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September 30, 2015

State vs Federal Public Land Management is Not an Apples-to-Apples Comparison

Today, the House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing to discuss improving coordination between the federal government and Western states—a conversation that is welcome and necessary—and the “need for the government to defer to state authority”—a sentiment that sportsmen should definitely question.

Access to state and federal public lands is vitally important to hunters, anglers, and other Americans who either work in or support the outdoor-recreation industry across America, particularly in the West. This $646-billion segment of our economy is often ignored—in fact, it was never even mentioned in the briefing memo for today. We believe that energy, forestry, water use, and wildlife should all be considered in the management of federal lands in the West, but future land management decisions cannot ignore sportsmen, our financial contribution to local economies, or our ongoing commitment to wildlife conservation.

Sportsmen are the first to agree that there are real challenges with federal lands management, but it’s impossible to make an apples-to-apples comparison between state lands management and the track record of federal agencies, because there are key differences in how states manage their lands compared to the federal government. States are constitutionally mandated to maximize profits from their state trust lands, which can reduce the quality of outdoor experiences and, at times, prohibit public access. In Idaho, for example, the state’s current asset management plan for “endowment” lands calls for dispersed recreational uses to be accommodated, provided that they don’t impair financial returns from other uses, like logging operations.

Federal lands are managed under a multiple-use mandate by which recreational opportunities are emphasized in management planning, while allowing energy development, grazing, and forestry to continue. If federal public lands had been managed for maximum profit since the time of Theodore Roosevelt and Aldo Leopold, our country would most likely look very different today.

States Do Play a Crucial Role—as Partners

Image courtesy of Jeannie Stafford/USFWS.

The best solution for balanced management of our public lands is collaboration, not deferment. A great example of this can be found in the state and federal plans meant to benefit the greater sage grouse. Eleven Western states crafted conservation plans that are critical and meet the needs of their constitutional mandates, while the feds crafted complementary plans that, by default, must be stronger. All efforts—state plans, federal plans, and voluntary conservation measures undertaken by private landowners—were necessary to get to the not-warranted decision announced on September 22, and none of these plans can stand alone and deliver the necessary habitat conservation or regulatory certainty to avoid a future listing.

Opponents of the federal plans have no scientific evidence to support their claims that voluntary efforts alone are working, or that substituting state plans for federal plans would provide adequate conservation for sage grouse. In fact, the recently documented increase in males attending leks (up 63 percent from 2013, the second lowest count on record) has not altered the overall downward trend in the bird population observed from 1965 to present (an average annual decline of 0.83 percent.) This year’s increase falls within the normal range of fluctuation for game bird populations, which are known to shift rather dramatically with climatic factors, like precipitation. The majority of the greater sage grouse’s range has experienced excellent precipitation in the past two years, helping habitat conditions rebound and facilitating improved nesting, brood-rearing, and chick survival. Read more about that here.

Furthermore, the notion that the federal conservation plans for BLM and U.S. Forest Service lands are “just as restrictive, or more than, a listing decision” is simply wrong. Had the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the species, these same federal plans undoubtedly would have been required as part of an overall recovery plan, but the Service would also be required under Section 7 of the ESA to consult on every project impacting sagebrush habitat. This would certainly have added extensive time and costliness to the process.

Hunters and anglers agree that improvements should be made to forest and range management on federal lands, and we are ready to engage in those conversations with state and federal agencies. Better habitat means increased opportunities for sportsmen who pump dollars into local economies, and all the while, energy development, grazing, and other activities will continue. This opportunity for the West shouldn’t be squandered on political and litigious intervention. Congress needs only to support and fund efforts to implement critical conservation efforts and remember that sportsmen are an equally lucrative part of the Western economy.

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September 29, 2015

Meet our next #PublicLandsProud contest judge: Johnny LeCoq

Image courtesy of Johnny LeCoq.

Johnny LeCoq, the founder and CEO of Fishpond and Lilypond, has woven conservation into the fabric of his businesses. He isn’t shy about recruiting the rest of the outdoor recreation industry for the cause, either (read about how he told outdoor retailers to take responsibility for the future of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.) And with a passion for outdoor photography, we though he’d make a great guest judge for the second round of our #PublicLandsProud photo contest.

