Dani Dagan

February 7, 2017

Still Fired Up Over H.R. 621? Here Are Ten Other Threats to Public Lands

If you were shocked and angered by Chaffetz’s bill to dispose of public lands, then you should know about these less blatant—but similarly dangerous—legislative moves

Last week, sportsmen flooded Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) with phone calls, letters, tweets, and Facebook messages about his perennially unpopular and dangerous public lands bill, H.R. 621. Shortly after, he withdrew the legislation that would have enabled the sale of 3.3 million acres of public lands.

We celebrated. We were reminded that our voices have power. Then, we went back to work.

Here’s the thing: The tug-of-war between Americans who are proud to have 640 million acres of public lands as their birthright and those who seek to undermine these lands has never been tied to one individual bill, state, or lawmaker—it’s a longstanding ideological battle that puts conservation, access, and our hunting and fishing traditions on the line.

Give them an inch and they’ll take millions of acres. #PublicLandsProud Click To Tweet

And, because D.C. politics are hardly ever as simple as black and white, the intent to transfer or sell public lands isn’t always explicitly stated in a bill’s title. Threats can take many forms, but we’re good at reading between the lines. Here are ten other legislative actions that would dismantle our public lands heritage, piece by piece.

BLM/BobWick H.R.621
Top and above images courtesy of Bob Wick/BLM
The Other Chaffetz Bill

In addition to the bill he withdrew last week, self-reported “gun owner, hunter and public lands enthusiast” Rep. Chaffetz (R-Utah) also introduced the “Local Enforcement for Local Lands Act” (H.R. 622) as a measure to pull funding for federal public-land law enforcement. This bill is still alive in Congress and has six co-sponsors.

The Forest Fire Sale Bill

The “State National Forest Management Act of 2017” (H.R. 232), introduced by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), would take two million acres of National Forest System land away from Americans to be managed solely for timber production (read: short-term profit.) Just a friendly reminder that this could transfer management of all of Pennsylvania’s Allegheny National Forest to the state.

The Sneaky Sage Grouse Bill

Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho) introduced legislation that would give state officials full authority over state and federal conservation plans to restore sage-grouse habitat. This might sound mild, but don’t be fooled—transferring control of management plans is a back door to transferring control of the land itself. This would be “an unprecedented shift of management responsibility that erodes the implementation of bedrock conservation statutes,” according to Ed Arnett, our senior scientist. Congressman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) introduced a near-identical bill last year, too.

The One That Strips Back Public Input

Alarmingly, the House just passed a resolution that could eliminate the Bureau of Land Management’s ability to update their planning regulations ever again. Embedded in a resolution to reverse significant improvements to land-use planning, which give sportsmen more say, is the potential to strip authority and flexibility away from the BLM—a key public lands agency. If lawmakers are successful in overturning the recent updates, the BLM will be forced to revert back to a decades-old planning process that doesn’t take into account the most cutting edge science and data on critical habitat like wildlife migration corridors and seasonal ranges. It moves to the Senate next—stay tuned.

If you’re still fired up over H.R. 621, turn your ire on lawmakers who want to roll back your input on public lands. We made you this quick and easy tool for contacting your elected officials. Then, call your representatives and urge them to oppose all attempts to undermine federal public lands ownership.

The Zombie from Nevada

At the end of each year, Congress drops the bills that didn’t pass—but they often get reintroduced in the same form (H.R. 621 was actually one of these) or repackaged as something less obvious. The “Honor the Nevada Enabling Act of 1864 Act,” previously introduced by Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.), is certain to come up again. This is an explicit attempt to transfer federal public lands in Nevada to state ownership—at which point public access could be barred. We’ll keep you updated through our newsletter and social media.

The One Where the Math Doesn’t Add Up

Last year, the “Self-Sufficiency Community Lands Act” passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee, but didn’t make it to a floor vote. It never should have made it that far. Introduced by Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), the bill would have given management authority for large segments of our national forests to “advisory committees”—no previous professional experience in forest management would be required on these committees. Conservation and access would surely be an afterthought to generating revenue, but the financial burden of wildfire management would still be on the American taxpayer.

If you’re still fired up over H.R. 621, sign the Sportsmen’s Access petition and make sure that lawmakers across the country can do the math on a bill like this one.

