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The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership was created to bring together nonprofit partners, individual hunters and anglers, and outdoor recreation businesses to rally behind common conservation policy goals. Here’s why we do what we do—and how you can help.
Combined with a companion bill in the House, this legislative effort would also provide resources to state agencies facing a looming crisis for wild deer and elk herds
Just days into the lame duck session, Sens. John Barrasso, Doug Jones, and Michael Bennet have introduced legislation to ramp up on research and testing for chronic wasting disease in deer, elk, and other cervids. Combined with a companion bill previously introduced in the House by Rep. Ralph Lee Abraham, the aim of the bill would be to understand as much as possible about this always-fatal disease and implement research findings as a critical component of a nationwide response to CWD.
“Chronic wasting disease has negatively affected white-tailed and mule deer in Wyoming for decades,” says Sen. Barrasso. “To protect our wildlife populations and our hunters, we need to know more about how this disease is spread and which areas are most at risk. Our bill gives wildlife managers the tools they need to research and identify exactly where chronic wasting disease is most prominent and how we can better prevent it. It’s a critical first step to addressing this debilitating disease and keeping our wildlife herds healthy.”
“Passing legislation to ultimately help curb the spread of chronic wasting disease is one of our top priorities for the remaining weeks of this Congress,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Misinformation about CWD and how we should deal with it as a hunting community is almost as rampant as the disease itself, and we need definitive research to chart an ambitious path toward recovery. In the meantime, sportsmen and women are prepared to do our part, and that includes advocating for necessary funding and demanding updates to management practices that have failed our wild deer and elk herds in the past.”
The bill directs the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a study on how CWD is transmitted in wild, captive, and farmed deer in the United States. The goal would be to identify all factors that contribute to the spread of the disease and hone in on where deeper research is needed. The bill also calls for a review of the best practices and standards for managing CWD in both captive and wild deer, to result in a report of findings and recommendations.
“We strongly support this important legislation, which, if passed, would aid to combat a serious wildlife health issue,” says Ed Carter, president of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and executive director of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. “Chronic wasting disease may be one of the biggest challenges in modern wildlife conservation history, and it will take funding for the best possible science, and many other efforts, to respond swiftly and appropriately.”
The rampant spread of CWD could have a major impact on the future of deer hunting and funding for wildlife habitat conservation. More than 80 percent of the hunting public participates in deer hunting and contributes more money to conservation funding than any other type of outdoor enthusiast through the purchase of licenses and gear.
“We applaud the sponsors of this bill for recognizing that CWD is the most significant wildlife disease issue in more than 100 years,” says Brian Murphy, CEO of the Quality Deer Management Association. “It is an imminent threat to our wild deer herds, which help generate $39.5 billion in economic impact from hunters annually, supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs and serving as the backbone for conservation funding in the United States. These deer also, quite literally, provide nearly one billion wholesome meals to Americans each year. The spread of this disease must be stopped.”
Currently, testing for CWD can take time because of the limited number of laboratory facilities across the country, and there are significant cumulative costs for state fish and wildlife agencies. The Center for Disease Control does not recommend eating venison from CWD-positive deer.
“Clearly a concern about deer being safe to eat has a negative impact on new hunter recruitment, as well as the retention of existing deer hunters,” says Nick Pinizzotto, president and CEO of the National Deer Alliance. “Many new deer hunters became attracted to the sport due to a desire to collect their own safe and organic food, and now that premise is being threatened by this horrible disease. This important bill will help get us the answers we need.”
If Congress can pull off a Hail Mary pass for legislation that benefits hunters and anglers in the remaining weeks of 2018, here are the bills we want to see land on the president’s desk
Now that Election Day has come and gone, there may be as little as three weeks of worktime left in the 115th Congress—and that means we have one last window to finalize top legislative priorities for habitat, clean water, sportsmen’s access, and conservation funding. It’s important to note that bills written, introduced, debated, and passed this Congress will head back to square one at the start of a new session on January 4, 2019.
Time is short, but it isn’t over ‘til it’s over.
Fortunately there’s already support from both sides of the aisle on crucial legislation to enhance habitat conservation and sportsmen’s access on public lands. And Congress has the opportunity to put these priorities to bed so that 2019 can be spent making more progress for conservation, not making up for lost time.
These are the seven bipartisan, ready-to-vote pieces of legislation they’ll need to carry across the finish line during the lame duck session to make that happen.
Benefits for wetlands, water quality, fishing access
Last move: Passed out of Senate committee
The Hunting Heritage and Environmental Legacy Preservation for Wildlife Act, or HELP for Wildlife Act, is one of the strongest pieces of legislation for habitat conservation to emerge in decades—and one of the most meaningful things Congress could get done in the waning days of 2018.
