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July 29, 2015

A Wildlife-Friendly Ranch, Wading the Simms Factory Floor, and the Sound of 18,000 Names Hitting the Ground

Day Two of our Western Media Summit was packed with immersive experiences meant to give tangible context to complex issues, like federal conservation funding programs, public and private land management, and the outdoor recreation economy.

Mike Ellig (center with dark hat) shows Western Media Summit guests Randall Creek, one of several streams running through his property.

Before lunch, guests enjoyed a walking tour of the stunning 600-acre conservation easement on Oyler Ranch, a property that was originally homesteaded by the Oyler family in the 1860s and has been continuously grazed since the 1880s. This morning, its rivers, creeks, ponds, and vast green fields were framed by distant white-tipped mountains, dusted with fresh snow overnight. Mike Ellig, who runs Black Gold, a Montana company that manufactures premium bow sights, purchased the property from the Oyler family in 2014 and, with help from the Gallatin Valley Land Trust, immediately began executing a plan for restoration of the fish and wildlife habitat within the ranch’s conservation easement.

“I’ve always had a passion for outdoors,” Ellig explained. “It’s always been a dream of mine to have a place to do the things I love to do.” It just so happens that Ellig is also opening the land to others who love to do the same things—hunt and fish. He’s also using responsible grazing and agriculture practices while looking for opportunities to enhance habitat for trout, deer, bears, turkeys, pheasants, and beavers.

Mike Ellig, owner of the Oyler Ranch Conservation Easement: “I want to make this the nicest piece of property I can for myself, the fish and wildlife, and local hunters and anglers.”

Near Randall Creek, which flows through his property, he paused the tour at the side of 60-acre field, where he hopes to irrigate and create waterfowl habitat. One of his ponds, flanked by chokecherry trees (a favorite food source of local bears), is home to a turtle and two pairs of wood ducks, rarely found in the valley. Near a section of the West Gallatin that enters his land, cottonwood trees are beginning to grow back on the muddy banks of the fast-moving stream, after years of cows trampling the young trees.

“Mike Ellig is a great example of a landowner who is improving sportsmen’s access by opening up his private land to hunters and improving the habitat at the same time,” said Peter Brown with the Gallatin Valley Land Trust. “I think something that is often overlooked about his contribution is that the conservation work he contracts out to local workers actually creates something like a dozen jobs. That’s on top of the benefit that this new public access point will provide to the outdoor recreation economy in Bozeman.”

Later in the day, TRCP’s Chief Conservation Officer Paul Wilkins turned the group’s attention to federal public lands, asking conservation and industry leaders, “Why do public lands matter?”  On the same day the TRCP reported that 18,000 sportsmen have signed our Unlocking Sportsmen’s Access petition and more than 174,000 letters have been sent to lawmakers opposing the transfer of federal public lands to the states, our panelists­ spoke passionately to the group of 40 gathered at Simms Fishing’s 60,000-square-foot Bozeman headquarters about the value of public lands and the importance of sportsmen’s access to local economies. Blake Henning from Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Ben Bulis from the American Fly Fishing Trade Association, Joel Webster from the TRCP, and Ryan Busse, a business leader from the shooting sports industry discussed major threats to our public lands legacy and some great opportunities that media professionals have to tell the stories that will kill off this bad idea of handing control over federal lands to the states.

Simms Fishing’s Diane Bristol explains the manufacturing process for Simms iconic waders, while her colleague Rich Hohne observes.

Following the discussion, Diane Bristol, senior director of employee and community engagement for Simms, gave a tour of the production facilities where employees make the brand’s popular waders. She said that the company has 150 employees, having added 10 percent more positions in the past year, and they plan to keep growing. She showed TRCP guests several sections of the headquarters including the cutting room, repair center, testing area, seam taping machines, and custom graphics department. She also shared a bit about the company’s conservation mission: “Public lands and access to good fishing is crucial to our business, and our staff is passionate about these sports,” said Bristol. “I think today was a great opportunity for the media guests to see just how invested we are in conservation, through our work with TRCP and other groups, and in excellence for our products overall.”

