posted in: General

September 16, 2014

TRCP holds annual Western Media Summit Sept. 7-11, 2014 (Day Two)

More than 60 members of the media and other stakeholders concerned about pressing sportsmen conservation issues attended TRCP’s annual Western Media Summit in Great Falls, Montana. The 10th annual summit explored public lands issues and water topics, including federal water budgeting, the “waters of the U.S.” rulemaking, BLM backcountry conservation and the agency’s Planning 2.0 process, and ongoing efforts to conserve sage grouse and sagebrush ecosystems. The following are highlights from the event with short presentation recaps and photos.

Tuesday, September 9 (morning)

With slate-gray skies occasionally spitting sleet and drizzle and temperatures hovering around 40 degrees, TRCP media summit attendees bundled up for a morning in the field to learn about water conservation efforts along the Sun River. They were bussed about 15 miles west ofGreat Falls to areas along the Sun River and adjacent lands. Trout Unlimited’s Laura Ziemer provided background about the Sun River Collaborative Conservation Project, a public-private partnership that upgrades local irrigation infrastructure. The project overcomes decades of acrimony among water users, conservation interests and government by creating common ground and mutual benefit.

Summit attendees were briefed on the issues by Allan Rollo, Sun River Watershed Group, and Rich Boyle, Fort Shaw Irrigation District. They visited locations including a U.S. Geological Survey gauge, which measured Sun River water flow and temperature. The data are constantly being transmitted to a mainframe computer. The final stop in the morning was a visit to the First People’s Buffalo Jump State Park where reporters and guests warmed up in the park headquarters and learn about the area, which features the largest bison cliff jump in North America.

Rich Boyle: “The soil here is fine … so fine that it can’t hold the ditch.”

Laura Ziemer addresses reporters and guests about the USGS gauge (in the shack on the left) which provides data on the Sun River (background): “The river here sometimes achieves lethal temperature level (for the fish) because of low flow.”


Alan Rollo: “There are arguments about water here where guns are pulled and sheriffs are called.”


(Images from the top of the Buffalo Jump)

(From left to right): TRCP’s Paul Wilkins and Whit Fosburgh and TRCP board member John Griffin climbed to the top of the buffalo jump.


TRCP Board member John Griffin takes a break after the 20-minute uphill hike to the buffalo jump. The park headquarters is a dot in the background.


Tuesday afternoon, Sept. 9

TRCP’s Jimmy Hague led the afternoon panels and discussions, which included the challenges and opportunities of Western in-flow conservation projects. EPA Region 8 Advisor Joan Card updated attendees on the status of the contentious federal rulemaking to define which waters receive protection under the Clean Water Act. And John Radtke, water sustainability program manager, Coca-Cola, spotlighted several sustainability programs undertaken by his company.

Patagonia’s Bill Klyn welcomed press and guests to the afternoon discussions. “Water is a huge issue,” he said. “It’s a valuable resource that’s disappearing.” Klyn also urged the audience to watch the DVD of the Patagonia-produced documentary “DamNation,” about obsolete dams in the U.S.


David Mannix, Mannix Brothers Ranch, urged cooperation among ranchers, farmers and conservationists: “If they start caring about cows and I start caring about fish, then you can begin to have a conversation. We need to respect each other’s values. That way we’ll avoid litigation and wars.”


David Mannix, Mannix Brothers Ranch, and fellow panelist Jennifer Schoonen, water steward, Blackfoot Challenge.

Laura Ziemer, Trout Unlimited: “Every river basin has its own culture.”

John Radtke, water sustainability program manager, Coca-Cola: “We want to show why water is important to a company like ours. We’re pledged to be a leader in water stewardship.”


Joan Card, Senior Advisor for Policy, EPA Region 8: “This is not a land grab. This is the Clean Water Act. That’s not to say the programs are not controversial. They impact activities on private lands.”


Tuesday evening, Sept. 9

Skeet shooting, dinner and speech by Mike Connor, deputy secretary of the Interior, capped the end of a long day for TRCP media summit attendees. The setting was the Great Falls Trap & Skeet Club in Ulm, Montana. Summit sponsor, Remington Outdoor Company, provided the firearms and ammo for guests. Following a BBQ dinner and refreshments from the Bowser Brewing Co., Deputy Secretary Connor addressed the audience for 20 minutes, touching on numerous conservation topics.

Mike Connor: “Fish and wildlife don’t respect bureaucratic boundaries.”

