Kristyn Brady

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posted in: General

March 17, 2016

Colorado County Opposes Transfer of America’s Public Lands to the State

This is the ninth Colorado county to pass a resolution opposing public land transfers that would block sportsmen’s access

Image courtesy of Jasen Miller/Flickr.

Today, the Board of Park County Commissioners passed a resolution opposing the effort to transfer or sell national public lands to the state of Colorado or local governments. This decision supports every American’s ability to hunt, fish, and recreate on public lands and underscores the conservation legacy of leaders like Theodore Roosevelt, who helped create a public lands system that is the envy of the world.

The county’s resolution recognizes the importance of public lands for:

  • Providing fish and wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation—including hunting, fishing, hiking, wildlife-watching, horseback riding, and bicycling—that is essential to residents’ quality of life.
  • Attracting outdoor recreation tourism that drives local spending and employs hundreds of county residents.
  • Preserving historically significant and irreplaceable cultural sites and landscapes.

“Park County is cherished for its top-notch fisheries, beautiful open landscape, and exceptional wildlife habitat,” says Nick Payne, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s Colorado field representative. “There’s no doubt that the county is doing the right thing for its residents, and all Americans, by supporting one of our nation’s greatest treasures—our public lands.”

The resolution is only the most recent indication of the Park County Commissioners’ dedication to public lands and real land management solutions. Park County has also been at the table with a wide range of stakeholder groups involved in developing a master leasing plan that ensures the Bureau of Land Management develops oil and gas resources responsibly.

“This resolution highlights the immeasurable value of these lands to the county—the same value that has driven a real spirit of collaboration around the master leasing plan process,” says Suzanne O’Neill, executive director of the Colorado Wildlife Federation. “We’re pleased to see the BLM initiate the next step in that process this summer and have this serve as a model for others to adapt.”

Image courtesy of Brian Gautreau/Flickr.

Currently, Park County joins seven other Colorado counties that have formally opposed the seizure of BLM and National Forest lands, but three counties have made moves in favor of the idea. In the Four Corners region, the Montezuma County Board of Commissioners has been outspoken in their support for land transfer and even made a $1,000 donation—on behalf of county taxpayers—to the American Lands Council, an organization dedicated to the disposal of America’s public lands, in 2015.

Today, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and 12 other hunting and fishing organizations and businesses sent a letter to Montezuma County Commissioners asking them to reverse their position on the idea of national public land transfer, which threatens the future of sportmen’s access in Colorado and across the country.

“My business in Cortez provides outdoor gear for outdoor enthusiasts who rely on public lands,” says Heather Mobley, co-owner of Colorado Love Outdoors, one of the businesses behind the letter. “It makes me cringe to think that taxpayer dollars have been spent on the effort to dismantle those lands and opportunities—they are critical to my business and our local way of life.”

“Most mule deer hunters rely on public lands, but beyond that, this bad idea threatens the habitat that is critical to mule deer populations already declining across the West—the state doesn’t have the resources to manage these areas or protect them from wildfire,” says Scott Hampel, director of Colorado operations with the Muley Fanatic Foundation. “Opportunities for the average hunter will be diminished if the habitat suffers and access is eventually sold off or privatized.”

A growing number of Western counties in states like Wyoming and Arizona have recently taken formal positions to oppose the sale or seizure of America’s public lands. To learn more or take action, visit sportsmensaccess.org.

2 Responses to “Colorado County Opposes Transfer of America’s Public Lands to the State”

  1. David Dailey

    Supporters of transferring Federal public land’s to states jurisdiction are panning for Fools Gold. This greate nation has enjoyed our public lands for over a hundred years. This land is emblematic to our heritage & freedom. Only now that the mineral rights have been realized, and fools found to support this proposed sham is this transfer even seeing the light of day! Greed seems always to find a pawn to use, even to the pawns doom!

  2. Bruce Runion

    As a former resident of Colorado I want to thank those who fought to protect our rights to public lands, as an annual visitor to Colorado now I find it harder and harder to find open water to fly fish in. One reason I left I reside in Missouri and any water that is navigable is open to fish on, and we don’t have to pull our rods and canoes out to fish in another section of water. Please keep your streams and land open for sportsmen and tourist like myself and millions of other that enjoy Colorado

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Ariel Wiegard

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posted in: General

March 15, 2016

Thank a Farmer Today—Here’s Why

A national holiday to recognize and celebrate agriculture producers who do plenty of good for wildlife, fish, and sportsmen

You may not know that each American farmer feeds more than 144 people, while growing fiber for our clothes and fuel for our cars. U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack likes to point out that just three million U.S. farmers and ranchers grow freedom for 320 million Americans: Because of their abundance, the rest of us are untethered from the farm, free to pursue our dreams and passions. Earlier this month, Vilsack also said that “we are the greatest nation on earth, for one simple reason…because we have the greatest farmers.”

