Geoff Mullins

July 3, 2017

Independence is Celebrated Every Day by American Sportsmen

Our freedoms, public lands, and outdoor heritage provide the foundation for unique opportunities and experiences found only in America

Independence. Liberty. Freedom. These powerful words and concepts are inherent in the DNA of every American. But nowhere are they felt more viscerally than in the outdoors.

As kids, we learn about the Founding Fathers and the “Spirit of 76.” We swell with pride when we think about the sacrifices made in our nation’s history and this grand experiment called the United States of America. There is no other place like it in the world.

This holds true for our outdoor legacy and hunting and fishing traditions as well. Nowhere else offers the opportunity for everyone to pursue the happiness felt by getting outside and far afield to explore, hunt, fish, and experience our natural wonders. Going back through our history—from those who first settled on our shores, to the pioneers who moved west, to the modern-day sportsmen and women who take on the challenges of the backcountry—testing oneself against nature is part of who we are.

More than one hundred years ago, our 26th president turned out to be a force of nature. Theodore Roosevelt spoke often about the values of living a “strenuous life” and a “life of the open.” We have him and his vision to thank for establishing much of our current public lands system and the fundamentals of conservation that help us keep those lands thriving.

The basic principles of the North American model of conservation and wildlife management establish the democracy of hunting and maintain that our fish and wildlife are a public resource belonging to all Americans. Nowhere but in the U.S. does one have the freedom to just go hunt or fish on some 640 million acres of public lands that belong to all of us.

That is special and worth celebrating.

Nowhere are American independence, liberty, and freedom felt more viscerally than in the outdoors Click To Tweet

Recently, I have been fortunate to spend some time traveling, during which the unique value of our natural resources and privilege of access really hit home for me. I crossed off a bucket list item by taking an epic road trip from Florida to Las Vegas, and as I drove this great country, the vastness and variety of landscapes and resources we have—and how they shape our national character—made a distinct impression.

There is a striking dichotomy of seeing iconic natural wonders, like the Mississippi River or the Grand Canyon, juxtaposed with wonders of manmade ingenuity, like thousands of wind turbines on the plains west of Amarillo or the Hoover Dam. For the most part, we have tamed the land since our founding and discovered how to use the blessings of our vast natural resources to make this the most prosperous nation on Earth. With that prosperity comes a great responsibility to use these resources wisely, conserve them for future generations, and maintain some of the country’s most unique qualities—the abundance of our national public lands and fish and wildlife populations that make America so great.

There are those who have proposed selling off our public lands or transferring their ownership to make a quick buck, or because they don’t like how things are being run. Some have undercut our public lands by failing to provide government agencies with the proper financial resources, personnel, or leadership to effectively manage them. Both tactics are shortsighted and discount the great value these lands provide as the foundational infrastructure for a robust $887-billion outdoor recreation economy.

Each time we take to the woods or water, we are enjoying freedoms found in few other places in the world. On this Independence Day, l, for one, am thankful for that freedom and for our unique outdoor heritage. And, like the architects of our democracy and its conservation principles, I will not stand idly by as this independence is stripped back or chipped away.

You can support our heritage and safeguard the responsible management our public lands by signing the petition at sportsmensaccess.org.

3 Responses to “Independence is Celebrated Every Day by American Sportsmen”

  1. Kian Daniel

    Our American wildlife and natural lands need to be preserved and protected by all levels of government to ensure its beauty and sustainability for the future and for hunters.

  2. I concur that our natural heritage, particularly our wildlands, substantially contributes to our nation’s uniqueness and quality of life. Efforts by sportsmen and conservation organizations such as TRCP are critical in ensuring our natural heritage is not compromised especially in today’s political climate of short sighted, selfish policies.

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Kristyn Brady

June 28, 2017

Sportsmen Unite Around Recommendations for Access and Habitat in the 2018 Farm Bill

Hunting, fishing, and wildlife partners reveal top priorities for conservation of private lands ahead of what may be the only Senate hearing to address the topic ahead of the next Farm Bill

In advance of the Senate Committee for Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry’s June 29 hearing on the future direction for the 2018 Farm Bill, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership has announced its “Sportsmen’s Priorities for Conservation and Access in the 2018 Farm Bill,” developed over months of consensus-building discussions with 24 organizational members of the TRCP’s Agriculture and Wildlife Working Group.

