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January 31, 2014

Celebrate World Wetlands Day

February 2 is World Wetlands Day, a day to celebrate wetlands of global ecological significance, like the Chesapeake Bay and the Everglades, and the important role wetlands of all shapes and sizes play in our lives.

Did you know that nine out of every 10 fish caught by recreational anglers in America depend on wetlands at some point in their life cycles? Did you know that 75 percent of our nation’s migratory birds do as well? That’s why wetlands conservation is central to the TRCP’s mission to guarantee all Americans quality places to hunt and fish.

However, the challenge is daunting. For the first time since the 1980s, annual wetland losses are on the rise. Wetland loss is most severe in coastal communities like those in the Gulf of Mexico where 80,000 acres of coastal wetlands disappear each year.

Coastal wetlands are vital to healthy marine fisheries and ecosystems, and the drastic loss of these wetlands is a threat to the future of recreational fishing. Working with recreational fishermen, the TRCP laid out a plan to preserve and protect coastal wetlands throughout the Gulf of Mexico basin.

The TRCP also launched the Barnyard to Boatyard Conservation Exchange to bring South Dakota farmers and ranchers together with Louisiana Gulf fishermen to see firsthand the challenges each faces making a living on the Mississippi River that connects them – and to seek solutions to conserve America’s great native prairies and coastal waters.

The TRCP is also laying the foundation for long-term conservation of wetlands by urging the administration to restore Clean Water Act protections to waters important to America’s sportsmen, such as those in the Prairie Pothole Region, which provides nesting habitat to as many as 70 percent of all the ducks in North America. Too many wetland acres are at risk of pollution and destruction because their Clean Water Act protections are in jeopardy.

Video: Our friend Steven Rinella, host of the show MeatEater on the Sportsman Channel, looks at how we can stem the tide of wetland loss in this video.

U.S. wetlands do much more than provide valuable fish and wildlife habitat. They are the source of drinking water for most Americans, they soak up flood waters, lessen the risk of flood damages, and they filter pollutants out of water that otherwise would have to be treated at great expense to cities and towns.

On World Wetlands Day, take time to think about local wetlands important to you and your family. Then consider taking action to support TRCP’s efforts.

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Whit Fosburgh

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January 27, 2014

The State of the Union that sportsmen and -women would like to hear

Below is the State of the Union address that sportsmen and -women would like to hear.

My fellow Americans, tonight I want to talk about what it is that makes America great and what we need to do to keep it great. And I want to talk about jobs.

America was built on the notion of rugged individualism, and no one personified this more than Theodore Roosevelt. But President Roosevelt, perhaps the nation’s greatest sportsman, understood that the nation’s resources – its lands, waters, minerals, timber, fish and wildlife – were not inexhaustible. Without proper stewardship, without conservation, we would abuse nature’s bounty and leave a legacy of extinction and pollution for future generations.

So Roosevelt did something about it. He created the core of our public lands network, conserving hundreds of millions of acres where anyone could hunt, fish, hike or just enjoy God’s bounty.

Hunters and anglers across the nation picked up on Roosevelt’s challenge and chose to pay – through excise taxes, licenses, stamps and other means – to ensure that this conservation legacy would be implemented, expanded and professionally managed. Today the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation is the envy of the world and is responsible for more than 40 million Americans getting outside to fish and/or hunt every year.

Our conservation system is the foundation of an outdoor economy that generates $646 billion in direct expenditures every year and supports more than 6 million jobs. These jobs are growing in number every year – more than 5 percent annually, even through the Great Recession – and they’re jobs that will never be exported abroad.

But as Theodore Roosevelt understood, we need to protect our conservation legacy from those who favor today’s bottom line over tomorrow’s collective wealth. We do not need to look very hard to see that the same forces that Roosevelt battled more than a century ago are still active today. Consider:

  • Those who would put the world’s largest open pit mine, which would require toxic remediation forever, in Alaska at the headwaters of the world’s most productive salmon fishery.
  • Those who would ignore the threat of a leaking chemical storage tank in West Virginia and what it might do to a river and the people who get water from that river, and yet who argue that the Clean Water Act is an inappropriate government intrusion on free enterprise.
  • And those in Congress who propose selling off our public lands, or who would mandate unsustainable resource extraction from the public’s lands, or who would limit the public’s legitimate voice in how our public lands are managed.

Today I am proposing a seven step plan to re-affirm America’s commitment to conservation.

