Colorado Parks and Wildlife and TRCP host two days of activities and conversations to share hunting and conservation knowledge with an underrepresented demographic in the sporting community
For many sportsmen and sportswomen, hunting is a multigenerational family tradition, passed on from fathers and mothers to their children. While this is part of what makes the activity so meaningful to many of us, it also means that it can be easy to overlook the barriers to participation faced by people who did not grow up with parents who hunted. Due to the way state wildlife agencies are currently funded in part through the sale of hunting licenses and tags, it’s critical that those of us who care about conservation find ways to share the meaning and joys of this pastime with our neighbors, friends, and non-hunting family members.
Given the long-term national trend of declining participation in hunting, connecting with growing but underrepresented populations will be key to the social and political relevance of sportsmen and sportswomen. In Colorado, the Latino population is expected to grow from 20 percent to 33 percent statewide in the next 20 years, meaning that the Centennial State should be of particular interest to hunters and conservationists hoping to build relationships in the Latino community.
That’s why earlier this month Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the TRCP partnered with Calwood, a trusted outdoor education center that has historically worked closely with Latino families, to host two days of workshops for Latino families to become more familiar with hunting, conservation, and the outdoors. Calwood has an established network of families that are engaged in learning about the outdoors, and this was a great opportunity for us to connect and offer to teach them about hunting’s role in conservation.
This type of event allows people who did not inherit a hunting tradition from their parents to learn and experience what our pastime is all about—and to hopefully spark an interest in hunting among younger generations. It also provides families the opportunity to learn together in a safe, formal educational setting, with well-organized instruction.
Ten families and approximately 50 people ranging from age 7 to 60 attended this event. Families were able to enjoy a wing-shooting clinic, .22/BB gun range, archery range, simulated pheasant field hunting clinic, and an upland and waterfowl dog demonstration. There was also a candid conversation about how hunting is a conservation tool.
These discussions were very informative. Several participants expressed their appreciation for the opportunity and shared that they hoped to teach their children the benefits of spending time outdoors for physical, mental, and emotional health. Many of the families were from urban areas and discussed the importance of green spaces and trees to their neighborhoods, observing that hunting could provide them with the opportunity to reconnect with nature.
The instant feedback from participants during the event was tremendous. Several families asked for and received information about the next steps, from identifying hunter education courses to purchasing tags and participating in mentored hunts. Several also asked how they can become volunteers to assist in putting on events like this in the future for more families to participate.
While this event was geared towards the families, it was a strong reminder to everyone involved of the truly communal aspects of hunting and of the importance of sharing with future generations our traditions of respecting the land and animals that nourish us. If only a few of those who were in attendance continue on the path to becoming lifelong hunters, our community will be benefit greatly, particularly when those individuals pass along what they learn to their own friends and neighbors.
House Passes Highway Bill with Strong Investments in Habitat and Access
Senate must now act to establish a first-of-its-kind federal grant program for wildlife crossings and advance other important conservation priorities
Washington, D.C. — In a 221-201 floor vote today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the INVEST in America Act, a five-year highway bill with much-needed funding for fish and wildlife habitat connectivity, climate resilience, and road and trail maintenance across public lands.
The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is particularly encouraged to see the advancement of a new $100-million-per-year grant program that would help states construct more wildlife-friendly road crossing structures, including over- and underpasses, that benefit migrating big game and many other species. An amendment was also successfully passed to establish a new grant program to fund and support culvert restoration projects, which will help restore essential anadromous fish passages across the nation.
“It’s the right time to invest in America’s transportation infrastructure and jobs, and it’s highly appropriate that we look out for fish and wildlife habitat as we make largescale improvements,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “This may be our best chance to knit together fragmented migration corridors and fish habitat, especially now that we know more about the way animals use seasonal habitats and exactly how development affects their movement patterns. The science and technology have advanced, but we can’t create solutions without the dedicated funding provided in this bill, which would create the first national wildlife crossings initiative of its kind and help prioritize culvert restoration across the country.”
The bill also includes an amendment that authorizes the Legacy Roads and Trails Remediation Program through 2030 and requires the U.S. Forest Service to develop a national strategy for using the program—which would have a direct impact on public land access and hunting and fishing opportunities on Forest Service lands. The Forest Service also gets a share of the $555 million per year included in INVEST for the Federal Land Transportation Program, but the TRCP and partners will continue to push for more balance here.
Importantly, INVEST would also:
Reauthorize the Sport Fish Restoration Program, the well-known conservation fund that draws from angler license and gear purchases.
Create a Community Resilience and Restoration Fund and competitive grant program at the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, authorized at $100 million per year.
