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September 4, 2012

Pittman-Robertson: Celebrating the History of Conservation Policy

September marks the 75-year-anniversary of the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, or the Pittman-Robertson Act. For sportsmen, this anniversary stands as a testament to the sportsman-conservation community and should evoke within us a tremendous sense of pride. Given the current divided state of our government, it is easy to forget the many successes that we as sportsmen have had – not only in the conservation of our fish and wildlife resources but in contributing to the well-being of our country.

At the unified urging of organized sportsmen and wildlife groups, the Pittman-Robertson Act diverts an 11 percent excise tax on sporting arms and ammunition to the Department of the Interior. The department then allocates the funds to pay for state-initiated wildlife restoration projects from acquisition and improvement of wildlife habitat, to wildlife research, to hunter education programs.

A significant component of the Act requires that license and permit fees collected by a state fish and wildlife agency must stay with the agency. Neither the license revenues nor the excise tax can be diverted to any other government entity.

Prior to the act, numerous species such as wild turkey, white-tailed deer, wood duck and black bear were pushed to the brink of extinction. Through wildlife restoration projects, mostly paid for through Pitman-Robertson and state hunting license funds, these important species were able to repopulate.

Since the enactment of Pittman-Robertson, the number of hunters in the United States has more than doubled, and the number of hunting days have spiked in every state. This means that sportsmen can hunt more frequently today than sportsmen hunted in 1937.

Since 1937, several amendments have been made to the act to expand the list of items that are taxed for the benefit of wildlife restoration projects, but one thing has remained consistent: sportsmen have willingly taxed themselves to perpetuate a resource that benefits the national community. To date, more than $6.5 billion has been provided to state fish and wildlife agencies through this Act.

More impressively however, is the estimated return on sportsmen’s investment in wildlife restoration. According to a recent study, the lowest estimated return-on-investment from the excise-tax was 823 percent and the highest estimate return on investment was a whopping 1588 percent. In other words, the benefits of the tax are anywhere from 8 to 15 times greater than the cost of the tax, making it a highly successful and effective investment.

Sportsmen everywhere should be proud of the Pittman-Robertson Act, and as we reflect on this great achievement, let this anniversary serve as a reminder of the power of organized sportsmen rallying together for a good cause.

Watch a short video below about the importance of funding for wildlife conservation.

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Steve Kline

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August 27, 2012

Taking a Stand for Waterfowling and the Pastimes We Cherish

If the voices of hunters fall silent, it won’t be long before the voice of the waterfowl we cherish goes quiet as well. Photo by Paul Bramble.

I was driving down a back road on Maryland’s Eastern Shore when I pulled my truck over to let a tractor pass. The farmer tipped his hat in appreciation and was on his way to the next field. Before heading down the road myself, I took a look around; fields of crops gave way to the Chester River in the distance and a place I am proud to call home.

With tall corn and soy hiding goose pits and the vivid summer woods obscuring tree stands, it is tough to see the importance of hunting during a hot and humid Chesapeake summer. But just a few months from now, the days will get shorter and crisper, and homes across the Eastern Shore will come to life earlier than normal as decoy bags and gun cases are tossed into trucks and Labs wag their tails with the kind of anticipation only a gun dog can muster.

Waterfowl hunting means a lot to this part of the world. On the highway into town, geese adorn the welcome sign, and we have waterfowl festivals to celebrate the autumnal return of the birds. You may find yourself raking leaves in the backyard or picking out the perfect carving pumpkin at the local patch when you hear your first flight of Canada geese returning. It is a sound that compels your eyes skyward and makes many of us reflexively reach for our goose calls.

But the memory of the 2011-12 season remains stark in the minds of many hunters. Winter’s cold weather never came; nor did the birds. Some estimated that less than one quarter of the typical population actually made it as far south as the Chesapeake. The lack of snow and ice gave the birds no reason to venture to their normal southern grounds. The warmest winter anyone can remember gave way to the warmest summer, and hunters can’t be blamed for asking, “Will the birds return?”

More than a few hunters I’ve talked to are considering letting their blind leases lapse.

“I’m gonna give it one more year,” is a familiar refrain from waterfowlers pinched by a slow economy and slow days afield. Visit Higgy’s Diner on any Saturday morning during duck and goose season and you will see just what hunting means to the local economy. It’s not just about license and ammo sales; hunters open their wallets at motels, gas stations, watering holes and sub shops, as well as for guides and gear. As the birds go, so go the hunters.

Conservation is an essential part of hunting’s past – and future. Whether addressing global issues like climate change or local issues such as land use, hunters have a responsibility to become knowledgeable and participate in finding workable solutions. If the voices of hunters fall silent, it won’t be long before the voice of the waterfowl we cherish goes quiet as well.

