Steve Kline

November 30, 2016

A Farm Bill Program Filling Bag Limits and Bar Stools in Montana

Sleepy towns awaken across Big Sky Country as hunters flood in to take advantage of opportunities to access private land with great wildlife habitat

I willingly endure a 60-mile daily commute from my home on Maryland’s rural Eastern Shore to downtown Washington, D.C., in order to raise my family amidst the farm fields and tidewaters of Chesapeake Bay country and to wake up on bitter winter weekends just eight miles from my duck blind and deer stand. My love of the slower pace of rural places, and my affinity for the cackle of pheasants, also brings me to the northeast corner of Montana each fall, when good friends converge on the Eastern Hi-Line with a few great bird dogs.

Perched on the prairies, this isn’t the blanket of national public lands some think of when Montana comes to mind. This is country dominated by small grains and big expanses of private lands grazing, where a breeze blowing less than 20 miles per hour barely registers with the locals.

It is a hard place to scratch out a living. Abandoned homesteads are eerie reminders that this is a place where rail cars and cattle far outnumber people. But, when we pull over to prepare a push through a particularly promising cattail slough or a birdy-looking Russian olive windbreak, we never fail to see pickup trucks with blaze-orange hats on the dash cruise by us on the gravel section roads. The Main Street diners sling bacon and black coffee as fast as they can in the morning, and there’s not an open barstool to be found in the evenings.

Hunting season brings a lot of activity to these otherwise quiet locales, the kind of places one hesitates to call ‘towns’—they are more like places where the speed limit changes. But they come to life as bird hunters with open wallets come from across the country to walk the coulees and draws. You get the sense that, in an economic setting otherwise completely dominated by agriculture of one form or another, hunting season represents a financial bright spot for businesses of all kinds, from the aforementioned bars and restaurants to hardware stores, sporting goods stores, motels, grocers, and gas stations. What may be a week-long vacation for some out-of-town hunter helps to smooth the fiscal bumps inherent in any small town business plan.

This economic windfall depends, almost entirely, on private acres. I hunted for four full days, harvesting pheasants, sharptail grouse, and Hungarian partridge, and never stepped foot on a publicly-owned acre. But thanks to Montana’s fantastic Block Management Program and their Upland Game Bird Enhancement Program, both made possible in part by the federal Farm Bill’s Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP), high quality and productive private acres beckon the upland hunter. These programs—and programs like them all over the country—provide incentives to willing landowners to make their farms and ranches accessible to hunters, and they represent a kind of critical infrastructure for local economies. These programs are the fuel that keeps the economic engine of rural America humming.

Just as importantly, VPA-HIP (and the state programs it supports) help landowners to maintain or restore habitat on their property. It wouldn’t be much of a hunting season without something to hunt, and thanks to the Farm Bill’s investment in private lands conservation our dogs were able to scare up plenty of birds.

We’re celebrating VPA-HIP at a critical time. This year’s presidential election illustrated clearly how disconnected rural Americans feel from the rest of the nation, and revealed the worry that a huge segment of our country possesses about their future economic stability. We should let the full motels and packed diners of the Montana prairies during hunting season illustrate that the next chapter of America’s rural revalorization should start with outdoor recreation.

Check back in two weeks for more about the benefits of VPA-HIP, the “open fields” of our co-founder’s imagination. And learn more about our agriculture and private lands programs and partners right now.

2 Responses to “A Farm Bill Program Filling Bag Limits and Bar Stools in Montana”

  1. Bill Conners

    I constantly tell frequently tell my readers about the economic value that hunting and fishing bring to our communities. At the same time I am careful about the kind of image I project on behalf of the sporting community. I’m not sure that presenting a headline that reads “A Farm Bill Program Filling Bag Limits and Bar Stools in Montana” is the kind of image that does the sporting community any justice given the cultural attitudes about hunting these days. I think “bag limits and eateries” would have made the point without validating the anti-hunting crowd’s belief that we are all a nothing but a bunch of cigar smoking, flannel shirted, skirt chasing, drunks (Governor Mario Cuomo).

