Randall Williams

May 5, 2020

New Report on Big Game Migration Demonstrates Colorado’s Commitment to Key Conservation Priority

Sportsmen and women applaud the state’s assessment of threats to winter range and migration corridors and recommended conservation actions

Today Colorado Parks & Wildlife released its 2020 Status Report on Big Game Winter Range and Migration Corridors, a significant milestone in its work to conserve critical seasonal habitat and a direct result of Governor Jared Polis’ 2019 executive order on this issue. Sportsmen and women welcome the publication as a valuable resource to improve the conservation of big game winter range and migration corridors, as well as the agency’s commitment to this opportunity.

The report provides the public with a foundational understanding of the best-available science regarding Colorado’s migratory big game populations, including mule deer, elk, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, and moose. It also provides a snapshot of ongoing research on big game and areas requiring further study. Furthermore, Colorado Parks & Wildlife includes in the report a series of recommended actions to address the various threats to big game migration in the state.These recommendations set the stage for the next of the directives in Governor Polis’ order: a report to be completed by July 1 that includes policy actions necessary to conserve big game and their habitat.

“One of the biggest issues facing the conservation of big game migration corridors and seasonal habitats is ensuring policy is grounded in the most current science,” said Dr. Ed Arnett, Chief Scientist for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “This report provides a good foundation to tackle that challenge and offers a blueprint to guide the work of state and federal agencies as well as their partners. Colorado Parks & Wildlife should be commended for their work and vision for big game conservation.”

In addition to outlining how the state manages and studies these big game animals, as well as summarizing the most up-to-date science regarding their populations, seasonal habitats and migration routes, and the threats they face, the report provides a forward-looking assessment of what is needed to ensure Colorado’s big game migrations continue well into the future. For each general category of conservation threat, such as transportation, the agency identifies specific problems and actions it will take to mitigate potential harm to big game populations. Along similar lines, Colorado Parks & Wildlife has produced a multifaceted list of short- (1-3 years) and long-term needs for additional data and better management.

“Colorado’s wildlife resources and hunting opportunities are second-to-none across the West, and the leadership shown by decision-makers and agency staff to conserve big game migration corridors will ensure that legacy continues well into the future,” said Madeleine West, Director of the Center for Western Lands with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and a Colorado resident. “This report has established a strong model that we hope other states will emulate.”

This report builds on a recent announcement from the Bureau of Land Management, included in a press release regarding its revision of the Uncompahgre Resource Management Plan, that the Colorado BLM has committed to updating its land use plans in the state to ensure management allocations are in accordance with the best-available habitat and migration science. Existing federal agency plans generally do not account for recent advances in science and technology demonstrating increased precision on how and where big game species move across the landscape.

“The Colorado BLM deserves a pat on the back for its commitment to updating management plans for the special consideration and management of habitats that allow big game animals to migrate,” continued West. “The hunting and fishing community looks forward to engaging productively in the BLM’s planning process to ensure the success of these efforts.”

What others are saying:

“We commend the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and Colorado Parks and Wildlife for their continued focus on big game migration corridor conservation, in keeping with Colorado’s executive order and the Interior Department’s secretarial order. This report is a testament to the tireless work of Colorado’s wildlife managers and professionals in documenting the behavior of Colorado’s big game species over the last several decades. With one of the largest elk herds in the country, and a deer population that is struggling to maintain its numbers, the report provides a great foundation to move forward with collaborative planning efforts that safeguard Colorado’s big game herds, migratory corridors and important wildlife habitats, as well as Colorado’s outdoor legacy.”

Robin Knox

President, Colorado Wildlife Federation

“Mule deer populations in some parts of Colorado have been in decline for several years, and sporting groups like ours have been working with Colorado Parks & Wildlife and other partners throughout the state to improve the health of our herds. As research shows, winter ranges and migratory habitat are vital for mule deer survival and recruitment. This report brings home the connection between scientific data and boots-on-the-ground conservation, and hunters appreciate the seriousness with which wildlife managers in Colorado are approaching the issue of big game migration.”

Steve Belinda

Conservation Director, Mule Deer Foundation

 

Photo: Larry Lamsa via Flickr

2 Responses to “New Report on Big Game Migration Demonstrates Colorado’s Commitment to Key Conservation Priority”

  1. Garth Conroe Jr

    Hate to tell you this but migration corridors won’t be needed if we don’t find a way to stop spread of Chronic Wasting Disease! NOTHING is more important! The rate of spread from it’s Wuhan epicenter in Ft Collins, Colo will be catastrophic if we are unable to find the cure!! And to think there are idiots out there who also want to reintroduce wolves to Colorado!!?? Gun to the head!

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Kristyn Brady

April 29, 2020

TRCP Launches Interactive Map of Organizational Accomplishments

2019, by all accounts, was an outstanding year for conservation and TRCP’s efforts to guarantee all Americans quality places to hunt and fish

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership today released its annual report showcasing organizational accomplishments from 2019 in an interactive digital graphic.

