Kristyn Brady

October 5, 2017

TRCP Statement on Sage-grouse Conservation Plan Amendment Process

Reopening conservation plans before they can be implemented is a premature step

Today, the Department of Interior and Bureau of Land Management announced that they will reopen the federal land-use plans for sage grouse conservation for amendments and published a 45-day comment period in the Federal Register. The action stems from a report generated by Secretarial Order 3353 and recommendations from a DOI-lead review team regarding several issues brought forth by the western states, local governments, and some stakeholder groups. While today’s notice opens the plans for additional comments, it does not necessarily mean they will be amended.

“We do not believe DOI and BLM fully exhausted all administrative options outlined in the report to the Secretary before deciding to pursue reopening the federal sage grouse conservation plans after just 2-years from their completion and with little implementation on the ground,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Some targeted amendments to the plans may be necessary and could be acceptable once all other options have been exhausted, but we do not support major changes from amendments to the federal plans.”

“The current federal plans already balanced the conservation and management of sage-grouse priority habitat with energy development and other multiple uses of public lands. Representatives from the oil and gas, wind, and grazing industries, among others, were deeply involved in developing the current sage-grouse plans. Expanding development within priority habitat would be ill-advised and invite further litigation. Any future changes to the conservation measures in the plans must be defensible and supported by past and current scientific information. The TRCP will continue to work with DOI and BLM, as well as the states, during this process to ensure issues are resolved and balanced without further compromise to the conservation of the sagebrush ecosystem.”

In a separate notice today, the BLM also canceled a proposed withdrawal of approximately 10 million acres in Sagebrush Focal Areas in Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming from mineral development.

“Mining, while not as extensive as other development, still has impacts on the sagebrush ecosystem and must follow conservation rules for sage grouse priority and general habitat. With or without designated focal areas, we expect the BLM to continue to hold future development to these existing standards.”

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Kristyn Brady

September 21, 2017

Three New Mexico Counties Oppose Transfer of America’s Public Lands to the State

Eddy, Harding, and Mora county commissioners join a growing list of local decision makers issuing official statements of support for the value of public lands in their communities

Yesterday, the Board of County Commissioners for Mora County, N.M., passed a resolution affirming their commitment to keeping public lands in public hands. This action underscores a local movement, with Eddy and Harding county commissions having approved similar resolutions this summer, and a groundswell of support for public lands across the West.

This local opposition to the state takeover of public lands supports every American’s ability to hunt, fish, and find solitude in the outdoors. Each county resolution recognizes the importance of public lands for basic economic activities such as:

  • Providing fish and wildlife habitat and opportunities for outdoor recreation—including hunting, fishing, hiking, wildlife-watching, horseback riding, and bicycling—that are essential to residents’ quality of life.
  • Attracting outdoor recreation tourism that drives local spending and employs hundreds of county residents.
  • Preserving historically significant and irreplaceable cultural sites and landscapes.
Mestenito Canyon in Kiowa National Grassland, Harding Country, New Mexico. Image courtesy of Chris M Morris/flickr. Cover image of Pecos River, Mora County, New Mexico, courtesy of Diann Bayes/flickr.

“Public lands provide unparalleled hunting and fishing opportunities in our state,” says Jim Bates, an avid sportsman from Las Cruces, N.M. “I’m proud to live in a place where elected officials value public lands and see how unworkable and problematic the idea of state takeover is to millions of Americans. I hope that other counties across the West will take up this banner in support of our outdoor heritage.”

Mora County is home to the Mora River and Canadian River, which offer excellent trout fishing, as well as Ocate Peak and Old Santa Fe Trail, which are popular with hunters pursuing elk, pronghorns, mule deer, bears, cougars, turkeys, and various small game animals.

Eddy County—where commissioners passed a similar resolution on June 27— has approximately 2.5 million acres of public lands that are valued by sportsmen and women for their abundant opportunities to pursue elk, mule deer, Barbary sheep, pronghorns, bears, pumas, doves, quail, waterfowl, trout, and bluegills. In the northern part of the state,

Harding County passed its own resolution of support for public lands offering fishing, camping, hiking, and backpacking in the Canadian River Canyon, Mills Canyon, and Mosquero Canyon. The Kiowa National Grasslands is also a very popular deer hunting area.

