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Hunters and anglers call for prioritization of projects that increase public access to recreational opportunities
The Department of Interior announced today that it will be reducing restrictions on the availability of Land and Water Conservation Fund investments, ensuring that these dollars are used for the best possible opportunities to enhance public land access and habitat.
The LWCF was plussed up last August after the Great American Outdoors Act became law, marking one of the greatest bipartisan conservation achievements in decades. The bill guarantees full funding for the program at $900 million each year. Today’s announcement overturns Secretarial Order 3388, which deprioritized Bureau of Land Management lands for consideration for LWCF projects and gave county commissioners veto authority over private landowners’ decisions to sell their land.
“We are pleased the Department is doing away with rules that could have crippled getting these critical dollars to the ground,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Sportsmen and sportswomen want to ensure that the LWCF is working to increase public access to outdoor recreation opportunities and conserve important habitats. This is going to require investments in agency capacity, prioritization of areas with recreational value, and coordination between federal, state, and private partners. We appreciate that hunters and anglers are being heard in this process.”
In addition to prioritizing the conservation of habitat and access through federal lands, the Land and Water Conservation Fund provides matching grants to state and tribal governments for the development of fishing areas, hunting access, hiking and biking trails, city parks, and urban green spaces.
“Whether you live in New York City or Cody, Wyoming, the COVID pandemic has shown us that access to the outdoors is critical for our health and wellbeing,” said Christy Plumer, chief conservation officer of the TRCP. “The LWCF opens doors for people to experience our natural resources, while also investing in local economies and creating jobs.”
The Great American Outdoors Act requires the federal land management agencies to set aside a minimum of $27 million annually for recreational access projects. The TRCP has partnered with onX to release five reports detailing 16 million acres of inaccessible public land in 22 states.
“Proper implementation of the Land and Water Conservation Fund can make a lasting difference on these landscapes,” said Joel Webster, senior director of TRCP’s western programs. “Looking forward, if states can put these investments toward conserving fish and wildlife habitat and increasing public access, it will benefit generations of hunters and anglers to come.”
New coalition of sportsmen and women seeks to keep a landscape from being ‘”loved to death”
Oregon’s Owyhee Country is a paradise for those fond of adventure and solitude with a rod or rifle in hand. But what was once enjoyed mostly by locals is now in danger of being “loved to death” as the Pacific Northwest population booms and Instagram influencers crave never ending ‘likes’ through adventure. Additional pressures such as a climate change, invasive annual grasses, and renewable energy pressures are mounting, which is why I’m representing the TRCP within a coalition of seven conservation groups proposing solutions that safeguard fish and wildlife habitat and the unique hunting and fishing opportunities the region is known for. Here’s what we stand to lose if hunters and anglers are not at the table when it comes to conserving the Owyhee.
Stretching across 4.6 million acres of public lands in the BLM’s Vale District, this landscape is among the most remote and unpopulated in the lower 48 states and can test the skills of even the most seasoned outdoorsperson. It encompasses more than 1.2 million acres of Wilderness Study Areas, made up of a rugged and remote sagebrush sea, broken only by narrow lava rock canyons that wind down to the banks of its namesake river.
Far removed from the famed Douglas fir forests of Oregon’s west side, the outstanding hunting and fishing opportunities found in the Owyhee Country can sometimes be overlooked. These canyons provide vital habitat for mule deer, elk, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, and more than 200 other species of wildlife. Anglers catch native red-band trout in the beaver ponds of the West Little Owyhee, cast for 20-inch browns in the reach below the Owyhee dam, and introduce their kids to fishing on the abundant and easy–to–fool smallmouth bass found throughout the river basin. Hunters in the area enjoy some of the best units within the state for mule deer, bighorns, antelope, and chukar.