Freelancer Kelsey Dayton (left) and Laura Lundquist, environmental reporter, the Bozeman Chronicle.

Peter Vandergrift, Costa.


Paul Wilkins, TRCP, with a Remington VersaMax 12-gauge shotgun.


Whit Fosburgh, President and CEO, TRCP, welcomes guests to the dinner at the Great Falls Trap & Skeet Club.

Learn what happened at Day Three of the 2014 Western Media Summit.

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posted in: General

September 9, 2014

TRCP holds annual Western Media Summit Sept. 7-11, 2014

More than 60 members of the media and other stakeholders concerned about pressing sportsmen conservation issues attended TRCP’s annual Western Media Summit in Great Falls, Montana. The 10th annual summit explored public lands issues and water topics, including federal water budgeting, the “waters of the U.S.” rulemaking, BLM backcountry conservation and the agency’s Planning 2.0 process, and ongoing efforts to conserve sage grouse and sagebrush ecosystems. The following are highlights from the event with short presentation recaps and photos.

Monday, September 8 (Welcome Dinner)

The opening night dinner followed a balmy day during which summit attendees toured the renowned elk hunting territory of Montana’s Missouri Breaks a small planes piloted by EcoFlight’s Bruce Gordon. That evening, TRCP CEO and President Whit Fosburgh welcomed guests at the dinner: “You guys – the writers, reporters and bloggers – are the first to get the word out on the issues we’re discussing here. We want you to leave the summit with plenty of stories that you can write about next week, next month or later this year.”

TRCP’s President and CEO Whit Fosburgh.

Dave Perkins, TRCP Board Chair, and Vice Chairman of The Orvis Co.: “Getting the word out is an important part of why we’re meeting this week.”

Dave Perkins, TRCP Board Chair/Orvis, Vice Chairman.

Laura Ziemer, Senior Counsel and Water Policy Advisor, Trout Unlimited’s Western Water Project: “The Sun River is a story of enduring conservation success. It’s with great pleasure that we have the opportunity to tell this story.” [ED: summit attendees will tour the site tomorrow]

Jimmy Hague, TRCP’s Director of Center for Water Resources: “We need a unified voice in the sportsmen community to get our positions known (about water resources).”

Joel Webster, Director of Center for Western Lands, TRCP: “Public lands are increasingly important for the sporting public.”

Leon Szeptycki, professor at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, was the evening’s guest speaker. He spoke extensively about the severe drought conditions in the west, especially California, and contrasted with other regional droughts over the last 150 years. He noted that 80 percent of water usage in California is for irrigation. “The basic problem is we’re experiencing a bad drought, and it’s likely it will increase in severity and duration,” he said. Szeptycki offered several solutions to managing droughts including water markets, conservation and desalinization.

Geoff Mullins, Chief Operating and Communications Officer: “We try to make the media summits interesting and fun.  We try to get everyone out in the field with a gun or a rod.”

Many journalists brought their dogs to the TRCP event. Wyoming freelancer Chris Madson traveled to the summit with Flick, his Brittany spaniel, who made an appearance at the conclusion of the dinner. And Montanan Jack Ballard frolicked in the hotel lobby with Percy, his English setter.


Many thanks to our sponsors for making this event a success: Remington Arms Company, Pheasants Forever/Quail Forever, Patagonia, Inc., Costa, The Orvis Co., Outdoor Industry Association, Simms Fishing Company, Trout Unlimited, Great Falls Tourism Business Improvement District, and Bowser Brewing Co.

 Learn what happened at Day Two of the 2014 Western Media Summit.


posted in: General

September 7, 2014

Congress, please help celebrate the LWCF’s 50th birthday in full fashion

Congress, we need your help to continue celebrating the Land and Water Conservation Fund’s 50th birthday.

The nation’s leading hunting and fishing conservation organizations are calling on you to fully fund the LWCF, a critical tool for conserving valuable fish and wildlife habitat and improving public access for hunting and fishing.

Please see our request in a report released last week, during the LWCF’s 50th anniversary. “The Land and Water Conservation Fund and America’s sportsmen and women: A 50-year legacy of increased access and improved habitat” features a series of state-based case studies that profile places and people across that country that have benefited as a result of LWCF funding.


posted in: General

August 20, 2014

Finding a cure for fire borrowing

Failure to prepare for wildfire season with adequate federal funding is akin to skipping a flu shot. The flu is unpleasant and sometimes dangerous, so why not stop by the pharmacy, pay $14.99, and significantly reduce the risk of catching the virus?

