Marnee Banks

February 10, 2020

President’s Budget Proposes Deep Cuts to Conservation

Sportsmen and women call on Congress to invest in land, water, wildlife, and fisheries

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s president and CEO Whit Fosburgh issued the following statement in response to the President’s proposed Fiscal Year 2021 budget:

“With just a few exceptions, this budget falls woefully short when it comes to investing in conservation and our outdoor recreation economy.  As Congress walks through the appropriations process, it’s imperative that lawmakers listen to sportsmen and women and make lasting contributions to the future of land, water, wildlife, and fisheries.”

Now that the President has rolled out his proposed budget, Congress is tasked with passing appropriations bills by September 30, 2020.

31 Responses to “President’s Budget Proposes Deep Cuts to Conservation”

    • Elisa Hirt

      Trump will NEVER see the value of conservation. He has proved that time and time again- especially with the latest disgraceful shrinking of our once protected monuments. If he believes there is money to be made by way of oil, coal or logging (even in protected lands), he will plunder and destroy it. Period. Voting for him is voting AGAINST the the health of the environment and any hopes of conservation. I sincerely hope you reconsider your choice of candidate. Please do some research… his false claims on economy, etc, are proven time and time again. The only thing guaranteed from Trump is the continued destruction of the environment, regardless of what the people want.

  1. Robert Scott Bennett

    I’m a Trump supporter, but I do not support proposed cuts to cutting conservation funds. I agree that we should increase conservation funding, especially for CRP & WRP land.

  2. The synergistic relation between land, abundant game, access and healthy budgets for resource programs evades Trump, he doesn’t get-it. How these contribute to our economy, hasn’t resonated with him either. I just support a president like this.

  3. We need to be PRAISING trump and gloating about his “stable genious” regarding his knowledge of conservation. I think he knows more than the conservation experts! And, expertise of managing such! If we get on the right track, then he will support it!!! Its our fault and stupidity for not understanding what he tells us!

  4. Michael Nigl

    Hunters and the NRA used to have a common cause to rally around during elections. In recent years, the radical right has taken the NRA farther and farther away from the Hunter/Conservation issues. Outdoor sportsmen are really divided on the subject of Gun Control, and this division is eroding our lobbying power. If you plan the hunt game with an AR equipped with a 30 round magazine, you’ll have to make a choice what is most important.

  5. Bill Blount

    So unfortunate that folks are fooled by the con man in the White House. I’ve been watching Trump since the 70’s and he’s the same fake he’s always been. His only concern is himself and how he can best make a deal that’s best for him. There is zero concern for conservation in his White House. Stop being fooled and open your eyes.

  6. The article i just read, with zero information on actual “budget statement” is precisely why i have not and will never financially support “TRCP”…
    how about some actual journalism and information that one could start researching the language of budget proposal?? Then contact their representatives in Washington…
    I especially liked your follow up TRUMP HATE COMMENTS.
    thanks for doing your part TRCP in trying to keep the divisive wedge being driven deeper into the USA

  7. Gene Hardin

    John Meloncamp was definately talking about Trump supports in one of his songs which goes” the simple minded and uninformed are easily lead astray and those who cannot connect the dots look the other way, people believe what they want to believe when it makes no sence at all…………

  8. Norm Ploss

    Trump & his enablers are not friends of the environment or fish & wildlife. Greatly appreciate TRCP for speaking up. When will DU, TU, FFI & other national outdoors organizations speak out.

  9. The Trump administration along with Andrew Wheeler, EPA, coal lobbyist, David Bernhardt, Interior, oil and gas lobbyist, and William Perry Pendley, BLM, “all public lands should be sold”, have not been supportive of our air, land, water, and wildlife. It is no surprise that the proposed Trump budget fails to adequately support, protect, and defend our air, land, water, and wildlife. In fact his actions and those of his administration are actually making them worse. If you do not believe it, just check for yourself all of the rollbacks and reductions in protections of our air, land, water, and wildlife. We can do better than what is currently happening.

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Andrew Wilkins

January 17, 2020

Breaking Down the Budget

Here’s how Congress will fund conservation in 2020

Every year, Congress must decide how federal funds will be divided among virtually every agency and program, from defense to medical research, federal highways, and conservation. This process of appropriations reflects which issues are most important—or have the broadest appeal—in our country. 