The State Bills

Bills at the federal level aren’t the only place we see shots fired at public lands. There are clear examples of state legislators easing the skids for public land transfer in Oregon, Washington, and Utah. Even in Missouri a resolution encouraging transfer of Western federal lands to the states is making its way through the state legislature.

If you’re still fired up over H.R. 621, join your local chapter of Trout Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, or another sportsman’s group you trust to keep a bead on your local elected officials.

Sportsmen Must Remain Vigilant

It’s easy to get complacent as long as these threats never really come to a head. But as we saw with H.R. 621, the only place for a bill that would dispose of our American public lands legacy is off the books, knocked down by public outcry and political backlash.

Give them an inch and they’ll take millions of acres. Let your elected officials know our public lands are not for sale.

 




Dani Dagan

January 26, 2017

Where We Go to Geek Out About Conservation News

If you devour anything related to conservation policy, consider this your well-rounded media diet

Staying on top of conservation policy developments in D.C. and beyond is essential to what we do—and we really geek out about it so that we can get the most important news into your hands via Facebook, Twitter, and our blog. But, for those of you who want to go straight to our most trusted sources—and in some cases go way, way down the rabbit hole—we’ve put together a handy shortlist.

For each source of news, the medium might vary. “Twitter is a great place to get the news from decision makers,” says, Joel Webster, our director of Western lands. “Facebook is a great place to get the news from your friends and sporting groups. The content is usually different between the two.”

So here’s what we read, and how we read it, in order to share the breaking news that matters to sportsmen and women.

Policy Makers, Shakers, and Implementers

Social media gives you the chance to peek behind the curtain and watch decision makers in action.

Follow your representatives on Facebook and Twitter for a direct line to lawmakers. This allows you to watch for positions they’re taking and hold them accountable. If you don’t already know who speaks for you in Capitol Hill, look up your U.S. House and Senate reps. Then, you can dig deeper by following members of your state’s legislature. Identify members here, or by googling your state.

Track congressional floor proceedings on Twitter over at @HouseFloor, @SenateFloor, and @SenateCloakroom. This is where you’ll find out what’s happening as it’s happening—including speeches, votes, and other motions that could affect habitat and access.

Read about what’s brewing in administrative agencies by following the agencies directly on social media. Hint: Public lands agencies usually share killer photos.

Brumidi Corridors in the Senate wing of the U.S. Capitol Buildling. Image courtesy of Architect of the Capitol.
Breaking News

Twitter is also where journalists live. Follow them over at the Bird for bite-sized news and links to the articles they’re writing or recommending.

See what the journalists covering Congress are tracking by following @burgessev (Burgess Everett, Politico), @ChadPergram (Chad Pergram, Fox News), @HouseInSession (Billy House, Bloomberg News), @seungminkim (Seung Min Kim, Politico), and @jackfitzdc (Jack Fitzpatrick, Morning Consult.)

For agriculture and private land conservation policy news, @ChrisClaytonDTN (Chris Clayton, DTN Ag Policy), @hagstromreport (Jerry Hagstrom, The Hagstrom Report), @agripulse (AgriPulse), @Morning_Ag (Politico), and @FarmPolicy (Keith Good, farmdoc) are great resources.

For insightful environmental news coming out of the Gulf, follow @BenHRaines (Ben H. Raines, AL.com), @tmassonFISH (Todd Masson, NOLA), and others on Twitter.

Publications in Your Hands and on Your Screen

Each day, our government relations director Steve Kline reads three actual, physical newspapers by turning actual pages just like our forefathers did. Center for Agriculture and Private Lands Director Ariel Wiegard, on the other hand, starts her day online.

Here are some ideas to get you started curating a customized online news aggregator with an RSS feed (Feedly is a good example). Add the individual publications, columns, or blogs you like to streamline your reading list.

  • The environment pages for your regional paper and a national publication like the Washington Post.
  • Political rags, like Morning Consult, Politico, The Hill, and Roll Call. These are great if you want to take a deep dive into what’s happening on Capitol Hill, and they all have sections on energy, environment, and/or agriculture. And for the Westerners: High Country News and WyoFile provide some solid political reporting.
  • Your favorite hunting and fishing magazines. We like the relatable voices on Field & Stream’s Conservationist blog, Outdoor Life’s Open Country, and Fly Rod and Reel’s conservation column, for example.
  • Private land conservation news coming out of local outlets on this list.
  • Gulf coast news (and some how-to fishing stories) in NOLA’s outdoors section.

