Randall Williams

March 21, 2019

New Interior Order Supports Recreational Access to Public Lands

Modernized BLM priorities for land disposal and exchange will benefit hunting and fishing access

Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt today directed the BLM to prioritize public access in decisions regarding the disposal and exchange of BLM public lands.

Bernhardt signed Secretarial Order 3373, Evaluating Public Access in Bureau of Land Management Land Disposals and Exchanges, to help ensure that BLM public lands, no matter how small, remain in public hands if they are highly valued for outdoor recreation access.

“Sportsmen and women across the West will benefit from this Interior Department action to sustain and enhance recreational access to BLM public lands,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “In some places, there are small parcels of BLM land that serve as the only means of nearby access to hunting and fishing or as the only access points to adjoining public lands managed by other agencies. The Secretarial Order will ensure that key parcels are valued for this recreational access and help keep these lands in the public’s hands.”

“We are glad to see that recreational public access was identified as a top priority for the BLM when they make land disposal and exchange decisions,” said Howard Vincent, president and CEO of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. “We believe this decision will bring great benefits for hunters by sustaining access and opportunity on federally owned lands. We thank the agency for their stakeholder outreach leading up to this announcement and for taking sportsmen and women’s interests to heart.”

For the past 40 years, the BLM has been required to identify small tracts of land available for sale or disposal. Until today, this frequently included public lands that offer important recreational access. As a result, the BLM has been identifying for disposal remote, yet high-value, public land parcels, including tracts in Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks’ famed big game hunting Region 7 and at the base of the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming.

Today’s guidance means that the agency now must consider public access when determining the value of these isolated parcels of public lands. Further, in the event that a disposal or exchange might affect public access, the order provides additional direction to help retain that public access or makeup for any losses of access through an associated acquisition.

“We express our sincere thanks to the Department of Interior for unequivocally recognizing the value of hunting and other recreational access when making crucial decisions regarding ownership of our federal lands,” said Brent Rudolph, director of conservation policy for the Ruffed Grouse Society and American Woodcock Society. “The conservationists that make use of these lands benefit greatly, and their activities in turn support the management of our natural resources and financial health of many rural communities.”

A recent study led by the digital mapping company onX and TRCP found that 9.52 million acres of public lands in the West are inaccessible to the public without permission from private landowners. Small, isolated parcels of BLM land often provide the only means of access to larger parcels managed by states or other federal agencies that would otherwise be similarly “landlocked.” Because of today’s directive, the BLM must now weigh such potential implications in any decision regarding the disposal or exchange of these types of parcels.

“GPS technology has revolutionized the way that Americans use their public lands, making it easier than ever before for the average outdoor enthusiast to identify and access smaller, out-of-the-way parcels,” said onX founder Eric Siegfried. “As a result, there’s been a growing awareness in recent years that landlocked or inaccessible public lands represent lost hunting and fishing opportunities for the American people. We applaud the Department of the Interior for reaffirming the importance of public land access, and for taking this step to ensure that all Americans can take advantage of the incredible experiences offered by our nation’s public lands.”

“Access is one of the most significant priorities for hunters and anglers and a real concern for new sportsmen and women in particular,” said John Gale, conservation director for Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “Our public lands and waters provide access to all regardless of stature. We thank the administration for their leadership and foresight in elevating consideration for lands that not only support fish and wildlife habitat but provide access and opportunities to ensure that our outdoor traditions endure.”

See the TRCP’s fact sheet on BLM public lands identified for disposal.

 

Photo: Jeff Clark/BLM

5 Responses to “New Interior Order Supports Recreational Access to Public Lands”

  1. Robert Coet

    So what is interior doing to gain us access to the 9.5 million acre as of landlocked public lands? After reading your report it sounds to me like they are selling these landlocked parcels, just maybe not the ones that have a small access point. I want no lands sold for any reason and access to all of it. Please pass it on!

  2. Ryan Anderson

    This is good and bad. The only problem I foresee is the death and destruction of MORE federal lands by tourists that have no love or respect for mother nature. To many times Ive seen the trash and destruction left behind by IDIOTS. I personally don’t think most people deserve to access these hidden gems. But, oh well, you will see. Soon there will be no places that are wild and free, and we will be talking about shutting the areas down again.

  3. Kevin Miller

    I really hope that this potential for making “our” land accesible coms to fruition. The land swap or selling is something that needs more careful considerations, simply because it may be a more important tract than what the Interior sees.

  4. My hope is that “modernized” isn’t simply a euphemism for “motorized”. I’m all for better access for sportspersons, paddlers, hikers and the like but the last thing wildlife need is an increase in off-road vehicle traffic degrading breeding, foraging and verwinterng habitats. Done right, done smart and done with the needs of wildlife front and center, this initiative can be a very good thing. Done the opposite way? No good for anyone or – anything – in the long run.

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Marnee Banks

March 12, 2019

The Land and Water Conservation Fund’s Future Is Secure

Sportsmen and women celebrate this watershed moment for conservation and outdoor economy

Today, President Trump signed bipartisan legislation permanently authorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the nation’s best tool for increasing access to public lands and supporting fish and wildlife habitat.

“From elk habitat in the Rockies to trout fisheries in the Delaware River Basin, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has provided public access to our nation’s best hunting and fishing spots,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “The passage of this legislation proves that conservation is above partisan politics and that by working together we can leave a lasting legacy for the next generation of sportsmen and women. We now call on Congress to fully fund LWCF, sending resources to every corner of the country to benefit hunters and anglers.”

The legislation requires that 3 percent of LWCF funding be used to establish and retain access to public lands. This could help unlock some of the 9.52 million acres of public lands in the West that are landlocked by private lands with no permanent legal access.