Antelope in Kiowa National Grasslands, Harding Country, New Mexico. Image courtesy of Larry Lamsa/flickr.

“These elected officials have proven their commitment to America’s public lands and they should be commended by sportsmen beyond their county limits,” says John Cornell, New Mexico field representative for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “This movement of support for keeping public lands accessible and well managed, which has been echoed in county governments across the West, further proves that New Mexico can be the posterchild state for strong coordination and multiple-use on our public lands.”

A total of 29 pro-public-lands resolutions have been passed by county and municipal governments across the West in the past two years—eight have now been passed in New Mexico. For links to these resolutions and other public statements of support for public lands, visit sportsmensaccess.org.

Kristyn Brady

September 18, 2017

TRCP Responds to Leaked National Monument Report

A handful of positive measures in the report are overshadowed by recommendations to reduce the size of several national monuments

In a report leaked to the press yesterday, Secretary Ryan Zinke recommends measures to protect hunting and fishing in ten of the 27 national monuments reviewed this summer, but the report also suggests modifying them in either size or scope of management. This includes reducing the size of four land-based monuments and two marine monuments, with an eye towards opening three marine areas to commercial fishing.

“I wish these recommendations were limited to protecting the ability of Americans to hunt and fish within national monuments and setting an example for the appropriate use of the Antiquities Act,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Instead, the handful of positive measures in the report are overshadowed by recommendations to reduce the size of several national monuments. Our hunting and fishing traditions are not threatened in most of the areas reviewed, and executive branch actions to diminish one monument could threaten the legitimacy of all national monuments, even those created by Theodore Roosevelt dating back to 1906.”

Of the 27 monuments reviewed by Secretary Zinke, 22 are open to hunting or fishing and are highly valued by sportsmen and women. Of the more than 1.3 million people who commented during the review period, more than 99 percent were in favor of keeping national monuments intact. Similarly, a recent poll commissioned by the TRCP found that 77 percent of Republican and 80 percent of Democratic sportsmen and women support keeping the existing number and size of national monuments available for hunting and fishing.

The move to open three marine national monuments to commercial fishing is not supported by recreational fishermen. “Saltwater anglers currently enjoy the privilege of using these areas, which are protected from the very real threat of overharvest,” continues Fosburgh.

Ultimately, decisions affecting the future of America’s national monuments rest with President Trump, and it is not yet clear what the White House will do with the recommendations.

“The TRCP encourages President Trump to support the integrity of the Antiquities Act by rejecting any measures to reduce the size of a national monument through executive action—sportsmen and women would rather be partners in using the Antiquities Act responsibly,” says Fosburgh. “Sportsmen don’t want to be used as a wedge in this process. If the president is most interested in supporting hunters and anglers, he will limit his actions under this report to protecting recreational hunting and fishing and supporting state agency authority over wildlife management.”

Kristyn Brady

September 7, 2017

A Confirmed Decline in Hunter Participation Should Be a Call to Action for Sportsmen

It’s time for our community and decision makers to get serious about R3 efforts, adequate conservation funding, and smart policies that enhance hunters’ opportunities afield

A new report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows that 101.6 million Americans participated in wildlife-related outdoor recreation last year. Unfortunately, while the number of people participating in fishing and wildlife-watching is up, participation in hunting dropped by about 2 million people to a total of 11.5 million hunters. Total expenditures by hunters also declined 29 percent from 2011 to 2016, from $36.3 billion to $25.6 billion.

This has significant ripple effects on not only the key federal funding models that support conservation of fish and wildlife, but also the base of support for our public lands and thoughtful natural resources policy.

“It is time for our community and our decision makers to get serious about R3, or recruitment, retention, and reactivation of hunters, because the implications for conservation are dire if this trend continues,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

The report indicates that participation in fishing increased 8 percent since 2011, from 33.1 million anglers to 35.8 million in 2016, and total nationwide spending by anglers was up 2 percent. R3 efforts geared toward fishing and boating have been successful thanks to a funding provision in the Dingell-Johnson Act, also called the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act, that allows a small percentage of these excise tax revenues to be used for recruitment and retention programs.

