Kristyn Brady

February 13, 2018

Trump Budget and Infrastructure Proposals Suggest Hunters and Anglers Must Be More Vocal Than Ever

Though Congress can choose to ignore the president’s recommendations, two documents released Monday indicate that major cuts to conservation could be part of offsetting new costs

If the president’s priorities for the federal budget or a critical infrastructure overhaul are any indication, sportsmen and women will need to speak out against major cuts and dramatic reprioritizations for the agencies that carry out conservation in America and the programs that ensure our ability to find quality places to hunt and fish.

Officially made public yesterday, President Trump’s fiscal year 2019 budget request included $3.7 billion in cuts at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, $1.7 billion in cuts at Interior, and a 23-percent reduction at the Environmental Protection Agency. Many line item reductions seem to be at odds with the administration’s priorities, like enhancing hunting and fishing access. It also suggests slashing multiple programs that help support state efforts to conserve fish and wildlife or match federal grants for projects.

“As it is, federal funding for conservation represents barely one percent of the budget, having been slashed in half over the past 30 years, and it would be impossible to balance the budget on the back of conservation,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Unfortunately, this proposal seems to indicate that cash-strapped conservation agencies deserve these cuts, while public land facilities, forests, waterways, wetlands, and millions of acres of sagebrush continue to fall by the wayside. The $887-billion outdoor recreation economy relies on healthy fish and wildlife populations, quality habitat, and the upkeep of public land infrastructure, and we will continue working with Congress and the administration to ensure these basic tenets of conservation are upheld.”

It is important to note that the president’s budget is only a set of recommendations, and Congress did not follow through on cuts suggested in last year’s proposal. Here’s how the president’s budget would impact fish, wildlife, sportsmen’s access, and the outdoor recreation economy.

U.S. Forest Service

The budget fails to address the fiscally catastrophic effects of ‘fire borrowing’ and the ever-climbing cost of fire suppression. The Forest Service estimates that by 2021, wildland fire costs will consume 67 percent of the Forest Service budget, which would be cut by 9 percent overall per the president’s proposal.

Two Forest Service programs were zeroed out entirely: The Forest Legacy Program, which supports state efforts to conserve environmentally sensitive forest lands, and the Legacy Roads and Trails Program, which supports urgently needed road and trail repair and maintenance, road decommissioning, and removal of barriers to fish passage.

One bad idea that could catch on is tapping into the Land and Water Conservation Fund for routine maintenance of public lands. Particularly, a 98-percent reduction in land acquisition funds at the Forest Service would hamper the administration’s ability to open and expand access to public lands. Further, if inholdings are more susceptible to development, this would also increase public access challenges and the costs of public lands management.

Bureau of Land Management

The BLM is charged with managing 240 million acres—more than any other federal agency—and yet its FY18 budget of $1.3 billion was just 43 percent of the National Park Service’s budget of $2.9 billion. For FY19, the agency is slated for an additional 17.5-percent cut, which would only make it more difficult for the BLM to do its job. We also noticed a 14-percent reduction for management of lands and resources, including 32 percent less funding for “management of rangeland and forest resources; riparian areas; soil, water, and air activities; wild horses and burros; and cultural resources.”

“Further cuts to the BLM’s budget would only lead to increased public frustration with the agency—it will inevitably be seen as the BLM’s inability to do its job as expected by the American people,” says Joel Webster, TRCP’s director of Western lands. “This is what led to the need for sportsmen and women to fight for public ownership of public lands in the first place.”

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The agency that manages national wildlife refuges, protects endangered species, manages migratory birds (including waterfowl), and enforces federal wildlife laws would see an 18-percent overall budget cut. State and Tribal Wildlife Grants would be slashed in half, and Competitive State and Tribal Grants would be eliminated completely.

The State and Tribal Wildlife Grants program gives money directly to state fish and wildlife agencies to fund conservation projects targeted at species of greatest conservation need, but also to improve habitat for countless species important to hunters and anglers. Dramatically cutting funds for projects that help keep species from becoming threatened and endangered ensures higher conservation costs for reduced habitat gains in the future.

In addition, a $7.6-million reduction for the National Wildlife Refuge System would zero out accounts for conservation planning activities, leaving the refuge system flat-footed and unable to address tomorrow’s resource challenges.

