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Leading conservation nonprofit welcomes three new Board members
The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is proud to announce that three experienced and noteworthy outdoorsmen will be joining its Board of Directors.
Steven Rinella, Brian Yablonski, and Terry Hamby all share a passion for the critical role that hunters and anglers play in strengthening conservation.
“We are pleased to welcome these three sportsmen to the Board,” said Katie Distler, TRCP Board Secretary and former Board Chair. “With their diverse expertise, influence, and savvy, we are strengthening our ability to guarantee all Americans quality places to hunt and fish.”
Steven Rinella is the host of the Netflix original series MeatEater and The MeatEater Podcast. He’s also the author of six books dealing with wildlife, hunting, fishing, and wild game cooking, including the bestselling MeatEater Fish and Game Cookbook: Recipes and Techniques for Every Hunter and Angler. Rinella started hunting as a child and never looked back. Following stints as a commercial trapper and professional fisherman, he began a career as an outdoor writer. Less concerned with trophies and killshots, Rinella’s work largely focuses on the culture, process, and history of hunting and conserving wildlife and its habitat, as well as the linkage between hunting and food. Most importantly, he is known for his efforts to convey the value of hunting to a general audience and promote the work of conservation organizations and the importance of public land.
“The importance of groups like the TRCP to the future of our world and its wild places cannot be overstated,” said Rinella. “I’m honored to be part of an organization doing such great work and am eager to contribute to its efforts, which I’ve long admired.”
Brian Yablonski is the executive director of the Property and Environment Research Center, a 40-year-old market-based conservation research institute based in Bozeman, Montana. He recently served for fourteen years and two terms as chairman of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and was the director of external affairs for Gulf Power Company. Previously, Yablonski also served as director of policy and deputy chief of staff for former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Early in his career, Yablonski worked in the West Wing of the White House as a staff assistant to President George H.W. Bush, providing support directly to the president and his immediate office. President Bush named him White House Horseshoe Commissioner. An avid outdoorsman, Yablonski splits his time between Bozeman and a cabin in Emigrant, Montana, where he enjoys hiking, hunting, fly fishing, and skiing.
“Hunters and anglers are the backbone of American conservation, and the TRCP serves as their bipartisan voice to ensure the legacy of our sporting tradition continues,” said Yablonski. “I am excited to be part of an organization that brings people together and works across the aisle on behalf of conservation.”
Terry Hamby is a fifth-generation soldier and a Vietnam veteran. After his retirement from the U.S. Army Reserves, he founded a company that provides complex logistic and support services to the U.S. armed forces in the Far East, Middle East, Africa, Central America, and United States. A Kentucky native, he is a life member of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars and continues to lobby Congress with a private citizens group on military readiness and quality-of-life issues for service members and their families. Hamby is currently the chair of the U.S. World War I Centennial Commission, created by Congress to educate Americans about the sacrifices of 4.7 million WWI veterans and memorialize their service by designing and constructing a national memorial in the nation’s capital.
“I want to do my part to leave creation better than I enjoyed it all my life and preserve it for our great grandchildren to enjoy,” said Hamby. “By serving on the TRCP Board of Directors, we can truly make a difference for the next generation of sportsmen and women.”
Plans to conserve popular elk hunting destinations are among the various options in the draft plans, but not at the top of BLM’s list
Today the Bureau of Land Management released draft plans that – when finalized – will guide land management decisions for more than 800K acres of public lands over the next 20 years or more. This includes some of Montana’s most scenic and recreationally important public lands overseen by the agency’s Lewistown and Missoula field offices.
This is a key step in a public process of land-use planning, which helps determine how habitat, outdoor recreation opportunities, and development are balanced in a particular area. The BLM proposes a variety of management options for a planning area and names one preferred alternative—in these plans, the agency’s preferred paths forward lack important measures that would conserve some of Montana’s best hunting areas.
Specifically, hunters, anglers, and other stakeholders have been calling for sportsmen-friendly conservation measures on intact and undeveloped lands with outstanding big game habitat in both the Missouri River Breaks as well as in the Garnet and John Long Ranges just east of Missoula.
“After an initial review of the two plans, we’re encouraged to see that conservation measures for key backcountry hunting areas are among the options, but it is disappointing that they were left out of the BLM’s preferred alternative,” says Scott Laird, Montana field representative with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “At the start of these processes, the BLM received reasonable proposals to conserve some of Montana’s finest elk and deer country—measures that had broad buy-in and support from the governor’s office, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Council, timber interests, local business owners, and public land users of all kinds. We now ask that the BLM adopt sportsmen-oriented management for our best hunting areas in the final Missoula and Lewistown plans.”
