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August 16, 2016

It’s Good to Have Sportsmen in the Arena on Water Conservation

TRCP’s outgoing water policy director looks back on two landmark victories bearing the unmistakable fingerprints of hunters and anglers

If you ever attend a Nationals game in Washington, D.C., leave by the southeast gate, walk through Diamond Teague Park—named for a young man who devoted much of his life to restoring the Anacostia River before his tragic death—and look for the historic Old Pump House. This building used to pump water to the plant that provides power to the U.S. Capitol before the Anacostia River became too polluted and clogged with debris. The pump house is now home to the Earth Conservation Corps, which is restoring the Anacostia River and improving the lives of at-risk youth in Washington, D.C. On May 27, 2015, it was the site of one of our community’s most important victories for clean water and one of the high points of my career in conservation.

A New Era of Clean Water Protection Begins

The heads of EPA and Army Corps sign the final Clean Water Rule while sportsmen, small business owners, and faith leaders look on. Image courtesy of Jimmy Hague.

On that day last spring, sportsmen gathered with some of the most important D.C. water officials, small business leaders, and even one beer maker, to celebrate the signing of the final rule to improve Clean Water Act protection for trout streams and duck habitat. Once this decision is fully implemented, it will mean more cold clean water for anglers and fewer drained or polluted wetlands.

The fight for better clean water protection had been a long time coming, a battle that stretched back 15 years. And, to borrow from one of Theodore Roosevelt’s most famous speeches, some of the credit belongs to the sportsmen “in the arena” for this fight. You could see their fingerprints on the final product.

Ms. Sheppard Goes to Washington

Image courtesy of Marty Sheppard.

Nearly a year later, I sat in an auditorium at the White House watching TRCP’s Mia Sheppard tell President Obama’s team why cold, clean streams are important to her, her family, and her livelihood as a fishing guide. Drought is hurting rivers in the West, including the Deschutes River, and its native redside trout, right in her backyard. She told the president about the Deschutes and found herself getting choked up as she told the crowd, “When fish lose, we lose.”

Mia came to the meeting armed with 20 recommendations developed by sportsmen that will make our rivers and streams more resilient to the effects of drought and our fish and habitat healthier as a result. By the end of the day, more than half of these recommendations were part of official government policy. Sportsmen again had gone into the arena and left their mark.

Policy Matters

TRCP was formed in the belief that when sportsmen speak with one voice, there is nothing we can’t accomplish. Four years ago, the TRCP began to focus on water resources with that same belief. Jim Martin, the retired conservation director at Pure Fishing and a TRCP champion, once said, “The most effective protections [for sustainable fisheries] are embodied in policy and…law.” Donning a suit and tie to walk the halls of Congress may not be as exciting as our days on the water or in a duck blind, but sportsmen must remain in the policy arena to protect what we love. The events at the White House and on the banks of the Anacostia River show how much we’ve accomplished already.

I came to TRCP at the beginning of this great chapter for our water resources, and I’ve seen the unique impact sportsmen can have on policy. As I prepare to move on to another conservation leader, The Nature Conservancy, I’ll be taking the spirit of Theodore Roosevelt with me, along with his words: “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”

After more than three years with the organization, I’m confident that sportsmen can count on the TRCP to do the right thing. So I move on to the next chapter in my conservation story believing that Roosevelt would be proud of what we’ve accomplished for water. It’s only the beginning.

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posted in: General

It’s Good to Have Sportsmen in the Arena on Water Conservation

TRCP’s outgoing water policy director looks back on two landmark victories bearing the unmistakable fingerprints of hunters and anglers

If you ever attend a Nationals game in Washington, D.C., leave by the southeast gate, walk through Diamond Teague Park—named for a young man who devoted much of his life to restoring the Anacostia River before his tragic death—and look for the historic Old Pump House. This building used to pump water to the plant that provides power to the U.S. Capitol before the Anacostia River became too polluted and clogged with debris. The pump house is now home to the Earth Conservation Corps, which is restoring the Anacostia River and improving the lives of at-risk youth in Washington, D.C. On May 27, 2015, it was the site of one of our community’s most important victories for clean water and one of the high points of my career in conservation.

