Kristyn Brady

May 4, 2017

Conservation Gets a Modest Bump in the 2017 Spending Bill

The omnibus spending package provides for sage grouse conservation, drought resiliency, conservation practices on farms and ranches, and one step forward for the Everglades

Congress has passed an omnibus appropriations bill for fiscal year 2017 with some increased funding for conservation and no harmful policy riders. The House and Senate’s investment in conservation is seemingly at odds with the Trump administration’s budget outline for fiscal year 2018, which would deeply cut most conservation programs and entirely eliminate others, including Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts.

“While last-minute funding solutions are not the ideal way to govern, sportsmen and women should be heartened to see Congress endorse funding levels mostly on par with what we got in 2016 and even give a modest bump to the things we care about, including healthier waterways, stronger sage grouse populations, restoration assistance in the Everglades, and better conservation practices on private lands,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

Tucked within more than 1,600 pages detailing government spending through September 30, the FY2017 omnibus package includes the following:

  • An $8.9-million increase for sage grouse conservation programs and no riders undermining the federal conservation plans that helped keep this iconic Western game bird off the endangered species list in 2015.
  • $864 million for Conservation Operations at the Natural Resources Conservation Service within U.S. Department of Agriculture—that’s about $13.5 million more than last year and exceeds President Obama’s last budget request by more than $1 million.
  • A $10-million increase for the Conservation Technical Assistance Program, which provides farmers and ranchers with the technical expertise to put conservation on the ground using Farm Bill dollars. This will help NRCS to deliver more than $5 billion in conservation programs to farmers, ranchers, and private foresters next year, improving fish and wildlife habitat and water quality nationwide.
  • $150 million for the Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations Program, which hasn’t been funded since 2010. This will help states, local governments, and tribes to enhance fish and wildlife habitat, improve water quality, reduce erosion, control sediment, and construct wetlands.
  • A 30-percent increase for the WaterSMART grant program, in which the Bureau of Reclamation works with water users to help ensure rivers and streams have enough water flows to support fish, agriculture, and cities during droughts.
  • More than $10 million in funding for the National Park Service to support interagency coordination in the Everglades. Additional funding will be needed in the next fiscal year to carry construct a reservoir recently approved by the Florida legislature. This is critical to improving water quality and habitat in one of the country’s most popular fisheries.

Two Farm Bill conservation programs were trimmed through the Congressional budget process known as Changes in Mandatory Program Spending, or CHIMPS. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) was cut by $179 million and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program was cut by $28 million.

The spending agreement for 2017 arrives late in the congressional calendar, and thorough plans from the White House for fiscal year 2018—which begins October 1—are not expected until May 22, at least two months later than normal. Sportsmen and women will remain active in the debate over investments in habitat, access, and the outdoor recreation economy.

“We’re encouraged by the final FY17 funding for our parks, refuges, forests, and other public lands and waters,” says Alex Boian, vice president of government affairs for the Outdoor Industry Association, which just released its newest Outdoor Recreation Economy Report. “These investments in our nation’s outdoor recreation assets ensure the continued growth of the $887-billion outdoor recreation economy and the support of 7.6 million American jobs. Time and time again, we have seen that when our elected leaders invest in America’s great outdoors, it results in healthy communities and healthy economies nationwide.”

Photo above is courtesy of Ace Hess/BLM.

5 Responses to “Conservation Gets a Modest Bump in the 2017 Spending Bill”

  1. Scott Schaeffer

    Focus now on the Farm Bill. We need 36 million acres in the Conservation Reserve Program. This is the major conservation program for the corn belt. Our small game populations especially, need this program elevated!!

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Jonathan Stumpf

May 1, 2017

Take a Road Trip for Conservation

Here’s how one brand is making it possible to have fun and give back to the places we love to hunt and fish

You have an open week on your upcoming schedule. A friend sketched out a map to a creek that has some secrets to reveal in the form of 18-inch wild trout. It’s deep into public lands, far away from any accommodations, and maybe you want to do a little better than sleeping in your car.

Make the trip this month in a rental vehicle from Campervan North America, and they’ll give a little something back to America’s public lands.

Campervan North America was founded by Bob Swan, a former fly fishing sales representative from Montana, who spent many nights between stops in his territory stashing his camper on America’s public lands and waking up pre-dawn to make his first cast right outside his door. Now, he’s passing that experience along to customers, who can rent five different models of vans that sleep anywhere from two to five adults (yep, you can bring Fido, too) and excel off-grid where sportsmen thrive.

Swan knows how integral public lands are to our sporting heritage, and that’s why he stands by TRCP’s work to keep them public and well-managed. “One thing that is special about America, and what I miss the most when I am abroad, is our wonderful public lands and the wildlife we have,” says Swan. “In other parts of the world, you cannot take off into a field of sagebrush or set off in the woods nearly as easily as we can. Doing anything to jeopardize this privilege would be a tragedy.”