Increase funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund Program to $40 billion over five years. Fifteen percent of these funds would be set aside to encourage states to invest in natural systems and nature-based approaches to addressing local water quality challenges.
The Senate surface transportation bill includes the culvert provisions but only $350 million over five years for wildlife crossings. It also includes a climate resilience program that is not in the House bill. The two versions will need to be reconciled before the president can sign off and advance the much-needed conservation provisions mentioned above.
Top image courtesy of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
House Committee Passes Highway Bill with Dedicated Funding for Wildlife Crossings
$100M annually for wildlife-friendly roadway crossing structures represents one of the bill’s biggest benefits for hunters and anglers
Early this morning in a 38-26 vote, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure passed its five-year highway bill with $547 billion in transportation infrastructure investments, including a new grant program to help states construct more wildlife crossings that knit together fragmented habitat and increase public safety.
“We are thrilled to see this momentum for a program and funding that would kickstart the construction of critical wildlife crossings,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “The timing couldn’t be better, as our enhanced understanding of big game migration routes demands that we reconnect critical seasonal habitats that have been fragmented by roadways, potentially altering the movements of mule deer, elk, pronghorn, and other species.”
Of course, the highway system presents habitat connectivity issues to more than just Western big game. The program would also fund projects that benefit amphibians, fish, and reptiles. “We know that one of the best ways we can ensure fish and wildlife adapt to a changing climate is to enhance their ability to move, as needed, across the landscape,” says Fosburgh. “As Congress prepares to make some of the most impactful investments in our highway system, critical infrastructure, and American jobs, we look forward to working with lawmakers to support these efforts.”
Other important provisions in the INVEST Act include:
$555 million per year for the Federal Lands Transportation Program, which helps federal agencies maintain passenger roads through public lands. Of this total, the $50 million set aside for the Forest Service is just one-fifth of the total that the TRCP and others recommended to avoid contributing to the maintenance backlog at the agency. Congress must invest more in the Forest Service’s aging roads, which Americans rely on not just for outdoor recreation but to connect communities that are adjacent to or separated by Forest Services lands.
$345 million annually for the Federal Lands Access Program to repair, maintain, and reconstruct roads on public lands, which are essential for outdoor recreation.
The Senate surface transportation bill includes $350 million over five years for wildlife crossings, plus support for climate resilience and better access to public lands. It has passed out of committee and needs a floor vote before both chambers can hammer out a deal to reconcile the two bills.
Also of interest to sportsmen and sportswomen is a bill to increase funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund Program, which was passed in the same House committee markup today.
Since February, the TRCP has called on Congress to authorize $40 billion over five years for this bedrock program used by states and territories to fund water quality protection, including wastewater control, water treatment, and activities such as land conservation and habitat restoration projects. The TRCP also supported setting aside 15 percent of these funds for the Green Project Reserve Program within the Clean Water SRF to encourage states to invest in natural systems and nature-based approaches to addressing local water quality challenges.
Both of these provisions were included in the Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act of 2021 when it passed out of committee today with a bipartisan vote of 42-25.
18 Hits (and a Few Misses) for Conservation in Biden’s Budget
The annual budget request, which guides Congress on administration priorities, emphasizes natural climate solutions but overlooks some critical Western water quality and quantity conservation efforts
Just before the Memorial Day weekend, the White House released its proposed fiscal year 2022 budget, which could push Congress to create new conservation programs and invest more heavily in existing efforts to restore fish and wildlife habitat.
The TRCP policy team has read the proposal with an eye toward some of the most important line items for fish and wildlife conservation. First, the Biden budget proposal makes some of the most meaningful investments targeted at addressing climate change we’ve ever seen, taking a refreshing “whole of government approach” and mobilizing the entire federal government to take climate-smart actions.
The White House also recommended increasing investments in many priorities important to sportsmen and sportswomen, including improving public land access and reconnecting fragmented habitats.
“For the first time ever, a president’s budget is sent to Congress that places action on climate change right where it belongs: front and center,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “It is refreshing to see investments in forest health, the national wildlife refuge system, full implementation of the Great American Outdoors Act, and the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, among many other positive developments.”
“Congress holds the power of the pursestrings and will ultimately decide how to fund conservation with this proposal in mind, and we look forward to working with decision-makers to invest in critical areas of need, including water quality, climate-resilient habitat, private land conservation, public access to outdoor recreation, and conservation jobs,” says Fosburgh.
Here are the team’s major takeaways in four key areas.
The president’s budget lays out a “whole of government” approach to tackling the climate crisis, with more than $36 billion in investments for FY22—an increase of more than $14 billion compared to this year. This funding would support new programs or enhance existing efforts through conservation, planning, technical assistance, and research, while actively creating jobs. The plan’s emphasis on ecosystem resilience and research is good news for fish and wildlife habitat that could be improved to capture and sequester more carbon while boosting our hunting and fishing opportunities.
