Dani Dagan

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posted in: News

January 26, 2017

Where We Go to Geek Out About Conservation News

If you devour anything related to conservation policy, consider this your well-rounded media diet

Staying on top of conservation policy developments in D.C. and beyond is essential to what we do—and we really geek out about it so that we can get the most important news into your hands via Facebook, Twitter, and our blog. But, for those of you who want to go straight to our most trusted sources—and in some cases go way, way down the rabbit hole—we’ve put together a handy shortlist.

For each source of news, the medium might vary. “Twitter is a great place to get the news from decision makers,” says, Joel Webster, our director of Western lands. “Facebook is a great place to get the news from your friends and sporting groups. The content is usually different between the two.”

So here’s what we read, and how we read it, in order to share the breaking news that matters to sportsmen and women.

Policy Makers, Shakers, and Implementers

Social media gives you the chance to peek behind the curtain and watch decision makers in action.

Follow your representatives on Facebook and Twitter for a direct line to lawmakers. This allows you to watch for positions they’re taking and hold them accountable. If you don’t already know who speaks for you in Capitol Hill, look up your U.S. House and Senate reps. Then, you can dig deeper by following members of your state’s legislature. Identify members here, or by googling your state.

Track congressional floor proceedings on Twitter over at @HouseFloor, @SenateFloor, and @SenateCloakroom. This is where you’ll find out what’s happening as it’s happening—including speeches, votes, and other motions that could affect habitat and access.

Read about what’s brewing in administrative agencies by following the agencies directly on social media. Hint: Public lands agencies usually share killer photos.

Brumidi Corridors in the Senate wing of the U.S. Capitol Buildling. Image courtesy of Architect of the Capitol.
Breaking News

Twitter is also where journalists live. Follow them over at the Bird for bite-sized news and links to the articles they’re writing or recommending.

See what the journalists covering Congress are tracking by following @burgessev (Burgess Everett, Politico), @ChadPergram (Chad Pergram, Fox News), @HouseInSession (Billy House, Bloomberg News), @seungminkim (Seung Min Kim, Politico), and @jackfitzdc (Jack Fitzpatrick, Morning Consult.)

For agriculture and private land conservation policy news, @ChrisClaytonDTN (Chris Clayton, DTN Ag Policy), @hagstromreport (Jerry Hagstrom, The Hagstrom Report), @agripulse (AgriPulse), @Morning_Ag (Politico), and @FarmPolicy (Keith Good, farmdoc) are great resources.

For insightful environmental news coming out of the Gulf, follow @BenHRaines (Ben H. Raines, AL.com), @tmassonFISH (Todd Masson, NOLA), and others on Twitter.

Publications in Your Hands and on Your Screen

Each day, our government relations director Steve Kline reads three actual, physical newspapers by turning actual pages just like our forefathers did. Center for Agriculture and Private Lands Director Ariel Wiegard, on the other hand, starts her day online.

Here are some ideas to get you started curating a customized online news aggregator with an RSS feed (Feedly is a good example). Add the individual publications, columns, or blogs you like to streamline your reading list.

  • The environment pages for your regional paper and a national publication like the Washington Post.
  • Political rags, like Morning Consult, Politico, The Hill, and Roll Call. These are great if you want to take a deep dive into what’s happening on Capitol Hill, and they all have sections on energy, environment, and/or agriculture. And for the Westerners: High Country News and WyoFile provide some solid political reporting.
  • Your favorite hunting and fishing magazines. We like the relatable voices on Field & Stream’s Conservationist blog, Outdoor Life’s Open Country, and Fly Rod and Reel’s conservation column, for example.
  • Private land conservation news coming out of local outlets on this list.
  • Gulf coast news (and some how-to fishing stories) in NOLA’s outdoors section.

If you just want to browse the headlines, follow @EENewsUpdates on Twitter. This in-depth environment and energy publication is behind a pretty expensive paywall, but you’ll get a glimpse of what’s trending (so you can google the rest.) Almost everyone in the conservation community starts their day with E&E updates.

