by:

posted in: Farm Bill

November 9, 2020

TRCP Releases Report on Recreation Opportunity on Private Lands

Report highlights access projects in 15 states and success of the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program

(Washington D.C.)—The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership today released a report on the wide-ranging recreational opportunities that are available on private land thanks to the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program.

The report features projects in 15 states across the United States, highlighting success stories of how VPA-HIP has improved hunting, fishing, bird watching, camping, and other outdoor recreation activities. REI Co-op provided funding for the report.

“This report showcases the best of the best when it comes to expanding opportunity for all Americans to access our outdoors,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “This report looks at the innovative ways in which the Program is being used to boost access across the country, particularly in states where a shortage of public access to wildlife-dependent recreation is reaching crisis proportions.”

“This report helps to highlight the creative ways landowners and agencies are working together to increase access to the outdoors across America,” said Taldi Harrison, Government Affairs Manager, REI Co-op. “Increased access to outdoor recreation on private lands also helps boost the outdoor recreation economy that supports rural jobs across America.”

Championed by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s founder, Jim Range, VPA- HIP helps states to create innovative ways of incentivizing private landowners to open their lands to the public for wildlife-dependent recreation.

Established and funded through the 2008, 2014, and 2018 Farm Bills, VPA-HIP makes grants to states and tribes to increase public access to private lands for hunting, fishing, and other forms of outdoor recreation. VPA-HIP funding is also utilized to provide technical resources and assistance to landowners for wildlife habitat improvement and enhancement projects. The program also allows states to assume liability, alleviating a roadblock for many landowners to open their lands to the public.

“As Congress eyes the next Farm Bill, it’s imperative that they increase investment in Farm Bill conservation programs,” said Andrew Earl, Director of Private Lands Conservation at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “VPA-HIP is the single best federal tool for increasing recreational access on private lands, and this report shows its proven track record across the U.S.”

Click here to download a copy of the report.

3 Responses to “TRCP Releases Report on Recreation Opportunity on Private Lands”

Do you have any thoughts on this post?

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Kristyn Brady

by:

posted in: Farm Bill

August 28, 2020

Six Water Issues to Watch

This World Water Week, there seems to be even more at stake for clean water and fish habitat

Today marks the end of World Water Week, a global event created to raise the profile of water resource challenges in every corner of our planet. We’re also nearing the end of a summer that promises to be memorable, if not infamous, for years to come. It’s a good opportunity for all sportsmen and women to stand together on the shore, look toward the horizon, and take stock of where we are in our efforts to improve water resources and fish habitat for future generations.

Here are six water issues we’re watching as the next season unfolds.

Photo by Paul Nicoletti.
Pebble Mine Poised to Fail?

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced this week that it will not permit the Pebble Mine in southwest Alaska as it is currently proposed. The Corps released its decision finding the project “could have substantial environmental impacts within the unique Bristol Bay watershed.” We’ll be watching to see if the EPA follows suit to stop the Pebble Mine once and for all. There is no safe way to advance this project and preserve the region’s clean water and outdoor recreation economy.

A Watering Down of the Clean Water Act

First, we fought tooth and nail to keep the EPA from eliminating Clean Water Act protections for 50 percent of the nation’s stream miles and 40 percent of wetlands, like the prairie potholes of the Upper Midwest. During that debate, proponents of the administration’s new rule governing which waters are covered by the Act argued that the states could use their authority to protect the headwaters and wetlands that the federal government would no longer regulate.

Now, the EPA has quietly changed another Clean Water Act rule that allows states to do just that. What is noteworthy from an administration that usually champions states’ rights is how this rule removes state power—not to mention the blow that it deals to fish and waterfowl habitat. We’ll be monitoring the legal challenges to this rulemaking and will continue to stand with partners to oppose the dismantling of bedrock conservation laws.

