Randall Williams

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posted in: General

August 16, 2018

Do You Know Where Your Conservation Dollars Come From?

Thankfully, when it comes to funding for maintenance and improvement of fish and wildlife habitat or sportsmen’s access, all our eggs aren’t in one basket­—here are the major conservation funding sources that every hunter and angler should know

Sportsmen and women know that the money we spend hunting and fishing not only drives an $887-billion outdoor recreation economy, but it also pays for wildlife conservation and fisheries management across the country. License sales by state agencies and duck stamps from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service offer the most obvious examples, but the full picture includes a diversity of sources. Thankfully, not all our eggs are in one basket, and though we contribute heavily to the American conservation funding model, we are not alone.

At the federal level, conservation funding can be a complicated landscape of laws and acronyms. But it is critical that sportsmen and women understand where this money comes from—and it’s not always out of our own pockets—and the incredible value of investing in our fish and wildlife resources now, in case there’s ever a need to defend these revenue streams against shortsighted cutbacks in the future.

Get on a first-name basis with these major conservation funding programs.

The Gold Standards

The Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, more popularly known as the Pittman-Robertson Act, allows the federal government to assist states in wildlife management and restoration efforts. Passed on September 2, 1937, Pittman-Robertson applies an 11 percent excise tax to sporting arms and ammunition, the funds from which are distributed to states to cover up to three-quarters of the cost of specifically approved projects. Since its initial passage, the law has been amended to tax pistols and revolvers, bows, crossbows, arrows, and archery parts and accessories. Habitat improvement, population surveys, species introductions, wildlife research, hunter education, and the building and maintenance of public shooting ranges are among the types of projects funded by Pittman-Robertson (“P-R”) dollars.

In 1950, lawmakers passed the Dingell-Johnson Act, or the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act. Modeled after Pittman-Robertson, the law provides federal dollars to states from an excise tax on fishing tackle, a motorboat fuels tax, and import duties on fishing tackle and recreational watercraft. These funds are used to support projects relating to the management of fish populations with a “material value in connection with sport or recreation in the marine and/or fresh waters of the United States,” including boating access facilities, wetlands restoration, boat safety, public education, and clean vessel sanitation efforts.

Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson have been tremendously successful, generating more than $20 billion dollars for conservation since the first annual P-R apportionment in 1939. In addition, both laws mandate that any state seeking funds under these programs must refrain from diverting fishing and hunting license sales for any purpose other than funding their fish and game departments. In this way, they reinforce the broader fiscal structures of our conservation model.

Photo courtesy: Lisa Hupp/USFWS
An Overlooked Workhorse

Although its name may bring to mind crop insurance and nutrition programs, the Farm Bill is the single-largest source of conservation funding in the United States. Given the fact that 70 percent of land in the lower forty-eight states is under private ownership and 45 percent of that is agricultural, American farmers and ranchers are critical to ensuring that our woods, waters, and fields continue to support healthy populations of fish and wildlife.

By supporting the nation’s agricultural producers, farm bill funding improves water quality and habitat, while also incentivizing public access and wetlands protections. Among the many important programs in the Farm Bill for hunters and anglers are those encouraging the planting of cover crops and compensating farmers for removing environmentally sensitive lands from production. In addition to the sheer scale of the Farm Bill’s impact on the landscape, it is a fiscally significant source of funding—experts suggest it accounts for nearly $1 billion in conservation spending each year. In the last five years alone, more than 900,000 acres of private land in thirty different states have been opened for public hunting and fishing thanks to $40 million in Farm Bill allocations.

Photo courtesy: Kansas Tourism
The Premier Lands and Access Program

In 1964, Congress established the Land and Water Conservation Fund to establish new and improve existing outdoor recreational opportunities on public lands. LWCF dollars come from a small fraction of the oil and gas royalties collected by the federal government, and are divided into one of two pools: grants to state and local governments for projects like boat-launches, playgrounds, and trail networks, and appropriations to federal land management agencies for acquiring lands, waters, and access for the sporting public. Parks, forests, shorelines, farms, ranches, and refuges all across the country have been conserved with LWCF dollars.

Over the years, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has invested more than $16 billion in conservation. Because nearly every county in the United States has benefitted from an LWCF project and the program costs nothing to taxpayers, it enjoys bipartisan support on Capitol Hill and among the American public. And given that it spends dollars raised through resource extraction on outdoor recreation opportunities, it stands as the perfect example of a balanced conservation program.