Much like the flu vaccine, cheap and effective programs can help mitigate the dangers and costs associated with wildfires. Unfortunately, the federal government has not invested enough into such programs as a result of a practice known as “fire borrowing.” As a result, forests across the United States are more prone to wildfire.

Photo courtesy of Bureau of Land Management.

Wildfire suppression costs are drawn from the U.S. Forest Service budget, the same pool of money that is responsible for funding wildfire prevention and forest health programs. But as wildfires grow in frequency and severity, so does the cost of putting them out. Congress, however, has steadfastly refused to increase funding for the Forest Service, forcing the agency to “borrow” funds from fire prevention accounts and forest health programs to cover suppression costs.

That’s a lot like saying, “I can’t afford the flu vaccine because I spent so much money on NyQuil.”

Doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it?

Healthy forests are far less susceptible to wildfires, but programs meant to reduce hazardous fuels buildup and treat unhealthy ecosystems are shortchanged by fire borrowing. Consequently, huge amounts of fire-prone materials are building up on national forests across the West.

Each year, wildfires are becoming more common and increasing in size and severity – and the costs of fighting them are also on the rise. In 1985, wildfire suppression cost about $240 million. In 2012, that number increased to $1.7 billion. While our warming climate, drought and increased development along fire-prone areas contribute to increased wildfire frequency and cost, a major factor is Congress’ refusal to adapt to the growing threat. By taking needed dollars from forestry management and fire prevention programs, appropriators are not investing enough in proven, and much less costly, wildfire “vaccines.”

Click on image for full infographic.

But a sensible solution seems to be emerging at last. The Wildfire Disaster Funding Act (H.R.3992 in the House and S.1875 in the Senate) was introduced to Congress earlier this year. This bill would enable America’s most catastrophic wildfires to be classified as natural disasters, enabling severe wildfire suppression funds to be drawn from federal emergency accounts – and ending the practice of “fire borrowing” once and for all.

By making commonsense changes to the source of suppression funding, the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act would restore hundreds of millions of dollars to programs designed for wildfire prevention and forest health. This would result in fewer catastrophic wildfires, healthier forests and wildlife habitat, and it would save billions of federal dollars in the long term.


posted in: General

August 19, 2014

Fire Management Needs Funds

Oregon is known for vast landscapes of sagebrush steppe and lush forest. These wide-open countries provide both access and important habitat for numerous species of big game, birds and trout and, consequently, offers outstanding public lands hunting.

These open spaces are at risk with continued spread of noxious weeds that contribute to frequent fire events. Invasive weeds such as cheatgrass a Eurasian exotic, dry quickly, are highly flammable and degrade habitat. This year, dry weather, lightning and fuel sources like cheatgrass has currently resulted in nearly 600, 00 acres burning across Oregon’s landscapes, the cost to fight fires is great for agencies and taxpayers. 2013 was the second most expensive wildfire year on record for the state, with an estimated $183 million going to fighting Oregon’s wildfires.

Courtesy of OR Dept. of Transportation/Kevin Halesworth

According to Oregon Forest Resource Institute; fire suppression, while beneficial in the short term, can have long-term negative effects. The exclusion of natural wildfire can, result in dense, overstocked forests with an overabundance of understory that would normally be removed by natural fires. The cost of thinning one acre of overstocked forestland is $500 while the cost of fighting a fire on that same acre of forestland is $5,000. Also, vital habitat projects are delayed because of lack of funding such as a culvert project in the Siuslaw National Forest. The project cost was $192,000 needed to replace two undersized and failing culverts but deferred to cover suppression cost.

A bipartisan measure sponsored by Senators Ron Wyden and Mike Crapo and cosponsored by Senator Jeff Merkley called for a vote on the Wildfire Disaster Funding that would shift excess fire suppression costs away from the Forest Service budget. Not only would this restore appropriated dollars to programs vital to proper forestry management and wildlife conservation, it would reinvest needed dollars into wildfire prevention programs which would mitigate the risk of these “catastrophic” wildfires.

With persistent droughts, dry forest conditions the West is experiencing a harsh fire season. Currently there are active fires burning in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, and California. The administration already estimates that this year’s funding for firefighting will fall short of the costs. The Wildfire Disaster Funding Act can help shift those cost. Contact your senators today and ask them to support the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act.



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.

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