Russ Schnitzer, Schnitzerphoto Colorado River
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Big wins for the hunting and fishing community are undercut by unacceptable provisions that sap long-term conservation funding and threaten headwaters, forests, and wetlands
Today the House of Representatives passed its 2018 Farm Bill, “The Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018,” with a 213-211 vote. While there are some positive provisions for conservation and sportsmen’s access in the bill—the single largest source of federal conservation funding—it also includes a number of provisions that would undercut long-term conservation benefits to headwaters, forests, and wetlands.
The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is especially pleased to see a 25-percent increase for the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program. As the only federal program aimed at opening private land to public access, VPA-HIP is a valuable tool for increasing hunting and fishing access to sportsmen and women across the country. The funding increase provided by the House bill is a much needed step towards meeting the $150 million required to meet landowner demand for the program. To date, this successful program has opened more than 950,000 acres of private land to the public for hunting and fishing across 30 states.
But this boost for hunting and fishing access is somewhat overshadowed by the long-term cuts to conservation funding in the bill. Unmet demand for Farm Bill conservation programs is at an all-time high, and sportsmen and women believe Congress should provide increased conservation funding to meet farmer and rancher demand. Also of concern is the inclusion of an amendment which seeks to repeal the Clean Water Rule, which protects our nation’s most vulnerable waterways.
“The proposed $795 million cuts to conservation would constitute a major disservice to all taxpayers—not just hunters and anglers—whose support for agriculture should not come at the cost of clean water and healthy soil,” says Whit Fosburgh, TRCP’s president and CEO. “The Farm Bill ensures that fish and wildlife continue to thrive in and around private lands while boosting hunting and fishing opportunities and the economic health of rural America. Especially since the House bill includes many of our community’s recommendations, we would have liked to see it move forward without short-sighted funding provisions or the handful of unacceptable amendments—like a repeal of the rule that clarifies Clean Water Act protections for headwater streams and wetlands and forestry provisions that would weaken the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act.”
Other positive provisions overshadowed by cuts to conservation include:
Should the Senate follow suit and successfully pass their bill in the coming weeks, the TRCP and its Agriculture and Wildlife Working Group will work to ensure the best provisions of each chamber’s proposal are included in the final legislation.
Photo courtesy of Northwoods Collective.
Together the organizations will lead the sportsmen’s community in advocating for policies to slow the spread of chronic wasting disease
The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and National Deer Alliance are proud to announce they have formally joined forces to fight the spread of chronic wasting disease and secure the future of deer hunting and conservation funding in America.
“CWD represents the most significant threat to deer, elk and moose today, and its spread can have a profound impact on the way we manage all wildlife in the country,” says Nick Pinizzotto, president and CEO of the National Deer Alliance. “I’m proud to be working with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, and I’m thankful for its leadership on this critical issue. This partnership will allow us to make an ever bigger impact with Congress and key federal agencies, which will help ensure a bright future for deer and hunters across the country.”
According to the most recent survey published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 80 percent of all hunters pursue big game, and these sportsmen and women contribute heavily to conservation through the purchase of licenses and payment of federal excise taxes that fund state management of wildlife. Hunters spent $25.6 billion in 2016 on trips, licenses, and equipment, sustaining outdoor recreation jobs and small businesses.
Uncertainty about CWD and possible loss of hunting opportunities could irreparably alter the strength of the hunting industry, local economies in deer hunting destinations, and conservation funds for all of North America.
“TRCP’s mission is to guarantee all Americans quality places to hunt and fish, which means quality habitat, healthy wildlife populations, and abundant access to facilitate our best days afield—the fight to curb CWD underscores all of these efforts,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.
“This epidemic is a significant threat to the deer herds of North America and, therefore, to the future of conservation funding in the United States and deer hunting as we know it. By throwing our lot in with the National Deer Alliance, one of our most active and invested partners working on CWD, we have pledged to use our strengths as an organization to advance strategic, science-based policies and guidelines to slow the spread of the disease.”
Among the partners’ priorities is to bring together leaders from hunting and conservation communities to collaborate on an action plan for stemming the spread of CWD and securing robust federal funding for disease research and detection.
In April and May 2018, the Archery Trade Association, National Wildlife Federation, Quality Deer Management Association, and Wildlife Management Institute joined the TRCP and NDA in driving individual comments from sportsmen and women to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service as the agency considered changes to CWD regulations for deer farms.
More than 1,000 hunters called for APHIS to take real and meaningful steps to strengthen standards, rather than allow the captive deer industry to write its own rules. And 29 groups signed a joint letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue on April 12.
Bipartisan Senate Farm Bill includes major victories for sportsmen, wildlife, and water quality
Today the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee passed its 2018 Farm Bill, “The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018,” with a 20-1 vote. The Senate version of the bill shows bipartisan support for maintaining overall conservation funding on private lands, strengthening conservation compliance, and fully funding the Voluntary Public Access program that helps to enhance hunting and fishing opportunities on private land.
“This bipartisan Farm Bill sets the high-water mark for conservation on private lands that make up more than 70 percent of the country,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We applaud Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member Stabenow for producing a bill that meets some of the most pressing needs around habitat conservation and sportsmen’s access.”
