posted in: Outdoor Economy

May 24, 2017

Sportsmen and Women Head to the Capitol For Their Annual Spring Migration

Fly-in season is a busy time on Capitol Hill as folks migrate to D.C. to make a case for policies that strengthen our hunting and fishing heritage

For those who work on Capitol Hill, it’s a familiar sight: Streaming down the steps of a congressional office building, carrying identical totes, a crowd of out-of-towners wait in line to go through security. They’re holding matching folders and chatting excitedly about talking points and appointments. It’s a sure sign that someone in this town has organized a fly-in.

A fly-in is an event where constituents are invited to Washington to lobby lawmakers in a coordinated effort, meeting representatives and staffers face-to-face and sharing their perspectives. Non-profit and advocacy organizations often help participants with scheduling meetings, facilitating training and events, and constructing a unified and effective message for the group.

While advocacy tools like petitions or action alerts can leave some disconnect between a constituent and their representative, fly-ins are about as humanizing as you can get—and sometimes what everyone needs is a face-to-face conversation that leaves both parties more informed.

Advocates Flocking Together

If you’re an elected official, you’ve got a pretty good incentive to listen to the people who vote in your district. Constituents may not have the same data, nor training, as professional lobbyists, but they have something uniquely impactful: authority gained through on-the-ground life experiences at home.

At the Land Trust Alliance’s recent fly-in, staff briefed participants on key issues and outlined specific asks for lawmakers, like strengthening farm bill conservation programs. Bryan David, LTA’s advocacy & outreach manager, says the voices of their 120 Capitol Hill initiates deliver “a more effective and local message than ‘D.C. insiders’ could provide.”

But that’s not all that makes fly-ins unique or effective. After all, anyone can visit his or her congressional office, even if you’re just in D.C. on vacation.

In 2015, after a spring public lands fly-in hosted by the TRCP and our partners, Dan Harrison made the point that the players working to transfer or sell public lands have an advantage over the sportsmen’s community: They’re laser pointed at the U.S. Capitol while sportsmen and women are spread thin across the nation, keeping an eye on both federal and local issues affecting habitats on public and private land.

By bringing dispersed hunter and angler voices together in D.C., fly-ins facilitate the delivery of a cohesive message, usually including a very specific ask like a particular budget line-item or a policy priority, directly from the mouths of passionate constituents.

Jessi Johnson (left) and Maggie Heumann (right) from Artemis Sportswomen meet with representatives as part of National Wildlife Federation’s fly-in last month. Header image courtesy of Architect of the Capitol.
Timing is Everything

Since work (and life) in D.C. follow the congressional calendar, fly-ins tend to happen in bursts—often referred to as “fly-in season.” A reflection of Congress’ expected appropriations and budget timelines, spring is an especially strategic time to gather the troops and demand stronger programs that benefit access and fish and wildlife habitat.

Right now, lawmakers are crafting bills that allocate money to programs and departments within the federal government. It’s a good time to get in on the ground floor and ensure that our priorities are being considered at the right time.

Last month, National Wildlife Federation gathered representatives from 13 affiliates and outside groups to urge lawmakers to keep public lands public and improve funding for public-land management. They sat down with the people who are at the spearhead of shaping federal policy and discussed their on-the-ground concerns relating to sage-grouse management, wildfire funding, and more.

Just after that, the Outdoor Industry Association hosted 130 executives from their member companies to advocate for public lands and their role in the $887-billion outdoor recreation economy. They had specific asks for the lawmakers, like joining an outdoor recreation caucus and securing funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and worked in unison to drive the point home.

These weren’t the only spring fly-ins in our community this year. Many of our partners have been busy bringing folks into congressional offices to make the case for habitat and public lands—and if all goes according to plan, fiscal year 2018’s federal appropriations bills coming out of the U.S. House and Senate, as well as other legislation this year, will reflect what sportsmen and women care about most.

