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.