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When people learn I work in conservation, it often elicits responses of “that must be exciting!” Truly, sometimes it can be. More often though, the issues that the TRCP deals with on a daily basis, those that have the greatest impact on hunting and fishing, are not the thrilling “in-the-field” projects people envision.
Take the subject of conservation funding for example – this is something every sportsman should be concerned about. However, when I mention it to many avid hunters or anglers, I receive a glazed expression and a swift change in the conversation.
Federal funding for wildlife conservation is an integral part of our economy and allows resource managers to sustain fish and wildlife habitats and sporting opportunities. Since 2011, there has been a frenzy of budget cutting and deficit-focused politics in Washington, DC and unfortunately, federal funding to fish and wildlife conservation programs have taken a disproportionate hit. As a result, many natural resource agency budgets have also been slashed, and my home state of Wyoming is no exception.
Facing a budget shortfall of $7 million, mostly due to increasing costs with no additional revenue, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department recently proposed license and tag fee increases – a measure which was not supported by sportsmen. It’s easy to see why; nobody wants to pay more, especially in these tough economic times. However, I suspect that had more of Wyoming’s hunters and anglers been educated about conservation funding, what it provides and the potential ramifications of a lack of funding, they would have supported the proposed fee increase.
Wyoming sportsmen are about to lose much more than the extra $17.00 it would have cost for a resident antelope tag or $14.00 for an annual fishing license. The proposed budget reductions will have a direct impact on the places we hunt and fish, most importantly the loss of public access through easement reductions on private lands. There is also going to be less game to chase and fewer fish to catch, as Wyoming is losing both wildlife biologists and habitat improvement projects (which will affect future wildlife numbers). By 2014 there will be more than 600,000 fewer fish stocked in our reservoirs annually.
However the losses that will potentially have the greatest long-term impact are the cuts to youth programs. The Wyoming Hunting and Fishing Heritage Expo – a program essential to introducing school age Wyomingites to safe outdoor recreation and the value of wildlife conservation will be cancelled. Department support for the National Archery and Fishing in Schools programs is also disappearing. Without future generations being responsibly introduced to hunting and fishing, declining sportsmen’s numbers are inevitable.
Wyoming sportsmen are no doubt going to weather the challenges resulting from their current conservation funding crisis, but this situation is not limited to the Cowboy State. As belts continue to be tightened nationwide we all need to remember that activities related to hunting and fishing have a significant economic impact, the sporting community is part of an outdoor recreation economic sector that generates more than $1 trillion for the U.S. economy every year.
All sportsmen have the obligation to become engaged in more than just the aspect of hunting that rolls around each spring and fall. Behind every thrilling hunting tale are the policies and politics that govern how, when and where we can pursue our passions. We cannot afford to be apathetic when it comes to the less exciting aspects of hunting or fishing; conservation-minded sportsmen must actively support legislation that provides adequate and stable funding for conservation programs to ensure that we all have quality places to hunt and fish, both now and for the future.
Normally I post deep thoughts about matters of conservation policy. Today I will rant.
Just over a week ago I met two friends, packed up the car in Washington, D.C., and headed for Pennsylvania’s Little Juniata River, one of the best trout rivers in the East. The fabled Grannom caddis hatch was on, and it had been six months since I’d stood in a river chasing trout.
As has been my tradition for most of the last 15 years, we left town early to hit Spruce Creek Outfitters, an excellent fly shop where we could buy licenses, stock up on the latest bugs and hear fish tales before hitting the river for the afternoon. Unfortunately, the fly shop no longer sells licenses. Instead they told us to use our smart phones to buy the licenses online.
We set off for a high spot on the road where we could get cell service. After about 30 minutes, my friends succeeded in their efforts. I was unable to complete the transaction but decided to put my friends on the river and then complete my purchase at some other high point along the river.
After sending off my friends, I again found a spot with service and tried to purchase my license, each time reaching the final stage (after entering my credit card information) before receiving the message that the server was busy and to try again later. About 15 minutes into this process I called the toll-free help line and was put on hold to wait for the next available agent. Surely, I thought, between my continued efforts with the Pennsylvania website and help from a live person, I would succeed.
Nearly an hour later I had yet to speak to an agent and was still without a license.
Approaching a murderous rage, I gave up, drove back to the river, put on my waders and walked out to live vicariously through my friends, watching them catch fat brown trout on dry flies. After dinner that night I was finally able to complete my transaction and fish the next day.
Across America, conservation groups work to get kids outdoors and pass along the traditions of hunting and fishing. The Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation spends millions of dollars encouraging people to rejoin fishing or try it for the first time – and with remarkable success. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, participation was up 11 percent in the last five years, reversing a 20 year decline.