Introduced and passed out of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee with broad bipartisan support in October 2017, this legislation includes reauthorization for the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the Chesapeake Bay restoration program through 2022. Additionally, the bill contains the National Fish Habitat Conservation Act, which would improve fish habitat and expand recreational fishing access. These provisions have made it this far before, only to be left behind as Congress wraps. It’s time to get them done.
Benefits for conservation funding and swelling our ranks
Last move: Passed unanimously in the House and referred to the Senate
Another key sportsmen’s priority is the Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act of 2017, which would help address the decline in hunter participation that has wildlife professionals worried for the future of conservation funding.
The original Pittman-Robertson Act is the foundation of our unique wildlife conservation funding framework, where excise taxes on the purchase of firearms, ammunition, and other hunting gear go toward funding state-level wildlife conservation work. Modernizing Pittman-Robertson would allow a percentage of funds to be used for activities related to the recruitment, retention, and reactivation of hunters and recreational shooters, thereby improving the trust fund’s ability to support our state wildlife agencies.
This is bipartisan legislation that has already passed in the House and should definitely be in the mix if lawmakers want to be part of a long-term solution for boosting conservation coffers.
Benefits for recreational fisheries and forage fish
Last move: Passed out of Senate committee and House this summer
The Modern Fish Act addresses many of the challenges faced by recreational anglers and represents the fishing community’s practical wishlist for updating fisheries management and data collection. The bill aims to benefit fishing access and conservation by allowing science and technology to guide decision-making, all while placing a higher priority on the needs of anglers.
We have been operating within a system designed to manage commercial fishing for too long—our coastal economies deserve to see us build upon the bipartisan support for MFA, not head back to the drawing board in January.
The Wildlife Innovation and Longevity Driver Act, or WILD Act, would reauthorize the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, a critical initiative to assist private landowners who want to voluntarily restore habitat on their lands, for the next five years. The program also establishes a series of Theodore Roosevelt Genius Prizes to help prevent poaching, promote wildlife conservation, manage invasive species, and conserve endangered species.
This program has become a household name among outdoor recreation enthusiasts—and for good reason. The Land and Water Conservation Fund is a critical tool for conserving habitat and opening access to public lands, but Congress allowed the LWCF to expire on September 30.
Even though the LWCF doesn’t use a single taxpayer dollar—it’s funded from a portion of offshore oil and gas fees—the program has rarely been funded to its full potential and short-term authorization cycles create uncertainty for proposed outdoor recreation projects. While majorities in both chambers currently support permanent reauthorization and full funding, the ultimate length and funding levels are matters of continued negotiation.
Still, bipartisan legislation to save LWCF has broad support in both chambers and could easily pass today. We’d be excited to see this program put to work on the 9.52 million acres of landlocked public land across the West with no permanent legal access. Take action to let your lawmakers know.
Sportsmen have been advocating for several bills that would fit well in a comprehensive public lands package by the end of the year. One of them, the Advancing Conservation and Education, or ACE, Act, would improve the quality of public lands and allow Western states to generate more revenue for state land-trust beneficiaries, such as schools.
ACE would facilitate land-swaps to unlock state lands entirely surrounded by federal lands, or vice versa. In both cases, these swaps are designed to improve land management in the West by streamlining jurisdiction over land parcels. (Imagine how hard it would be to manage upkeep and improvements on your land if you had to cross someone else’s property to do it.)
This bill enjoys bipartisan support from Western lawmakers who oversee a complicated mosaic of public, state, and private land. And since ACE is a winner when it comes to improving public lands management, it’s a strong candidate for inclusion in a package alongside permanent authorization and full funding for LWCF.
Benefits for wild big game herds
Last move: Introduced in the House
It’s difficult to overstate the threat that chronic wasting disease poses to the future of deer and elk hunting in America or the conservation funding generated by this powerful segment of the sportsman population. Though additional solutions must be proposed soon, legislation introduced in the House this year would kick start one critical component of a nationwide response to the rapid spread of CWD.
The bill directs the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a study on how CWD is transmitted between wild, captive, and farmed deer in the United States. The aim would be to identify factors that contribute to the spread of the disease and where the deeper focus of research should be. The bill also calls for a review of the best practices and standards around managing CWD in both captive and wild deer, resulting in a report of findings and recommendations.
A Senate companion bill could be introduced any day, and support for both will be crucial. But if these bills can’t cross the finish line this year, we hope they at least indicate strong interest in continuing to create solutions for curbing the spread of CWD. Our wild deer and elk herds are depending on it.
The hunting and angling community presses congressional decision-makers to reauthorize the expired Land and Water Conservation Fund without delay
On the heels of the midterm elections, 204 hunting, fishing, and wildlife conservation organizations and businesses from 33 different states are urging federal lawmakers to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund with full, dedicated annual funding.
In this letter to congressional leadership, these groups—whose members, customers, and leaders represent a sizeable segment of America’s 40 million hunters and anglers—emphasize the LWCF’s remarkable 50-year track record of conserving habitat and expanding recreational access to America’s public land. They also express the urgent need for Congress to take action and reauthorize the LWCF program during the lame duck session.