At the end of 2019, the passage of H.R. 1865 showed that conservation remains a bipartisan priority for lawmakers.  With generally strong numbers across the board, this spending bill for Fiscal Year 2020 reinvests our tax dollars into programs, research, and federal agencies that are essential to hunters’ and anglers’ enjoyment of America’s natural resources.  

You’re probably not going to want to read H.R. 1865, which weighs in at over 1,700 pages, but here are a few highlights that sportsmen and women should celebrate. 

Empowering State Wildlife Agencies to Invest in the Future of Hunting

H.R. 1865 included more than just monetary investments in conservation – The appropriations package also included the Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act, which  gives state wildlife agencies the ability to use tax dollars they receive through firearm, ammunition, and archery equipment sales to recruit, retain, and reactivate hunters. This flexibility is critical to preserve and grow hunting in the United States and, in turn, to uphold and strengthen the North American Model of Conservation. TRCP and our partners have long advocated for this change, and its permanent passage is a landmark conservation achievement for this Congress. 

Support for Clean Water and Place-Based Conservation

Congress also made substantial investments in water quality and the recovery of aquatic ecosystems. WaterSMART, which stands for Sustain and Manage America’s Resources for Tomorrow, is a critical initiative by the Bureau of Reclamation to ensure that Western states have access to safe, reliable, and well-managed water supplies. At the insistence of TRCP and our partners, Congress boosted funding for WaterSmart to $55 million – a $20 million increase – which will support projects that conserve water, increase efficiency, prevent further decline and accelerate the recovery of species, and address climate-related impacts of the water supply essential to maintaining healthy communities and ecosystems. Additionally, in response to the increased threat of water shortages, Western watersheds received further relief by way of $20 million allocated specifically for drought response. 

EPA Geographic Programs, which are used to protect and restore some of America’s most iconic waterways and ecosystems, also saw an increase in funding bringing them to a total of $85 million, including a $12 million increase for the Chesapeake Bay Program. Funding for this program comes at a crucial time: last year the health of the Bay continued its slow decline, alarming ecologists, sportsmen and women, and communities whose economy relies upon the health of the waterway. 

Strengthening Public Lands Funding

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), one of the most celebrated federal conservation programs, received a substantial plus-up in funding through H.R. 1865 to a sum of $495 million. While this certainly counts as a big win for FY20, looking ahead the larger aim should be to remove LWCF from the back-and-forth of the appropriations process entirely. Now that Congress has authorized the program permanently, it needs mandatory funding to ensure its continued status as one of the United States’ signature conservation measures. 

In addition to LWCF, the National Wildlife Refuge System was funded at $502 million, just $1 million shy of its high-water mark set in FY10. Among other benefits, the bump in support includes additional resources for the upkeep of refuge facilities and equipment, invasive species control, and increased law enforcement efforts across the refuge system. 

CWD Funding: A Step in the Right Direction 

In the 116th Congress, sportsmen and women have turned up the pressure on lawmakers around another critical issue: addressing the spread of chronic wasting disease in wild deer, elk, and moose populations. But while hunters successfully pushed Congress to reinstate funding to support CWD research and testing after a multi-year lapse, the amount appropriated, just $5 million, falls far short of what is needed to effectively monitor and combat this disease across the 26 states where it has been detected.  

Despite this missed opportunity for a more robust response to CWD, the FY20 appropriations bill did include new funds for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to monitor the spread of the disease and study the effectiveness of testing methods. Appropriators also allocated funds for a study on the transmission of CWD and testing methods for the disease that will be conducted by the National Academies of Science in partnership with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the U.S. Geological Survey.  

The Cycle Continues: FY21

While Congress made many strong investments in conservation in the FY20 bill there is, as always, room to grow going forward.  

Though appropriators funded the National Wildlife Refuge System at a near-historically high level, the conservation community encourages Congress to make an even more robust investment in the system in the FY21 budget. Without a larger investment, federal wildlife officers will remain spread thin, certain facilities and roadways will remain in a state of disrepair or closure, and Americans will have reduced access to and enjoyment of the refuge system. TRCP, as a member of the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE), requested $586 million to fully support these initiatives, meaning there’s room for this funding line to be improved upon in the next appropriations bill. 

