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Industry leaders spearhead efforts to combat COVID-19
We’ve said it before, but it’s always worth repeating: the TRCP is proud to have the support of some true leaders in the business world, who time and time again step up on behalf of fish, wildlife, and outdoor opportunities for all Americans. And in recent weeks, as COVID-19 has upended everyday life around this country, we’re prouder than ever of our corporate partners for their generosity and commitment to the greater good.
With many retail stores barred to entry and factory production rates slowing or halted, members of our corporate community are lending their resources to the fight. From retrofitting factories to restocking food bank shelves, these companies are committing their time, money, and production equipment to help us get through this difficult time.
As Theodore Roosevelt famously said, “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” By taking action when it is needed most, here’s how the companies below* are taking care of those in need and setting an example for the rest of us.
The beverage company’s Atlanta-based factory has teamed up with Georgia Tech University to produce more than 50,000 plastic surgical shields that will be distributed to local hospitals and health care workers.
Founded in 1912 by its namesake, outdoorsman Leon Leonwood Bean, this New England institution is using experience gained over the last 100+ years of producing outdoors gear to create protective masks. The company is working with MaineHealth and Intermed and has plans to use its existing supply chain team to create and distribute 1 million masks. The company is also working with local food banks and using its distribution center to restock shelves for families in need.
In an effort to help local medical facilities, Bozeman-based Mystery Ranch is using the antimicrobial and breathable fabric used in their backpacks to produce much-needed personal protective equipment for frontline workers. Along with the time of its expert employees and the use of its sewing facilities, the industry-leading pack manufacturer has also contributed additional materials from its stock to others in the community with the capacity to manufacture extra masks.
This outdoor equipment company is encouraging individuals to recreate responsibly while enjoying the open air through a series of posts on outdoor activities that you can enjoy near your home and a photo challenge. This Instagram-based competition is calling on those who love the outdoors to highlight the creative ways they’re enjoying outdoor spaces while practicing safe social distancing through photos. In addition, NEMO is publishing a series of blogs with ideas for close-to-home adventures to help outdoor enthusiasts alleviate their cabin fever responsibly.
Known for its high-quality fishing gear, this company has partnered with organizations near its Roanoke, VA fulfillment center to produce 2,000 cloth face coverings per week. These non-medical-grade masks will be distributed to those experiencing homelessness in the are and will help protect this particularly vulnerable population.
Drawing on almost its nearly 40-year history of forward-thinking innovation, Outdoor Research’s Seattle factory will be converted to produce N95 surgical masks, respirators, and other personal protective equipment to help address the increased need for these essential medical supplies.
Despite closing operations early in the outbreak to protect workers, Patagonia has committed to providing employees with regular pay throughout the crisis in an effort to protect the communities it serves. The company also has staff reaching out to nonprofits and offering volunteer services to support their operations.
This environmentally-focused design company is utilizing the launch of its latest product to provide coronavirus relief and help fight climate change with a commitment to donate 100% of profits earned from the first four days (4/7-4/11) that their Travel Tripod is on sale to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Foundation.
Despite closing the doors of its 162 retail stores, this outdoor retailer has committed to pay all store employees through April 14th in a letter from the company president and CEO. The company has also made the decision to keep online stores open and is offering free shipping to support those looking for outdoor recreation opportunities while social distancing.
Simms Fishing Products
This pillar of the fishing community is “wading” into the fight against COVID-19 and partnering with Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital. The fishing products company is using Gore-Tex—a material traditionally employed in the production of their popular waterproof waders—to produce more than 1,500 medical-grade gowns per week.
Despite uncertainty, Vista Outdoors has committed to expand its support for non-profit organizations through partnerships and brand-level support. Federal Ammunition–a company under the umbrella of Vista–has also donated multiple cases of N-95 face masks to health care facilities.
*Editor’s Note: We tried to find as many of these stories as we could, but the above list is not comprehensive. Similar efforts we might have overlooked will be added to the list as time allows. Let us know in the comments below of any other hunting and fishing brands stepping up in the fight against COVID-19.
