BLM’s Draft Management Plan Should Reflect Sportsmen’s Priorities
Protections for a popular chukar hunting destination and important big game winter range are included in one alternative, but not in the preferred
The Bureau of Land Management today released a draft plan for the Four Rivers Field Office in western Idaho. The plan, when completed, will guide land management decisions for 783,000 acres of public lands over the next several decades.
This area includes one of Idaho’s critical mule deer winter ranges and a popular chukar hunting destination, and sportsmen from across the Gem State are asking the BLM to reconsider its priorities going forward.
The draft Resource Management Plan is a first step in a public process of land-use planning that determines how habitat, outdoor recreation opportunities, and development will be balanced in the future. The BLM typically proposes four management options for a planning area and names one preferred alternative.
The agency’s preferred alternative for the Four Rivers Field Office doesn’t properly consider management approaches that would conserve the Bennett Hills. Sportsmen-friendly conservation measures for these intact and undeveloped lands with outstanding big game habitat were drawn up, but not fully incorporated into the BLM’s preferred approach.
“A final Resource Management Plan should fully incorporate backcountry hunting areas and expand upon the limited opportunities currently included in the preferred alternative,” said Rob Thornberry, Idaho field representative with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We urge the BLM to complete what they started.”
Thirty-nine outdoor-related businesses and eight sportsmen’s organizations support revising BLM’s Resource Management Plan to better serve the interests of Idaho’s hunters and other outdoor recreationists.
“I have hunted the Bennett Hills for almost 50 years, and I can state emphatically that it is a haven for an enormous amount of wildlife,” said Drew Wahlin, president of the Idaho Chukar Foundation. “It is a bird hunting destination and an essential winter area for the famed King Hill mule deer hunt. It is worthy of protections that help wildlife and sportsmen.”
These popular public lands in central and western Idaho help fuel the state’s $7.8-billion outdoor recreation economy, provide important wildlife habitat, and support various traditional uses of the land. These include IDFG Hunting Units 39, 43, 44, and 45.
“The Bennett Hills are an important hunting destination just a short drive from Boise and Twin Falls,” said Brian Brooks, executive director of the Idaho Wildlife Federation. “The BLM has an opportunity to do right by sportsmen and businesses through the resource management plan, and we are depending on the agency to incorporate measures in the final plan that will safeguard one of our best backcountry hunting areas near Mountain Home.”
BLM’s Proposed Plans for SE Oregon Should Reflect Stakeholder Recommendations
Proposal to balance management of important public lands is among the various options in the draft plan but is not at the top of BLM’s list
Today the Bureau of Land Management released the draft Southeast Oregon Resource Management Plan amendment that – when finalized –will guide land management decisions for more than 4.6 million acres of public lands in southeast Oregon over the next 20 years or more. This plan amendment has been underway since 2010 and will determine management on some of Oregon’s most scenic and recreationally important public lands overseen by the BLM’s Vale District office within the Owyhee and Malheur River country.
This is a significant step in the planning process and will help determine how and if habitat, outdoor recreation opportunities, and development are balanced on BLM land. In the draft plan the BLM proposes a variety of options for management and names one preferred alternative. In this case, the agency’s preferred path does not resemble recommendations made by the BLM’s own Southeast Oregon Resource Advisory Council (RAC), a group of 15 individuals selected by the BLM with diverse backgrounds who worked together for more than 5 years to develop recommendations for the plan.
“A broad-based BLM advisory group rolled up their sleeves to create a well-rounded alternative within the Southeast Oregon RMP amendment, but their recommendations are not reflected in the preferred alternative of the draft RMP amendment,” says Michael O’Casey, Oregon field representative with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We ask that the BLM honor this stakeholder process and adopt a balanced alternative in the final plan that conserves special places from development, while providing for access, habitat restoration, and ranching to continue.”
Popular public lands in eastern Oregon help fuel the state’s $2.5-billion fish and wildlife-based economy, provide important wildlife habitat, and support various traditional uses of the land. The Vale District manages most of the public lands within the Beulah (65), Malheur River (66), Owyhee (67) and Whitehorse (68) hunting units.
“Oregon’s Owyhee region is a critically important hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation destination,” says Karl Findling, owner of Oregon Pack Works and conservation lands director for the Oregon Hunters Association. “The BLM has an opportunity to do right by sportsmen and businesses and we are depending on them to incorporate measures in the final plan that will safeguard some of the best hunting areas in the state.”
