Sage Grouse USFWS
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Today, Governor Mark Gordon signed House Bill 122, Reliable Funding for Hunting and Fishing Access, into law. By increasing the cost of a conservation stamp, the legislation provides funding for willing landowners to open access or create easements that unlock inaccessible federal and state lands. This bill passed through the 2021 legislative session thanks to the support of passionate hunters and anglers and lawmakers who value the strong sporting heritage here in Wyoming.
Representative Cyrus Western of Sheridan, an avid hunter and angler and the primary sponsor of the bill, stressed the collaborative and bipartisan support behind it. “This was a team effort of the highest order,” said Western. “From industry leaders to local hunters and sportsmen groups, there was an authentic and organic push for this legislation by people who hold public access near and dear. Sportsmen and women made their voices heard by coming out to support this bill in big numbers.”
The legislation raises the cost of an annual conservation stamp, which hunters and anglers are required to purchase before going hunting or fishing, by $9 to create a fund for the Wyoming Game and Fish to develop more access agreements to private and landlocked or difficult-to-access federal and state lands. This will help complement Wyoming’s existing Access Yes program with additional opportunities for hunting and fishing.
The recent easement created to access Raymond Mountain near the Wyoming-Idaho border is a perfect example: That agreement provided improved access to 33,000 acres.
Jess Johnson, government affairs director for the Wyoming Wildlife Federation, spent more than a year gauging member support for a bill of this kind. In a survey of the organization’s members, 75 percent said they would support a $5 to $10 fee to improve hunter and angler access in Wyoming. “It’s clear that access is important to people who hunt in Wyoming statewide,” said Johnson. “This bill really was passed through the voice of proactive hunters and anglers.”
“This is the single most important thing done for Wyoming hunter and angler access in more than 20 years,” said Dwayne Meadows, WWF’s executive director.
More than 4 million acres of federal and state lands in Wyoming lack permanent legal public access because they are surrounded by private lands, according to a report by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and onX, which helped spur the legislation.
“Not only is this a great step in addressing the landlocked issue for hunters and anglers, it also provides landowners a voluntary opportunity for additional income to maintain their ranches and livelihoods,” said Nick Dobric, Wyoming representative for the TRCP.
The bill also directs a small portion of funds to making roadways safer for drivers and wildlife, as well as supporting jobs by funding wildlife-friendly highway crossing structures and fish passage projects.
Along with Wyoming Wildlife Federation and Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, other sportsmen’s organizations that supported the bill were Mule Deer Foundation, Western Bear Foundation, Wyoming Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Trout Unlimited, Muley Fanatic Foundation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Water for Wildlife Foundation, One Shot Antelope Hunt Club, and Bowhunters of Wyoming.
The sporting community applauds Representative Western, Governor Gordon, and all the elected officials who helped pass HB 122.
This video is the second in a series detailing conservation projects powered by Pennsylvania’s Keystone Recreation, Park & Conservation Fund that benefit hunters and anglers. Since 1993, the Keystone Fund has continued to provide state-level matching dollars for a variety of conservation projects, including land acquisition, river conservation, and trail work. This series is the result of a collaboration between the TRCP and Trout Unlimited where the goal is simply to celebrate conservation success stories that make us all proud to be able to hunt and fish in Pennsylvania. The videos highlight just a few of the projects powered by this critical source of conservation funding. For more information on the Keystone Fund, you can visit: https://keystonefund.org.
Warmer weather and blooming forsythia and cherry blossoms are more than just the harbingers of spring in Pennsylvania. For anglers, these are the signals that soon the air above our best trout streams will be filled with mayflies, and the waters below will be teeming with hungry, rising trout.
Spring means the beginning of another trout season. For many, the smells, sounds, and sights of spring conjure memories of past adventures with friends and family, while simultaneously calling us back to the water.
In the Lehigh Valley, you don’t have to look very far to find quality wild trout habitat. That’s good news for anglers living in one of the most densely populated areas in the state. The Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton area is blessed with some of Pennsylvania’s best limestone spring creeks—famously challenging, yet productive trout streams. Among these well-known “limestoners” is Monocacy Creek, which flows south through the heart of Bethlehem and eventually into the Lehigh River, a quality wild trout river in its own right.
The presence of wild trout in this urban gem is no accident: It is the result of decades of stewardship. Like many urban wild trout streams in Pennsylvania, the Monocacy has seen its fair share of challenges. In 1989, a nearby chemical spill killed more than 30,000 fish, many of them wild brown trout. Since then, the area has experienced a boom in development, resulting in challenges with polluted stormwater runoff and degraded streambank habitat.
Enter the Monocacy Chapter of Trout Unlimited and Monocacy Watershed Association. Members of these conservation organizations have worked hand in hand with Bethlehem municipal departments and other conservation organizations to preserve coldwater trout habitat along the creek through various projects funded by the Keystone Recreation, Park, and Conservation Fund and the state’s Environmental Stewardship Fund.
Many of these projects not only restore or improve habitat—they also help to mitigate the impacts of flooding and provide better access to anglers from the surrounding communities and beyond. (For a local perspective on the popularity of Monocacy Creek, check out this blog from angler Michael Evanko.)