As the weather gets warmer—and as cabin fever heats up, as well—chasing spring turkeys or bears and wetting a line probably seem like great way to escape some of the stress we’re currently experiencing. In many states, campgrounds and national parks are beginning to re-open to visitors. And while many Americans are discovering that being outdoors can offer something of a temporary return to normalcy, it’s important that we pursue our passions in the upcoming weeks and months in a responsible way given our current reality.
In short, please do get outside. But stay safe, follow the law, and keep it local. Here’s why.
Following the law has always been part of being a hunter or angler. But what has changed under current circumstances are some of the rules regarding access and opportunity, particularly on public lands.
Certain public lands have closed to visitors (especially national parks and other areas that draw large crowds). But even on those that remain open, you may find closed public facilities like visitors’ centers, campgrounds, restrooms, or boat ramps. Be sure before you go that your destination is open for recreation and be certain to respect any temporary closures. Many agencies, like the Forest Service and the National Park Service, have established pages on their websites where COVID-19-related news and updates are highlighted.
Likewise, hunters and anglers must also double-check that seasons, regulations, and/or openers haven’t been changed by state fish and game agencies. Nebraska, for instance, is no longer selling non-resident spring turkey permits, and Washington has closed several hunting seasons as well as its recreational fisheries.
So remember: before you pack up your vehicle and hit the road, call ahead or check online to be sure you’re not running afoul of any temporary changes to regulations or access opportunities.
With extra time on your hands, you may be tempted to explore new terrain or use the opportunity to check a destination off your bucket list, especially when many are unable to work and have restless children at home. And it also seems right during this economic downturn to support the guides, outfitters, and small businesses that cater to visiting hunters and anglers. But there’s good reason to keep it simple and head to the local woods and waters instead.
Travel to faraway destinations creates more of a risk for disease spreading. Keep in mind that many rural areas and “gateway” communities do not have the same healthcare infrastructure and stores of medical supplies that you’d find in more populated areas, and that these places typically have a higher percentage of older residents who may be vulnerable to the coronavirus.
Likewise, groceries and other home goods in rural communities are limited and needed by those that live there. While many businesses usually depend on spending by out-of-town visitors, during these unusual circumstances they’d rather have stock on the shelf available for their neighbors.
And when you do get out, it is more important than ever to think about the risks before making decisions in the outdoors.
In addition to the ways that the healthcare precautions we’ve all been following might apply to outdoor recreation ( i.e., avoid crowded trailheads, give others extra space on the boat ramp, etc.), there are extra considerations for those of us who like to get out and explore on the water and wild landscapes.
Search and rescue efforts, emergency evacuations, and similar incidents put at risk our first responders and draw resources away from our already over-burdened medical facilities. Emergency services across the country have asked outdoor recreators to choose lower-risk backcountry activities during these extraordinary times.
So by all means, get out and enjoy what we all love about time in the outdoors: fresh air, exercise, and a break from the stress of everyday life. But don’t forget about the role we all have to play in the effort to keep one another safe.
Keep it simple, know the rules, stay safe, and make this the season to savor the best hunting and fishing your town or county has to offer—who knows, you might just discover an overlooked opportunity in your own backyard.
Top photo: Virginia State Parks via Flickr
Because we could all use some good news right now
This month, the Natural Resource Conservation Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that it would invest nearly $49 million in projects to enhance public access for outdoor recreation, including hunting and fishing, on private land across 26 states. These awards are made possible by the Farm Bill’s Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program, or VPA-HIP, which is the only federal conservation program that helps private landowners open their property to public access.
The NRCS asked state and tribal governments to apply for VPA-HIP dollars in September 2019, after Congress stepped up its investment in the program by $10 million in the most recent Farm Bill. Projects were eligible to receive up to $3 million in federal dollars to be leveraged with locally matched funding over the next three years.