Image courtesy of Tony Rocheford/USFWS Midwest.
Your Fellow Sportsmen and Women

A good place to start learning about major issues is with those who share your interests. We like:

  • The Hunt Talk forum, which is broken down by topic. You might want to start in the “hot topics” section.
  • There are a couple of big-name hunters in the trenches with us. They’re working to get the word out on the significant issues facing sportsmen and women. Steven Rinella’s social media channels are an excellent resource. Search for him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter at @stevenrinella. Similarly, find Randy Newberg on Facebook and Twitter at @randynewberg.
  • Op-eds often feature local perspectives on issues important to sportsmen and women. Keep an eye on the opinion section in your local newspaper for conservation-related topics.
  • Sportsmen’s groups hard at work filtering all of this news for you. Check out our partner page, and give those groups a follow on your favorite social media channels or sign up for their newsletters.

With a little digging, careful selection, and a few cool internet tools, you can construct a perfectly custom-built system to get nerdy about conservation.

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Chris Macaluso

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posted in: News

January 25, 2017

Local Public Input is Critical to Rebuilding Louisiana’s Coastline

The public process for vetting these important projects will affect conservation, hurricane protection, and land loss over the next five years

Louisiana’s coast is a dynamic landscape of swamps, marsh lands, barrier islands, bayous, rivers, lakes and bays surrounding coastal towns and cities—and all of this is linked by a unique culture of food, music, fishing, hunting, and other outdoor activities that rely on our abundant natural resources.

Unfortunately, for the last 80 years, this ever-changing system has been shrinking faster than any other landscape on earth, threatening world-class fishing and hunting opportunities, domestic energy development, commercial seafood harvest, the country’s largest port system, and the homes of hundreds of thousands of residents.

The impacts to the nearly 2 million people living south of Interstate 10 (and arguably the entire state and nation) can be devastating, but there are solutions in the works and a public process for Louisianans to be heard. This week and last, concerned sportsmen and women had the chance to ask questions and challenge the folks in charge of planning for the next five years of coastal protection and restoration projects designed to reverse devastating land loss, while boosting fish and wildlife habitat.

Here’s what they learned.

A Plan for Louisiana’s Future

For the last decade, the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority has been tasked with trying to slow coastal land loss, protect coastal communities, and safeguard our infrastructure, including the kind that supports fisheries and wildlife. The blueprint for this effort has been a detailed list of projects and initiatives aimed at ensuring Louisianans don’t face the catastrophic losses we experienced during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.

The Coastal Master Plan, by law, must be reviewed by the public every five years and then approved by the state’s legislature. As wonky as it sounds, this is a critical opportunity for everyday sportsmen and women to get involved with shaping the future of conservation in our state.

Where Funding Will Flow

The 2017 plan, like the 2012 plan before it, calls for funding to be split roughly in half between building community resiliency—using levees and floodwalls and elevating homes and businesses—and habitat restoration—through marsh and barrier island creation, diversions, and limiting saltwater intrusion.

Thanks mostly to the nearly $8 billion the state has received, or will receive, in fines from BP and others responsible for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, some coastal wetlands, barrier islands and vital ridges and other geographic features can be created, restored, and protected in the long term. The agency proposes to accomplish this by diverting sediment from the Mississippi River below New Orleans, diverting freshwater from the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers to wetlands threatened by saltwater intrusion, and various dredging projects.

Diversions are the cornerstone of efforts to restore and sustain the marshes adjacent to the Mississippi River. A single diversion on the west side of the river south of New Orleans called the Mid-Barataria Diversion, will move as much as 75,000 cubic feet per second of sediment-laden river water into shallow bays and lakes to help re-establish marshes that have been lost over the last century to erosion and subsidence. East of the river, the Mid-Breton Diversion will move water at about 35,000 cubic feet per second.

Impact to Fish and Wildlife

The 2017 plan is the first Master Plan for our area with detailed models that predict the future of coastal habitat for species like speckled trout, brown and white shrimp, largemouth bass, and crawfish—fisheries that are vital to commercial and recreational fishermen. It also projects what changes we can expect for habitat important to gadwall and teal, the ducks most targeted by coastal waterfowl hunters.