Highlighted achievements include working with partners to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, passing legislation to support hunter recruitment, and securing investments in chronic wasting disease research and wildlife-friendly highway crossings. Overall, TRCP points to 2019 as being an amazing year for conservation and its organizational efforts.

“Hunting, fishing, and conservation have never been partisan issues,” says Rod Nelson, TRCP board chair, in an opening letter to supporters. “But today, a profound appreciation for the outdoors provides common ground for policymakers across the political spectrum to tackle some of our top priorities.”

“There are still many challenges, such as efforts to legitimize the overfishing of menhaden, roll back the Clean Water Act, or mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay and Minnesota’s Boundary Waters,” says Whit Fosburgh, TRCP’s president and CEO. “But our united front, and that of sportsmen and women across the country, is proving to be a formidable force for good.”

Explore TRCP’s interactive report here.

 

Top photo by Dusan Smetana.

Oregon Voters Agree on the Importance of Safeguarding Migration Routes

New poll shows strong support for additional wildlife crossings and new conservation measures for seasonal habitats

As snowpack melts across the West and we begin to see the signs of spring, herds of elk, mule deer, and antelope are on the move. After a long winter, these animals need to seek out the best-available food sources and will travel long-established migratory routes to reach their summer ranges.

These seasonal patterns of movement are critical to the health of big game herds, but roads and development have fragmented these seasonal habitats and the routes animals need to use them. Highways in particular not only pose a barrier to migrating herds, as GPS collar data has shown; collisions between wildlife and vehicles pose a significant safety risk to drivers and passengers on our roads.

But sportsmen and women should be encouraged by a new report out of Oregon, which demonstrated overwhelming support for two critical issues facing the West’s big game animals: migration corridor conservation and highway crossings for wildlife.

According to the poll, conducted by the research firm GBAO Strategies for The Pew Charitable Trusts, registered voters in Oregon were overwhelmingly in favor of migration corridor conservation and stronger funding for the wildlife bridges and underpasses that allow big game animals to cross busy roadways.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the numbers highlighted in the report:

  • 86% of Oregonians support the implementation of new conservation measures to safeguard wildlife migration corridors.
  • 88% of Oregonians would like public land managers to maintain open migration corridors so herds can move across public lands unimpeded.
  • 86% of Oregonians support the installation of additional highway overpasses and underpasses to protect migrating wildlife.
  • 75% of Oregonians see a need for increased public funding for wildlife crossing structures.

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) estimates that there are more than 7,000 wildlife-vehicle collisions in the state. Including medical bills, emergency responder resources, and losses in productivity, the agency suggests these accidents cost more than $44 million in 2018.

These findings are in keeping with a previous Pew poll in Nevada that showed a similarly overwhelming level of support for migration route conservation and wildlife crossings.

In 2019, the Oregon Legislature also showed support for wildlife crossings when Governor Brown signed into law the Wildlife Corridor and Safe Road Crossing Act. The bill directs the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) to work together to develop an action plan that will provide guidance to state agencies to designate and protect known migration corridors. Additionally, the action plan will include a list of priority hot spots on roadways where ODOT will adopt a program to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions. Sportsmen and women were strong advocates for this legislation and continue to work with the state agencies on writing this plan.

It’s encouraging to know that the vast majority of Oregonians and other Westerners agree that funding these projects is a commonsense investment in the safety of our roadways. The TRCP will continue to work with partners, state agencies, and the federal delegation to ensure that Oregon is successful in installing more crossings across the state for the benefit of wildlife and hunters alike.

 

Photo: Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife via Flickr

Chris Macaluso

April 24, 2020

Louisiana’s Brown Pelican: A Story of Resilience

Queen Bess Island lies just a short boat ride from Grand Isle, Louisiana’s only inhabited barrier island and one of the Gulf of Mexico’s top recreational fishing destinations. Locals call it “Bird Island” because it’s home to the largest nesting colony of brown pelicans in the state as well as thousands of gulls, herons, and other coastal birds. It’s also a great place to catch speckled trout, sheepshead, redfish, and other popular recreational targets.

A decade ago, Queen Bess Island was one of the first places oiled by the Deepwater Horizon spill, fouling nesting areas and coating birds in thick, tarry crude. In the decade since, most of the island sank into Barataria Bay and was battered by storms, further reducing nesting areas and fishery production. However, an investment of $19 million in oil spill penalties has brought the island back using sand dredged from the Mississippi River and rock breakwaters to protect it from erosion, allowing pelicans to thrive and the fishermen to find speckled trout along its shore for decades to come.

Congress Could Put Americans Back to Work Through Conservation

Why post-COVID economic recovery efforts should include investments in our public lands, fish and wildlife habitat, and outdoor recreation infrastructure

While the coronavirus pandemic has significantly affected the health of Americans and stressed entire segments of the economy, the efforts of our lawmakers to negotiate and pass multiple emergency supplemental funding bills deserves recognition. These steps have improved COVID-19 response and helped to protect America’s small businesses and workers.

This effort has focused on providing support for those who are struggling—and rightly so. The legislation even incentivizes those with the means to contribute to first-response efforts, care groups, and nonprofits like the TRCP.

