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As we’ve shared over the past few weeks, the Senate has passed a once-in-a-generation infrastructure package that would provide significant funding for conservation priorities, including wildlife crossings, national forest road repair and maintenance, drought and climate resilience, clean water, and habitat restoration.
But leading lawmakers aren’t planning to advance this legislation without a budget reconciliation bill that invests in conservation and climate-smart measures at the same time. This means that hunters and anglers need to not only push Congress to carry the decade-defining infrastructure package across the finish line, but also urge decision-makers to include robust funding for conservation in this other crucial bill—which, as it stands, leaves out some essential habitat programs.
Reconciliation refers to a special, Senate-driven step in the budget-making process that is typically only possible when the same party controls both Congress and the White House.
When the Senate passes an annual budget resolution, it can include instructions to align—or reconcile—spending priorities with a particular objective. These instructions direct changes in spending, revenues, deficits, or the debt limit by specific amounts to pursue a specific policy agenda. In the past, this process has been used by both parties to lower taxes, adjust social safety net programs, and change health care and education law.
This time around, the intention is to significantly increase funding for conservation priorities, which is why hunters and anglers need to weigh in.
Unfortunately, though conservation funding and priorities still enjoy broad support by both Republicans and Democrats, this is not a bipartisan process. But it’s still important for hunters and anglers to speak up and alert the Senate and House Democrats driving this bill to the full scope of opportunities for fish and wildlife conservation success.
Here are five major priorities we’re still pushing for.
Early reports indicate that draft reconciliation instructions do not include adequate funding for the Department of the Interior. This is troubling, since the original goal of this process is to commit more funding to respond to critical conservation challenges facing our nation, many of which will be tackled by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Geological Survey, and Bureau of Reclamation—all agencies that could miss out if Congress doesn’t commit more funding to Interior. Bureau of Land Management lands alone account for nearly half of the nationwide acres experiencing fire or drought, not to mention an overwhelming amount of hunting and fishing opportunities in the western United States.
If Congress is serious about making a historic investment in conservation, lawmakers must ensure that Interior’s topline for funding is increased so that these funds can go to agencies that sportsmen and sportswomen rely on to restore and protect critical public lands and waters.
Hunters and anglers will benefit from doubling funding for one key program at Interior: the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), which has successfully restored nearly 30 million acres of waterfowl habitat in the last 30 years. This program has resulted in billions of dollars being invested in wetlands conservation, and the return on investment has been proven. That’s why we’re encouraging budget negotiators to not only increase funding for Interior, but also to make sure that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service receives double the annual funding for this signature conservation program.
We also request that lawmakers double the conservation investments in the Farm Bill through the reconciliation process. Demand for conservation on 13.8 million acres of private land goes unmet each year because of inadequate funding for the Farm Bill’s most popular and effective conservation programs. That means nearly 40 percent of all applications submitted for Farm Bill conservation programs cannot be enrolled. Congress should use this opportunity to double the reach of these programs and ramp up the on-the-ground technical support provided to farmers, ranchers, and forest-owners as they work to boost fish and wildlife habitat on their lands.
As I mentioned above, a decade-defining infrastructure package is tied to reconciliation, and once this legislation passes, it will kickstart a boom in necessary infrastructure upgrades and innovative new projects. This is a good thing! But with all of this activity comes a need to make sure that habitat will not be impacted by development. This can only be done through thorough and timely reviews directed by our bedrock conservation laws, which make sure that projects in and around public lands and waters don’t cause undue harm to fish and wildlife.
Reconciliation funding for the Department of the Interior currently overlooks the increased investments needed to build capacity for the deluge of new projects. Without the ability to complete these studies in both a timely and thorough manner, this will slow down the construction of new infrastructure projects and could threaten our lands, waters, and wildlife. Lawmakers should support and invest in the agencies that carefully manage fish and wildlife resources in balance with essential infrastructure projects.
Finally, Congress has the chance to help build resiliency in the Colorado River Basin in two ways. First, Congress should fund the ecosystem and water supply projects needed to comply with our treaty with Mexico, with whom we share the river. Second—not just for the Basin but across the West—Congress must boost funding for the U.S. Geological Survey so that they can continue to provide information on river flows and snowpack levels to do the modeling and scientific analysis that will help us develop more sustainable water-use strategies. The USGS is a critical, and often underfunded, conservation agency. It’s important that Congress supports their mission so that they can, in turn, inform important water, wildlife, and habitat restoration efforts.
