Kristyn Brady

November 12, 2020

Orion Joins the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership

TRCP’s newest organizational partner brings a commitment to fair chase ethics and putting sportsmen and women at the forefront of conservation

Orion: The Hunter’s Institute—an organization founded in 1993 by the late Jim Posewitz to improve the image of hunting and engage in conservation advocacy—has joined the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership as its newest organizational partner, building on the strength of a diverse coalition.

“We’re proud to welcome Orion and the thought leadership of their staff, who have made a noticeable impact through their education of hunters, fish and wildlife professionals, journalists, and the non-hunting public,” says Whit Fosburgh, TRCP’s president and CEO. “Their spirit of collaboration will be an asset to the Partnership and our mission of guaranteeing all Americans quality places to hunt and fish.”

Orion’s team will send one representative to TRCP’s expert Policy Council, which meets at least twice a year to find alignment and consensus on conservation priorities.

“This is a perfect fit for Orion, considering our organizational commitment to the pursuit and evolution of open and honest discussion, debate, and consensus-building for the benefit of hunting,” says Jan Dizard, secretary of the Hunter’s Institute Board of Directors. “We look forward to collaborating with the TRCP partners, particularly on issues involving hunting ethics and related environmental issues affecting hunting and the public acceptance of hunting.”

The TRCP is the largest collaborative of hunting, fishing, and conservation groups in the U.S. With the addition of Orion and the merger of the National Deer Alliance and Quality Deer Management Association this week, the coalition stands at 60 organizational partners.

To see the full roster, click here.

 

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Randall Williams

October 20, 2020

174,000+ Acres of Landlocked Public Land in Four Southern States

New report details the extent of inaccessible public lands in the South and adds to a growing understanding of a national outdoor recreation access challenge

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and onX announced today that more than 174,000 acres of public land in Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas are entirely landlocked by private land and, therefore, inaccessible to hunters, anglers, and other outdoor recreationists.

“Hunters and anglers are always looking for a new favorite spot, or for a patch of woods or body of water where they can get away from the crowds,” said Joel Webster at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “That’s why landlocked public lands have become such a pressing concern for our community: These lands belong to all of us, yet we cannot get to them without permission. It is our hope that with this information, policymakers can see the problem, identify solutions, and work to ensure that sportsmen and sportswomen can access the lands that belong to them.”

The Findings

Using today’s leading mapping technologies, the collaborative study found that more than 75,000 acres of public land in Florida, 49,000 acres in North Carolina, 28,000 acres in Arkansas, and 22,000 acres in Tennessee are landlocked and inaccessible to the public without private landowner permission. The detailed findings are now available in a new report that also unpacks what’s at stake, some solutions, and how so many acres became landlocked.

“All across the country, public lands provide vital access for hunters and anglers,” said onX access advocacy manager Lisa Nichols. “In recent years, GPS technologies found in your average smartphone have made it easier for outdoor recreationists to discover new opportunities on public lands, and to notice parcels without any legal way to access them. These landlocked acres represent lost opportunities that would otherwise be available to the public.”

The analysis looked at public lands managed by all levels of government—including federal, state, county, and municipal—and who owns the majority of landlocked acres varied for each state. In both North Carolina and Arkansas, the relative amounts of state and federal landlocked acres were roughly equivalent. Most of the landlocked public lands in Tennessee were federally owned, followed narrowly by state lands, while the overwhelming majority of inaccessible public lands in Florida were county or municipal acres.

Ranging in size from just a few acres to hundreds, the landlocked areas identified by the project could potentially offer new outdoor recreation opportunities in the region, boosting an economic sector already worth $778 billion in consumer spending nationally.

The Solutions

The passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, signed into law on August 4, 2020, secured full funding for the most powerful public land access tool, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). As a result, the program will now provide a guaranteed $27 million in annual federal funding for public access enhancements. Additionally, at least 40 percent of the program’s overall $900-million budget must be used for state-driven projects. This funding can be dedicated to opening landlocked parcels through each state’s State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan, part of which prioritizes projects eligible to receive LWCF funding.

