Kristyn Brady

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April 14, 2015

Sportsmen to Congress: We Won’t Stand Idly By if You Sell off our Public Lands

Photo courtesy of Marty Sheppard.

More than 100 hunting, fishing, and conservation organizations, including the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, the National Wild Turkey Federation, Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, Trout Unlimited, Dallas Safari Club, Pope & Young Club, the American Fly Fishing Trade Association, and more than 80 state-based groups, have released a letter to local and national decision-makers opposing the sale or transfer of federally-managed public lands. Recipients include House members meeting Wednesday, April 15, to discuss federal land acquisition, and its impacts on communities and the environment, and Senators who recently passed a budget resolution that could encourage the sale or transfer of public lands.

“We’re calling on lawmakers to end this conversation now,” says Whit Fosburgh, TRCP’s president and CEO, whose recent blog post addressed the Senate amendment, which passed 51-49 on March 26. “Nothing galvanizes sportsmen like the loss of access for hunting and fishing, and continuing to indulge this controversial idea is keeping us from the real task of managing our public lands.”

America’s 640 million acres of federal public lands—including our national forests and Bureau of Land Management lands—provide hunting and fishing opportunities to millions of sportsmen and women. Since late last year, efforts to wrest public lands from the federal government and put them under state ownership have been matched by the unanimous outcry of sportsmen across the country. “Decision-makers need to know what they are stepping into,” says Joel Webster, director of western public lands for the TRCP. “Over 72% of western hunters depend on public lands for access, and sportsmen are not going to stand idly by as they’re sold away.”

Sportsmen from across the West are speaking out on this pivotal issue:

  • In Arizona: “Can you imagine driving up to the Kaibab National Forest, home to world-class elk and mule deer habitat, only to be greeted by ‘road closed’ signs, indicating that the new uranium company owners have prohibited entry?” asks Tom Mackin, president of the Arizona Wildlife Federation. “Such a scenario absolutely could occur if the transfer of public lands gives Arizona the opportunity to sell or lease this former National Forest to the highest bidder.”
  • In Colorado: “Desert and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep rely almost exclusively on federally managed public lands for habitat,” says Terry Meyers, president of the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Society. “It’s hard to imagine any good coming from the sale or transfer of these lands, especially for a sensitive species like bighorns.”
  • In Idaho: “Almost every Idaho hunter and fisherman relies on public lands for their recreation, whether they’re pursuing elk in the Lemhis, mule deer near Bear Lake, chukars in the Owyhees, or steelhead on the Clearwater,” says Tad Sherman, president of the Idaho State Bowhunters, which, with its affiliated clubs, represents more than 5,000 Idaho sportsmen. “Idaho without public lands is not the Idaho that should be passed on to future generations. It’s time to end the discussion of transferring or selling America’s public lands legacy.
  • In Montana: “Decision makers are toying with our Western way of life,” says Tony Jones, president of Ravalli County Fish and Wildlife Association. “Sportsmen see those who want to take away our public lands no differently than those who want to take away our guns. This bad idea will not be tolerated.”
  • In Nevada: “I choose to live in Nevada specifically to enjoy access to its vast unspoiled public lands that are at the very heart of our Western heritage and way of life,” says Larry Johnson, president of the Coalition for Nevada’s Wildlife. “If transferred to the state, Nevada would go bankrupt trying to manage these lands without selling off the best. This would seriously impact all of us who thrive on outdoor recreation.”  •
  • In Oregon: “The loss of access to public lands has a negative effect on Oregon’s $2.5-billion outdoor industry, one that is a leader in Oregon’s economy,” says Ty Stubblefield, field administrator for Oregon Hunters Association. “We simply cannot afford to lose our public lands.”
  • In Utah: “Here and throughout the western states, federal public lands are the lifeblood of our American sporting traditions,” says Ernie Perkins with the Utah Chukar and Wildlife Foundation. “The proposal to transfer or sell these lands has to be one of the worst ideas to surface in America in my lifetime.”
  • In Wyoming: “The move by some of our decision makers to transfer or sell off federal public lands is an insult to the birthright of all Americans,” says Josh Coursey, president and CEO of the Muley Fanatics Foundation. “Not only do Wyoming’s public lands, like the Shoshone National Forest, provide suitable habitat for fish and wildlife and critical access for sportsmen and wildlife enthusiasts, but these places also provide economic balance to local communities, where visitors pour in to spend time hunting for elk, fishing our blue-ribbon trout streams, or simply enjoying wildlife in these splendid places.”