“The BLM has an opportunity to safeguard some of Oregon’s best hunting areas and wildlife habitat through these land-use plans, and do it in a balanced way,” says Tristan Henry, board member with the Oregon chapter of the Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “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 “
Now that the draft is published, the public has 90 days to make comments and have their voice heard. “Sportsmen and other stakeholders will continue to weigh in as these planning processes move forward,” continued O’Casey. “We hope the BLM will listen.”
Photo: Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington via Flickr
These Teams Are Responsible for 800 Fish Habitat Restoration Projects Across the U.S.
Help us urge Congress to lock down the program—and conservation funding—that allows the people who fish local waters to mastermind the projects to improve them
Americans across the country are hitting the water this summer in the hopes of hooking one of many iconic species of fish—from kokanee salmon and cutthroat trout to largemouth bass and red snapper.
You may not realize that there has been a collaborative effort at work behind the scenes for years to expand and guarantee your access to great fishing. The National Fish Habitat Partnership, a collective of 20 diverse groups across every landscape in America, has already succeeded in boosting fish populations through on-the-ground fish habitat conservation projects.
In Pennsylvania, the Fish and Boat Commission, parks department, bass anglers, and local businesses banded together to restore a degraded reservoir, adding more than 800 structures that give fish critical cover to spawn. In New Mexico, partners enhanced desert fish habitat and reopened a key migratory passage between the Navajo River and eight miles of Amargo Creek.
Since 2007, more than 840 projects have been completed across all 50 states. But the future success of these partnerships is perennially threatened.
Rather than develop a top-down, inside-the-beltway plan to restore and protect America’s unique fish habitats, the National Fish Habitat Partnership exists at the crossroads of science-based solutions, community partnerships, and state and federal agencies. The 20 Fish Habitat Partnerships focus on the needs of specific regions and ecosystems, each working to forge stronger local and regional partnerships with other key stakeholders to restore and protect fisheries. The program is designed to include a wide range of voices in decision-making.
A national board chaired by a state fish and wildlife agency representative meets three times annually to review projects submitted by the 20 individual partnerships and recommend how funding should be allocated. This isn’t your average federal Board of Directors: Real sportsmen and women unite with local leaders and scientists to steer fish habitat conservation and put the needs of our fish and wildlife first. (In fact, TRCP’s Chief Conservation Officer Christy Plumer is a member of the National Board and has been instrumental in the development and success of the National Fish Habitat Partnership.)
Each of the twenty regional partnerships includes state fish and wildlife professionals, local leaders, and representatives of the conservation community and federal agencies. Committees help determine which projects each region submits to the national board for approval, focusing on the interests of the communities within the partnership’s footprint and ensuring projects are advancing the needs of fish populations close to home.
But none of these individuals can do their jobs while the future of the program, or its funding, is subject to the annual whims of Congress.
We Know the Model Works
This isn’t the first time this model has been used to work better for wildlife: The North American Wetlands Conservation Act has a similar approach. NAWCA provides matching grants to conservation projects across North America to improve habitat for migratory birds, boost water quality, and conserve wetlands ecosystems—and it has been highly successful. Now, it’s time to allow this successful model to work for fish.
(By the way, legislation to reauthorize and fund NAWCA is also pending in both chambers, and Congress should act with expediency here, too.)
Defend Against Defunding
The Partnership receives its funding in the annual appropriations bills, but since it isn’t permanently authorized, Congress could decide to defund it without warning, ending community-based support for fish conservation across the nation. Luckily, bills have been introduced in both the Senate and House to fix that: S. 754, introduced this Congress by Sens. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and H.R. 1747, introduced by Reps. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) and Marc Veasey (D-Texas).
The National Fish Habitat Conservation Through Partnerships Act formally establishes the National Fish Habitat Board and guarantees that all stakeholders—tribes, nonprofits, local and state governments, private sector entities, and the federal government—have a seat at the table. The bill would also enact into law other components of the National Fish Habitat Partnership, including clear decision-making criteria and a process for designating new partnerships.
Importantly, this legislation would fund the program through 2023, with 5 percent dedicated to Indian Tribes and additional resources provided for several key federal agencies to provide scientific and technical assistance to fish habitat partnerships. The bill also sets a cap on administrative costs at 5 percent, preventing federal agencies from redirecting funding from the program to pay for other agency needs during tight budget times.