These priorities will serve as the rallying point for the community of hunters, anglers, and conservationists whose outdoor traditions depend on the policies and funding provided through the Farm Bill.

“When it comes to conservation of fish and wildlife habitat in this country, you can’t ignore that 70 percent of American lands are privately owned, and a majority of that acreage is in some form of agriculture,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Our community’s priorities for the next Farm Bill underscore the point that in order to guarantee quality places to hunt and fish, sportsmen need to work with our nation’s farmers, ranchers, and foresters to ensure productive habitat and clean water. Early on in these debates, we must be united around providing adequate funding and policy tools to support voluntary conservation activities on private lands, and we’re optimistic that tomorrow’s hearing—possibly the only Senate hearing that will address sportsmen’s 2018 Farm Bill priorities—will put a spotlight on these issues.”

The hearing takes place at a time when Congress and the administration are discussing ways to tighten an already trim conservation budget for the Farm Bill. Changes in the 2014 bill resulted in $4 billion in cuts from the conservation title alone. But the sportsmen’s community is urging Congress to restore some of the funding for private lands conservation—for programs including the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, Conservation Reserve Program, and Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program—in 2018.

“Private and working lands are crucial to the conservation of soil, water, and fish and wildlife resources, and as the largest source of federal funding for private lands conservation, the Farm Bill has far-reaching effects on fish and wildlife populations across the country,” says Ron Regan, executive director of the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies. “AFWA is looking forward to tomorrow’s hearing on conservation and forestry in the 2018 Farm Bill, and we are committed to working with the Senate Agriculture Committee and others in Congress to pass a new Farm Bill that reflects the priorities of the Association, as well as those of the wider sportsmen’s and conservation community, in order to promote recreational access and healthy fish and wildlife habitat for the benefit of all Americans.”

Several of the witnesses at Thursday’s hearing will be speaking about forestry in the Farm Bill, which is also a top priority for hunters and anglers. The forestry provisions of the Farm Bill are unique among the legislation’s conservation programs in that they address both private and public lands, which is critical to taking on landscape-scale concerns, including habitat connectivity and recreational access.

“We appreciate the committee’s bipartisan efforts to continue to improve farm bill programs for forest landowners,” says Becky Humphries, CEO of the National Wild Turkey Federation. “Forestry in the Farm Bill is about partnerships—between USDA and individual landowners, the states, and organizations like NWTF. We’re eager to hear from tomorrow’s witnesses on the successes and strengths of those partnerships, and on ways to advance them in 2018. The sportsmen’s and wildlife communities have long argued that long-term conservation and active management of our nations forests are critical to the future of wildlife habitat, water quality, and rural economies across much of our country, and the Farm Bill offers us a great opportunity to incentivize better practices on both private and public lands.”

View “Sportsmen’s Priorities for Conservation and Access in the 2018 Farm Bill” and the full roster of contributors here.

Learn more about the TRCP’s agriculture and private lands work here.

Header image courtesy of USDA/Flickr.

New National Poll Shows That Hunter and Angler Support for Conservation Crosses Party Lines

There is consensus among Republican and Democratic sportsmen and women on sage grouse conservation, clean water protections, national monuments, and public land management policies being debated right now

In a teleconference today, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and Public Opinion Strategies revealed the results of a national bipartisan poll of hunters and anglers, which shows that sportsmen and women on both sides of the aisle agree when it comes to many of the major conservation issues being considered right now by Congress and the Trump Administration.

