For our Oregon field rep, the events of the last three weeks are personal. So is her story
Oregon is my home, and it’s an incredibly special place, where I have access to hunting and fishing in rugged country with the most spectacular views, including more than 10 million acres of public land. Practically out my back door, I can float, fish a run, catch a steelhead, and then go for a hike with the dogs and gun searching for chukars on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) backcountry land. I’ve hunted places like the Deschutes River for years, so I know exactly where to go to find the spots where sagebrush and bitterbrush intermingle and birds are abundant. I’ve crossed many a rusty fence and watched chukars dive from the breaks to escape #6-shot pellets by the dozen.
This is the ultimate opportunity to experience wide-open, undisturbed landscapes and watch my dogs work. Cedar, our 10-year-old veteran Pudelpointer, does most of the work while Eddy, the new Munsterlander pup, plays. We’re not even 15 minutes from the boat, at times, before Cedar smells the air vigorously and starts following the scent.
His tail starts wagging faster and faster, his shoulders drop, he points, and starts creeping in. Maybe he stops, moves in a little closer, and suddenly the birds flush, just out of range. No shots taken. We’ll keep working the sagebrush flat while the wind is in our favor. In the distance, I’ve noticed mule deer watching our every move. We hike back and float to the next corner, where we can cover new territory, that hasn’t been hunted today.
These areas—where muleys and bighorn sheep are more likely to be found than reporters and news-trucks—they’re mine and they’re yours. That’s why the last few weeks have been so frustrating. The disruption caused by the extremists occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is taxing for the people who live and recreate here. The Refuge is typically open to hunting and fishing—but not today. What they’re doing is at odds with everything I love about a day like the one I’ve just described.
I’m anxious to get back to the boat, and float to the next corner. I think we all are.
The TRCP’s scouting report on sportsmen’s issues in Congress
The Senate is in session this week. The House is not in session, but a field hearing is planned.
On your mark. Get set. And go, already. After many postponements, the mark-up of a portion of the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act will proceed on Wednesday in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. (Reminder: The other half of the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act was cleared by the Energy and Natural Resources Committee by voice vote in November.) The bill before the committee includes a reauthorization of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, TSCA reform related to lead fishing tackle, and several other provisions. Both bills are eventually expected to be considered on the Senate floor together.
Potential positive amendments that may come up during the mark-up include reauthorization of the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act, reauthorization of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the National Fish Habitat Conservation Act. However, TRCP has joined many of our partner groups in opposing a very short-sighted trapping amendment that may be offered by Senator Booker (D-NJ).
Last Wednesday, the House passed a resolution of disapproval of the Clean Water Rule that seeks to clarify the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. The President is expected to veto the resolution as early as this week.
Meanwhile, the Senate will spend the bulk of the week on legislation that would ‘pause’ the entry of Syrian and Iraqi refugees into the United States.
Multi-use resource management on public lands. Local input on legal consistency and BLM planning will be heard in a series of House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands field hearings in St. George, Utah.
Private Land Conservation Keeps Turkey Habitat from Getting Gobbled Up
Why CRP works for wild turkeys, farmers, and sportsmen
The nationalConservation Reserve Program is 30! The CRP was signed into law by President Reagan as part of the Farm Bill on December 23, 1985, to help agricultural producers to voluntarily conserve soil, water, and wildlife. The TRCP and our partners are celebrating the 30thanniversary of CRP throughout 2016, by highlighting the successes of this popular bipartisan program—regarded by many as the greatest private lands conservation initiative in U.S. history. Here on our blog, we’re devoting a series of posts to the critters that have seen tremendous habitat benefits: upland birds, wild turkeys, waterfowl, and freshwater fish. CRP works for wildlife, and it works for sportsmen.
Many readers will be familiar with the phenomenal comeback of the wild turkey in America, but considering how prevalent these big birds are in some parts of the country today, some may be shocked to learn that turkeys were widely extirpated by the beginning of the 20th century. While no one conservation innovation is responsible for the wild turkey’s rebound, the Conservation Reserve Program continues to ensure that a profound amount of turkey habitat is not lost or converted to crops.
