Marnee Banks

February 1, 2019

43 Organizations Urge Senate Passage of Historic Public Lands Legislation

TRCP leads effort to support permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and 42 other organizations are urging Senate leadership to immediately vote on a bipartisan agreement to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund and improve outdoor recreation opportunities.

The group of hunting, fishing, wildlife conservation, and outdoor recreation organizations points to the overwhelmingly bipartisan support for this historic public lands legislation (S.47) in both the House and Senate.

“The momentum and support for this package remains widespread across a variety of public lands stakeholders, and urgent consideration of the package in the new Congress is well warranted,” the organizations wrote. “It is thoroughly bipartisan in nature and broad in scope, and passage of this package would be a historical step forward for public lands and conservation.”

U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) negotiated the legislation last Congress and received a commitment to bring the bill to the Senate floor for a vote in the 116th Congress.

The group notes passage of this bill is critical, “so that future generations of Americans can enjoy our public lands, waterways, and the wildlife that inhabit them for years to come.”

The group’s letter is available HERE.

 

Photo courtesy of BLM and Bob Wick.

13 Responses to “43 Organizations Urge Senate Passage of Historic Public Lands Legislation”

  1. Richard Pond

    Please don’t sell Texans down the river. Yes, we need and I support, renewal of the LWCF. But the Section of the Bill titled “Fannin Lake Conveyance” transfers Units 35, 36, 37, 38, and 39 of Caddo-National Grasslands and the Fannin Lake – 2,025 contiguous acres of prime whitetail habitat – to Fannin County, Texas. Unless you are a resident of Fannin County you and I will have no say in how these acres are managed in the future, and no say in preventing the County government from selling most or all of these forests to private intetests in the future.
    These Units are currently open to whitetail hunting for archery and shotgun, and open for all other recreation and enjoyment by the public. These Units are the most remote, largest contiguous heavily wooded timber tracts, and the ones farthest from a major metropolitan area, of all the Units in Caddo-LBJ National Grasslands. Texas needs this land to be retained and enjoyed by all Americans for generations to come.
    I hope TRCP, BHA, and all sportsmen will contact their Congressmen and urge them to anend the House version of the Bill to remove the Fannin Lake Conveyance before all sportsmen lose this great hunting resource.
    Respectfully,
    Rick Pond

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January 25, 2019

Deal to Reopen Government Could End These Access and Funding Headaches

A short-term funding patch would open some closed gates and put conservation workers back on the job, but there could be long-term consequences for public and private lands

News outlets are reporting that lawmakers have reached a deal to reopen the nine federal departments that have been shut down for more than a month. The temporary funding extension would buy Congress three weeks to come to a long-term agreement.

Over the past few weeks, sportsmen and women have been posting to social media and speaking with reporters about how this historic shutdown has affected hunting and fishing opportunities across the country. During this time, the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and U.S. Forest Service—some of the nation’s most important land management agencies—have been without funding.

Here are some of the access challenges, risks to public lands, and delayed conservation work that made news during the shutdown.

Locked Out, Left Home

While some national wildlife refuge employees returned to work to prevent lost hunting opportunities, an estimated 800,000 federal workers were furloughed without pay—this included public-lands firefighters, wildlife biologists, law-enforcement officers, foresters, and maintenance workers.

Understaffing may have contributed to some of the reports we saw of hunters and anglers locked out of public lands. In Idaho, volunteers picked up trash around a popular fishing area within Deer Flat Wildlife Refuge, but the shutdown delayed the repair of an access gate that was damaged on Jan. 1 in a vehicle crash. Normally, the timer-operated gate closes automatically at 5:30 p.m. to discourage vandalism after hours. For now, it remains stuck closed.

Stunted Growth

Just days before the shutdown, President Trump signed into law a new five-year farm bill, which—despite being nearly two months behind schedule—included some big wins for habitat and public access. Farmers and ranchers had already experienced months of uncertainty while the farm bill debate stretched into overtime, and the shutdown delayed farm bill benefits even further. Politico reports that some farmers may not be able to take advantage of other USDA programs in time for the growing season, either.

Failure to Launch

In mid-December, the EPA and the Army Corps took the next step to replace a 2015 rule that benefited headwater streams and wetlands across the country. We know from a 2018 poll that 4 in 5 sportsmen and women supported this move, but the agencies’ new rule would instead roll back these Clean Water Act protections. Because of the shutdown, however, hunters and anglers have been prevented from voicing their feedback on the new rule, keeping waterfowl and fish habitat in limbo.

Waiting for Numbers

Another unintended consequence of the government shutdown might be delayed research that could help sportsmen and women advocate for better policies. For example, it is likely that some marine fisheries stock assessments will be postponed. And this could influence decision-making if the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission meets to consider important management questions without the latest striped bass stock assessment—which is likely to show that the population is overfished.

Funding Shortfalls Stack Up

Unfortunately, the shutdown is also adding to the growing $18.6 billion maintenance backlog on our public lands. The bulk of that figure is tied to overdue projects in national parks, but more than $7 billion in deferred maintenance work is affecting BLM, Forest Service, and national refuge lands where we hunt and fish.