The public lands package also contains more than 100 local and regional public lands bills that benefit sportsmen and women. It reauthorizes 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 reauthorizes the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, a critical initiative to assist private landowners who want to voluntarily restore habitat on their lands.

Leading up to the passage of this legislation, TRCP organized thousands of individual sportsmen and women to contact their elected representatives urging reauthorization of the LWCF. Now, the TRCP will rally hunters and anglers to contact their congressional delegation and support fully funding LWCF at $900 million annually.

Click here to send a message to your elected officials supporting full funding for LWCF.

Kristyn Brady

February 26, 2019

House Sends Historic Public Lands Package to President’s Desk

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 watersone 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 thingschanging 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 jobshad 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.

Redefining Hunting Success When You Come Home Empty-Handed

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.

Photo by Jay Beyer

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.

Photo by Will Saunders

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.

Marnee Banks

February 12, 2019

Senate Passes Legislation with Historic Win for Public Lands

Bipartisan legislation would permanently reauthorize LWCF and support outdoor economy

Leading conservation organizations and hunting and fishing groups are celebrating Senate passage of a critical public lands bill, which would permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund and support other important conservation programs.

43 groups recently called on the Senate to vote on the bipartisan legislation (S.47) that was negotiated by U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) last Congress.

“Today’s vote sends a strong message that we can find consensus in our support for our public lands,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “The Land and Water Conservation Fund has united sportsmen and women, businesses, and conservationists, because we all know how important it is to the future of public lands access. We urge the House to build upon this momentum and work together to pass legislation that permanently reauthorizes LWCF and strengthens our outdoor recreation economy.”

“Today’s vote is a big step toward ending the cycle of uncertainty that has plagued America’s best conservation program,” said Kameran Onley, director of U.S. Government Relations at The Nature Conservancy. “The overwhelming vote in favor of reauthorization reflects the Land and Water Conservation Fund’s long track record of success and broad support from lawmakers, landowners, conservation organizations and state and local officials.”

“We thank the Senate for prioritizing wildlife and conservation at the beginning of the new Congress with the passage of S. 47,” said Howard K. Vincent, president and CEO of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. “This measure includes several of our top legislative priorities including the WILD Act which reauthorizes Partners for Fish and Wildlife and the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Both LWCF and Partners for Fish and wildlife have been critical to our ability to promote mission and create hunter access and opportunity. We appreciate the Senate’s hard work and look forward to getting it to the President’s desk as soon as possible. ”

“It’s a new year in the U.S. Senate and we finally have a living, breathing and bipartisan public lands package, which will preserve thousands of acres of land for outdoor recreation, permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, help get more kids outside and much more to support our nation’s $887 billion outdoor recreation economy,” said Patricia Rojas-Ungar, Vice President of Government Affairs of Outdoor Industry Association. “We applaud the tireless efforts of many in Congress, the outdoor industry and Americans who value the outdoors for their efforts to move this package across the finish line. While we aren’t done yet, we are close, and urge the House of Representatives to act quickly to pass the public lands package and fund America’s outdoors.”

“For decades, LWCF has been the go-to tool to implement public lands conservation and facilitate access to outdoor recreation in this country,” said Jared Mott, conservation director of the Izaak Walton League of America. “Permanently reauthorizing this incredibly successful program is a critical step in the ongoing effort to protect our public lands. We commend the Senate for the passage of S. 47 and thank Chairman Murkowski for prioritizing this important public lands package so early in the 116th Congress. We look forward to working with the House of Representatives and all of our partners to get a bill permanently reauthorizing LWCF to the president’s desk as soon as possible.”

“What’s more all-American than our public lands and waters? Today’s vote by the Senate represents progress for the public lands sportsmen and women and others who have advocated for exactly this outcome – and shows the broad-based support popular programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund have generated both with lawmakers and citizens alike,” said Land Tawney, president and CEO of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “The House of Representatives should take notice and follow the Senate’s lead by expediting the passage of this results-oriented package of bills to the president’s desk.”

“The Senate’s overwhelming support for the Natural Resources Management Act once again proves that conservation and outdoor recreation are bipartisan, commonsense issues,” said Nicole Vasilaros, senior vice president of Government Relations and Legal Affairs of the National Marine Manufacturers Association. “This critical legislation permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund – a measure that will responsibly enhance access to recreational fishing on our nation’s public lands and waters – and we thank Senators Lisa Murkowski, Maria Cantwell, and Joe Manchin for championing this effort and call on the U.S. House to immediately pick up, pass, and send this bill to President Trump.”

“As hunters and committed conservationists, falconers depend on the raptors we employ, the prey species they pursue, and the public lands needed to enjoy our unique hunting heritage,” said Sheldon Nicolle, president of the North American Falconers Association. “The North American Falconers Association applauds the Senate on the passage of this historical step forward for public lands and conservation.”

“AFFTA has long stood by access to, and the conservation, restoration, and protection of, our public lands and waters,” said Ben Bulis, president of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association. “We applaud the Senate’s bipartisan support of the lands package, including the permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund and Yellowstone Gateway Protection Act, which are so critical to our industry. This is a great day for our nation’s public lands and waters. We urge the House to take up the bill quickly and follow the Senate’s lead.”

The group’s letter to the Senate can be found HERE.

 

Photo courtesy of National Park Service’s Megan Richotte.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

WHAT WILL FEWER HUNTERS MEAN FOR CONSERVATION?

The precipitous drop in hunter participation should be a call to action for all sportsmen and women, because it will have a significant ripple effect on key conservation funding models.

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