There was also a suggested 11-percent cut to North American Wetlands Conservation Act funds, which go toward wetland restoration projects around the nation with every federal dollar matched as many as three times over by non-federal dollars. Deep cuts to matching grant programs like NAWCA have an outsized negative impact to on-the-ground conservation projects.

Water Quality Programs

Beyond a 16-percent cut to USDA’s overall budget, the president’s budget proposes an elimination of the Conservation Stewardship Program and Regional Conservation Partnership Program—both of which help to improve water quality and soil health on private lands. Both programs enjoy tremendous bipartisan support and demand from landowners, and their loss would be felt from the Mississippi River Basin to the Delaware River Watershed.

Trump’s proposal also included a 76-percent cut to WaterSMART, the Bureau of Reclamation’s premier program for conserving and recycling water in the West in ways that also benefit fish and wildlife habitat. Additional cuts, such as the proposed elimination of the EPA program funding local watershed-level clean water projects, or a 90-percent reduction in the Chesapeake Bay Program, further jeopardize clean water and quality fish habitat at the local, state, and regional levels.

Infrastructure

Meanwhile, the president’s infrastructure plan—also released on Monday—contains some strong provisions for the systems that ensure we have clean water, including $20 million for the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Program, which leverages federal investment with private and non-federal dollars to build new clean water infrastructure.

Possible cuts to agency budgets and programs that help facilitate access to outdoor recreation experiences on public land seem to be at odds with an appetite for investing in the infrastructure of our national parks and drastically reducing the maintenance backlog on public lands. It remains to be seen where the $200 billion needed for the president’s infrastructure plan will be cut elsewhere in the budget, but one line in the plan suggests that public lands could be sold to offset costs.

There is ongoing concern that a forthcoming bill might include provisions to limit public input and environmental review on infrastructure projects, as well.

“Make no mistake, we are paying attention to the clear shift away from budgeting for public land acquisition and questioning whether the infrastructure plan is really implying that we should sell off public lands to make improvements to roads, bridges, and airports,” says Fosburgh. “An infrastructure bill should present a major opportunity to enhance natural solutions for modern infrastructure challenges. Restoring wetlands and creating wildlife-friendly roadway passages, for example, not only boosts fish and wildlife habitat, it also helps mitigate flooding that threatens American communities during more and more frequent catastrophic storms. These natural solutions are often more cost-effective and worthy of American taxpayer dollars than gray infrastructure, which only begins to deteriorate after day one.”

The TRCP will continue working to amplify the voices of sportsmen and women, who want decision makers to stop chipping away at conservation policies that have made America’s natural resources the envy of the world.

31 Responses to “Trump Budget and Infrastructure Proposals Suggest Hunters and Anglers Must Be More Vocal Than Ever”

  1. Pam Sohan

    This is disgraceful but not surprising unfortunately. This president has no interest in anything that he or his family cannot profit from. The continual attack on our nation’s wild places and out environment over all are truly tragic. Trump, Zinke and Pruitt are out to destroy what should be left clean and wild for the generations that come after us, 2020 can’t get here fast enough.

      • If we want public lands we have to have budgetary sanity. Please remember that it was the previous administration that spent us into a situation where we are now in obscene amounts of debt. The kind of spending that we have had in the past decade and the kind of spending Clinton would have continued would have insured a significantly more dire situation in the future. It is horrifically sad and I do hope the money can be taken from some other insane program the feds were blowing money on under the Obama administration. The answer is not running roughshod over much of the country and just running it from the coasts. Those areas don’t exactly produce politicians that are friendly to hunters. If you want public lands, you need to be fiscally conservative. Let’s hope we can recover from liberal fiscal police and avoid having our lands “repoed”.

        • Kevin Thomas

          You premise about the previous admuinistration is simply not true, as it has no bais in fact. Regardless of your making points up without basis, the current administrations intent to cut pprograms that support a healthy environment and to sell public land to pay for tax cuts for the 1% is reprehensiblel.

          • David Allan Cole Sr.

            These “Bury Head In Sand” Cons are so Brainwashed and suffer from Dissonance to such a degree that Free Thought has become extinct!

