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July 1, 2015

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June 23, 2015

The Teddy Bear Delisting and ‘That Hunt’

You may know the tale of Theodore Roosevelt’s Mississippi black bear hunt in the fall of 1902, his second year in office. After all, it’s one of the most famous hunts to have taken place on American soil, and it inspired the most famous toy in the world—the Teddy Bear.

Image courtesy of Creative Commons. Above image courtesy of USDA/Flickr.

But shortly after Roosevelt came to Mississippi in the early 1900s, over-hunting and agricultural development in the Delta’s swamps practically eliminated the Louisiana black bear from its native range in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley. It was eventually listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) as a threatened species by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1992, bringing about much concern from landowners, the timber industry, and wildlife professionals. This forward-thinking group hoped that the downward trend could be reversed and suitable black bear habitat within the region could be restored.

That same year, the Wetlands Reserve Program was instituted, building upon the successes of the Conservation Reserve Program, launched in 1985. Together, these programs resulted in the restoration of more than one million acres of black bear habitat, and black bear populations slowly began to rise across the bear’s historic range.

Now, Teddy’s bear is having a moment. After more than two decades of conservation efforts, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell has proposed removing the Louisiana black bear from the list of threatened and endangered species under the ESA. “The Louisiana black bear symbolizes how the Endangered Species Act can be a remarkably effective tool to protect and recover threatened and endangered species when we work in close partnership with states and other stakeholders,” Jewell said. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, state agencies, non-profit organizations, and private landowners are all to thank for the Louisiana black bear’s success.

Image courtesy of USFWS.

According to Hunter Fordice, a landowner and son of Mississippi’s former governor, Kirk Fordice, “The first documented black bear cubs born in the Mississippi Delta in some 30 years were born in the middle of a 12-year-old Wetlands Reserve Program tract on my property in Issaquena County in 2007. The Wetlands Reserve Program and the Conservation Reserve Program have restored hundreds of thousands of acres of bottomland hardwoods across the Lower Mississippi Valley, which in turn has provided habitat suitable for the Louisiana black bear to once again thrive in its historical home range. As a landowner, it is very gratifying to see these conservation programs working so well.”

We think Roosevelt would be proud to see the population’s rebound and to know that the next generation of outdoorsmen will share the woods with the bear that “bears” his nickname. To celebrate, let’s hear the story of this famous hunt.

A Famous Hunt and Hunter

Almost every aspect of Roosevelt’s 1902 hunt at Smede’s farm was the responsibility of the uneducated, but extremely intelligent, 56-year-old Holt Collier, who was born into slavery and served as a Confederate scout before becoming a legend for his hunting skills. Roosevelt (who announced that he was to be addressed only as “Colonel” throughout the hunt) expressed his desire to participate in the chase. However his demands for a shot on the very first day, and the timidity of his hosts, condemned him to a stationary blind. He was placed to have a clear shot when the bear, driven by Collier’s pack of nearly 40 dogs, would emerge from one of the dense cane thickets on the farm.

Roosevelt and his hunting partner, Huger Foote, waited on the stand all morning. Around mid-afternoon they broke for lunch, annoying Collier, who’d worked extremely hard to bring a bear to that exact spot only to find the stand abandoned.  As Collier recalled,

“That was eight o’clock in the mornin’ when I hit the woods an’ roused my bear where I knowed I’d fin him. Den me an’ dat bear had a time, fightin’ an’ chargin’ an’ tryin’ to make him take a tree. Big ole bear but he wouldn’t climb nary tree. I could have killed him a thousand times… I sweated myself to death in that canebrake. So did the bear. By keeping between the bear and the river, I knew he’d sholy make for the water hole where I left the Cunnel [sic]. After a while the bear started that way and popped out of the gap where I said he’d go. But I didn’t hear a shot, and that pestered me… It sholy pervoked me because I’d promised the President to bring him a bear to that log, and there he was.”

Holt Collier: His Life, His Roosevelt Hunts, and the Origin of the Teddy Bear by Minor Ferris Buchanan 

It was at this time that the bear turned on the dogs. This put Collier in quite the quandary. He had been given specific orders to save the bear for Roosevelt, who was not to be found, and yet he had to protect the dogs from the deadly bear.

Image courtesy of Dale Divers.