Learn more about the TRCP’s work in the Chesapeake Bay.

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August 21, 2012

TRCP Takes Conservation Message to South Africa

Fish and wildlife are a worldwide resource, and challenges to their responsible management – and, in some cases, their very existence – occur across the globe. This summer the TRCP sent representatives to the fourth International Wildlife Management Congress in Durban, South Africa, cosponsored by The Wildlife Society, a TRCP partner and leader in educating and informing wildlife management professionals.

The 2012 congress, “Cooperative Wildlife Management across Borders: Learning in the Face of Change,” focused on how wildlife managers can better conserve and manage wildlife resources on an international scale. The TRCP’s Tom Franklin and Steve Belinda were on hand to speak about the increase of shale gas development throughout North America and the associated negative impacts to wildlife. Their presentation described the boom in natural gas production in the United States over the last decade and the many challenges created for wildlife managers.

Kudu in Durban S. Africa
At a recent conference in South Africa, TRCP representatives demonstrated the importance of balancing the needs of wildlife and energy. Photo courtesy of Steve Belinda.

Franklin and Belinda, both wildlife biologists, explained how new technology has resulted in an unprecedented effort to find and produce natural gas in some of the most important wildlife habitats in the nation. Habitats – including those occupied by mule deer and sage grouse – have been seriously impacted by energy exploration and development.

During their presentation, the TRCP representatives demonstrated the importance of balancing the needs of wildlife and energy – an approach that includes comprehensive conservation planning, adaptive management, mitigation planning, monitoring and stakeholder involvement.

Their presentation highlighted the fact that responsible energy development can proceed while minimizing impacts to wildlife and water resources and thereby minimizing conflicts among a wide variety of user groups, including hunters and anglers.

Overall, more than 400 delegates from 35 countries attended the event in South Africa, exploring a wide range of issues including the following:

  • human dimensions of wildlife management and conservation: conflict, urban interface and land use
  • climate change
  • wildlife health and disease
  • endangered species recovery
  • invasive species threats
  • trans-border cooperation and conservation
  • natural resource use and sustainability
  • habitat restoration and modification
  • stewardship
Gemsbok -- Oryx Durban S. Africa
More than 400 delegates from 35 countries attended the event in South Africa, exploring a wide range of wildlife management issues. Photo courtesy of Steve Belinda.

The TRCP supports the responsible development of energy resources in appropriate areas. The TRCP’s set of principles on this issue, “FACTS for Fish and Wildlife,” provides guidance for responsible energy development that upholds our nation’s shared natural resources and unique outdoor legacy.

Learn more about the TRCP’s “FACTS for Fish and Wildlife” and approach to responsible energy development.

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August 20, 2012

Filson’s Top Five Mobile Apps for Outdoorsmen

Filson came up with the five best mobile apps for the outdoorsman. Check them out below.

1) Primos Hunting Calls

Primos Hunting Call App. Photo courtesy of Filson Life.

We have to agree with the ratings on the best-selling hunting app of all time. Primos Hunting Calls attracts prey with a variety of over twenty remarkably natural calls. Improve your ability to lure in turkey, elk, deer, duck, hogs, and more. Use tried-and-true favorites of the hunting professionals at Primos like “The Gobbler” and the “Heart Breaker.”

2) Ducks Unlimited Waterfowler’s Journal

Ducks Unlimited Waterfowler’s Journal App. Photo Courtesy of Filson Life.

The DU Waterfowler’s Journal is the only app designed exclusively for waterfowl hunters to keep a detailed log of each trip to the field. Both seasoned pros and beginners can build a detailed diary of the number and type of birds harvested, hunting blind locations, weather conditions, photos, and personal notes. In addition to creating your own journal, you can catch up on Duck Unlimited’s extensive glossary of waterfowl ID characteristics.

3) iSolunar Hunting & Fishing Times

iSolunar Hunting and Fishing Times App. Photo Courtesy of Filson Life.

Filson anglers and hunters can trust the up-to-date hunting and fishing information from iSolunar Hunting & Fishing Times. iSolunar provides the best time of day for hunting and fishing anywhere in the world. Using astronomical data from the US Naval observatory, you can find precise local information on feeding/activity times, day rating, current weather, moon phase, moon rise and moon set, and Sunrise and Sunset periods.

4) Ducks Unlimited Waterfowl Migration

Ducks Unlimited Waterfowl Migration App. Photo courtesy of Filson Life.