  1. I propose to reinvest in conservation. Today conservation represents just about 1 percent of the federal budget, down from about 2.5 percent in the 1970s. By 2020, America should return to a conservation commitment of at least 1.6 percent of the federal budget, the same level it was in Ronald Reagan’s presidency.
  2. We must fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, State and Tribal Grants program, WaterSmart and the other programs that invest in on-the-ground conservation. Not only do these programs meet real needs and create jobs, they leverage more than three times the federal investment from state and private funds.
  3. We must commit to expanding public access for all Americans, including our hunters and anglers. We will fully fund the USDA Open Fields Program and LWCF and target the acquisition and easement funds to projects that help reconnect the public’s access to its public lands.
  4. We must pass a Farm Bill that rewards stewardship. America’s farmers are the most productive in the world and farmers are by definition land stewards. But if we incentivize poor stewardship, we have no one but ourselves to blame when we lose topsoil, foul our rivers, and watch pheasants and other species disappear. The new Farm Bill must help farmers and ranchers act as stewards through a robust commitment to conservation programs and by eliminating any programs that encourage unsustainable practices.
  5. We must balance energy production with conservation. In 2010, I proposed sweeping changes to how the nation does energy development on our public lands, and in 2014, I will finally implement those changes. All of them. In addition, we must recognize that renewable energy also has impacts. Wind farms and solar arrays must be sited in the right places, as must transmission corridors. We will invest in cellulosic ethanol and eliminate unwise mandates for additional corn ethanol production. We will do all this while recognizing that we must reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and challenge the rest of the world to do the same.
  6. We must invest in sustainable fisheries. America has done a remarkable job over the last decade of reducing overfishing and rebuilding depleted fish stocks but the time has come to invest in recreational anglers. Recreational anglers represent about half the economic benefit generated by our marine fisheries, but they are managed under a system almost exclusively designed for commercial fisheries. I call on my administration and Congress to work together to amend the current system so that broad social and economic benefits can be maximized while we maintain our commitment to conservation, thereby ensuring that future generations can enjoy catching and eating the ocean’s bounty.
  7. Finally, we must work together to address the oncoming water crisis. For California, that crisis is already here. For other states, it’s on the way. We need better water planning and a stronger investment in water conservation. I am not suggesting that we change the basic tenets under which water is managed, but unless we work together and with a sense of urgency, drought emergencies, dry rivers, lost fisheries and withered crops will be our legacy. We must also strengthen the Clean Water Act so that wetlands and streams can play their natural role in water conservation and ensuring water quality.

In closing, Theodore Roosevelt once said that “There can be no greater issue to this country than that of conservation.” He was right. The legacy we leave to future generations will define this generation. This is not a Democratic or Republican issue, nor liberal or conservative. It is an issue that is core to what America is today and what it should be in the future.

Thank you, and God bless America.

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January 21, 2014

Strength in numbers: TRCP unites sportsmen-conservationists at SHOT Show forum

Sportsmen and industry professionals travel from across the country – and, in many cases, from around the world – to attend the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show, or SHOT Show, every year. The show, which took place Jan. 14-17, is the largest and most comprehensive trade show for the shooting, hunting and related industries.

Attendees cite a wide range of reasons for coming to SHOT, and, with attendance at this year’s show topping a record-breaking 67,000, you’d be hard pressed to generalize about why so many consider it a can’t-miss event.

But one explanation resonates throughout the show’s 635,000 square feet of exhibition space and among the more than 1,600 exhibitors: economics.

The hunting and shooting industries have never been stronger in America. Data released by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which owns and manages SHOT, shows that spending by hunters and shooters had a total impact of more than $110 billion on the U.S. economy in 2011. This supports more than 866,000 jobs.

These numbers won’t surprise many in the sportsmen’s community, including the TRCP and our partner groups, who have been responding to legislative attacks on programs important to hunters and anglers, fish and wildlife, and conservation in America by citing data that illustrates the economic value of hunting, fishing and other forms of outdoor recreation.

Hunting and fishing directly contribute more than $86 billion to the U.S. economy each year and support approximately 1.5 million non-exportable jobs. Sportsmen also are integral to the broader outdoor-recreation and conservation economy, which is responsible for $646 billion in direct consumer spending annually.

There is strength in numbers. Whether those numbers are impressive economic figures or the growing number of sportsmen raising our voices on Capitol Hill, the TRCP is channeling them to promote the outdoor traditions, sporting heritage and vast economic impact of sportsmen by bringing all the stakeholders in our community “to the table” to speak together in a unified voice.

