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Using the industry-leading mapping software, TRCP and onX team up to make the case for a broader approach to public lands access acquisition
For Western hunters who depend on public lands, software from onX combined with a smartphone or a handheld GPS unit has changed the game. Showing a user’s real-time location in relation to tangled property boundaries, this technology allows sportsmen and women to hunt unmarked and isolated tracts of public land along rivers and roads without the risk of trespassing on private land.
Recognizing how transformative their mapping software has been, we’ve partnered with onX to illustrate a major challenge for public land hunters across the West, and how this technology might be used to change the game for public land policy as well. Here’s how.
Still Locked Out of Our Public Lands
In many Western states, millions of acres of public lands remain “landlocked”—meaning they are rendered completely inaccessible by surrounding private lands. Historically, establishing legal access to these often small and remote parcels through easements, right-of-ways, or land acquisitions would not have been particularly useful, given the difficulties involved in identifying them and discerning their boundaries.
The modern GPS-equipped sportsman, however, can confidently make good use of small tracts of public land that might sit only a few hundred yards from a public road, if provided with a means of legal access across private tracts.
Officials in Washington, D.C., currently have at their disposal a powerful tool to do just that. Enacted in 1965, the Land and Water Conservation Fund is the primary source of federal revenue for acquiring new public lands and a critical program for expanding hunting and fishing access to Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service land and water resources. It is incredibly popular among hunters and anglers, and it enjoys bipartisan support on Capitol Hill.
While in the past, LWCF acquisition funds have generally been used to consolidate blocks of checker-boarded public lands, the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service have utilized LWCF funds in recent years to work also toward establishing legal recreational access to currently landlocked parcels of public land. The current state of technology means that we now have more sophisticated means for doing so with tremendous opportunities for the average sportsman.
What’s more, the current administration has committed to improving sportsmen’s access. In September 2017, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke directed the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to produce plans for expanding hunting and fishing opportunities on public lands. The agencies were also specifically charged with identifying lands where access is currently limited or impossible via public roads or trails.
This is great news for public land hunters and anglers. But DOI’s focus on access is at odds with the precarious position of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Despite its many existing and potential benefits, the program will expire on September 30, unless reauthorized by Congress. We believe that the new opportunities to expand technologically assisted access to our public lands should inspire Congress and the administration to move LWCF reauthorization across the finish line as soon as possible.
The TRCP and onX are convinced that securing public access to inaccessible public lands should be a priority among policymakers. That’s why we have partnered up to educate legislators and agency personnel on exactly how mobile technologies are changing the way people access our public lands.
As part of this effort, onX founder and CEO Eric Siegfried traveled to Washington, D.C., where he joined TRCP staff in meetings with officials at the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as staff at the White House Council on Environmental Quality and Office of Management and Budget.
Together, we impressed upon the agencies and decision makers how modern GPS technologies that enable the public to pinpoint the exact location of property boundaries have created new opportunities for both sportsmen as well as policymakers looking to expand public access. Using onX software to show how public land is locked up back home, we also explained the importance of LWCF to the ability of the federal government to continue opening inaccessible lands to the public.
We now require your help to convince the administration and your congressional delegation of the need to reauthorize LWCF as soon as possible. Without this critical program, most public land access and acquisition projects would not occur—and time is running out.
Recommended reading for the serious sportsman-conservationist
A good book provides escape and inspires us when we can’t get outdoors. Here’s a peek at just a few of the conservation classics on our shelves.
Steve Kline, TRCP’s director of government relations, enjoys reading thousand-page historical biographies when he’s not in a duck blind, but his recommendation is not going to make you go bleary-eyed. This children’s book is about a crab who escapes the National Aquarium to clean up the Chesapeake Bay with friendly fowl and flounder, you do it.
The Farm Bill may be keeping Alex Maggos busy now, but he spent two seasons as a wildland firefighter in Utah before coming to TRCP as agriculture and private lands director. This might be why he considers this book to be required reading. Post up in a comfy chair for this story of the Great Fire of 1910, the early infancy of the U.S. Forest Service, and President Roosevelt’s response.
Kids as young as three will love the bright artwork and simple narrative in this book about the importance of healthy habitat to trout and all the things fish need to survive. Read it to your budding angler at bedtime, then wake up early to look for bugs and watch the food chain at work.
This collection of Ruark’s best Field & Stream columns brought me to tears. Although it shows its age in other ways (“It pure riles a woman to see a man having any fun that doesn’t involve work. That’s why fishing was invented, really…”), the coming-of-age story is a classic one. The “Old Man” in the title is the author’s hunting mentor, greatest critic, and best friend—his grandfather, who teaches him what it means to be a sportsman and a gentleman.
Our president and CEO Whit Fosburgh handed me this superlatively titled book about the stinky, oily baitfish known as bunker or menhaden—also known as the unsung hero of the Atlantic. If you’ve ever been striper fishing, you probably own your success to this little fish that put whaling out of business and appear in the ingredients list for makeup, cat food, and vitamin supplements.
This has become a conservation classic since its first publication in 1949. According to the Aldo Leopold Foundation, it has been translated into 14 languages and more than two million copies have been printed. That seems a small number when you consider that the most recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife survey found 101.6 million Americans enjoy hunting, fishing, or wildlife watching, and A Sand County Almanac should be considered required reading for this crowd. Consider listening to the audiobook, narrated by Stewart L. Udall, who served as Secretary of the Interior for the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.
