collar. You’d aim a compass in that direction and plot the bearing on a map, and then repeat the process at the other two locations. The place where the three lines intersect was theoretically where your critter was located. Ideally, three different people would be at those locations at the same time, taking bearings to reduce errors in measurement and to account for moving animals far better than one person driving to each point alone.

But times sure have changed.

No Compass, No Fuss

Today, advances in GPS telemetry are remarkable. Scientists merely have to catch the animals they’re studying to fit them with GPS collars that are accurate to within a few feet. No more worrying about triangulating compass bearings and human error—we know exactly where these critters are spending their time. GPS collars can also be programmed to mark multiple locations for each animal over any desired 24-hour period and automatically send this data to the scientist’s computer, tablet, or smartphone.

GPS collar data plotted for three mule deer in western Wyoming, showing their spring migration and duration of stopovers in habitat that’s often overlooked in current resource management plans. (Courtesy of the Wyoming Migration Initiative; http://migrationinitiative.org/content/research).

Scientists now have the capability to build a travel log for the spring or fall journey of each antelope, bighorn sheep, or mule deer. Locations can be easily plotted in a GIS—a computer system for data related to positions on Earth’s surface—to create accurate, detailed maps showing where the animals travelled, how much time they spent in certain areas, and which habitats they preferred during these annual migrations between winter and summer range.

Better Data and New Regs

All of the fancy data and maps in the world would be pointless without adequate policy and management actions to conserve the migration corridors that we now understand are important for big game species survival. We need to use what we’ve learned to ensure that the iconic big game herds of the west can be sustained today and well into the future.

That’s why the state of Wyoming was recently prompted to revise their policy definitions and develop a strategy for conserving vital migration corridors after examining cutting-edge information gathered from a study on mule deer, which were observed to travel 150 miles annually from a place called the Red Desert to Hoback Junction south of Jackson Hole. The revised definitions and strategy will aid the Wyoming Game and Fish Department as they work with the BLM on conserving habitat along migration corridors.

Federal land management agencies are proposing important changes to their own policies, too. The U.S. Department of the Interior recently announced changes to its land-use planning rule for the BLM. Where there once was no specific mention of wildlife migration corridors in BLM planning, now there is a proposal to consider them in agency land-use plans. This means that BLM field offices must consider identifying and locating migration corridors early in the process of planning for land use. By doing so, the agency can then work with state wildlife agencies and stakeholders to conserve these critically important habitats. In the old days, migration corridors were not given this kind of attention and may have been damaged, developed, or lost from the landscape, which may have had drastic impacts on big-game herds, directly impacting hunting opportunity and the outdoor recreation economy.

Time for a System Upgrade

Right now, the BLM is revising its national land-use planning strategy. Dubbed “Planning 2.0,” the process represents the first substantial improvement of BLM land-use planning in 40 years and has the potential to reshape how the BLM manages habitat, recreation, and access across the West. Sportsmen must actively work to influence this process—and we hope this blog post helps you understand why.

This planning rule will have direct impacts on deer, elk and other big game herds on your nearby public lands, and now that mule deer can literally send scientists mobile notifications of their whereabouts and preferences, it’s time for a policy upgrade based on this new information.

Want to get involved? Visit sportsmenscountry.org and sign the petition today.

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Ed Arnett

by:

posted in: General

Better Tech is Getting Us Better Wildlife Data — Here’s How We Use What We’ve Learned

A whole suite of conservation planning tools need a refresh to match what we now know

At the TRCP, we’re constantly urging hunters and anglers to speak up on conservation policy issues at every level—from new bills traveling through Congress to revamped land-use plans by the Bureau of Land Management that might encompass your favorite hunting area. Your support on these issues is always critical, but sometimes it’s hard to explain why the nitty gritty process of updating written policies on land management will have a direct impact on you or the places you hunt and fish.

A mule deer buck has migrated to its winter range in southern Wyoming, where it will stay through spring before following greening vegetation back to its summer range. Photo courtesy of Ed Arnett.

Well, here’s something we can all understand: As new technology becomes available, our society makes choices about how we adapt. We revisit the existing rules, have a debate, and rewrite the rules, if necessary.  For example, now that affordable drones can be used for scouting, our state fish and wildlife agencies are grappling with questions about regulating this technology, which could be used to undermine fair chase hunting principles.