Photo courtesy: Katie Theule
What’s Next?

These funding sources have made an incredibly positive impact on our nation’s fish and wildlife while also improving the opportunities available to hunters and anglers. But their future remains uncertain. Experts worry that declining rates of participation in hunting will result in the diminishment of Pittman-Robertson funding. And every five years, the passage of a new Farm Bill hangs on complex legislative processes that are unfortunately too often steered by partisan gamesmanship. This year’s bill is no exception.

Perhaps most significantly, however, the Land and Water Conservation Fund is set to expire on September 30, 2018, if Congress does not authorize its renewal. While there stands a tremendous amount of public support behind the process and key lawmakers have voiced their commitment, the administration’s proposed FY19 budget suggests little appreciation for the fund’s importance to hunters and anglers.

Federal decision makers need to hear from sportsmen and women how necessary these funding sources are to the future of hunting and fishing. Their continued contributions to fish, wildlife, and access are too important to be left to chance or the political winds in Washington, D.C.

 

Top photo courtesy: leighklotz

4 Responses to “Do You Know Where Your Conservation Dollars Come From?”

  1. Dennis K Riecke, Fisheries Biologist

    To get Congressional approval to expand Dingell-Johnson, with the Wallop-Breaux act, fisheries groups had to remove the provision which put an excise tax on domestically produced boats. One that was dropped, the bill passed Congress. Think of all the lost revenue such even a very small tax would generate. I don’t believe boat sales would decrease as a result of a small excise tax. Bass boats are expensive and financed over several years. The tax would be a miniscule part of the total cost and rolled into your monthly boat payment. But, the boating manufacturers will oppose this. We need to get them to support such a tax.

  2. We need help. As written the farm bill has no CRP programs to re-enroll the highly erodible and upland lands into. In the next four years over 12,500,000 acres will expire. This is over 1/2 of the existing CRP. The majority of these expired acres will have no CRP programs to re-enroll into. This potential loss needs to be immediately addressed!!
    thank You
    Jerry Johnson
    Regional Director
    812-536-2272

  3. The CRP program along with all the other conservation programs is vital to our hunting and fishing success but let’s not forget that the health of our Natural resources is vital to our Mother Earth! We must protect it at all cost.

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Guest Blogger Chris Adamo

December 11, 2017

Conservation Is Increasingly an All-Hands-on-Deck Endeavor on Private Lands

In the last decade, more and more Farm Bill dollars have been invested to enhance habitat and watersheds through creative partnerships on landscape-scale projects, and TRCP partners are some of the most prolific collaborators

With approximately $5 billion a year in conservation funding to invest across nearly 70 percent of our country’s land mass, conservation programs in the Farm Bill affect all of us who hunt and fish on or near private lands. Many of these initiatives help landowners improve hunting and fishing conditions acre by acre and problem by problem, from boosting wildlife habitat to overhauling water quality and soil health.

The current Farm Bill is set to expire in September 2018, and our community has recommendations for ways to tactically improve the conservation section of this massive legislation. Some have to do with supporting a recent trend: Increasingly, the unprecedented restoration of iconic watersheds and ecosystems is being achieved collaboratively among conservation groups, government agencies, private landowners, and even universities and private companies.

 

Conserving Better Together
Photo courtesy of FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute.

 

These partnerships are changing the face of conservation and growing a restoration economy that can benefit not only farmers and sportsmen but entire communities. Notable examples are in places with longstanding conservation challenges, like the Chesapeake Bay, Colorado River, Great Lakes, Everglades, Mississippi River Basin, Prairie Pothole Region, Puget Sound, and the longleaf pines of the Southeast. Millions of people live in these watersheds, and they offer significant opportunities to hunt and fish.

We’re especially proud to have many of the partners in our 24-member Agriculture and Wildlife Working Group at the helm of these locally led efforts, which look very different from place to place.

In the Driftless Area of lower Wisconsin, for example, Trout Unlimited is helping landowners restore streams a dozen miles at a time on farmland to improve overall water quality downstream—this has resulted in a billion-dollar economic boost to the region. To similarly reduce nutrient runoff into waterways, the Nature Conservancy has partnered with agribusinesses to sell conservation to farmers in the Great Lakes region. Meanwhile, local land trusts in Central Florida work with ranchers to protect the headwaters of the Everglades from overuse by cattle and improve water flows downstream. Joining forces at a local level is making a big difference for these watersheds.