The area south of Buras was brackish and salt marsh as late as the 1970s, but has become almost entirely open water in the last 40 years. Louisiana has lost more than 1900 square miles of coastal lands in the last century. This satellite image was taken in 2012. Image courtesy of NOAA.
And If We Do Nothing?

Unfortunately, the latest models also paint a grimmer picture of what can realistically be saved and protected and what will, ultimately, be claimed by the Gulf of Mexico. The worst-case scenario from 2012 was a one- to two-foot rise in sea level—these are now the best-case scenarios in the 2017 plan.

If we do nothing, projections show that as much as 4,000 square miles of land will sink or be inundated by rising seas (yes, both of these things are happening at once) over the coming century—that’s more than twice the land loss predicted in 2012.

More than 25,000 homes and businesses across Louisiana’s coast will have to be elevated and made more storm-resilient over the next half century so as not to succumb to coastal flooding from tropical storms, hurricanes, and other extreme weather events. Some communities may have to be relocated altogether. Presenting this worst-case scenario isn’t the easiest task for state coastal planners, but it’s absolutely essential that coastal residents understand the difficult future that lies ahead in an ever-changing landscape.

How You Can Help

We’ve outlined the basics here, but if you want to learn more, read the full draft plan at the Louisiana CPRA website. Public comments are still being accepted through March 26—it is your civic right and, ultimately, your duty as a sportsman to weigh in. Email masterplan@la.gov to make your voice heard!

Ariel Wiegard

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posted in: News

January 23, 2017

What Rural America Needs Right Now is Support for Fish and Wildlife

If POTUS tackles these four major conservation priorities in the next two years, farmers, sportsmen, and critters in ag country will benefit

Federal policies that impact private and agricultural lands are a critical part of our country’s conservation equation: More than 70 percent of America’s total land is in private hands, and more than 50 percent is in agricultural use. So it’s no surprise that private land provides much of the habitat for both resident and migratory critters.

The TRCP and our partners have long sought to better balance the needs of production agriculture and private landowners with the needs of fish, wildlife, and sportsmen. And with President Trump’s promise to focus on the needs of rural America—and with a nominee to lead the Department of Agriculture who understands the sportsman’s perspective better than most—the next four years present a major opportunity to support habitat and water conservation solutions that also sustain agriculture in these communities.

Here are some of the conservation goals at USDA that we’ll be working toward in the first half of Trump’s tenure.

More Opportunities, Fewer Funding Cuts

The next administration needs to focus on growing, not cutting, conservation funding and support for landowners who want to do right by fish, wildlife, soil health, and water quality downstream.

The last Farm Bill consolidated or eliminated nearly a dozen conservation programs and reduced conservation spending by $4 billion compared to previous versions. Every year since then, more farmers, ranchers, and foresters have been prevented from enrolling in important voluntary conservation programs due to additional repeated cuts by Congress. Even states, tribes, and local governments looking to improve waterways or habitat conditions have not received the funding or guidance promised by the Farm Bill to help carry out their projects.

hunting pheasants Minnesota farm bill
Image courtesy of m01229/Flickr.

We cannot weaken our nation’s investment in habitat, water quality, or water quantity by underfunding any of USDA’s conservation programs. That’s why we have formally recommended that the Trump administration reject additional cuts to USDA conservation programs and ask to increase the budget for the technical assistance landowners need to put conservation on the ground. At the same time, the administration should push for better funding for programs that support locally-led projects to protect watersheds, mitigate flood damage, and reduce erosion—which is all critical to habitats and communities downstream.

More Accountability, Less Dysfunction

Landowners looking for conservation support aren’t just stymied by lack of program funding. As well as being locked out of conservation programs due to insufficient budgets, stakeholders who do get through the door have sometimes struggled to actually access the programs, claiming slower-than-usual payment delivery or reimbursements, and cumbersome or contradictory application requirements. Meanwhile, USDA has ended up in some worrying situations, such as when the government’s watchdog agency reported that the Department, because of insufficient enforcement, may have issued payments to landowners who violated wetlands or highly erodible land compliance requirements.

