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July 19, 2016

A Tour of Grey Towers and the Two Men Who Became Icons of Modern-Day Forestry

On a recent trip to the home of Gifford Pinchot, our conservation policy intern was surprised to learn an intriguing lesson about another conservation visionary—Theodore Roosevelt

Theodore Roosevelt was a champion of fish and wildlife conservation because he was a champion of public lands. While TR might be most famous for adding five national parks and a big chunk of Yosemite to our public lands system, more than half of the 230 million acres that he conserved during his presidency was given to the U.S. Forest Service, an agency he created in 1905. He entrusted this land to Gifford Pinchot, the first chief of the Forest Service and a member of TR’s Boone and Crockett Club.

I recently had the opportunity to visit Pinchot’s home in Milford, Pennsylvania, and learn a little bit more about him, the Forest Service, and TRCP’s namesake. It turns out that the two founding fathers of conservation were close friends. Roosevelt even introduced Pinchot to his wife Cornelia.

Image courtesy of Shannon Fagan.

Considering the role that Pinchot wound up playing in the conservation of U.S. forests, it’s ironic that his family fortune was made in the logging business. His grandfather profited from a time when it was common to purchase and clear-cut forests with no regard for the long-term health of the land. In his career as a forester, Gifford Pinchot felt a deep responsibility for correcting this misuse.

Like many of us, he grew up with an affinity for the outdoors, and his father encouraged him to turn that passion into a career. The Pinchot family even created an endowment at the Yale School of Forestry—which held summer field classes at Grey Towers, the family estate—to help future generations discover the values of the outdoor lifestyle.

Grey Towers was built in the 1880s and donated to the Forest Service in 1963. The partnership between Roosevelt and Pinchot created an agency that now manages 193 million acres of public land. Their understandings of conservation lead the Service to view forest management as “protecting lands against overgrazing, controlling and combating fire, protecting fish and game, and providing public recreation.” Proper natural resource management has kept our national forests open for public enjoyment for more than a hundred years.

Image courtesy of Shannon Fagan.

I couldn’t help but think about all the recreational opportunities we are privileged to access because of the foresight of these two men. And what they might say about the current conversation around giving up our public lands.

I think it might go a little something like this: “Conservation means development as much as it does protection. I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful use, the generations that come after us.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Shannon Fagan is the TRCP summer intern through the Demmer Scholar Program. She is going into her senior year at Michigan State University where she is majoring in Social Relations and Policy and minoring in Science, Technology, Environment and Public Policy.

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Jonathan Stumpf

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posted in: General

July 18, 2016

Meet Our First #PublicLandsProud Contest Judge: Marty Sheppard

Marty Sheppard is a fishing guide in Maupin, Oregon possessing an almost missionary zeal for teaching others and sharing in the pure joy of rivers. Born and raised in Oregon, Marty grew up on the banks of the Sandy River, spending much of his time devouring books, especially those written by such notable and insightful naturalists as Roderick Haig-Brown and Bill McMillan. Marty is the proud husband of three -time World Champion Spey Caster, Mia Sheppard, who is also the Oregon Field Representative for TRCP and father to a spunky little fly fisher girl, Tegan. In 2003, they purchased Little Creek Outfitters, a fly-fishing guide service on some of Oregon’s best rivers. As ardent public land users who depend on continued ability to access rivers and backcountry areas, the Sheppards understand first-hand the wide-reaching economic benefits to individuals, as well as local communities, who rely on outdoor opportunities.

Image courtesy of Marty Sheppard.

From now through July 31, Marty is guest judging your best summer fun on public lands photos for this round of the #PublicLandsProud photo contest. He’s looking for a winning photo that calls the viewer into the moment, so make sure your summer fun moment beckons! And watch the TRCP Instagram account this week too, as Marty will be taking over our account and giving us a glimpse into his life on public lands.

TRCP: So, Marty, how do you like to spend your time outside?

