Congress Announces Legislation to Invest in the Future of Hunting and Conservation
Bipartisan bill to keep the government open includes Pittman-Robertson Modernization Act
In one of the biggest conservation victories of the year, bipartisan leadership in the House and Senate released legislation to invest in the future of hunting and secure new investments in wildlife and habitat.
The bipartisan compromise to fund the government through September 2020 includes historic legislation that for the first time allows excise taxes on firearms and ammunition to be used to recruit, retain, and reactivate hunters.
As the number of hunters decline nationally, the Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act will ensure that millions of more active and engaged outdoorspeople are paying into conservation and supporting some of America’s greatest traditions. This legislation has been a top priority for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, which has actively worked to include it in the year-end government funding deal.
“Every time hunters purchase guns and ammo they invest in habitat and wildlife, and this legislation will help avert a major conservation funding crisis,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We cannot underscore the importance of this bill for sportsmen and women, conservation, and the next generation of hunters. We hope everyone in the House and Senate will stand with hunters across the nation and send this to the President’s desk for swift signature.”
Between 2011 and 2016, the number of hunters declined by 16 percent contributing to a decline in funding from hunters.
“This is truly a landmark day for hunting and conservation,” said Fosburgh.
Read more about how the Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act supports conservation HERE.
To take action and tell Congress to get this bill across the finish line sign our petition today.
Conservation Is Increasingly an All-Hands-on-Deck Endeavor on Private Lands
In the last decade, more and more Farm Bill dollars have been invested to enhance habitat and watersheds through creative partnerships on landscape-scale projects, and TRCP partners are some of the most prolific collaborators
With approximately $5 billion a year in conservation funding to invest across nearly 70 percent of our country’s land mass, conservation programs in the Farm Bill affect all of us who hunt and fish on or near private lands. Many of these initiatives help landowners improve hunting and fishing conditions acre by acre and problem by problem, from boosting wildlife habitat to overhauling water quality and soil health.
These partnerships are changing the face of conservation and growing a restoration economy that can benefit not only farmers and sportsmen but entire communities. Notable examples are in places with longstanding conservation challenges, like the Chesapeake Bay, Colorado River, Great Lakes, Everglades, Mississippi River Basin, Prairie Pothole Region, Puget Sound, and the longleaf pines of the Southeast. Millions of people live in these watersheds, and they offer significant opportunities to hunt and fish.
We’re especially proud to have many of the partners in our 24-member Agriculture and Wildlife Working Group at the helm of these locally led efforts, which look very different from place to place.
In the Driftless Area of lower Wisconsin, for example, Trout Unlimited is helping landowners restore streams a dozen miles at a time on farmland to improve overall water quality downstream—this has resulted in a billion-dollar economic boost to the region. To similarly reduce nutrient runoff into waterways, the Nature Conservancy has partnered with agribusinesses to sell conservation to farmers in the Great Lakes region. Meanwhile, local land trusts in Central Florida work with ranchers to protect the headwaters of the Everglades from overuse by cattle and improve water flows downstream. Joining forces at a local level is making a big difference for these watersheds.
These landscapes are literally changing with rapid improvements for wildlife, water, and the climate. Wildlife Mississippi has helped restore and permanently protect more than 700,000 acres of forest and wetland habitat, benefiting local communities, waterfowl, and threatened species, such as the Louisiana black bear. Ducks Unlimited works with rice growers to create long-term benefits for waterfowl and wetland health while improving working lands. And the National Wildlife Federation is working with ranchers to create mesic habitat, such as beaver ponds, to restore scarce water reserves and create vital habitat for wildlife.
From Local to Landscape
For perspective, many of these kinds of strategic partnerships, which create more valuable conservation outcomes, have only come together in the past decade or so. As a conservation community, we are just learning how to create a larger restoration economy by working in concert to chip away at discrete problems. There’s a new Farm Bill every five years, and over the past couple of iterations we have moved from random acts of conservation to strategic and well-prioritized efforts for the benefit of entire communities—from those of us who like to hunt and fish to those who just happen to live downstream.
This is something we can only achieve by working together. Since the 2014 Farm Bill, hundreds of new partnerships have formed within iconic landscapes and watersheds, and there are some positive ways that this kind of collaboration can be encouraged and empowered in the next bill.
As everyone from NGOs to local water district managers are learning how to be more effective at meeting conservation challenges and work with a greater variety of people and landowners to craft solutions, we want to see a Farm Bill that will make more of these kinds of efforts possible by supporting smart collaboration. Simply put, efforts like these and more across all parts of our country get more hands involved in conservation so that we can continue to meet our growing challenges.