Johnny will be reviewing your photos of epic public lands scenery and will select a winning photo for this category on October 5. Think you’ve got the eye for majestic vistas and awesome landscapes? Read on to find out what he’ll be looking for in a winning photo and learn how you can enter the #PublicLandsProud photo challenge here. (Hint: It’s all about the hashtag.)

TRCP: Johnny, what makes you #PublicLandsProud?

Public lands increase our quality of life, and many of my employees have come to Colorado for a lifestyle that benefits from access to thousands of acres of public land. It powers a $14-billion economy in our state. And at Fishpond and Lilypond, we aren’t defined by the products we make, but by our ability to convey the value of our public lands and waters as an American ideal. That makes me very proud.

Image courtesy of John Land LeCoq Photography.

I love just being on the water, rafting or spending time with my two daughters, who are 19 and 21. Obviously, fishing is a huge part of my life—I remember the very first trout I caught when I was four years old, and I think every move I’ve made in my life ever since has been based on those early experiences of fishing with my father. I also love to take photos. I was a commercial photographer before I founded Fishpond, so I basically enjoy chasing light. You can capture something beautiful and see how people respond to it.

TRCP: So, you’re pretty well qualified to judge our #PublicLandsProud photo challenge, then! What will you be looking for in a winning photo?

I’m looking for landscape photos that tell a story and are aspirational. Great photos of outdoor scenery should really take your breath away and just arrest you. I should look at it and want to live vicariously through the photographer, just so I can be there in that moment. A winning photo should be inspiring!

Show us your #PublicLandsProud moment and you could be featured on our blog, or win a new pair of Costa sunglasses. BONUS: During this round, Johnny’s offering up an extra prize. Pretty soon, you could be stashing your camera or smartphone inside some great Fishpond gear a new Fishpond Summit Sling Pack.  


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Biggest Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Best When You’re #PublicLandsProud

Thanks to everyone that keeps showing us why you’re #PublicLandsProud!

A big congratulations to Sean Deines of North Carolina who is taking home a new pair of Costa Sunglasses for this winning photo of a trout from the Great Smoky Mountains.

A photo posted by Sean Deines (@seandeines) on


Here’s the story behind the pic:

While my wife and I were on the road back to western North Carolina after a friend’s wedding weekend in Nashville, we came to a detour where a rockslide had taken out I-40 with all traffic being diverted toward the Big Creek area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This stretch of water has always held a spot close to my heart, so I thought Why not make the most of a detour and do some fly fishing? Rebekah had some work that she could finish at one of the picnic tables in the campground, so it was a win-win for both of us.

That’s how I happened to snap this photo.

Sean Deines.

Fishing in Big Creek has never really been about the actual fishing for me. It’s one of those spots where you can sit down for hours and just stare at the riverscape in front of you without even picking up your rod. But when you do decide to pick it up, the gems at the end of the line are some of the prettiest fish I’ve seen in the southern Appalachians. Typically, I fish with a dry-dropper there, but I also love casting a solo caddis fly. You can always expect some explosive takes off the surface.

I spend a lot of my time outdoors, and with that comes a lot of use of public lands. Without that ability to access these resources, a lot of my favorite activities would be challenging, if not impossible, to pursue. Conservation of these wild places needs to be top priority for everyone. The world already has too many shopping complexes and movie theaters. We need people focused on the experiences of life, not the things you can buy. We NEED the wild.

Have a proud public lands picture to share? Tag with #PublicLandsProud and you’re entered into the contest. Full details here.


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September 28, 2015

Glassing The Hill: September 28 – October 2

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

Both the Senate and the House will be in session from Monday through Friday this week.                                                                                                                                

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

Last week was all about the Pope’s arrival and Speaker John Boehner’s exit, so now it’s time to get a budget deal done. Boehner’s abrupt decision to resign the Speakership and his seat in Congress, effective on October 30, clears the way for a short-term agreement to fund the government through December 11. This short-term continuing resolution provides Congress with a two-month extension to make a lasting bipartisan budget deal.