Collier dismounted, shouting at the bear. He approached the bear and tried to distract it as someone rode to camp to get the President. In the meantime, the bear and the dogs fought viciously, and at one point his prize dog was caught in the bear’s grip. Collier swung the stock of his gun and landed a blow to the base of the bear’s skull. Stunned, the bear dropped the dog and Collier seized the opportunity to place a lariat around the bear’s neck so that, when Roosevelt and Foote arrived several minutes later, the animal was tied to a tree.

President Roosevelt refused to claim the bear, citing a “true sportsmen’s code” which holds that the taking of any animal that does not have a sporting chance is forbidden. This famous hunting event inspired the first widespread discussion of the modern code of “fair chase,” a tenet of the Boone and Crockett Club which Roosevelt founded. It is the oldest conservation organization in North America and the second oldest in the world.

Although Roosevelt did not count the hunt as “successful,” the press thought it a most delightful story and spread word of it across the country. Roosevelt’s refusal to kill a defenseless animal was far more newsworthy than the taking of a trophy bear, and as the news spread, Brooklyn toy store owners Rose and Morris Michtom wrote to ask his permission to name their stuffed toy bears after him. The President approved, and “Teddy’s Bears” were born.


James L. Cummins is executive director of Wildlife Mississippi, a Regular Member of the Boone and Crockett Club, and a member of the TRCP Policy Council.

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June 22, 2015

Glassing the Hill: June 22-26

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

The Senate will be in session from Monday through Friday. The House will be in session from Monday through Thursday.

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

Congress may look like it’s getting an early start on spending bills, but we’re pretty sure they’re going nowhere for a while. This week, the House will vote on its appropriations bill for the Department of Interior and EPA. The spending plan would shortchange key conservation programs and target the Obama administration’s environmental and climate change programs. The bill allocates a total of $30.17 billion for the Department of the Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, and U.S. Forest Service. These disappointing numbers are $246 million below fiscal year 2015 funding levels and represent historically low funding for conservation.

Add to that some damaging policy riders—which would delay the listing of the greater sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act and undermine the recently released clean water rule that clarifies Clean Water Act protections for headwater streams and wetlands—and you’ve got some serious political posturing. As many expected, the GOP-crafted appropriations bill also targets the EPA in a number of these riders and seeks to reduce EPA staff.

There is language prohibiting the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management from ordering new closures of public lands to hunting and recreational shooting.

Here are the highlights of the House spending bill:

  • The Environmental Protection Agencyreceived $7.4 billion, a 9% funding decrease
    • $69 million cut to regulatory programs.
  • Payments in Lieu of Taxes program is fully funded at $452 million
  • Bureau of Land Management (BLM) received $1.1 billion, a $30 million increase from FY15
  • The National Park Servicereceived $2.7 billion, a $53 million increase over FY15
    • $52 million was provided to address the frequently-discussed maintenance backlog
  • The U.S. Forest Servicereceived $1.4 billion, an $8 million decrease in funding from FY15 levels
    • $3.6 billion provided to DOI and USFS to combat wildfires
    • $92 million for the Flame Wildfire Suppression Reserve Fund
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) received $1.4 billion, an $8 million decrease from FY15 funding levels
  • North American Wetland Conservation Fund (NAWCA) received $35 million
  • State and Tribal Wildlife Grants received $59.195 million

The grass isn’t any greener for other agencies. On Thursday, the House Appropriations Committee will mark up its fiscal year 2016 spending bill for the Agriculture Department and Food and Drug Administration. The $20 billion spending package features significant cuts to key conservation programs:

  • Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)
    • Enrollment cut by 23%
    • Reduction from 10 to 7.74 million acres.
    • Or a 5-year cut of $200 million
  • Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
    • $300 million cut
  • Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP)
    • $35 million cut
  • Conservation Operations (i.e. on-the-ground technical assistance and program delivery)
    • $13.5 million cut

The spending plan also features a controversial policy rider that would delay implementation of conservation compliance, a program that requires farmers receiving federal crop insurance to implement conservation practices aimed at improving soil and water quality. The rider would not preclude the U.S. Department of Agriculture from employing compliance, as needed, but would allow the agency to continue to provide subsidies for a year without requiring conservation compliance across the board.

More information on the bill can be found here.

 

This Week in Full:

Tuesday, June 23

Wednesday, June 24           

Thursday, June 25

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June 18, 2015

Why the Senate Should Start Over on Conservation Budget Talks

Conservation is underfunded in a fiscal year 2016 bill bogged down with riders

Today the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a funding bill for the Department of the Interior and Environmental Protection Agency that cuts funding for conservation to $2 billion below fiscal year 2010 levels. This results in less money for science, active management, habitat restoration, and sportsmen’s access.