A national survey of 1,000 voters who identify as hunters or anglers was conducted online and over the phone in May 2017, and the data show:

  • 97% agree that protecting and conserving public lands for future generations is important
  • 95% agree it is important to maintain public lands infrastructure, like roads, trails, campgrounds, and historic sites
  • 87% want no cuts to conservation in the federal budget
  • 82% support the BLM’s plans to conserve the greater sage grouse
  • 4 in 5 support Clean Water Act protections for headwater streams and wetlands
  • 77% of Republicans and 80% of Democrats support keeping the number and size of existing national monuments that offer hunting and fishing

“In today’s polarized political climate, conservation has become a partisan issue with decision makers, but hunters and anglers strongly support conservation policies across the board, whether they’re Republican, Democrat, or Independent,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “This includes strong support for funding public land management agencies, like the U.S. Forest Service and BLM, and strong support for the BLM’s sage grouse conservation plans that are currently under review. Sportsmen are not split on supporting national monuments or balancing energy development with the needs of wildlife habitat. There’s also clear support for the Clean Water Rule, created to protect headwater streams and wetlands under the authority of the Clean Water Act.”

Sportsmen agree that investments in conservation are worth it, in part because they see returns for the American economy. Of the hunters and anglers surveyed, 9 out of 10 believe public lands provide net benefits for the economy, and 92 percent believe public lands are positive economic drivers.

Additionally, 95 percent agree that it’s important to have adequate funding and personnel to take care of public lands, 75 percent support providing financial incentives to farmers and ranchers to implement habitat conservation on private land, and 70 percent support an increase in funding for wildlife-friendly highway crossings and fences. Meanwhile, 67 percent oppose the idea of selling significant areas of public lands to reduce the budget deficit.

“These poll results just confirm what I’ve seen as a business leader in the fishing industry—there’s little to no argument about the value of conserving the places where we fish and hunt,” says K.C. Walsh, owner and president of Simms Fishing Products. “In fact, conservation and responsible management of public lands makes it possible for Simms to employ 180 hardworking people in Bozeman, Montana. Decision makers should be listening to what the public wants and to what makes sense for the American economy, like protecting isolated streams and wetlands under the Clean Water Act.”

And lawmakers should take note: Nine in ten sportsmen surveyed agreed that conservation issues factor into their support for elected officials. The results of the poll were presented yesterday to attendees of the Western Governors’ Association meeting in Whitefish, Mont.

“The public has made it clear that conservation and public lands are not controversial issues, so why do some make it partisan?” says Randy Newberg, who exclusively hunts public lands as the host of the Sportsman Channel show Fresh Tracks with Randy Newberg. “Most sportsmen agree that public lands need proper care and sound management and that these lands are worthy of our investment. This data overrules the partisan division we’ve come to expect, and that should embolden lawmakers. Improving and protecting the value of public lands for wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation means taking a stand with hunters and anglers. To do otherwise is setting camp with special interests who have little in common with the majority of America’s hunters and anglers.”

Download the fact sheets and learn more about the poll here.

Kristyn Brady

June 21, 2017

Anglers Look to New Federal Fisheries Head to Improve Recreational Fishing Management

With frustration running high, sportsmen and women want to continue working with the agency to recognize recreational fishing’s role in coastal economies through meaningful changes to federal management of saltwater fisheries

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and its sportfishing partners look forward to working with Chris Oliver, the newly appointed head of the National Marine Fisheries Service. Over the last five years, sportsmen’s groups have worked extensively with NMFS staff to try to bring about meaningful changes to federal approaches for managing recreational saltwater fishing in our nation’s public waters, and that work will continue as Oliver steps into this role.

“Chris Oliver has some monumental tasks ahead of him, including continuing to work with angling, advocacy, and conservation organizations to develop management approaches that emphasize conservation, while recognizing the explicit, fundamental differences between commercial and recreational fishing,” says Whit Fosburgh, TRCP’s president and CEO. “He must also continue to build our nation’s fishery stocks while ensuring those fish stocks are a publicly held resource.”

Recreational fishing is an enormous part of America’s culture and economy, with more than 11 million saltwater anglers annually driving more than $63 billion in spending. Without saltwater angling, coastal communities across the country would suffer financially. Anglers also contribute more than $1.5 billion to conservation and fisheries management each year through direct license sales, donations, and excise taxes on equipment and fuel.

