November 22, 2016

15 Reasons to Raise a Glass on Turkey Day

A Thanksgiving toast to the important things: family, friends, and the healing power of days afield

We tend to write about what sportsmen stand to lose—public lands access, healthy streams, sage grouse habitat, and more. But, in honor of Thanksgiving, we want to focus on appreciating what we have. And there’s a lot to be thankful for.

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“I’m thankful for wild places that inspire and humble me, even when the deer are scarce.” –Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO, TRCP

 “I’m thankful for every opportunity to spend time outdoors with family and friends. Whether you’re new to the sport or very experienced, the natural world is inspiring. And around the holidays it’s the best place to reconnect with the people you love.” —David Perkins, vice chairman, The Orvis Company

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“Why we fish? The look of curiosity and wonder on the face of your nephew when he scores his first catch! What to be thankful for? On your next visit he asks, ‘Uncle Geoff, will you take me fishing again?’” –Geoff Mullins, chief operating officer, TRCP

“I’m thankful for the state and federal biologists who recover and manage America’s rich wildlife and habitats so I can watch sandhill cranes circle overhead by the thousands on their way south, or spy a mountain goat billy on a ridgetop above while scanning for elk below, or hear wood thrushes and wood ducks while waiting for a turkey to walk by.” —Mike Leahy, public lands conservation and sportsmen’s policy, National Wildlife Federation

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“I’m thankful for crappy weather, pouring rain, and November storms rolling in off the North Pacific. Those rains beckon wild winter steelhead. Riding those storms are ducks and geese. I’m a Washingtonian; there are few things I love more than gearing up and stepping into the elements.” —Chase Gunnell, Conservation Northwest

“I’m thankful for the work I get to do in Washington, DC, ensuring wildlife professionals can continue to sustain wildlife resources and their habitats for the benefit of the American people.  I’m also thankful for the quick escapes from the political scene to the surrounding landscape — hiking, kayaking, and hunting in the rivers and forests nearby — so I can remain connected to the resources we work so hard to conserve on the Hill.” —Keith Norris, director of government affairs and partnerships, The Wildlife Society

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“The week before Thanksgiving, we managed to pack four bulls and three bucks into our Montana hunting camp. The freezers are full, and it was a good time with family and friends. I’m thankful for the opportunity to recharge—and I’m ready to tackle what’s to come.” —Joel Webster, Western lands director, TRCP

“In this polarized climate, let’s be thankful for the binding power of turkey. Now’s the time for gathering with friends and loved ones, whether at the table or outside — both environments can be potent equalizers.” —Geoff Mueller, senior editor, The Drake Magazine

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“I’m thankful for public access, which allows me to build incredible memories with my family, friends, and dogs. I’m grateful that access is an important initiative locally and nationally—I appreciate all of the folks that are fighting to keep it!” –Diane Bristol, senior director of employee and community engagement, Simms Fishing

“I am thankful that I live in a country and state that puts the protection of natural resources and wild places as a high priority. I am thankful that my kids have been raised in an area that is beautiful and abundant with wildlife. I am thankful to be a witness to the efforts of sportsmen and other” —Scott Laird, Montana field representative, TRCP

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“I’m grateful to be married to a man who loves to fish as much as I do and doesn’t mind when catch more than he does. I’m also grateful for public access to float, healthy rivers, and wild steelhead.” —Mia Sheppard, Oregon field representative, TRCP

“I’m thankful for the friends and teachers, often one and the same, that have shared their knowledge and love of fly-fishing with me. It’s through their good humor, contagious love of the sport and the complete thrill in finally hitting trout on wet and dry flies this year that have made even the coldest, toughest days on the river all the better.” —Christy Plumer, chief conservation officer, TRCP

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“I’m thankful that I was lucky enough to have a father who taught me and my brother to hunt and fish. I can’t imagine my life without those pursuits, which have ultimately become my profession. My son is due to be born around Thanksgiving this year and I can’t wait to pass our family outdoor traditions on to him.” –Nick Pinizzotto, president and CEO, National Deer Alliance

“I am very thankful that my wife and daughter support my efforts to save the Everglades and remind me not to get skin cancer!” —Ed Tamson, Florida field representative, TRCP

