Sunrise at Over Under CE-2
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On Friday, the Bureau of Land Management’s White River Field Office in northwest Colorado issued its final Resource Management Plan Amendment (RMPA), with a specific focus on oil and gas development. The 1.5-million-acre area that will be impacted is home to two of the largest mule deer and elk herds in North America, and this RMPA will influence how those species are managed in the face of large-scale oil and gas development. After providing significant comments on the draft plan in early 2013, sportsmen are calling the final RMPA greatly improved.
“While there are still some concerns about long-term impacts tobig game and other wildlife, the BLM has made significant improvements from the draft plan,” said Nick Payne, our Colorado field representative. “The BLM has focused on maintaining wildlife populations and public recreationopportunities, while ensuring the responsible development of oil and gas resources. The ultimate success of this plan will depend on successful implementation in the coming years.”
The BLM has committed to sustaining habitat conditions that support big game populations at levels commensurate with long-term objectives established by Colorado Parks and Wildlife. This includes growing the White River mule deer herd, which populates what was once known as the ‘mule deer factory,’ to 67,500 animals. In the 2013 draft of the plan, the BLM had proposed a reduction of up to 50% of this herd, whose population was already 30% below the Colorado Parks and Wildlife management objective.
“Northwest Colorado offers some of the finest mule deer and elk hunting anywhere, and it is imperative that this resource be sustained for current and future generations of sportsmen,” says Ed Arnett, senior scientist for the TRCP. “I’d encourage BLM offices across the West to follow the lead of the White River Field Office in committing to the state fish and wildlife agencies’ established population objectives.” Arnett shared this opinion with the Denver Post’s Bruce Finley in this April 1 story.
The BLM will also be instituting a master leasing plan for more than 422,000 acres of BLM land surrounding Dinosaur National Monument in the northwest part of the field office. Development within that area will be introduced in stages to help minimize negative effects of development on wildlife and other resources. “Master Leasing Plans are an important component of responsible energy development,” says John Ellenberger, a retired Colorado Parks and Wildlife big game manager. “I was involved with establishing game management units in quality elk hunting areas, and I’m thankful that the BLM has adequately planned to give this important wildlife habitat ample consideration.”
Within the White River RMPA, the BLM is applying measures to conserve about 167,000 acres of “generally intact and undeveloped backcountry,” which provide “high quality recreational settings, habitats, and primitive-type recreational opportunities.” This includes big game habitat and access to quality hunting opportunities in four Colorado Game Management Units that host thousands of hunters each year. “I appreciate the fact that the Bureau of Land Management has taken steps to maintain traditional land uses,” says Larry Amos, owner of Winterhawk Outfitters in Collbran and a volunteer with Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “This plan will ensure that hunting, fishing, and outfitting can remain viable in Colorado, by conserving some of our most spectacular lands and wildlife habitat and keeping it intact.”
A local coalition of 32 sporting organizations and businesses was involved in this planning process, and sportsmen across the West are prepared to stay involved as the plans are implemented. “The BLM has taken positive steps to conserve intact backcountry lands with high quality wildlife habitat and hunting opportunities, and as a business owner whose bottom line depends on public lands hunting and fishing, I appreciate that,” said Kevin Timm, owner of Seek Outside, a Grand Junction-based outdoor gear manufacturer that sells products directly to sportsmen. “The stage is now set for sportsmen to engage in the forthcoming full RMP revision. It’s what we need to do to ensure that intact and undeveloped lands are responsibly managed as backcountry conservation areas.”
Read the final EIS here. Protests may be filed through April 27, 2015.
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.
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