Numerous outdoor-related businesses and conservation organizations support revising the two Resource Management Plans to better serve the interests of Montana’s hunters and other outdoor recreationists. “The Garnet Range is an often overlooked but important hunting destination just a short drive from Missoula and other surrounding communities,” says Casey Smith, owner of Straight6Archery in Missoula. “The BLM has an opportunity to do right by sportsmen and businesses through the Missoula resource management plan, and we are depending on them to incorporate measures in the final plan that will safeguard our best backcountry hunting areas near Chamberlain and Marcum Mountains.”
Popular public lands in central and western Montana help fuel the state’s $7.1-billion outdoor recreation economy, provide important wildlife habitat, and support various traditional uses of the land. These include Montana FWP Hunting Districts 410, 412, 417, 426, 281, 291, 292, and 298.
“The BLM has an opportunity to safeguard some of Montana’s best hunting areas and wildlife habitat through these land-use plans, and do it in a balanced way,” says John Borgreen, a Great Falls-area hunter who has been engaged in local conservation efforts for more than 45 years. “It’s a potential win-win for the varied wildlife we love to pursue, and will help ensure that our valued hunting heritage, outdoor traditions, and way of life can be enjoyed by future generations.”
“Sportsmen and other stakeholders will continue to speak up as these planning processes move forward, and we hope the BLM will listen,” says Laird. “We are talking about common-sense management provisions that would benefit our sporting traditions and wildlife habitat, while providing the flexibility to manage for other uses of these lands. It should be a slam dunk for the agency.”
Photo: Charlie Bulla
Conservationists fear that the fox could end up guarding the henhouse in menhaden certification process
In a biting piece of satire in the May 2019 issue of Sport Fishing Magazine, editor Doug Olander took aim at Omega Protein’s efforts to have its industrial harvest of menhaden certified as a sustainable fishery by the Marine Stewardship Council. The company apparently took issue with Mr. Olander’s characterization of the process as Omega “buying its way to respectability” and looking to “wrap itself in a cloak of respectability by claiming it’s a certified sustainable fishery.”
Omega Protein stated in its media response:
“Mr. Olander isn’t just wrong about the independence and integrity of the MSC process; he gets key facts wrong about the fishery, making wild, misleading claims. He blames the ‘industrial menhaden-reduction fishery’ for current problems facing striped bass. But this ignores all of the available evidence. According to the ASMFC, striped bass are overfished, and overfishing of the species by recreational anglers has been cited as the main cause, the same anglers which are Mr. Olander’s primary audience. The issues facing striped bass are due to overfishing.”
Omega’s eagerness to silence critics and divert attention to anything other than its own operations for the problems in the striped bass fishery is nothing new. The menhaden reduction fishery is a true relic of the past and one of the most reviled in the entire country. Using spotter planes and a purse seine fleet to encircle and remove entire schools of menhaden, Omega catches millions of pounds of one of the most important sources of forage along the Atlantic Coast every year, and reduces them to fish oil pills and feed for aquaculture operations, among other things.
Anglers in the region have long believed the company’s relentless pressure on menhaden in the Chesapeake Bay, the primary nursery ground for striped bass and many other sportfish, has caused localized depletions of forage, leading to an increase in diseased, stressed, and skinny fish in the Bay.
Striped bass are indeed experiencing overfishing, and anglers are acting to reverse that trend by working with managers to reduce limits and curb catch-and-release mortality. But a prolonged period of low striped bass spawning success is a large part of the problem.
That may very well be tied to inadequate forage in the Bay, no matter how much Omega would like to protest otherwise. In fact, the best available evidence is that the reduction fishery may be driving a nearly 30-percent reduction in striped bass.
Mr. Olander is certainly not alone in questioning the Marine Stewardship Council and its practices. In the past, the MSC has been funded in part from royalties paid by seafood processors using the MSC ecolabel.
Third-party certifiers are paid by the entity seeking certification, and if the certification is successful, those third-party certifiers often receive long-term contracts to monitor chain-of-custody of the products and update reviews of the fishery every five years. In other words, both the MSC and the independent reviewers stand to benefit financially from a successful certification.
In 2011, the science journal NATURE published a sharp critique of the MSC process, claiming that after the signing of a contract between the MSC and Wal-Mart, the number of certified seafood products skyrocketed. One of the fisheries that qualified for possible certification around that time was the U.S. Southeast Coast swordfish and big eye/yellowfin tuna fisheries.
At the time, Billfish Foundation President Ellen Peel remarked, “It is inconceivable that the MSC could grant approval to longline gear that causes 90 percent of the mortality on marlins, spearfish, and sailfish bycatch across the Atlantic.”
Even today, when entities formally object to a certification—as Coastal Conservation Association, the American Sportfishing Association, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, the Nature Conservancy and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation are currently doing with Omega’s menhaden certification—an independent adjudicator decides whether they have “a reasonable prospect of success.” If so, the objectors are then required to pay a roughly $6,000 “objection fee” to proceed.
It is easy to get the feeling that the MSC process is less about sustainability and more about whose pockets are deep enough.