These landscapes are literally changing with rapid improvements for wildlife, water, and the climate. Wildlife Mississippi has helped restore and permanently protect more than 700,000 acres of forest and wetland habitat, benefiting local communities, waterfowl, and threatened species, such as the Louisiana black bear. Ducks Unlimited works with rice growers to create long-term benefits for waterfowl and wetland health while improving working lands. And the National Wildlife Federation is working with ranchers to create mesic habitat, such as beaver ponds, to restore scarce water reserves and create vital habitat for wildlife.

From Local to Landscape

For perspective, many of these kinds of strategic partnerships, which create more valuable conservation outcomes, have only come together in the past decade or so. As a conservation community, we are just learning how to create a larger restoration economy by working in concert to chip away at discrete problems. There’s a new Farm Bill every five years, and over the past couple of iterations we have moved from random acts of conservation to strategic and well-prioritized efforts for the benefit of entire communities—from those of us who like to hunt and fish to those who just happen to live downstream.

This is something we can only achieve by working together. Since the 2014 Farm Bill, hundreds of new partnerships have formed within iconic landscapes and watersheds, and there are some positive ways that this kind of collaboration can be encouraged and empowered in the next bill.

As everyone from NGOs to local water district managers are learning how to be more effective at meeting conservation challenges and work with a greater variety of people and landowners to craft solutions, we want to see a Farm Bill that will make more of these kinds of efforts possible by  supporting smart collaboration. Simply put, efforts like these and more across all parts of our country get more hands involved in conservation so that we can continue to meet our growing challenges.

Chris Adamo is a Farm Bill conservation consultant for the TRCP. Adamo helped lead the effort for the last farm bill as staff director of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee under Senator Stabenow and is currently a senior fellow at National Wildlife Federation. 

Kim Jensen

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posted in: General

August 3, 2017

To Have Great Fishing Anywhere, We Need Clean Water Everywhere

The basic needs of America’s world-class trout and waterfowl populations—healthy headwaters and wetlands—are about to be undermined, so sportsmen and women need to act now

We’ve written before about how water is connected, and how pollution from small, diffuse sources can accumulate and create big problems downstream. Scientists and conservationists understand that this is a serious issue, but sportsmen and women are also well-informed—after all, we see the effects directly in our trout streams and from our duck blinds. Perhaps that’s why 83 percent of hunters and anglers, and overwhelmingly across party lines, support the application of Clean Water Act protections for smaller streams and wetlands.

However, the current administration has started the process to repeal a rule that helps the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers do exactly that.

Finalized in 2015, the Clean Water Rule clarifies Clean Water Act protections for 20 million acres of wetlands and thousands of miles of headwater streams—that’s 60 percent of the country’s flowing waters. If we can’t ensure that waters and wetlands are protected at the source, this endangers the future of beloved downstream land and waters.

But for some reason, there’s been some serious misunderstanding as to what this rule does and does not do. With less than 30 days for hunters and anglers to tell the EPA and Army Corps that headwaters and wetlands matter to us, we want to set the facts straight.

By keeping smaller headwaters and wetlands clean, this rule protects:

Early mornings that are worth the extra cup of coffee

Photo credit: USFWS Midwest

 

Your story about that first catch

Photo credit: USFWS Mountain Prairie

 

Photo credit: USFWS Fish and Aquatic Conservation

 

A good reason to buy just a few more decoys because you’ll definitely use them this season

Photo credit: Rebecca Chatfield

 

That Day Away from the Office

Photo credit: Chesapeake Bay Program

 

But the rule IS NOT regulating these things:

Puddles

Photo credit: Nick Amoscato

 

Regular farming practices

Photo credit: Tumbling Run

 

What the Rule Does

Without the Clean Water Rule, we risk seeing streams polluted and wetlands destroyed because of confusion as to which waters are protected under the Clean Water Act. This ambiguity started with two Supreme Court decisions, which chipped away protections for headwater streams and wetlands that had been protected until that point. After the 2006 Rapanos v. United States case, Chief Justice Roberts urged the agencies to write a rule that would clarify which waters were covered. This kicked off a transparent public process that eventually led to the final Clean Water Rule, which was celebrated by sportsmen in 2015.