While its remote location has allowed the Owyhee Country to maintain its backcountry character, pressures from renewable energy, mining, oil and gas, and off-highway vehicles grow with each passing decade. The recent surge of outdoor recreation within the area from rafters, hunters, anglers, hot springs enthusiasts, and other recreation-seekers also presents difficult management challenges. The impacts of these increasing uses, combined with invasive annual grasses, wildfire, and climate change-fueled drought, all threaten the unique fish and wildlife habitat within the region. Both the health of the landscape and the rural economies of the nearby communities need more resources to address these issues.
Thankfully, Oregon’s congressional delegation is seeking pragmatic solutions after multiple requests from both the ranching and conservation communities. In 2019, Senator Ron Wyden spearheaded a series of stakeholder meetings to find common ground for a bill that would promote the long-term health of the landscape while providing for economic development and the continued traditional uses of public lands. The result was the introduction in November 2019 of S.2828, the Malheur Community Empowerment for the Owyhee Act (MCEOA). Notably, the bill would safeguard one million acres of undeveloped backcountry across Malheur County while releasing an equal amount of wilderness–quality lands back to multiple use. Additionally, it would provide for important funding to restore the health of degraded sagebrush habitats and infuse economic development money into many surrounding rural communities.
In order to ensure sportsmen and women have a strong voice in this decision-making process, the TRCP has partnered with the Oregon Hunters Association, Trout Unlimited, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Friends of the Owyhee, Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, Soul River Inc., and the Oregon Chapter of The Foundation for North American Wild Sheep to form, organize and engage a new coalition of hunting– and fishing–based conservation organizations called the “Owyhee Sportsmen.” Since August 2019, the coalition has worked closely with the Oregon congressional delegation—especially Senator Wyden’s office—to provide input and recommendations to the bill that would improve the conservation of the region’s fish and wildlife habitat. Our sportsmen and women’s coalition has strongly urged Senator Wyden, Senator Jeff Merkley, and Representative Cliff Bentz to work together to make a few changes and pass this bill, which we expect will see consideration from lawmakers this year.
The Sportsmen for the Owyhee campaign is currently working to educate the public, business owners, and decisionmakers on the need to protect Oregon’s Owyhee Canyons from development while highlighting the abundant opportunities the region provides for hunters, anglers, and outdoor recreators of all types.
Recently, I joined several other members of the coalition to work on a hunting and fishing film with Alpenglow Press Productions to showcase just a few of the great adventures one can find in the Owyhee Country. I have spent hundreds of nights under the darkest skies in the nation exploring this vast area over the years, but it is hard to beat some of the experiences we enjoyed during the filming of this project. The Coalition is excited to share the film with the public and to work with members across our organizations to show support for this unique and stunning landscape that needs our attention.
There are few large areas of land and water left in the U.S. where one can get truly lost, where skies at night are completely free of artificial light, and where sportsmen and women can chase such iconic game animals, upland birds, and trout. Oregon’s Owyhee Country is such a place, and we are committed to keeping it that way.
The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is pleased to announce the onboarding of five new directors to its leadership team. Aileen Lee, Clarke Ohrstrom, Laura Orvidas, John Redpath, and Elizabeth Storer bring a diverse set of experience to the TRCP’s Board of Directors.
“We are thrilled to welcome these five incredible individuals to the TRCP family,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Our Board of Directors sets the direction of our organization and empowers us to achieve our mission of guaranteeing all Americans quality places to hunt and fish. With these leaders at the helm, TRCP is well positioned to continue its nonpartisan advocacy, coalition building, and thought leadership on national conservation issues.”
Additionally, James A. Baker IV is taking over as TRCP’s Board Chairman. Baker recently retired as a partner in the Washington office of Baker Botts, LLP, and co-chair of the firm’s global projects. Earlier in his career, Baker served as counsel to the U.S. Senate Majority Leader. He is a graduate of Cornell University, where he earned his B.S. in Economics, and then went on to graduate with his J.D. from the University of Texas School of Law.