Other key line items:
An additional $325 million for forest health programs at the Department of the Interior and U.S. Department of Agriculture to mitigate the risks and impacts of catastrophic wildfires. This includes $20 million in new funding for Healthy Forests Reserve Program which helps landowners restore, enhance, and protect forest resources on private lands to promote the recovery of threatened and endangered species, improve biodiversity enhance carbon sequestration.
$914 million for climate-smart agriculture practices (see Private Land section below), including $161 million to help private landowners integrate science-based tools into conservation planning for carbon sequestration.
$500 million in new dedicated funding for the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities program, which helps communities proactively use the power of habitat to lessen the impacts of future storms and other disasters. This was one of the priorities identified by the TRCP’s coalition pushing for conservation solutions that put Americans back to work in the wake of the pandemic.
The president’s budget proposal recognizes the value of migration corridors and modernizing public land access data so that outdoor recreation is truly accessible to all. It would also fund important place-based efforts to conserve iconic American fish and wildlife resources. Perhaps most importantly, a little more than $59 million has been proposed for improving recreational access across Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Park Service lands. This is a decrease from $67.5 million in FY21, but it far exceeds the $27-million minimum for access projects set by the 2019 John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act.
Other key line items:
A $6.1-million increase for the Bureau of Land Management to address habitat fragmentation and advance efforts “to identify, protect, conserve, and restore functional, landscape-level wildlife migration, dispersal, and daily movement corridors.”
A $28-million increase for BLM Resource Management Planning that would enable the agency to update decades-old land management plans that could be used to conserve big game migration corridors and winter range, manage and support outdoor recreation, and expand and provide access for millions of Americans.
No new resources were proposed to support the Corridors Mapping Team at the U.S. Geological Survey, which is responsible for working with state agencies to map migration corridors, but agency officials on a June 2 briefing call did commit to continue funding this work through the Cooperative Research Unit program. The TRCP hopes to see the USGS corridors mapping work expanded in the future.
The president is proposing a $2.6-billion increase—or a 9-percent bump—to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s discretionary budget, which includes $914 million to support the adoption of climate-smart agriculture and forestry. But the full USDA budget is projected to shrink by almost $17.4 billion, to $198 billion, after the sunset of COVID-19 emergency support payments.
The White House is seeking an increase of $43 million for more technical assistance to landowners through the Natural Resource Conservation Service, which is critical to enabling agricultural producers, conservation districts, and local officials to make informed decisions about conservation planning. The TRCP supports this increase, but more funding is needed to enable the tidal changes in land stewardship that the administration has promised.
Other key line items:
Level funding, or $175 million, for the Watershed Protection and Flood Prevention Operations Program.
USDA will increase resources for CWD research, although it has not shared a specific funding level at this time.
In the water space, the president’s budget is, unfortunately, a mixed bag for hunters and anglers. Overall, the Bureau of Reclamation’s budget is cut by almost 10 percent from FY21 funding levels, and WaterSMART—a critical program for restoring fish habitat and developing solutions to water shortage issues brought on by drought, aging infrastructure, and agriculture and population strains—is cut by nearly 63 percent in what seems like a glaring oversight. This represents the smallest investment in WaterSMART since 2015, down from $55 million in FY21 to roughly $15 million in the current proposal.
“The TRCP has long championed solutions to water supply crises in Western states and, more broadly, proposals that improve both water quality and quantity across the country,” says Melinda Kassen, TRCP’s senior counsel and interim water resources director. “We look forward to working with Congress to make sure that these programs receive adequate funding as the FY22 budget process unfolds, and we appreciate the cooperation of both Congress and the administration to support and fund these mission-critical water initiatives.”
Some other water programs did see increases, and funding for the Environmental Protection Agency increased substantially across the board.
Other key line items:
A modest $3-million increase for the EPA’s “319” program, which provides grants to projects that help rivers and streams withstand the impacts of polluted runoff.
A large additional outlay of $232 million for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, including the Green Project Reserve for natural infrastructure, water efficiency, and other environmentally innovative projects.
An additional $580 million for initiatives to remediate orphan wells and abandoned mines— where heavy metals and acidic runoff cause water quality issues—tripling the current annual discretionary funding for these purposes. The proposal also includes $165 million for the Abandoned Mine Land and Economic Revitalization program, which will help accelerate remediation and reclamation work on Department of Interior lands.
$340 million for Great Lakes restoration, which is $10 million over FY21 enacted levels.
$90 million for the Chesapeake Bay Program to continue leading on the restoration of the Bay.
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.