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May 4, 2017

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Soundbites Are Great, But Solutions Are Better

In a contentious election year, it was tough to break through the noise and put a focus on conservation, but we did a lot more than just talk in 2016—read our annual report

One truism in Washington is that not much in the way of policy happens in an election year, and last year was no exception. Yet, 2016 was far from quiet for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, as we’ve outlined in our newest Annual Report. Primarily, we focused on building the strength of the sportsman’s voice in Washington and laying the foundation for campaigns to come.

To push back on the seizure or transfer of public lands that belong to all Americans, we continued using social media and old-fashioned shoe leather to organize hunters, anglers, and outdoor recreation business owners who depend on public lands. We took the fight to elected officials and, by the end of 2016, counties across the West passed resolutions opposing the transfer or sale of public lands valued by locals. Our public lands petition site at sportsmensaccess.org became the hub for activists across the country, with more than 50,000 people signing up to take action.

Annual Report designed by Pete Sucheski. Top photo: NickMKE/Flickr

At the same time, the TRCP and our partners successfully defended the Obama administration’s landmark agreement on greater sage grouse conservation from congressional attacks. These legislative maneuvers would have ultimately undone collaborative efforts to conserve 350 different species in the sagebrush ecosystem and keep this iconic Western game bird off the endangered species list.

In an effort to inform hunters and anglers, and everyone else, about where the presidential candidates stood on conservation and access issues, we hosted a forum with each campaign’s top surrogate at our Western Media Summit in Fort Collins, Colo. The resulting one-hour interview with Donald Trump Jr., moderated by Field & Stream magazine, became the definitive source of intel on our future president’s commitment to the sporting community.

We also took advantage of the legislative lull to bring the hunting and fishing community together on future challenges, including the 2018 Farm Bill. More than 20 partner organizations came together for three days at the Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation facilities in Illinois to begin organizing for what will be an extremely important Farm Bill debate, one that will guide conservation on hundreds of millions of acres of private lands from Maine to Hawaii.

Our work on drought resiliency—a benefit to habitat and our fishing opportunities—continued, and by the end of 2016, more than half of the 20 priorities we’d previously identified as ways to get ahead of the next drought had been put into official policy. Similarly, to provide concrete recommendations on how the federal government could do a better job in managing marine fisheries, we organized and facilitated two workshops on “alternative management” tactics that could work better for recreational fishermen and conservation.

In addition, we worked with The Orvis Company to convene the communications leaders from our non-profit and corporate partners for a retreat to discuss new ideas for inspiring sportsmen and women to take action for conservation.

The goal of the TRCP is to unite and amplify the voices of sportsmen and women to create positive change for federal policy. We did that in 2016, both to address immediate challenges and to lay the groundwork for future success. On behalf of the TRCP board and staff, we thank you—our partners, members, funders, and many other supporters—for making this work possible.

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Mule Deer and Pronghorn Migration Corridors Are Still Overlooked When it Comes to Conservation

After a winter spent traversing the West in search of green food, big game species are on their way back to your favorite hunting spots—if they can make it

As we shed our extra woolen layers, pull tarps from our boats, and head out to turkey blinds and our favorite fishing holes, big game species like mule deer and pronghorn antelope across the West are moving from their wintering grounds to summer ranges in massive annual migrations. Their ability to make the trip, survive the elements, navigate man-made barriers, and find enough food along the way dictates whether these critters will be around come opening day, but thousands of miles of migration corridors have been more of an afterthought in the conservation equation.

Here’s why this doesn’t add up.

Following the Food

Big game animals can live in some of the harshest and most remote areas in the West, but only if they can move freely across the landscape at key times of the year to access nutritious food. Each spring, these animals gradually move from their low-elevation wintering habitats toward summering areas to follow the “Green Wave”—the swaths of lush green grass and forbs emerging as the snow recedes. In the fall, these critters follow the same general path back, as snow covers their food and drives them lower and lower into wintering habitat.

Their ability to move across the landscape to find food is why the West has such large and flourishing herds of big game. But migration is tough on animals and many barriers can threaten their ability to move freely. Fences, highways, housing developments, and oil and gas development can change animal movement patterns or close off migration corridors altogether.

Big game animals need big landscapes. That’s why conserving all habitats they use—including their migration corridors—is vital for big game populations. It doesn’t matter how much work we put into maintaining or restoring mule deer summer range if critters starve, perish, or become unhealthy along the way. Therefore, conservation planning has to look at the big picture when it comes to balancing other uses of the land with the needs of migrating animals. This also means working with private landowners and public land managers to achieve the goals for migrating big game—great conservation work by a private landowner could be all for naught if adjacent public lands aren’t managed in a compatible way to meet those goals.

migration corridors
Image courtesy of Jon Nelson/Flickr. Top photo courtesy of Sara Domek.
Filling the Data Gap

State wildlife agencies and their biologists know how important migration corridors are, yet only some have detailed information about where they exist. Worse yet, few agencies have any information on the threats these animals face along their journeys. This makes the conservation and management of big game animals difficult, at best.

In Wyoming last year, the Game and Fish Commission took some unprecedented steps to protect vital migration corridors by developing an assessment strategy to determine threats to animal movement and shape recommendations on necessary conservation actions. The first assessment of its kind was recently completed by biologists studying the Sublette mule deer herd as they migrated from the Red Desert to Hoback, Wyoming. It builds off prior work by the Wyoming Migration Initiative and field biologists who helped identified 11 segments of the 150-mile-long migration route these mule deer traverse each spring and fall. Once finalized, the new assessment and its recommendations should provide a roadmap for conserving this particular migration corridor.