These and other issues undermine incentives for voluntary conservation and the legitimacy of USDA programs in the eyes of the American taxpayer. In the first 100 days of the presidency, we’d like to see steps to improve transparency, contracting, monitoring, and enforcement of conservation programs.

Healthier, More Drought-Resilient Waterways

Ongoing droughts across the United States reveal serious threats for meeting the needs of agricultural and other water users—like urban residents, outdoor enthusiasts, and fish and wildlife. Reservoirs in the Colorado River Basin, for instance, are at historic lows; the Colorado River no longer flows to the sea, and demand for water that vastly exceeds the supply threatens many fish and wildlife species that hunters, anglers, and others value.

Image courtesy of USDA.

In its first year, President Trump’s USDA should focus on drought resiliency and support new investments in water conservation that benefit both growers and fish and wildlife. One way we can get there is by working with private-sector lenders to help finance infrastructure improvements that prepare cities and farms for the next drought, while also benefiting rivers and fish—the resources that power tourism spending and local outdoor businesses.

A Farm Bill That Can Cross The Finish Line

Before September 2018, Congress will need to craft and pass the next Farm Bill—and delays can be just as damaging as no Farm Bill at all to those who are counting on it. It is essential that the Trump administration openly supports conservation in this major legislative vehicle and makes sure it moves efficiently toward passage.

Several years of painfully low farm incomes, along with extreme weather events, have created more competition among Farm Bill stakeholder groups for available funding, so our work is cut out for us. Sportsmen and women want to see a Farm Bill that recognizes the importance of the $646-billion outdoor recreation economy, especially in parts of the country where it’s tough to scratch out a living.

Image courtesy of USDA.

Healthy habitat, clean water, and sportsmen’s access on private lands is a critical piece of the business portfolio in rural America and deserves support from Trump’s USDA. That’s why we’ll be working with all stakeholders to boost conservation in the next Farm Bill.

You’ll be hearing a lot about that right here on the TRCP blog. Keep an eye out for Farm Bill updates every month, and let us know what conservation on private lands has done for critters in your neck of the woods by leaving a comment below.

Kristyn Brady

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posted in: News

January 19, 2017

Trump Taps a Quail Hunter for Secretary of Agriculture Seat

Former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue understands the balance between agriculture and wildlife habitat on America’s private lands

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The hunting and fishing community recognizes the potential for collaboration and compromise in President-elect Trump’s pick for Secretary of Agriculture, announced today. An avid sportsman, former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue has the kind of personal and policy experience that is likely to benefit the nation’s farmers and ranchers, as well as fish and wildlife habitat on private and public lands.

In Georgia, Perdue implemented the first comprehensive statewide land conservation plan, which included policy provisions aimed at improving wildlife habitat and boosting outdoor recreation opportunities, but his response to a major drought in 2007 was somewhat controversial. He also established a trust fund for the state to purchase conservation lands and encouraged the donation of perpetual conservation easements through a new tax credit that successfully conserved more than 185,000 acres.

“We’re happy to see that a true sportsman is a candidate for this position, especially one who worked to create a culture of conservation during his tenure as governor,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “It’s clear to us that, where private lands dominate the landscape, local hunters and anglers track and care deeply about ag policy and its impacts on fish, wildlife, and water quality. They can feel optimistic that Perdue is up to the task of serving rural communities and our natural resources well.”

Farmland with wetland buffered by acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, Prairie Potholes Region, Iowa. Photograph by Mark Vandever, U.S. Geological Survey.

The Secretary of Agriculture oversees many of the federal agencies with a major role in conservation, including the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency, and U.S. Forest Service. The next person to fill this leadership role will not only engage in debate over the 2018 Farm Bill, he or she will also lead the implementation of this legislation and oversee approximately $5 billion in annual conservation spending on private lands.

“While I’ve yet to meet the Governor, as hunters I’m sure we have commonality in understanding the importance of policies and programs that assist our nation’s farmers and ranchers with meeting resource conservation needs important to the overall sustainability of our agricultural system, while also benefiting fish and wildlife,” says Howard Vincent, president of Quail Forever and Pheasants Forever.