      • If we had the German system of conservation of game, water, etc we wouldn’t need all this excessive bureaucracy because with ownership of land and water rights comes the responsibilities of managing it properly. Also, please take a civics class or read the Constitution because the POTUS is not elected by popular vote. Also, voting for the POTUS is a privilege granted to you by your state, not a right. Also, we should repeal the 17th Amendment and return the representation of state governments in the Senate to the states. The 17th Amendment has done nothing but damage to the checks and balances provided originally in the US Constitution.
        That said, under the Democrats the government might hold land but they aren’t likely wanting you to use it. Especially not for hunting and fishing. At least Trump has sons who hunt and fish and with their Czech background should have some understanding of Waidgerechtigkeit. Most Americans, not so much, they are “sportsmen.”

    • Frederick Fillmore

      Pam, couldn’t have said it better. It’s obvious that this “President” and his ilk are out to exploit our national resources and treasures for their own gain, and could care less about our nations hunters, anglers, and anyone who enjoys our beautiful national resources – let alone our future generations…

  2. Danny Branch

    its hard enough to mange the resources of this country with funding at present level’s so lets cut the budget and not care for the open lands in America business will pick up the slack….. want to buy a bridge

    • I’m a pro public land Republican and I hear you. I really don’t think that the future of public lands can possibly be a good though if we continue to spend ourselves into oblivion like the previous administration. If you want to have public lands you need to be fiscally conservative. With the debt that both so-called Republican and Democratic presidents have put us in, especially under Obama, we may not be able to keep public lands strong. The money has to come from somewhere. The answer is to vote for candidates who are pro-land and fiscally conservative. That’s hard to find on one side and impossible on the other. JFK may have been a good example. Or course by today’s standards he would be a Republican

  3. Ray Schaefer

    Where is the petition? Where are letter templates to send to our representatives? Someone surly has created them …. who knows how to contact them? Once found, are you the circulating resource? Thank you

    • Anna Grubb
      Anna Grubb

      Hi Ray, thanks for your comment! At this time, we don’t have any petitions because this is just a suggested budget from the President for Congress. But, let us know if you would still like to take action on this and we will happily guide you somewhere where you can.

  4. Christina Tarr

    I’m not surprised — I think he is only interested in the environment in so far as he and his friends can profit from destroying it. In further news, check out how Zinke wants to destroy the Migratory Bird Treaty Act — http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-leslie-migratory-bird-act-trump-administration-20180214-story.html, the Border wall is an ecological disaster http://www.audubon.org/features/esri-embattled-borderlands and i would suspect that any infrastructure built will completely ignore any laws like the clean-air act, etc, much as the=y have been suspended for the border wall constriction — The Department of Homeland Security has, bizarrely, used Section 102 of the 2005 Real ID Act to waive construction on 15 miles along the San Diego border from complying with any part of 37 federal laws, including the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Solid Waste Disposal Act. Please urge your members of congress to hold the line against this devastation.

  5. Marilyn Colyer

    we must keep public land as public lands–meaning forest service and BLM and parks. we must not ever consider turning federal lands to the states and especially to private owners. then we must do all we can to manage these lands and make them accessible to the people. Management must include taking care of all wildlife.

  6. This article states, “Many line item reductions seem to be at odds with the administration’s priorities, like enhancing hunting and fishing access. ” Yet by now we all should recognize that the Trump administration is not in support of ANYTHING that benefits people, wild spaces, or planet. Whatever its rhetoric, its actions — and its proposed budget — speak a lot louder than words and show its true priorities which are to make the extremely rich extremely richer and everyone else be damned.

  7. This plan is unreal. It is like or allowing the corporation to take over this country. Trump has surely forgotten and ignored the part “We the people.” I am totally against the plan. The plan secretly calls for the privatization of this country’s infrastructure. It does not mean more jobs. It means less jobs. Coropations and investors believe in doing more with less for bigger profits this means less jobs and higher prices. The plan would literally destroy our wildlife infrastructure.

  8. Rob mccall

    Continue to vote for representatives who don’t value the environment/mostly republicans and this is what happens..if you believe otherwise your part of the problem. This president was supposed to be the one who would restore power to the outdoorsman/woman..you’ve been punked

  9. Ronald Weydert

    I am disappointed in President Trump and His administration on this issue. I have been a big supported of his policies and successes so far, but what I am seeing what might happen on conservation legislation is disturbing. There needs to be a full-fledged communication by sports man to the Trump Administration and Republicans on Conservation. I dont want “nut-case” so called environmentalists involved as they will dilute our cause.