Marty: What makes me happy is that I have the freedom to explore. Without public lands, this would be extremely limited. I am thankful to have the ability to hunt, fish, hike, and investigate such beautiful places.

Image courtesy of Marty Sheppard.

TRCP: What makes a great photo of a summer day spent on public lands? What will you be looking for in the winning photo?

Marty: I am a huge fan of capturing light at the appropriate time. This is what makes a good photograph for me. Combine that with an activity, or more specifically, a sportsman-themed endeavor and we will have a winner!

TRCP: What makes you #PublicLandsProud?

Marty: I am proud to live in a place with the opportunity to roam on public land. I am proud to have representation from groups like TRCP, who has my back in protecting the heritage of access to these special places. I am proud to be a husband, dad, and business owner who puts public lands as a high priority in shaping our lives. I am #PublicLandsProud

Show us your #PublicLandsProud moment and you could be featured on our blog and win a #PublicLandsProud prize package. It includes a new pair of Costa sunglasses, a copy of Steven Rinella’s new book, The Complete Guide to Hunting, Butchering, and Cooking Wild Game, a Simms TRCP-branded hat, a First Lite merino wool neck gaiter, TRCP/Sitka-branded YETI rambler tumbler, Orvis fishing shirt, and Bantam buck knife. 

Kristyn Brady

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posted in: General

July 13, 2016

This Could Be the Future of Federal Fisheries Management

Coalition reveals the findings from a series of workshops on alternative solutions for federal fisheries

Today at ICAST, the world’s largest sportfishing trade show, recreational fishing and conservation group leaders revealed the preliminary findings from a series of collaborative workshops on alternative approaches to federal fisheries management.

The same broad coalition behind the 2014 landmark report on recreational fisheries management worked closely with NOAA Fisheries, state game and fish managers, biologists, and researchers to identify ways to revise the current approach. Right now, federal fisheries managers set catch limits for both commercial and recreational sectors in a way that undervalues recreational fishermen and their $70-billion contribution to America’s economy. Innovative new solutions could give anglers more predictable seasons, boost conservation, and improve local economies in coastal communities and beyond.

Image courtesy of TRCP.

“Although recreational anglers only catch two percent of the total fish harvested in U.S. waters, we create almost as many jobs as the commercial fishing industry”—455,000 jobs, in fact, said Mike Nussman, president and CEO of the American Sportfishing Association, the trade group that produces the ICAST conference and events. This year’s is their biggest show yet, with 13,000 attendees walking a 650,000-square-foot showroom packed with close to 600 exhibitors—a perfect backdrop for a discussion of new ideas.

The first workshop, facilitated by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission in Tampa this May, was geared towards identifying where existing federal fisheries management approaches fail to adequately accommodate the unique nature of recreational fisheries and specific ways to address these issues. The group discussed alternatives that are rooted in existing management practices currently used for fish and waterfowl at the state level, such as:

  • Managing for a harvest rate, rather than a quota that must be tracked in real time.
  • Spatial management, or allowing fishing out to certain depths or distances from shore, while making deeper waters off-limits to recreational harvest so brood stock can replenish.
  • Looking at temporary and long-term allocation shifts between the recreational and commercial sectors, which might include shifting some species from recreational to commercial allocation and others from commercial to recreational.
  • Developing new programs to gather better recreational harvest data or take advantage of existing voluntary harvest data.
  • Reducing release mortality with new technology or better education on existing tools.

These initial conclusions were presented to congressional staff and representatives of the environmental community at a second workshop this June in Washington D.C. The group also discussed the potential legislative and regulatory changes needed to achieve these possible alternatives. Some solutions possibly require changes to the existing federal fisheries law, but others could be addressed through collaboration with NOAA Fisheries.

Image courtesy of TRCP.

