TRCP Raises Alarms About Weakening of Conservation Reserve Program
Sportsmen and women call on administration to boost enrollment efforts as General signup kicks off
The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is calling on the Trump Administration to step up and implement the Conservation Reserve Program to conserve soil, water, and wildlife habitat.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture today announced it will begin allowing landowners to sign up for the nation’s most successful private lands conservation program. However, they also announced cuts to incentive payments and changes to the State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement initiative, which has not been open for enrollment since 2017.
“The Conservation Reserve Program is a highly successful tool for providing prime wildlife habitat, unfortunately the Administration has been undermining this Program to the detriment of farmers as well as sportsmen and women,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Not only were there lengthy delays in announcing a signup period, these changes will result in higher costs for landowners who want to protect soil and water health. It’s time for U.S.D.A. to implement the 2018 Farm Bill with an eye toward conservation success.”
The 2018 Farm Bill allowed the agency to offer Practice Incentive Payments (PIPs) “up to 50 percent” of a project’s cost for “continuous” projects. The Administration reduced these payments to a scant 5 percent.
The last time the administration held a General CRP signup was in 2016, when only 400,000 acres of the 1.8 million acres offered were approved for enrollment.
Fosburgh’s Senate Testimony Urges Congressional Action on Chronic Wasting Disease
In his third appearance before Congress this year, the TRCP’s president and CEO again presses lawmakers to invest in surveillance and testing for the deer disease that has sent state wildlife agencies scrambling to respond
In a hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee today, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership President and CEO Whit Fosburgh continued to push lawmakers on the need for more meaningful federal action in the fight against chronic wasting disease. The always-fatal disease has spread rapidly among wild deer, elk, and moose populations in recent years and creates increasing uncertainty for hunters who represent a critical source of conservation funding in America.
The committee convened to discuss creating a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service chronic wasting disease task force, but Fosburgh argued that this does not go far enough.
“Coordinating and expediting the federal response to CWD is important—and the task force proposed by this committee could help do this—but the single most important thing Congress can do to stop the spread of CWD is to give the states the resources they need to track and fight the disease in the wild,” Fosburgh testified. “Congress provided strong and consistent federal funding to assist the state wildlife agencies in responding to CWD through 2011, but when this funding ran out, states were forced to cut back on other programs to respond to the disease. Some simply stopped looking for it.”
Fosburgh pointed to the 2020 House Agriculture Appropriations bill, which would reestablish federal funding for CWD by providing $15 million to state wildlife agencies for surveillance and testing. That bill is currently in conference with the Senate, which provides just $2.5 million for wild deer in its bill.
“If members of this committee care about stopping CWD, I urge you to reach out to your colleagues on the Appropriations Committee and ask them to support the House level of $15 million in the Agriculture Appropriations bill,” he said. “Chronic wasting disease is a symptom of a systematic failure to invest in conservation. That is why America’s hunters and anglers so fervently hope that this Committee will help address the CWD crisis.”
Five Ways to Do More than #OptOutside This Black Friday
This year, REI challenges everyone who loves the outdoors to opt to act in service of public lands and habitat
In 2015, our friends at REI laid down the original challenge: They would pay their workforce to stay home on Black Friday, and meanwhile they urged ALL Americans to spend time outdoors instead of shopping. Since then, #OptOutside has become a movement embraced by hikers and hunters alike.
But this year, the company admits that it isn’t enough.
It’s easy to choose to spend our time on America’s public lands and waters instead of in malls this holiday weekend. But—as REI’s president and CEO Eric Artz writes in the most recent Co-op Journal—outdoorsmen and women of all stripes must opt to act as well. Our natural resources face new and enduring challenges, and it will take all of our voices in harmony to push back on bad conservation policies and habitat setbacks that could take decades to undo.
Fortunately, this is pretty much the business that we’re in here at the TRCP—giving you opportunities to take action on the issues that are most critical RIGHT NOW.
And, not to brag, but we never waste your time with misdirection or scare tactics. If you’re hearing from us, it’s because critical or damaging legislation is on the move and you have a chance to make a difference. We translate the wonky policy language that some decision-makers are hoping will confuse you, and we provide hunters and anglers with the tools to make your voices heard in a few clicks or less.
If you’re willing to do more than simply enjoy the outdoors this Black Friday, here are five things you can do to safeguard all the ways we #OptOutside.
Enhance the Power of One of Our Best Public Lands Programs
Make the Trip “Over the River and Through the Woods” a Little Safer
In many parts of the country, you’re highly likely to encounter deer or other critters crossing the road on your way to grandma’s house this week. This risk of collision is no good for drivers or wildlife, and Congress has a chance to make a dedicated effort to keep animals off busy roadways—something that Western states say they’d prioritize if they had dedicated funding. Take action to ask lawmakers for a Highway Bill that sets aside funding for wildlife-friendly overpasses, underpasses, culverts, and other crossing structures that benefit wildlife and motorists.
