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This is it. The field is set. After 32 species have scratched and clawed their way through three rounds, we have our four regional champions.
After edging out a crowded field that included the mallard, the pheasant, and the sharp-tailed grouse, the wild turkey emerged as our avian representative in the Final Four. The elk easily steamrolled the competition in the first three rounds and has emerged victorious as the big game hunting champion. The brook trout continues to shock the world, upsetting the rainbow trout and writing another chapter in its underdog story. And the chinook salmon outmuscled the yellowfin tuna to claim its place atop the saltwater fishing division.
Now, these heavyweights, unencumbered by divisional foes, face off in unfamiliar habitats. What happens when bird meets beast? Will the elk continue to dominate, or will the battle-tested gobblers emerge as America’s favorite hunt?
To celebrate each of our divisional champions, we’re giving away another prize. Congratulations to Dee Jolley of Colorado Springs, Colo., the proud new owner of an Abu Garcia Orra SX Low Profile baitcasting combo.
At 12:01 AM Eastern on Friday, April 3, the winners advance, and we’ll give away our Final Four prize: a Yeti Tundra 45 cooler, customized with the TRCP logo. So don’t miss out. Enter to win, vote for your favorite game animal or fish, and see which two species make it to the championship.
Brett Fitzgerald from West Palm Beach, Fla., was selected as the second-round winner in our Critter Madness bracket challenge, and we sent him a shiny new pair of Costa shades to wear the next time he goes out fishing for snook. He knows a thing or two about Atlantic Coast fish—Brett is the southeast regional director for the Snook & Gamefish Foundation, where we’re lucky enough to work with him on conservation policy—but will his beloved saltwater species represent in the final round of Critter Madness?
TRCP: Brett, what did you think of the upset action in the first two rounds?
BF: You know, I really thought one of the bass would take the whole tournament, just because they have the broadest appeal. And I figured that people who fish for both would probably favor the smallmouth. But since the brook trout beat them both, it’s hard to say how things will turn out. This isn’t like picking a college basketball team—this is important stuff! For what it’s worth, I remember the first brookie I ever caught more than 40 years ago. It was tiny, I used a fly out of my grandpa’s flybox, and I’ve probably told the story a hundred times. I can’t say that about my first bass.
TRCP: Do you think the brookie will win it all?
BF: I do think the winner will be a fish, but the yellowfin tuna is going to pull it out. It’s an underdog, too.
Congratulations to Brett, and best of luck to his Critter Madness picks for the Final Four.
Yesterday the US Senate passed a budget resolution that, while it does not carry the weight of law – does serve as an internal instructional document, a broad outline of the policies and priorities that Congress will seek over the next few months to implement in legislation that most certainly will carry the weight of law. As such, it included a series of up or down votes that put members of the Senate on record on several issues important to sportsmen.
And, in general, it was not good news. First, the numbers:
The Senate budget resolution would maintain sequestration for non-defense discretionary spending (including all conservation spending) and then cut an additional $236 billion over the 2017 to 2025 period. The Senate budget would cut conservation funding in FY2016 by about $5 billion dollars relative to 2013 levels. Conservation Funding wouldn’t return to its 2013 funding level of $41 billion until 2022. If you adjust for inflation the cuts inflicted by the budget will be far worse.
And now the policy:
I’ll start with the two bright spots. Senator Debbie Stabenow’s (D-MI) amendment clarifies that all existing agricultural exemptions in the Clean Water Act, which date back to the early 1970s, should be maintained in the proposed Waters of the US rule. That the amendment passed unanimously may signal that Congress may be willing to look at the facts on the proposed rule and not just the rhetoric from status quo stakeholders. The next bright spot was an amendment offered by Senators Crapo (R-ID) and Wyden (D-OR) that changes the way we pay for catastrophic fires, which now eat up almost half of the Forest Service’s annual budget. The amendment had sufficient support that it was included in the manager’s report by acclimation.
Besides the basic funding levels, the giant alarm bell coming from the budget resolution was the amendment offered by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) that essentially encourages Congress to “sell, or transfer to, or exchange with, a state or local government any Federal land that is not within the boundaries of a National Park, National Preserve, or National Monument…” The amendment passed 51-49. Here is a roll call of the vote.
As most sportsmen know, transferring lands to the state or selling them off is a bad deal for sportsmen. See www.sportsmensaccess.org for more information on the issue. If Congress were to follow these instructions, all BLM lands, National Forests and even National Wildlife Refuges could go on the chopping block. Heck, even national battlefields and historic sites could be transferred or sold.
The budget resolution does not carry the weight of law and is an easy place for members to make “symbolic” votes without actually changing the law. But symbolic votes show what members think and what they think is important.
Make no mistake about it, the public lands vote on the budget resolution was a finger in the eye to sportsmen everywhere. But the real action is still to come, the question is whether sportsmen and women will pay attention and make their elected representatives know what they think about selling off or giving away our public lands.
Make no mistake. Round two of Critter Madness 2015 was a nail-biter. Three of the eight matches were decided by only a handful of votes.
Yellowfin v. tarpon went down to the wire, with the tuna barely advancing with 52.5% percent of the vote. The mallard narrowly escaped an upset scare at the hands of the sharp-tailed grouse and advanced to the field of eight with 53.4% of the vote. And, after a match-up with record turnout and multiple lead changes, the wild turkey outlasted the pheasant in a true knock-down, drag-out fight.
Of course, it wasn’t always close. After taking down the largemouth bass, the smallmouth bass was no match for the brook trout’s Cinderella run. Chinook salmon easily upset our saltwater fishing favorite, the blue marlin, 71.6% to 28.4%. And while we know westerners love their mule deer, it’s pretty clear that they love elk even more.
Now, it’s time for America to determine its regional champions. By the end of the day on Monday, we’ll know America’s favorite big game species, game bird, and saltwater and freshwater fish.
On the terrestrial side, we have a match-up of heavy-weights. Two staples of North American game, the whitetail and the elk, will lock antlers to see who will take home the title of America’s favorite big game species. The mallard and the turkey will face off, beak-to-beak, for the chance to be the avian representative in the Sportsmen’s Four.
While favorites have dominated on land, the aquatic bracket is wide open. Will the brook trout continue its Cinderella story to be our freshwater champion or will the rainbow trout leave the upset bid in its wake? In a matchup of two of America’s hardest hitters, will king salmon or yellowfin tuna emerge as your favorite saltwater game fish?
The stakes are higher now so we’re upping our prizes. Brett Fitzgerald of Florida won our second round prize, a brand new pair of Costa Sunglasses. For the round three, we’re going even bigger. On the March 30, we’ll draw our next winner and they’ll go home with a Abu Garcia Orra SX Low Profile baitcasting combo.
We’re giving out trophies soon, and as American sportsmen and women, you’re on the selection committee. What will you decide?
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