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“I am grateful for the all mentors who encouraged me, took me afield, and made the hunting and fishing sports accessible through their patience and commitment. Their lessons are with me every time I set foot on a range, in a river, or on the first rung of a ladder stand, and every shot I’ve made or fish I’ve landed since has been a product of their generosity.” —Kristyn Brady, director of communications, TRCP

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“It’s easy to forget the big things when we are wrapped up in modern day society, but nature has a way of grounding us and prioritizing things. We are born to be outside and I am immensely grateful to get to watch the sun rise while standing knee deep in the river, or getting a first glimpse of a big adipose on a steelhead as it quietly wakes in front of me, and I am especially thankful to watch my baby boy’s face light up, the same way mine does, as he gently touches a fish before we release it.” —Russell Miller, Marketing Manager, Sage/Redington/Rio

One Response to “15 Reasons to Raise a Glass on Turkey Day”

  1. Gregg Martin

    That was great! I am late in this Thanksgiving update. I’m thankful for our public lands most, as all that means the most to me is there, even the family more often than not. That was a wonderful selection.

    Gregg

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November 17, 2016

Why Orvis is Committed to Conservation and Public Lands Access for All

A Q&A with vice chairman David Perkins on Montana’s public lands riches, the fascinating science of conservation, and why giving back to groups like the TRCP is just good business sense

We feel pretty lucky to have a great partner in The Orvis Company—these guys obviously love hunting and fishing as much as we do, but they’ve also built their business model around giving back to the resources that support our best days afield. And, no matter where you shop for your gear, the folks at Orvis believe in your ability to access public lands.

That’s why this month for our Public Lands Challenge, Orvis will match every new donation to the TRCP dollar for dollar. And, if you’ve donated before—we appreciate it, by the way!—they’ll also match any increase to your previous gift, doubling your impact for public lands access and enhancements.

Dave Perkins, Vice Chairman, Orvis. Image courtesy of Orvis.

David Perkins, vice chairman of The Orvis Company, explains why this effort is important enough to spend more than 5 percent of their pre-tax profits on conservation efforts, and what makes him #PublicLandsProud.

TRCP: Orvis has a donated more than $20 million to conservation since its inception—why is the company so committed to conservation values and how do you engage your customers in the process of giving back?

David Perkins: Quite simply, our bottom line depends on sportsmen and women enjoying the natural resources in our country, and organizations like the TRCP have led the way in proving that if we’re not actively working to enhance habitat or protect our access to public lands, we could lose it. It’s a personal commitment to conservation, but it’s also just good business.

TRCP: What is your earliest memory in the outdoors, and when was your first aha moment about our responsibility to the places we love to hunt and fish?

DP: When I was about ten years old, my father taught me that in order for us to hunt ruffed grouse, like I loved doing, there needed to be early successional forest—the kind of young trees that grow back after a clearing effect, like a fire. I remember being so surprised, since it seemed counterintuitive. By cutting, you actually create habitat for these birds. That stuck with me. I think, since then, I’ve always been fascinated by conservation science and how different species interact with each other and the environment. As hunters and anglers, we’re a part of that. So, people need to be educated, and we all have to be willing to give back to sustain the things we enjoy.

TRCP: Why this issue? What makes you #PublicLandsProud?

DP: Public lands are our largest landscape, and not everyone can afford to access private lands. We have to safeguard those opportunities. I hunt public lands in Montana, and enjoy the state’s generous public stream access, and that makes me #PublicLandsProud. But, it’s a cycle: If people can’t access these lands, they can’t use them and appreciate them, so we’ll have fewer people to fight for them.

Keep the cycle of support for public lands going, and help us guarantee quality places for all Americans to hunt and fish. Donate by November 30, and double your impact.

Thanks, Orvis!

Whit Fosburgh

November 11, 2016

Public Lands Are Where We Can All Heal, Hope, and Harvest

At a critical time for America’s public lands, hunters and anglers—the country’s original conservationists—are asking everyone who enjoys outdoor recreation: Will you go outside with us?