Hunters and anglers, particularly in key House districts, can make an impact by sharing these urgent asks directly with target lawmakers. Click here to use our simple advocacy tool now.
Hunters & anglers celebrate the development of a statewide wildlife connectivity plan
Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak announced the creation of a new Nevada Habitat Conservation Framework to conserve, restore, and rehabilitate the Silver State’s sagebrush habitat. One of the key components of this initiative is the development of a Wildlife Connectivity Plan that will “identify and conserve migratory [big game] corridors.”
The Nevada Department of Wildlife, with input from stakeholders such as conservation groups, private landowners, and tribal communities, will identify and delineate migration corridors and seasonal habitats using the best-available science. As a result, these areas will receive much-needed special consideration in the land-use planning process.
“This plan recognizes the urgent need to ensure Nevada’s big game populations can continue to move across the landscape and access the seasonal habitats they need to survive,” said Carl Erquiaga, field representative for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “By working together, we can come up with a plan to restore and connect critical habitat for mule deer, pronghorn, and bighorn sheep. We thank Governor Sisolak for his continued focus on conservation issues that support our rural economies.”
According to a poll conducted last year by the research firm FM3 for the Pew Charitable Trusts, more than 93% of registered voters in Nevada supported the implementation of new conservation measures to protect wildlife migration corridors.
Sagebrush habitat covers more than 50 percent of the Silver State and sustains an outdoor recreation economy generating more than $12.5 billion in annual consumer spending and supporting 87,000 jobs. More than 367 species of plants and animals rely on the sagebrush ecosystem, which is considered one of the most imperiled in the U.S. These habitats are also essential to the functionality of Nevada’s big game migration corridors, allowing for healthy populations of mule deer, pronghorn, and bighorn sheep.
With so much of Nevada’s landscape managed by federal agencies, successful implementation of Sisolak’s executive order will necessitate coordination with the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service, specifically their incorporation of big game migration science and data into land management plans and decisions. In June, the TRCP released a report highlighting opportunities for federal land managers in Nevada and across the West to do just that.
Fortunately, Nevada’s new executive order comes at a time when the Biden-led Departments of the Interior and Agriculture are shaping their next steps for migration corridor conservation, which was highlighted as a priority in the May 2021 report Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful. The Interior Department began partnering with Western states on the issue in 2018 when then-Secretary Ryan Zinke signed Secretarial Order 3362. Sportsmen and sportswomen see considerable opportunity for the federal agencies to build upon these early successes to ensure meaningful and durable habitat conservation.
“Nevada’s Habitat Conservation Framework could help pave the way for increased partnership between the Nevada Department of Wildlife and federal agencies, like the Bureau of Land Management which is responsible for overseeing 48 million acres in Nevada,” said Madeleine West, director of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s public lands program. “We are hopeful that federal land managers will increase their focus and investment in migration conservation across the West. Doing so is critical to conserving and restoring the important habitats that sustain the region’s storied big game herds and hunting traditions.
To read a copy of the Governor’s Executive Order click HERE.
A new report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says that climate change is already affecting every inhabited region across the globe. This leaves no question that fish and wildlife habitat in the U.S. is experiencing impacts.
This should come as no surprise to the hunting and fishing community that has long been on the front lines of climate change and working to adapt to the effects. Extreme drought, sea-level rise, flooding, and catastrophic fire are climate-driven events that have increasingly become a part of our daily lives and threaten our hunting and fishing heritage.
Warming temperatures and drought in the Prairie Pothole Region and other waterfowl habitats have dried up wetlands and shortened wet seasons. Sea levels continue to rise, displacing critical marshlands along with fish spawning grounds. Largescale flooding and record-high king tides have caused saltwater to move into lakes and rivers, increasing salinity and decreasing freshwater trout and salmon populations. Meanwhile, big game like deer and elk are experiencing concurrent heatwaves, drought, and fire conditions, further challenging migration and altering seasonal habitat.