  10. Terry Colton

    I have been a hunter and conservationist for more than 50 years and i always find it very humorous when the left wing tree huggers are backed into a corner and need support from the hunting and fishing sector while they, the left wing, are out protesting, immigrants, the wall, Confederate statues or some obscure beetle in some obscure desert,
    or demanding more welfare for lazy no goods who sit on the ass all day and strip the American coffers of our money and now the funds supporting the very mountains, lakes and open spaces we so much love and enjoy.
    When do we cut out the free loaders, those not of this country who leave our deserts littered with plastic and water jugs or those who strip the oceans of our marine life and leave miles of netting and fishing line adrift to entangle even more fish and ducks.
    I’ve studied Theodore Roosevelt since my first readings, I have a guest room dedicated to the man and my family spent a week at the T.R National Park in September and I’m confident he would support what President Trump is proposing, if for no other reason but to force people to open their eyes and see the waste.
    Saying that the president only supports what makes him money, is just plain “stupid”. Why the hell does he need more money, he doesn’t even take a salary!
    How many of you have ever supported or contributed to any of the wildlife organizations that actually put money in the ground? My guess is none of you, so stop bitching and get that left wing machine working on the diverting of wasted money and putting it back into our natural spaces. OH EXCUSE ME, birds and bears and bats can’t vote but illegals who become citizens can…..thus the left wing way.

  11. William Blount

    What a sad time for our environment..Trump and his gang only care about fleecing their bank accounts and exploiting our natural resources. The only way to stop this assault is by recruiting more activists and spreading the word to the masses. I know that many people don’t realize what is happening and if they did they’d help stop this assault on our environment. Spread the word and explain the consequences to your friends.

  12. Larry Holyoke

    Trump’s proposed budget for conservation and protecting public land is disgraceful. It is a total snub to past Americans who loved the land, in addition to disregarding the work and wishes of those Americans who felt it was important to preserve these lands for their children and their children’s children.

    All Trump wants to see is a way for someone to make money off public lands whether it be charging for entrance (resulting in restricting access to America’s remaining natural beauty to those who can pay for it). But I suspect there is a more insidious reason for this action … it paves a way for corporations to take natural resources away from the American people. We need to remember that these are public lands held in trust by the federal government … the federal government is not America, thereby it does not own these lands!

  13. Greg Munther

    Most of these deep budget cut proposals are designed to make management agencies look bad to the general public, thus setting the stage for corporate takeover of management and/or sale of public lands.
    We are already seeing their actions to turn over public campgrounds to private entities, and we will see parallel actions continue to take over public resources. The growing national debt will only add to the chorus of selling public lands to pay down debt. If you use or care about public lands and resources, pay attention to who you vote for in mid term elections as a start.

    • Jim Akenson

      Dittos to what Greg Munther says — privatization of our national treasures (public land) is a real threat….and be mindful of this as we enter into the mid term elections!

  14. We deserve so much better leadership. We, our children, our grandchildren, and our magnificent country and natural resources are being ill served. We are headed for an epic disaster of loss of our natural resources if this continues. Who we elect matters. (I for one belong to and contribute to multiple wildlife and outdoor organizations.)

  15. Tim Lipnicki

    The righties are just doing what righties have always done. Taking something that doesn’t belong to them, like common thieves. The regressive party has been poised for this moment for a long time. They take. They take until nothing worthwhile remains, looting the lands of our national heritage, and leaving behind a toxic landscape, ravaged and scarred. Their sense of entitlement is astonishing.

    Do you believe they will ever be held accountable for the mess they leave behind?

    Failed leadership and acquiescent lawmakers have opened the door for this plunder. It’s the most un-American activity I have witnessed in a long time. True sportsmen who value the land they walk on would never think to defile it in this manor. Satan is laughing.
    We all have a stake in this matter. Before we have to use conservation to heal the damage, Let’s prevent it.
    Use your voices, your calls, your letters, your contributions, and most of all your feet, straight to the voting booth.

  16. Michael Nigl

    There will never be enough money to satisfy the Military-Industrial giant that continues to grow through both Republican and Democratic administrations. The funding for Military spending has become so important to the economic stability in thousands of cities, that it required to sustain the area’s very existence. We have created a MONSTER, that seems to have an insatisfiable appetite.