“It amazes me that so many public acres—from North Carolina’s state-owned game lands to the Pisgah National Forest—remain fragmented and landlocked by private lands,” said Jay Leutze, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy board advisor and a North Carolina resident. “I’m thankful for the solutions available to us through the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund and the North Carolina state Land and Water Fund. Together, these two programs enable land trusts and the agencies to work with willing sellers to help consolidate public land ownership, conserve important habitats, and expand public access.”

The onX-TRCP report further highlights several important programs in Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas that help to create new access for public land users.

“The Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council (ANCRC) was established in 1987 to provide grant funding for the acquisition, management and stewardship of state-owned properties including natural areas, historic sites and land devoted to outdoor recreation,” said Stacy Hurst, secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism and one of the 11 members of the ANCRC. “Since that time, ANCRC has provided the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission funding that enabled the conservation and protection of over 45,000 acres of land, all of which has public access including many areas available for public hunting.”

“The North Carolina Land and Water Fund (NCLWF) is the single largest funder of game lands in North Carolina with nearly $300 million dollars contributed since the Fund’s inception protecting 230,000 acres of game land,” said Cam Ingram, executive director of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC). “The NCWRC is fortunate to have a great partner in the NCLWF to help us meet our mission of conserving North Carolina’s wildlife resources and providing opportunities for wildlife-associated recreation.”

Earlier this year, onX and TRCP released two other regionally focused reports on landlocked public lands in the Upper Midwest and the Mid-Atlantic, which found that more than 300,000 acres of public land in Minnesota and Wisconsin and more than 80,000 acres of public land in New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey are inaccessible. These studies expand on a two-year effort to calculate the total acreage of landlocked public lands in the Pacific and Intermountain West.

To date, the TRCP and onX have identified a total of 16.43 million acres of inaccessible public lands across 22 states.

A companion website, unlockingpubliclands.org, unpacks the issue in more detail and provides links to additional information about landlocked public lands. Visitors to the site can download all three of this year’s reports as well as the reports published in 2018 and 2019.

onX has also launched a new crowd-sourcing initiative, Report a Land Access Opportunity, with the help of partners, including the TRCP. The program provides the public with a platform to share on-the-ground knowledge about locations where access to outdoor recreation has been threatened or could be improved. The information received by onX is then provided to the relevant nonprofits and land management agencies that can help.

Learn more about the landlocked public lands challenge here.

 

Photo: @jordansriley of @capturedcreative

Kristyn Brady

October 1, 2020

House Sends Another Landmark Win for Conservation to the President

Congress cements the future of important programs and funding sources that benefit deer, fish, waterfowl, and watershed restoration efforts

In a flurry of votes under suspension of the rules today, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation that will help improve fish habitat, restore wetlands, boost chronic wasting disease research, invest in clean water solutions, and prevent bycatch fatalities of important sportfish species.

The America’s Conservation Enhancement Act (S. 3051) reauthorizes and establishes important conservation programs and funding sources that would benefit deer, waterfowl, fish, and all species in the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay watersheds.

“Passage of the ACE Act will not only benefit deer, ducks, fish, and our water quality, but it will also create jobs in conservation and help to enhance outdoor recreation opportunities for millions of Americans just when we need it most,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Sportsmen and women are grateful to both Democratic and Republican leadership in the Senate and House for their support of and commitment to the passage of this critical legislation. It secures the future of essential conservation programs and funding sources that hunters and anglers have prioritized for years.”

The Senate passed companion legislation earlier this month, and the bill will go directly to the president’s desk now that it has cleared the House. The TRCP asked sportsmen and women to contact lawmakers in support of the following provisions and swift passage:

  • Reauthorizing the North American Wetlands Conservation Act at $60 million annually for the next five years. NAWCA has improved more than 30 million acres of wetlands by leveraging a 3-to-1 match of private to federal funds.
  • Establishing a task force to address the spread of chronic wasting disease and ensure states have a coordinated plan to research, test, and respond to CWD.
  • Codifying and securing future funding for the National Fish Habitat Partnership, which has overseen more than 840 projects to benefit fish habitat and populations.
  • Boosting restoration efforts in the Chesapeake Bay by reauthorizing the Chesapeake Bay Program at $90 million through FY2025 and investing in clean water efforts recommended by the six Bay states and the District of Columbia.
  • Supporting fishing opportunities in the Great Lakes by authorizing and providing $15 million in annual funding for coordinated research and monitoring of binational fisheries within the Great Lakes Basin.

