Marnee Banks

February 8, 2019

TRCP Named One of America’s Top Charities

Leading non-profit evaluator gives TRCP highest 4-star award for sixth year in a row.

Charity Navigator has placed the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership in the top 8 percent of U.S. charities for its “strong financial health and commitment to accountability and transparency.”

This marks the sixth consecutive year that TRCP has received the coveted 4-star rating.

“This award demonstrates TRCP’s strong commitment to our members, donors, and partners,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “America’s sportsmen and women trust us to advocate on their behalf, and we will always work hard for them and hold ourselves to the highest standards.”

Charity Navigator is the largest charity evaluator in America tasked with assessing the financial health, accountability, and transparency of more than 8,000 charities. Since 2002, Charity Navigator has awarded only the most fiscally responsible organizations a 4-star rating.

“This exceptional designation from Charity Navigator sets TRCP apart from its peers and demonstrates to the public its trustworthiness, ” wrote Michael Thatcher, president of Charity Navigator.

TRCP has also earned a Platinum ranking from GuideStar and the top accreditation from the Better Business Bureau.

 

Photo by Stephen Baker/BLM Oregon.

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Reflections on Roosevelt’s Country

A visit to Theodore Roosevelt’s ranch in the Fall of 2018 inspires a young mule deer hunter

Hunting season is here in my home state of Montana, and I’m headed east to look for mule deer. My dog in the backseat, my Weatherby .308 in its case, and my pack at the ready.

Opening the atlas for a quick survey of my route, a splash of green against the white only a few hundred miles ahead grabs me. Theodore Roosevelt National Park beckons from just over the North Dakota state line, right on the edge of the map. I decide hunting can wait for an afternoon. History beckons.

The further east I get, the more the flat dreariness of winter-come-early sets in. The clear, dry roads become two lines edged in white, and the moody sky envelops much of the distant horizon. I’m one of only two cars when I roll into the parking lot at the visitor’s center.

Belongings and Bulletholes

The park sits on 70,446 acres that include parcels from Roosevelt’s original cattle ranches. And although the name itself has gone through a few iterations, no national park is more closely associated with a single individual.

Cottonwoods and red willows follow the Little Missouri River’s snaking path through the otherwise broken, sage-brushed landscape. Weather shrouds the tumbling edges of the park, clouds hugging the muted tones of this northern ground.

On display at the park’s headquarters are belongings and words from our twenty-sixth president. For the most part, they illuminate the mundane aspects of his life rather than the mythical. His cabin is preserved on ground, small and humble. There’s a note written to his brother. Photographs of T.R. and his friends. And a full tribute to his passion for birding, including a snowy owl he taxidermied himself. His essence fills the room. He becomes human here.

But it’s the bullet-holed shirt in the glass case that catches my imagination.

You likely know the story: In the course of Roosevelt’s failed bid for the presidency in 1912, a would-be assassin shot him before a scheduled address in Milwaukee. Fifty pages of notes stuffed into the candidate’s breast pocket slowed the bullet before it entered his chest, where it would stay for the rest of his life. Still, Roosevelt took the stage. Announcing that he had just been shot, he quipped that he probably wouldn’t talk long. He then carried on for 84 minutes.

This is a man who knew how to create a mythology.

In contrast to the ethereal nature of the Roosevelt lore is the tangibility of the public land beneath my boots, land that once held the footprints of the man himself. It stands as a powerful totem for the miles upon miles of public land that I’ve taken in as a hiker, backpacker, hunter, and angler. The reality of it makes its way into words as I continue into the park itself: T.R.’s life molded stories that still resonate in our cultural memory, but he also created a physical continuity of place for those, as he famously declared, still in the “womb of time.”

This is the same land where Roosevelt grieved the deaths of his mother and his wife, who both passed on the same day in 1884. In his mourning, he found solace among this wild and broken country. He then saw his own sense of loss reflected in the waning numbers of bison and other wildlife vanishing from the plains. With the strength he drew from the land, he derived a sense of purpose infused with hope.

This land beneath my boots became the fertile ground for the seeds of a national conservation ethic.