In addition to improving baseline funding levels to combat CWD in the next appropriations bill, Congress should pass the Chronic Wasting Disease Management Act, introduced in the House by Congressman Ron Kind (D-Wis.) and Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), and in the Senate by Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.). This bill would establish a comprehensive, multi-state and tribal grant program to provide funding to agencies and communities on the frontline of this wildlife health crisis by allocating $35 million annually to state and tribal fish and wildlife agencies, along with an additional $10 million to support research grants to study and develop improved management practices to help curb the disease. 

Lastly, it remains imperative that Congress continues to at least maintain funding levels for conservation programs across the board. Responsibly managing and safeguarding our land, water, and wildlife is an ongoing project – not just a one-off purchase or investment – and future generations are relying upon us to make it a priority.  

TRCP and our partners are already working with lawmakers to set the stage for another strong budget in the next fiscal year.  

Join us now to be a part of this important work. 

Cory Deal

January 14, 2020

Podcast: Whit Fosburgh Joins MeatEater to Discuss Conservation Priorities

TRCP’s president and CEO Whit Fosburgh appeared on the MeatEater podcast to discuss pressing conservation priorities to keep on your radar.


Randall Williams

January 10, 2020

The North American Model, Explained

A Quick Primer on the Foundation of Our Hunting and Fishing Heritage

Hunters and anglers have long been the driving force behind wildlife conservation in America. In the second half of the 19th century, hunters began to organize and advocate for the creation of wildlife refuges, after witnessing the effects of market hunting and the wanton destruction of habitat. Some species, like the passenger pigeon, were taken to the point of no return; others such as bison, whitetail deer, and wild turkeys, were pushed to the edge of extinction.

President Theodore Roosevelt is generally remembered as the father of conservation in our country. He credited wild places and wildlife for his own personal development, and feared that the rugged individualism the wilderness taught him would be lost if he didn’t succeed in making conservation the nation’s highest priority. During his tenure as president, Roosevelt set aside more than 240 million acres as national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife refuges. He and his colleagues were instrumental in ending market hunting and ushering forward our nation’s conservation ethos.

Subsequent generations expanded Roosevelt’s legacy by creating funding mechanisms, primarily through excise taxes and license fees, to pay for the professional management and acquisition of millions of acres for the public to enjoy. During the early 1900s, important laws were passed, including the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp Act of 1934, the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act of 1937 (better known as the Pittman-Robertson Act), and the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act of 1950 (the Dingell-Johnson Act).

These statutes and the legal and funding framework that has since developed through these collective actions is now known as the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. The term — coined and further expanded upon by luminaries such as Valerius Geist and Shane Mahoney, and championed by groups such as the Boone and Crockett Club and The Wildlife Society— outlines the principles that have underpinned successful wildlife conservation efforts in Canada and the United States.


USFWS Mountain Prairie
The Seven Pillars

As articulated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, seven features make the North American model distinct:

1) Wildlife is a public resource and held in public trust. In the Unites States, wildlife is considered a public resource, independent of the land or water where wildlife may live. Government at various levels have a role in managing that resource on behalf of all citizens and to ensure the long-term sustainability of wildlife populations.

2) Markets for game have been eliminated. Government actions making it illegal to buy and sell meat and parts of game and non-game species have removed a huge threat to the survival of those species. A market in furbearers continues as a highly regulated activity.

3) Allocation of wildlife by law. Wildlife is a public resource managed by government. As a result, access to wildlife for hunting is through legal mechanisms such as set hunting seasons, bag limits, license requirements, etc.

4) Wildlife can only be killed for a legitimate purpose. Wildlife is a shared resource that must not be wasted. The law prohibits killing wildlife for frivolous reasons.

5) Wildlife species are considered an international resource. Some species, such as migratory birds, cross national boundaries. Treaties such as the Migratory Bird Treaty and CITES recognize a shared responsibility to manage these species across national boundaries.