Follow the ducks on your iPhone this season! The DU Migration App gives you access to more than 10,000 real-time migration and hunting reports across North America. View local reports of those from across the U.S. and Canada if you are planning a trip. Waterfowl hunters can submit their own report on current findings and access reports from trained Ducks Unlimited Field Editors and Avery Pro-Staff.

5) Hunting Light & Blood Tracker

Hunting Light & Blood Tracker App. Photo courtesy of Filson Life.

This app enhances hunters’ visibility in all lighting conditions. Hunting Light & Blood Tracker is a handy flashlight that provides screen lights of various colors for specific uses in the field under variable light conditions. Green light enables night vision and blue light enhances green objects that would otherwise be camouflaged. The addition of a “blood tracking” light filter enhances the visibility of a blood trail left by wounded game so you are quickly on the move to recover.

Click Here to view the article on Filson.com.

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August 14, 2012

Sportsmen and Climate Change: A Long, Hard Look at Reality

As the United States writhes in one of the driest and hottest summers in history, with nearly two-thirds of the lower 48 states experiencing some form of drought, millions of Americans (including farmers and ranchers) are struggling from the resulting loss of income and higher prices for food and fuel.  Other recent disturbing news illustrates the practical implications this weather event can have on fish and wildlife. Millions of fish – sturgeon, large- and smallmouth bass, channel catfish and other species – are dying in the Midwest as water temperatures skyrocket to as high as 100 degrees.

What is clear:  both the human toll and the impacts to fish and wildlife caused by a changing climate and warmer temperatures have real consequences and cannot be ignored.

A new NASA report states that climate change is responsible for recent extreme weather events and that the probability of unusually warm summers has greatly increased. Now, Dr. Richard A. Muller, a physicist known for his staunch denial of global warming, has concluded that global warming is in fact real, with human production of carbon dioxide causing the world to slowly warm.

“I’m personally very worried,” says Dr. Muller. “I personally suspect that it will be bad.”

Of course, many continue to refute the science underlying climate change and indict the majority of scientists who accept its existence for promulgating a political agenda. In my opinion, as the TRCP’s climate change initiative manager, these individuals are simply resistant to accepting the reality of what science has made abundantly clear: climate change is real, and it already is affecting our natural resources, fish and wildlife and outdoor opportunities.

I recently wrote a guest article in The Seattle Times arguing that to develop an effective approach to addressing climate change, we cannot rely solely on public opinion polls. We must pay attention to those who are “voting with their feet” – the fish and wildlife that cannot debate habitability in the public square and must adapt to or migrate from changing habitat or die.

At the TRCP, we accept the growing evidence that climate change is real and that changes go well beyond disturbances driven by entirely natural forces. We regularly consult with fish and wildlife biologists in state and federal agencies throughout the United States on the habits, distribution and abundance of fish and wildlife.

The facts leave no doubt that climate change is undeniable. Here are a few examples:

  • Even before this year’s Midwestern fish kills from hot water, smallmouth bass have been migrating upstream nearly 40 miles in the warming Yellowstone River, displacing Yellowstone cutthroat that require colder water.
  • Warming winters and summers have led to an explosion in mountain pine beetle infestations over millions of acres in many Western pine forests, causing a dramatic conversion of forest cover to grass and shrub meadows in elk habitat. This leads to changes in elk populations and distribution during hunting seasons.
  • In a direct response to warmer springs and summers and elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, invasive cheatgrass has out-competed sagebrush and native grasses and shrubs throughout 100 million acres of the sagebrush steppe in the West, leading to decreased mule deer and greater sage-grouse habitat and populations, as well as diminished hunting opportunities.

What is the TRCP doing now? We are actively working to inform, educate and mobilize sportsmen by reporting timely data from state fish and wildlife agencies and federal land management agencies. Our state-specific presentations highlight the implications of a changing environment on fish and wildlife and the consequences for sustainable hunting and fishing. We’ve developed presentations for Montana, Washington and Colorado – with Oregon and New Mexico in the works.

Rather than debating specific points of air temperature or carbon dioxide data, the TRCP focuses on the cascading effects of a changing climate in the biological world, including impacts to species of fish and game most important to sportsmen. We highlight on-the-ground projects that help fish and wildlife adapt to a changing environment.

We are taking these state-specific presentations directly to sportsmen-based clubs throughout the West with the goal of providing factual evidence on climate change. Take five minutes to watch the video below and draw your own conclusions.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

CONSERVATION WORKS FOR AMERICA

As our nation rebounds from the COVID pandemic, policymakers are considering significant investments in infrastructure. Hunters and anglers see this as an opportunity to create conservation jobs, restore habitat, and boost fish and wildlife populations.

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