Spring in Pennsylvania means another trout season full of making memories and forging connections outdoors. It’s also a good time to take a moment and recognize the tools, projects, and programs that gave us the places we love to fish.
Unfortunately, our work is not done. April showers may bring May flowers, but they are a reminder of the stormwater runoff challenges and need for streambank stabilization made possible by state-funded conservation. Spring is also traditionally the beginning of the state budget season, when funding in the Keystone Fund and Environmental Stewardship Fund has perennially come under threat.
Take a look at what these funds mean to local angler Jose DeJesus, a member of Monocacy TU and Monocacy Watershed Association. Listen as he shares his story of chasing trout over a lifetime on the Monocacy.
The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is proud to announce the launch of its 2020 Annual Report in an interactive digital format that has a distinctly 2020 twist: It highlights the team’s remarkable organizational and conservation policy achievements in a platform that mimics a video conference call, a medium that has been essential to the work of the TRCP staff during the pandemic.
“As challenging as 2020 was for the country and our staff, I’m humbled to be able to share our successes and how quickly we were able to adapt as connection with the outdoors became increasingly important to Americans facing COVID restrictions,” says Whit Fosburgh, TRCP’s president and CEO. “Conservation was a unifying force, and the TRCP and its partners are proud to have played a role in advancing solutions-oriented policy.”
Achievements highlighted in the report include securing long-awaited investments in public lands and essential habitat programs through the Great American Outdoors Act and America’s Conservation Enhancement Act; continuing to identify inaccessible public lands and support solutions for unlocking these resources; reforming menhaden management in the Atlantic; and forming a diverse coalition of hunting and fishing groups to tackle the impacts of climate change on fish and wildlife habitat.
“Even as our country seemed so deeply divided in 2020, we saw firsthand the continued ability of decision-makers to find common ground and pass legislation to improve fish and wildlife habitat, hunting and fishing access, and the outdoor recreation economy,” says Jamie Baker, TRCP’s board chair. “Buoyed by the support of our partners, sponsors, and donors, the efforts of the TRCP staff in 2020 will leave a lasting impact on the places that matter to hunters and anglers, and we look forward to building on this momentum in 2021.”
Today, the U.S. Geological Survey released a report that raises serious questions about the future of the greater sage grouse and its ecosystem.
Report findings showed an overall 80-percent decline in sage grouse populations in the western United States since 1965, with an average annual rate of loss estimated at 3 percent, a full percentage point higher than in previously available data prepared for the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.
“The fact that sage grouse populations are trending even further in the wrong direction should be taken very seriously by hunters, conservationists, wildlife managers, and all citizens of the American West,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “There is no question that this deeper range-wide loss of birds is indicative of the continued loss and degradation of habitat, and stakeholders at every level need to regroup fast to determine a path forward that creates lasting conservation impacts for these iconic game birds.”
In a separate report released on March 9, the USGS found that sagebrush habitat is being lost at an alarming rate due to mining and energy development, conversion to cropland, invasive grasses, and altered wildfire cycles. Since 2000, more than 20 percent of priority sage grouse habitat within the Great Basin alone has burned.
“Sagebrush ecosystems are experiencing declines that were unimaginable just 20 years ago due to cheatgrass invasion, fire, and other human disturbances,” said Ted Koch, executive director of the North American Grouse Partnership. “We know what it takes to stem the loss, now all we need is to regain the partnerships and the collective will to do it.”
Conservation efforts also will undoubtedly need to go beyond the current management plans to address rapidly changing and degrading habitats in the West.
“Restoring degraded habitat is now more important than ever for reversing trends in habitat loss in the sagebrush ecosystem,” said Joel Pedersen, president and CEO for the Mule Deer Foundation. “The Mule Deer Foundation will continue to ensure that funding for habitat restoration and enhancement is a top priority across the West and that projects get implemented on the ground to benefit sage grouse, mule deer, and other species.”
Conservation on private lands has played a vital role in sagebrush recovery since the inception of the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s Sage Grouse Initiative in 2010. Continuing to engage landowners and incentivize conservation in sagebrush country will be critical into the future.
“Private landowner conservation efforts were critical to the success of getting the 2015 not-warranted decision for sage grouse,” said Howard Vincent, President and CEO of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. “We need continued investments in the Sage Grouse Initiative and other private land incentive programs to ensure the long-term health of the sagebrush ecosystem and its occupants, including people that live and work there.”
While deeply concerned, the hunting and fishing community believes that with adequate funding, cooperation, and conservation plan implementation – coupled with massive investments in restoration – that a future listing of sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act can be avoided. But time is running out.
“These new study findings are sounding an alarm that cannot be ignored,” said Dr. Steve Williams, president of the Wildlife Management Institute and former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Clearly the threats to sage grouse and their habitat are not being adequately addressed in a manner that sustains the species over the long-term. There’s still time to assess the situation and reverse these trends, but it is getting more difficult for the Fish and Wildlife Service to defend and maintain their 2015 not-warranted finding for sage grouse.”
Image courtesy of Jennifer Hall/USFWS.
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