These provisions help to create conservation jobs that put Americans back to work during this COVID-related economic downturn, which is a top priority of the TRCP this year and looking ahead.

[Take action HERE to support investments in conservation as part of any economic recovery legislation.]

In a separate vote, the House also advanced the Direct Enhancement of Snapper Conservation and the Economy through Novel Devices, or DESCEND, Act. This legislation requires anyone fishing for reef fish—commercially or recreationally—in the federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico to possess a descending device or venting tool to prevent the effects of barotrauma on released fish and reduce the mortality rate of prized species such as snapper and grouper.

“Support for the DESCEND Act is a no-brainer, because the tools it would require provide one of the best ways to ensure the survival of reef fish that are caught and released, helping keep stocks healthy and improving fish conservation,” says Chris Macaluso, director of marine fisheries for the TRCP. “We applaud Congressmen Garrett Graves, Steven Palazzo, Jared Huffman, and their colleagues in the House for moving this bill forward to improve fisheries management, resource conservation, and the outdoor recreation economy.”

The DESCEND Act has been championed by the American Sportfishing Association, Center for Sportfishing Policy, Coastal Conservation Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, National Marine Manufacturers Association, and the TRCP. Learn more here.

Randall Williams

September 25, 2020

TRCP Opposes Removing Conservation Safeguards in Tongass National Forest

Dramatic policy shift for the Tongass National Forest would open 9.2 million acres of roadless public lands in Alaska to development

Today the U.S. Forest Service moved one step closer to eliminating conservation safeguards in the Tongass National Forest, despite strong objections from many Alaskans and sportsmen and sportswomen across the nation.

For two decades, the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule has successfully conserved vital wildlife habitat in undeveloped swaths of the Tongass, the world’s largest remaining temperate rainforest. Yet today’s release of a Final Environmental Impact Statement that includes a proposal to exempt the Tongass from the Roadless Rule indicates that the Trump Administration will soon reverse that conservation legacy and put these public lands and habitats at risk.

“Hunters and anglers support a lasting solution for the Tongass. Today’s final proposal is not a reasonable long term plan,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Local communities depend on balanced uses of these public resources. The decision to exempt the Tongass from the Roadless Rule will only lead to more contention and uncertainty over the future of these lands.”

The Forest Service issued its proposed plan for the Tongass last fall, after the White House instructed the Secretary of Agriculture to roll back a 19-year-old management plan that safeguards habitat for important fish and wildlife species. That directive closely followed an off-the-record meeting between President Trump and Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy. These actions effectively foreclosed any opportunity for a compromise solution and forced a majority of stakeholders—locally and nationally—to oppose the agency’s proposal.

The Tongass National Forest encompasses nearly 90 percent of the southeastern panhandle of Alaska. Some of the state’s most productive watersheds for salmon rearing and fishing are located within roadless areas of the forest. Eliminating the Roadless Rule in the Tongass will open 9.2 million acres of undeveloped forests to development, potentially undermining the region’s world-class fisheries and impacting vital habitat for Sitka black-tailed deer, black and brown bears, moose, and even Roosevelt elk. These fish and wildlife resources are an important food source for thousands of local families, hold significant cultural value, and provide outstanding opportunities for recreational hunting, fishing, and wildlife viewing that fuel Southeast Alaska’s vibrant tourism industry.

“Eliminating conservation safeguards for millions of acres of productive salmon and Sitka black-tailed deer habitat does not reflect the values of Alaskans and it disregards feedback from nearly a quarter-million Americans who took time to participate in this process,” said Jen Leahy, Alaska Field Representative with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Unilateral actions like this rarely stand the test of time; nor should they. The TRCP remains committed to working with our hunting and fishing partners, local communities, business leaders, and decision makers to help establish a durable solution for the Tongass that conserves our public lands and supports sustainable economic growth.”

The Forest Service is expected to issue its final decision as early as October.