6) Science is the proper tool for discharge of wildlife policy. In order to manage wildlife as a shared resource fairly, objectively, and knowledgeably, decisions must be based on sound science such as annual waterfowl population surveys and the work of professional wildlife biologists.

7) The democracy of hunting and fishing. In keeping with democratic principles, government allocates access to wildlife without regard for wealth, prestige, or land ownership.


Jeff Sullivan via Flickr
A Heritage Worth Fighting For

Today, we all have a duty to understand this uniquely American privilege and to preserve it for future generations.

Too often we take for granted what Roosevelt and generations of conservation-minded leaders have left us: a system of public lands that is unparalleled in all the world; the best-managed fish and wildlife populations of any nation; and the ability for all Americans to hunt and fish, regardless of class or economic status.


Top photo: Paul VanDerWerf via Flickr

Marnee Banks

January 9, 2020

A Season of Firsts: Getting Started

An Aspiring Hunter Reflects on Potential Barriers to Recruiting New Sportsmen and Women

Whenever I tell people that I grew up in Montana, the first question I’m always asked is whether I hunt.

Up until this year, I’ve always sheepishly answered “no,” thinking that my reply in the negative would undermine my credibility as a Westerner.  

Growing up at the base of the Rocky Mountains, I was surrounded by big antlers on the wall, game meat on the table, and camo attire at weddings and funerals.  But I didn’t hunt.  

I was intimidated by the sport. I didn’t have anyone in my family who could teach me. I didn’t own a gun. I didn’t have any of the right gear. I didn’t know how to get a license or what I might need one for.  

But I knew I needed to learn when I began working at TRCP. If I wanted to talk the talk, I had to walk the walk. And with an office full of potential mentors, there was no excuse not to give it a shot.

Diving In

After asking a few of my co-workers how to get started, I discovered I could take a online hunter education course, which would then allow me to purchase a hunting license in any state. 

Given my current residence in Washington D.C., I signed up for the Maryland web course, which took about four hours to complete.  After passing the online portion, I had to spend an afternoon at a face-to-face class where an instructor would teach us how to handle a firearm, identify ethical shots, and navigate the complexities of landowner permission.   

It sounds relatively easy, but there were several barriers that needlessly frustrated the process.  And, because I know the statistics surrounding hunting’s declining rates of participation, they troubled me.  

For instance, because there were no opportunities to take the class near my apartment in the city, I had to rent a car and drive three hours to complete my certification. Meanwhile, the location of the course had been moved and I had no way of knowing until I showed up to the wrong building, just 10 minutes before the class was supposed to begin. The change in venue might not have been a big deal to someone familiar with the local community or who hadn’t needed to carefully plan their travel that day, but for me it presented another hurdle that could have been easily avoided.

When I arrived late, I was one of two female students in a class of 20 led by all male instructors.  One man, clearly amused by the D.C. license plate on my car, asked “Why would a city girl come all the way up here to learn how to hunt?” Another man quipped, “Don’t hold that gun like you’re scared of it.” While not intended to be mean-spirited, these words and others throughout the day clearly implied that I was out of place.

These challenges did not stop me from passing the course, but I can imagine for some they might. How would a prospective new hunter without easy access to transportation get there? Can we make it easier to reach new hunters where they might be found? How would someone with less self-confidence respond when they walk into that room or when they encounter skeptical gazes and teasing? Can we find ways to understand how underrepresented groups might feel as they learn about hunting?

We have to ask ourselves these questions as we watch the number of hunters decline year after year.


The Road Ahead

Thankfully, at the end of 2019 Congress took a major step forward in addressing some of these problems.  They passed the bipartisan Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act allowing excise taxes on firearms and ammunition to be used to improve the recruitment, retention, and reactivation of hunters.  

As this law gets implemented, states should take a hard look at the hurdles that people have to jump over and work to address them so more people feel comfortable learning about the sport and joining our community.  Reversing the trend of declining participation will require us to think seriously about what we can do better to make hunting more accessible to all, no matter where they live or what they look like.

This blog is part one is a series. Tune in next week to hear more about Marnee’s bird hunting adventure.  




The precipitous drop in hunter participation should be a call to action for all sportsmen and women, because it will have a significant ripple effect on key conservation funding models.

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