Rather than operating with clarity and consistency, federal and state water quality personnel will need to determine which waters qualify for protection on a case-by-case basis—throwing tremendous uncertainty back into the decision-making process and burdening water quality managers.

This ambiguity also hurts sportsmen and our efforts to restore clean water resources.

The bottom line is that without Clean Water Act protections, wetlands that serve as key habitat for waterfowl can be drained and smaller headwater streams that are crucial spawning areas for trout and other fish can be polluted. Pollution doesn’t simply stay put in headwaters; it flows into larger water bodies downstream, damaging more fish and wildlife habitat along the way.

 

There’s Less Time Than Before

Any time the federal government creates or repeals a rule that government agencies and American citizens have to follow, they’re required to have a public comment period. When the Clean Water Rule was created in 2015, sportsmen and women had more than 200 days to comment on the proposed rule. This time around there are only 30 days to make our voices heard.

This rule could impact our access and traditions for the foreseeable future, but we’ve been given very little time to speak up about it.

Don’t let the opportunity slip by. Click HERE to tell the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers that headwater streams and wetlands matter to sportsmen and women. And share your stories to make it personal—because it is. If we want to preserve our way of life and ensure that the next generation has quality opportunities to hunt and fish, we need to watch out for all of our streams and wetlands.

 

 

Julia Peebles

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posted in: General

January 18, 2017

Glassing the Hill: January 17 – 20

The TRCP’s scouting report on sportsmen’s issues in Congress

Administration picks continue to be put to the test before lawmakers. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a confirmation hearing on Congressman Zinke’s (R-Mont.) possible role as the next secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior. On Tuesday, Rep. Zinke, who is perhaps the least controversial pick among President-elect Trump’s cabinet nominees, answered questions on federal public land transfer, coal programs, energy extraction on public lands, funding for land management agencies, and other conservation issues.

The following day, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma’s attorney general, who will testify and answer questions about his agenda as the next administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

We’re still watching out for President-elect Trump’s pick for secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has yet to be announced.

Budget resolutions were filed, indicating lawmaker priorities. Last week, the Senate and House passed the Fiscal Year 2017 budget resolution by the skin of its teeth, with a 51-48 vote, mostly as a legislative vehicle for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. While budget resolutions are non-binding, they are taken into account when lawmakers sit down to draft the real deal.

We can also look to natural resources amendments, which were filed but not considered on the Senate floor last week, to predict what will be submitted for the next year’s budget resolution. The FY18 resolution will likely be much more relevant to conservation policy, and we expect it to be introduced in the Senate and House by the end of February.

Another forecast: The Clean Water Rule could be withdrawn. In order to clarify the jurisdiction of headwater streams and wetlands, Senators Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) introduced a non-binding resolution that would express Senate support for the withdrawal of the Obama administration’s Clean Water Rule.

To cap the week, Washington, D.C. is expecting an influx of visitors for the presidential inauguration. President-elect Trump will be sworn into office on Friday, January 20.

Jonathan Stumpf

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posted in: General

January 10, 2017

All the New Features of TRCP’s Revamped Website

It’s a new year and a new chapter in Washington, and we’re geared up to tackle the future of conservation with a completely redesigned trcp.org.

With our new look, we’ll continue to bring you up to speed on the conservation issues that matter to you, but it’ll be a lot more fun. Here’s what to expect:

  • Total access, no squinting. No matter where you are, you’ll now be able to enjoy our content, take action, or make a donation comfortably from any of your devices.
  • All our content under one roof. Now, there’s just one destination for our latest news and blog posts.
  • Personalized reading lists. If you’re interested in a topic, we’ll serve up a “playlist” of posts that you might be into.
  • A deeper dive on the issues. Conservation is a complex topic, but what we care about boils down to this: We need habitat and clean water, plenty of access to hunting and fishing spots, and support for conservation funding and outdoor recreation businesses. Explore the legislation and management challenges related to these essential fights, and we’ll always give you at least one opportunity to take action and make a difference.
  • Inspiration from T.R. himself. We put some of Theodore Roosevelt’s best quotes about conservation front and center on the homepage to remind us of the legacy we’re here to uphold.

We hope our fresh design will make it easier for you stay in-the-know and engaged on the front lines of conservation. Let us know what you think of our makeover by emailing info@trcp.org. We’d love to hear from you.





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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