Quite simply, even if Congress can strike a long-term bargain before this deal expires on Feb. 15, it may take years to make up for the time and funding lost during this shutdown.

 

Top photo by seth schulte on Unsplash

Marnee Banks

January 10, 2019

The Government Shutdown Needs to End

To do right by public lands, lawmakers need to work together

While Washington plays the blame game, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is calling on our elected officials to work together and reopen the government.

Stories about trash piling up in wildlife refuges and volunteers cleaning toilets in national parks are making national news.

As a result, the TRCP is in contact with the nation’s land management agencies to get status updates on our lands, waters, and wildlife. If you have experienced an impact of the government shutdown, please let us know so we can work to address it.

Our fish and wildlife resources, public lands, and the people who carry out conservation in America should not be ignored. Take action today and join the TRCP in calling for an end to this shutdown.

I stand with @TheTRCP in supporting our public lands. It’s time for Washington to #EndTheShutdown. Click To Tweet

 

Photo Credit: Architect of the Capitol

Kristyn Brady

January 2, 2019

House Reversed Rule That Made It Easier to Sell Off Public Lands

Lawmakers have undone a 2017 rule-change that was widely criticized by hunters and anglers concerned about the threat of public land transfer or disposal

This week, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership encouraged House lawmakers to reverse a 2017 measure that made it easier to transfer or sell off public lands.

“Considering the benefits they provide to local communities and the nation—including outdoor recreation opportunities, clean water, and abundant wildlife habitat—America’s public lands continue to increase in value,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Congress should not be in the business of finding new ways to get rid of our public lands, and we applaud measures proposed by House lawmakers that recognize public lands are national assets, worthy of conservation.”

In its first day in session, the House of the 116th Congress passed a rules package that did not include language widely criticized by hunters and anglers last Congress.

The original rule-change—made by a 40-vote margin on the first day of the 115th Congress—overturned a requirement under Congressional Budget Office accounting rules to offset the cost of any transfer of federal land that generated revenue for the U.S. Treasury, whether through energy extraction, logging, grazing, or other activities.

In other words, for the past two years, public lands—even those producing billions in revenue for the federal government—had no official value and thus were vulnerable in terms of possible transfer to the states. House rules passed on Thursday did not carry this provision forward.

Once again, if lawmakers want to give federal land to a state or local government or tribe, they have to account for that loss of revenue.

“This indicates that public lands are on firmer footing in the 116th Congress,” says Fosburgh. “We encourage all our lawmakers to restore or create policies that will help keep public lands in the public’s hands.”

This story was updated on January 4, 2019.

Randall Williams

December 20, 2018

Congress Fails to Reauthorize LWCF, Advance Lands Package

Critical measures for public lands and sportsmen’s access had broad support but didn’t make it across the finish line

Last night, the 115th Congress moved closer to adjourning after failing to advance a wide-ranging and noncontroversial public lands package that had been under careful development by lawmakers for years. Part of the proposed legislation was a permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, key provisions from the Sportsmen’s Act, Pittman-Robertson Modernization, and numerous regionally specific bills.

“These critical measures for our public lands and sportsmen’s access were teed-up and ready to go with broad support, yet Congress still failed to get them across the finish line,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “While we truly appreciate the best efforts of some lawmakers who went to bat for this, we are disappointed to see common-sense solutions kicked down the road yet again.”

Chief among the opportunities missed was a reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which expired on September 30 despite the efforts of an outspoken, diverse coalition of advocates. For more than 50 years, the LWCF has helped conserve habitat and create public access for hunting and fishing all across the nation.

“Permanently reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund should have been an easy win for lawmakers of both parties,” says Fosburgh. “We still have 9.5 million acres of landlocked public lands in the West, and the task of conserving important fish and wildlife habitats is no less critical, but we no longer have at our disposal the best tool to address these issues.”

With the 115th Congress now at a close, sportsmen and women are turning their attention to the prospects of advancing the lands package in the next two years. When a new Congress convenes in January, much could be accomplished by making good on the unfinished business of the last session, with a simple reintroduction of these bills and expeditious votes.

Congressional champions of the public lands package include Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Ranking Member Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Ranking Member Tom Carper (D-Del.), and House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah, 1st) and Ranking Member Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz., 3rd). These decision-makers fought hard for consideration of the package this year and are now working to secure a commitment from House and Senate leadership to move to consider the package in early 2019.

There have been few chances in recent memory to achieve so much for fish, wildlife, and the future of hunting and fishing, and certainly none as ready-made as this. “If our Congressional leaders take seriously the priorities of sportsmen and women, this lands package should be high on their agenda when they begin work in 2019,” says Fosburgh. “Common-sense, noncontroversial solutions to some of the most pressing conservation challenges are simply waiting for our elected officials to act. We hope that the next Congress will honor the collaboration and effort that went into this deal by considering and voting on these bills when they convene in early January.”

 

Photo Credit: Wyatt Bensken

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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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