Photo courtesy of Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters.
What’s Next for the Boundary Waters

In a story that has echoes of the Pebble Mine saga, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been waffling on its commitment to a thorough environmental review of proposed copper-nickel mining upstream of Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Last fall, we partnered with Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters in questioning whether Secretary Perdue would fulfill promises made at his Senate confirmation hearing and allow the science to show that this is no place for a mine. We’ll be closely tracking legislation that has been proposed to permanently protect the incredible habitat and outdoor recreation opportunities provided by these public lands.

Photograph of farmland with wetland buffered by acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program, Prairie Potholes Region, Iowa. Photograph by Mark Vandever, U.S. Geological Survey.
This Shrinking Farm Bill Program’s Impact on Stream Buffers

The Conservation Reserve Program may be one of the Farm Bill’s most popular and well-known conservation initiatives, but troubling changes to how the program is administered has slowed or prevented enrollment—leaving would-be conservation acres on the table. One of the ways that CRP benefits fish and wildlife habitat is by incentivizing landowners to create stream buffers that help keep toxic runoff out of our waterways. The TRCP is actively engaged with the Farm Service Agency to push for updates that will help max out CRP acres and put more conservation on the ground.

Photo by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program.
Reducing the Dead Zone in Chesapeake Bay

Though Pennsylvanians may need to sit in their fair share of traffic to reach the striper blitzes of the Chesapeake Bay, they are critical to lessening the nutrient load that makes its way downstream, threatening fish, wildlife, and water quality in the Bay. The state is way behind on its goal of reducing the amount of nitrogen it releases into Chesapeake waters, and legislators have signaled that they may freeze or redirect conservation funding that is necessary to help make up the difference. We’ll be warning policymakers under mounting pressure to deal with COVID-19 impacts that this is not the time to cut job-creating investments in water quality projects.

Credit: Howie Garber Photography
Safeguarding “America’s Salmon Forest”

The Forest Service is soon expected to issue a final decision on a proposal that would eliminate conservation safeguards for 9.2 million acres of roadless public lands in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest—the largest national forest in the U.S. and the world’s largest remaining temperate rainforest. This rollback would negatively affect waterways that sustain salmon as well as Sitka black-tailed deer, black and brown bear, moose, and Roosevelt elk. We’ll be advocating for keeping the national Roadless Rule in place in Alaska to safeguard undeveloped and intact habitats.

Andrew Earl

by:

posted in: Farm Bill

May 28, 2020

Restoring Native Grasses Could Lessen the Plight of the Bobwhite

Why isn’t the USDA leaning more heavily on native grassland restoration to save this and other iconic species?

“I haven’t seen one of them around here in years.” Whether you’re talking to farmers or wingshooters, this statement about bobwhite quail is as familiar and repeated as the bird’s distinct whistle: bob-WHITE! bob-WHITE!

Across Texas rangelands and southeastern pine forests historically ample quail habitat has declined over the last half century. Unfortunately, the story of bobwhites—once one of the most important game species in North America—is representative of a greater issue all too common in the world of wildlife conservation. The iconic game bird has effectively been forced into a patchwork of suitable habitat, all but removing our opportunities to chase that distinct whistle across the bird’s historic range.

Ornithologists at Cornell University have labeled the bobwhite quail a common bird in steep decline, an appropriate moniker given their finding of a steady 4-percent annual population decline—that’s an 85-percent drop since 1966.

The “why” of it all is well agreed upon at this point: land conversion. The steady creep of development, monoculture cropland, edge-to-edge farming, and pesticide use has contributed to the slow-motion erosion of the diverse habitat required to sustain populations of bobwhites.

The below graph by the National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative illustrates the trend.

Part of the challenge facing species recovery efforts is that gentleman bob has very particular tastes when it comes to habitat. Quail are ground-nesting birds that require a mix of seasonal vegetation. During colder months, coveys huddle in dense shrubs and grasses, and in the spring and summer, they opt to nest, forage, and brood in tall forbs and grasses that provide lush groundcover, shade, and security from predators. Quail need to feed on a diversity of seeds, fruits, and bugs in these grasses but escape to woody brush when they catch the eye of a hungry predator—all within 12 inches of the ground.

