A look back at the highs and lows for habitat, clean water, access, and conservation funding
I think we can all agree that this year has been a political roller coaster ride. Election antics aside, there were a lot of peaks and valleys for conservation in 2016 that may have a major impact on fish, wildlife, and America’s sportsmen and women for years to come.
Looking back on 2016, we’ll always remember:
- When the shocking actions of the armed occupiers at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge became a major conservation and access issue. Real conservation work to combat invasive species was blocked and Americans were kept from their public lands for 41 days. When the refuge takeover was diffused and the accused were ultimately acquitted of criminal charges, we channeled our outrage into positive action for conservation and justice.
- How the Conservation Reserve Program worked for turkeys, upland birds, ducks, and trout. Still, conservation-minded farmers struggled to enroll in the popular program, due to acreage caps, so sportsmen and many others started calling for a better CRP in the next Farm Bill.
- When the BP oil spill settlement was signed, sealed, and delivered—finally. What’s still TBD is if these funds will actually go toward boosting the $10-billion recreational fishing industry on the Gulf Coast.
- This USDA watchdog report that indicated a lot of private landowners being compensated for conservation efforts weren’t actually held accountable. This could mean bad news for waterways, wetlands, and the American taxpayer.
- How some very cool scientific innovations helped us understand why mule deer migration routes need protection, how tarpon react to changing habitat conditions, and where sage grouse populations differ according to their DNA.
- How fishermen and guides got organized to restore Everglades fisheries and Congress actually came through to authorize necessary funding to kick off critical projects.
- When the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act almost made it, but Congress ultimately failed hunters and anglers across the country. As in two Congresses before, this package of legislation to enhance conservation funding and access seemed to be on the move. In February, the House advanced a portion of the legislation through the SHARE Act. Then in April, the Senate voted 97-0 to add sportsmen’s priorities through an amendment to an energy modernization bill. In the final hours of this Congress, however, conference efforts fell apart. Translation: Sportsmen and women got left behind to try again another day.
- Also, that time when federal lawmakers voted for bills that would give away or sell off your public lands. This one is just beyond words.
- And there was resounding opposition to public land transfer at the local level in Arizona, Idaho, Colorado, and Wyoming. Here’s to much more of that in 2017!
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Happy holidays! We hope you have excellent hunting and fishing next year.