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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.
Lawmakers tee up floor vote for legislation to modernize the Pittman-Robertson Act and to head off habitat challenges for at-risk species
In a House Natural Resources Committee hearing today, decision-makers voted to advance two critical funding priorities with long-term impacts for American sportsmen and women.
The Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act would allow a portion of hunting license sales and excise taxes on gear, guns, and ammunition to be used not only for conservation but also to recruit, retain, and reactivate more hunters.
“State wildlife agencies have the most to lose if hunting participation continues to decline, because many of them depend entirely on Pittman-Robertson dollars, but that’s why it’s so critical that these agencies market to and educate prospective sportsmen and women,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “This critical update to the original law—which was written at a time when more than half the country hunted or had access to someone who could likely show them how—would help ensure the future of our traditions and turn the tide on a looming conservation funding crisis in America.”
The committee also debated and passed the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, which would invest roughly $1.4 billion in proactive, voluntary conservation efforts led by states, territories, and tribal nations to prevent vulnerable wildlife from becoming endangered. This new fund could benefit up to 12,000 species, including 40 percent of the nation’s freshwater fish, that need conservation action.
“We’re thrilled to see momentum behind a new investment in conservation that recognizes the real need to get ahead of habitat challenges—rather than scramble to revive a species on the brink,” says Fosburgh. “Together, these two pieces of legislation represent a forward-thinking approach to conservation that should be applauded, and we hope to see bipartisan support on the House floor very soon.”
Photo: Ken Mattison via Flickr
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.”
The TRCP has asked sportsmen and women to call on lawmakers for these investments in the nationwide CWD response. Learn more here.
This hearing marks the fifth time this year that the TRCP has represented the interests of American sportsmen and women by delivering official testimony before Congress. View details on our previous testimony related to improving access to public lands, the five priority pieces of legislation that would invest in fish and wildlife habitat, how to create drought solutions while enhancing conditions for fish in the Colorado River Basin, and how House lawmakers can step up in the fight against CWD.
Top photo by Kansas Tourism via flickr
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.
With momentum behind a Senate bill that passed out of committee last week, now is the perfect time to remind lawmakers that the Land and Water Conservation Fund benefits every kind of public land user and has created access or habitat in all 50 states since its inception. Specifically, what we need now is full funding for the LWCF at its annual $900 million potential, which would go a long way toward unlocking the nearly 16 million acres of public land that are entirely surrounded by private land and therefore legally inaccessible to the Americans who own them. Add your voice to this rallying cry.
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.
Sometimes just getting informed is half the battle—and that’s where these videos come in: Deer hunters can help prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease by following these basic steps in the field. Anglers looking to fish any of the Colorado River’s vast tributary network should understand this about the future of water management in the region. And these clips help explain why redfish and speckled trout aren’t the only ones benefiting from efforts to restore the disappearing coastline along the Gulf of Mexico. Bone up on the basics so you’re ready to act when conservation is threatened.
Balanced use of our public lands and natural resources is necessary, but there are some habitats that are too special to risk exposing to the impacts of development. If you dream of mule deer hunting the untouched backcountry of Nevada’s “Swiss Alps” or landing a salmon in Alaska’s famed Bristol Bay, speak up now for legislation and congressional support that will ensure these one-of-a-kind landscapes are there for you and future generations.
Want to do more right at home? Residents of the Atlantic Coast, Pennsylvania, Wyoming, Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, and other states can find regional conservation issues to support on the bottom half of the TRCP Action Center page. Check it out, fill one out, and fuel more of what you like to do outdoors.
Top photo by Tony Young/FWC.
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