Western Media Summit attendees walk across a field on the Oyler Ranch Conservation Easement as the sun finally breaks through, warming up a chilly morning.
Penelope Pierce, Executive Director, Gallatin Valley Land Trust: “Open, scenic vistas are what makes Montana, well, Montana.”
(from left to right): Peter Brown, Gallatin Valley Land Trust; Glenn Marx, Montana Association of Land Trusts; Clint Campbell, Kingfisher Consulting Inc.
Ben Bulis, American Fly Fishing Trade Association: “I don’t know what it’s like to not have public lands. It’s a scary concept.”
Blake Henning, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation: “I grew up in Nebraska and we had very little public lands, so I know how precious they are. I have fond memories of hunting on the public lands I have been able to access.”
Ryan Busse, shooting sports industry business leader: “Public lands are the fabric of an iconic Western landscape.”


Joel Webster, TRCP: “This is a call to the press: Spread the word that sportsmen will not tolerate the idea of land transfer.”
Costa Sunglasses provided sunglasses fittings and in front of their custom skiff.
Randy Newberg, host of “Fresh Tracks with Randy Newberg” on the Sportsman Channel: “I grew up a hunter. When people ask who I am, I don’t say Randy Newburg, CPA—which I am—I say, ‘I am Randy Newberg, I’m a hunter.’ But without public lands, I wouldn’t be.”


One Response to “A Wildlife-Friendly Ranch, Wading the Simms Factory Floor, and the Sound of 18,000 Names Hitting the Ground”

  1. Glen Clements

    “Mike Ellig is a great example of a landowner who is improving sportsmen’s access by opening up his private land to hunters and improving the habitat at the same time,” said Peter Brown with the Gallatin Valley Land Trust.

    What a lie! Mr. Ellig has closed off access to all public hunting. Mr. Ellig has also painted orange “No Trespassing” fence post all around the perimeter of the property. GVLT is unwilling to enforce the access that is spelled out in the easement agreement.

    Help me open this property back up to the public. GVLT and the Oyler family donated nearly 5 million dollars for this easement. Please do not let Mr. Ellig put this investment straight into his own pocket.

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July 28, 2015

Bison, Beer, and the Public Lands Backbone of Montana’s Economy

Welcome to the 13th Annual TRCP Western Media Summit, held July 27 to 30, in Bozeman, Mont. 

Whit Fosburgh, President and CEO, TRCP: “Bozeman exemplifies the outdoor economy.”

Influential policy makers, outdoor industry leaders, and more than two dozen members of the media kicked off three days of conservation discussion and discovery last night in Bozeman, Mont. The mission of the TRCP’s 13thannual Western Media Summit is to arm journalists to tell the most timely conservation stories impacting the Western states, including the controversial movement to transfer federal public lands to the states, the impending endangered species listing decision for the greater sage-grouse, and the economic value of safeguarding sportsmen’s access.

Despite the heavy rain, anomalous 48-degree temperatures, and dark clouds shrouding the nearby Gallatin Mountains, the ballroom of the Baxter Hotel, a refurbished landmark in the heart of historic Bozeman, was packed for the very first event of this year’s summit. The TRCP’s CEO and president, Whit Fosburgh, welcomed attendees by sharing some history of the organization’s longstanding tradition of bringing media together for a frank discussion of conservation over campfires and beer, with some hunting and fishing thrown in. He also praised the region for its significance to the summit’s themes. “We’re thrilled to be in Bozeman,” said Fosburgh.  “Conservation works in concert with good access to hunting and fishing and a thriving outdoor economy, and this town is a perfect example.”

TRCP Board Chair Weldon Baird also spoke, emphasizing the positive role that journalists play in explaining complex environmental issues and conservation policies to the public. “Over the next couple of days, we’d like to share what’s important to us as an organization, and we’d also like to hear from you,” said Baird.

Paul Wilkins, TRCP’s chief conservation officer, then stepped up to the podium to welcome the evening’s headlining speaker, Montana Governor Steve Bullock, who recently vetoed a bill aimed at studying federal public lands in the state, likely to make the case for transferring or selling them. “Public lands are part of the Montana ethos and a big sector of our economy. They represent a promise to future generations. But perhaps, like no other time before, that promise could be in jeopardy,” said Bullock. “Out-of-state interests hiring lobbyists to float the idea that the states should demand their lands back from the federal government certainly haven’t fooled me or Montanans. The true cost would be too great for us, or any other state, to handle. So, I vetoed the one bill that made it to my desk.”