Recognizing the importance of public lands to his business and the outdoor recreation economy, Swan and Campervan North America are donating 10 percent of the cost of your rental to the TRCP from now through the end of May—just mention code TRCP while making a reservation.

Head over to campervannorthamerica.com to plan your next trip and safeguard our future adventures on public lands.

Kristyn Brady

April 24, 2017

Sportsmen Look to Secretary Perdue to Champion Conservation That Works for Rural America

The Georgia quail hunter will oversee $5 billion in conservation funding on private lands, which benefits farmers, ranchers, wildlife, clean water, and sportsmen

In an 87-11 vote, the U.S. Senate has officially confirmed Sonny Perdue, the former governor of Georgia and an avid sportsman, to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where he’ll oversee land and water conservation on private lands and operation of the U.S. Forest Service. Hunters and anglers are optimistic that Perdue is up to the task of serving our rural communities and our natural resources well.

“As a hunter and angler, Secretary Perdue understands the importance of wildlife conservation,” says Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “He has a record of working in a bipartisan fashion to advance innovative land conservation programs, increase water conservation, and restore longleaf pine forests. We look forward to working with Perdue on critical issues facing USDA, including protecting America’s grasslands, expanding successful farm bill conservation programs and wildlife initiatives, and reducing nutrient runoff to improve water quality.”

Perhaps most importantly, Perdue will contribute to the debate around the 2018 Farm Bill, the legislative vehicle that drives approximately $5 billion in annual conservation spending on private lands. Voluntary, incentive-based programs authorized by past farm bills have been widely successful, helping to prevent the Endangered Species Act listing of the greater sage grouse and contributing to cleaner waters in the Chesapeake Bay.

“We are eager to begin working with Secretary Perdue to implement good conservation programs on working farms and ranches,” says Dr. Frank Rohwer, president and chief scientist at Delta Waterfowl. “The next farm bill will provide great opportunities to come up with solutions that work well for our nation’s producers, sportsmen, waterfowl, and other wildlife.”

Besides the Forest Service, Perdue will direct many of the other federal agencies with a major role in conservation, including the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency. Almost immediately, Perdue will need to defend his department’s budget and staff against cuts from congressional appropriators.

“With record demand from agricultural producers for the technical assistance and financial certainty that USDA programs offer, Secretary Perdue already has his work cut out for him, but sportsmen and women are also depending on his leadership in rural counties that are economically reliant on outdoor recreation, like hunting and fishing, that gets a boost from habitat improvements on private lands,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, which came out in support of Perdue early on.

“These programs cannot survive proposed budget cuts, especially when critical functions at the USDA, including wildfire suppression in national forests and conservation planning assistance for landowners, are already chronically short on funding,” says Fosburgh. “Sportsmen and women call on Secretary Perdue to strongly defend the USDA against budget cuts and support long-term, practical investments in natural resources management on public and private lands.”

Guest blogger Whitney Flanagan

April 20, 2017

The Dream Team Restoring Elk to the Appalachian Region

To reintroduce and sustain an elk herd lost since the Civil War, it took a diverse partnership that is representative of 21st century conservation efforts—no one group can do it alone

As the TRCP’s newest formal partner, we’re in really good company with 51 other groups that are working toward a brighter future for America’s fish, wildlife, and natural resources. And we’re thrilled to work with passionate sportsmen and women bringing conservation priorities to the attention of D.C. decision-makers.

Partnerships can be multifaceted and powerful, aligning people and organizations to do more together than they could ever do alone. In essence, this describes The Conservation Fund’s core approach to everything we do. And in this day and age, collaboration isn’t just a nice-to-have—it’s necessary to craft conservation solutions that support fish and wildlife habitat, public access to the outdoors, and local economies.

A crowd gathered to witness the reintroduction of elk to the area. Key project partners, including The Conservation Fund, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Walmart, WV Division of Natural Resources, and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, shared in the celebration. Top image: Elk are a wide-ranging species that will benefit from the more than 32,000 acres of publicly accessible land acquired to establish this wildlife management area in West Virginia. More than 20 elk were reintroduced in December 2016. Images courtesy of Frank Ceravalo.

That’s why we were founded more than 30 years ago with a unique dual-charter mission to not only protect America’s land, water, and wildlife, but to do so with a clear focus on generating economic returns for surrounding communities. By working in partnership with others who share our conservation goals—including federal and state agencies, land trusts, local community organizations, businesses, foundations, and other nonprofits—we do just that. The Conservation Fund has conserved nearly 8 million acres and counting.

