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Sportsmen and women band together to conserve Utah’s backcountry lands
Today, the state of Utah petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Forest Service to develop a state-based rule managing 4 million acres of roadless areas on national forest lands within the state.
In Utah, backcountry areas that are not fragmented by roads are currently conserved under the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which was created through years of stakeholder engagement.
“For nearly two decades, the roadless rule has successfully conserved some of the finest hunting and fishing destinations in Utah and across the nation,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “It is unnecessary and counterproductive to abandon this tried-and-true policy and go back to the drawing board. Doing so will only drain the time and resources of public agencies already stretched thin.”
Prime habitats and hunting and fishing country from the Wasatch and Uinta Mountains to the La Sals could be affected by this rulemaking process.
Top photo by Brandan Rasmussen via flickr.
Sportsmen and women celebrate permanent authorization of LWCF and investments in public lands, wildlife habitat, and the outdoor recreation economy
The U.S. House of Representatives has passed S. 47, a historic package of legislation including permanent reauthorization for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, in a major milestone for public lands access, habitat conservation, and the outdoor recreation economy. The legislation now heads to the president’s desk.
“This vote marks a turning point for public lands in America, as our elected officials have shown their support for LWCF’s enduring legacy,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We no longer need to worry about kicking the can down the road as our best tool for unlocking inaccessible public lands remains in limbo. House lawmakers should be congratulated on seizing this bipartisan momentum for conservation, and Congress should continue to pursue full funding for LWCF as a next step. We look forward to working with public land agencies to unleash the many benefits of this legislation in support of the outdoor recreation economy.”
Comprised of more than 100 locally and regionally specific public lands bills, the package contains defining wins for sportsmen and women. Aside from providing long term certainty for LWCF, one of the most popular public lands programs of the past 50 years, the legislation also requires that 3 percent of LWCF funding be used to unlock isolated and inaccessible public lands. TRCP’s recent study with onX showed that 9.52 million acres of public lands in the West are landlocked by private lands, with no permanent legal access.
The legislation would also reauthorize the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act, a conservation grant program in which dollars are typically matched three times over at the local level to benefit waterfowl and wetlands. Another provision 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.
More than 40 hunting, fishing, and conservation organizations signed a letter to House leadership last week urging lawmakers to prioritize and pass this important legislation. And thousands of individual sportsmen and women signed TRCP’s action alert triggering e-mail messages to their elected representatives.
These voices from across the hunting and fishing community are celebrating today’s vote:
“We’re one step closer to ensuring that our nation’s proud legacy of protecting our public lands and waters becomes permanent,” says Ben Bulis, president of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association. “Our industry is grateful for the bipartisan leadership in both the House and Senate and their determined, vital commitment to ensuring that this uniquely American hallmark will benefit each and every one of us for generations to come.”
“For too long, LWCF has been stuck in a cycle of uncertainty that limited its potential. Today’s vote changes that. This is an extraordinary victory for conservation in the United States,” says Mark R. Tercek, CEO of The Nature Conservancy. “As one of the country’s most effective conservation programs, LWCF has helped protect national parks, expand trails and playing fields, and preserve important landscapes for over half a century. By using the revenues from offshore oil and gas drilling, LWCF invests in lands and waters at no cost to the American taxpayer, so it should be no surprise that a strong majority wants to continue this win-win for people and conservation. Regardless of party, nature unites us all. Ultimately, LWCF is about preserving the best of America by protecting our lands and waters, our wildlife and ways of life. The overwhelmingly bipartisan votes in the House and Senate to renew LWCF reflect our nation’s longstanding commitment to conservation, ensuring future generations will benefit from LWCF. We are grateful for LWCF’s champions in the House and Senate, all of whom have worked hard to achieve permanent reauthorization, and we look forward to the president signing this measure into law.”
“Today we celebrate a victory for our public lands and waters—one that never would have happened without the hard work and commitment of hunters and anglers and without the willingness of our elected officials to heed the will of the people,” says Land Tawney, president and CEO of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. “We look forward to President Trump signing this critical package of bills into law.”