A New Era of Clean Water Protection Begins

The heads of EPA and Army Corps sign the final Clean Water Rule while sportsmen, small business owners, and faith leaders look on. Image courtesy of Jimmy Hague.

On that day last spring, sportsmen gathered with some of the most important D.C. water officials, small business leaders, and even one beer maker, to celebrate the signing of the final rule to improve Clean Water Act protection for trout streams and duck habitat. Once this decision is fully implemented, it will mean more cold clean water for anglers and fewer drained or polluted wetlands.

The fight for better clean water protection had been a long time coming, a battle that stretched back 15 years. And, to borrow from one of Theodore Roosevelt’s most famous speeches, some of the credit belongs to the sportsmen “in the arena” for this fight. You could see their fingerprints on the final product.

Ms. Sheppard Goes to Washington

Image courtesy of Marty Sheppard.

Nearly a year later, I sat in an auditorium at the White House watching TRCP’s Mia Sheppard tell President Obama’s team why cold, clean streams are important to her, her family, and her livelihood as a fishing guide. Drought is hurting rivers in the West, including the Deschutes River, and its native redside trout, right in her backyard. She told the president about the Deschutes and found herself getting choked up as she told the crowd, “When fish lose, we lose.”

Mia came to the meeting armed with 20 recommendations developed by sportsmen that will make our rivers and streams more resilient to the effects of drought and our fish and habitat healthier as a result. By the end of the day, more than half of these recommendations were part of official government policy. Sportsmen again had gone into the arena and left their mark.

Policy Matters

TRCP was formed in the belief that when sportsmen speak with one voice, there is nothing we can’t accomplish. Four years ago, the TRCP began to focus on water resources with that same belief. Jim Martin, the retired conservation director at Pure Fishing and a TRCP champion, once said, “The most effective protections [for sustainable fisheries] are embodied in policy and…law.” Donning a suit and tie to walk the halls of Congress may not be as exciting as our days on the water or in a duck blind, but sportsmen must remain in the policy arena to protect what we love. The events at the White House and on the banks of the Anacostia River show how much we’ve accomplished already.

I came to TRCP at the beginning of this great chapter for our water resources, and I’ve seen the unique impact sportsmen can have on policy. As I prepare to move on to another conservation leader, The Nature Conservancy, I’ll be taking the spirit of Theodore Roosevelt with me, along with his words: “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”

After more than three years with the organization, I’m confident that sportsmen can count on the TRCP to do the right thing. So I move on to the next chapter in my conservation story believing that Roosevelt would be proud of what we’ve accomplished for water. It’s only the beginning.

Jonathan Stumpf

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posted in: General

August 11, 2016

Winner Alert! Capturing the Summer Scenes That Make Us #PublicLandsProud

Thanks to those of you in #PublicLandsProud nation who shared their best photos of fun summer days on public lands these past two months! There were some really impressive submissions, and it was the tough job of our guest judge, outdoor photographer and fishing guide Marty Sheppard, to ultimately select a winner.  After much deliberation, here are the winning shots:

First place: Instagrammer abeblair

True wilderness deep in the Sierra!! #publiclandsproud #secretspots #optoutside #rei1440project

A photo posted by Abe Blair Gallery (@abeblair) on


Marty Sheppard: This photo is amazing. It captures the beauty of camping under the stars; everyone should experience as much as possible. Without access to public land, it would be hard to get away from the hustle and bustle  of all the light pollution of metropolitan areas.  Thank you, Abe, for your photographic dedication of capturing these iconic scenes.