Last week, a spending bill that would fund the government but defund Planned Parenthood was sent to the Senate floor. Unsurprisingly, this effort was voted down and Leader McConnell has scheduled a vote for Monday at 5:30pm on a “clean” continuing resolution that will meet the September 30 deadline and fund the government through the second week of December. The House is expected to pass the clean CR later this week.

All signs indicate that the Land and Water Conservation Fund will not see floor time and will be allowed to expire as of the end of the month. At this point, appropriators can still use the fund for conservation projects, but offshore oil and gas royalties will stop coming in to refill the coffers for future investments in public access to America’s natural resources.

After celebrating National Hunting and Fishing Day on Saturday, we’ll be happy to avoid a government shutdown—for now—that could impede sportsmen’s access at one of the best times of the year to get outdoors.

Other legislation on House members’ minds: Rep. Meehan’s (R-PA) bill, Justice for Victims for Iranian Terrorism Act and Rep. Thornberry’s (R-TX) defense authorization legislation.

What We’re Tracking 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015:

The EPA, in the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee hearing on President Obama’s clean air initiative

Federal forest management, in a House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands hearing

Proposed improvements to the Endangered Species Act, in a Senate Environment & Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife hearing

Pipeline safety, as examined by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security

Wednesday, September 30, 2015:

The Clean Water Rule, in a Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Water hearing

Energy development, as the House Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on states’ authority in regards to resource management

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, as the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment checks in on progress

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Gold King Mine spill, in a Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee hearing on the EPA’s flub*

Sodium production on public lands, as discussed by the Senate Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining

*Just for fun: Read how Durango-area brewers have created a special orange-tinted “Heavy Metal Extra Pale Ale”—or EPA, for short—to raise money for the Community Emergency Relief Fund (CERF). The fund donates to individuals whose businesses were financially impacted by the spill—almost exclusively in the river rafting industry, according to the Durango Herald.


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September 24, 2015

This is the Weekend to Celebrate Hunting, Fishing, and the American Conservation Legacy

National Hunting and Fishing Day is this Saturday, and while there seems to be a national holiday for just about everything—National Ice Cream Day, National Beer Day, National Talk Like a Pirate Day, National Moldy Cheese Day—a day honoring our uniquely American outdoor lifestyle and traditions is one that our staff can really get behind. (If you get more fired up about moldy cheese, no judgment, but join us sometime at the archery range. We’d love to change your mind.)

Image courtesy of Cyrus Baird.

This weekend, we hope you get outside and enjoy the outdoors with friends and family, but also reflect on the major contributions that hunters and anglers have made towards conservation—Tuesday’s ruling on the status of greater sage grouse was just the most recent wildlife win where outdoorsmen had an assist.

The founders of conservation in North America (I’m looking at you, Theodore Roosevelt) implemented a system of science-based wildlife management to ensure the future of many of the species we pursue today. And in 1971, when Sen. Thomas McIntyre (D-N.H.), introduced Joint Resolution 117 authorizing National Hunting and Fishing Day on the fourth Saturday of every September. An identical measure was introduced in the House by Rep. Bob Sikes (D-Fla.), and both were passed in 1972.

On May 2, 1972, President Nixon signed the first proclamation of National Hunting and Fishing Day, urging all citizens to join with sportsmen in the “wise use of our natural resources,” thereby “insuring their proper management for future generations.”

Each year since, more than 3,000 hunting- and fishing-related events have been held by national, state, and local organizations to give people of all ages access to traditional outdoor sports—some for the very first time. This year, from casting instruction on neighborhood ponds to free courses at public shooting ranges, there are activities planned and publicized in more than 20 U.S. states.

We want to know how you plan to spend National Hunting and Fishing Day on September 26. Get in touch or tag us in your photos on social media. And if you take advantage of our country’s unrivaled public lands this weekend, give a shout out with the hashtag #PublicLandsProud. You could win a pair of Costa sunglasses, and we’ll repost our favorite photos, posts, and tweets. Find out more here.

If you want to protect sportsmen’s access to our federal public lands for the next 100 years of National Hunting and Fishing Days, consider signing our petition. We’re trying to get at least 25,000 names! Now, that would be something to celebrate.

For more information on National Hunting and Fishing Day, click 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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