Talking Turkey Restoration
According to the National Wild Turkey Federation, wild turkey populations began to shrink not long after the first Europeans arrived in North America. Native wild turkeys (of which there are five distinct subspecies) were an important source of food for a growing population of settlers, who hunted the birds year-round without regulation. Meanwhile, vast northern forests were being cleared for agriculture, industry, and other societal needs. As a result, by 1920 the wild turkey had all but disappeared from 18 of the 39 states in its historic range, and by the 1930s the continental population was estimated at fewer than 30,000 birds—found only in the most rugged and inaccessible environments.
Thankfully, early conservation laws—such as the 1905 Lacey Act and the 1937 Pittman-Robertson Act—and the creation of our National Forest System resulted in the slow restoration of the landscape, and wild turkey populations increased substantially as a result. Successful trap-and-transplant programs were launched mid-century to help accelerate population growth, which reached a high of nearly 7 million wild turkeys across North America. Today, wild turkeys are found in every U.S. state except Alaska and, including populations in Canada and Mexico, the game bird now occupies more miles of habitat than any other in North America.
Still, Threats Exist
NWTF estimates that 6,000 acres of wild turkey habitat is lost each day to the development of roads, homes, and industrial agriculture, and the overall population has shrunk from 7 million to about 6.2 million birds in recent years. While there are other downward pressures on wild turkey populations (lack of rainfall in the West, severe winters up north, and even the widespread presence of feral hogs in the South), loss of turkey habitat, often due to poor farm and forest management, is the biggest threat to the gobbler’s success.
As we’ve explained before, rising prices for commodity crops, like corn, have motivated landowners to farm their old Conservation Reserve Program acreage and other marginal lands, in order to increase production. These marginal farmlands frequently include prime turkey habitat full of brushy cover and a variety of food sources. Once converted, a heavily-managed soybean field is no place to raise a brood.
Whereas today’s farmland is overly managed for production, forested land tends to be under managed for a turkey’s habitat needs: The amount of logging and thinning in many forests has decreased, which can result in a too-thick understory of young trees and invasive plants—once again, unsuitable habitat for turkey nesting, brooding, and roosting.
Wild turkey habitat is at risk not just because it’s disappearing by the acre—the acreage that does exist is frequently a victim of neglect.
CRP Can Help!
The home range of a wild turkey flock varies from 350 acres to more than 60,000 acres. Flocks need space to roam and a mixture of habitat components like fresh water, food, and diverse cover. In some areas of the country, it may seem impossible for one property to offer this much habitat, but landowners enrolling as few as 10 acres in CRP can provide crucial habitat support to wild turkeys. Just one component—like a CRP food plot—needs to be present on the land, as long as adjacent lands can address the others—water and cover. Even a few acres of CRP here and there, along stream beds, utility rights-of-way, or farm fields bordering forests, can help support habitat connectivity in fragmented rural areas.
In other parts of the country, where landowners are able to enroll vast parcels of land in the program, CRP has helped to convert large fields of production agriculture, like cotton in the Southeast, into bottomland timber forests or permanent native grasslands. These CRP areas make for excellent hunting grounds (with landowner permission, of course), especially when properly managed as part of a business plan. For instance, today, the commercial harvesting of southeastern CRP pine stands planted 20 years ago is increasing the value of those forests to wild turkeys.
Additionally, the slow-but-steady return of fire to CRP is a boon to turkeys and other wildlife. It has long been taboo to intentionally set fire to the landscape, even as part of a conservation management plan, but prescribed and rotational burning can clear downed trees from the forest understory, open the forest floor to promote new growth, control for invasive species, and help to diversify the number of native grasses, forbs, legumes, and shrubs on the ground. In many cases, landowners in CRP can receive cost-share funding to implement prescribed burns and other invaluable management practices.
As untouched native savannahs and forests give way to working landscapes, the importance of CRP to the wild turkey will continue to grow in importance. By enrolling in the program, landowners can help add habitat to the landscape and better manage their own private lands for wild turkeys, deer, and other game species.
