Two Ways the Stimulus Bill Helps You Support Nonprofits Like the TRCP
The CARES Act has specific incentives for those who are in a position to give back
In these trying times, we know that many of you are finding solace in the outdoors—either to escape the confinement of home or to quiet anxious thoughts. Focusing on the sights and sounds of the natural world, rather than the latest scary headline, can be healing, and we hope you’re weathering this storm as best as you can.
Because of our supporters and your investments in us, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership has continued to make an impact on conservation policy during this national emergency. On behalf of the whole team at TRCP, I want to thank you all for your enduring generosity.
I also want to share an important update concerning changes to charitable giving. On March 27, President Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, a $2.2-trillion emergency relief bill aimed at providing much-needed support to the American people and businesses in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Recognizing that nonprofits play an important societal and economic role, the CARES Act also creates charitable giving incentives for donors in 2020.
It does this in two ways: First, the legislation allows individual taxpayers to deduct up to $300 in charitable contributions on top of the standard deduction, even if you don’t itemize other deductions at tax time. Second the suspension of certain adjusted gross income limits allows individuals and corporations to contribute and deduct more than in previous years.
These tax incentives apply to cash contributions only—don’t worry, if you enter a credit card number on our website, this is for you—and do not apply to contributions to a Donor Advised Fund—you would know if you were working through a fund like this.
We cannot provide tax advice, but we encourage you to review the implications of the CARES Act to determine if now might be a beneficial time to for you to give. If you are in a position to do so, you can donate cash or stock online right now.
We know these are difficult times, and our staff is incredibly grateful for your consideration and support. Of course, we recognize that this pandemic has also created major financial burdens for many Americans. Public lands and waters are yours. And they’re here for you right now.
$49M Will Expand Recreational Access on Private Land
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.
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.
Wildlife Professionals Thank Colorado Governor for Leading on Migration Corridors
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.”
Wildlife Professionals Urge New Mexico Governor to Continue Leading on Migration Corridors
Former wildlife agency leaders, scientists, and other natural resource experts line out the requirements for successful policy on this conservation challenge
In a letter to New Mexico Governor Michelle Luhan Grisham, 14 wildlife and natural resources professionals thanked the governor for the state’s leadership on the issue of migration corridor conservation and urged the state to continue its efforts on this critical issue.
These professionals—each with between 20 to 50 years of experience in wildlife and natural resources management, research, and conservation—came together to request that decision-makers in New Mexico build upon the bipartisan support demonstrated by the passage of the Wildlife Corridors Act in 2019, the first-of-its-kind legislation in the country. They emphasized the need for adequate funding and a long-term, holistic view of migration corridor and habitat conservation if the state hoped to succeed in its efforts.
“As a longtime wildlife professional and New Mexico resident, I appreciated Governor Lujan Grisham and the New Mexico Legislature passing the Wildlife Corridors Act,” said Dr. Bill Dunn, a 40-year veteran wildlife biologist and environmental consultant. “This bill is the first of its kind in America and should benefit conservation of migration corridors vital to our wildlife populations.”
In recent years, big game migration has become a priority for conservationists. “We’ve long known the importance of migration to and from seasonal habitats, but new technology has made the importance of these habitats for mule deer, pronghorn and other animals even clearer,” said Dr. Ed Arnett, chief scientist for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.
The letter asks that funding for migration corridor conservation extend beyond coordination and planning for transportation-related issues such as wildlife-vehicle collisions and crossing structures. Currently, the state has only set aside funding under the Corridors Act for such
projects. “It is important,” the signers noted, “for policy- and decision-makers and the public to remember that wildlife corridors may not necessarily intersect highways and roads.”
The breadth of the issue will require the state to utilize funds other than those set aside specifically for game protection, noted the letter, and it “encourage[d] New Mexico legislators to work closely with NMDGF and the New Mexico State Game Commission to ensure adequate funding is made available to support implementation…while maintaining funding for other agency priorities.”
Another challenge highlighted by the letter is coordinating the management of the full suite of habitats required by big game animals as they move across the landscape, including summer and winter range, migration corridors, and stopover habitats. To do this effectively, the state will need to conduct extensive research that could take years to complete. In the meantime, the letter urged state agencies to “develop interim guidance and recommendations while data are being gathered to ensure appropriate management and protection of potentially unmapped corridors.”