Over the past two years, the TRCP and its 25-member Agriculture and Wildlife Working Group have developed and lobbied for key sportsmen’s priorities in this Farm Bill, and many have been included in the Senate committee’s draft—particularly full funding for conservation. In light of the proposal to cut conservation spending by nearly a billion dollars in the House version of the bill, the TRCP and more than 100 other hunting, fishing, conservation, food and farm organizations and businesses sent a letter to the Senate Agriculture Committee in May requesting full funding for conservation.
The TRCP is particularly grateful to see a renewed commitment to enhancing hunting and fishing access by maintaining level funding for the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program—the only federal program helping to expand hunting and fishing opportunities through partnerships with landowners. “We recognize it was a hard-fought bipartisan negotiation just to maintain VPA-HIP funding, and we look forward to working toward funding levels that better meet landowner demand,” says Fosburgh.
Sportsmen should also be pleased to see positive improvements for these three key conservation programs:
The Senate bill also maintains conservation compliance—the compact between America’s taxpayers and landowners that ensures incentive funding is being put into conservation on the ground—and closing the “perennial crop loophole,” which allows producers to sidestep conservation compliance by converting native sod to crops like alfalfa that have minimal wildlife benefits.
Hunting and fishing in America accounts for $63 billion in direct consumer spending and supports 483,000 jobs, according to the Outdoor Industry Association. The future success of this vibrant economic sector is dependent upon clean water, fish and wildlife habitat, and adequate public access to outdoor recreation. The tools provided by the Farm Bill can play a significant role in boosting all three.
Provisions in the House Farm Bill do not currently match this Senate version, although there is much to celebrate in both. Sportsmen’s groups look forward to working with Congress to build a bipartisan conservation title that pulls the best features of each proposal into a Farm Bill that can be signed into law on time.
While this debate continues, brush up on your Farm Bill basics here.
Top photo by Chesapeake Bay Program via flickr
Opening New Mexico’s Sabinoso Wilderness has given sportsmen and women tremendous new opportunities, but support for one conservation tool will be critical to future access wins
When it comes to conservation success stories, we have an embarrassment of riches here in New Mexico. Just last year, we saw the establishment of legal access to the 16,000-acre Sabinoso Wilderness, which until last year was entirely surrounded by private land with no public roads or trails across. Now open to all, this national treasure offers an abundance of opportunity for hunters in pursuit of mule deer and turkey.
The unlocking of the Sabinoso required considerable effort by private individuals, conservation groups, and public officials from both parties. It is an accomplishment and a landscape well-worth celebrating, and has truly deserved the attention it has received in the press. In the wake of these triumphs, however, it’s important not to lose sight of the challenges in front of us.
I was reminded of this point at a recent event to recognize the conservation achievements of our two U.S. senators, Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall, who each played a critical role in the Sabinoso story. At an event to honor their past contributions, both seized the moment to voice their full-throated support for renewing the Land and Water Conservation Fund in perpetuity. They clearly see the potential expiration of this law, should Congress fail to act before September 30, as the issue of the moment for sportsmen and women.
Since its inception in 1964, the LWCF has been the United States’ premiere conservation program. By diverting a small percentage of federal royalties from offshore oil and gas leasing, it has invested more than $16 billion in conservation and outdoor recreation, including the establishment of public fishing areas, new access into landlocked and checkerboarded parcels of public lands, and the acquisition of lands and waters for the benefit of fish, wildlife, and the sporting public. Its record of success leaves no doubt that it is the best-available instrument for fulfilling the administration’s commitment to recreational access. As both Udall and Heinrich noted, the LWCF enjoys very strong bipartisan support in both houses of Congress and—given that it costs the taxpayer nothing—all across the country.
In New Mexico, we know that this powerful tool is capable of doing a great deal of good. From 1964 to 2015, there have been 1,024 projects amounting to $42,406,844 spent on everything from municipal ball fields to state parks. We’ve benefited enormously from the LWCF, which also funded the purchase of the 80,000-acre Valles Caldera (pictured above) from a private entity. Now managed as a national preserve, it offers some of the best hunting and angling in the West. Elk hunts and turkey hunts are offered through a public draw and the trout fishing is second to none. The preserve also generates revenue through their livestock-grazing leases.
The LWCF has an incredible legacy, to be sure, but it has a promising future as well. Who knows how many new success stories we’ll have to tell in the years ahead, or how many opportunities will be created for generations of sportsmen and women yet to come? In landscapes like the Sabinoso and the Valles Caldera, I see both the payoff for past efforts and also enormous potential for the work ahead.
Hearing such strong commitment at last month’s gathering left me encouraged. For someone who understands the importance of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, it is reassuring to know that there are some politicians working to address sportsmen’s concerns in Washington, D.C. But their voices and votes won’t be enough when push comes to shove on the reauthorization this fall. Take a minute and let your elected officials know how important the LWCF is to conservation and to the future of our hunting and fishing traditions.
Top photo courtesy of BLM New Mexico
Second photo courtesy of Larry Lamsa
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