‘Dead Turkeys Don’t Lie’
Unfortunately, it’s hard to find comprehensive, quantifiable data on the impacts of CRP for wild turkeys, but one wildlife biologist put it succinctly when he said, “I’m like the old fellow from East Texas, in that ‘I ain’t got no data, but I know what I’ve seen,’ and dead turkeys do not lie.” Here’s hoping that CRP continues to work for wild turkeys and wild turkey hunters, far into the future.
To read the other blogs in our series click here and here.
Philanthropist Louis Bacon, Sen. Martin Heinrich, and Sen. James Risch will be recognized at eighth annual awards dinner in April 2016
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is proud to announce the recipients of our eighth annual Capital Conservation Awards, to be presented on April 27, 2016, to three honorees building a legacy of support for fish and wildlife on Capitol Hill and across the country.
The TRCP’s 2016 Lifetime Conservation Achievement Award will go to Louis Bacon, a conservation philanthropist and founder of The Moore Charitable Foundation, Inc. As the president of MCF and chairman of its affiliate foundations, Bacon has spent more than two decades conserving threatened habitat, protecting open spaces and safeguarding clean water through the support of more than 200 local, national, and international organizations. He was also instrumental in the founding of the Waterkeeper Alliance, an international organization of over 260 Waterkeeper organizations working across six continents to protect rivers, lakes, and coastal waterways.
Bacon has authorized conservation easements on more than 210,600 acres throughout the United States—including a parcel which is the largest such donation received by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and a critical step in the establishment of the Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area as the nation’s 558th unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Combined with additional donations authorized by Bacon of conservation easements on Tercio and Red River Ranches, these donations help form a landscape-scale conservation effort of 800,000 acres of protected lands stretching from Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado to northern New Mexico.
Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho) will be presented with the 2016 James D. Range Conservation Award—named after TRCP’s co-founder and conservation visionary—for their dedication to protecting what sportsmen value from both sides of the aisle in Congress.
An avid sportsman, Sen. Heinrich has championed conservation funding, clean water protections, and the expansion of recreational access to America’s public lands. He is the principal Democratic co-sponsor of the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act, which would reauthorize key conservation programs and protect public access to hunting and fishing, and has staunchly opposed the transfer of national public lands to individual Western states.
Sen. Risch is a leader of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus and has co-sponsored legislation designed to reauthorize key conservation programs, put an end to fire borrowing, and promote renewable energy on public lands. As governor of Idaho, Risch worked with local government, tribes, conservation groups, and sportsmen to author a strong state roadless rule that protects national forests.
The TRCP’s gala event in April will bring together policy-makers, conservation advocates, and outdoor industry leaders at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C.
Another Vote, Another Veto: Congress Moves to Derail Protection for Smaller Streams and Wetlands (Again)
The latest attempt to strike down the Clean Water Rule would prevent protection of headwater streams and wetlands
Today, the U.S. House of Representatives took advantage of a rarely-used legislative process known as the Congressional Review Act to attempt to kill the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers’ Clean Water Rule, which clarifies Clean Water Act jurisdiction over headwater streams and wetlands. The Senate used the same expedited process to pass this joint resolution (S.J.Res.22) back in November 2015, so the bill now goes to the President, who has threatened to veto it. Sportsmen urge him to follow through on that threat.
“Once again, Congress has proven that they’re way out of touch with sportsmen on clean water,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Rather than sending trout and salmon spawning areas and waterfowl nesting habitat back into regulatory confusion, hunters and anglers want to see the Clean Water Rule implemented, so we can leave a legacy of healthy waterways for the next generation of sportsmen and women, while preserving existing assurances for farmers, ranchers, and foresters.”
By passing this resolution, lawmakers are disregarding the views of nearly 900,000 Americans, who were vocal in their support of the Clean Water Rule during the public comment period, and 83 percent of hunters and anglers polled, who said they want the Clean Water Act to protect smaller streams and wetlands.
Earlier this week, the TRCP sent Congress a letter opposing S.J. Res. 22 on behalf of eight hunting and fishing groups. The letter says “the Clean Water Rule will translate directly to an improved bottom line for America’s outdoor industry,” which, in the sportfishing sector alone, accounts for 828,000 jobs, nearly $50 billion in annual retail sales, and an economic impact of about $115 billion a year.
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.