It’s safe to say that, as Americans, we’ve been through a lot in this election cycle. From the 24-7 media circus to the contention between the two candidates, no one would blame you for feeling overstimulated or just plain exhausted.

Sounds like it’s time to go outside.

The outdoors have a true healing effect on the mind and body, and the hunting and fishing sports, especially, have an ability to transport. Whether you’re brought back to your earliest memories of watching the woods wake up at dawn or so lost in listening for the footfall of approaching game that you’ve completely forgotten your worries, the natural world provides us with serenity. Out there, we are part of something bigger than ourselves. It’s where we are challenged, and as we find ourselves capable, we feel validated.

That’s why the TRCP is proud to join a growing coalition of more than 400 groups who, inspired by outdoor retailer REI’s movement to #OptOutside the day after Thanksgiving, are finding unity and purpose in the outdoors.

As we come back together as a nation, the question of where we go to spend time outside is an important one. The abundance of public lands in our country, and the right to access them for recreation, makes the U.S. unique in all the world. All Americans are richer for being able to share in their ownership. And the landscapes that are appealing to hunters, anglers, hikers, bikers, climbers, and American families drive spending and support jobs in adjacent communities. Still, a movement to offload or privatize national public lands continues to find traction in Western states and on Capitol Hill.

This is not just unacceptable, it’s a threat to our national identity. Hunters and anglers who follow our blog know this—it has been a central fight for TRCP and our conservation partners since January 2015, and more than 35,000 sportsmen and women have signed a petition opposing threats to our public lands legacy.

But, to anyone else who heads outside to escape, heal, sweat, bond, or breathe a little deeper, I’d like to say to YOU that we can’t do this alone.

For every benefit that public lands provide, there’s an interest group ready to seize upon the opportunity. Even within our broader outdoor recreation community, there’s admittedly some mistrust between niches—those who ride versus those who run, those who watch wildlife versus those who harvest. With so much at stake, we cannot allow these unspoken hierarchies to divide us—it weakens the base of support that is absolutely critical to America’s public lands legacy.

Speaking for hunters and anglers, I hope that the rest of #OptOutside nation—at more than 1.3 million strong—will unite with us in the outdoors, celebrate the camo AND the climbers that you see in your social feeds, and check politics at the trailhead. If we can’t come together, we may just find ourselves united outside a locked gate.

Julia Peebles

November 10, 2016

In a Divided Nation, This Conservation Program Connects Sportsmen to Critical Access on Private Lands

The story of an important conservation program, one that helps to supply critical public access in states with mostly private land, started right here at the TRCP

While American sportsmen and women are in the midst of an important fight for our national public lands out West and across the country, many hunters and anglers have a completely different access challenge. Leasing or buying land, or knocking on doors to gain permission to cross, hunt, or fish someone else’s private land, are some of the only options in states with very few public acres.

That’s why we’re proud to work on strengthening conservation and access programs, many funded by the Farm Bill, that help level the playing field by bringing public access to private-lands states. In fact, TRCP’s co-founder, the charismatic Jim Range, was one of the creative minds behind a voluntary public access program that continues to change the game.

Once commonly known as “open fields,” the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP) was created to expand hunting and fishing opportunities across our nation by encouraging landowners and operators of privately held farms, ranches, and forest lands to not only provide public access, but also to conserve valuable habitat. In the early days of the TRCP, Range saw that the need for access and quality habitat go hand in hand.

Range always wanted to share our great outdoor heritage with others, and he was known for saying that we need to protect the things we love, because nobody else is going to do it. In 2007, he was instrumental in drafting legislation with our conservation partners in the Agriculture and Wildlife Working Group—groups like Pheasants Forever and the Association of the Fish and Wildlife Agencies—to establish VPA-HIP and open new sporting access that would allow our traditions to continue.

Former Senator Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), former Congressman Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.), and Senators Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) sponsored the VPA-HIP legislation and were influential in adding the provision in the 2008 and 2014 farm bills. From 2008 to 2012, the Farm Bill made $50 million in grants available to states and tribes, and the 2014 Farm Bill authorized another $40 million to be granted through 2018.

