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March 1, 2016

Glassing the Hill: February 29 – March 4

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

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

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

A House divided over finances is nothing new. House GOP leadership had planned to hold floor votes on a fiscal year 2017 budget in early March, but an intra-party squabble—between those who want to stick with the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 agreement and those who want a new budget with deeper cuts—seems to be preventing lawmakers from moving forward. Any attempt at additional cuts could threaten spending levels for sportsmen’s access and programs that conserve and restore fish and wildlife habitat. Many members of the TRCP Policy Council are going on the record this week to encourage Congress to adhere to the budget agreement struck in October 2015.

Weeks ago, the fate of the bipartisan Senate Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015 was inextricably linked to the drinking water crisis in Flint, Mich., as several Senators insisted that energy legislation could not move forward without an aid package included. Now, many in the upper chamber have publicly indicated that an agreement on Flint has emerged, though the path forward for the energy bill is still unclear. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee (ENR), and lead author of the Energy Policy Modernization Act, has pledged to keep working to move the legislation to the Senate floor, where she remains confident it could be passed rapidly, along with a short list of amendments.

One of those amendments just might be a portion of the Senate Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act that recently passed out of the ENR Committee. That portion of the bill includes some key provisions, such as Making Public Lands Public and reauthorization of the Federal Land Transfer Facilitation Act, but doesn’t include important conservation reauthorizations like the North American Wetlands Conservation Act and the Fish Habitat Conservation Act, which are included in the Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee portfolio. If the ENR-only portion moves forward, sportsmen’s groups will have to devise a strategy for getting the EPW provisions over the finish line.

And ICYMI, the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act passed the House in a 242 to 161 bipartisan vote. This legislation would promote and enhance sportsmen’s access to hunting, fishing and recreational shooting areas. If the Senate energy bill is amended to include Sportsmen’s Act provisions, it is possible that the House-Senate energy bill conference could also serve as the conference on the Sportsmen’s Act. Read more about the SHARE Act here.

What We’re Tracking

Conservation funding, as budget requests are examined for the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Department of Energy, and Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

International fisheries management, in a House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans hearing regarding the Ensuring Access to Pacific Fisheries Act

Voluntary conservation efforts, to be discussed in a House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry hearing regarding technology and innovation

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Invasive species and coastal restoration, to be taken up by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. They will mark up legislation for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, plus a bill that would deal with oil spills from foreign offshore facilities.

Renewable energy, in a House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development hearing on technology, renewable energy, and climate change funds for Fiscal Year 2017

Coal mine cleanups, in a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Federal fisheries management and small businesses will be discussed by the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee in a hearing

One Response to “Glassing the Hill: February 29 – March 4”

  1. Jon Wallace Krainock JD-- Director the Aerie Preserve

    Hopefully the election this year will see a change in direction for the Congress and Executive Branches. Too long has the conservation movement been ignored and denied of its impact and conservation of American ecosystems. Newly discovered/developed natural energy resources can help to fund access, restoration and increased sportsmens’ participation in American Ecosystems.

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Kristyn Brady

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February 26, 2016

House Passes SHARE Act to Enhance Access for Hunting, Fishing, and Shooting

Vote marks next step in effort to pass broader package that benefits fish, wildlife, and America’s sportsmen

Today the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act (H.R. 2406), also known as the SHARE Act, to require federal land managers to promote and enhance sportsmen’s access to public hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting areas. Final passage of this bill is a critical next step towards sending a comprehensive sportsmen’s package to the president’s desk.

“We’re happy to see this legislation clear the House and move forward with bipartisan support—it’s a step in the right direction for what we hope is a truly comprehensive final package that the president can sign into law,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

“What’s important now is Senate action on a suite of sportsmen’s priorities, including provisions aimed not only at expanding access but also at investing in key habitat conservation programs. Open gates aren’t much good if there isn’t quality habitat behind them. We’ll continue to emphasize this point with Congress and America’s hunters and anglers,” says Fosburgh.

The SHARE Act was introduced in May 2015 by the bipartisan leadership of the House Sportsmen’s Caucus: Representatives Robert Wittman (R-Va.), Tim Walz (D-Minn.), Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), and Gene Green (D-Texas). It also passed in the last Congress but failed to reach the president’s desk.