“Sportsmen and women have been alarmed to see a lapse in authorization for this popular program, which has been vital to enhancing outdoor recreation opportunities, especially as we’re discovering that access challenges are keeping Americans from 9.52 million acres of public lands they already own,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.
The TRCP and onX, the cutting-edge land data company behind the onX Hunt app, released new data on the scope of the landlocked public lands problem back in August. “Bills to reauthorize the LWCF have made good progress in committee, but Congress is running out of time to act. We’re depending on lawmakers to get this across the finish line before the end of the year, when even the best of intentions will be left on the cutting room floor,” says Fosburgh.
The LWCF, which lapsed on September 30, 2018, directs a portion of federal revenues from offshore oil and gas leasing to fund local, state, and federal projects that benefit conservation and outdoor recreation. Since its creation in 1964, the program has invested more than $16 billion into conserving more than 5 million acres of public lands, among other achievements.
Both the House Natural Resources and Senate Energy and Natural Resources committees recently advanced their own versions of LWCF reauthorization legislation, H.R. 502 and S. 569. The House bill would reauthorize and fully fund the program while also dedicating 3 percent of LWCF dollars specifically to increasing public access on existing public lands. However, congressional leaders have yet to take action on this pending legislation, and the 115th Congress will end on January 3, 2019.
Signatories on the letter to lawmakers expressed concern that the program’s expiration could seriously hamper future efforts to conserve valuable habitats and expand public access to America’s public lands. “With campaign season behind us, we encourage Congress to focus on passing a permanent LWCF reauthorization, with full, dedicated annual funding,” says Ben Jones, president and CEO of the Ruffed Grouse Society and American Woodcock Society. “Sportsmen and women across the nation depend on this critical program for access and habitat, and we simply cannot wait any longer.”
As hunting- and fishing-related businesses, many LWCF supporters emphasized the enormous economic impact of more than $887 billion in annual spending on outdoor recreation, one of the fastest-growing sectors of the American economy.
“Sportsmen and women across the country have made it clear that they want congressional leaders to work together on common-sense, bipartisan solutions like permanently reauthorizing and fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund — America’s most successful land conservation and outdoor recreation program,” says Andrew Black, public lands field director for the National Wildlife Federation. “Given its enormous benefits as a means of both conserving high-value landscapes and fueling economic growth, LWCF should be a lay-up for every member of Congress.”
“California’s public lands and waters are critical for migratory bird hunters, and we encourage our congressional delegation to make the permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund a priority during the lame duck,” says Mark Hennelly, vice president of legislative affairs and public policy for California Waterfowl. “Expanded public access and the conservation of vital habitats depends on it.”
“We are hopeful that Congress will take advantage of the opportunity in the lame duck to save the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” says Linn Beck, chairman of the Wisconsin Council of Trout Unlimited. “Every day that the fund is expired is a day that hunters and anglers are being shorted money that should be going to conservation and public access. Americans across the political spectrum are counting on our leaders in Congress to work together and finish the job.”
“The Land and Water Conservation Fund is the nation’s principal program for funding conservation projects, but it lacks a dedicated trust fund to support conservation programs critical for New York State,” said Les Monostory, president of the New York Division of the Izaak Walton League of America. “Funds are needed for the purchase and enhancements to wildlife habitat, and for providing greater hunting and fishing access to our state’s public lands and waters.”
“As hunters and anglers, we see access to our public lands and waters and the conservation of quality habitat as critically important issues,” says Don Holmstrom, co-chair of the Colorado Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “From Sarvis Creek to the Blanca Wetlands LWCF has played an instrumental role in providing access to premier hunting and fishing opportunities throughout the state and across the country. LWCF has long enjoyed bipartisan support and has positively impacted nearly every American, regardless of how we choose to recreate. The Colorado Chapter of BHA urges Congress to permanently reauthorize and dedicate funding to LWCF.”
“From Miles City to Dillon, Montana sportsmen and women are out enjoying world-class elk and deer hunting on our public lands right now,” says Peter Muennich, founder and president of the Rocky Mountain Goat Alliance. “We need the continued leadership of the Montana congressional delegation to push Congressional leaders to make LWCF reauthorization an immediate priority.”
“This a critical program for wildlife, conservation, and sportsmen’s access in Nevada and every other state,” says Larry Johnson, president of the Coalition for Nevada’s Wildlife. “If Congress hopes to act in the interests of our outdoor heritage and public lands, it needs to reauthorize the LWCF permanently and at full funding without any delay.”
“LWCF has been a great tool for sportsman’s access and habitat conservation,” says Alex Martin, Vice President of Idaho Traditional Bowhunters. “We urge our Idaho representatives in Congress to reauthorize the LWCF permanently so that future generations of outdoor enthusiasts can experience the wonder of Idaho’s wild lands.”
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