Wildlife management on public lands has benefitted greatly from advancements in technology. In particular, our understanding of how and where big game species migrate has grown exponentially in recent years (more on that later.) But this innovation means nothing if we don’t use it to benefit the conservation of big game populations.

The Triple Stakeout

When I was a graduate student researching Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in the late 1980s, satellite or global positioning system (GPS) radio collars were simply not available. Back then, researchers had to capture their study animals, fit them with collars made with technology of that era, and follow animals around trying to determine their locations and habitat-use patterns.

Sometimes this meant going to one of three separate high points in the landscape near where you thought the animal was and using a telemetry receiver and antenna to determine the direction of the strongest signal emitting from the animal’s collar. You’d aim a compass in that direction and plot the bearing on a map, and then repeat the process at the other two locations. The place where the three lines intersect was theoretically where your critter was located. Ideally, three different people would be at those locations at the same time, taking bearings to reduce errors in measurement and to account for moving animals far better than one person driving to each point alone.

But times sure have changed.

No Compass, No Fuss

Today, advances in GPS telemetry are remarkable. Scientists merely have to catch the animals they’re studying to fit them with GPS collars that are accurate to within a few feet. No more worrying about triangulating compass bearings and human error—we know exactly where these critters are spending their time. GPS collars can also be programmed to mark multiple locations for each animal over any desired 24-hour period and automatically send this data to the scientist’s computer, tablet, or smartphone.

GPS collar data plotted for three mule deer in western Wyoming, showing their spring migration and duration of stopovers in habitat that’s often overlooked in current resource management plans. (Courtesy of the Wyoming Migration Initiative; http://migrationinitiative.org/content/research).

Scientists now have the capability to build a travel log for the spring or fall journey of each antelope, bighorn sheep, or mule deer. Locations can be easily plotted in a GIS—a computer system for data related to positions on Earth’s surface—to create accurate, detailed maps showing where the animals travelled, how much time they spent in certain areas, and which habitats they preferred during these annual migrations between winter and summer range.

Better Data and New Regs

All of the fancy data and maps in the world would be pointless without adequate policy and management actions to conserve the migration corridors that we now understand are important for big game species survival. We need to use what we’ve learned to ensure that the iconic big game herds of the west can be sustained today and well into the future.

That’s why the state of Wyoming was recently prompted to revise their policy definitions and develop a strategy for conserving vital migration corridors after examining cutting-edge information gathered from a study on mule deer, which were observed to travel 150 miles annually from a place called the Red Desert to Hoback Junction south of Jackson Hole. The revised definitions and strategy will aid the Wyoming Game and Fish Department as they work with the BLM on conserving habitat along migration corridors.

Federal land management agencies are proposing important changes to their own policies, too. The U.S. Department of the Interior recently announced changes to its land-use planning rule for the BLM. Where there once was no specific mention of wildlife migration corridors in BLM planning, now there is a proposal to consider them in agency land-use plans. This means that BLM field offices must consider identifying and locating migration corridors early in the process of planning for land use. By doing so, the agency can then work with state wildlife agencies and stakeholders to conserve these critically important habitats. In the old days, migration corridors were not given this kind of attention and may have been damaged, developed, or lost from the landscape, which may have had drastic impacts on big-game herds, directly impacting hunting opportunity and the outdoor recreation economy.

Time for a System Upgrade

Right now, the BLM is revising its national land-use planning strategy. Dubbed “Planning 2.0,” the process represents the first substantial improvement of BLM land-use planning in 40 years and has the potential to reshape how the BLM manages habitat, recreation, and access across the West. Sportsmen must actively work to influence this process—and we hope this blog post helps you understand why.

This planning rule will have direct impacts on deer, elk and other big game herds on your nearby public lands, and now that mule deer can literally send scientists mobile notifications of their whereabouts and preferences, it’s time for a policy upgrade based on this new information.

Want to get involved? Visit sportsmenscountry.org and sign the petition today.

Kristyn Brady

by:

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.

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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

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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.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

SCRAPE TOGETHER A FEW BUCKS FOR CONSERVATION

Without the efforts of hunters and anglers, whitetails wouldn’t be a part of the modern American landscape. But we can’t stop there. Support our work to represent all sportsmen in Washington.

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