First runner-up: Instagrammer jlrastonishingphotos

MS: This photo gives me a great summertime feeling, playing fetch with our public land companions. Great depth of field with action and excitement that only a dog can bring to your day.

Second runner-up: Instagrammer barebowhunter

MS: This photo gets me pumped for what’s right around the corner and a deep appreciation for the endless miles of backcountry right outside my door.

Submit your best national parks pics this month as we celebrate the National Park Service centennial and show us what it means to be #PublicLandsProud for these national treasures. We still have two prize packages to give away with killer gear from Costa, Yeti, Simms, Orvis, Old Milwaukee, Meateater, Buck Knives, and First Lite. Keep showing us what makes you #PublicLandsProud, and we’ll continue to protect your access to quality fish and wildlife habitat.

Rob Thornberry

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Throwback Thursday: When Beavers Bombed Into the Backcountry to Do Conservation Work

In the 1940s and 50s, “a struggling, odorous pair of live beavers” could actually help improve fish and wildlife habitat—the trouble was transporting them

This is the story of a beaver named Geronimo and a simpler time, when ingenuity led to rodents parachuting into Idaho’s backcountry.

Yes, I just wrote that sentence, and every word is true.

As modern-day sportsmen and women, we’ve become accustomed to stocked lakes and waterways and heard many tales of capturing and collaring big game animals to study and improve their odds. But, for my money, no wildlife management story is better than Geronimo’s.

It begins in the 1940s, when an abundance of beavers in some areas prompted depredation concerns. According to an article from Idaho Fish and Game employee Elmo W. Heter, the agency was faced with a bevy of beavers and decided to transplant some of the toothy critters into the backcountry. The accepted method at the time was to capture them, truck them to a trailhead, and then pack them by mule train to some unoccupied lush meadow. There, the beaver equivalent of Adam and Eve would be released to do beaver things and get busy making more beavers.

Image courtesy of Idaho Fish and Game.

“Beavers usually set up colonies, multiply, and establish important fur-bearing populations,” Heter wrote. “In addition, they do much toward improving the habitats of game, fish, and waterfowl and perform important service in watershed conservation.” The problem with trucks and mules, however, was that beavers died in large numbers because they weren’t suited for the heat of summertime travel.

“Older individuals often become dangerously belligerent,” Heter wrote. “Rough trips on pack animals are very hard on them. Horses and mules become spooky and quarrelsome when loaded with a struggling, odorous pair of live beavers.” (Let me stop here and point out that the problem with present-day Fish and Game reports is that they don’t use enough words like ‘belligerent,’ ‘quarrelsome,’ and ‘odorous.’)

Heter didn’t explain how the department ultimately turned to parachutes—I picture a meeting of bigwigs with diagrams, a wading pool, and model beavers—but in 1948, airdropping the little critters in a backcountry blitzkrieg seemed to be the idea with most promise. (I want to stop here, again, and call upon the mental image of elk and deer on the ground, watching an aerial raid of ruffian rodents.)

Fish and Game officials first experimented with attaching the parachutes to willow boxes, but that effort was abandoned because of fears that the beavers would eat their way out of their airborne box at the most inopportune time. Heter’s crew eventually made a box that broke apart when it hit the ground. But would the beaver die in the process? That was an interesting question for sure.

Image courtesy of Idaho Fish and Game.

Enter Geronimo. To test proper drop heights and box designs, Fish and Game officials dropped the male beaver “again and again.”

“Each time he scrambled out of the box, someone was on hand to pick him up,” Heter wrote. “Poor fellow! He finally became resigned, and as soon as we approached him, would crawl back into his box ready to go aloft again.” With Geronimo’s help, Fish and Game learned that the best launch height was between 500 and 800 feet, because it allowed the chute to open properly and still maintain some accuracy in placing the bewildered beavers in a selected meadow.