A Test of Wills in the Sagebrush

Back into the cold, with daylight quickly fading. Small snow flurries land on my eyelashes and shoulders. In the distance my searching eyes catch three big bull elk, animals reintroduced to this country, now thriving. The humped silhouettes of Roosevelt’s beloved bison graze on far hills. A bounding whitetail deer disappears into the cottonwoods, white flag waving. And then I pull around a corner to face a tank of a mule deer buck walking the edge of the road.

His head is low to the ground, and his behavior is strange. As the car moves closer, another set of tines below him grows visible. I can hear the deer grunting at each other. The smaller buck pins his ears and averts his gaze, submissive. The big guy drops down the hill, circling around until they’re head on. Antlers lock for one moment. Then, the bucks crash into each other with every amount of muscle in their powerful bodies. Pummeled backwards through the sage, the little buck is outmatched. He escapes with a poke in the butt and a chase along the hilly horizon.

The drama of this high-stakes encounter seems befitting of this place—T.R. himself was fond of an old-fashioned test of wills—and all the more-so because the mule deer so perfectly embodies the sagebrush country that shaped Roosevelt’s life.

It’s also a reminder that the rut is on and I’m planning to hunt in the morning, so I best get back on the road.

History, Hunting, and a Heavy Pack

To public land I go.

The days that follow take me to a wilderness study area, BLM land, and a national wildlife refuge. Each step in the rugged breaks country is another gift from Roosevelt’s generous legacy. I barely see a thing before spotting my buck from over a mile away on Montana state land.

I walk that mile through the sagebrush slowly and intentionally. I set up within a hundred yards, prone in the cold, wet dirt. I have the wind. And I study him thoroughly. He’s everything I love in a mule deer. Thick-bodied, wildly unibrowed, and handsome. Crowned like a king.

There are only a few days left in the season, and I promised myself I’d take the first ethical shot on an animal that presented the opportunity. I wait for what seems like an eternity for him to turn broadside, but in my heart I’m telling him to run and to run far and fast. With five minutes of shooting light to spare, he steps to the side. My heart isn’t ready, but the hunter within flips to fire and pulls the trigger. The hit is solid, well-placed. I chamber another round, but there’s no need. I put down my rifle, my heart breaks, I cradle my head in my hands.

Later, kneeling beside him, I notch the date into my tag: November 20, 2018. I roll the tag, tape it onto his leg, and begin to quarter him out.

Roosevelt’s glorious heritage is now mine to hold. I take it all in. My mule deer’s coat is thick, healthy, buoyant to the touch. He smells deeply sweet, a concentrated musk of sage and this arid earth beneath us. He made a life on habitat protected for his sake. The ground that sustained him will soon sustain me.

“I do not believe that any man can adequately appreciate the world of today unless he has some knowledge of—a little more than a slight knowledge, some feeling for and of—the history of the world of the past,” Roosevelt said.

And this knowledge is what brings me out of my initial grief and back to the sinew and muscle in front of me, to the sky going navy above me, and to the sagebrush sea before me. This is what brings me back to the privilege of being here—two hands on a deer and two feet on public ground.

The passage of time has seen the roots of our public lands heritage grow deeper. Roosevelt’s country has no doubt changed over the years, yet it remains intact. Still, the conservation ethic that he upheld and turned into a physical reality for all Americans remains imperiled to this day. It, too, takes a bullet in the chest and stands tall, time and time again.

As I quarter my deer, slowly, deliberately, I know that the great central task of upholding this public land inheritance and passing it along to those who come after me is a hell of a thing to take on. The weight of this uncertain future is heavy, and it rests on the shoulders of anyone who seeks to leave this place better than we found it.

I finish quartering my deer and fill my pack to overflowing. I tighten the straps on my shoulders, braced for the work ahead.

 

Nicole Qualtieri is the hunting and fishing editor for GearJunkie.com and a freelance creative. She’s an outdoorswoman, a public lands advocate, and an amateur gourmand. When the weather warms up, you’ll find her astride her little brown horse with a border collie in tow, high in the Montana hills.

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.

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

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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