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Guest blogger Spencer Shaver

February 12, 2018

Sportsmen and Women Call for More Extensive Study of a Proposed Mine Near the Boundary Waters

When it comes to the untouched habitat and superior water quality of Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area, a cursory review isn’t enough—we need your help to demand more for the fish and wildlife and regional economy of Northeastern Minnesota

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area is made up of 1.1 million acres of the most visited wilderness area in the country—it is, by all measures, a public land success story here in the northeastern corner of Minnesota.

There are world-class fishing opportunities all over the BWCA, in no small part because of the water quality and abundant habitat. In fact, 20 percent of the freshwater in the entire 193-million-acre national forest system is found in the Superior National Forest, which surrounds the Boundary Waters. The two biggest walleye ever caught in Minnesota were landed off the Gunflint Trail on the eastern edge of the BWCA—one of which, a 17-pound, 8-ounce behemoth, has held the state record for over thirty years.

Unfortunately, all of this is threatened by a proposed sulfide-ore copper mine on the southern edge of the Boundary Waters. A Chilean mining company is working to acquire leases a quarter mile from the edge of the wilderness area. These leases would give the company the right to develop a sulfide-ore copper mine, complete with new roads and mining infrastructure, alongside Birch Lake and the South Kawishiwi River. The proposed mine site sits at the headwaters of the Rainy River watershed that flows into the Boundary Waters, Voyageur’s National Park, and most of the Superior National Forest.

This proposed mine is incredibly contentious, and recent changes to complex land management and leasing policies have given hunters and anglers new cause for concern.

Courtesy of Jeffrey Keeton.
What Happened?

In 2016, the Department of the Interior announced that the Bureau of Land Management had the discretion whether or not to renew these leases, but the U.S. Forest Service had to consent first. When asked, the Forest Service withheld consent to renewal, leading the BLM to reject the mining company’s application. The Forest Service also proposed making 234,000 acres of public land at the edge of the Boundary Waters off limits to federal mineral leasing for 20 years, which triggered a two-year segregation on mining while the agency crafted an Environmental Impact Statement.

In late December 2017, the new administration at DOI reversed the 2016 decision, declaring that the mining leases were entitled to automatic renewal and no longer needed the discretion of the Forest Service to determine if these areas were suitable for development.

Then, on January 26, the Forest Service took a step back from their ongoing efforts to craft an Environmental Impact Statement on their own proposal. Instead of a thorough analysis of how this mine will affect nearby habitat, which an EIS would have provided, they will proceed with an Environmental Assessment typically used for simple, non-controversial projects. The EA will take the agency less than a year, beginning with a comment period that we now have less than a month to engage in.

In comparison, the EIS required to withdraw controversial mineral leases outside the Grand Canyon was given careful consideration, and the agency took the two years it needed to complete the two-volume report and provide multiple opportunities for public input before and after the study was completed. While the potential for serious impact was considered to be low, the risk was too high in such an important a place.

Simply put, the Boundary Waters watershed is Minnesota’s Grand Canyon. It is much an icon of the Midwest as Yellowstone is of the West, especially considering it is the largest continuous tract of public land east of the Rockies and north of the Everglades.

Courtesy of Lukas Leaf.
Stop and Study

Leasing this area is anything but simple and non-controversial, and there should be no shortcuts to the assessment or public review process. Hunters and anglers should not only have the right to comment, but also the right to review this controversial proposal after the completion of the environmental assessment. The Boundary Waters, and all Americans who have a stake in their management, deserve the most robust review possible for such a risky mine at the headwaters of some of the best public land to hunt and fish on in Minnesota.

These public lands and waters belong to all of us, and Minnesotans are overwhelmingly in favor of a “stop and study” approach to assessing the effects of sulfide-ore copper mining in the Boundary Waters watershed. A 2017 poll showed that 79 percent of Minnesotans favor the most thorough review possible, and an overwhelming majority agree that the Boundary Waters, as well as the hunting and fishing habitat they encompass, are a unique place that deserves special attention.

We’re making the strongest case we can for our public lands and waters, but we can’t do it alone. It’s up to all of us to defend our public lands, waters, and sporting heritage.