Sportsmen and women fought to maintain or improve conservation funding in the 2018 Farm Bill, and the TRCP called on lawmakers to support VPA-HIP investments in walk-in access programs and other initiatives that would give rural hunters and anglers more access.
Ultimately, this could be a down payment on hunter recruitment where lack of access is a major barrier for beginners. In some places, the funding will be focused on lands near metropolitan areas or improving online resources to market these opportunities.
But don’t forget the “hip” part of this program: Dollars can also be used to improve wildlife habitat, which could boost game populations across the entire landscape. This will be done in wetland, upland, grassland, forest, and stream habitats with the most recent round of funding.
These advances for access and habitat highlight the need to continue investing in VPA-HIP in the next five-year Farm Bill, which is already something we’re prioritizing with our conservation partners.
Here are the 26 states gaining more ground, how much will be spent, and what types of habitat will benefit.
$1.18 million to expand the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Landowner Relations Program, which provides financial incentives to private landowners who provide the public with opportunities to hunt and fish on their land.
$2.1 million to enhance hunting access and waterfowl habitat on rice fields neighboring nearby National Wildlife Refuges and state Wildlife Management Areas.
$1.2 million to expand the state’s Walk-In Access program for small- and big-game hunters.
$1.9 million will fund the lease of farm and forest land to expand opportunities for dove hunting in the state’s Wildlife Management Area Public Access Program.
$900,000 will fund the enrollment of additional hunting and fishing acres into the state’s Access Yes! Program, as well as jumpstart the creation of a Teton Valley Wildlife Viewing Project.
$2 million will expand the Illinois Recreational Access Program with a focus on metropolitan areas and the enrollment of wetland easements.
$750,000 will fund the strategic enrollment of acreage into the state’s Access Program Providing Land Enhancements (APPLE) initiative.
$1.5 million will help expand the Iowa Habitat and Access Program (IHAP).
$2.1 million will fund the expansion of incentive payments and lease options made available to landowners to open public access and improve wildlife habitat.
$850,000 will fund agency efforts to create a new access program with a focus on dove fields and wetland easements.
$1.6 million to expand the state’s Hunting Access Program (HAP), specifically to provide sharptail grouse and deer hunting opportunities.
$2.5 million to boost incentives for landowners to enroll in Minnesota’s Walk-In Access program.
$2.23 million will go to the Missouri Outdoor Recreation Access Program (MRAP) for private landowners willing to allow access and improve wildlife habitat on their farm, ranch, and forest lands.
$1.89 million to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to provide more walk-in hunting access on previously inaccessible acres with high-quality game bird habitats.
$3 million to expand walk-in access and improve habitat on acreage within Nebraska’s Open Fields and Waters (OFW) program.
$1 million will go to the Santa Clara Pueblo Tribe to support access restoration and improved fishing opportunities on the Rio Grande.
$1.83 million will support the newly created Ohio Public Access for Wildlife (OPAW) program, opening acres to hunting, trapping, and wildlife viewing across the state.
$3 million will support expansion of the Oklahoma Land Access Program (OLAP) near metropolitan areas and establish an online database of private acres open for access.
$2.86 million will support expansion of existing public access programs and facilitate the reenrollment of access on expiring VPA-HIP acreage.
$668,361 will support fishing access via Pennsylvania’s Public Fishing Access and Conservation Easement Program.
$469,476 in funds will facilitate the growth of the state’s Public Waterfowl Lottery Hunts Program to support more duck blinds on private land.
$2.18 million will support expanded hunting opportunities as well as new access to state fisheries from across private lands.
$1.83 million will support the expansion of existing public hunting programs, increasing both available acreage and days. The funds will also increase maintenance capacity across state-leased fishing access sites.
$2.998 million will facilitate growth of Virginia’s Public Access Lands for Sportsmen program and provide additional financial support to enrolled landowners seeking to improve wildlife habitat.
$2.74 million will build upon existing state recreational access programs and support habitat restoration on enrolled lands.