When It Comes to Protecting Streams, Sometimes What’s in a Name Matters
Anglers are campaigning to update the designations of some Pennsylvania waterways to reflect the exceptional status of their wild trout populations and water quality—and secure the habitat protections that these designations afford
With 86,000 miles of streams and about 4,000 inland lakes, Pennsylvania is home to some of the best publicly accessible fishing that the East Coast has to offer, including phenomenal trout and bass fishing. With opportunities like these, it’s no wonder that 1.3 million Pennsylvanians fished their local waterways in 2016, helping contribute to the state’s $26.9-billion outdoor recreation economy.
Since 2010, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has worked with sportsmen and local universities to distinguish our best waters through the Unassessed Waters Initiative. Based on the UWI’s evaluation, stream sections that meet a set of criteria are eligible for certain protections. For example, streams that have abundant populations of wild rainbow, brown, and brook trout can be eligible for Wild Trout Stream or Class A Stream designations. Protecting these streams ensures that the outdoor recreation industry continues to thrive and that future generations can enjoy the same (or better) fishing opportunities.
Starting right now, local sportsmen and women have a chance to influence this process and seal the deal for our best trout streams.
Why Does a Designation Matter?
In these cases, what’s in a name really matters: Wild Trout and Class A streams qualify for additional protections from Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection, including the limitation of activities around these streams that would degrade water quality. The Wild Trout Stream title designates a water as a Coldwater Fishery and protects surrounding wetlands from development. Similarly, streams that qualify for the Class A designation get additional recognition as high-quality waters, which restricts in-stream discharges and guards against habitat degradation.
These designations from the PFBC are critical to helping the state manage and protect fish populations, especially as demands on Pennsylvania’s water resources continue to increase. When you consider that roughly 40 percent of streams across the state are NOT suitable for fishing, swimming, and/or drinking water, according to the DEP, it makes sense to safeguard the exceptional waterways that already meet top standards and support outdoor recreation that drives our economy.
Pennsylvania’s hunters and anglers have an important opportunity to conserve more critical streams. If we don’t speak up, these exceptional waterways could easily be degraded and eventually lost to pollution.
From now through December 24, sportsmen and women across the state can voice their support for protecting important streams that provide our best fishing opportunities. Speaking up only takes a minute or two, but it could mean that these streams have important safeguards for decades to come.
Rather than focus on what we need as hunters and anglers, let’s take a minute to appreciate what we have
Every year around this time, we pause from the everyday distractions of the modern world to acknowledge those things in our lives for which we’re truly thankful. From family and friends to health and security, many indispensable parts of our lives can be easy to take for granted.
But in the spirit of next week’s holiday, we thought we’d take a moment to express our gratitude to things and people—in no particular order—that make our lives as hunters and anglers, and our work as conservationists, so rewarding. Sportsmen and women have a lot to be thankful for in this country and it’s worth remembering what makes this way of life possible.
Access in Abundance, Both Public and Private
Whether it’s through the generosity of a landowner or the wealth of public lands owned by all, Americans enjoy a tremendous variety of opportunities to get outside and participate in our sporting traditions. We’re fortunate that our nation’s history saw the creation of both a vast public estate as well as a rich tradition of stewardship on family farms and ranches.
A Shared Mission Among Strong Partners
When new challenges emerge or opportunities arise in the world of conservation, bold leadership from our policy council and partner organizations ensure that we’ll know what’s going on, what’s at stake, and how to respond. On the issues that matter most to sportsmen and women, there is a robust community working tirelessly towards solutions that will secure a bright future for our fish and wildlife. Collaboration, consensus, and coordinated action allow us to present a united front and strengthen the voices of hunters and anglers.
Smart Policy and Dedicated Decisionmakers
This year, we have seen a lot of good ideas and top priorities gain traction in Congress, like the North American Wetlands Conservation Act and dedicated funding for LWCF. For all that we hear about dysfunction in Washington, D.C., there are lawmakers and public officials who take seriously the interests of our community and advance legislation and policy to benefit fish, wildlife, and access to our nation’s best hunting and fishing.
A “Most Glorious Heritage”
As Americans, we benefit from a unique legacy of fish and wildlife stewardship, forged over more than a century by our predecessors in the sporting community. Every day on the water and trip afield, like every fish on the line or deer in the freezer, would not be possible without the hard work and problem-solving of earlier generations who took up the cause of conservation. These gifts are a powerful reminder that we must do our part if we hope to pass them on.
Businesses that See the Big Picture
Our work is made possible by the generosity of amazing corporate partners, such as SITKA GEAR’s pledge to match all new and increased donations to TRCP through December 31. We’re proud—and thankful—to have the support of industry-leading brands that recognize the critical role played by clean water, healthy habitat, and outdoor access in the economic futures of American businesses and communities.
Of course, we owe everything to the hunters and anglers who comprise our membership and those of our partner organizations. It should never be forgotten that countless individuals dedicate their own time and money so that future ranks of sportsmen and women will inherit a strong outdoor tradition. As this season of harvest culminates in one major meal next week, we’ll be raising a glass to YOU, the lifeblood of conservation. Thank you for all your support of our work and America’s hunting and fishing traditions.