Q: How did you get into hunting and fishing?
I was born on the same farm I own now that was homesteaded by my great-great-grandfather in South Dakota near the Missouri River. Pheasant season was a highlight of each year for me growing up, as we would host out-of-state hunters. I was allowed to hunt with the group and was retrieving birds when I was 7 years old. Along with pheasant hunting, shooting mallards and Canada geese was also part of my hunting heritage. I’ve also spent time shooting prairie dogs, prairie chickens and sharp-tailed grouse. I started out learning how to fish for bullheads using a cane pole before I even attended grade school. I later graduated to a Zebco rod, catching crappies while ice fishing in the wintertime and catfish in the summertime.
Q: What led you to your career in conservation?
During my farming career in South Dakota, I quickly learned that the best way to produce the wildlife I loved to hunt was to make certain there was enough habitat available. I enrolled land in the Conservation Reserve Program the first year it began and have ground enrolled in the CRP today. I also participated in the Great Plains Conservation Program and Agriculture Conservation Program by seeding grass and planting more than nine acres of trees. Growing up in the wildlife-rich area near the Missouri River made me realize that it is a privilege to enjoy these lands and they need to be preserved for others. There’s no greater goal in my professional career than to develop and administer public policy that enhances soil and water quality and wildlife habitat and preserves it for future generations. During my career at the TRCP [Tjeerdsma worked as a consultant supporting the TRCP’s Farm Bill initiative for nearly three years], Jim Range inspired me to do more for conservation and wildlife.
Q: How did you get involved with the TRCP?
My first association with the TRCP was as a career Farm Service Agency employee participating in the USDA Senior Executive Service program. Under this program I needed to do a three-month detail with a non-government organization. I was fortunate to choose the TRCP and was initially going to split my detail between the TRCP and an agricultural organization; however, I enjoyed working at the TRCP so much I stayed there the entire three months. This led to my being detailed to the TRCP from the FSA for a total of two years under an Intergovernmental Personnel Act Mobility Program to work on the conservation title of the 2008 Farm Bill.
Q: What do you think are the most important conservation issues facing sportsmen today?
Habitat, habitat, habitat. Our country loses more than 1 million acres each year due to urban sprawl, the need to grow inexpensive food and growing fuel to lessen our dependence on foreign energy. Sound conservation and habitat development practices must fit into the equation – which is no small task. It is more important now more than ever for conservationists to be united.
Q: What are your hopes for the future of the TRCP?
The TRCP has an important role to play in the future of wildlife and conservation because of the coalition of member organizations it represents. My hope for the future of the TRCP is that it continues as a strong and unified voice to Congress and the administration on issues of mutual interest among its member organizations. My hope also is that conservation, wildlife and hunting and fishing organizations will support the TRCP. The TRCP doesn’t compromise their individual identities or goals in any way – but offers sportsmen’s groups an opportunity to unite in support of issues on which they mutually agree.