The Pittman-Robertson Act, which created the excise tax on guns, ammunition, and archery equipment, does not permit using the funds for R3 activities.

“We must modernize the Pittman-Robertson Act so we can promote hunting the same way we promote fishing and boating, bring the hunter education and licensing systems into the 21st century, and immediately address serious threats to hunting, like chronic wasting disease in deer,” says Fosburgh. “We must also focus on expanding access and improving the quality of the hunting experience—better habitat means more animals and more opportunities for success.”

Decision makers should further support the future of America’s hunting traditions by passing a fiscal year 2018 budget deal with robust funding for conservation and crafting a 2018 Farm Bill that not only enhances conservation tools for private lands but also incentivizes private landowners to enroll acres in voluntary public access programs. It is more critical than ever that sportsmen and women continue to be engaged in the public process of planning for management on America’s multiple-use public lands, as well.

It appears the USFWS will update this page with preliminary findings on the latest five-year report.

Top photo by Tim Donovan at Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission via Flickr

Kristyn Brady

August 31, 2017

Idaho Sportsmen Identify Most Valued Hunting And Fishing Destinations

New data will help state and federal agencies prioritize conservation and access projects in areas most used by hunters and anglers

Maps of Idaho’s most valued hunting and fishing areas have been made available to state and federal agencies, as well as the public, to help guide future land management decisions.

More than 400 hunters and anglers contributed to the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s mapping project, and the data have been assembled in a geographic information system that can be overlaid with maps showing critical habitat, land ownership, and planned development. After hosting 20 mapping events with sporting clubs from around the Gem State, the TRCP confirmed that hunters are fiercely protective of nearby hunting and fishing opportunities and are profoundly aware of the areas with the most waterfowl, fish, upland birds, predators, and big game.

A waterfowl hunter from Coeur d’Alene identifies his favorite hunting area during a mapping event sponsored by the TRCP. From 2015 to 2017, the TRCP interviewed 400 hunters at 20 mapping events held statewide. The information will be used to focus attention on areas that need help. Images courtesy of Rob Thornberry.

“With the help of sportsmen, we’ve been able to pinpoint lands that are cherished for their hunting and fishing values, so that land managers can prioritize habitat conservation and the enhancement of public access in these areas,” says Rob Thornberry, TRCP’s Idaho field representative out of Idaho Falls.

New maps of #Idaho’s most valued #hunting & #fishing areas could help guide conservation decisions Click To Tweet

The Idaho results showed a sporting community that is loyal to public lands near home, with most residents picking favorite hunting and fishing areas within three hours of their front doors. “There was great fidelity to the public lands in our own backyards,” Thornberry says. “At the same time, roughly a third of sportsmen and women from all 20 mapping events said they still travel all over the state to pursue game and fish.”

Idaho Department of Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore participates in the Sportsmen’s Value Mapping Project in Boise in 2016. Moore said he hopes the information will help hunters guide their hunting choices. In 2016, Moore predicted Idahoans would “circle every inch of the state.” They did.

Sportsmen were interviewed in Idaho Falls, Pocatello, Salmon, Stanley, Boise, Twin Falls, Moscow, and Coeur d’Alene. The resulting maps will provide important and previously unavailable data to state and federal agencies to help:

  • Balance other land uses with the needs of fish, wildlife, hunters, and anglers
  • Identify areas where public access needs to be maintained or improved
  • Identify key high-use areas warranting special conservation strategies
  • Justify actions and funding requests aimed at conserving highly valued wildlife habitat and hunting and fishing areas

“This map will serve as a useful tool for conservation and management as state and federal agencies evaluate areas for habitat improvements and hunting and fishing opportunities,” says Mark Gamblin, regional supervisor for Idaho Fish and Game in the Pocatello region.

“Knowing Idaho’s population is increasing by 20,000 to 30,000 each year, sportsmen and women need to consider this growth to ensure that wildlife and quality habitat remain abundant,” says Brian Brooks, the executive director of the Idaho Wildlife Federation. “This map highlights, quite literally, where we should focus our efforts.”

The first mapping project of its kind was launched by the TRCP in 2007. Maps have also been completed for Montana, Wyoming, and Arizona.

 

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