Jared Romero

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posted in: R3

June 24, 2021

Amplifying Latino Voices for Conservation and Greater Inclusion in Hunting

Latino residents of Colorado with varying levels of experience and interest in hunting gathered with Colorado Parks and Wildlife and conservation organizations to help explore ways to better recruit, retain, and reactivate diverse sportsmen and sportswomen—the future of conservation

Our work at the TRCP is grounded in partnership and the goal of uniting and amplifying the voices of sportsmen and sportswomen who share a commitment to the future of America’s legacy of conservation, habitat, and access.

In that spirit, this spring we worked with Colorado Parks and Wildlife as well as a Colorado-based nonprofit consultancy, the Meridian Institute, to host a stakeholder roundtable of Latino hunters and conservationists with the aim of better understanding how state fish and game agencies can more effectively engage with this growing community.

The Future of Hunting and Fishing

As one of the top three fastest growing populations in the United States, the Latino community has an important role to play in the future of our country’s hunting and conservation traditions. This is especially true in Colorado, where the Latino population is expected to grow from 20 percent to 33 percent in the next 20 years, and 77.2 percent of those individuals are native-born Coloradans. Nationwide, Latinos indicate that they regularly participate in outdoor activities: 77 percent hike, 46 percent camp and 33 percent hunt and fish. Latinos polled in Western states also strongly support conservation:

  • 96 percent agree that we should fund modernizing water infrastructure and restoring natural areas for drought resiliency.
  • 93 percent support the creation of new national parks, monuments, wildlife refuges and tribal protected areas.
  • 93 percent agree that despite state budget shortfalls we should fund the protection of state land, water and wildlife.
  • 83 percent support a national goal of conserving 30 percent of lands and water by 2030.
  • 71 percent agree that Western wildfires have increased urgency.

These shared conservation values were central to the roundtable’s work. Participants had diverse backgrounds and levels of experience with hunting, ranging from lifelong, multi-generational hunters to participants with an interest in becoming a hunter but who face systemic barriers as they try to enter into the hunting community. The roundtable discussions were informed by an assessment by TRCP of retention, recruitment, and reactivation (R3) programs in several states: Colorado, Texas, Florida, and South Carolina.

The goals of these convenings were to identify opportunities, challenges, and tangible recommendations for how CPW and other state wildlife agencies can enhance its current engagement efforts to effectively engage the Latino communities.

The two roundtable convenings allowed for open dialogue between CPW and Latino hunters, providing an opportunity for each to learn more about the other, exchange information about conservation and recruitment efforts on both sides, and discuss how sportsmen and sportswomen from Latino and non-Latino communities can come together to better support conservation.

What We Learned

The Latino Hunter Roundtable provided CPW with several recommendations:

  • Ensure that the agency has greater transparency surrounding the license draw process, why regulations exist, and how the collection of demographic data will assist the agency in designing inclusive engagement programs.
  • Continue the translation of hunting regulations and its website into various languages, as they have done with the fishing regulations. Translation of pertinent information also communicates to the community an openness that they are welcome to participate in that space.
  • Celebrate and share stories of Latino hunters, as well as other demographics, so there is a larger awareness of participation and knowledge of hunting conservation in diverse communities.

Additional recommendations from the Roundtable are being collated into a toolkit that can be utilized by CPW and other state wildlife agencies to recruit, retain, and reactivate new audiences into hunting and conservation. The toolkit will be presented to state wildlife agencies, at national meetings and made available over the summer and fall.

The TRCP and CPW understand that conservation works best when we work together. To ensure that conservation, hunting, and angling stay relevant to future generations, it is critical that we continue to mentor family, friends, and neighbors in ways that resonate with them. Hunting has long been about community and shared experiences in the field, around a fire, or at the dinner table, and together we will continue to guarantee that all Americans have quality places to hunt and fish.

Top photo by Tim Donovan

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Randall Williams

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posted in: R3

April 26, 2021

In the Arena: Rachel Smiley

TRCP’s “In the Arena” series highlights the individual voices of hunters and anglers who, as Theodore Roosevelt so famously said, strive valiantly in the worthy cause of conservation.

Rachel Smiley

Hometown: Laramie, Wyoming
Occupation: Graduate Student
Conservation credentials: Working on her PhD on the interface between disease and nutrition in bighorn sheep

Growing up in Connecticut, Rachel Smiley never imagined that she would one day become a hunter. But a college course on wildlife biology put things in a new light and instilled an interest in acquiring her own game meat. Now a graduate student with the Monteith Shop research group at the University of Wyoming, Smiley studies wildlife ecology and has become a proud hunter.

Her observations about the information gap between hunters and nonhunters highlight one way that conservationists can expand our ranks and recruit new sportsmen and sportswomen.

This is her story.

 

I was 24 years old when I harvested my first animal – a white-tailed deer in northwest Wyoming. I sat with a doe in my sights for what felt like hours. Tall grass concealed me as I lay prone, mentally preparing myself to pull the trigger. Thankfully, the deer stayed broadside the whole time I contemplated the shot, just 50 yards away.