Chris Adamo is a Farm Bill conservation consultant for the TRCP. Adamo helped lead the effort for the last farm bill as staff director of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee under Senator Stabenow and is currently a senior fellow at National Wildlife Federation.
To Have Great Fishing Anywhere, We Need Clean Water Everywhere
The basic needs of America’s world-class trout and waterfowl populations—healthy headwaters and wetlands—are about to be undermined, so sportsmen and women need to act now
We’ve written before about how water is connected, and how pollution from small, diffuse sources can accumulate and create big problems downstream. Scientists and conservationists understand that this is a serious issue, but sportsmen and women are also well-informed—after all, we see the effects directly in our trout streams and from our duck blinds. Perhaps that’s why 83 percent of hunters and anglers, and overwhelmingly across party lines, support the application of Clean Water Act protections for smaller streams and wetlands.
Finalized in 2015, the Clean Water Rule clarifies Clean Water Act protections for 20 million acres of wetlands and thousands of miles of headwater streams—that’s 60 percent of the country’s flowing waters. If we can’t ensure that waters and wetlands are protected at the source, this endangers the future of beloved downstream land and waters.
But for some reason, there’s been some serious misunderstanding as to what this rule does and does not do. With less than 30 days for hunters and anglers to tell the EPA and Army Corps that headwaters and wetlands matter to us, we want to set the facts straight.
By keeping smaller headwaters and wetlands clean, this rule protects:
Early mornings that are worth the extra cup of coffee
Your story about that first catch
A good reason to buy just a few more decoys because you’ll definitely use them this season
That Day Away from the Office
But the rule IS NOT regulating these things:
Regular farming practices
What the Rule Does
Without the Clean Water Rule, we risk seeing streams polluted and wetlands destroyed because of confusion as to which waters are protected under the Clean Water Act. This ambiguity started with two Supreme Court decisions, which chipped away protections for headwater streams and wetlands that had been protected until that point. After the 2006 Rapanos v. UnitedStates case, Chief Justice Roberts urged the agencies to write a rule that would clarify which waters were covered. This kicked off a transparent public process that eventually led to the final Clean Water Rule, which was celebrated by sportsmen in 2015.
Rather than operating with clarity and consistency, federal and state water quality personnel will need to determine which waters qualify for protection on a case-by-case basis—throwing tremendous uncertainty back into the decision-making process and burdening water quality managers.
This ambiguity also hurts sportsmen and our efforts to restore clean water resources.
The bottom line is that without Clean Water Act protections, wetlands that serve as key habitat for waterfowl can be drained and smaller headwater streams that are crucial spawning areas for trout and other fish can be polluted. Pollution doesn’t simply stay put in headwaters; it flows into larger water bodies downstream, damaging more fish and wildlife habitat along the way.
There’s Less Time Than Before
Any time the federal government creates or repeals a rule that government agencies and American citizens have to follow, they’re required to have a public comment period. When the Clean Water Rule was created in 2015, sportsmen and women had more than 200 days to comment on the proposed rule. This time around there are only 30 days to make our voices heard.
This rule could impact our access and traditions for the foreseeable future, but we’ve been given very little time to speak up about it.
If you devour anything related to conservation policy, consider this your well-rounded media diet
Staying on top of conservation policy developments in D.C. and beyond is essential to what we do—and we really geek out about it so that we can get the most important news into your hands via Facebook, Twitter, and our blog. But, for those of you who want to go straight to our most trusted sources—and in some cases go way, way down the rabbit hole—we’ve put together a handy shortlist.
For each source of news, the medium might vary. “Twitter is a great place to get the news from decision makers,” says, Joel Webster, our director of Western lands. “Facebook is a great place to get the news from your friends and sporting groups. The content is usually different between the two.”
So here’s what we read, and how we read it, in order to share the breaking news that matters to sportsmen and women.
Policy Makers, Shakers, and Implementers
Social media gives you the chance to peek behind the curtain and watch decision makers in action.
Follow your representatives on Facebook and Twitter for a direct line to lawmakers. This allows you to watch for positions they’re taking and hold them accountable. If you don’t already know who speaks for you in Capitol Hill, look up your U.S. House and Senate reps. Then, you can dig deeper by following members of your state’s legislature. Identify members here, or by googling your state.
Track congressional floor proceedings on Twitter over at @HouseFloor, @SenateFloor, and @SenateCloakroom. This is where you’ll find out what’s happening as it’s happening—including speeches, votes, and other motions that could affect habitat and access.
