Rob Thornberry

March 23, 2017

Once Again, Hunters and Anglers Are Willing to Spend More for the Benefit of Fish and Wildlife

As national-level funding is being cut, Idaho sportsmen buck the trend and take a collaborative stand to fund fish and wildlife management

As hunters and anglers across the country attempt to contemplate the cuts that may be coming for programs that benefit sportsmen and healthy habitat, it is easy for us to become discouraged and angry.

The 12 percent cut at the Department of Interior, for example, would trim $1.5 billion in funding to the agencies largely responsible for public lands. The U.S. Department of Agriculture budget would be cut by 21 percent, or $4.7 billion, and the Environmental Protection Agency budget would be cut by 31 percent, or $2.6 billion.

The numbers are straightforward, but the long-term damages to our shared pastime are hard to cogitate, especially for sportsmen, a user group that takes pride in helping pay the bills for the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.

The cost of an Idaho hunting and fishing license is a small price to pay for a meal like this. This and the top image courtesy of Nan Palmero-Flickr.

It is particularly hard to stomach here in Idaho, where sportsmen have voluntarily stepped up to the plate to increase fees on themselves for the greater benefit of our wildlife.

On March 17, the Idaho Senate unanimously approved a fee increase on hunters and anglers, the first undivided vote of its kind. If the bill is signed by Gov. Butch Otter, as expected, the fee increase will include a $5 fee on all licenses which will be used to pay for crop losses that come with healthy game herds. It will also mean that occasional license buyers, those who don’t buy a license or tag annually—would be charged 20 percent more. Die-hard hunters would be rewarded by being spared the additional cost.#Idaho's #originalconservationists willing to spend more to benefit fish & wildlife Click To Tweet

Also in the mix, there is a new account created by Fish and Game to help buy access for hunters and anglers. Basically, unspent depredation funds will benefit hunters and anglers in the end.

Twelve years in the making, the fee bill seemed dead on arrival in February, when Rep. Marcus Gibbs said he wouldn’t address a fee increase unless the bill made concessions to ranchers who were suffering heavy damage from extreme winter weather. Officials with Idaho Department of Fish and Game used his argument to craft a compromise with the Farm Bureau: help addressing depredation in exchange for the fee increase.

Hunter glassing an Idaho drainage in Custer County, Idaho. Image courtesy of BLM Idaho-Flickr.

The work on the fee bill is less visible than the show of sportsmen might at a Public Lands Rally in Boise earlier this month, but it is more earth-shattering. The Idaho Farm Bureau and hunters and anglers of every stripe joined together to bring much needed financial relief to the wildlife department, which hadn’t had a resident fee increase since 2005. And, overcoming decades of animosity, the Idaho legislature finally gave cash-strapped wildlife managers a dose of critical revenue, while also addressing the complaints of ranchers who suffer when hungry elk, deer, and pronghorns raid their crops or haystacks.

The win represents seismic shifts in Idaho politics, and we will all benefit for decades to come.

Now sportsmen nationwide need to jump into the fray. President Trump’s budget outline is more mission statement than fiscal policy. We need to be heard as Congress, the true holders of the purse strings, contemplates Trump’s vision. Habitat and wildlife funding is crucial—so important that sportsmen are consistently willing to tax themselves to contribute more. We can only hope that Congress looks at the most recent example in Idaho as constituents again show their support and willingness to fund things that matter, not take funding away.

5 Responses to “Once Again, Hunters and Anglers Are Willing to Spend More for the Benefit of Fish and Wildlife”

  1. Randy Slemmer

    As a sportsman, conservationist, hunter and angler I support raising funds for our cause and always have for the last 60 years. However, I am troubled by any sportsman group, magazine or organization that asks for support while not shouting from the roof top just how bad this president and the republican party have become for our cause and sport. While at the same time gutting programs like health care for the largest percentage of your supporters who are also the oldest group in the sportsman category. Once again we as a group seem to be our worst enemy. Trump and the people cutting all these budgets got the support of many hunters and sportsman simply because he claims to support the 2nd amendment. So do I, but there is more to our sport than allowing everyone the nra thinks should own a gun to buy one. I for one do not hunt with unstable people carrying a gun if I can help it. I also think it is hypocritical to preach gun safety and give one to anyone who can walk in and buy one. I know I covered several areas here but the point is this. We will not survive if we don’t demand that our leaders use good judgment and common sense and we must hold all parties accountable or make an example of them to our rank and file. We are not stupid or weak so lets not allow bullies to control us.

  2. George Bogenschutz

    Maybe it is time for sportspeople to pressure crud-gress (congress) to levy a surcharge on national park and monuments admission fees and/or a national public lands access stamp required for all people entering public lands for recreational purposes (campers,hikers,birders,photographers etc as well as sportspeople. The fee/surcharge would go into a dedicated fund to purchase rights-of -way to landlocked public lands and other purposes such as trading isolated blocks of land for private parcels to improve habitat or access etc.