There’s More Than One Way to Take Action

Fly-ins are only one component of comprehensive and effective conservation advocacy. It takes countless people and a wide variety of efforts coming together to build a strong case for hunting and fishing. For example, when lobbyists—professional or otherwise—go to the Hill, they might tell lawmakers that more than 53,000 people are proud of their public lands, citing the Sportsmen’s Access petition. It’s a big number to throw out, but it’s important to remember that each of those names is an individual who took the time to learn more and take action. When lawmakers see some of those faces in their offices, it gives life to all 53,000.

Advocacy on Capitol Hill isn’t just about what policy staff and government relations professionals do, although their work is immeasurably valuable (seriously, they’re rock stars.) It’s also about how each person who becomes an advocate, whether they come to the Capitol or sign a petition from home, holds within them a lifetime of meaningful experiences—and their stories make a big difference for the future of habitat and access.

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May 23, 2017

Congress Can Still Defend Against Steep Cuts to Conservation

As more detail emerges on cuts to conservation programs and agencies in the president’s FY2018 budget, Congress retains the power of the purse

A detailed budget request released today shows that President Trump will continue to push for steep cuts to conservation programs and agencies among other major changes for fiscal year 2018. Today’s announcement expands upon the “skinny” budget blueprint released back in mid-March, which outlined detrimental budget cuts for public and private land management agencies, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and restoration programs in the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay.

New proposed cuts released today include: $1.4 billion decrease to the Department of Interior, $4.6 billion decrease in funding for the Department of Agriculture, $2.6 billion decrease in the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget, and a $1.5 billion reduction to the Department of Commerce budget.

“Sportsmen shouldn’t be surprised that this request is largely along the same lines as Trump’s skinny budget earlier this spring, but we’re not yet in an unworkable position to continue investing in conservation,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Congress retains the power of the purse, and based on their recent fiscal year 2017 spending agreement, lawmakers seem to have an appetite for expanding support for habitat, clean water, and the outdoor recreation economy.”

The congressional spending agreement that became law earlier this month stabilized and even increased conservation funding levels through the end of the current fiscal year, thanks to bipartisan efforts from Senate and House leadership. The TRCP and its partners will encourage leadership and appropriators to continue championing conservation funding in FY2018 by passing a budget deal that strengthens and invests in critical programs for the future of America’s fish and wildlife habitat and hunting and fishing traditions.

“Enjoying the outdoors is an American pastime that’s critical to a healthy future for all Americans—from connecting with family and friends on the water while boating or fishing to camping and exploring our national parks—activities that have proven to drive economic growth and provide millions of jobs in communities where there’s access to the outdoors,” says Thom Dammrich, president at the National Marine Manufacturers Association. “Federal investments in conservation make all of this possible and are not expendable. Congress seems inclined to agree, and sportsmen and women will be counting on lawmaker support for conservation and the industry’s 7.6 million outdoor recreation jobs in the fiscal year 2018 budget process.”

Read TRCP’s fact sheet on specific conservation programs called out in Trump’s FY2018 latest budget request.

Header image courtesy of Bob Wick/Flickr.


May 11, 2017

Sportsmen Concerned for Wildlife Conservation in USDA Department Shuffle

Department changes could shift the focus of the Natural Resources Conservation Service away from habitat programs to farm services

At a press event today, Secretary Perdue announced restructuring at the U.S. Department of Agriculture that would move the Natural Resources Conservation Service to a newly-created Farm Production and Conservation mission area to also house the Farm Service Agency and Risk Management Agency. A new undersecretary position has been created to oversee all the on-the-ground needs of America’s farmers, ranchers, and private foresters.

The move could provide opportunities to better align farm programs and improve conservation delivery. However, the concern from the sportsmen’s community is that this could shift the priorities at NRCS—the agency responsible for hugely successful programs benefiting water quality and game species like sage grouse—to focus more on farm productivity and perhaps give short shrift to fish and wildlife conservation on private lands.

NRCS is one of the most important federal agencies for conservation in America, wielding approximately $4 billion annually in conservation funding and boasting great success working with farmers and ranchers to improve soil health, water quality, and fish and wildlife habitat. The stewardship of private landscapes through voluntary actions by agricultural producers has helped create rural American sporting destinations that support jobs and healthy communities.

