Whit Fosburgh

September 14, 2016

Working Toward Conservation Solutions After Election Day

Fringe views on land management can’t distract from the real work that must be done as a new administration enters the White House

At the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, we do not engage in elections other than to make sure that voters understand where the candidates stand on major conservation and access issues. This is why we hosted a forum, moderated by Field & Stream, at our Western Media Summit, where surrogates for the Trump and Clinton campaigns had an hour to discuss their priorities and take questions from the sporting and mainstream media. (Watch the unedited footage of these Q&As with Donald Trump Jr. and Rep. Mike Thompson.)

America’s sportsmen and women tend to be fairly mainstream. We care about lands and waters and want America’s conservation legacy to endure for future generations. But we use these lands and choose to pursue some of the critters we work so hard to conserve. Sometimes we even kill and eat those critters. And we’re proud of the fact that our dollars and volunteer efforts have made America’s fish and wildlife some of the healthiest and best-managed populations of species in any industrialized nation in the world.

We have been critical of some right-wing politicians and their enablers in industry who would sell off the nation’s remarkable public lands, which provide the foundation for hunting and fishing in America. But there are times when the left fringe can be equally ideological and out of touch.

Image courtesy of Tami A. Heilemann/Dept. of Interior.

Take the reaction to Secretary Clinton’s announcement that former Secretary of the Interior and U.S. Senator Ken Salazar would oversee her transition team, if she is elected president. The announcement was greeted by most as a sensible and strong choice, but not from many on the left, who described the pick as a sell-out to corporate America. One blogger posted that Salazar’s selection meant “…the oil and gas industry just hit a political gusher.”

We worked closely with Ken Salazar when he was Secretary of the Interior from 2009 until 2013. During this time, he initiated major reforms in oil and gas drilling on federal lands, known as “master lease planning,” to ensure that new development would only occur in the right places at the right times, without impacting sensitive lands and species. He blocked oil and gas leasing in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, home of the world’s largest salmon runs, and launched a major process to develop solar energy zones on public lands as a way to address a warming climate. These and other actions were largely criticized by the oil and gas industry.

Ken Salazar is a fifth-generation rancher from Colorado who loves the land and understands that it can and must support multiple uses. This is not just true for agricultural lands in Colorado’s San Luis Valley, but also for America’s 640 million acres of public lands. Some areas are national parks or wilderness areas. Others should be managed for wildlife and others for grazing, timber, or energy production. This is how it is supposed to work.

But for extremists on both sides, this is not the way they want it to work.

At the TRCP, we will work with whichever candidate is elected. If Secretary Clinton is elected, I know we can work with Ken Salazar, because we have done so in the past, and we understand his commitment to well-managed public lands and, more broadly, America’s conservation legacy. It is safe to say that we will not get everything we want, but that is not our definition of success.

2 Responses to “Working Toward Conservation Solutions After Election Day”

  1. The problem with public lands management could be that the HRC could continue Obama’s policy of the designation of vast areas of land now open to hunting, other recreation, commercial fishing, and other uses to national monument/national park status. This has recently been done off of Hawaii, in Maine, and today (9/15/16), off of the New England coast. I don’t mind “wilderness” designation, but natl. monument status is just a back door method of banning hunting, etc., on these public lands. It is especially unfair for the locals and just pleases the radical environmentalists that support the Democrat party.

    • Kristyn Brady
      Kristyn Brady

      Whit Fosburgh responds: Tom, I see this differently. All presidents since Theodore Roosevelt have used the Antiquities Act to create monuments and preserve special places. Let’s look at the three examples you cite: The Hawaiian Islands monument was created by George W. Bush. That designation specifically did not allow recreational fishing. President Obama expanded the monument and specifically opened it up to recreational angling. Recreational angling is also specifically allowed in the New England marine reserve. The Maine woods monument was donated to the federal government by a private citizen, along with an endowment to manage it. As private land, the public had no right of access. Now, most of it is open to public hunting and fishing and available for all of us to enjoy, forever. This seems like a pretty good deal to me.

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Whit Fosburgh

March 27, 2015

The Sale of Your Public Lands is More Possible Now Than Ever

Yesterday the US Senate passed a budget resolution that, while it does not carry the weight of law – does serve as an internal instructional document, a broad outline of the policies and priorities that Congress will seek over the next few months to implement in legislation that most certainly will carry the weight of law. As such, it included a series of up or down votes that put members of the Senate on record on several issues important to sportsmen.

Photo courtesy of Marty Sheppard.

And, in general, it was not good news.  First, the numbers:

The Senate budget resolution would maintain sequestration for non-defense discretionary spending (including all conservation spending) and then cut an additional $236 billion over the 2017 to 2025 period.  The Senate budget would cut conservation funding in FY2016 by about $5 billion dollars relative to 2013 levels.  Conservation Funding wouldn’t return to its 2013 funding level of $41 billion until 2022.  If you adjust for inflation the cuts inflicted by the budget will be far worse.

And now the policy:

I’ll start with the two bright spots.  Senator Debbie Stabenow’s (D-MI) amendment clarifies that all existing agricultural exemptions in the Clean Water Act, which date back to the early 1970s, should be maintained in the proposed Waters of the US rule.  That the amendment passed unanimously may signal that Congress may be willing to look at the facts on the proposed rule and not just the rhetoric from status quo stakeholders.  The next bright spot was an amendment offered by Senators Crapo (R-ID) and Wyden (D-OR) that changes the way we pay for catastrophic fires, which now eat up almost half of the Forest Service’s annual budget. The amendment had sufficient support that it was included in the manager’s report by acclimation.

Besides the basic funding levels, the giant alarm bell coming from the budget resolution was the amendment offered by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) that essentially encourages Congress to “sell, or transfer to, or exchange with, a state or local government any Federal land that is not within the boundaries of a National Park, National Preserve, or National Monument…” The amendment passed 51-49. Here is a roll call of the vote.

Photo courtesy of Eric Petlock.

As most sportsmen know, transferring lands to the state or selling them off is a bad deal for sportsmen.  See www.sportsmensaccess.org for more information on the issue.  If Congress were to follow these instructions, all BLM lands, National Forests and even National Wildlife Refuges could go on the chopping block.  Heck, even national battlefields and historic sites could be transferred or sold.

All Democrats voted against the Murkowski amendment, and three Republicans — Senators Alexander (TN), Senator Ayotte (NH) and Senator Gardner (CO) — bucked leadership and sided with sportsmen.

The budget resolution does not carry the weight of law and is an easy place for members to make “symbolic” votes without actually changing the law.  But symbolic votes show what members think and what they think is important.

Make no mistake about it, the public lands vote on the budget resolution was a finger in the eye to sportsmen everywhere.  But the real action is still to come, the question is whether sportsmen and women will pay attention and make their elected representatives know what they think about selling off or giving away our public lands.

As a sportsman who cares about access to our federal public lands, you can do two things right away.

  1. Sign the Sportsmen’s Access petition at www.sportsmensaccess.org – and then forward it to two other friends and urge them to sign as well.
  2. Call your Senator’s office at (202) 224-3121 and thank them if they voted ‘No’ or voice your concern if they voted ‘Yes’ (see how they voted here).

HOW YOU CAN HELP

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