Oliver will certainly face several challenges as he continues to advance badly needed reforms to federal recreational fishing management and work to build better relationships between anglers and managers of state and federal agencies. “We look forward to helping him meet these challenges and achieve meaningful progress on sound, reasonable management practices that will ensure recreational fishermen have sufficient access to public waters and fisheries,” says Fosburgh.

Top photo by Greg Stuntz.

Rob Thornberry

June 14, 2017

An Elk Hunter’s Conundrum and the Future of BLM Public Lands in Idaho

Proper management and vast swaths of Forest Service and BLM public lands have led to an embarrassment of wildlife riches—a good problem to have—and their future will be shaped by the public

My buddy Jim Hardy and I call it the “Heart Hole.” It is a patch of timber, shaped roughly like a Valentine’s Day heart, which rests near the spine of the Rockies that separates Idaho and Montana. Inside miles of prime elk and deer habitat managed by the Salmon-Challis National Forest and the Bureau of Land Management’s Lemhi Field Office, the Heart Hole is overlooked by most hunters because the nearby drainages shine more brightly.

Learning the pattern of its elk, Hardy and I hunted in and around Heart Hole for the better part of 15 days last November. Toting traditional muzzleloaders, we participated in one of Idaho’s most sought after controlled hunts. Here, hunters choose to challenge themselves with a short-range weapon—thus limiting their success—in exchange for upholding management goals. The hunt’s 50 tags are spread over several hundred square miles, offering a near-pristine hunting opportunity where mature bulls are common and people are not.

Just the way we like it.

BLM public lands
Big Lost Range, Idaho. This and the cover image courtesy of Matt Lavin/Flickr.

I think of Heart Hole on this quiet morning because the deadline to apply for one of Idaho’s premier elk, deer, and pronghorn tags is near, and my study of potential hunting areas is in full bloom. Normally, Heart Hole tops my wish list, but this year there is an embarrassment of elk in eastern and central Idaho and a new hunt piques my interest. It is in a different part of the High Divide and likely to be overlooked by hunters in the first year it’s offered.

My study of the regulations prompts a dilemma: Should I try for the Heart Hole hunt and benefit from last year’s knowledge, or should I take the better drawing odds and hunt in an area that is lousy with elk?

It is a vexing question, but a good problem to have. Most would be happy to have either of these choices, and I get to pick from both.

The Heart Hole hunt is 30 days; the other is 14. If I pick one, I’d know where the elk go to hide when pressured, and if I pick the other, I may run into the largest bull I’ve ever seen. The drawing odds are one in five for Hearts Hole and probably 50-50 in the new hunt, but it’s impossible to say.

BLM public lands
Lemhi Valley, Idaho. Image courtesy of Murray Foubister/Flickr.

Choices, questions, and theories bob about as I consider each hunt. Study of the maps, however, shows one commonality: Both areas are found on the largest and most remote swaths of BLM ground in eastern Idaho.

Both units are found along Idaho’s High Divide, which encompasses more than three million acres of BLM land, including the Sand Creek desert, the Donkey Hills, and the sagebrush benches over the Salmon River. These BLM public lands buffer five mountain ranges and make up critical seasonal ranges and migration routes for the region’s nine game species, all important to hunters.

BLM #publiclands in Idaho offer a good problem to have—but their future depends on public input Click To Tweet

The management plans that help guide BLM in all of its decisions are decades old and in need of revision to ensure that the future of these unique landscapes is managed with the best science and public input. Revisions to the BLM Upper Snake plan should commence within a year. Planning for the Lemhi and Challis field offices will begin shortly after.

It is important for hunters and anglers to get involved in this public process and call for conservation of intact and undeveloped backcountry areas that are prized for hunting and wildlife habitat. I’d sure like to find myself in this conundrum year after year.

In the end, I pick Heart Hole because I know the pulse of the area, and I like having 30 days to hunt. I am a lucky man to be living in a time when public lands and proper hunting management offer so much.

For more information on the TRCP’s High Divide work, please reach out to Rob Thornberry, TRCP’s Idaho field representative, by emailing rthornberry@trcp.org.

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