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December 10, 2018

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Where Outdoor Recreation Ranks in Pennsylvania’s Economy

New research finds that hunting, fishing, biking, camping, and other activities drive $27 billion in statewide spending

A new economic study finds that outdoor recreation in Pennsylvania, including hunting and fishing, generated $26.9 billion in 2016—that’s $2.2 billion more than the construction industry. The state’s wealth of natural resources and rich outdoor traditions also supported more than 390,000 jobs, where Pennsylvanians earned $17 billion in salaries and wages.

The research, conducted by Southwick Associates for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, showed that 780,000 state residents hunted and 1.3 million went fishing in 2016. This group spent nearly $1.3 billion to pursue their passions, supporting nearly 20,000 jobs, $800 million in salaries and wages, and more than $300 million in local, state, and federal tax revenue.
Additionally, 370,000 jobs in Pennsylvania were supported by other outdoor recreation activities, including biking, camping, and off-roading.

“Economic activity generated by outdoor recreation is too powerful to ignore,” says Derek Eberly, Pennsylvania field representative for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “That’s why our local, state, and federal decision-makers should prioritize legislation that helps conserve the fish and wildlife resources that outdoor recreation businesses rely on to employ and serve Pennsylvanians.”

The Growing Greener program is a good example. This important state program helps to preserve open spaces, improve working lands, and clean up abandoned mines that could endanger habitat. But the program has seen drastic budget cuts in recent years, from a budget of roughly $200 million per year in the mid-2000s to less than $60 million this year.

The TRCP and other groups plan to advocate for better investments in conservation through increased funding for this program and others in the state.

You can read the full report and methodology for the study here.

Top photo by Bob Travis via flickr.

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December 7, 2018

Featured Podcast: Will Congress Act in Time to Pass a 2018 Farm Bill?

Tune in to find out how the Farm Bill could enhance habitat and access on private land—if lawmakers can strike a deal in time

The hosts of the Your Mountain Podcast remind us that decisions are being made every day that could affect your land, water, and wildlife. So you should know about them. That couldn’t be more true right now, when we’re anxiously awaiting an agreement on the next Farm Bill. This critical legislation helps landowners implement conservation practices and open hunting and fishing access you wouldn’t otherwise have in rural America.

Here’s what you need to know about the time crunch and how conservation could lose out if lawmakers need to start the process all over again next Congress.

Learn more about the Your Mountain Podcast here.

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December 6, 2018

BLM’s Revised Sage Grouse Plans Continue Conservation But Create Uncertainty

The agency’s revised sage grouse conservation plans for 11 Western states will play a major role in determining the future of the sagebrush ecosystem, which supports more than 350 species

Today, the Bureau of Land Management revealed its revised plans to conserve greater sage grouse populations across nearly 70 million acres of public land in 11 Western states. The Trump administration’s approach will replace the original Obama-era plans, which helped to give the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confidence that the species did not warrant listing as threatened or endangered in 2015.

While the state-specific plans maintain the basic framework of the originals, which were created through years of collaborative effort, the new plans do not provide the same safeguards for certain sagebrush habitats. There is more potential for development and mineral extraction within sage grouse habitat in the new plans. Combined with the Department of Interior’s policy shift on habitat mitigation, this could be cause for concern.

“These new plans are a mixed bag, with some changes addressing legitimate requests from the states to help align with their conservation approaches and other changes stripping back protections for core sage grouse habitat and creating more uncertainty for the West,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

“Unless the impacts of development are properly mitigated to avoid further habitat loss, sage grouse could easily become a candidate for the threatened and endangered species list yet again. Success will ultimately come down to implementing these new plans to the letter, and never wavering from an approach that produces results for sage grouse populations and other species that depend on the sagebrush ecosystem. We will continue working with the BLM, the states, industry, and local partners to ensure that happens,” says Fosburgh.

Changes That Create Uncertainty

The revised plans eliminate focal areas, a subset of about 11 million acres of priority habitat on BLM land that would have been permanently withdrawn from any potential mineral extraction in the 2015 plans. The original no-surface occupancy policy remains—meaning infrastructure for development cannot be built on priority habitat—but the revised plans also give the BLM more flexibility to waive these protections in certain cases.

Mitigation also remains a sticking point, now that the Department of the Interior maintains that it lacks legal authority to require developers to pay for any negative impacts to habitat. (Quick tip: Here’s a metaphor that helps explain mitigation using beer!) This shifts the onus of regulation to the individual states, each of which has different mitigation standards and legal requirements. The states now must ensure their mitigation approaches are not only effective at curbing habitat loss, but also at holding all developers accountable on a level playing field.

“We cannot manage grouse at a level where we are only one major event away from having to list the bird,” says Steve Belinda, executive director of the North American Grouse Partnership. “Habitat, particularly on public lands, must be managed to withstand events we cannot control, like drought, fire, and disease, so conservation can be balanced with energy development, grazing, and other human activities we can control.”

No Time to Waste

The Trump administration first initiated a review of the original conservation plans in 2017. Since that time, secretarial orders and instruction memorandums issued by the DOI set the stage for amending the 2015 plans and changing how habitat is prioritized in relation to eligibility for oil and gas leasing.
A year ago, 105 wildlife and habitat experts urged the BLM and Secretary Zinke not to deviate from what the best science indicates is necessary in sagebrush country. They warned that major amendments to the 2015 plans and a lengthy delay in implementing conservation work could drastically alter the course for habitat conservation and undo years of hard work.

This is time that sage grouse don’t have to waste.

It will be important to move forward swiftly with implementation of any plan to conserve sagebrush habitat and begin tracking the effectiveness of conservation measures. “Whatever approach we take, the outcome for sage grouse and sagebrush habitat will need to be legally defensible,” says Dr. Steve Williams, president of the Wildlife Management Institute and former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “If there is not enough regulatory certainty, if there is too much flexibility leading to negative impacts on habitat, and it is determined that our actions were not effective, we may end up facing a legal challenge deeper than the one we started from years ago. At that point, it’s difficult to see a future where sage grouse aren’t reconsidered for listing.”

“The scale and magnitude of sage grouse conservation planning, while extraordinary, has always been an enormous experiment, and management actions largely remain untested,” says Dr. Ed Arnett, chief scientist for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We need solid research and monitoring to demonstrate that management efforts implemented in these plans are, in fact, good for grouse. Until we see conservation manifested on the ground, we still just have good intentions for habitat and birds on paper in planning documents.”

The U.S. Forest Service is finalizing its own amendments to eight forest plans dealing with sage grouse conservation in the West. The public comment period for those proposed amendments closes on January 3, 2019.

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November 29, 2018

Featured Podcast: Voluntary Public Access Is a Farm Bill Success Story

Tune into this hour-long podcast to learn how the Farm Bill helps create public hunting opportunities on private land, where some of the best hunting east of the Rockies can be found

TRCP’s Alex Maggos and Zane Zaubi of Horizons Land and Farm Development sit down with East to West Hunting Podcast to talk about how the Farm Bill’s $5 billion in conservation funding is put to work in ways that benefit sportsmen and women. From improving water quality and wildlife habitat to facilitating walk-in access on private land where hunters and anglers need it most, the Farm Bill has something for everyone.

Give it a listen below.

Learn more about the East to West Hunting Podcast 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.

Learn More

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