  2. American cultural attitudes are generally apathetic towards hunting and fishing. Non-hunters are either supportive or neutral. The crowd size of honest anti-hunters is roughly the same of those who fit Cuomo’s description of the cancer in our ranks. Mewling about the anti-hunting crowd does little but expend energy and validate comments from the peripheral. If you’re upset about the anti’s, then have the guts to challenge the poachers, the drunks, the skirt chasers, and the wound/kill everything types. Cull within our own peer group, and the anti’s will fade away.

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A Farm Bill Program Filling Bag Limits and Bar Stools in Montana

Sleepy towns awaken across Big Sky Country as hunters flood in to take advantage of opportunities to access private land with great wildlife habitat

I willingly endure a 60-mile daily commute from my home on Maryland’s rural Eastern Shore to downtown Washington, D.C., in order to raise my family amidst the farm fields and tidewaters of Chesapeake Bay country and to wake up on bitter winter weekends just eight miles from my duck blind and deer stand. My love of the slower pace of rural places, and my affinity for the cackle of pheasants, also brings me to the northeast corner of Montana each fall, when good friends converge on the Eastern Hi-Line with a few great bird dogs.

Perched on the prairies, this isn’t the blanket of national public lands some think of when Montana comes to mind. This is country dominated by small grains and big expanses of private lands grazing, where a breeze blowing less than 20 miles per hour barely registers with the locals.

It is a hard place to scratch out a living. Abandoned homesteads are eerie reminders that this is a place where rail cars and cattle far outnumber people. But, when we pull over to prepare a push through a particularly promising cattail slough or a birdy-looking Russian olive windbreak, we never fail to see pickup trucks with blaze-orange hats on the dash cruise by us on the gravel section roads. The Main Street diners sling bacon and black coffee as fast as they can in the morning, and there’s not an open barstool to be found in the evenings.

Hunting season brings a lot of activity to these otherwise quiet locales, the kind of places one hesitates to call ‘towns’—they are more like places where the speed limit changes. But they come to life as bird hunters with open wallets come from across the country to walk the coulees and draws. You get the sense that, in an economic setting otherwise completely dominated by agriculture of one form or another, hunting season represents a financial bright spot for businesses of all kinds, from the aforementioned bars and restaurants to hardware stores, sporting goods stores, motels, grocers, and gas stations. What may be a week-long vacation for some out-of-town hunter helps to smooth the fiscal bumps inherent in any small town business plan.

This economic windfall depends, almost entirely, on private acres. I hunted for four full days, harvesting pheasants, sharptail grouse, and Hungarian partridge, and never stepped foot on a publicly-owned acre. But thanks to Montana’s fantastic Block Management Program and their Upland Game Bird Enhancement Program, both made possible in part by the federal Farm Bill’s Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP), high quality and productive private acres beckon the upland hunter. These programs—and programs like them all over the country—provide incentives to willing landowners to make their farms and ranches accessible to hunters, and they represent a kind of critical infrastructure for local economies. These programs are the fuel that keeps the economic engine of rural America humming.

Just as importantly, VPA-HIP (and the state programs it supports) help landowners to maintain or restore habitat on their property. It wouldn’t be much of a hunting season without something to hunt, and thanks to the Farm Bill’s investment in private lands conservation our dogs were able to scare up plenty of birds.

We’re celebrating VPA-HIP at a critical time. This year’s presidential election illustrated clearly how disconnected rural Americans feel from the rest of the nation, and revealed the worry that a huge segment of our country possesses about their future economic stability. We should let the full motels and packed diners of the Montana prairies during hunting season illustrate that the next chapter of America’s rural revalorization should start with outdoor recreation.

Check back in two weeks for more about the benefits of VPA-HIP, the “open fields” of our co-founder’s imagination. And learn more about our agriculture and private lands programs and partners right now.

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

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.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

SCRAPE TOGETHER A FEW BUCKS FOR CONSERVATION

Without the efforts of hunters and anglers, whitetails wouldn’t be a part of the modern American landscape. But we can’t stop there. Support our work to represent all sportsmen in Washington.

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