All told, 29 states have been able to open public access to private lands and waters since the creation of this program. Unfortunately, Range passed away in 2009 after a fight with kidney cancer, and he didn’t get to see many of the successes for sportsmen’s access and fish and wildlife habitat, nor the ripple effects on the outdoor recreation economy, that he helped to make possible.

For instance, in just the first year after VPA-HIP was created, the national outdoor recreation economy grew by $41.7 million and supported over 300 new hunting- and fishing-related jobs. And in 2011, Iowa generated an additional $1.82 in revenue for every dollar invested into the Iowa Habitat and Access Program (IHAP).

This is important to celebrate as a win for sportsmen, landowners, and the rural economy as we look ahead to the 2018 Farm Bill, especially since conservation and access are very much on the line.

Range used to quote former Senator Howard Baker when he told the staff to ration our good ideas. There will be no shortage of ideas about how to make the most of the conservation funding and incentive programs baked into the next Farm Bill, but we think that voluntary public access, the “open fields” of Range’s imagination, is still a very good one.

Help us celebrate the possibilities inherent in the idea that private lands can benefit all hunters, anglers, and wildlife. Urge your lawmakers to support legislation to enhance VPA-HIP in the next Farm Bill.

And learn more about the merits of VPA-HIP and why it has been a keystone effort for the TRCP since the organization’s inception, instilling everything we stand for—access, quality fishing and hunting habitat, and economic productivity. Our three-part blog series can be found here.

If you would like to donate to the Jim Range Conservation Fund, please click here.

Joel Webster

November 2, 2016

Moving Forward from the Malheur Standoff Decision

Three ways you can turn shock and anger into proactive solutions for our public lands

Like many sportsmen and women, I was shocked and angry when I first learned that the seven armed outlaws who took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for 41 days earlier this year were acquitted of any wrongdoing. These radicals trashed public property and blocked public access to land that belongs to all of us, and they did it while brandishing weapons and talking tough. It is impossible to comprehend how some people, armed from head to toe, could seize a federal facility and not face any consequences for their actions, but that’s exactly what happened just last week. (Hatch Magazine points out that the verdict came down, in a cruel twist, on the birthday of conservation’s patron saint.)

While it feels satisfying to place blame—on the quirky nature of the charges, an incompetent prosecutor, or a weak jury—doing so won’t change the situation. The decision is made, and anti-government fanatics are likely emboldened as a result.

However, as sportsmen and women who love and rely on public lands, we can’t sit around and accept this outcome as some part of an inevitable future. More than 72 percent of Western hunters depend on access to public lands, and millions of anglers do, as well. Complacency and discontent will only serve to benefit those who wish to steal our heritage, and we need to make sure that this decision stands as an anomaly, one at odds with the course of history.

To that end, I’ve outline three active steps that public lands hunters and anglers can take to defend our public lands legacy moving forward:

  • Most immediately, sportsmen and women should let lawmakers know we need assurances that lawbreakers and extremists cannot take away our lands and our facilities. Congress should give land managers and law enforcement personnel the tools they need to protect our public lands legacy. Sign the Sportsmen’s Access petition—or share it with family and friends who may not have signed—to send a clear message to decision-makers at home and in Washington.
  • Second, be prepared to hold lawmakers accountable for their votes in 2017, as state and federal legislators will be considering a new list of proposals designed to seize your public lands. For our part, we will keep you informed on the best ways to make your voices heard on this and other conservation issues. Sign up for TRCP email alerts and check in with the leading state-based sportsmen’s group in your area, to ensure that you receive a complete picture of upcoming challenges.
  • Finally, get outside and enjoy your public lands this fall. Hunting and fishing opportunities abound this time of year, and it is important that we all get out there to reenergize and remember what we are fighting for. Take plenty of photos and share them with us on social media using the hashtag #PublicLandsProud. Meanwhile, we’ll make sure that lawmakers get the picture—hunters and anglers support and value public lands, and we’re proud to keep them that way.

The Bundy boys aren’t out of the water yet. They’re currently awaiting their next day in court, this time tied to the standoff in Bunkerville, Nevada, in 2014. We’ll be watching and hoping that the rule of law is applied through these proceedings and a clear message is sent to anyone considering attacks on our public lands and our way of life: These lands will not be bullied away from us.

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