“By permanently reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund, Congress has recognized what sportsmen and other outdoor enthusiasts have always known: LWCF is America’s most proven method for putting public lands conservation on the ground and facilitating access to outdoor recreation,” says Jared Mott, conservation director for the Izaak Walton League of America. “We look forward to President Trump quickly signing this important legislation and permanently protecting Americans’ access to their public lands and opportunities for outdoor recreation.”
“The House’s approval of the National Resources Management Act – following the Senate’s overwhelming vote earlier this month – is the latest reminder that conserving our public lands and waterways is an issue that unites us,” says Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association. “We thank Representative Raúl Grijalva, Representative Rob Bishop, and House leadership for swiftly picking up the baton and passing this important legislation, and we now call on President Trump to promptly sign the bill into law.”
“Public lands bring Americans together, and that’s why Republicans and Democrats in the House voted overwhelmingly today for a bill that ensures the Land and Water Conservation Fund will be around for our kids and grandkids,” says Diane Regas, president and CEO of The Trust for Public Land. “Today’s historic vote, following a 92-8 vote in the Senate, means that more people can have access to hiking trails, city parks and wild landscapes. Americans expect their public officials to work together, and today’s vote to give more people access to public lands is something we can all celebrate.”
“We know there is a lot going on across the country right now, but everyone should pause for a few moments and take in what is happening with our nation’s public lands,” says Patricia Rojas-Ungar, vice president of government affairs for the Outdoor Industry Association. “We are set to preserve nearly a million acres of land for protection and outdoor recreation, permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and help our young people enjoy the outdoors more, among many other things—changing the trajectory of public land protection and advocacy for the next generation for the better. We are thankful for the tireless hours many key senators and representatives, public lands advocates, and American citizens put in to get this across the finish line. And, while it certainly is not solely responsible for all of the support and ‘yes’ votes, OIA’s work over the years to quantify the contribution of the outdoor recreation economy—$887 billion per year and over 7.6 million jobs—had a helping hand in bridging some of the partisan divide in Washington and getting this once-in-a-decade public lands package done.”
Top photo by USFWS Midwest Region.
After taking two bucks in two years, a fledgling hunter gets her first taste of how frustrating an un-filled tag can be—and comes out of a tough season more committed than ever
It was Day Four of mule deer season, and I was sick of soggy sandwiches and protein bars. Opening weekend optimism had long since faded, and tagging out was beginning to feel impossible. The deer were spooked, and the patterns we observed when we were scouting were long gone.
I could glass up into the draws of aspens far beyond and find herds of elk, mountain goats, coyotes, and even muley bucks off in the distance, but I was too far away for a shot. October storms had pushed them back up into the high, protected meadows again—I knew where to look, but each day I seemed to be far from the right position.
I’d started the season more prepared than ever. I finally had all the gear I needed, I’d spent months scouting my unit, and I could glass any aspect and find animals. And yet, even with such careful preparation and dedication, the mountains had a different plan for me this year.
I’ve learned so much since my first big game season in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah three years ago. While still relying heavily on mentors, my awareness of all the little details that make a hunt successful had expanded. I’d learned enough to begin feeling comfortable venturing off on my own, finding animals, initiating stalks, and picking my spots.
The landscape was more alive than ever with the story of mule deer—in their tracks, through the weather patterns, and in the surrounding narrative of the ecosystem. I felt so close to them every day.
But last fall I spent nine consecutive days in the high mountains, and it was the first time I’d returned home on closing day emptyhanded.
My unfilled tag felt like an interruption to my momentum. Knowing how much I’d relied on the meat from my last two deer, I wondered if I’d be sad during every visit to the grocery store. Would the deli section trigger thoughts of what I should have done differently out there? I started to get really hard on myself—harder than I ever had when I was first starting out.
We hear courageous stories of beginners and live on inspiration from seasoned experts. But what about the role we occupy in between? This is the time when we learn the most from our mistakes, endure harsh self-criticism and doubt, and often lose momentum.