Shooting was the only part that made me nervous. I’d been researching ungulates—hoofed animals, like deer and elk—for a few years, so the other steps in the process came naturally to me: I’d tracked and stalked hundreds of animals and cut open plenty of dead deer and bighorn sheep to determine the cause of death. But, I’d never purposely killed an animal, and I never would have imagined that I’d become a hunter. As I sat silently, I reminded myself why I wanted to kill this deer.

For a long time, I was very opposed to hunting. Growing up, I didn’t know many hunters, but I didn’t think that was necessary to understand hunting. To me, things seemed simple enough: I loved animals and thought a sport centered around killing them was heartless. The widespread stereotype of the sloppy hunter was prominent in my mind, and I had heard urban legends of stray bullets hitting people, so I’d avoid the trailheads with lots of trucks and orange during hunting season. Complementary to my opposition to hunting was a vegetarian lifestyle that I adopted late in my teenage years. Eating meat was unnecessary, unsustainable, and an industry that I did not want to support.

So much of what is obvious to sportsmen and sportswomen about hunting never occurs to those who didn’t grow up around it, and my acceptance of hunting happened quickly once I learned more. Unexpectedly, a wildlife management class in college changed my thinking. I was exposed to fundamental concepts that I had never known or considered before.

I hadn’t realized that most of the funding for conservation comes from license fees and taxes on ammunition. For the first time, I began to consider how game meat offers a sustainable food source. I learned how deer overpopulation in some towns in the northeast was dealt with by sharp shooters, because there were not enough people hunting to keep deer numbers at a level that would prevent them from having a negative impact on the rest of the ecosystem.

With this new knowledge, I decided I would be okay with adding game meat to my otherwise vegetarian diet. At the time, I didn’t know many hunters, so the opportunity to eat game meat rarely arose. It took some internal debate and a couple of years to decide that if I was going to eat game meat, I should also be able to harvest it myself.

The possibility of becoming a hunter remained a hypothetical interest, until I moved to the West to pursue wildlife technician jobs and eventually a graduate degree in wildlife management at the University of Wyoming. Many of the people I met were hunters, and I tagged along with several, hoping I could help carry out the meat and become familiar with the process. An opportunity to hunt for myself came about on a lab retreat with my research group, the Monteith Shop. I was excited for the opportunity and overwhelmed with the possibility of turning my desire to hunt into reality.

With the whitetail in my scope, I was hyper-focused on the animal in front of me, but in the background, my thoughts replayed the change in my relationship to hunting over the past five years. I ignored the thought that my past self would be disappointed. Instead, I worried that I would make a bad shot (though I had practiced enough to know I wouldn’t). I wondered if I would feel sadness, guilt, or remorse if I did kill the deer.

Still, I was determined to push through the crux of this personal journey. I controlled my breathing and squeezed the trigger. I hit the deer in the vitals, it ran about ten yards, and fell to the ground. After a few seconds of not knowing what to feel, I was overcome with pride.
Since that first hunt, I’ve hunted pronghorn and elk and embraced this new aspect of my identity. I’m filled with pride and satisfaction whenever I open my full freezer, and I happily share the stories of my hunts when I make dinner with the meat I’ve processed. Without fail, my friends and family who knew me as a vegetarian are always shocked to learn I’ve taken up this sport.

My own personal story and numerous conversations with others tell me that the recruitment of new hunters doesn’t need to be an uphill battle. Perhaps most importantly, my experiences illustrate that we can’t take for granted that nonhunters understand what exactly it is that we do each fall, and we need to think carefully about the messages we’re sending. I encourage all sportsmen and sportswomen to be open-minded about what a hunter looks like and who might come to appreciate all that hunting has to offer.

Expanding hunter participation will require that we communicate what it is that we love about it. For me, this includes watching animals undisturbed, trying to understand their behaviors and anticipate their next movements, using the landscape to our advantage while stalking in close, and savoring the opportunity to eat the most locally sourced meat possible.

It’s also important that prospective hunters understand they don’t have to be perfectly comfortable with the idea of taking an animal’s life. Some in our community casually use terms like “killer” and “slayer” in jest and as a compliment, which still makes me uncomfortable. And if this type of language is off-putting to someone like me, it no doubt alienates nonhunters who are left with the wrong impression of what we find appealing about the sport.

Tree-hugging vegetarians might not be the easiest of recruits, but—with informed dialogue, generous mentors, and thoughtful messaging—they can be convinced. I’m living proof.

Joel Webster

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posted in: R3

July 10, 2020

The MAPLand Act Would Make a Fully Funded LWCF Even More Powerful

Legislation that requires federal agencies to digitize their public land access data would help us spend Land and Water Conservation Fund dollars more efficiently

Hunters and anglers are celebrating the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act in the House—and with good reason. Once it is signed by the president, the bill becomes law with major benefits for public land users and habitat.

In addition to providing $1.9 billion annually from 2021 to 2025 for much-needed public land maintenance projects, the Great American Outdoors Act will also secure $900 million annually for the most powerful tool we have to improve public lands habitat and access: the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

In a time of political tension and turmoil, it’s impressive that hunters and anglers are accomplishing so much to benefit our outdoor recreation opportunities. It shows that our issues resonate across party lines and with a broad spectrum of Americans. What would make the LWCF victory even sweeter, however, would be the subsequent passage of the bipartisan Modernizing Access to our Public Land, or MAPLand, Act later this year.