If you just want to browse the headlines, follow @EENewsUpdates on Twitter. This in-depth environment and energy publication is behind a pretty expensive paywall, but you’ll get a glimpse of what’s trending (so you can google the rest.) Almost everyone in the conservation community starts their day with E&E updates.

Image courtesy of Tony Rocheford/USFWS Midwest.
Your Fellow Sportsmen and Women

A good place to start learning about major issues is with those who share your interests. We like:

  • The Hunt Talk forum, which is broken down by topic. You might want to start in the “hot topics” section.
  • There are a couple of big-name hunters in the trenches with us. They’re working to get the word out on the significant issues facing sportsmen and women. Steven Rinella’s social media channels are an excellent resource. Search for him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter at @stevenrinella. Similarly, find Randy Newberg on Facebook and Twitter at @randynewberg.
  • Op-eds often feature local perspectives on issues important to sportsmen and women. Keep an eye on the opinion section in your local newspaper for conservation-related topics.
  • Sportsmen’s groups hard at work filtering all of this news for you. Check out our partner page, and give those groups a follow on your favorite social media channels or sign up for their newsletters.

With a little digging, careful selection, and a few cool internet tools, you can construct a perfectly custom-built system to get nerdy about conservation.

Dani Dagan

December 8, 2016

How Genetic Information from Sage Grouse Feathers Could Help Us Save Them

DNA pulled from more than 3,000 feathers is helping to set the course for the future of sage-grouse conservation

Successful hunters gather data. They climb trees, glass ridgelines, or use trail cameras to consider how critters are moving—the more you can comprehend a landscape, the greater your ability to get a shot.

The same kind of big-picture understanding is essential to conservation that benefits fish and wildlife. In the effort to conserve greater sage grouse habitat and avoid listing the bird, researchers and land managers have been using all the innovative tools at their disposal to fully understand the habitat conditions contributing to the sage grouse’s plight. The trouble is, with a range encompassing such a huge area of western North America—the birds are currently found in 11 states and some parts of Canada—that’s a heck of a lot of ground to monitor.

So, wildlife biologists got creative. They’re unlocking more comprehensive knowledge about habitat connectivity by pulling DNA from sage grouse feathers.

Image courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The DNA contained in feathers can paint a broader, more in-depth picture of how the birds interact with the landscape than was possible before this technology was widely understood. Genes, discrete bits of DNA, get passed from parents to chicks and vary from bird to bird like a signature. If you know how to decipher the code, it can reveal how related the birds are—and where the landscape might cut them off from one another.

Todd Cross and Mike Schwartz, wildlife biologists with the U.S. Forest Service, recently published a study that begins to unlock the ties between sage-grouse genetics, the sagebrush sea, and how to best conserve the species that depend on it. By recruiting friends and colleagues to help, scientists collected 3,481 sage grouse feathers from 351 leks across the West. Sportsmen were in on the action too—according to Cross, hunter-harvested wings provide the highest quality DNA samples.

Cross decoding DNA back in the lab. Image courtesy of Todd Cross.

Focusing on feathers from Montana and the Dakotas first, Cross and Schwartz looked at gene flow, which is similar to a game of hot potato: Genetic structure gets passed along until someone drops the potato. In a landscape with habitat connectivity, critters share genetic information across distances far greater than a single bird could travel. However, when some groups of sage grouse are isolated from others by fragmentation, birds in one region have different genetic markers than others down the line.

Cross wanted to identify where the landscape results in barriers for gene flow—the places where potatoes get dropped, so to speak—and he and Schwartz found a significant difference in the genetic structure of sage grouse across various parts of the landscape. They took what they learned from the genetic material and created a map indicating the location of subpopulations, clusters of sage grouse with discrete genetic structures, which is depicted below.

Three main subpopulations of sage grouse are colored in reds, blues, and yellows. Pairs of darker and lighter colors signify subpopulations with similar genetics to one another. Image courtesy of Todd Cross.

This discovery—both in terms of the research method they employed and the map they produced—is significant when it comes to conserving and managing sage grouse on the ground. In the words of Schwartz: “The beauty of this work is that it allows for informed decisions.”