Read the letter to lawmakers here.

If you agree with our message, please visit sportsmensaccess.org and sign the petition or share the website through your social media channels.

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posted in: General

April 13, 2015

A New Affront to Clean Water Protections Brewing in the House

Tomorrow, the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure will vote on recently-introduced legislation from Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA) that will harm our ability to protect coldwater fisheries, indispensable waterfowl habitat, and drinking water for one in three Americans. If this legislation becomes law, it will derail a deliberative rulemaking effort that’s been nearly 15 years in the making.

Photo courtesy of Dusan Smetana.

Hunters and anglers everywhere are counting on this rule to clarify Clean Water Act protections for wetlands and headwater streams. Over 200 hunting, fishing, and sporting groups from across the country have said that the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers need to take action to better protect America’s wetlands and headwater streams.

Efforts to derail the rulemaking at this point will do a major disservice to the hunters, anglers, farmers, and business owners who have submitted more than one million comments in order to improve a version of the rule proposed in March 2014. The EPA and Army Corps have said that these comments have made a definite impact on their clearer and more predictable final rule, and Congress should reserve their judgment until we can evaluate this impact.

Delays caused by Rep. Shuster’s bill are unnecessary. Confusion around jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act can be traced back 15 years but, since then, legal issues have been hashed out, the science has been analyzed, peer-reviewed, and compiled, and the public and key stakeholders have weighed in. Simply put, the agencies have all the information they need to make an informed decision. Let’s not kick the can down the road any further.

This is the best chance we have to clarify the Clean Water Act, and sportsmen should urge their legislators to vote against this bill.

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Glassing the Hill: April 13 – 17

The TRCP’s scouting report on sportsmen’s issues in Congress

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

After a two week break, both chambers are in session this week—the House from Monday through Thursday, and the Senate from Monday through Friday.

It’s cherry blossom season in the rest of D.C., but inside Congress it’s appropriations season. After passing its budget resolution last month, Congress is back in session with the intent to pass its twelve annual spending bills for fiscal year 2016. A memo from Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy stated that the first appropriations bill for the upcoming fiscal year will make it to the floor during the last week of April, leaving plenty of work to be done. During the recess, House and Senate negotiators drafted a compromise budget between the two chambers, and lawmakers are expected to reconcile this in the coming weeks.

Appropriators must come to a final agreement to provide guidelines for spending limits by May 15, and neither the House nor Senate can move forward to floor consideration of appropriations bills for fiscal year 2016 until the final budget is adopted. The first two measures headed to the floor are the easiest of the twelve to pass—but the process allows for members to offer an unlimited number of amendments during this time.

Fish and Wildlife Under Review

The Senate regulatory oversight subpanel of the Environment and Public Works Committee panel will meet Tuesday to examine the management of several environmental agencies. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as part of the Department of the Interior, will be among those under the microscope, and the focus will likely be on management of federal programs that provide grants to restore and manage sport fishing and wildlife. The hearing will provide Republicans, who have been highly critical of the Obama administration’s management and leadership, an opportunity to scrutinize agency practices.

A New Move to Derail Clean Water Protections

Hearings in both chambers this week could derail the process for clarifying protections for headwater streams and wetlands under the Clean Water Act. Sportsmen, including opponents of Pebble Mine, are urging Congress to let the rulemaking process play out, rather than slam the efforts of hunters, anglers, farmers, and business owners who have submitted more than one million comments on the original proposed rule since last March.