Montana Governor Steve Bullock: “Thank you Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership for being an unyielding advocate for sportsmen.”

Bullock also expressed gratitude for the media’s coverage of conservation issues. “Thank you to the journalists for what you do in educating the public about Montana’s and America’s public lands,” he said, pointing out that the gathering of science and policy experts with media at the TRCP summit could serve as an apt celebration for the end of Montana’s inaugural Open Land Month, established by Bullock’s executive order. “Our state is home to immeasurable opportunities to experience public lands and waterways, which I believe are a great equalizer,” he said. “Whether you’re a CEO or a single mom, you have access to them.”

Bullock, who will serve as governor through 2016, ultimately shared some of his conservation goals for Montana: He supports Congress setting aside partisan politics to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and he’d like to prevent a greater sage-grouse listing with cooperation from a diverse group of stakeholders. And, importantly, he said: “I’ll continue to stand and defend the public lands that Montanans hold so dear.”

Weldon Baird, TRCP Board Chair
(from left to right): Weldon Baird, TRCP Board Chair; Montana Governor Steve Bullock; Whit Fosburgh, TRCP President and CEO
More than 60 guests crowded into the ballroom of Bozeman’s Baxter Hotel for the opening night of TRCP’s Western Media Summit.


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July 27, 2015

Glassing the Hill: July 27-31

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

Both the House and the Senate are in session this week. Members of the House are likely to depart for the August recess on Friday, while the Senate still has one more week planned.

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

The Senate held votes yesterday, in a rare Sunday session, to continue working towards a conclusion on the Highway Bill. The Senate agreement that has taken shape in the last week is a six-year reauthorization, with three years of guaranteed funding for the Highway Trust Fund. Majority Leader McConnell “filled the amendment tree” on this bill, controlling the process in an attempt to pass the legislation no later than Wednesday. The House would then have time to consider the bill before the expiration of the current Trust Fund extension (July 31) and prior to the August break. The House has already cleared a five-month extension of the Highway Trust Fund, and if the Senate cannot complete its work, or if the House doesn’t take up the Senate bill for lack of support in that chamber, it is likely the Senate will have to take up the House-passed extension or risk an expiration of the trust fund.

It also promises to be a busy week in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which moves forward with a mark-up of comprehensive and bipartisan energy legislation. The bill includes measures to streamline hydropower, geothermal production, natural gas exports, and efficiency, and permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund. You can see the bill and a section by section breakdown here.

On the Floor:

The Senate will spend the majority of the week on the Highway bill, with several amendment votes planned, including a vote on reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank.

The House will spend the week considering HR 427, the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (RIENS) Act, which would require a joint resolution of approval from Congress before “major administrative rules” can take effect. The House may also consider several bills dealing with Veterans Administration reform.

In Committee:

Tuesday, July 28

Conservation Funding Alert: Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee business meeting to markup comprehensive energy legislation (Additional markup sessions are possible for Wednesday and Thursday)

Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs hearing on lifting crude exports ban

Wednesday, July 29

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on EPA management

House Natural Resources hearing on federal agencies selective enforcement of Endangered Species Act consultation

Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs markup of regulatory reform bills


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July 24, 2015

How to Better Prepare for Drought

With water resources in the western United States stretched to a breaking point, due to over-allocation, sustained drought, and population growth, the TRCP worked with the National Drought Resilience Partnership (NDRP) to bring nearly 40 diverse stakeholders together at the White House Drought Symposium on July 15, 2015. Participants discussed the federal government’s role in building drought resilience into our water management systems, as well as steps that federal agencies should take to forestall future drought crises.

Symposium participants gather at the White House Drought Symposium on July 15, 2015, to discuss the federal role in building drought resiliency. TRCP President and CEO Whit Fosburgh is in the foreground.