The architects of the federal, state, and local conservation plans to reverse an overall decline in sage grouse populations have determined where management actions should be taken based on established priority areas for conservation (PAC)—habitat parcels that are essential for the species’ success.

Often, discussion surrounding PACs is focused on habitat quality in the specific area in question, which can miss critical ingredients for conservation success. Healthy conditions within one patch of habitat is important, of course, but it must also be connected to other swaths of sagebrush habitat for these birds to thrive. Sage grouse need the ability to move from place to place, and stakeholders must work in cooperation between discrete management areas accordingly—after all, grouse don’t recognize the boundaries between state, federal, and private lands.

“We can use the DNA study and other scientific data to better define landscape boundaries for conservation and mitigation actions, as opposed to drawing arbitrary or politically-based boundaries,” says Ed Arnett, TRCP’s senior scientist. Cross and Schwartz’s work helps map out how sage grouse are actually using the landscape.

Image courtesy of Ed Arnett.

Furthermore, the genetic isolation implied by their results in Montana and the Dakotas can be problematic in and of itself. Schwartz explains that inbreeding—a consequence of isolation—can lead to diminished fitness in the population. In other words, without new genes coming into a population from outside geographic areas, sage grouse might see a reduced ability to survive or breed.

“We know this from domestic stocks,” he says, referring to agriculture. “You see these consequences in things like reduced milk production. To keep the animals healthy, you have to see new blood coming into populations.”

So what does this mean for management? All the stakeholders—including agencies that manage distinct regions—must work together to establish more habitat connectivity to benefit sagebrush species. The good news is that sage grouse have a history of bringing people together.

“We have seen unprecedented coordination and planning efforts across 11 Western states that led to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision not to list the bird for Endangered Species Act protection in September 2015,” says Arnett. “This type of broad collaboration among the state and federal agencies and diverse stakeholders is a game changer for the future of conservation in America.”

Cross and Schwartz also shared a little about the future of their study: They’ve expanded their work to encompass almost all of the bird’s range, and they’re uncovering some exciting new information about this icon of the West. For example, they found that a sage grouse traveled more than 120 miles in a single season!

Relying on science to determine what’s best for fish and wildlife has always been a key tenet of the North American Model of Conservation. But the innovation it takes to reach informed decisions about land management and habitat restoration is pretty cool on its own.

Learn more about the sage grouse genetics study here. And if you think DNA pulled from a feather is fascinating, check out this mule deer migration study, where big game animals are literally sending their GPS coordinates to researchers’ smartphones.

Dani Dagan

November 30, 2016

When One Program Opens Access and Improves Habitat, Everyone Wins

We dig into the across-the-board benefits of a key Farm Bill conservation program on private lands

For every walk-in access sign there are numerous forces at play, granting you permission to use the land and ensuring quality habitat for critters. On private acres, your experience might be thanks in part to Farm Bill conservation programs. One in particular, the Volunteer Public Access and Habitat Improvement Program, provides $40 million specifically to support quality hunting and fishing access on private land—but its benefits don’t stop there.

Rabbit hunters meet with the landowner and run their beagles on MRAP land near Marceline. Image courtesy of the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Private land access helps keeps the sport alive.

Westerners are flush with public lands, while the rest of the nation’s sportsmen and women make do with smaller, isolated public patches that may not be close to home. Some of the non-Westerners among us may travel to Big Sky Country once a year, but access can be a significant barrier for beginning hunters and anglers or anyone who doesn’t have a big-ticket trip with out-of-state license fees in his or her budget.

Of course, this means non-Westerners rely heavily on access to private lands.

In 2012, there were more than 914 million acres devoted to agriculture across the United States.  These acres can make for excellent habitat teeming with some of our favorite species—sage grouse, quail, whitetails, doves, and geese—and present some of the best hunting opportunities in the nation, assuming hunters are allowed in.

public lands map
Image courtesy of State of the Birds 2011.

As its name suggests, VPA-HIP has two primary goals: securing public access and improving habitat. Authorized and funded in the 2008 Farm Bill and renewed in the 2014 Farm Bill, VPA-HIP helps states incentivize landowners to implement conservation-minded practices, such as clearing a forest understory of invasive plant species or creating stream buffers. In exchange, landowners allows the public to hunt, fish, trap, and observe wildlife on their property.