Read about what’s brewing in administrative agencies by following the agencies directly on social media. Hint: Public lands agencies usually share killer photos.
Twitter is also where journalists live. Follow them over at the Bird for bite-sized news and links to the articles they’re writing or recommending.
For insightful environmental news coming out of the Gulf, follow @BenHRaines (Ben H. Raines, AL.com), @tmassonFISH (Todd Masson, NOLA), and others on Twitter.
Publications in Your Hands and on Your Screen
Each day, our government relations director Steve Kline reads three actual, physical newspapers by turning actual pages just like our forefathers did. Center for Agriculture and Private Lands Director Ariel Wiegard, on the other hand, starts her day online.
Here are some ideas to get you started curating a customized online news aggregator with an RSS feed (Feedly is a good example). Add the individual publications, columns, or blogs you like to streamline your reading list.
The environment pages for your regional paper and a national publication like the Washington Post.
Political rags, like Morning Consult, Politico, The Hill, and Roll Call. These are great if you want to take a deep dive into what’s happening on Capitol Hill, and they all have sections on energy, environment, and/or agriculture. And for the Westerners: High Country News and WyoFile provide some solid political reporting.
Your favorite hunting and fishing magazines. We like the relatable voices on Field & Stream’s Conservationist blog, Outdoor Life’s Open Country, and Fly Rod and Reel’s conservation column, for example.
Private land conservation news coming out of local outlets on this list.
If you just want to browse the headlines, follow @EENewsUpdates on Twitter. This in-depth environment and energy publication is behind a pretty expensive paywall, but you’ll get a glimpse of what’s trending (so you can google the rest.) Almost everyone in the conservation community starts their day with E&E updates.
Your Fellow Sportsmen and Women
A good place to start learning about major issues is with those who share your interests. We like:
The Hunt Talk forum, which is broken down by topic. You might want to start in the “hot topics” section.
There are a couple of big-name hunters in the trenches with us. They’re working to get the word out on the significant issues facing sportsmen and women. Steven Rinella’s social media channels are an excellent resource. Search for him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter at @stevenrinella. Similarly, find Randy Newberg on Facebook and Twitter at @randynewberg.
Op-eds often feature local perspectives on issues important to sportsmen and women. Keep an eye on the opinion section in your local newspaper for conservation-related topics.
Sportsmen’s groups hard at work filtering all of this news for you. Check out our partner page, and give those groups a follow on your favorite social media channels or sign up for their newsletters.
With a little digging, careful selection, and a few cool internet tools, you can construct a perfectly custom-built system to get nerdy about conservation.
The Senate will be in session all week, while the House will recess on Wednesday to attend the congressional Republicans’ annual retreat in Philadelphia, Penn.
Lawmakers tinker with Obama-era regulations
Before January ends, the House is expected to block some regulations by utilizing the Congressional Review Act, which would allow Congress to debate controversial regulations that were introduced after May 16, 2016. The Stream Protection Rule, which would limit coal mining near waterways, and the Bureau of Land Management’s Methane and Waste Reduction Rule, which would reduce natural gas waste on public lands, could be on the chopping block. The CRA requires a simple majority to halt regulations, which Republicans in the Senate currently have at 52-48.
The Trump administration issued a government-wide freeze on unfinished rules and regulations held over from the waning days of the Obama administration. Freezing regulations is not an uncommon practice for newly elected presidents. In 2009, the Obama administration issued a similar memorandum soon after taking office.
Cabinet appointments begin to get locked in
Following confirmations of the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of Homeland Security, the Senate will continue to consider President Trump’s cabinet nominees, starting with the Congressman Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
In order for President Trump’s picks to take up cabinet positions, they must be confirmed by the Senate. Respective committees must vote in favor of the nominees before they are considered on the Senate floor, where they must pass with more than 50 votes. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer has pledged to slow down the pace of floor consideration of Trump nominees to ensure they get a full debate.
Secretary of Agriculture selected, but not yet confirmed
President Trump’s pick to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture, former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, will continue visiting with Senate Agriculture Committee members and other senators in preparation for the confirmation process and to discuss their expectations. The Senate Agriculture Committee has not scheduled a confirmation hearing as of this writing. We’re optimistic about Mr. Perdue’s potential to engage in conservation efforts in the Farm Bill and on U.S. National Forest Service lands.
As our nation rebounds from the COVID pandemic, policymakers are considering significant investments in infrastructure. Hunters and anglers see this as an opportunity to create conservation jobs, restore habitat, and boost fish and wildlife populations.