Image by the US Government.

The bill also includes a slew of riders that would block important habitat protections. The Clean Water Rule rider would block the protection of headwater and ephemeral streams that supply drinking water to one in three Americans and throw 20 million acres of wetlands critical to waterfowl back into legal limbo. The bill also includes a rider that would undermine the historic collaboration between 11 Western states and the Department of the Interior to conserve the greater sage-grouse and prevents the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from finalizing its listing decision under the Endangered Species Act for another year.

“Not only does this bill sell sportsmen short, but its funding levels and policy provisions have made it unnecessarily controversial—it’s going nowhere and everyone knows it,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “It’s time for both parties to roll up their sleeves and hammer out a successor to the Murray-Ryan Bipartisan Budget Act. A bipartisan budget deal is the only way Congress is going to be able to make the investments in conservation that American sportsmen deserve.”

The bill contains a few pro-sportsmen priorities, including steady funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and a wildfire funding cap adjustment to bring an end to the practice of “fire borrowing.”

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Public Lands Transfers Threaten Sportsmen’s Access: Part One

In an increasingly crowded and pay-to-play world, America’s 640 million acres of public lands – including our national forests and Bureau of Land Management lands–have become the nation’s mightiest hunting and fishing strongholds.

This is especially true in the West, where according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 72 percent of sportsmen depend on access to public lands for hunting. Without these vast expanses of prairie and sagebrush, foothills and towering peaks, the traditions of hunting and fishing as we have known them for the past century would be lost. Gone also would be a very basic American value: the unique and abundant freedom we’ve known for all of us, rich and poor and in-between, to experience our undeveloped and wild spaces, natural wonders, wildlife and waters, and the assets that have made life and citizenship in our country the envy of the world.

Image courtesy of Derrick Reeves.

The Public Lands Transfer Movement: An unprecedented threat to public access

Our public lands were created as a uniquely American solution to natural resource challenges that have plagued nations for centuries. How should we manage lands and waters located within our borders to best serve the interests of the public at large?

In the rough-and-tumble closing of the American frontier in the late 19th century, millions of acres of land – too remote, rugged or dry for settlement – went unclaimed. These unclaimed lands were subjected to a ruthless free for-all of mining, logging and overgrazing that threatened to make them a wasteland. The original “forest reserves” were set aside in 1891 to protect the mountain headwaters of the major Western rivers. Between 1901 and 1909, President Theodore Roosevelt, America’s most famous sportsman-conservationist, expanded the “forest reserves,” now known as national forests, to almost 148 million acres. The Bureau of Land Management was created to oversee 245 million acres of unclaimed rangeland and to restore marginal lands abandoned by homesteaders The solution has worked, probably beyond Roosevelt’s wildest dreams. Rangelands are mostly restored. Rivers – without which there is no agriculture, towns or cities in the arid West– provide excellent fishing and run clear from mountain snow packs protected on public land.

Big game and other wildlife populations have recovered. There is a constant and often frustrating struggle between conservation and development – but that conflict, too, is uniquely American, a nation that owes its very existence to the fertile soil of conflicting ideas. What is important is not the argument over the management of the lands, but the lands themselves, which, in addition to natural resources, provide access to millions of Americans for recreation and fuel an outdoors-dependent economy: the $646 billion dollars spent by people enjoying America’s outdoors every year and the 6.1 million jobs directly related to publicly accessible waters, prairies, forests and mountains. A third of that economy –$256 billion– comes from the West alone.

Some claim that the states can manage these lands much more efficiently than the federal government and so ownership of the lands, the birthright of all Americans, should be transferred to the states in which they are located. Efforts were proposed in 11 states, of which negative bills passed in 4 states. While no Westerner would say that federal management of our lands is perfect, the idea that individual states will do a better job is fundamentally flawed.

The business of selling public lands

Western states were granted millions of acres by the federal government when they attained statehood. Many of these lands have been sold to private interests. Nevada, for example, was given 2.7 million acres when it became the 36th state in the union in 1864. It now has only 3,000. Utah has sold more than 50 percent of its original land grant. Look across the West, and you’ll see that the story is the same: Western states have remained committed to selling off public lands, and you can count on them doing it again if given the chance. Once privatized, these lands will become off limits to most sportsmen in perpetuity.