 

Spencer Shaver is the conservation policy director for Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters and a Minnesota native. He is lifelong hunter and fisherman, a graduate of the University of Minnesota’s environmental science, policy, and management program, and has guided Boundary Waters trips since 2014.

 

Top photo courtesy of Brian O’Keefe.

Kristyn Brady

February 9, 2018

New Secretarial Order Kickstarts Effort to Conserve Big Game Migration Corridors

Secretary Zinke announces first steps to assess, map, and conserve seasonal habitat that are critical to the survival of big game populations

Today, Secretary Ryan Zinke signed an order directing agencies within the Department of Interior to work toward better conservation of critical big game habitat, including migration corridors, stopover habitat, and seasonal ranges.

This is the first step in giving greater attention in land management and planning to areas where mule deer, elk, pronghorn antelope, and other species migrate, rest, or spend only a portion of the year. The order was signed by Zinke at the Mule Deer Foundation’s annual western hunting and conservation expo in Salt Lake City.

“Sportsmen and women have long advocated for recognition and conservation of wildlife migration corridors in the land-use planning process, because habitat conditions along these migratory routes can affect whether big game animals arrive healthy enough to survive the season,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We’re grateful to Secretary Zinke and this administration for taking the first step toward conserving these areas which have been overlooked or only recently identified. Bringing our conservation policies up to date with what we’ve learned from the latest research and GPS tracking technology will allow America’s hunting traditions to continue to thrive and support our country’s $887-billion outdoor recreation economy.”

The landscape of the western U.S. supports the ability of large animals to move and find food as the seasons change, and this makes America’s flourishing big game herds the envy of the world. But migration is tough on animals, and many barriers can threaten their ability to move freely. Fences, highways, housing developments, and oil and gas development can change movement patterns or close off migration corridors altogether.

“Big game animals need big landscapes and that’s why conserving all of the habitats they use—including their migration corridors—is critical for populations to thrive,” says Ed Arnett, TRCP’s chief scientist. “It doesn’t matter how much work we put into maintaining or restoring mule deer summer or winter range if wildlife can’t reach those areas, are prevented from stopping along the way to rest and recover, or don’t arrive in good health.”

Mule Deer BLM land
Photo courtesy of BLM

 

The order specifically directs DOI agencies to identify a department coordinator that will work with states, other federal agencies, and conservation organizations to identify and map migration corridors and winter range. Within 60 days, the coordinator will develop an action plan defining next steps for implementation. The order also directs the department to assess migration corridors early in the landuse planning process and develop site-specific management activities to conserve and restore these habitats. Within 180 days, all responsible bureaus within DOI will update existing regulations, manuals, policies and other documents to comply with the order.

“We’ve known for decades that these animals migrate, but recent research and technology has helped to define the exact locations of critical corridors and stopover areas,” says Arnett. “What has been missing is the policy and specific guidance to land management agencies regarding the conservation of these habitats. We now have that direction from the Secretary and look forward to working with DOI agencies, state wildlife professionals, and our partners to ensure that these wildlife migration conservation measures are effectively integrated into agency policies and implemented on the ground.”

Top photo by Sara Domek

Kristyn Brady

February 2, 2018

Changes to BLM Energy Leasing Are a Step Backward for Sportsmen and Habitat

The elimination of Master Leasing Plans alters the up-front planning process meant to help balance the needs of wildlife with energy development

This week, the Bureau of Land Management made changes to its energy leasing process, altering up-front planning for development and limiting public input for land management decisions affecting fish, wildlife, and sportsmen’s access.

The agency specifically chose to eliminate the Master Leasing Plan policy, a tool designed to proactively balance energy development with other uses of public lands.

“Hunters and anglers have been working for more than a decade to help strike a more appropriate balance between wildlife habitat and energy production on our public lands,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Unfortunately, yesterday’s decision by the BLM alters the up-front planning and engagement process and reduces the American public’s ability to have a say in how their public lands are managed. This could easily lead to increased and unnecessary conflict between energy development and fish and wildlife habitat.”

The Master Lease Planning concept was a look-before-you-lease approach to identifying and resolving areas of conflict early in the process of development. Ideally, once leasing and development did occur, the BLM and stakeholders would have already taken care to avoid impacts to fish and wildlife habitat. This process played out successfully on public lands in Moab, Utah, and Northwest Colorado in recent years.