“We believe Gov. Perdue’s experiences afield will lead to a greater understanding of conservation needs, shared access, and multi-use opportunities on the numerous public lands managed by the USDA,” says George Thornton, CEO of the National Wild Turkey Federation.

Learn more about the coalition of hunting, fishing, and conservation groups working to enhance conservation funding, improve water and soil quality, and boost voluntary access programs in the next Farm Bill.

Kristyn Brady

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posted in: News

SHOT Show 2017: A Glimpse at the Innovation and Our Challenges

Industry leaders at SHOT Show acknowledge that, as #OriginalConservationists, we have our work cut out for us

Thousands of marketers, buyers, and product innovators made their annual migration back to Vegas this week for the 2017 Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show, where deals are being struck and minds are being blown over the hottest new and yet-to-be-released gear. The outdoor media is here to film, tweet, and post it all, so you can start to salivate over what could be in your gun safe come fall.

It’s a place where you can start to grasp the scope of the $646-billion outdoor recreation economy. And, luckily for habitat and access that needs conserving in our country, big business for outdoor brands can mean major opportunities for fish and wildlife. Of course, millions of dollars in excise taxes on firearms and ammunition go toward conservation each year, but the brands behind your favorite gear also have some serious clout as conservation advocates and storytellers.

That’s why TRCP chooses SHOT as the venue for an annual discussion of our priorities for fish and wildlife, bringing together outdoor retailers, non-profits, and publishers to identify ways we can all work together in the coming year. Yesterday, the conversation naturally veered toward the uncertainty of a new chapter in Washington, but it was also clear that many in this industry are willing to step up and directly face the challenges ahead.

Mark Seacat, Randy Newberg, and Joel Webster.

In the wake of a House vote on rules that would undervalue public lands and clear the way to transfer or sell them off, the threats to our sportsmen’s access were top-of-mind for the group—which included writers, radio personalities, and Field  Stream, Outdoor Life, Sports Afield, and Bugle editors, as well as conservation leaders from state fish and wildlife agencies, TRCP, Pheasants Forever, Mule Deer Foundation, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, The Council to Advance the Hunting and Shooting Sports, and many, many others.

There were also many questions about conservation priorities that failed at the end of the last Congress: Why did wildfire funding reform fall apart? How do we approach yet another attempt at a Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act? Together, how can we work smarter together this time?

Howard Vincent, president of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, reminded the group that it’s not too soon to start talking about the 2018 Farm Bill. In fact, our work is cut out for us if we have any hope of urging lawmakers to enhance conservation programs in the legislation that would keep up with growing demand. The good news is that we have more opportunities to collaborate with agriculture. “Because of market prices, farmers are growing negative dollars, so there’s a lot of demand for the Conservation Reserve Program and not enough enrollment,” Vincent said. “Many people are starting to recognize the importance of these programs to water quality downstream. For the first time in 30 years, commodity groups are asking us to come to the table and partner.”

Despite the sheer size of the crowd on the showroom floor, there were many concerns about the dwindling number of hunters. R3 (Recruitment, Retention, Reactivation) efforts are more widespread than ever, but Ryan Callaghan, conservation and public relations director at First Lite, thought that part of the solution is incumbent on all of us. “In our industry, we tend to talk about hunting as the pinnacle of badassery, but it can turn people off or be intimidating,” he said. “If we only show people the Mount Everest of hunting”—the backcountry solo hunts and adventures in far-flung places—“we can’t be relevant to a larger community.”

TRCP’s president and CEO Whit Fosburgh agreed that we cannot get complacent as a community—we can’t just leave these solutions up to someone else. He left the group with this final plea, bringing the conversation back to the current political climate. “I think many would agree that threats to our second amendment rights are mostly off the table for the next four years, but it’s not time to sit back. Turn your attention and energy to the places we hunt, the habitat, and our access. It will be critical to have as much support as possible.”

HOW YOU CAN HELP

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