The expense of public land management 

Current state budgets would struggle to cover the costs of managing millions of acres of public land. Firefighting costs alone – the federal government faced a $1.74 billion price tag for wildfire management on the nation’s public lands in 2013 – would break most state budgets, as would the massive expansion of state government that land management would require, unless state legislators could quickly push through some exorbitant tax hikes. For example, studies show that Idaho would run a deficit of about $111 million per year if it were to take on management of just 16.4 million of the 34 million acres of public land within the state’s boundaries. Montana’s land management costs, if awarded all of its federal lands, would range from $300 million to $500 million annually. Furthermore, these figures do not address the lost federal Payments In Lieu of Taxes money, which currently is given to counties with federal public lands. State ownership of lands presently owned and managed by the federal government would result in only one likely outcome: the sale of any lands not producing significant quantities of timber, minerals or energy to private interests. Stark financial reality will trump any other concerns.

The expense of public land management 

Current state budgets would struggle to cover the costs of managing millions of acres of public land. Firefighting costs alone – the federal government faced a $1.74 billion price tag for wildfire management on the nation’s public lands in 2013 – would break most state budgets, as would the massive expansion of state government that land management would require, unless state legislators could quickly push through some exorbitant tax hikes. For example, studies show that Idaho would run a deficit of about $111 million per year if it were to take on management of just 16.4 million of the 34 million acres of public land within the state’s boundaries. Montana’s land management costs, if awarded all of its federal lands, would range from $300 million to $500 million annually. Furthermore, these figures do not address the lost federal Payments In Lieu of Taxes money, which currently is given to counties with federal public lands. State ownership of lands presently owned and managed by the federal government would result in only one likely outcome: the sale of any lands not producing significant quantities of timber, minerals or energy to private interests. Stark financial reality will trump any other concerns.

Industrialization and fire sales

National forest lands are currently managed under the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act of 1960. The Act requires that Forest Service undertake “management of all the various renewable surface resources of the national forests so that they are utilized in the combination that will best meet the needs of the American people.” The act also defines sustained yield as “the achievement and maintenance in perpetuity of a high-level annual or regular periodic output of the various renewable resources of the national forests without impairment of the productivity of the land” (italics added). Bureau of Land Management lands are managed under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, which has similar goals, to prevent a repeat of the degradation of these lands that led to the Dust Bowl and other resource disasters of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Contrast these laudable goals with state trust lands, which are publicly owned and managed but are not “public” like national forests. Rather, many states managed their lands to support specific beneficiaries and do not attempt to manage for multiple uses or to achieve conservation objectives. This description fires a warning shot to anyone who uses our public lands now: A change to state ownership will result in a radical conversion of the Western landscape. Idaho’s projected land management deficit of $111 million per year depends on increasing current logging levels by a half-billion board feet annually. The kind of management demanded by state

control of our public lands will produce much the same kind of management that we saw in the 19th century: industrialization wherever there are resources to be extracted. The beneficiary funding requirements of state lands and the desperate need for property tax-funded services in counties will require that any lands not producing valuable, quantifiable resources – coal, timber, energy or maximum grazing leases – be sold off and the funds placed in investment accounts. Billionaires and global corporations who may neither understand nor value America’s outdoor heritage would be the ones to buy them.

The most valuable real estate, and the first to be sold, would likely be riverfront and lakefront acreage and the most scenic parts of the deserts and mountains. The West as we know it now, with abundant hunting and fishing, rivers to swim and float, and mountains to climb, would be gone. What would be the long-term impacts on our nation’s vibrant outdoor economy of, for example, industrializing these lands for minerals development or cutting more than a half-billion board feet of timber every year? The outcome – and its consequences for our cherished hunting and fishing traditions – is clear. The American hunting and fishing tradition would be eliminated, replaced by a model that resembles the old world system where only the elite few can pursue the ‘king’s’ fish and game.

Stay tuned. In the rest of this 10-part series, we’ll cover some of America’s finest hunting and fishing destinations that could be permanently seized from the public if politicians have their way.

Here are three ways you can support sportsmen’s access on public lands. 

HOW YOU CAN HELP

CHEERS TO CONSERVATION

Theodore Roosevelt’s experiences hunting and fishing certainly fueled his passion for conservation, but it seems that a passion for coffee may have powered his mornings. In fact, Roosevelt’s son once said that his father’s coffee cup was “more in the nature of a bathtub.” TRCP has partnered with Afuera Coffee Co. to bring together his two loves: a strong morning brew and a dedication to conservation. With your purchase, you’ll not only enjoy waking up to the rich aroma of this bolder roast—you’ll be supporting the important work of preserving hunting and fishing opportunities for all.

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