Aileen Lee is the chief program officer of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation’s Environmental Conservation Program. Prior to joining the foundation, Lee was an associate principal at McKinsey & Company, where she led client engagements in strategy, operations, and organizational effectiveness across a wide range of sectors. She currently serves on the boards of the Climate and Land Use Alliance, the Biodiversity Funders Group, and the Coral Reef Alliance. She attended Yale University, where she received a B.A. in political science and East Asian studies. She received her J.D. from Harvard Law School and is a member of the California bar.
Clarke Ohrstrom is the founder and CEO of Finest Butcher and Primalurge Foods and the CEO of Whitewood Stable Inc., a cattle and horse farm in The Plains, Virginia. Ohrstrom is also the founding partner of Whitewood Farm Mitigation Bank, Northern Virginia’s largest wetlands and riparian credit bank. He is the co-executive director of The Ohrstrom Foundation, and serves on the board of the National Sporting Library and Museum in Middleburg, Virginia. He is a 1985 graduate of Wesleyan University.
Laura Orvidas is the CEO of onX, the industry leader in digital mapping, where her team creates technology to help hunters and outdoor adventurers enjoy public land. Prior to her time at onX, Orvidas was Amazon’s vice president of consumer electronics— one of the largest product categories for the online retailer, bringing in billions of sales each year. She also served on a global leadership team focused on combining science, data, and technology to increase productivity and facilitate senior leadership training. Orvidas is a graduate of Illinois Wesleyan University.
John Redpath is the CEO of TrailStone LLC, a global energy merchant focused on trading and providing risk management services to wind and solar asset owners. Prior to founding TrailStone, he had a 20-year career on Wall Street as a commodity trader and trading manager. He lives and works in Austin, Texas and has a farm in Vermont. He received his B.A. in International Relations from the University of Minnesota and completed two years of graduate study at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.
Elizabeth Storer is president and CEO of the George B. Storer Foundation, a 66-year-old family foundation that funds large-landscape conservation work in Wyoming and is a national funder for advancing nature-based pre-school education, public lands protection and rural electric cooperative reform. Storer previously ran her own communications and marketing consulting business and has served on the boards of numerous conservation organizations. She received TRCP’s Conservation Leadership Award in 2019. She holds B.A. and M.F.A. degrees from the University of Southern California, and lives with her partner, Luther Propst, in Jackson, WY.
To see the full Board of Directors roster, click HERE.
Photo by Miguel Salas, National Park Service.
Heeding calls from the hunting and fishing community, the U.S. Department of Agriculture today announced it’s extending enrollment for the Conservation Reserve Program—the nation’s most successful private lands conservation initiative.
Since 1985, the Conservation Reserve Program has offered incentives for American farmers, ranchers, and landowners to reduce soil erosion, improve water quality, and create wildlife habitat. The current enrollment period for general signup was set to expire on February 12, but the USDA has announced it will be extending that deadline to “evaluate and implement changes.”
“Getting more landowners signed up for the Conservation Reserve Program will improve soil, water, and habitat health,” said Andrew Earl, director of Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s private lands program. “Increased enrollment also benefits sportsmen and sportswomen who hunt and fish on private land, while providing economic support for farmers and ranchers. Further, the Conservation Reserve Program is an important tool in our toolbox of land- and water-based solutions to climate change.”
CRP has helped restore more than 2.3 million acres of wetlands and set aside land that has sequestered more than 12 million metric tons of carbon. Despite these notable successes, enrollment in the program has been dwindling.
The program is currently at a three-decade low of 20.7 million acres enrolled. Just two years ago, Congress increased the program’s acreage cap from 24 to 27 million acres in response to rampant landowner interest. However, in the time since, significant changes to rental rate formulas and incentive reductions have diminished the attractiveness of the program.
Visit the TRCP’s interactive model farm to see how the CRP and other Farm Bill conservation programs make an impact for wildlife habitat, soil and water quality, and sportsmen’s access.
Photo by Lance Cheung, USDA
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