“When the Magnuson-Stevens Act was written 40 years ago, recreational fishing was an afterthought in the statute, and it is unlikely that this Congress will get around to discussing reauthorization,” a process that might allow for beneficial updates, said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation. “But we’ve found friends at NOAA who are trying to help. There are things that can be done by an agency that’s willing to look at things a little differently.”

Russ Dunn, the national policy advisor on recreational fisheries at NOAA, added that the agency is currently addressing each of the six recommendations from the coalition’s 2014 report. “It’s undeniable that NOAA Fisheries is more receptive to recreational fishing now than at any other time in its history,” he said.

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and its sportfishing partners are committed to working within each region and with each fisheries council to determine ways to implement new innovative approaches to federal fisheries management, and conservation leaders are calling for collaborative effort from state partners and the public. “Using a commercial fishing paradigm to manage recreational fisheries is holding back our economy, and nasty fights on issues like red snapper keep anglers from engaging on critical national conservation fights, like state takeover of our federal public lands,” said Whit Fosburgh, TRCP president and CEO. “With NOAA’s renewed commitment to recreational anglers, there’s a lot we can do.”

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Picture This Crowd of Gear-Hungry Anglers When You Think of the Outdoor Recreation Economy

Weave your way through the crowd at ICAST and then try to tell us that recreational anglers don’t represent some serious spending power

It’s still common in Washington, D.C., to hear lawmakers dismiss the power of the outdoor recreation economy. You and I know that $646-billion figure by heart, and repeat it often, but more stubborn than facts is the belief that the extractive industries create well-paying jobs, while hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, mountain biking, and the hundreds of other activities that Americans pursue in the great outdoors supposedly prop up just a few fast food and convenience store chains.

The extractive industries do create good jobs, and we at TRCP believe, like Theodore Roosevelt himself, that “conservation means development as much as it does protection.” The keys are balance, science, and planning. But there are flat-landers who still can’t grasp that the outdoor economy employs over six million Americans—that’s right, more than the oil and gas and real estate industries combined.

Image courtesy of TRCP.

I challenge them to come to ICAST. This is the world’s largest sportfishing trade show. Put on by our friends at the American Sportfishing Association, this year’s show features 600 exhibitors on 650,000 square feet of floor space showing off some of the most innovative American companies in any industry.

Didn’t know you needed a Yeti Rambler Lowball? Poor soul. How else can you enjoy your bourbon on the river this summer? And when you buy it, you can take comfort in knowing you are supporting a great Austin company that manufactures its Tundra coolers in Iowa and Wisconsin.

Always wanted to try fly fishing? Simms is here showcasing their newest gear, from waders to sandals to shirts. Simms manufactures all of its waders in Bozeman, Montana, where they just expanded their manufacturing and shipping center by 14,000 square feet and will add 27 new jobs this year.

Image courtesy of TRCP.

Fishing, hunting, and getting the next generation of Americans outdoors is big business. Even while the broader economy tanked during the great recession, the outdoor industry grew by 5 percent annually. Because who can walk out of their local Bass Pro Shops (a company that employs 20,000 people nationally, by the way) without a little something?

At ICAST this week, we’ll get the chance to meet the entrepreneurs responsible for creating great products that make it more fun to go fishing. But they are also creating thousands of jobs in communities across the country.

This is what I hope we can make our lawmakers understand.

Rob Thornberry

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posted in: General

July 12, 2016

Rob, the Henry’s Fork, and the So-Good, Very Bad Day

A memorable day on the iconic river cost our Idaho field rep his gear, his cell phone, and his dignity, but it was still a day on the water

Sometimes a day in the woods is all about fighting through the challenges. Thrilled to be free from chores on a recent Sunday, I decided to go fishing. I had no inkling I was in for a memorable day, for something other than trout.