In short, VPA-HIP invests money in states like Illinois, Nebraska, Connecticut, and South Dakota—often in parts of the country where public lands are relatively scarce—to help give more Americans opportunities to hunt and fish.

Local economies get a boost.

Last month, TRCP’s government affairs director Steve Kline spent some time chasing upland birds on private land in eastern Montana, and he’ll be the first to tell you that hunting season supports rural economies. At this time of year, even in otherwise sleepy towns, you’ll see bustling restaurants, packed sporting goods stores, and busy streets—and the economy is better for it.

The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) calculated the actual economic impact in a 2012 study and found that for the $9.1 million invested into VPA-HIP in 2011, 322 jobs were created and $18.1 million in gear- and travel-related spending was associated with hunters accessing newly enrolled private lands. That’s double the investment!

And that figure only covers direct spending. The economic boost echoes down the entire supply chain with more production, jobs, and higher profits, which stimulates even more spending. The report calculates that once those amplifying effects are taken into account, the return on investment for VPA-HIP funds was actually more than $73 million in a single year.

Report Assessing the Economic Benefit of VPA-HIP: 2011, produced for the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies by Southwick Associates. See the full document for more information.

This isn’t just free money.

A common point of criticism for incentive programs like VPA-HIP is that the government shouldn’t give handouts to the agriculture industry. However, this money isn’t free. VPA-HIP isn’t a charity, it’s a payment for services rendered to wildlife and the public. Landowners invest funds into habitat improvements, which critters need to survive. Instead of laying crops all the way up to a stream’s edge, for example, VPA-HIP dollars help a landowner create buffers to keep water clean so fish and waterfowl can thrive. After all, access is basically worthless without quality habitat.

Furthermore, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)—the branch of the USDA that governs VPA-HIP—is highly selective when it comes to choosing grant recipients. NRCS prioritizes funding for state and tribal applications that maximize acreage, ensure appropriate wildlife habitat, and are likely to receive matches from other funding sources. States that receive grants are then responsible for deciding which landowners may enroll, and they are similarly selective. Wisconsin, for example, prioritizes larger properties with more usable cover, as well as lands that are in close proximity to existing public hunting or fishing grounds. This kind of scrutiny ensures that every dollar invested creates the largest possible benefit to the public and to wildlife.

Everybody’s a winner!

Sometimes public lands and agricultural lands are viewed as polar opposites fighting for a share of resources in a no-sum game. But when it comes to VPA-HIP, that paradigm is shattered. When landowners and agricultural producers transform acres into valuable wildlife habitat, they’re improving conditions for the critters we love to pursue, while receiving compensation and technical assistance. It’s important to their business plans because, often, the land that is least productive for crop production is the most valuable for wildlife anyway. On top of all that, the public gains access to otherwise closed-off lands. That means more places for moms and dads to take their kids hunting or fishing, more kids growing up loving the outdoors, and more hearts beating for conservation far into the future.

It’s a total win-win-win.

BONUS: We are extra proud of VPA-HIP, because TRCP’s co-founder helped put the program in motion almost a decade ago. For the other two posts in our three-part series on this important part of the Farm Bill, click here and here. And learn more about other Farm Bill conservation programs that work for farmers, sportsmen, and wildlife.

Dani Dagan

September 23, 2016

Celebrate National Public Lands Day by Showing the Land Some Love

This Saturday, September 24, is a day for celebrating our heritage – and you can join in by giving back

I love being outside, and I’m guessing that if you’ve found your way to this blog, then you do too. I am happy to live in Washington, DC, because it means I get to work at the TRCP, spending my days fighting for conservation and ensuring that that 640 million acres of public land remain public and remain accessible. However, lately, I’ve been neglecting my need to see the sky, smell the trees, and get my hands dirty. Sportsmen have a long history of getting their hands dirty – literally and figuratively – for conservation, and sometimes I just need to get out there and the work with my own two hands.

This Saturday, Sept 24, I’m going to get my on-the-ground fix – and you can too. In celebration of National Public Lands Day, parks, recreation areas, and more are hosting volunteer events all over the country. Additionally, if you’re in the Wyoming area, consider joining us at a Public Lands Day Celebration in Laramie.