By the way, if you want to expand your conservation library and support our work to guarantee all Americans quality places to hunt and fish, shop for any of these titles via our unique Amazon Smile link or create an Amazon Smile account and select TRCP to automatically receive 0.5% of your transaction, at no additional cost to you.
Have a recommendation that we missed? Share your good reads in the comments section or on Facebook.
This was originally posted on World Book Day 2018 and has been updated to reflect one of the top suggestions from your comments. Keep ’em coming.
Conservation champions from the “Fishing Capital of the World” will bring this urgent message to Washington, D.C., next week
The rich, diverse ecosystem and one-of-a-kind fishing opportunities in the Everglades have captured the imaginations of many Americans. And yet the response to South Florida’s decades-old conservation challenges has been drawn out and sporadic.
It’s time to prove that restoring the Everglades is a national priority. And there is a major opportunity coming up for Congress, especially, to show its support.
Not only is the Everglades home to hundreds of unique plant and animal species, it is the largest subtropical wetland ecosystem in North America and serves as the water supply for more than 8 million Floridians.
Hunters lucky enough to experience this special place anticipate each new hunting season and with it the thrill of pursuing whitetails, waterfowl, or even feral hogs. And anglers know all too well why Florida is the “fishing capital of the world.” Thoughts of stalking snook in the Caloosahatchee, scanning for tailing redfish in the Everglades, and even drifting live bait for tarpon in Florida Bay is enough to get the heart and mind racing.
Along with these activities comes serious economic benefits: Recreational fishing in the Everglades region alone supports nearly $2.9 billion in total economic activity and more than 26,000 jobs.
For all these reasons, restoring the Everglades and improving the flow of water south is vital to our economy, health, and way of life. But hasn’t been easy. In fact, it has been more like trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube with some of the stickers missing.
Everglades restoration is about quantity, quality, location, and timing. We have to get the right amount and quality of water to the right places at the right time throughout South Florida—that’s a lot easier said than done. We’ve made progress over the decades thanks to some very dedicated partners, advocates, policy makers, and scientists. And in 2018, we could be on the verge of a significant step forward.
That’s why hundreds of advocates for Everglades restoration will come to Washington, D.C., next week to attend America’s Everglades Summit. Hosted by the Everglades Foundation, this two-day gathering will focus on the economic and environmental importance of a healthy Everglades ecosystem. Attendees will also ask lawmakers to prioritize policies and funding to keep restoration projects moving forward.
One of these projects is the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir that is a central component of the Central Everglades Project. Once completed, the reservoir is expected to reduce damaging algae-causing discharges of polluted water by 60 percent, alleviating inundated communities along the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers. It will also send an additional 370,000 acre-feet of clean water south towards the Everglades and Florida Bay each year.
It is imperative that Congress seize this opportunity and authorize this important project in the 2018 Water Resources Development Act. Not doing so would mean another two years of unnecessary and costly delays for Florida’s celebrated fisheries.
And read the letter from 176 hunting and fishing businesses urging Congress to authorize the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir in the upcoming 2018 Water Resources Development Act.
Top photo credit to Steve Davis
Energy development in Nevada’s Ruby Mountains puts at risk the very qualities that make these public lands important to sportsmen and women
Often referred to as the Swiss Alps of Nevada, the Ruby Mountains in Elko County rise from 6,000-foot-elevation sagebrush steppe to alpine vegetation at over 11,300 feet on the summit of Ruby Dome. The rugged terrain is home to nearly every game animal in the state, including mountain goats, bighorn sheep, elk, and mountain lions, as well as Nevada’s largest mule deer herd. Resident game birds include Himalayan snowcock, blue grouse, chukars, and the greater sage grouse, while a host of eagles, hawks, and other birds are often seen soaring high above the peaks. Mountain streams contain healthy fish populations, among them the native Lahontan cutthroat trout. Hunters, anglers, backpackers, and recreationists of all types spend thousands of days and dollars each year camping and exploring this iconic mountain range.
Without a doubt, the Rubies are among Nevada’s most beloved landscapes and provide vital habitat for wildlife.
This past fall, the Humboldt Toiyabe National Forest invited the public to comment on a proposal to lease approximately 54,000 acres in the Ruby Mountains for oil and gas exploration. Parcels under consideration for leasing extend in places from the foothills to the top of the range, and several directly abut the boundary of the Ruby Mountain Wilderness. Others lie within a mile of Ruby Dome and the scenic, high-alpine Griswold Lake. The proposed leases spread several miles on either side of Harrison Pass, a very popular area for campers and deer hunters, while the southernmost tracts encompass crucial winter range and migration corridors for big game.
During an initial 30-day comment period, the Forest Service received more than 8,000 responses from various agencies, individuals, and organizations. Tellingly, only a handful of comments supported the proposal. Sportsmen and women, especially, expressed concerns at the prospect of someday seeing roads, machinery, and oil wells scattered across the landscape. Besides the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, other sporting organizations voicing their objections include Trout Unlimited, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, the Coalition for Nevada’s Wildlife, and Nevada Muleys.
Because of the intense public interest in the issue, the Forest Service has extended the comment period on the proposed leasing until April 23, 2018. Concerned sportsmen and women must make their voices heard. Energy exploration in the Ruby Mountains would jeopardize the quality of the region’s wildlife habitat and the celebrated opportunities it offers to hunters and anglers. This rich and storied landscape is no place for drilling and development.
Take action now. Please offer your comments on the proposed leasing and ask that the Humboldt Toiyabe National Forest:
Photos courtesy of USFS
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.Learn More