Green drakes hatch each June on the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River in Idaho. Anglers from around the world descend on the famed river, hoping for a chance to see huge fish cruise the clear water and destroy unsuspecting bugs. I am lucky to live within an hour of this public jewel, and as I drove north I planned my attack: I’d start at Seeley’s and visit the backwaters before returning home for dinner. It was the perfect plan for a fishing addict. As always, expectations were high and thoughts centered on success. Sure, there is always a chance that Mother Nature will rule the day, but optimism always reigns.

The day, however, quickly took a troubling turn.

Image courtesy of Scott Butner.

My first three fishing spots were filled with people. Seeley’s was choked with four anglers in a section of river built for two. On the backwaters, fishermen looked like picket fences on both sides of the river. Undaunted, I headed upriver in search of a solitary spot, laughing at my optimistic belief that I’d have the river to myself. Upon reflection, I should have returned home to fish another day, but I was too gripped by the fly-fishing fever.

The beauty of fishing public water? I can go anywhere, anytime. The challenge, at times? So can everyone else.

It wasn’t a good start, but I have spent more than 25 years on the Henry’s Fork and I had backup plans for my backup plans. I decided to hike about a mile downstream to a little reach that is too far to venture for most foot-bound anglers.

As I dropped off the sagebrush flat, I rejoiced because it appeared my spot was empty.  My excitement was brief. As I went to step on a riverside rock, I noticed a guide boat and two anglers tucked into a back eddy, largely hidden from view. Maybe I was rushing. Maybe it was the sight of other anglers. Whatever the case, at that time I stepped on a wobbly rock, which lurched to the left and bucked me face first into a mud bog dotted with cow patties.

As I spit muck from my mouth, the anglers watched in bemusement. An older lady started to offer help, but her husband chided her for leaving rising fish to help some stranger. The guide just shook his head.

Undaunted, but a tad embarrassed, I washed off in the river and listened to the woman’s advice on safe wading. I didn’t have the courage to point out that I fell walking, not wading.

As I scooped mud from my waders, I moved to my fifth choice for fishing and finally found a spot to myself. I caught fish and generally had a ball. My troubles seemed to be resolved.

On my return to the truck, I spied a nice fish feeding near the bank, not 20 yards from my earlier dive into the muck. But I rushed my cast and hooked the highest branch on a tree behind me. To retrieve my bug, I had to scramble up a rather large boulder and lean into the tree, stretching awkwardly over another rock. At exactly the wrong time, a branch broke and I tumbled. I bounced off two rocks and fell face first again, this time into the river.

To the applause of downstream anglers—who again wouldn’t leave rising fish to bother with me—I did an almost perfect belly flop.

Having already broken one rod this spring, my four-piece loaner rod was now a seven-piece. My hat floated downstream and snagged on a rock. My glasses sunk quickly to the bottom. My phone went swimming too. Actually, it seemed to float like a feather to the river’s bottom. After resting the phone in rice for 24 hours, in the hopes that it would miraculously pull through, I had to replace it.

My attempt to rescue a $1.78 fly caused more than $1,000 in damage, plus my humility.

Bemused by the arc of the day, I spilled water out of my waders and hung my shirt in the tree to dry. I didn’t know what to do, worried that given the clear course of the day I’d take myself out of gene pool with any sudden movement.

Image courtesy of Rob Thornberry.

Still, the fish that kicked off the whole belly flop escapade kept rising, taunting me. I stomached the urge to throw all my gear at the trout and used six of the seven broken rod pieces to MacGyver myself a new rig. What was once nine feet now stood at a little less than seven.

I tied on my second best fly—the first remained lost in the riverside bramble—and made a cast at the lunker. And, as if launched out of a cannon, the fish devoured my imitation. I set the hook and then promptly broke the 5x tippet.

Cursed again.

We all love the outdoors and dream of the days when it all comes together, whether it is a deer within range or a fish on the line. On this particular outing, however, I got nothing but scrapes, bruises, and an uncontrollable urge to brush my teeth.

Defeated, I headed home. Yet another memorable trip into the woods was under my belt.

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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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