  3. Dale Becker

    Many thanks once again for sportsmen and women. It would certainly be a better day if many of those same folks and our friends at the NRA realize and understand that their steadfast support of politicians at all levels who continually degrade wildlife, habitat, hunter access and public lands would seriously question the choices that they make at the ballot box and what those choices cost us who love the outdoors.

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Dani Dagan

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posted in: Outdoor Economy

March 22, 2017

Hunting Purchases Become Conservation Dollars Whether You’re a Newbie or an Expert

A first-time pheasant hunter offers this humble defense of millennials just taking up the sport

There’s a lot of bad press out there about millennials like me. I’m a 26-year-old D.C. resident who likes cold-brew coffee, wears lumberjack flannel in the city, and spends way too much time at the rock-climbing gym. And yes, I’ve even been called a hipster once or twice. I’m not exactly the image that the word “hunter” conjures.

I’m from Los Angeles, which isn’t especially known for its backwoods hunting. I can’t think of a single person I knew growing up who had even held a shotgun or rifle, let alone shot at game. But for my entire professional career, I’ve been working in the fields of wildlife science and conservation policy. I’ve spent a whole lot of time roaming remote parts of the country alone in a (shoddy) pickup truck and have learned as an adult about the immense value of sportsmen and women. I have been ready and willing to be recruited as a sportswoman for years.

And, finally, last month I went on my first hunt.

My hen was retrieved by this young, eager pup—another newbie—at a shooting preserve just outside of Chicago.
Finding My Tribe

Without a community of sportsmen to rely on, hunting can be pretty intimidating to the uninitiated. There’s a lot to know about licenses, locations, best practices, and equipment—barriers I’m sure many other prospective outdoorsmen and women face. But more than that, in the past I’ve worried—perhaps unfoundedly—that the community of sportsmen and women would be unwilling to take in someone brand new and so unlike the typical hunter.

But I felt nothing but welcomed when, in late-February, on an unseasonably warm day in Illinois, I took down my very first pheasant with pride. I had just spent a week in an intensive crash-course on everything related to hunting and conservation, from how to hold a firearm to how regulatory decisions influence and are influenced by biology, ethics, public perceptions, and the North American Model of Conservation. It was geared towards potential leaders in the field of conservation, ranging from state agency wildlife biologists to young NGO staffers like me, who don’t come from a hunting a fishing background.

The future of habitat and access may depend on established hunters accepting beginners into their tribe Click To Tweet

That description applies to more of us than you might think. It’s no secret that hunters are diminishing in numbers, and yet sportsmen and women have been responsible for a good chunk of conservation funding ever since we decided to tax ourselves for our licenses and gear long ago (during the Great Depression, no less.) There’s a lot of talk in the hunting and fishing community about the importance of recruiting new cohorts of hunters, and retaining or reactivating others, in order to keep these dollars flowing.

So the future of habitat and access just may depend on established hunters accepting beginners like me into their tribe.

A Dollar is a Dollar

Especially now, when all signs point to major budget cuts on the horizon for the federal agencies that carry out conservation in America, the dollars that hunters provide for habitat—and specifically excise taxes enacted by the Pittman-Robertson Act—will be even more critical. After all, the dollars we spend on guns, ammo, and licenses are just as powerful as the dollars of a seasoned sportsman.

Will it matter in 50 years that non-traditional hunters, including the dreaded “hipster hunters,” got interested in the sport as adults primarily because they cared about organic, local, and ethically sourced meat? As long as we all share in the responsibility to our natural resources and sportsmen’s access, I don’t think so.

Bound by Tradition

I hope that folks like me remain deferential to sportsmen’s traditions that were established way before millennials started listening to podcasts and Instagramming their avocado toast (for the record, I have never, and will never, post my brunch online.) The history and culture of hunting should be revered, not reversed, by those of us who are just starting out.

As for me, since my first hunt I’m completely hooked—and shopping for a firearm of my own. And of course, a portion of that sale will go back into conservation.

So, here’s the crux of my humble defense of millennial hunters, from my tribe to yours: We’re not in competition for a stake in America’s hunting legacy. We’re like you; we’re bonded by the singular rush you get knowing that you’ve become part of the natural world in a very primal way. We want to work together with you to create a sustainable future for fish, wildlife, and our—yes, our—sporting traditions.

