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May 15, 2013

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May 12, 2013

Ten Tips for Renewable Energy Development on Public Land

Turbines at Foote Creek
Photo courtesy of Ed Arnett.

Chances are that most sportsmen do not spend much time thinking about energy development. But whether you know it or not, hunters and anglers have much at stake when it comes to our energy resources, including renewable sources such as wind.

As head of the TRCP’s energy program, it is my job to carry the sportsman’s voice in the energy development processes. My objective in this is clear: to ensure our nation’s energy needs are balanced with those of sportsmen.

Sportsmen should be encouraged that renewable resources like wind have shown so much promise. With clean-up still underway on the tail of the three-year-anniversary of the BP oil spill, many in the conservation community are encouraged by the forward momentum on renewable resources.

The concern for sportsmen is that the rush to develop and bring renewable energy resources to the market will negatively impact fish and wildlife and result in loss of access for hunters and anglers.

As with traditional forms of energy development like oil and natural gas, renewable resources must be developed and implemented with what the administration calls a “smart from the start” mentality. The TRCP, along with Trout Unlimited and the National Wildlife Federation, head up the Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development – a coalition dedicated to bringing balance to oil and gas development.

SFRED lays out 10 considerations for developing renewable energy on public lands. They are as follow:

  1. Give sportsmen a voice in decision making.
  2. Protect roadless backcountry, National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges and local and state public lands.
  3. Conserve important fish and wildlife habitat.
  4. Consult with state fish and wildlife officials first.
  5. Rely on the latest science.
  6. Strengthen the permitting and leasing process.
  7. Monitor impacts to fish, wildlife and water.
  8. Mitigate damage and reclaim affected land and water.
  9. Comply with all relevant environmental laws.
  10. Hold industry accountable for development costs.  This includes monitoring and mitigation costs.

When applied, these principles ensure that renewable energy development can be compatible with the needs of fish, wildlife and hunters and anglers.

The TRCP’s energy program will continue to carry the sportsman’s voice in land-use planning and policy debates so that all forms of energy are balanced. We will call on you to speak up when it matters.

Watch the video below and visit the Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development website to learn more.

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May 10, 2013

Happy Mother’s Day from the TRCP

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The Cost of Conservation

Money
Behind every thrilling hunting tale are the policies and politics that govern how, when and where we can pursue our passions.

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.

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May 7, 2013

We Can Do Better

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.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

CHEERS TO CONSERVATION

Theodore Roosevelt’s experiences hunting and fishing certainly fueled his passion for conservation, but it seems that a passion for coffee may have powered his mornings. In fact, Roosevelt’s son once said that his father’s coffee cup was “more in the nature of a bathtub.” TRCP has partnered with Afuera Coffee Co. to bring together his two loves: a strong morning brew and a dedication to conservation. With your purchase, you’ll not only enjoy waking up to the rich aroma of this bolder roast—you’ll be supporting the important work of preserving hunting and fishing opportunities for all.

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