Here are a few examples of Public Lands Day volunteer opportunities, in case you want to join me in celebrating our sporting heritage by taking care of our favorite spaces. Don’t see an event for your area listed here? Check in with your nearby public land agency and find events or start by browsing Find Your Park to find a spot near you.

Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park. Photo courtesy of Dani Dagan.

Click here for more information on National Public Lands Day. Whether or not you get your hands dirty this Saturday, take the future of our public lands into your hands by signing the Sportsmen’s Access petition.

 

Where: Pipestone National Monument, Pipestone, Minn.

What: Seed collection from native tall grass prairie

More information

 

Where: Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area, Western Ky. and Tenn.

What: Trail clean-up and work day

More information

 

Where: Red Top Mountain State Park, Cartersville, Ga.

What: Improve outdoor classroom

More information

 

Where: Don Carter State Park, Gainesville, Ga.

What: Shore sweep and trash clean-up

More information

 

Where: Yellowstone National Park

What: Trail maintenance

More information

 

Where: Colt Creek State Park, Lakeland, Fla.

What: Mulching

More information

 

Where: Lake Kissimmee State Park, Lake Wales, Fla.

What: Invasive weed removal

More information

 

Where: Lake Louisa State Park, Clermont, Fla.

What: Invasive weed and vegetation removal

More information

 

Where: 19 sites across Indiana

What: Trash clean-up, garden maintenance, trail work, invasive species removal, and more.

More information

 

Where: Poudre Wilderness, Northern Colo.

What: Trail maintenance

More information

 

Where: Hidden Canyon Community Park, Carlsbad, Calif.

What: Trail maintenance

More information

 

Where: Detroit Lake Campground shoreline, Detroit, Ore.

What: Shoreline and riverside clean-up

More information

 

 

Dani Dagan

August 18, 2016

Beyond the Parks: Hidden Gems of the National Park Service

While America’s iconic national parks get all the glory, the National Park Service Centennial is also a time to celebrate these three types of public lands and what they offer sportsmen

Being from California and living most of my life in the West, I have spent a whole lot of time on public lands. Between hiking, climbing rocks, and road-tripping in my free time, and working as a wildlife field technician after college, I have logged countless hours learning what folks are (and are not) allowed to do on various types of public land. I have learned that they are not all created equal, and while national parks get a lot of publicity and love, the exclusion of hunting and fishing – not to mention heavy crowds – can leave sportsmen behind.

In honor of the National Parks Centennial, I’d like to shine the spotlight on a few National Parks Service lands that aren’t national parks ­– there are, in fact, more than 20 NPS designations. The opportunities that exist on these lands just might surprise you.

 

Badlands National Park. Image courtesy of Dani Dagan.

National Recreation Areas

A special designation for areas located around major water reservoirs or urban centers, all 18 national recreation areas allow fishing and/or hunting of some kind. However, before you pack up your rod, rifle, or bow, be aware that the rules vary from unit to unit. In the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SAMO), for example, hunting is only allowed on private property nested within park boundaries.

I grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, just a 15-minute ride away from SAMO—a huge patchwork landscape of federal, state, and private property, and even a strip of the pacific coast, that’s full of rock climbing opportunities and purple sage. This was where I fell in love with fresh air and solitude, and to this day the smell of sage makes me feel like I’m on summer vacation. Later, when I was working as a wildlife intern at SAMO, I saw firsthand the value of this multi-purpose land designation, which focused on human use rather than pristine preservation, as a “gateway drug” – turning city rats into public lands advocates.

Biological survey site in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Image courtesy of Dani Dagan.

National Seashores and Lakeshores

Just last week, I visited Assateague Island, a national seashore with opportunities for shore fishing and limited hunting seasons for waterfowl, foxes, rabbits, and mourning doves. There are ten national seashores and four national lakeshores in the country, and fishing and/or hunting is permitted on all of them. Again, site regulations may vary. For example, at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore,  Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore hunting is prohibited, but fishing for trout and salmon is permitted—and popular.

Assateague Island National Seashore permits fishing, oversand parking, hunting, crabbing, and an assortment of other recreational activities. Image courtesy of Dani Dagan.

National Preserves

There are 19 national preserves, where extractive activities, including hunting and fishing, are permitted. Some of these are adjacent to other NPS lands that prohibit hunting and fishing, allowing for multiple uses of a contiguous landscape.