The memorandum released this week makes public participation optional at best in the review of public land parcels identified for potential leasing. It also shortens the protest period for contestable leases from 30 days to 10 days.

“Rolling back the MLP policy is a step backward for an administration that says it wants to deregulate and bring decision-making on public lands closer to home, because diligent and transparent up-front planning prevents the need for red tape and costly mitigation later,” says Fosburgh. “We encourage the BLM to gather public feedback early in the process, use the best available science, and listen to constituents from every economic sector reliant on public lands—including the hunters, anglers, guides, outfitters, and retailers who drive the $887-billion outdoor recreation economy.”

 

Top photo by BLM Wyoming via flickr

Alex Maggos

January 30, 2018

This Is the Number One Question Midwestern Sportsmen Asked Us About the Farm Bill

Right now, Congress is drafting the 2018 Farm Bill and sportsmen want to be a part of the conversation

There is no greater opportunity for conservation in America than the prospect of a new Farm Bill, especially considering that it accounts for nearly $5 billion in nationwide spending on soil health, water quality improvements, and on-the-ground habitat for the wildlife we love to pursue. But in agriculture-dominant states, the stakes are particularly high for landowners, sportsmen, and surrounding communities.

This is why the TRCP recently joined forces with the Illinois Conservation Foundation to speak with hunters and anglers in three local forums about the Farm Bill conservation programs that help create better habitat and access on private lands in the Prairie State. For me, it also meant that—not long after joining the TRCP as the new director of agriculture and private lands in D.C.—I was going home.

Why Illinois?
Photo courtesy of Kevin Chang.

Illinois is 95 percent private land, and—as in many Corn Belt states—access for hunting and fishing is increasingly limited. It’s in places like my home state that the Farm Bill can be a game changer for the college kid who can’t afford a deer lease or parents who are looking for a place to take their kid hunting or fishing for the very first time. Through federal funding made available by the Farm Bill’s Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program, the Illinois Recreational Access Program has opened up 17,600 acres of private land to the public for hunting and fishing. That’s a big win for sportsmen, but also the small businesses we rely on to keep us fueled, fed, and geared up for our adventures.

Illinois also boasts 87,110 miles of rivers and streams within the state and another 880 miles of river along its borders. This means that Illinois has a tremendous opportunity to utilize the conservation tools within the Farm Bill to improve water quality across the rest of the Mississippi River Basin. As farmers are incentivized to convert less productive croplands to habitat, the great side effect of creating better conditions for deer, ducks, and pheasants is capturing sediment, fertilizer, and pesticide run-off before it enters local waters.

As I can personally attest, Illinois is a very special place to grow up hunting and fishing. Like most, I started with a 4-10 shotgun and squirrels. When I wasn’t exploring the woods looking for greys and reds, it was blue gill with a cane pole. With coaching from my father and brother, I graduated to taking white tail with a bow and largemouth bass with a bait caster- all without ever leaving Southern Illinois.

Hunting and fishing is a critical component of the economy in Illinois. In total, the outdoor recreation economy accounts for $24.8 billion in consumer spending and directly supports 200,000 jobs. Sportsmen in Illinois also have the unique advantage of having three Representatives and one Senator on the House and Senate Agriculture committees that will craft the next Farm Bill.

We’re Glad You Asked

After walking through the complex alphabet soup of Farm Bill programs and their benefits with nearly 100 sportsmen from Alton to Peoria, we expected (and encouraged) questions. But I was surprised by the most common thing we heard: How can we make our elected officials understand how important this is? Sportsmen and women were sold, and they wanted to carry the message to the people who needed to hear it.

At TRCP, we’re working to make it as easy as possible. For one thing, we share everything we know about the Farm Bill and how it can impact your hunting and fishing on our blog­—click HERE to get the latest right in your inbox. We also give you as many chances as possible to contact your lawmakers directly on the issues that matter. Start now by sharing your story about the value of access and enhancing sportsmen’s opportunities to hunt and fish in the next Farm Bill. 

If you’d like to learn more about the 2018 Farm Bill or talk about additional ways to get involved, contact me directly at amaggos@trcp.org.

 

HOW YOU CAN HELP

WHAT WILL FEWER HUNTERS MEAN FOR CONSERVATION?

The precipitous drop in hunter participation should be a call to action for all sportsmen and women, because it will have a significant ripple effect on key conservation funding models.

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