When we have our minds fixed on a new objective, everything is exciting. There is an essential naivety in the newness that keeps us from being completely aware of what it will actually take to be successful.
I’ve found this to be true not only for hunting, but also in business ventures, relationships, and any goal that requires us to learn something new. People often think that taking the leap is the hardest part. But it’s once you get past that point that you learn what you’re really up against.
The goals I have for myself—as a hunter and an entrepreneur—have required boldness, but also digging in during moments of sheer exhaustion and self-doubt. I’ve learned that beginning is actually pretty easy, but what comes next takes endurance, maintenance, and constant recommitment.
I’m in the same place with my business, Wylder Goods, as I am in my hunting experience—several years in and aware that there’s still a very long road ahead to success and mastery. The allure of the new objective has worn off, and I’m painfully aware of the skills I lack, yet still driven to accomplish what I’ve set out to do.
I look across the plateau I’ve reached, and I can make out the horizon of where I want to be, even if I’m far from it.
It could be that my unfilled tag is just what I needed to make me even more of a hunter than I was before.
This past mule deer season taught me that I have to find my pace in the long game. I am actually capable of feeling self-doubt and a sense of progress at the same time, and I’m learning what it takes to source endurance every day.
Each morning, I have to wake up and think, ‘Today is the day,’ no matter what beating came before. Next season, I’ll scout even more, put in for additional tags, take new risks, and ensure I don’t make the same mistakes again. Perhaps, as Theodore Roosevelt said, “Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”
It could be that my unfilled tag is just what I needed to make me even more of a hunter than I was before.
Lindsey Elliott is the co-founder and CEO of Wylder Goods, a B-corp that sells goods for the modern outdoorswoman. Follow her @lindsey.a.elliott, @wyldergoods, and on the Wylder blog. Read more about Lindsey in our Q&A.
Top photo courtesy of Jay Beyer.
A hunter, angler, and public land advocate details how a revised Clean Water Act rule would affect his backyard, and yours too
On December 11, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a policy that would eliminate Clean Water Act protections for streams that only flow after rainfall. The EPA claims that this change will simplify the construction of homes or buildings, as projects that could affect a protected waterway require a federal permit. But there can be little doubt that this new rule will only muddy the waters in my home state of Georgia.
That’s because we simply don’t know which of our streams flow only after rainfall and which ones can be counted on to flow predictably year after year. By the federal government’s own admission, they don’t have a good understanding of this either. Federal agencies know which streams meet those criteria in much of the western portion of the United States, but they haven’t conducted the same studies in much of the rest of the country.
The EPA’s new rule also complicates the applications of the Clean Water Act for wetlands, marshes, swamps, and flood plains. Those without a surface connection to a larger waterway would no longer be protected and could therefore be vulnerable to pollution and destruction. It has been estimated that more than half our wetlands nationwide would be affected.
But again, this might not be the full picture. These estimates are based on data that does not include any wetlands smaller than one acre. And wetlands in forested areas, which are plentiful in Georgia, can be difficult to identify.
In short, we all should rightly wonder what the true impact of this policy change will be in our backyards.
The Clean Water Act holds polluters accountable for damage to waterways covered by the act, but how can it do so when officials no longer know which streams those are? And why would companies be eager to build when it becomes dramatically more difficult to determine whether they are impacting a protected area?
What’s clear is this: This change would cause untold confusion in our state. If the EPA only wanted to simplify things while maintaining the Clean Water Act’s effectiveness, the new rule has completely missed the mark. The only way forward is to abandon this shortsighted proposal and conduct the research needed to create a science-based policy. Georgians deserve nothing less.
A resident of Atlanta, Patrick is the Director of Finance at Keep It Public, a 100% volunteer run 501(c)3 non-profit organization that works to build coalitions between different public land user groups from hunters to birdwatchers. In addition to his work with Keep It Public, Patrick works in marketing and advertising. From backcountry skiing to hunting in the Rockies, Patrick is an enthusiastic public land user.
Photo courtesy: Wayne Hsieh
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