For example, in southern West Virginia, coal fueled the state’s economy for generations. But in recent years, the industry has slowed, and local communities are struggling economically. By working directly with community members and local, state, and federal partners across the Appalachian region, we’re helping these communities transition by demonstrating how conservation can also support economic development.

Through our Working Forest Fund, a dedicated source of bridge capital, we purchased more than 32,000 acres of privately owned forestland that was vulnerable to fragmentation and development in the southern part of the state. We are now working with the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources to co-manage the property as a sustainable working forest, safeguarding the timber economy and forestry-based jobs while providing habitat for reintroduced elk—which had not been seen in the region for almost 150 years. This property is now the state’s largest conserved block of prime elk habitat, and it’s open to the public as a wildlife management area.

West Virginia wildlife management area Appalachian elk
Previously industrially owned, this rough, rugged territory will be open to the public as a wildlife management area, helping people to reengage with land they are culturally connected to. Image courtesy of Frank Ceravalo.

The prospect of bringing elk back to West Virginia for both wildlife viewing and hunting purposes has triggered excitement across the region, not least for the tourism opportunities that could drive spending in the rural communities that need it most. It’s no secret that sportsmen and other public land users help support $646 billion in annual consumer spending and 6.1 million jobs—numbers impossible to ignore. Read more about this partnership effort in West Virginia in an interview with WV DNR and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

It’s clear that making conservation work for America will take more than one group or individual. But we’re confident that as partnerships grow, so do the possibilities for fish, wildlife, and vibrant communities.

Whitney Flanagan is the creative director of The Conservation Fund, TRCP’s newest partner group. See all 52 partners here

Ed Tamson

by:

posted in: Outdoor Economy

April 19, 2017

After Speaking With Anglers and Guides, Florida Lawmakers Voted for Everglades Restoration

It’s hard to ignore the urgent need for solutions when small business owners and voters who love to fish are standing in your office

Water flow problems in the Everglades are complex, and Florida’s $7.6-billion recreational saltwater fisheries depend on fixing them. Science points us to clear solutions—simply move water south—but politics are hardly ever that easy.

We can’t move mountains alone, and redirecting hundreds of billions of gallons of water demands support from lawmakers. Florida’s fisheries are being destroyed and politicians have failed to enact solutions—but anglers are mobilizing like never before. We’re willing to do anything to save our precious water.

Science has told us what we need to know. Now it’s our turn to do the talking.

That’s why I was honored to help convene more than 500 sportsmen and women in Tallahassee, Florida, last week for the Now Or Neverglades Sportfishing Day. Their passionate voices, sharing personal stories and asking legislators for help, were an instrumental force for change. In fact, Florida’s Senate took a major step towards moving water south by passing S.B. 10 the very next day.

Everglades restoration

On the whole, anglers and other stakeholders met with more than 50 representatives, working the halls of Florida’s Senate and House of Representatives. We spoke with, not at, lawmakers about what Florida’s water means for our way of life, our businesses, our state, and our people. Alongside the Everglades Foundation and other key groups, we broke up into lobbying teams, and my group of eight became a tight operating unit as we shared our perspectives and listened to legislators in turn.

Our voices, stories, and passion have the power to sway politics—and save a treasured fishery. Click To Tweet

For me, and I think for many of those with whom we met, the most powerful voices were the youngest among us. A brother-sister duo, eleven and nine years old respectively, spoke with a purity that punched through the politics. In one meeting, the nine-year-old daughter of a small boat parts business owner moved everyone—including the legislator—to tears when she talked about how much she loves her daddy and doesn’t want him to lose his business.

Our Florida legislators and their aides listened to our stories and proposed solutions. Mutual respect and empathy grew as the day went on.

Everglades restoration
To me, Everglades restoration means more days like these.

On April 12, one day after our meetings, the Florida Senate made the right decision by passing S.B. 10, which begins the process of sending Lake Okeechobee waters south. We won by a landslide, 36-3, and now the companion bill must pass in the Florida House of Representatives. We are confident knowing that our faces and stories will be in their minds when that time comes.

While final passage of the bill would be a huge win for Florida’s recreational saltwater anglers, this is only the first step toward blocking toxic discharges from Lake Okeechobee and restoring the flow of clean fresh water to the Everglades and Florida Bay. There’s more work to be done.

We can have all the science and gather all the numbers, but at the end of the day, this is what matters: Our voices, our stories, and our heartfelt passion have the power to sway politics, move mountains, and, yes, save one of the most treasured fisheries in the world.

You don’t have to travel to the Capitol Building to make your voice heard. If you live in Florida, write or call your state representatives and tell them your story. And if you haven’t already, sign the Now or Neverglades Declaration to urge decision makers to fix Florida’s recreational fisheries.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

CONSERVATION ISN’T
RED OR BLUE

But a little green never hurt anyone. Support our work to ensure that all hunters and anglers are represented in Washington.

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