Despite its name, the Farm Bill isn’t just for farmers; the legislation benefits Americans of all stripes, including sportsmen like you. The conservation title of the Farm Bill directs more than $5 billion each year to key private lands conservation initiatives in all 50 states.
These programs help restore and conserve fish and wildlife habitat, improve the quality of our air and water and reduce soil erosion. The Farm Bill helps our nation’s farmers and ranchers responsibly steward the American landscape, an investment that boasts fantastic returns.
Passed every five years, the current Farm Bill is set to expire on Sept. 30. Congressional inaction on the Farm Bill puts billions of dollars of cost-effective conservation funding and millions of acres of incredibly productive fish and wildlife habitat on the chopping block. These are the very places on which hunters and anglers across the country depend for quality experiences afield.
On Sept. 30, the federal Farm Bill will expire, along with billions of dollars for conservation funding. Contact your representatives and urge them to pass a Farm Bill now!
Corn, Sunflowers and Power Lines: Making a Case for Federal Appropriations During Dove Season
This time of year always reminds me of corn, sunflowers, soybeans and power lines. Dove season is upon us.
For wingshooters across the country, early September dove hunts represent the beginning of a season full of great days afield. In my mind, nothing quite beats the excitement of a morning spent drinking coffee, gathering gear and heading out to a familiar dove field. And of course, the chance to hassle your buddies for missing speedy doves!
In D.C., another kind of excitement is in the air right now: Congress is back in session. This is the time of year when legislators return from summer recess and work to make final headway on policy issues before election mania takes over.
This Fall will be particularly challenging as Congress has not yet agreed on funding for federal agencies and programs with only a matter of weeks before the end of the fiscal year. Our elected officials are facing pressure to cut budgets from all sides; however, common ground on where and how much to cut remains elusive. Interest groups confound this process further, complicating choices over the soundest federal investments.
For sportsmen, the outcome of the federal funding process — also known as the appropriations process — is critically important, as funding levels for nearly all federal programs that support conservation on public and private lands are decided through federal appropriations bills. From the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, which provides match grants to groups like Ducks Unlimited to restore and protect wetlands, to conservation programs in the Farm Bill, which provide financial incentives for landowners to forgo cultivating ecologically valuable lands, the good conservation work on which we depend to keep game on the range and ducks in the air would not happen without healthy federal funding.
Unfortunately, Congress recently has been more than willing to pass bills that massively cut conservation programs. The House Interior appropriations bill reported out of committee not long ago included a 22-percent cut in funding for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a 37-percent cut to the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund and a whopping 80-percent cut to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which directs a portion of oil and gas leasing revenues to fish and wildlife conservation and increased public access for recreation. As sportsmen, conservation funding is our lifeblood. We have a responsibility to be part of the conversation to keep funding levels as strong as possible.
What is the TRCP doing? The TRCP has continued its work with America’s Voice for Conservation, Recreation and Preservation, a coalition that earlier this year delivered a letter to congressional leaders signed by more than 1,200 groups advocating for programs that support habitat conservation, outdoor recreation activities, and the preservation of historic places.
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.
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.
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
wildlife health and disease
endangered species recovery
invasive species threats
trans-border cooperation and conservation
natural resource use and sustainability
habitat restoration and modification
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.
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
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.