Kristyn Brady

March 16, 2017

Trump’s Proposed Budget Could Threaten Hunting and Fishing’s Future

Deep cuts at the agencies responsible for conservation and sportsmen’s access would be felt in every corner of the country

Hunters and anglers would find less healthy habitat and more public access closures under President Trump’s proposed budget, officially released this morning. In fact, the ripple effect of major budget cuts at the agencies that oversee conservation in America would likely be felt most in the rural communities that thrive off outdoor recreation spending related to public lands and other hunting and fishing access.

“With the magnitude of these cutbacks—12 percent at the Department of the Interior alone—the conservation legacy left to us by Theodore Roosevelt and others would be undone very quickly, and the effects would be felt on public and private lands and waters in every corner of the nation,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Several key programs with direct benefits to local communities, such as the Payment-in-Lieu-of-Taxes program and the USDA’s Farm Bill service centers, would be significantly slashed. Restoration programs for the Chesapeake Bay watershed and invasive species removal efforts in the Great Lakes would be eliminated entirely.”

The 12-percent cut at DOI would trim $1.5 billion in funding to the agencies largely responsible for public lands. Onshore and offshore energy development under DOI’s jurisdiction would get an increase. The U.S. Department of Agriculture budget would be cut by 21 percent or $4.7 billion, and the Environmental Protection Agency budget would be cut by 31 percent or $2.6 billion.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund—the single most important federal program for enhancing habitat and sportsmen’s access with funding from offshore oil and gas receipts—would be cut to pay for basic operations and maintenance, which should be a core budgeting responsibility.

montana red rocks lake national wildlife refuge
The view from Red Rocks Lake National Wildlife Refuge in southwest Montana. Image courtesy of Bob Wick/BLM.

Undermanned agencies could be faced with the choice to close down access points, stop habitat management, or place heavy financial burdens on the states, which sets a dangerous precedent for the transfer of management authority on America’s public lands. The budget proposal actually indicates that state and local governments will have increased responsibility for the execution of federal programs. Expecting cash-strapped states to pay for natural resources, a critical part of the federal-state partnership, is troublesome and may lead to less management, less enforcement, and stressed fish and wildlife populations.

To compound matters, two key programs providing tax payments to local counties with public lands—Payments in Lieu of Taxes and the National Wildlife Refuge Fund—would get less or no funding at all, perhaps breeding even more unrest in Western states with a large proportion of federal public lands.

President Trump’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget proposal does allow agencies to have a great deal of discretion in how to implement cuts. The proposal does not include revenue projections or policy statements, and there is no language addressing mandatory spending. Agencies fear that detailed guidance will reveal even deeper cutbacks on the things that sportsmen care about.

“A much larger hit could still be coming, and with that there would be National Wildlife Refuge closures nationwide,” says Desiree Sorenson-Groves, vice president of government affairs at the National Wildlife Refuge Association. “There simply wouldn’t be enough staff or funding to keep hunting and fishing access open or to run education and volunteer programs. Even if states were able to help a little, they don’t have enough funding to take over every program currently paid for by the federal government.”

Read TRCP’s fact sheet on specific conservation programs called out in Trump’s FY2018 budget request.




Slashed Budget Would Cut Conservation Right Where It’s Needed Most

Gutting programs and agency budgets that support healthy fish and wildlife, public access to the outdoors, and our nation’s rich heritage will hurt rural economies

A broad coalition committed to safeguarding the future of our country’s fish and wildlife populations, outdoor recreation opportunities, and national heritage is dismayed at the deep level of cuts recommended by President Trump in an official budget request released today.

If enacted, Trump’s budget proposal would offset a $54-billion boost to defense spending by cutting foreign aid and domestic programs. This includes a proposed 12-percent decrease to the Department of the Interior budget, which is likely to slash resources needed to manage public and private lands, support state management of fish and wildlife, and enact conservation across the country. This would have devastating impacts on the ground for natural resources, historic sites, and the rural American communities that thrive off outdoor recreation and tourism spending.

“Gutting the programs and agency funding that helps conserve fish and wildlife and our sporting traditions is no way to support the rural and local economies that need outdoor recreation dollars most,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, a lead group in the coalition known as America’s Voice for Conservation, Recreation, and Preservation. “Ignoring the real benefits of investing in conservation will erode the foundation of hunting and fishing—public access and quality places to pursue our traditions.”

Trump’s budget could also shrink the federal workforce by the largest margin since World War II. “Outdoor recreation businesses drive spending and sign paychecks in rural communities, but they certainly couldn’t thrive if public lands and waters were closed or left without active management,” says Amy Roberts, executive director of the Outdoor Industry Association. “The places where America plays, and the products Americans use in the outdoors, wouldn’t exist without those other made-in-America jobs—those of the federal land managers, park rangers, and biologists who safeguard our lands and waters so we can enjoy them.”