Additionally, the letter encouraged the BLM to work proactively with the New Mexico Department of Fish and Game to ensure that energy development on public lands does not disrupt wildlife migrations, as research has shown the impacts to be significant and long-lasting.
“Even though data are still being collected in New Mexico, the weight of existing evidence is clear that development does impact migratory movements and habitat use,” said Arnett. “We should anticipate potential conflicts with wildlife migrations that interface with all forms of energy development and other disturbance.” The signers noted that “Ensuring migration movement and functionality may require the state wildlife agency request leasing deferrals…or implementation of special management recommendations.”
The letter concluded by emphasizing that “the state and federal departments and agencies, and private landowners all must have long-term, institutionalized support for corridor conservation” and encouraged the state “to pursue all avenues that secure long-term support for conservation that will transcend multiple Administrations at both the state and federal levels.
“Healthy populations of mule deer, elk and other big game are a key economic driver for New Mexico’s economy,” says Dr. Ben Brown, a New Mexico resident and retired wildlife biologist with 48 years’ experience in wildlife conservation. “Conservation is a long-term endeavor. Both the state and federal governments need to ensure the functionality of habitat and migratory movements with long-term, institutionalized policy and funding for these efforts.”
Read the letter from 14 wildlife and habitat experts here.
We Need To Look At the Big Picture When It Comes to Environmental Reviews
Changes to a bedrock conservation law threaten to put blinders on federal decision-makers
As sportsmen and women know, big game animals migrate through landscapes that stretch across many boundaries. Rivers cross both state lines and international borders. Fish swim not only in large navigable waters, but in their tributaries, including ones that are small, intermittent or even ephemeral; some fish, in early life stages, live in wetlands. And the North American flyways send ducks and other waterfowl across our whole country and into Canada every year.
Our world is interconnected, which means we must look holistically at the impacts that human development has on land, water, wildlife, and fish.
Unfortunately, the Administration’srecently proposed changes to the National Environmental Policy Act would significantly inhibit federal agencies’ ability to measure these impacts.
President Richard Nixon signed NEPA into law in 1970directing federal agencies to take actions that “restore and enhance [and also] avoid or minimize any possible adverse effects of their actions upon the quality of the human environment.”
NEPA requires every federal agency to consider the effects of its decisions on the environment; to look at a range of alternatives before acting; and to seek public comment on various aspects of a given project, from its scope and positive or negative effects to possible alternatives and mitigation.
The rules guiding this process have not been updated since the 1980s, but earlier this year the Administration proposed a major set of changes: some of which threaten to undermine its effectiveness and others that are welcome improvements.
For example, because so much of our communication is now conducted online, agencies should use web-based tools to announce proposed decisions and collect public comments. This is a welcome improvement.
There are also changes to streamline the process, in an effort to address widespread complaints that NEPA documents are too lengthy and take too long to develop. TRCP supports these changes, in part because they do not impose rigid or arbitrary limits. We just hope the agencies are given the resources to accomplish these goals.
As noted above, however, other changesare cause for concern. The purpose of NEPA has never been to require a specific outcome, but instead to ensure that federal decision making is well-informed byan awareness of and concern for any potential environmental impacts.
Perhaps the most dramatic proposed change would eliminate an agency having to consider the cumulative impacts of its actions and look only at the immediate action’s direct effects on nearby lands and waters. These changes so limit NEPA’s directive to consider reasonably foreseeable effects that it wouldforce agencies to consider an action in a vacuum. The TRCP strongly opposes this change because we live in a world both that is both connected and ever-changing.
It is hard to imagine how an agency considers acting on a proposal without looking both at what is already there –roads and dams, cities and farm fields – and also what is expected in the near future – other new coastal developments, oil wells, timber sales or dams. Under the administration’s proposed rules,for example,agencieswill not consider how multiple energy development proposalsproposed across the same corridor would have a cumulative impact on a mule deer migration. Nor would agencies be required to study how a project that diverts water would add to a larger problem, such as serious drought conditions on a river system that already has multiple diversions.
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.