This five-year authorization would end year-to-year uncertainty, ensuring that each of the partnerships have the ability to plan ahead and do the best work possible.
The National Fish Habitat Partnership is one of North America’s most successful conservation programs, but its continued success, and existence, depends on all of us speaking up for our waterways and the fish that call them home. Please join the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and our partners across the nation in urging Congress to pass the National Fish Habitat Conservation Through Partnerships Act into law.
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
Perry M. Seitzinger
Hometown: Cloverdale, Indiana Occupation: Consulting forester Conservation credentials: Chairman of the Indiana chapter of the Ruffed Grouse Society. Educates landowners about how to use Farm Bill programs to achieve their wildlife goals on private forested lands.
Perry Seitzinger might never have become a hunter, forester, or conservationist had it not been for his father’s curiosity as a teenager—he joined a friend for a small game hunt, without a firearm or tag, and eventually dove into the sport as a way to bond with Perry and his brother. (There’s a lesson here: It’s always worth taking someone else along!) Now, Seitzinger is an active leader of the Ruffed Grouse Society in his state and a vocal advocate for overturning outdated ideas about responsible forest management.
Here is his story.
As a young man, my father tagged along with his best friend Perry on a pheasant and rabbit hunt in northern Indiana. He didn’t carry a gun, but it made an impression on him. It wasn’t until his early 30s that he met a friend through church who was interested in upland hunting and bird dogs. Dad was looking for a new hobby and a way to spend quality time with us, his sons.
It turns out that Dad’s decision to take up upland hunting was the defining moment that molded not only my pursuits as a young man, but also my life’s work as a hunter and conservationist.
Every year in October I spend a week in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with my closest friends to chase the king of upland birds, the ruffed grouse, and the quirky little American woodcock. No other outdoor pursuit can replace the time I have spent with family, friends, and beloved bird dogs in the stunning beauty of the north woods in the Ottawa National Forest. This is a fine example of how wilderness, natural beauty, quality outdoors experiences, and intensive natural resource management aren’t mutually exclusive.
I had my best adventure afield in 2006, when I visited a college friend and fellow forester who lived in southeast Alaska on Prince of Wales Island. My goal for the trip was a DIY spot-and-stalk black bear hunt. Surprisingly, I was successful within the first hour of the hunt, but I learned far more from what came after.
I spent the remainder of my time diving into the local culture, touring the island, fishing, and setting crab pots. The vast, wild beauty of southeast Alaska can’t be put into words. The biggest impression that I took away from this experience was how many people I met there who were passionate about conservation, because their very existence was woven into the local management of their natural resources.
Conservation defines my life. Everything that I pursue is rooted in forest conservation. I realize that without boots-on-the-ground forest management and the decisive conservation efforts of those who came before me, the life I have chosen would not be possible.
The biggest conservation challenge in the central hardwoods region is the lack of forest age and class diversity on both public and private lands. Diverse, healthy forests that we have all come to love, and many of the critters that inhabit them, will no longer exist without sufficient disturbance at the landscape level. Responsible timber harvesting is actually the best conservation tool we have at our disposal for creating and maintaining diverse wildlife habitat and healthy forests.
I have a sentimental nature, and that drives my true passion of sharing outdoor experiences with others. In order for future generations to have the same experiences that I hold dear to my heart, I realize I have to give of myself to conservation.
Our forests and native plant communities, and the wildlife species that depend on them, are not static. Without the hand of man, it cannot be expected that our wild places will be the same tomorrow as they are today. It is my hope that by leaving a legacy of conservation behind, I can leave the same outdoor experiences I have been blessed with to my son and others that come after me.
Do you know someone “In the Arena” who should be featured here? Emailinfo@trcp.orgfor a questionnaire.
Weekend Download: The Climate Change Impacts We Should Be Facing
The Hunting Collective’s Ben O’Brien visits TRCP President and CEO Whit Fosburgh at his home on the Potomac River to talk about the direct effects of climate change on hunting and fishing and the other top challenges facing our community.
Skip right to Whit’s Q&A at 48 minutes in, or enjoy the full episode featuring some of the top female leaders at MeatEater HQ. (Bonus: They decide, based on internet photos, that Whit stacks up in the fashion and style department, where Rinella apparently does not.)
HOW YOU CAN HELP
CONSERVATION WORKS FOR AMERICA
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.