Understanding the fastidious nature of bobwhites is essential to the successful establishment of sustainable quail habitat. This has led groups like NBCI, which leads the way on bobwhite recovery, to support the adoption of native grasses into grassland restoration. In 2018, the TRCP worked with several of our partners to include official language encouraging the use of native grasses for the very first time in established Farm Bill conservation practices.

But that work is far from done. This provision was included in a Committee Report, which establishes a degree of congressional intent, but it holds little more weight than a suggestion as the U.S. Department of Agriculture moves ahead with implementation of the Farm Bill. Currently, several private land conservation programs only support the establishment of the “lowest practicable cost perennial conserving use cover crop”—whether native or non-native—which may sustain some species and benefit soil health, but is not guaranteed to provide the quality cover habitat required by bobwhite populations.

For these reasons, the TRCP was proud to join a handful of our conservation partners to become part of the Native Grasslands Alliance. Together, we’ll coordinate policy and communications efforts in support of increasing the adoption of native grasses and vegetation on both working and retired public and private lands.

The establishment of native vegetation is not only critical to the recovery of bobwhites, but also to address collapsing populations of songbirds, monarch butterflies, and other pollinators in recent years. The continued reliance upon introduced grasses in USDA programs runs counter to other ongoing efforts to restore these species. It begs the question: Is the public interest being accounted for when native grasses are forgone for the sake of economic ease?

One thing can be sure, a return to the huntable bobwhite populations of years past will not be achieved without a sea change in how American agriculture approaches grassland conservation and restoration.

Andrew Earl

by:

posted in: Farm Bill

April 1, 2020

$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.

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.

Image courtesy of Arizona Game and Fish Department.
Arizona

$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.

Arkansas

$2.1 million to enhance hunting access and waterfowl habitat on rice fields neighboring nearby National Wildlife Refuges and state Wildlife Management Areas.

Colorado

$1.2 million to expand the state’s Walk-In Access program for small- and big-game hunters.

Georgia

$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.

Idaho

$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.

Illinois

$2 million will expand the Illinois Recreational Access Program with a focus on metropolitan areas and the enrollment of wetland easements.

Indiana

$750,000 will fund the strategic enrollment of acreage into the state’s Access Program Providing Land Enhancements (APPLE) initiative.

Iowa

$1.5 million will help expand the Iowa Habitat and Access Program (IHAP).

Kansas

$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.

Kentucky

$850,000 will fund agency efforts to create a new access program with a focus on dove fields and wetland easements.

Michigan

$1.6 million to expand the state’s Hunting Access Program (HAP), specifically to provide sharptail grouse and deer hunting opportunities.

Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS
Minnesota

$2.5 million to boost incentives for landowners to enroll in Minnesota’s Walk-In Access program.

Missouri

$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.

Montana

$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.

Nebraska

$3 million to expand walk-in access and improve habitat on acreage within Nebraska’s Open Fields and Waters (OFW) program.

New Mexico

$1 million will go to the Santa Clara Pueblo Tribe to support access restoration and improved fishing opportunities on the Rio Grande.

Image courtesy of Russ Terry, Ducks Unlimited.
Ohio

$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.

Oklahoma

$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.

Oregon

$2.86 million will support expansion of existing public access programs and facilitate the reenrollment of access on expiring VPA-HIP acreage.

Pennsylvania

$668,361 will support fishing access via Pennsylvania’s Public Fishing Access and Conservation Easement Program.

South Carolina

$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.

South Dakota

$2.18 million will support expanded hunting opportunities as well as new access to state fisheries from across private lands.

Image courtesy of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Texas

$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.

Virginia

$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.

Washington

$2.74 million will build upon existing state recreational access programs and support habitat restoration on enrolled lands.

Wisconsin

$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.

Wyoming

$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.

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.

Learn More
Subscribe

You have Successfully Subscribed!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

You have Successfully Subscribed!