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Critter Madness 2016 has come to a close and the elk are your repeat champions! The tournament started with a field of 16 from all over the country representing the best of the best in game species.
Right out of the gate in round one there were heated battles and huge upsets. The Largemouth Bass splashed out of nowhere to stun the number one seeded Brook Trout, last year’s Cinderella story. The elk barreled through the big horn sheep to set up an interesting “west vs. east” matchup in the next round.
The second round, though a bit calmer than the first, was still met with great matchups. The turkeys strutted past their arch upland foes in the pheasants. The Chinook swam past the blue marlin while the Rainbows edged out the largemouth bass by one vote .
The semi-finals showed just how dominant the elk were, breezing past the turkeys and besting all of their opponents by over 543 votes! The rainbows took down the mighty Chinook to become the only non-one seed to make it to the semi-finals or finals.
The final matchup pitted last year’s victor, the mighty elk against the underdog in the rainbow trout. When it came down to it, the trout never had a chance. A valiant effort on the part of anglers everywhere voting for their favorite fish to claim the crown, but they just weren’t strong enough to beat the king of the West!
Thank you to everyone who voted this year and helped us crown the 2016 champion critter!
The TRCP’s scouting report on sportsmen’s issues in Congress
The Senate will be in session this week, while House members continue to work in their districts until April 12.
Road blocks continue for the bipartisan energy bill. Consideration of the Energy Policy Modernization Act on the Senate floor has once again been pushed to a later date. As you may remember, the bipartisan energy bill was a potential vehicle for a portion of the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act. Senator Murkowski (R-AK) and leadership have been trying to resolve issues stemming from the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, and a legislative hold on the bill from Senator Lee (R-UT) since February. The bill has to come to the Senate floor before May, when the Senate will likely turn its attention to appropriations.
In the meantime, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell decided to move forward with “The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2016” (S. 2658). The FAA bill is certainly not a small issue, since it funds air traffic control and other aviation advancements, so it could potentially occupy the Senate floor for weeks, thereby complicating the path forward for the energy bill.
And, speaking of appropriations… Because of the Republican and Democratic conventions at the end of July and the presidential elections in November, Congress has a narrow window to focus on appropriations. This week, various Senate appropriations subcommittees will continue to examine agency budgets, with an eye towards having individual appropriations bills on the Senate floor in May. Reminder: The goal is to pass the 12 individual appropriations bills needed to fund the government, rather than a sweeping omnibus funding package, by September 30 for the first time in—well, a long, long time.
The House is slightly further along than the Senate when it comes to appropriations, and several subcommittees plan to begin marking up their spending bills as early as next week. The Energy and Water appropriations bill is one of the first, and it’s one to watch because 120 House Republicans are requesting that appropriators add a rider to block funding for the Clean Water Rule that sportsmen celebrated last year.
We’ll be scanning for other riders that are bad for fish and wildlife habitat, access, or conservation funding throughout the appropriations process.
It’s ba-ack: An old threat re-emerges to undo sage-grouse conservation. Last year, Congressman Bishop (R-UT), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, added a greater sage-grouse provision to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in order to give governors veto authority over federal conservation plans aimed at boosting critical greater sage-grouse habitat. Because of good work by lawmakers and sportsmen, the Bishop provision was not included in the NDAA that was eventually signed by the President.
Now, Congressman Bishop has introduced a standalone bill that, while not as sweeping as last year’s efforts, would still potentially jeopardize the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision not to list the sage grouse for Endangered Species Act protection. A mark-up of the bill has yet to be scheduled in the House Natural Resources Committee, but expect a hearing on this issue in the near future. We also anticipate that this provision will be included in the House version of the NDAA, scheduled to be marked up by the Armed Services Committee on April 27.
What We’re Tracking
Budget requests for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and U.S. Forest Service
Wednesday, April 6, 2016
Rural development programs and their economic impacts, to be discussed by the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Subcommittee on Rural Development and Energy in a hearing about the U.S. Department of Agriculture initiatives
Thursday, April 7, 2016
Habitat science and research will be on the table in a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on conducting oversight for the U.S. Geological Survey, the agency that collects, monitors, analyzes, and provides scientific understanding about natural resource conditions, issues, and problems.
Water infrastructure and costs, up for debate in a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing
Donors of conservation easements can take advantage of this new tax incentive right away
Every spring, men and women across America experience an overwhelming sense of nervous anticipation. It motivates them to throw open drawers, haul boxes down from the attic, and gather all the essentials ahead of the big day. No, we’re not talking about the spring turkey opener or the Mid-Atlantic shad run—we’re talking about tax season.
Ok, sure, filing your taxes isn’t nearly as fun or exciting as springtime in the outdoors, but there’s positive news for landowners, fish, and wildlife this tax season. We’re not tax experts*, but with less than two weeks before April 15, this may be one incentive you need to know about.
In December 2015, Congress made permanent a federal tax incentive for the donation of conservation easements to encourage landowners to conserve important natural resources while retaining ownership of their property. The law now adds the following benefits for donors:
(Our partners at the Land Trust Alliance put together a handy brochure that explains the changes in more detail—here’s where you can view it online.)
If you donated an easement last year, the incentive is retroactive to January 1, 2015, meaning you can take advantage of this new deduction right away. And if you own property and want to protect your lands and waters, you should consider donating a conservation easement in 2016. Conservation easements can be very flexible; they are tailor-made to the needs of each landowner and each piece of land, allowing you to continue to hunt and fish, farm, ranch, and harvest timber, as long as you preserve the land for natural habitat, open space, historical importance, or outdoor recreation or education.
And the added bonus for hunters and anglers? You can feel good knowing that your children and grandchildren will enjoy this land, and the fish or wildlife it supports, just as you did.
*TRCP doesn’t handle conservation easements, but many of our partners do. Organizations like Land Trust Alliance, The Nature Conservancy, and Ducks Unlimited can help you get started. And, of course, you should contact your tax attorney or accountant for further guidance.
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In the last two years, policymakers have committed to significant investments in conservation, infrastructure, and reversing climate change. Hunters and anglers continue to be vocal about the opportunity to create conservation jobs, restore habitat, and boost fish and wildlife populations. Support solutions now.Learn More