Here is why this legislation effectively super-charges the impacts of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

More Than the Minimum for Access

Utilizing receipts from offshore oil and gas development, the Land and Water Conservation Fund is designed to support conservation and outdoor recreation. In 2019, the fund was permanently reauthorized with the passage of S.47—the John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act. A provision was included in that legislation requiring that three percent of the total, or a minimum of $15 million, be used each year to establish or improve access to public lands.

With passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, the public access provision increases to $27 million annually.

This access money is being made available because members of Congress realize that many public lands are landlocked and completely inaccessible or difficult to access. You may recall that over the last three years the TRCP has teamed up with onX to study and address this very problem. So far, we’ve found that 15.86 million acres of state and federal lands are landlocked across 13 Western states.

Landlocked public lands can be found in other regions of the U.S., as well. (More on that from us very soon!)

Having resources available through LWCF will be critical in addressing access challenges across the nation in the coming decades. Right now, there are commendable access projects being completed by land trusts and the federal agencies each year, however, these access dollars could be used even more strategically if everyone had a precise understanding of where public access routes exist and where they do not.

This is where the MAPLand Act comes in.

Photo by Raka Rahmadani.
Welcome to the Digital Age

Over the past century, federal land management agencies—including the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management—have actively acquired access easements and established public roads and trails across private lands to unlock inaccessible public lands. These easements or “rights of way” constitute a permanent access right that is controlled by these federal agencies.

However, many of the agencies’ access easement records are still held on paper files at local offices and cannot be integrated into digital mapping systems that allow hunters and anglers to see where public access has been secured.

The U.S. Forest Service alone has an estimated 37,000 recorded easements, but only 5,000 have been digitized and uploaded into its electronic database.

If federal land management agencies are going to make the most of the $27 million in annual access dollars they will receive through a fully funded Land and Water Conservation Fund, they must digitize their access easements. Otherwise, they will not be able to efficiently see where they hold access across private lands or effectively prioritize future access acquisitions.

Truly Creating Access for All

Fortunately, the MAPLand Act would fix this challenge by providing resources and direction so that federal land management agencies can digitize their access easements within a three-year period and make that information available to the public.

When completed, everyone will easily be able to see where permanent public access has already been secured and where it has not, informing future land acquisition projects. This will also help the recreating public to understand where they have a legal right to use a road or trail and where they need to secure permission from a private landowner.

In addition, the MAPLand Act would require that rules related to recreational access on our public lands and waters is standardized and made available digitally. This would mean that smartphone applications and digital mapping systems, like onX Hunt, could reliably point to seasonal allowances and restrictions for vehicle use on public roads and trails, boundaries of areas where hunting or recreational shooting is regulated or closed, and portions of rivers and lakes on federal land that are closed to entry, closed to watercraft, or have horsepower limitations for watercraft.

Now that Congress has passed the Great American Outdoors Act and permanently committed to the maximum funding LWCF was meant to have, sportsmen and women need one more thing: Swift passage of the MAPLand Act to ensure that available access dollars can be used as effectively as possible to help you access your public lands.

Take action today to get your lawmakers on board.

 

Top photo by John Fowler via flickr.

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posted in: R3

January 2, 2020

Signed into Law

After years of hard work, legislation to recruit, retain and reactivate hunters becomes a reality.

Marnee Banks

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posted in: R3

December 16, 2019

Congress Announces Legislation to Invest in the Future of Hunting and Conservation

Bipartisan bill to keep the government open includes Pittman-Robertson Modernization Act

In one of the biggest conservation victories of the year, bipartisan leadership in the House and Senate released legislation to invest in the future of hunting and secure new investments in wildlife and habitat.

The bipartisan compromise to fund the government through September 2020 includes historic legislation that for the first time allows excise taxes on firearms and ammunition to be used to recruit, retain, and reactivate hunters.

As the number of hunters decline nationally, the Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act will ensure that millions of more active and engaged outdoorspeople are paying into conservation and supporting some of America’s greatest traditions. This legislation has been a top priority for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, which has actively worked to include it in the year-end government funding deal.

“Every time hunters purchase guns and ammo they invest in habitat and wildlife, and this legislation will help avert a major conservation funding crisis,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We cannot underscore the importance of this bill for sportsmen and women, conservation, and the next generation of hunters. We hope everyone in the House and Senate will stand with hunters across the nation and send this to the President’s desk for swift signature.”

Between 2011 and 2016, the number of hunters declined by 16 percent contributing to a decline in funding from hunters.

“This is truly a landmark day for hunting and conservation,” said Fosburgh.

Read more about how the Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act supports conservation HERE.

To take action and tell Congress to get this bill across the finish line sign our petition today.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

CONSERVATION WORKS FOR AMERICA

As our nation rebounds from the COVID pandemic, policymakers are considering significant investments in infrastructure. Hunters and anglers see this as an opportunity to create conservation jobs, restore habitat, and boost fish and wildlife populations.

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