That year, Fish and Game dropped 76 beavers in the backcountry. There was only one fatality, a beaver that “jumped or fell” from his box at about 75 feet. A year later, observations showed that all airborne transplants were successful. “Beavers had built dams, constructed houses, stored up food, and were well on their way to producing colonies,” Heter wrote.

He said the transportation method showed a marked savings over mules; he claimed they could drop four beavers for $30.

Image courtesy of Idaho Fish and Game.

Although we don’t know how many beavers were ultimately transplanted via parachute—or why and when the program was stopped—Heter did say that Geronimo was treated well for his efforts. He “had a priority reservation on the first ship into the hinterland, and three young females went with him,” Heter wrote.

To read Heter’s full account and see a diagram of the beaver boxes, click here. For archive video footage of parachuting beavers, click here. And for the latest on today’s (more sophisticated) conservation initiatives in Idaho and across the West, keep following the TRCP.

Much of this story appeared in the Idaho Falls Post Register on Dec. 11, 2104 (read the original here), but it never gets old.

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August 10, 2016

It’s Time for Eastern Hunters and Anglers to Join the Fight Against the Western Land Grab

Sportsmen across the West have been rallying hard against state takeover of America’s public lands—east coasters can’t just kick back and let them do the work of protecting our public lands legacy

The last time my D.C.-area friends and I wanted to unleash our crazy birddogs and hunt, the options were limited to hunting on preserves or driving three hours or more to a Wilderness Management Area that stocks the land with pheasants. Most days, my English setter, Belle, has to settle for sniffing out birds and squirrels in the bushes around my apartment complex. This is the reality in the eastern half of the U.S., where we’re surrounding by more major cities and more fragmentation, while the West enjoys 640 million acres of public lands with astounding fish and wildlife habitat. As east coasters, we can be jealous, or we can be proud—after all, those lands out West are ours, too.

Image courtesy of Mattia Panciroli.

That’s why hunters in our region need to be concerned about Western states gaining control of public lands. This fight isn’t a Western issue, it’s an access issue, one that impacts millions of acres that belong to all of us.

Still, the threat of public land transfer hasn’t lit a fire under Eastern sportsmen, and this makes it easier for our elected officials to support this dangerous idea. Did you know that last year the South Carolina General Assembly supported Utah’s resolution to transfer Western public lands to the state? The state legislature passed its own resolution that encourages Utah’s unprecedented steps in the wrong direction. Ten other states introduced similar measures, but Tennessee slammed the measure. With the most-visited national park in their backyard, these decision-makers understand the importance of public access to bountiful natural resources and outdoor recreation, like the Great Smoky Mountains’ unparalleled fishing. We need more states east of the Mississippi to take a stand, or Western states could seize millions of acres, bungle their management, fail to pay the bills, or worse, sell them off to private interests.

Julia’s bird dog Belle on the hunt for robins and other city dwellers—access to quality upland bird habitat is not as close to home for eastern state sportsmen. Image courtesy of Julia Peebles.

Imagine the Smokies being transferred to state agencies. Visitors from around the country and the world wouldn’t be able to access the park or the Appalachian Trail (AT) without paying an entrance fee. That’s just another barrier to entry for American families, who need the adventure and simplicity of the outdoors more than ever. During an interview with Woods and Water SC host Roger Metz, Steven Rinella recently made an appeal to east coast sportsmen to oppose public land transfer, if only because it’s bad business. He emphasized that under state ownership, everything would come second to generating revenue from these lands. That’s no benefit to the American public, who could get cut out of access they rely on for outdoor recreation.

Camping on the Appalachian Trail. Image courtesy of Julia Peebles.

Here in the East, it’s our time to step up and stand with Western sportsmen. We’re all Americans who care deeply about our outdoor traditions. And it’s easier than you think to take action. Educate yourself and sign the Sportsmen’s Access petition to let your lawmakers know that you own 640 million acres in the West, too. Whether we hunt public land in Montana or private land in Virginia, we can’t sit back and give up these wild places.

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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