Two Senate committees recently passed portions of the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act which would provide the investments in habitat conservation that the House package currently lacks. Read more about those bills here and here.

Ariel Wiegard

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February 25, 2016

First-Ever National Quail Summit Explores Models for Conservation Success

The tide may be turning for Gentleman Bob and other native species

The 2016 National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic just came to a close in Kansas City, Mo., where more than 20,000 hunters and conservationists convened at the nation’s largest upland event. As always, we were thrilled to participate in the annual Fest, which really does have something for everyone—from hunters and farmers to foodies and dog lovers.

This year’s event was particularly special, as it hosted the first-ever National Quail Summit, which brought together policymakers, upland biologists, hunters, and landowners to discuss long-term habitat solutions for the restoration of bobwhite quail populations in the U.S.

Here are a few things we learned at the summit:

  • CRP works for quail. The Conservation Reserve Program is absolutely critical to quail population success. “Bobwhite buffers,” the 30- to 120-foot-wide habitat buffers for upland birds and just one of the conservation practices encouraged under CRP, add 30,000 bobwhite quail coveys annually to the landscape. Farmers and landowners love these buffers, which became part of CRP back in 2004, and they got even more buffer options last year when the USDA began allowing farmers to enroll disconnected patches of farmland. This small change has caused enrollment to skyrocket in the last four months, and quail numbers are expected to get a big boost as a result.
  • Sportsmen can’t shoulder the conservation load alone. Here’s one good illustration of the state of the bobwhite and of bobwhite hunters: In Kansas in 1999, there were 117,000 quail hunters who harvested 1.3 million quail. In 2014, there were just 38,000 hunters and 175,000 quail harvested. That is a shocking decline on both counts, and it doesn’t bode well for a conservation model where sportsmen and shooters, by and large, pay for conservation. Less habitat means fewer quail, which means fewer quail hunters and fewer dollars for quail habitat restoration—it’s an endless and destructive cycle for game species. The state of Missouri, where the summit was held, happens to have a different model, which is held up as one of the best conservation funding mechanisms in the nation. Everyone pays for conservation through a 1/8-cent sales tax, adding about $110 million to the state’s conservation budget each year. The result? Everyone benefits.
  • But sportsmen will remain essential. That’s why states like Missouri are investing their conservation dollars in programs like the brand new Missouri Outdoor Recreational Access Program (MRAP). Just like other beneficiaries of the USDA’s Voluntary Public Accessprogram, MRAP pays landowners to allow hunting, fishing, and wildlife viewing on private property, and even incentivizes landowners to improve habitat on their lands. Access to hunting land remains the biggest hurdle to hunter recruitment and retention, but by connecting outdoor recreation to private lands conservation, MRAP will help to reverse that destructive cycle we just mentioned: Having more hunters leads to more dollars for conservation, which leads to better habitat and more quail.
  • We need purposeful management on a meaningful scale. Purposeful management—whether for habitat maintenance or habitat restoration—means to provide the specific habitat components that will sustain quail populations at the landscape level. Managing explicitly for adequate amounts of nesting cover, woody cover, and food access is essential. Setting land aside and hoping wildlife will move in is less successful. In many parts of the country, this means reintroducing fire to the landscape through prescribed burning, which helps recreate the native habitat that was once present. (It’s worth noting that land managers get very excited about prescribed fire. Robert Perez from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department joked at the summit that “inside the heart of every wildlife biologist is a pyromaniac dying to get out!”)
  • Conservation doesn’t happen by accident. We make it happen through funding, legislation, and hard work on the land. The only way that we’re going to win the war for conservation—especially to benefit quail, pheasants, and all the critters we love to hunt and fish—is if we form coalitions, work together, and remind people of the famous T.R. line: “There is no greater issue than that of conservation in this country.” If that’s the only message taken to heart by every Pheasant Fest attendee, we’d be pretty happy.

Looking around at the crowd listening intently to these facts and principles made me excited for the bobwhites’ prospects. Surrounded by hundreds of vendors showcasing guns and gear and puppies and delicious food, these individuals took the time to discuss bringing back our native species from the brink. It was easy to walk away feeling like we might just succeed.