Also this week:

Tuesday, April 14

Wednesday, April 15

 

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April 11, 2015

I Traveled from Colorado to Washington, D.C. to Stand Up for My Public Lands

Congress has been deciding on appropriations for the national budget, including line items that are way over my head. I don’t understand everything about this process, but I do know that it can shape the discussion of how our public lands are managed for years to come. This was my reason for traveling 1,900 miles to be in Washington, D.C., to stand up for sportsmen’s access to public-lands hunting and fishing. With help from the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, the National Wildlife Federation, and Trout Unlimited, I met with my representatives from Colorado, Sen. Gardner and Sen. Bennett, witnessed the process, and now I better understand how to fight for our outdoor rights.

Photo courtesy of Dan Harrison.

While we were in with Senator Heinrich, I also helped to deliver a petition against the sale or transfer of public lands. I have been guiding and outfitting for well over 20 years, almost entirely on public ground and in wilderness settings. During this time, I have hosted people from every corner of the U.S., and some from across the big water, whoseopinions and political leanings are all over the spectrum. (As much as I try to stay away from discussing religion and politics around the campfire, you can’t spend a week on the mountain without learning a little about people’s views and ideas.) Many see something going wrong and, as much as they may care, assume that there is nothing they can do—they’ll most likely be overridden. This assumption has gotten sportsmen in so much deep water that we are about to lose our uniquely American outdoor heritage that we love so much. The hunting industry alone is over 28 million strong, bringing billions of dollars to the economy. If you combined the hunting and fishing community with the outdoor enthusiasts who hike,raft, and cycle on public lands, it seems to me that you’d have one of the largest organizations in the U.S.

Photo courtesy of Dan Harrison.

The organizations that want to sell off our heritage are masters at getting their word out to our elected officials, and they have an advantage overus, because their only focus is to lobby in D.C. The organizations I belong to, many in life membership, do great work in most respects, but their fundraising dollars are spread very thin, because they’re focused on conservation, education, and habitat. We have to lend our support with individual voices.

Outdoorsmen are the original conservationists. We are the ones generating funds for our wildlife and youth education. We have to protect our outdoor heritage and lifestyle, too. So, when was the last time you picked up the phone or picked up a pen and actually voiced your opinion to a decision-maker in your hometown, home state, or in Washington? Your voice and opinion will count as long as we stand together and show how big our piece of the pie really is. Start flooding their offices with opinions. I don’t mean just write one letter, or make one phone call; be persistent. Harness the passion you have for the hunt to stand up for the places you go afield. Because once we lose them, we won’t get them back.

Dan Harrison is a resident of Colorado’s Western Slope, longtime public lands supporter, co-host of Remington Country TV and Owner/Partner of Colorado Mountain Adventures.

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April 9, 2015

Partnerships Power Conservation in Pheasant Country

The crowd was awash with blaze orange—on hats, t-shirts, and even one necktie—at the grand opening of Pheasants Forever’s new regional headquarters in Brookings, S.D., earlier this year. Perhaps the neon hue was a bright indicator of just how eager folks are to stand united for conservation.

Pheasants Forever’s Dave Nomsen addresses the crowd of conservation advocates at the grand opening of “the habitat organization’s” new regional headquarters in Brookings, S.D. Photo courtesy of John Pollmann.

This cross-section of the community, made up of hunters, state and federal wildlife officials, conservation leaders, and more, is exactly who needs to be at the table to help Pheasants Forever preserve and enhance habitat in South Dakota. “We live in a different world today, and there are new challenges to conservation on private lands that we can’t solve the way we have before,” Pheasants Forever president and CEO Howard Vincent said at the event. “We have to think differently. We have to bring in new resources and partners. And we’re going to have to bring together the entire state of South Dakota—agriculture, transportation, tourism, and hunting interests as well as private landowners and state and federal agencies—for one reason: to deliver more conservation.”