“Last week’s symposium underscored the importance and value of addressing difficult issues, like the sustained droughts in the West, collaboratively and constructively,” said Doug Robotham, water policy director at The Nature Conservancy. “Symposium participants from a diversity of perspectives freely exchanged ideas and solutions, which gives hope that we can meet the needs of people, irrigated agriculture and the environment if we truly work together.”

“A common theme discussed at the symposium is the need to focus federal actions in ways that reduce risk, create flexibility, and improve reliability across entire watersheds,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the TRCP. “That kind of approach will ensure that we have more options available to us when drought occurs, so we aren’t sacrificing the water needed for healthy species or risking farmers’ livelihoods. We are all in this together, and we need solutions that integrate benefits across sectors and preserve working lands and functioning habitat.”

The NDRP agreed to produce a compendium of ideas generated by symposium participants. Sportsmen are calling on the NDRP to continue this dialogue and identify action items, like the advancement of widely-supported conservation and efficiency measures to meet water demands, while protecting and restoring healthy river flows.

Deputy Secretary of the Interior Mike Connor (center left) and Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Robert Bonnie (center right) discuss with symposium participants the actions DOI and USDA, respectively, are taking in response to drought.

The discussion comes at a busy time for drought action in Washington, D.C. The House of Representatives has just approved legislation to address drought in California—legislation that has been roundly rejected by sportsmen as bad for fish and wildlife. Senator Diane Feinstein of California has been promising an alternative response to her state’s drought, and the leadership of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is preparing a region-wide drought bill for the Western states.

Now is the time for sportsmen to declare our stake in drought planning, so we don’t end up on the wrong side of the deal again. By partnering with the NDRP on the White House Drought Symposium and developing recommendations from sportsmen, the TRCP is fighting to shape federal actions so they support healthy fish and wildlife and working lands.


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July 23, 2015

Sharing Roosevelt’s Vision for Conservation and Sportsmen’s Access

Of all the senses we engage as sportsmen, vision is perhaps the most essential to having a successful day on the water or in the field. Whether we’re watching for rising fish, scanning the horizon for birds, or glassing a ridgeline for an antlered silhouette, we base our actions off of what we see out there. And the conservation of our fish, wildlife, and sporting opportunities is no exception.

More than 100 years ago, Theodore Roosevelt had a vision and a passion for the outdoors that led to our current model of conservation and management of public resources and wildlife. It’s what sets the United States apart from the rest of the world. These uniquely American principles are found in the hunting and fishing traditions we all enjoy—and easily take for granted.

Preserving this legacy for future generations is worth the fight. That’s why the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership was created: To unite sportsmen and amplify our collective voices around key conservation issues and promotion of sportsmen’s access, so that all Americans have quality places to hunt and fish. Among the many issues we work on related to saltwater fishing, clean water, and private lands conservation is a signature campaign to prevent the seizure of our federal public lands and to keep them open to sportsmen’s access. Through SportsmensAccess.org, hunters and anglers can engage in this conversation by signing a petition to lawmakers or showing their social media networks why they are #PublicLandsProud. We are thrilled that Costa is a supporter of the TRCP and this important sportsmen’s access campaign.

Costa is a company that exemplifies and celebrates the “strenuous life” that Roosevelt talked about. Their commitment to quality and innovation have made their sunglasses an essential piece of gear for millions of sportsmen. Costa also recognizes the role their brand and its customers can play in promoting the conservation of fish and wildlife habitat – it’s an industry-wide responsibility and investment in our future. Through various initiatives, such as The Watery Rave blog and the Kick Plastic campaign, Costa is educating and engaging sportsmen to help make a difference.

TRCP is extremely proud to call Costa our partner. Together, we seek to carry on with Roosevelt’s vision, and our collaboration on a fun and unique technical fishing shirt is your chance to get involved. This shirt will keep you cool on the water and display your proud support of T.R.’s conservation vision. It bears our logo with Roosevelt’s iconic silhouette, but we’ve swapped out his famous spectacles…for a pair of Costas of course!

You can support the TRCP and get your shirt here.



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.

$4 from each bag is donated to the TRCP, to help continue their efforts of safeguarding critical habitats, productive hunting grounds, and favorite fishing holes for future generations.

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