Kristyn Brady

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February 24, 2016

Bills Up for House Debate Are an Affront to America’s Public Lands Legacy

House committee takes up legislation that overtly attempts to undermine public lands

On Thursday, the House Natural Resources Committee’s subcommittee on Federal Lands will discuss a handful of bills that promote the idea of transferring America’s public lands to individual states.

Image courtesy of Nicolas Raymond.

Two of these bills, in particular—Rep. Don Young’s H.R. 3650 and Rep. Raul Labrador’s H.R. 2316—are overt attempts to undermine public land ownership. Young’s bill is sweeping in its impact, allowing states to select and acquire millions of acres of national forests to be completely owned and operated by states and managed primarily for timber production. The Labrador bill would transfer management authority for large segments of our national forests to “advisory committees” and exempt these lands from bedrock conservation laws like the Clean Water Act, all while expecting the American taxpayer to continue to fund costs associated with wildfires on these once-public lands.

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) has sent subcommittee members a letter signed by 115 national and state-based hunting and fishing organizations urging lawmakers to reject attempts to seize America’s public lands. The group has also collected nearly 25,000 signatures on a petition opposing the seizure of America’s public lands and loss of sportsmen’s access.

“Even preliminary discussion of this legislation undermines the businesses that rely on public lands to keep their doors open, ignores the very real economic contribution that hunters and anglers make in this country, and panders to private interests at the expense of the public benefit,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the TRCP. The group and its partners have been calling for decision-makers to end this conversation since January 2015.

“We’ve seen this movement flare up and get stamped out this month at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation. In the last year, we’ve seen 37 bills at the state level, 31 of which were defeated. Now, this is the most overt discussion of seizing or selling off public lands to take place on Capitol Hill. At what point will lawmakers see that this is a non-starter with hunters, anglers, and American families who enjoy public access to outdoor recreation?” asks Fosburgh.

The TRCP is urging sportsmen across the country to contact members of the committee. Here’s the easiest way.

To learn more about efforts to transfer, sell off, or privatize public lands, click here.

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February 22, 2016

Glassing The Hill: February 22 – 26

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

After last week’s Presidents Day recess, both the Senate and the House are back in session.

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

Matters of influence and access are up for debate this week. For the first time since the unexpected death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, senators will be in Washington and able to strategize on a way forward. But the clock is ticking—President Obama is expected to send a Supreme Court nomination to the Hill any day. With the loss of a major conservative force, an ideological shift on that bench could have major impacts on all kinds of cases, including those related to conservation and the environment.

Before the recess, there was a flurry of Senate activity around including the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act in a broad energy bill, but that process left lawmakers with more questions than answers. This week, the House looks poised to move forward with their version of the sportsmen’s package, the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act. This legislation would improve sportsmen’s access and enhance recreational shooting opportunities. Last Congress, the House passed similar legislation with bipartisan support. Members had to submit amendments to the Rules Committee by 10am today, and the Rules Committee will meet tomorrow (Feb 23) at 5pm. If all goes well, the SHARE Act is expected to be on the floor in the latter half of the week.

Presidential Primary Update: On Tuesday, Nevada will hold its Republican primary caucus. “The Donald” leads the Republican polls there. And on Saturday, South Carolina, where Hillary Clinton has a very wide lead for the Dems, will hold its Democratic primary.

What We’re Tracking

Budget hearings for the Department of the Interior (where Secretary Jewell will testify), Forest Service, Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Agriculture (where NRCS Chief Jason Weller will testify), and NOAA—the agency that manages our fisheries and restores our coasts

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The 40th anniversary of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, as the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard examines its successes and challenges in a hearing

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Plans for future water resources development will be presented to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment by the Army Corps of Engineers and can be streamed live here

Oversight of the Renewable Fuel Standard—the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will discuss the ongoing effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a hearing

California’s water supply during El Nino could change the outlook for restricted water deliveries. The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans will discuss

Sage grouse and new mitigation regulations, as imposed by the Obama administration, will be examined in a House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Forest management and timber production on public lands, to be discussed in a House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands hearing

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