Theodore Roosevelt Island

I’d like to give a final shout out an NPS site that allows neither hunting nor fishing, but does pay homage to our number one guy here at TRCP. If you’ve ever visited Washington, D.C., you may have noticed that the presidential monuments are governed by NPS. Theodore Roosevelt Island is no exception. However, in contrast to those massive blocks of expertly sculpted concrete and stone, T.R.’s capitol city memorial is a lush island comprised of upland woods and swampy bottoms—very fitting for the foremost conservationist president.

Trailhead on Theodore Roosevelt Island. Image courtesy of Dani Dagan.

The island is a legitimate hiking destination in its own right. In fact, the friend I visited with had been there several times, just to walk the trails, without ever noticing the manicured memorial at its heart.  And I think that’s how T.R. would have wanted it – he urged Americans to not only protect our land, but immerse ourselves in it.

Image courtesy of Dani Dagan.

As we celebrate the National Park Service Centennial this month, I hope that sportsmen and women across the country can be proud of our stake in all of these uniquely American public lands—for every icon, there’s a hidden gem. While the NPS centennial campaign may be branded “find your park,” we hope everyone to finds their public land, whatever designation it may be. With all the opportunities they offer us to wet a line, glass a ridgeline, see our breath in a morning duck blind, or just to be transported from our everyday lives, they all deserve to be celebrated and enjoyed.

All month long, we’re celebrating the National Park Service centennial with a blog series about our most significant experiences in the parks. Check back here for new posts from the TRCP staff and special guests, and follow the hashtag #PublicLandsProud on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Dani Dagan

July 6, 2016

While Forest Service Chases Down Wildfires, the Solution Gets Away From Us

TRCP’s new communications and operations associate grew up in wildfire country—now in D.C., she’s experiencing the impacts of fire in a completely different way

It was 4am on a school night when I woke up to sirens wailing in the streets. Firefighters were shouting into megaphones, informing us that our neighborhood was being evacuated. I couldn’t even finish brushing my teeth before first-responders were knocking on our door, making sure we were awake and on our way out. My family had already packed our SUV full of photo albums, social security cards, and sentimental odds and ends, so we piled in and headed across town to my aunt and uncle’s house.

Image courtesy of Anthony Citrano/Flickr.

Growing up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, we didn’t really have winter, spring, or autumn. We didn’t have tornadoes, hurricanes, or blizzards. We had TV pilot season—and we had wildfires.

I still remember hiking around my old neighborhood and stumbling upon the last line of fire—that charred boundary between the thriving chaparral and its blackened mirror-image. It was about a quarter-mile from my house, and just a few hundred yards from a friend’s. It was jarring to see how close we were to the flames. Though I never lost my home to fire, I knew people who did. Last month a single wildfire in California took two lives and more than 250 homes.

Our wildfire epidemic has always felt personal to me, but now that I live in Washington, D.C., safely removed from immediate danger, I’m realizing that we all feel the burn—and the enormous costs—of fire suppression.

The U.S. Forest Service’s budgetary allocation for wildfire management has been soaring, siphoning money away from critical activities such as wildlife and fisheries habitat management. Meanwhile, the Service’s maintenance backlog has exceeded $5 billion. That’s because over half of the Service’s budget is now dedicated to wildfire management—up from 16 percent in 1995.

Even the remaining 48 percent of the budget, the portion not dedicated to wildfire management, isn’t secure, because “fire-borrowing” is crippling non-fire programs. Essentially, when firefighting costs exceed what’s been budgeted, the Service is forced to dip into other unrelated program budgets and spend cash meant for habitat restoration, water quality improvements, and new public access points for hunters and anglers.

Image courtesy of Kansas Sebastian/Flickr.

The result of all of this is dramatic—instead of investing in preventative measures that benefit forest health, as well as suppression and rehabilitation efforts, we’re scrambling to control the damage as it’s happening. We’re chasing the problem down, instead of getting in front of it.

Living here in our nation’s capital, my relationship with wildfire has changed. I’m no longer worried about my house burning down, but I’m worried about the wild places that are at home in my heart and memories—the lands we all inherited from Theodore Roosevelt that are full of trees and wildlife and unrelenting beauty.

So, no, it’s not just the people within view of the fire line who should be paying attention to this problem. We need a wildfire funding fix, and we need it soon.

Here’s a possible solution.