To ensure that we have quality places to hunt and fish, conservation groups also are restoring our lands and waters. Look no further than the Little Juniata, which 40 years ago was an open sewer devoid of most fish life.
Groups like the TRCP work to implement new programs, like the Open Fields program of the Farm Bill, to open private lands and waters to hunting and fishing. Since Open Fields launched in 2010, approximately 3 million acres have been opened to the public.
All this work on engagement, habitat and access falls by the wayside if sportsmen must struggle to obtain the proper licenses and tags. The responsibility for licensing falls to the states. According to a recent RBFF study, only five of the 50 states offer mobile friendly websites and only two of the 50 states offer mobile friendly license sales. Really?
Folks, our sports depend upon participation. Fish and game agency budgets depend upon license sales. Conservation groups depend upon engaged members who will work like dogs for the resource but who deserve to be able to enjoy that resource with as little hassle as possible.
I’d like to think of my experience with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as an exception, but the RBFF numbers indicate otherwise. We can do better, and all sportsmen and -women should make sure that their states join the 21st century and make it as easy as possible for people to enjoy their resources.
Story courtesy of E&E News
Scott Streater, E&E reporter
Published: Friday, May 3, 2013
The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership today announced the hiring of a top aide for Colorado Sen. Mark Udall (D) to lobby on water resource issues on Capitol Hill.
Jimmy Hague had been Udall’s primary adviser the past four years on various conservation and natural resources issues, focusing among other things on water and conservation sportsman issues, said Mike Saccone, Udall’s spokesman in Denver.
Saccone said Hague was instrumental in helping Udall work with U.S. EPA to clarify liability protection for independent groups that pitch in to help clean up the thousands of abandoned hardrock mines that litter the landscape across the West.
EPA in December released a memorandum clarifying that so-called good Samaritan groups don’t need a Clean Water Act permit for certain discharges connected to abandoned mine cleanups under the federal Superfund law. That move came after years of lobbying by conservation advocates and supportive lawmakers like Udall and fellow Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet (D) (E&ENews PM, Dec. 12, 2012).
Hague this week took over as director of the newly established TRCP Center for Water Resources and will be working to advance policies addressing water scarcity issues and the federal role in water management, allocation and conservation in Washington, D.C., the group announced today.
“I am thrilled to be joining the talented and dedicated team at the TRCP,” said Hague, a West Virginia native who received a master’s degree in environmental policy from the University of Colorado, Boulder.
“The TRCP recognizes the importance to the hunting and angling communities of comprehensive, forward-thinking water resources management. Our shared water challenges impact all of our conservation efforts and will do so even more as climate change and population growth exacerbate our immediate water problems,” he added. “I look forward to leading the TRCP’s efforts to find pragmatic solutions to the problems facing our most precious natural resource.”
TRCP’s conservation policy agenda released in January highlights a commitment to water policy issues, which it says in the document is “a new policy area for 2013” and “one of the most important issues facing the conservation community and the country.”
Hague will help guide TRCP’s Water Working Group, which among other things will provide a forum to examine water quality and quantity issues associated with hydraulic fracturing. The working group includes Trout Unlimited, the Nature Conservancy and the American Sportfishing Association.
The addition of Hague is part of an effort by TRCP to expand its influence on water policy issues in Washington that affect the conservation and sporting communities.
Along those lines, TRCP also announced that Steve Kline has been appointed TRCP director of government relations and is overseeing the development and implementation of TRCP’s advocacy efforts both on Capitol Hill and in the executive branch. Kline was director of the TRCP Center for Agricultural and Private Lands.
Kline also managed TRCP’s work on the Clean Water Act, which Hague is now taking over, the group announced.
“We’re thrilled to have Jimmy join the TRCP team and to have Steve expand his role within the organization,” TRCP President and CEO Whit Fosburgh said in a statement. “These two policy experts have the knowledge, experience and personal qualities to leverage the power of our partners — in support of legislative solutions that support fish and wildlife conservation and that advance the interests and values of hunters and anglers everywhere.”
Many folks feel overwhelmed when they are hunting on public lands and they get a deer or elk down on the ground in a place that is a mile or more from the nearest road. At this distance, dragging an animal out is too much work and game carts are often impractical.
If, like most folks, you don’t have the luxury of owning livestock, you need to pack the animal out on your back. To do so, you must understand how to quarter an animal into manageable, packable pieces.
Watch and learn as Steven Rinella outlines the basic steps for getting the job done.
In the last two years, policymakers have committed to significant investments in conservation, infrastructure, and reversing climate change. Hunters and anglers continue to be vocal about the opportunity to create conservation jobs, restore habitat, and boost fish and wildlife populations. Support solutions now.Learn More