Congress still holds the power of the purse, and hundreds of organizations and businesses are calling on lawmakers to work constructively and collaboratively on a budget that reflects the real value of outdoor recreation opportunities, fish and wildlife habitat, and preservation of America’s rich history. More than 200 AVCRP members sent a letter to Congress and to the White House asking for the strongest possible funding levels to support the conservation of America’s wildlife, fisheries, public lands, cultural resources, and associated economic and recreational benefits.

“Lawmakers should understand that cutting the budget for America’s historic preservation programs will directly affect each state’s bottom line,” says Adam Jones, associate director of government relations for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “Slashing federal funding for historic preservation and National Park Service operations will negatively affect heritage tourism, limit states’ abilities to protect their most important historic sites, and blunt the economic benefits of the federal historic rehabilitation tax credit, which has preserved more than 41,000 buildings, created 2.3 million jobs, and catalyzed $121 billion in community revitalization for Main Streets throughout America.”

AVCRP first joined the federal budget debate in 2011, when sequestration threatened to undo conservation and our country’s outdoor legacy. Learn more about the coalition here.




Christy Plumer

February 14, 2017

Will D.C. Finally Show Conservation Some Love in the Federal Budget?

Investments in conservation and support for fish and wildlife are a match made in hunting and fishing heaven, but cuts may be coming

Today, when most grade schoolers are exchanging candy hearts and Marvel superhero valentines, 213 groups are sending a message to President Trump and leaders in Congress about the heartbeat of conservation—smart investments in the future of our country’s lands, waters, and wildlife.

A coalition known as America’s Voice for Conservation, Recreation, and Preservation (AVCRP)—which comprises hunting, conservation, outdoor recreation, historic preservation, and cultural resource organizations—is calling for strong funding levels for a portion of the federal discretionary budget known as Function 300. This is the part of the budget that pays for a wide range of federal departments and agencies that manage our public lands and waters and work with private landowners in rural communities to ensure intact, working landscapes now and into the future.

Conservation Funding BLM Montana
Image courtesy of Bob Wick/BLM.

These federal departments, from the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Department of Commerce to the U.S. Forest Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service, touch upon nearly every aspect of our daily lives. From the water we drink and air we breathe to the health of the nation’s fish and wildlife populations, conservation programs in the federal budget play a critical role.

But, despite its name, Function 300 has become, well, less functional than we’d like. It has been shrunk to half its size over the last 40 years, from approximately two percent of the federal budget to slightly more than one percent. In comparison, the nation’s outdoor recreation economy, which is sustained by this important conservation funding, generates more than $646 billion in revenue annually—that’s more than 98 percent of the Interior Department’s annual budget.

Conservation Needs a Raise

For sportsmen and women, conservation funding is an investment in our outdoor heritage. It helps restore water quality and support working lands, such as private farms and ranches adjacent to public lands that provide critical habitat for elk, whitetails, wild turkeys, waterfowl, and other game species.

Yet, throughout the country, federal funding for conservation has not kept pace with the needs on the ground. While about 72 percent of Westerners depend on public land to hunt and fish, the funding needed to manage and enforce order on public lands has dwindled. Our federal agencies lack staff for large swaths of our public lands, meaning that visitor centers have been shuttered, while biologists, ecologists, and range managers have been laid off and never re-hired. In some instances, public access points are closed altogether.

Meanwhile, the ability of agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management to ensure their multiple-use mandate is extremely challenged. The workforce that remains is in dire need of an infusion of new resources in order to carry out their mission of managing for grazing, logging, development, recreation, and a healthy balance of fish and wildlife populations and intact natural systems that can withstand invasive species, fire, drought, and other natural disasters.

We have been asking these Americans to safeguard our public lands for the next generation on a shoestring, and that’s a tall order.

More Cuts Mean Less of a Conservation Legacy

It’s time to re-prioritize our nation’s public lands and the health and vitality of our fish and wildlife populations. That’s why the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership would like to see the Trump administration propose a fiscal year 2018 budget that sustains and increases funding for conservation programs within important federal departments and agencies, including the Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture. That’s also why nearly 1,200 national, regional, state, and local organizations across multiple sectors have supported the 8-year AVCRP effort.

The TRCP, both as an independent organization and via the AVCRP campaign, will also be speaking out against efforts to reinstate sequestration in the FY2018 budget. Originally proposed in 2011, sequestration would cut $1.2 trillion in federal funding, with the majority of these cuts disproportionately impacting non-defense, discretionary spending like Function 300.

The natural resources that are a part of our American identity can’t survive this level of cutbacks to conservation, particularly given the smaller sliver of the federal pie they’ve already been given over the past 40 years. We can’t afford to balance the budget on the backs of fish and wildlife and still pass healthy lands and waters on to the next generation.

Trump’s budget should sustain and invest in conservation. Congress should see to it that those funds are distributed. It’s simple enough to fit inside a greeting card.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

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