But when the time comes to turn our attention to economic recovery and putting Americans back to work, we believe that Congress should make key investments in conservation. Here is what we’d prioritize and why.

Salmon migrating upstream in the Bonneville Dam fish ladder. Photo by Tony Grover.
Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure

Think: Improvements to access roads, boat ramps, campgrounds, visitor facilities, and other deferred maintenance projects that have been sorely underfunded on our public lands.

The benefits of investing in this recreation infrastructure are clear and compelling. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, outdoor recreation’s annual economic impact is $778 billion each year. While 40 million Americans hunt and fish each year, it is likely that millions more have enjoyed the benefits of the outdoors over the past several weeks and will continue to do so in the months ahead. It has become evident that American wellbeing is inextricably linked to our commitment to conserving and improving our great outdoors. Investing in the restoration of our nation’s natural resources helps get people back to work.

These investments attract new businesses, recruit and retain employees, and improve quality of life by supporting rural economies, connecting urban populations with our natural treasures, and helping people build healthy lives. In the bargain, we get cleaner air and water, improved fish and wildlife habitat, and better experiences afield.

Congressional leaders should keep this in mind.

Photo by Michael Campbell/BLM.
The Great American Outdoors Act

This legislation was poised for Senate floor action before the onset of the COVID-19 crisis and includes $1.9 billion per year for five years to address the deferred maintenance backlog at our public land management agencies.

The Act also includes mandatory full funding at $900 million annually for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a critically important conservation and access enhancement tool, which would expand funding for exactly the kinds of outdoor spaces that are serving Americans so well right now. Greater access to recreational activities will spur economic activity that boosts local communities and further funds critical conservation programs.

Click here to advocate for the provisions in this legislation.

A Five-Year Highway Bill

Given that the current highway bill expires in September 2020, the conservation community sees this as an opportunity to improve federal road systems, greenways, campgrounds, trails, marinas, and bike paths that connect our communities, improve safety, enhance quality of life, and drive forward recreation economies for rural and urban areas alike. The TRCP is especially supportive of language in the existing Senate bill that funds wildlife-friendly highway crossings at $250 million over five years.

Along with this influx of cash, however, it is critical that design and construction of our roads, highways, bridges, ports, and airports is better integrated into our communities and natural systems—beginning from the project inception phase. As the country recovers and gets back to work, we’ll need to look for every opportunity to reduce costs, address costly safety concerns, expedite project timelines, reduce environmental impacts, and respond to societal needs. Congress has a chance to lead on improved implementation of nature-based and natural infrastructure solutions—including fish and wildlife crossings and connectivity, stormwater reduction, and wetlands restoration—that are smart from the start.

Photo by Paul Bakke/USFWS.
Water Resources

Congress also needs to address the biennial authorization of the Water Resources Development Act, which traditionally garners widespread bipartisan support. Conservationists strongly encourage lawmakers to specifically include robust funding for studies and restoration projects in the Mississippi River watershed and programs that build drought resiliency, increase water efficiency, and infuse critical resources for our nation’s Western water delivery systems and agricultural sector.

Specific Line Items That Advance Conservation on a Landscape Scale

Across the federal government, there are a suite of habitat restoration programs designed to benefit fish and wildlife and enhance the resiliency of our natural systems, including the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, the National Fish Habitat Partnership, and the Forest Service Legacy Roads and Trails Program. These on-the-ground restoration programs infuse important resources into local communities, generate construction jobs, leverage state, local, and private sector resources at ratios of 3:1 or greater, and provide countless environmental benefits for our local communities.

There are also high-priority projects across the country to reverse wildfire damage, remove invasive species, restore habitat and water quality, and empower outdoor recreation users to get involved in conservation and wildlife research.

These efforts could productively and rapidly utilize an influx of funding to achieve meaningful on-the-ground conservation work, and we strongly encourage funding for these programs to be included in the stimulus. But legislative language should ensure that funding for projects should be contingent on the completion of an appropriate level of environmental review, with a strong preference for projects that have already been subject to environmental analysis.

Photo by FolsomNatural via flickr.
Lessons from the Past

It’s important to note that lawmakers have taken these steps before. In what became a successful effort to get the economy moving again after the financial crisis of 2008, Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Among a host of other provisions, ARRA wisely included substantial investments in public lands, fish and wildlife habitat restoration, and water quality, sending critical funding to projects that had the dual benefit of getting people back to work and providing a multitude of clear public benefits.

Certainly, COVID-19 is the most serious threat our nation and our world has faced in many years, and Congress must continue to combat the virus and its impact on our healthcare system and vulnerable populations. But in the midst of this crisis, addressing our natural resources and outdoor recreation infrastructure is also of particular relevance, as so many Americans seek renewal and reconnection on public lands and waters. The current economic situation seems well-suited for committing to America’s outdoor resources and the jobs they can create.

Support these priorities by taking action HERE.

 

Top photo of a fish-friendly culvert project by Washington State Department of Transportation via flickr.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

WHAT WILL FEWER HUNTERS MEAN FOR CONSERVATION?

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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