Image courtesy of USDA.

It’s an overwhelmingly patriotic, positive, and optimistic message—one that’s quite appropriate today on National Ag Day, “a day to recognize and celebrate the abundance provided by agriculture.” Today we’d like to take a page from the Secretary’s book and point out some of the amazing reasons that sportsmen should celebrate America’s agricultural producers.

Farmers grow habitat.

Great hunting spots require purposeful management, and no one knows better how to manage the land than those who work it every day. Many farmers control for invasive species, maintain healthy wetlands and streams, and continually strive to improve their soil. Thoughtful ranching can create and sustain incredible grassland habitat. And timber forests, when they are properly harvested, can support wildlife in need of a wide range of cover and food.

Farmers help recover threatened species.

Just last week, U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced that the Louisiana black bear was being removed from the endangered species list, thanks to two decades of hard work by farmers who restored difficult-to-farm cropland back into forested wetlands to create bear habitat. In 2015, we also learned that at least two other species wouldn’t be needing Endangered Species Act protection—the New England cottontail and the greater sage grouse—because of farmers, ranchers, and foresters who understand that for any landscape scale initiative to succeed private landowners need to lead the way.

Image courtesy of Linh Nguyen.

Farmers provide access.

Over two-thirds of America’s land is in private hands. Unless you’re lucky enough to live near a great expanse of public land in the West (and even then), chances are you’ve knocked on your neighbor’s door once or twice to hunt their property. Chances are also good that your neighbor makes at least a partial living off their land. Whether you negotiatied access with a handshake and a six pack, or through a program like North Dakota’s PLOTS or Missouri’s MRAP, agricultural producers are often to thank for our quality days afield.

Farmers are sportsmen.

A 2015 survey of farmers showed that 83 percent of respondents hunt at least once a year. There are certain threats to wildlife and habitat from agriculture, but 87 percent of farmers surveyed agreed with the statement, “As a farmer, it is important to develop wildlife habitat to improve hunting opportunities.” Love of the land means farmers and sportsmen share common ground.

So, in honor of National Ag Day, say “thank you” to a farmer you know. And if that farmer is you, give yourself a pat on the back. We appreciate everything you do.

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posted in: General

Glassing the Hill: March 14 – 18

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

The Senate is in session this week before a two-week recess for the Easter holiday. The House is back in session and won’t take recess until next Wednesday.

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

There are just 80 legislative days until the end of the 114th Congress. Take that in. Kids in D.C. public schools actually have more days before their summer vacation than lawmakers have to figure out how to keep the government funded by the end of fiscal year 2016.

To that end, the House Budget Committee will meet this week to vote on a budget resolution that will cut $30 billion of mandatory spending. Much of that cut will come from Medicaid, but resistance is certain, and even if such a move clears the House, it has no way forward in the Senate. For their part, Senate leaders announced last week that they would honor the broad funding levels agreed to in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 as they craft their appropriations bills. Unfortunately, even in the Senate, successful passage of individual appropriations bills (otherwise known as the way things are supposed to be done) is far from being a certainty.

Meanwhile, many of the disagreements that were keeping the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015 off the Senate floor over the last several weeks have seemingly been resolved, although a new legislative hold was placed by Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), who opposes an amendment to expand revenue sharing for oil and gas exploration in the Gulf of Mexico. Late last week, Nelson was sending very public signals that he was unwilling to negotiate–it’s not clear if those sentiments have changed over the weekend. And the clock is ticking on this energy legislation: If the bill does not hit the Senate floor by the end of this week, the start of a two-week Easter recess may close the window on it. Ouch.

What We’re Tracking

Tuesday, March 15, 2015
14 Public lands bills will be marked up by the House Natural Resources Committee over two days. More info here.  

Flint water crisis, to be discussed in a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing 

Environmental mitigation, in a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing entitled, “Mitigating Impacts on Natural Resources from Development and Encouraging Related Private Investment

Wednesday March 16, 2016
Water policies and projects, in a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing on the Water Resources Development Act

Thursday March 17, 2016
24 National Park-related bills will be discussed in a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks hearing

PLUS: Fiscal year 2017 budget requests for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, U.S. Department of Energy and Environmental ManagementNational Park ServiceNational Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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March 14, 2016

Happy 113th Birthday, National Wildlife Refuge System

Today, we celebrate 113 years of kids holding their first fish, birds finding a safe haven for nesting, boots getting muddy just miles outside the city, and conservation advancing on 560 National Wildlife Refuges across the country.

Cyrus Baird banding Wood Ducks at Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.