 

Credit: Howie Garber Photography

Kristyn Brady

September 24, 2020

Veasey, Graves, and Michaelcheck Receive TRCP’s Conservation Awards

MeatEater’s Steven Rinella and TRCP’s Whit Fosburgh co-hosted the annual awards event in an all-digital format on Wednesday evening

Last night at the organization’s virtual Capital Conservation Awards Dinner, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership was proud to honor Representative Marc Veasey (D-Texas), Representative Garret Graves (R-La.), and business leader William J. Michaelcheck for their commitment to bipartisan conservation solutions. MeatEater’s Steven Rinella co-emceed the online event with TRCP’s president and CEO, Whit Fosburgh.

“This year’s honorees share a dedication to commonsense conservation solutions that unite not only decision-makers on both sides of the aisle but also the various factions of the outdoor recreation community,” says Fosburgh. “Whether it’s finding common ground to make federal investments in the health of our wild deer herds, responding to the habitat impacts of sea-level rise and climate change, or rethinking a defunct approach to fisheries management, these champions of conservation have worked for many years to clinch conservation victories and they deserve our thanks as hunters and anglers.”

Michaelcheck, who won the TRCP’s Conservation Achievement Award, is founder and co-chief investment officer of Mariner Investment Group and has been instrumental in the effort to modernize the management of menhaden, a critical bait fish that supports some of the most popular and economically important marine predators.

Congressmen Veasey and Graves were awarded the James D. Range Conservation Award, named after TRCP’s founder.

As House co-chair of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus and member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Veasey has advocated for strong investments in outdoor recreation infrastructure, clean water, and wildlife resources—particularly research and testing for chronic wasting disease in deer.

Rep. Graves serves on both the Committee on Natural Resources and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, where he champions critical conservation issues related to transportation, infrastructure, fisheries, and coastal restoration. He also managed the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority under Governor Bobby Jindal, helping to oversee Louisiana’s recovery from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

It was the 12th annual dinner but the first-ever all-digital presentation held over YouTube Live. More than 1,200 TRCP supporters viewed the presentation, which featured live remarks and Q&A sessions with the honorees as well as pre-recorded videos from VIPs, including sports stars (and avid outdoorsmen) Bo Jackson and Pete Alonso and Minority Outdoor Alliance Founder Durrell Smith.

The event, which included a silent auction and grand-prize sweepstakes featuring a Michigan turkey hunt with Rinella, raised more than $700,000 to support the TRCP’s mission of guaranteeing all Americans quality places to hunt and fish.

Pre-COVID, the in-person gala has drawn crowds of up to 500 people—including decision-makers, outdoor recreation business leaders, and other champions of conservation—and is known as a can’t-miss conservation event in D.C. Past awardees Sen. Martin Heinrich, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Rep. Mike Simpson, Rep. Rob Wittman, philanthropist Liz Storer, and Bass Pro Shops’ Johnny Morris were also featured via video last night.

The Capital Conservation Awards Dinner was made possible with the support of the following generous sponsors: Coca-Cola, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Shell Oil, Schlumberger, Walton Family Foundation, Yamaha, American Sportfishing Association, Bass Pro Shops, Boone and Crockett Club, L.L. Bean, Matt Cook, FSI, Outdoor Industry Association, Pure Fishing, Range Resources, Tod Sedgwick, Sitka Gear, Vista Outdoor, AFL-CIO, Archery Trade Association, The Baird Group, Browning, Coastal Conservation Association, Everglades Foundation, Costa, Elliotsville Foundation, First Lite, Leupold, Mossy Oak, Natural Resource Results, The Nature Conservancy, Next Era Energy, Outdoor Research, Outtech, Peak Design, Pheasants Forever, PotlatchDeltic, Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, RV Industry Association, REI Co-Op, RMS, Shimano, Simms Fishing Products, The Trust for Public Land, Weyerhaeuser, YETI, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, Captains for Clean Water, The Conservation Fund, Contender, Fly Fishers International, Forbes-Tate Partners, Land Trust Alliance, , Mystery Ranch, North American Falconers Association, Power-Pole, Ruffed Grouse Society, Stone Glacier, Property and Environment Research Center, Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers, and Allied Workers, Vortex, The Cypress Group, Filson, National Park Foundation, National Wildlife Refuge Association, onX, Sage, The Turner Foundation, Brown-Forman, and New Belgium Brewing.

Click here to watch an uncut recording of last night’s online event.

Next year’s CCAD will be held on April 28, 2021, at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium.

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
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