Big game animals need big landscapes, and securing migration corridors is vital for their survival. Share on X
Balance in an Uncertain Era

Both President Trump and Secretary Zinke have pledged to follow the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, and we remain hopeful that both will do great things for wildlife during their tenure in office.  A good first step would be to carefully examine what’s working and what’s not, rather than roll back previous policies and actions that could enhance wildlife habitat, protect migration corridors, and properly mitigate the unavoidable impacts of development. And Executive Orders could just as easily be used to do positive things for fish, wildlife, and overlooked habitat in areas where outdoor recreation jobs are just as critical as energy jobs. (Take a look at where outdoor recreation stacks up with other industries in the Outdoor Industry Association’s most recent report, and you’ll see why we have a mandate to balance all the many demands on America’s public lands and waters.)

We don’t yet know how conservation will be affected in the coming months and years, but the TRCP has always believed that energy development, responsible grazing, and the many other vital uses of our public lands can be balanced with the needs of fish, wildlife, and sportsmen and women.  One thing we do know is that we don’t want to be migrating out to our favorite hunting spots only to wait for mule deer or pronghorns that never show.

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May 1, 2017

Take a Road Trip for Conservation

Here’s how one brand is making it possible to have fun and give back to the places we love to hunt and fish

You have an open week on your upcoming schedule. A friend sketched out a map to a creek that has some secrets to reveal in the form of 18-inch wild trout. It’s deep into public lands, far away from any accommodations, and maybe you want to do a little better than sleeping in your car.

Make the trip this month in a rental vehicle from Campervan North America, and they’ll give a little something back to America’s public lands.

Campervan North America was founded by Bob Swan, a former fly fishing sales representative from Montana, who spent many nights between stops in his territory stashing his camper on America’s public lands and waking up pre-dawn to make his first cast right outside his door. Now, he’s passing that experience along to customers, who can rent five different models of vans that sleep anywhere from two to five adults (yep, you can bring Fido, too) and excel off-grid where sportsmen thrive.

Swan knows how integral public lands are to our sporting heritage, and that’s why he stands by TRCP’s work to keep them public and well-managed. “One thing that is special about America, and what I miss the most when I am abroad, is our wonderful public lands and the wildlife we have,” says Swan. “In other parts of the world, you cannot take off into a field of sagebrush or set off in the woods nearly as easily as we can. Doing anything to jeopardize this privilege would be a tragedy.”

Recognizing the importance of public lands to his business and the outdoor recreation economy, Swan and Campervan North America are donating 10 percent of the cost of your rental to the TRCP from now through the end of May—just mention code TRCP while making a reservation.

Head over to campervannorthamerica.com to plan your next trip and safeguard our future adventures on public lands.

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April 27, 2017

Rinella and Western Governors Receive Top Honors for Conservation Achievement

Meateater‘s Steven Rinella, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead, and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper were celebrated for their leadership and advocacy to advance policy outcomes for wildlife and access

At the ninth annual Capital Conservation Awards Dinner last night, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership celebrated three honorees for their leadership in ongoing collaborative conservation efforts and advocacy: Meateater host and author Steven Rinella, Republican Governor Matt Mead of Wyoming, and Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado.

The gala event, held at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C., brought together policy-makers, outdoor industry innovators, and conservation group leaders. Tucker Carlson, host of FOX News Channel’s Tucker Carlson Tonight, and Rachel Maddow, host of MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show, served as co-masters of ceremony and set the tone for the evening with their opening remarks on the inclusive, non-partisan nature of hunting and fishing. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke made closing remarks emphasizing the value of America’s public lands.

Rinella received TRCP’s 2017 Conservation Achievement Award for his demonstrated willingness to raise awareness about habitat and access issues while spurring hunters and anglers to take action. His outreach to fans and readers about Rep. Jason Chaffetz’s H.R. 621, a bill that would have disposed of 3.3 million acres of America’s public lands, was integral to rallying opposition on social media that ultimately pressured Chaffetz to withdraw the bill.

“Steven Rinella is not only an excellent ambassador for hunting and fishing, he’s dedicated to advancing conservation so that our sports can prosper long-term,” says Whit Fosburgh, TRCP’s president and CEO. “His influencer status makes Steve the ultimate sportsman’s role model, and his willingness to use that platform to bring clarity to complex policy issues and urge rank-and-file sportsmen to become informed advocates is incredibly meaningful to the American conservation movement.”

After accepting his award from Sen. Martin Heinrich, a 2016 Capital Conservation Awards honoree, Rinella restated his commitment to demystifying the public land transfer issue, and other conservation imperatives, for the average sportsman. “I grew up within a couple of miles of the Huron-Manistee National Forests in Michigan, and as a kid it was as if that public land just appeared there for me to use—I never thought about why, or how it was a part of a great American legacy of conservation,” he said. “I work to open the eyes of guys like me, who just never thought about it before. It’s not an easy to poem to write, but it’s critical.”

Governors Mead and Hickenlooper were presented with the 2017 James D. Range Conservation Award—named for TRCP’s co-founder, a conservation visionary, and presented to one Democrat and one Republican each year—for their collaborative efforts to help restore sagebrush habitat as co-chairs of the Western Governors’ Association Sage Grouse Task Force. They are the first state governors to receive the award, which is typically given to one Democrat and one Republican in Congress.

Gov. Mead shared credit with his task force colleagues and cited Wyoming’s unique outdoor-recreation-driven economy and future generations of outdoorsmen and women as his inspiration. His award was presented by Jim Ogsbury, executive director of the Western Governors’ Association.

Gov. Hickenlooper accepted his award from Sen. Michael Bennet and addressed the many benefits of public lands for Coloradans—including hunting and fishing access—and “the magic” of the simplest outdoor experiences.

Learn more about the TRCP’s Capital Conservation Awards here and here.

Watch Steven Rinella’s acceptance speech here.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

CHEERS TO CONSERVATION

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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