On March 14, 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt designated Florida’s Pelican Island as the first wildlife refuge. Having worked at Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina, and as a frequent visitor to refuges all across the country, I’ve seen firsthand the benefits they offer to hunters, anglers, birdwatchers, trailrunners, and every American who loves to spend time outdoors.

And National Wildlife Refuges undoubtedly play a huge role in conservation in North America. With refuges in every U.S. state, spanning more than 150 million acres in total, the crucial habitat they provide is paramount for fish and wildlife. More than 700 species of birds, 200 species of mammals, 250 reptile and amphibian species, and more than 1,000 species of fish call these areas home.

While many refuges are key stopover points for migratory birds, it’s not difficult to see why sportsmen flock to them, too. Thousands of hunters and anglers rely on National Wildlife Refuges each year for their hunting and fishing opportunities. In 2011, 46.5 million visitors to wildlife refuges pumped $2.4 billion into surrounding communities, supporting over 35,000 jobs.

Elk at the National Elk Refuge courtesy of Nick Dobric.

Now, more than ever, we should fight to keep refuges funded, maintained, and open to recreation. As most of you are well aware, the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Burns, Oregon, became the focus of controversy earlier this year, when extremists seized refuge facilities and called for the federal government to hand over public lands. Public access was forcibly barred and efforts to manage invasive carp populations were blocked for 41 days. The economic and ecological effects may not be fully apparent for months or years.

The best way to celebrate the National Wildlife Refuge System at a time when public lands are under duress from this type of movement is simply to use and enjoy them—find your local refuge and take advantage of the opportunities provided there!

We’d love to hear about your experiences, too. Post your pics with #PublicLandsProud on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and we’ll share our favorites.

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posted in: General

March 10, 2016

This Well-Worn Turkey Vest Holds Years of Hunting Stories (And My Calls)

Talk about ‘the fabric of our lives’

When we get together as a staff, as we did last month to open the TRCP’s new Western office, discussion inevitably turns to new hunting and fishing gear and gadgets. Between us, we probably have enough inventory for a Bass Pro Shop’s store, and I’m certainly not immune to the appeal of a new camo pattern or unmarked slate call. Still, while a new spring season brings the temptation of new gear, there are a few items in my closet that I’d have trouble replacing.

Image courtesy of Cyrus Baird.

The gloves I’ll use this turkey season are the ones I stole from my dad years ago. He bought them back in the 80s, and they looked less tattered back then. I’ll hunt in the same camo jumpsuit I wore when I was a kid—also my fathers—although I don’t have to roll the legs and sleeves up anymore.

And I still use the first turkey vest I ever bought new, going on 15 years ago. An older Field & Stream model, now sporting faded fabric and some tears, it’s easily one of the most dated pieces in my spring get-up. When I first brought it home, it was two sizes too big for me—now, it’s two sizes too small. Its pockets are coated with the chalk I carry around to tune up my handmade cedar box-calls. The foam pad has seen better days and some of the zippers have stopped working, but I can’t picture setting up on a gobbler without it.

Of course, at the TRCP, we also talk a lot about preserving our hunting and fishing traditions and carrying on the legacy of one of the greatest conservation heroes in our country’s history. You see, it isn’t sentimental to look back, if there are lessons to be learned.

I was wearing my old vest when I killed my first turkey at age 13. It was a beautiful 20-pound tom that I could barely carry over my shoulder, its 11-inch beard swaying by its lolling head. I was also wearing it the time that I foolishly activated the trigger lock on my Remington 870 out in the field—the key was at home—leaving my gun functionally useless as turkeys gobbled at me all morning. (My dad still teases me for that.)

Image courtesy of Cyrus Baird.

It has seen countless spring sunrises in several states. It has been between my back and many a pine tree and creek-bottom hardwood. It has been through pouring rain and oppressive heat. It may be the reason I’m still so bad at math, since I used to skip my first-period class in high school to go hunting. The experiences I’ve had in this vest most likely drove my decision to work in wildlife conservation.

Something about wearing a worn-in article of clothing on a hunt just feels right. As I take in my surrounding with my eyes, my gear is actually soaking up the elements, bringing me closer to the places I love to be outdoors. I’m still a sucker for all the new high-tech fabrics and thoughtful improvements of contemporary gear, but it’s tough to part with my more seasoned apparel, embedded with so many memories.

So, when the last stitch on my old turkey vest looks like it’s about to unravel, I think I’ll just put it away until my own kids are old enough to slide their skinny arms into its oversized and faded frame. When that day comes around, I hope I’ll be able to tell them how today’s sportsmen helped ensure that we could rest our backs on a pine tree and converse with a wiley gobbler.

Until then, turkey season is calling.

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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