The IPCC’s reports provide governments with the objective scientific information needed to develop climate policies. The data in this assessment—the sixth overall and the first since 2014—made it clear that quick and dramatic actions are required at national, state, and local levels to limit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions.
Truly comprehensive climate legislation must address this and include expanded roles for our nation’s water- and land-based systems that could mitigate at least 20 percent of our carbon emissions. The Senate recently passed the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which represents a significant investment in infrastructure. The TRCP advocated for several critical provisions in the legislation that will improve habitat through nature-based solutions.
The IPCC will release two more reports in 2022 to further expand on the data and offer adaptation and mitigation recommendations, but we can’t afford to hesitate. The TRCP is already leading a coalition of 40 other hunting, fishing, and conservation nonprofits to advance land- and water-based climate solutions that mitigate the impacts of climate change and in improve habitat along the way. In July 2020, the coalition released the Sportsmen & Sportswomen Climate Statement centered around seven focus areas: adaptation; agriculture; coastal resilience; forests, rangeland, and grassland; rivers, lakes, and streams; oceans; and wetlands. Many of the solutions we’ve identified for climate are conservation projects that also provide better hunting and fishing opportunities.
Stay up to date with the TRCP as we track legislation that would help improve habitat, limit harmful emissions, and capture or sequester carbon to combat climate change. And if your hunting or fishing has been affected by climate change, tell us how.
Encourages members to speak up for hunting and angling opportunities in the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests
Today the U.S. Forest Service released a Draft Forest Plan that—when finalized—will guide future land-use management decisions on more than 3.2 million acres of public lands in central Colorado for the next 15 to 20 years. Hunters and anglers have been anticipating the release of the draft plan because of the significant potential impact it could have on the state’s fish and wildlife resources, and hunting and fishing opportunities.
The Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison (GMUG) National Forests provide habitat for nearly 20 percent of Colorado’s iconic mule deer and elk populations, as well as large populations of bighorn sheep, moose, wild turkeys, and multiple trout species. More than 50,000 big game hunting permits are issued each year for the game management units within the planning area.
“The GMUG forest planning process should be viewed as critically important to hunters and anglers in Colorado, and it will no doubt shape outdoor recreational opportunities for decades to come,” said Jon Holst, Colorado field representative with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Sportsmen and sportswomen from all across our state know how important these public lands are to our hunting and fishing traditions, as well as the tremendous economic benefits they provide to local communities.”
The GMUG planning area is a vast and diverse landscape, covering more than 3.2 million acres of lands that range in elevation from 5,000 to over 14,000 feet, with mountain streams cascading through dense forests of spruce-fir, meadows interspersed in aspen groves, and riparian oases throughout sagebrush and oak shrublands. These lands contain large, unfragmented backcountry habitats that are essential for keeping seasonal big game migrations intact.
The release of the Draft Forest Plan is a key step in determining how fish and wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation opportunities, and resource development are balanced in this area. The agency’s Preferred Alternative in the Draft Forest Plan contains key provisions supported by hunters and anglers, such as conserving important habitats as Wildlife Management Areas to prevent incompatible development in these places.
A 90-day public comment period on the draft plan begins August 13 and is slated to close November 10.
“The TRCP is taking steps to ensure that hunters and anglers weigh in on the draft plan, and we’re continuing to work with local stakeholders and agency partners to ensure that the final plan reflects our shared conservation priorities,” continued Holst. “It’s important that members of our community speak up on behalf of the provisions of the plan that benefit wildlife, while also encouraging the agency to revise elements that remain in need of improvement.”
Photo: Jerry and Pat Donaho via Flickr
Theodore Roosevelt’s experiences hunting and fishing certainly fueled his passion for conservation, but it seems that a passion for coffee may have powered his mornings. In fact, Roosevelt’s son once said that his father’s coffee cup was “more in the nature of a bathtub.” TRCP has partnered with Afuera Coffee Co. to bring together his two loves: a strong morning brew and a dedication to conservation. With your purchase, you’ll not only enjoy waking up to the rich aroma of this bolder roast—you’ll be supporting the important work of preserving hunting and fishing opportunities for all.Learn More