$1.91 million will support wetland and grassland restoration in southern counties and support financial incentives for landowners to enroll acreage in the state’s Turkey Hunting Access Program.
$1.54 million will support enrollment and habitat restoration on acreage in the state’s Access Yes Program, plus other lands and habitat programs.
Is your state on the list? Leave us a comment if you use walk-in access programs where you live.
Former wildlife agency leaders, scientists, and other natural resource experts want to see continued support and success on this conservation issue
In a letter to Colorado Governor Jared Polis, 12 wildlife and natural resources professionals thanked the governor for issuing a 2019 executive order to conserve Colorado’s big game winter range and migration corridors and urged the state to continue its efforts on this critical issue.
These professionals—each with between 30 to nearly 50 years of experience in wildlife and natural resources management, research, and conservation—came together to request that decision-makers in Colorado build upon the Governor’s executive order, emphasizing the need for long-term funding and a holistic view of migration corridor and habitat conservation.
“As a longtime wildlife professional and Colorado resident, I appreciated Governor Polis enacting his executive order on big game winter range and migration corridors,” said John Ellenberger, a 43-year veteran wildlife biologist and TRCP Ambassador. “This policy has brought much-needed attention to these vital habitats and will benefit state agency coordination and cooperation for conserving wildlife in our state.”
The order, issued in August of last year, provides particular focus on safe wildlife passage and wildlife-vehicle collisions. While the professionals agreed with this emphasis, they noted that “wildlife migration and corridor conservation transcend well beyond wildlife-vehicle collisions and crossing structures.” The letter went on to urge that decision-makers and the public remember that wildlife corridors may not necessarily intersect highways and roads, and that effective wildlife crossings may not always occur along established migration corridors.
Migration corridors and associated habitats used during seasonal movements–often called “stopover habitat”–are part of an animal and herd’s overall home-range. Each piece of this complex habitat puzzle is vital for species to exist in continually changing landscapes.
“Animal movements and use of habitat is complex and no single habitat can be managed in isolation, ignored, or forgotten during land use planning,” said Dr. Ed Arnett, chief scientist for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We need to take a holistic approach when managing habitat and corridors for any species of wildlife.”
Polis’ executive order directs the Department of Natural Resources to work with Colorado Parks and Wildlife to incorporate information on big game migration corridors into their relevant public education materials. “The public often does not distinguish between seasonal habitats used by wildlife, so–to that end–education, outreach and stakeholder engagement identified by the order will be fundamental to maintaining long-term support for this initiative,” said Arnett.
The letter also points out that “human perturbations such as energy development, subdivisions, commercial development, and dispersed human recreation are known to disrupt wildlife migrations and habitat use and may have long-lasting impacts.” The experts believe potential conflicts should be anticipated when wildlife migrations interface with all forms of energy development and other disturbances that disrupt or block animal movements.
“Although data are still being collected in Colorado and across the West, existing evidence clearly demonstrates that development can impact migratory movements and habitat use,” said Dr. Len Carpenter, a veteran big game ecologist with more than 40 years of experience in wildlife research and management. “If Colorado’s big game herds are to be sustained, we must ensure that critical habitats and migratory movement and functionality are maintained.”
The letter concluded by emphasizing that “the state and federal departments and agencies, industry and private landowners all must have long-term, institutionalized support for corridor conservation.” The experts encouraged the state “to pursue all avenues to secure long-term durability of policy and funding for big game winter range and migration corridor conservation that will transcend multiple Administrations at both the state and federal levels.”
“The future of big game populations in Colorado must not be taken for granted,” says Ron Velarde, retired Northwest Regional Manager for the Colorado Parks and Wildlife and resident of Grand Junction with 47 years’ experience in wildlife management. “We have a real opportunity through current state and federal policies to ensure Coloradans can always enjoy health populations of mule deer, elk and other wildlife that are key economic drivers of our outdoor economy.”
Read the letter from 12 wildlife experts here.
Photo: Larry Lamsa via Flickr
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