To this end, at the 2014 SHOT Show the TRCP convened our third annual “Sportsmen’s Conservation Forum,” a meeting of some of the greatest minds in conservation, including CEOs, policy experts and influential members of the media, to discuss federal policy impacting sportsmen and the top-line priorities for our community in 2014. More than 40 sportsman leaders – among them U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe, Howard Vincent of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, Miles Moretti of the Mule Deer Foundation, “MeatEater” host Steven Rinella and Field & Stream Editor in Chief Anthony Licata – had a wide-ranging dialogue that touched on the federal budget and sportsmen’s values, the next farm bill, public hunting access (and obstacles to access) and the prospects for passage of comprehensive sportsmen’s legislation in 2014.

While the participants are committed hunters and shooters, all of them also have a stake in responsive policy that supports these outdoor traditions. And while the prospects for sportsman-focused policy and legislation in 2014 remain unclear, our community remains unwavering in our commitment to stand strong, present a united front, and show the strength both of our combined numbers and the economic influence of sportsmen – at events like the SHOT Show and elsewhere in the crucially important time to come.

Learn more about the TRCP’s work to promote strongly funded conservation programs and legislative measures important to sportsmen.

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January 10, 2014

Angler Data Sought to Monitor Fish Recovery

User-driven technology, such as the iAngler app, is becoming a vital resource for fisheries data collection. Do your part.

 

As a follow-up to my recent post about the recovery of Florida’s snook population in the wake of a devastating freeze in January of 2010, the Snook & Gamefish Foundation is asking anglers to collect data to better manage this highly sought after fish, as well as other species.

SGF created the Angler Action Program for anglers to record the sizes and locations of their catches with the goal of better understanding fish populations and distributions as well as getting anglers involved in fisheries management.

The program began in May of 2010. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission first used Angler Action Program data for its 2011 snook stock assessment and requested that the program expand to include more species.

There are four categories of data:

  1. “Trip” has information about the type of fishing, how many people were fishing, how much time they spent fishing and where they fished.
  2. “Location” includes more detailed information about the water depth, the water condition and, potentially, the GPS coordinates of the fishing took place.
  3.  “Catch data” is recorded for each species that was fished for or caught, how many fish were kept and how many were released. If a species has a size or slot limit, anglers record whether a fish was under, in or over the size or slot limit.
  4. “Length information” is the exact length for some or all of the fish caught. This helps fisheries biologists determine size distributions. Anglers also can record a fish’s weight, its condition upon being released and where it was hooked, which helps scientists calculate survival rates. Anglers can upload photos of their catches.

All data is kept confidential and shared only with researchers. Individual anglers can access their data to get a feel for where, when and under what weather and tidal conditions they catch the most fish.

Angler Action is available online at www.snookfoundation.org and as an app for your handheld. Besides snook, data can be input for more than 100 species: everything from blue marlin and bluegills to porgies and peacock bass. And data can be input on catches no matter where you fish in the world.

Whit Fosburgh

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posted in: General

January 6, 2014

Sportsmen Should Be Optimistic in 2014

No one will remember 2013 as a great year in federal conservation policy. Every day we lost more grasslands and wetlands in the prairies to agricultural development. Congress could not pass a Farm Bill and the administration would not use its powers to reverse or even slow the losses.

Sequestration indiscriminately cut more funds from already strapped federal agencies as Congress failed to pass normal spending bills. In fact, Congress’s political posturing led to a 16-day government shutdown, which happened to coincide with the beginning of hunting season in many states. While federal workers got back pay once the government reopened, the same cannot be said of the guides and local businesses impacted by the shutdown. Billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money was wasted as most government activity came to a halt.

And comprehensive sportsmen’s legislation, once poised to pass Congress, was delayed in early 2013 when partisan politics again trumped good policy.

With this backdrop, it is remarkable that I look to 2014 with optimism. Why? Because the adults appear to be back in charge of Congress, and the administration seems to realize that it has less than three years to leave a conservation legacy. Some examples:

House and Senate conferees appear to be close to finalizing a Farm Bill that may prove to be one of the best pieces of private lands conservation legislation ever passed. If all goes well, it will come before Congress for a final vote by February.

Maybe we had to hit rock bottom before we could move forward. Few of us expect the next year to be free of acrimony and election year politics but, if events fall the right way, 2014 could prove to be a great year for sportsmen. It will take a strong commitment from all in our community to work together and make it happen.

As always, the TRCP and our partners will continue to advocate for legislation that strongly funds responsive fish and wildlife management, conserves important lands and waters and increases access for American hunters and anglers. Join us.

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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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