Habitat loss brought Pheasants Forever to South Dakota, where nearly 2 million acres of grassland habitat have been lost since 2006, and collaborating with partners across the state is how the organization plans to reverse that trend. “We know we can’t do it alone,” says the group’s vice-president of governmental affairs, Dave Nomsen. “Partnerships are how conservation happens today. A group of stakeholders comes together to pool resources and knowledge in order to meet a common goal of keeping habitat on the ground.”

The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) is a partner-based program which creates vital grassland habitat while also providing public access for hunting and fishing. Photo courtesy of John Pollmann.

The time is right, Nomsen says, to bring new support to the issue by championing the role that habitat plays in maintaining a healthy landscape and benefits to the general public.

“The value of this work extends beyond heavy game bags,” Nomsen says. “And as an increasing amount of pressure is put on the land to produce food, fuel, and fiber, it is vitally important to that we communicate how the conservation programs that we work to implement—those that provide stream buffers, protect wetlands, and maintain large blocks of grasslands to benefit pheasants, quail, ducks, and other wildlife species—also help protect water resources, maintain healthy soils, and improve air quality for everyone. The key is to find a balance.”

Tom Kirschenmann, chief of terrestrial resources for South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks, believes that South Dakota’s private landowners are conservation’s most valuable partner in reaching that balance. “We couldn’t achieve any success in conservation without the commitment and cooperation of families who live on the ground, care for the ground,” Kirschenmann says. “And part of our job is connecting these landowners with the programs that will help them provide quality habitat for pheasants and other wildlife, while still benefitting their operation’s bottom line.”

Partnerships for conservation in South Dakota will play a vital role in combating the loss of grassland habitat, including those acres of ground previously enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program. Photo courtesy of John Pollmann.

There is perhaps no better example of this than the success of the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) in the James River Valley of South Dakota, where 82,000-acres of marginal cropland have been enrolled and restored to grassland habitat. Kirschenmann says that nearly all CREP contracts, which vary in length from 10 to 15 years, were signed with the help of a Farm Bill biologist, a position made possible by Pheasants Forever in partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks. Landowners who enroll ground in CREP receive a 40 percent higher rental rate than traditional Conservation Reserve Program contracts, and every acre enrolled in CREP is open year-round to hunting and fishing.

“The program is a win-win situation all the way around,” Kirschenmann says, “and it is all made possible by partnerships involving local landowners, state and federal agency funding, and the work of a private conservation organization.” Continuing to leverage the power of these partnerships will be crucial to finding solutions to the challenges facing conservation on private grounds in South Dakota, adds Pheasants Forever’s Nomsen. “And the key element we need to focus on together—Pheasants Forever, the state of South Dakota, landowners, and everyone else involved—is keeping quality habitat on the ground. Preserving the pheasant hunting culture of South Dakota depends on habitat.”

Author John Pollmann is a life-long bird hunter and freelance outdoor writer from South Dakota. A 2012 recipient of the John Madson Fellowship from the Outdoor Writers Association of America, Mr. Pollmann is a regular contributor to the Sioux Falls (SD) Argus Leader; provides a bi-monthly report on South Dakota for the Minnesota Outdoor News; and is the waterfowl columnist for the Aberdeen (SD) American News Outdoor Forum. Other writing credits include the pages of magazines for Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl, and American Waterfowler.

 In addition to outdoor writing, Mr. Pollmann holds an advanced degree in music and currently teaches at Pipestone Area School in Pipestone, MN. He is an active member of Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl, Pheasants Forever, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and was named to the country’s first conservation pro-staff with Vanishing Paradise.

 Mr. Pollmann lives in Dell Rapids, SD with his wife Amber, their son Miles, and a yellow Labrador named Murphy.

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The precipitous drop in hunter participation should be a call to action for all sportsmen and women, because it will have a significant ripple effect on key conservation funding models.

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