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State officials have developed a strategy to guide migration conservation that relies on collaboration and communication
Over the past year, conservation and landowner groups, and other stakeholders have worked with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks to develop a strategy for conserving habitat essential to wildlife migration and movement. Completed in October, the Terrestrial Wildlife Movement and Migration Strategy is a significant milestone in the agency’s work to conserve and enhance habitats that big game animals require during their seasonal migrations.
Sportsmen and women applauded the document as evidence of the shared commitment by state officials, private landowners, conservation professionals, and everyday Montanans who care about the state’s wildlife resources to find common ground and to address cooperatively the challenges faced by various stakeholders.
Big game migration gained prominent attention in Montana when the Department of the Interior issued Secretarial Order 3362, on big game winter range and migration corridors, in November 2018. Since that time, the state and federal government have worked together to conduct research on big game movements and looked to prioritize habitat improvement projects.
The recently completed strategy helps keep the state of Montana in the driver’s seat on the management of resident wildlife within its jurisdictional boundaries. It clarifies how the conservation of seasonal and transitional habitats is integrated into the agency’s existing programs to manage wildlife in the state, with the intended effect of both highlighting the good work already being done by Fish, Wildlife & Parks on this important issue as well as identifying areas where this work can be further strengthened. Among other points of emphasis, the plan highlights ways in which FWP’s organizational structure, scientific research agenda, and existing habitat conservation programs can be tailored to address the management challenges of wildlife migration and movement. At the same time, the document emphasizes the importance of external communications with partners and the general public, working with stakeholders to secure dedicated funding and to advance the overall aims of the strategy, and intergovernmental collaboration with federal agencies, other states, and tribal nations.
Central to the strategy—and much of its strength—comes from the recognition and emphasis of the essential role that private landowners – and working lands – play in this conservation opportunity. Meaningful and substantive engagement with landowners is necessary to ensure that animals such as elk, mule deer, and antelope can move between seasonal habitats. Big game winter range frequently overlaps with working landscapes on private property, and the resulting crop damage and potential for disease transmission to livestock can pose significant challenges to farms and ranches already facing numerous hurdles to success. FWP has committed to work with and respond to the concerns of those directly affected by these issues, and there exists a strong community of conservation-minded landowners in Montana who are eager to work collaboratively with other stakeholders to address these challenges.
As is the case across the country, conservation success stories in Montana have long depended on landowners, conservation groups, and state and federal agencies coming together to achieve shared priorities, particularly when it comes to conserving and improving fish and wildlife habitat. With FWP’s new strategy, a solid roadmap has been established to continue that tradition as big game migration grows in its importance as a top conservation priority. With a change in state leadership coming to Montana in 2021, the TRCP looks forward to working with Governor-elect Greg Gianforte and his staff on this issue and stand committed in the spirit of collaboration that has been driving these efforts to date.
The two-year bill will help agencies and communities use more natural solutions to infrastructure challenges like erosion and flooding
The U.S. House of Representatives has passed its Water Resources Development Act—a two-year bill that authorizes water conservation and enhancement projects—with provisions to help address dangerous algal blooms, combat invasive species, fund Everglades restoration, and smooth the way for more natural infrastructure projects across the country.
“Beyond authorizing important conservation initiatives and renewing investments made in recent years, this water resources package helps us prepare for a future where the answers to some of our biggest challenges—like sea-level rise, coastal land loss, and extreme weather fueled by climate change—also pull double duty to improve fish and wildlife habitat,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “House lawmakers have proven that they not only value fish and wildlife resources, but they also see the clear economic advantages of investing in nature-based solutions that provide multiple benefits.”
Unlike traditional “gray” infrastructure, natural or nature-based infrastructure solutions mitigate threats—including floods, erosion, sea-level rise, and land loss—but also benefit fish and wildlife. For example, wetland restoration projects reduce the risk of dangerous flooding in our communities but also boost waterfowl habitat, improve water quality for fish, and provide sportsmen and women with places to hunt and fish.
The Act passed last night contains at least nine provisions to help the Army Corps of Engineers and local partners prioritize these kinds of nature-based solutions. For more detail, read our letter signed by 12 groups and sent to House leadership ahead of this week’s vote.
The Act also includes essential authorities, approvals, and clarifications necessary to continue the restoration of habitat and water quality in the Everglades through the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and other restoration programs. Continued progress in these efforts will be essential to restoring clean, healthy water flows into the Everglades, which would revitalize fish and wildlife resources and the outdoor recreation economy in one of the world’s top fishing and hunting destinations.
Top photo by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission via flickr.
Hunters and anglers thank Chairman Peterson for supporting private lands conservation
Hunters and anglers are reiterating their support for increasing the number of acres enrolled in a national conservation program.
This call to action comes on the heels of the effort by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) to increase the Conservation Reserve Program acreage to 50 million acres.
“On behalf of the millions of sportsmen and women who depend on the conservation reserve program to hunt and fish, we support the Chairman’s commitment to ensuring its future,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “CRP is essential to restoring wildlife habitat, preventing erosion, and improving water quality. That’s why we need a robust enrollment effort to ensure landowners can take advantage of this important program.”
Currently at a three-decade low of 20.7 million acres enrolled in CRP, the administration of the program is at a crossroads. Just two years ago, Congress increased the program’s acreage cap from 24 to 27 million acres in order to grow landowner interest. In the time since, significant changes to rental rate formulas and incentive reductions have diminished the interest of landowners to utilize the program.
“The Conservation Reserve Program is essential for supporting wildlife, healthy habitats, and the hunters and outdoor enthusiasts who count on both to sustain our wildlife heritage. With discussions around 2023 Farm Bill starting, it’s clear that a failure to fully enroll Conservation Reserve Program acreage would only compound the issues facing America’s wildlife,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “We and our peer sporting and conservation organizations are committed to working with incoming House Agriculture Chairman David Scott, Ranking Member Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson, Senators Debbie Stabenow and John Boozman on the Senate Agriculture Committee, and the Biden-Harris Administration to ensure this crucial program meets the needs of landowners and wildlife for decades to come.”
“Given the incoming Administration’s focus on climate change, the deep-rooted grasslands created through CRP is another example of the environmental stacking opportunity the program delivers,” said Howard Vincent, president and CEO of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. “CRP, which is part of the working lands ecological and economic safety net, helps sequester carbon in soil, improve water quality and soil health, while strengthening rural economies and creating habitat for the wildlife we cherish.”
For more information about the benefits of the CRP, head to CRPWorks.org.
The groups voicing their support for the Conservation Reserve Program are the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, Delta Waterfowl, National Wildlife Federation, Pheasants Forever-Quail Forever, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, and the Wildlife Management Institute.
Top photo by Anthony Hauck.
Much-celebrated funding began flowing to restoration projects in recent years, but has it made a difference? In this video, the co-founder and program director of Captains for Clean Water shares what progress has been made and how far we still have to go to rehab fish habitat in the Everglades
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