With so many benefits to landowners, hunters, anglers, and businesses on the line, sportsmen’s groups hope that USDA moves forward with this reorganization plan in a way that maintains the department’s integrity and focus on soil, water, and wildlife program goals.

The National Wildlife Federation, Izaak Walton League of America, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, and the rest of the sportsmen’s community look forward to working with Secretary Perdue to learn more about this transition and find ways to ensure that NRCS wildlife conservation efforts are strengthened, not weakened.

Read Perdue’s report to Congress on these changes.

Learn more about TRCP’s work on agriculture and private-land conservation here.

Photo courtesy of USDA/Flickr

May 4, 2017

Conservation Gets a Modest Bump in the 2017 Spending Bill

The omnibus spending package provides for sage grouse conservation, drought resiliency, conservation practices on farms and ranches, and one step forward for the Everglades

Congress has passed an omnibus appropriations bill for fiscal year 2017 with some increased funding for conservation and no harmful policy riders. The House and Senate’s investment in conservation is seemingly at odds with the Trump administration’s budget outline for fiscal year 2018, which would deeply cut most conservation programs and entirely eliminate others, including Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts.

“While last-minute funding solutions are not the ideal way to govern, sportsmen and women should be heartened to see Congress endorse funding levels mostly on par with what we got in 2016 and even give a modest bump to the things we care about, including healthier waterways, stronger sage grouse populations, restoration assistance in the Everglades, and better conservation practices on private lands,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

Tucked within more than 1,600 pages detailing government spending through September 30, the FY2017 omnibus package includes the following:

  • An $8.9-million increase for sage grouse conservation programs and no riders undermining the federal conservation plans that helped keep this iconic Western game bird off the endangered species list in 2015.
  • $864 million for Conservation Operations at the Natural Resources Conservation Service within U.S. Department of Agriculture—that’s about $13.5 million more than last year and exceeds President Obama’s last budget request by more than $1 million.
  • A $10-million increase for the Conservation Technical Assistance Program, which provides farmers and ranchers with the technical expertise to put conservation on the ground using Farm Bill dollars. This will help NRCS to deliver more than $5 billion in conservation programs to farmers, ranchers, and private foresters next year, improving fish and wildlife habitat and water quality nationwide.
  • $150 million for the Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations Program, which hasn’t been funded since 2010. This will help states, local governments, and tribes to enhance fish and wildlife habitat, improve water quality, reduce erosion, control sediment, and construct wetlands.
  • A 30-percent increase for the WaterSMART grant program, in which the Bureau of Reclamation works with water users to help ensure rivers and streams have enough water flows to support fish, agriculture, and cities during droughts.
  • More than $10 million in funding for the National Park Service to support interagency coordination in the Everglades. Additional funding will be needed in the next fiscal year to carry construct a reservoir recently approved by the Florida legislature. This is critical to improving water quality and habitat in one of the country’s most popular fisheries.

Two Farm Bill conservation programs were trimmed through the Congressional budget process known as Changes in Mandatory Program Spending, or CHIMPS. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) was cut by $179 million and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program was cut by $28 million.

The spending agreement for 2017 arrives late in the congressional calendar, and thorough plans from the White House for fiscal year 2018—which begins October 1—are not expected until May 22, at least two months later than normal. Sportsmen and women will remain active in the debate over investments in habitat, access, and the outdoor recreation economy.

“We’re encouraged by the final FY17 funding for our parks, refuges, forests, and other public lands and waters,” says Alex Boian, vice president of government affairs for the Outdoor Industry Association, which just released its newest Outdoor Recreation Economy Report. “These investments in our nation’s outdoor recreation assets ensure the continued growth of the $887-billion outdoor recreation economy and the support of 7.6 million American jobs. Time and time again, we have seen that when our elected leaders invest in America’s great outdoors, it results in healthy communities and healthy economies nationwide.”

Photo above is courtesy of Ace Hess/BLM.

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.



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.

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