In January 2019, the state of Virginia formally notified the MSC of its opposition to certification of the menhaden fishery. In April 2019, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation to protect menhaden in New York’s waters by prohibiting harvest by purse seine, essentially rejecting the industrial harvest of menhaden.
These two states, along with conservation groups and tens of thousands of concerned anglers, all share the same deep-rooted concerns that management efforts to date have failed to account for the menhaden’s critical ecological role in the Atlantic coastal ecosystem. There are huge unknowns about the bycatch associated with Omega’s menhaden harvest, and while Omega claims menhaden aren’t overfished, the amount of menhaden needed for the ecosystem is still being investigated by a dedicated team of assessment scientists expected to be concluded at the end of this year.
So, it remains unclear why MSC would certify the fishery now instead of waiting for the results of this assessment.
Mr. Olander is correct to question whether the fox is guarding the henhouse when it comes to MSC certification of Omega’s industrial menhaden fishery. The company’s aggressive tactics to silence critics, like Olander, should only serve as a warning that more light needs to be cast on this entire process.
The preceding editorial is submitted by the Coastal Conservation Association, American Sportfishing Association, and Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.
TRCP’s “In the Arena” series highlights the individual voices of hunters and anglers who, as Theodore Roosevelt so famously said, strive valiantly in the worthy cause of conservation
Hometown: Birdsboro, Pa
Occupation: Full-time human resources professional and part-time flyfishing writer, photographer, and custom fly-tier and instructor
Conservation Credentials: Helped to preserve working lands, environmentally sensitive areas, and outdoor recreation opportunities—like fishing and birdwatching—for future generations through various roles in local government
Henry Ramsay considers himself a torchbearer for the natural resources that have allowed him to spend a lifetime fishing, hiking, camping, taking photographs, and finding solace in the outdoors. His efforts to preserve public lands and waters for the next generation of sportsmen and women remind us that you don’t have to sit on a congressional committee or in the Oval Office to make a big difference for conservation. There’s a lot we can influence in our home towns and counties, if we care enough.
Here’s his story.
I caught my first trout at the age of five, and I was hooked about as well as that fish was. Fortunately, I also grew up in a family that constantly traveled and camped. I’ve always been attracted to the outdoors—more because of my love of nature than anything else. It’s not only a source of recreation; it’s a place of peace and contentment, so I fish, camp, hike, and take photographs as much as my time permits.
Of course, as a flyfisherman, a nice fly rod is one of my favorite pieces of gear and elevates the experience of being outdoors, but my DSLR camera is perhaps just as important. It’s always with me to capture images from my best experiences on the water.
I had plenty of those on a recent trip to Yellowstone, which was a lifelong dream of mine. We tent-camped in the park, fished 10 different streams and rivers, and hiked into a glacial lake to fish for Arctic grayling. During the day, we saw bison, elk, antelope, wolves, coyotes, and bighorn sheep. At night, we were serenaded by bugles and howls.
It was an incredible experience that stands out even after a lifetime of travels.
I’m fortunate to have fished in a number of states, but if forced to choose one it would be Idaho. The scenery is spectacular and the fishing is world-class. I love the Henry’s Fork where it flows through the Harriman Ranch. The fishing there is highly technical and challenging—I like that it forces me to be on form.
I’m primarily a trout fisherman, and you can’t find trout in environments that have been compromised by point-source pollutants, toxic runoff, or other things that detract from water quality. Wild trout simply can’t exist in less than high-quality water conditions—and that’s why clean water powers my outdoor life.
In a world where the human population is growing at a rapid pace, it is critical that we continue to examine our impact on the earth, the natural world, and all of the lifeforms we share it with. People alter the environment, and the choices we make can affect the environment positively or negatively—forever.
To leave my mark, I’ve been involved in various roles in local government, where I’ve been fortunate enough to help shape how our lands and waters are used. For example, collaborative work helped to permanently preserve the Birdsboro Waters, a 1,800-acre tract of unbroken forest within the Hopewell Big Woods of southeastern Pennsylvania. This is an important birding area, and Hay Creek, an exceptional trout stream, flows through it. I was part of the advisory body that defeated a proposed 800-unit residential development on 201 acres bisected by a state-designated coldwater trout stream. I also helped to create an Environmental Advisory Council in my township to review and consult on proposed land development activities.
Not all of the footprints left on the earth are made by feet—many of them are a result of our choices. My hope is that improvements made to public lands and waters during my lifetime won’t be easily erased by politics and profiteers. We need to leave healthier habitat for future generations.
This is why I concern myself with the deregulation of the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and Antiquities Act. These rollbacks pose a huge threat to all of the efforts that have taken place since the early 1970s.
The other challenge I see is the lack of involvement and education of our youth in the outdoors. When I can no longer carry the torch to defend what we treasure, I hope a new generation of torchbearers can take my place. But too many children today do not get the exposure to the outdoors that they’d need to be sensitive to conservation issues. It’s a threat to fishing and the places where we fish.
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