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Tiffany Turner

February 17, 2022

Six Ways to Help Farmers, Foresters, and Ranchers Combat Climate Change

We were proud to support a broad coalition effort to identify priority policies for improving private land habitat and capture more carbon

The TRCP has long been a vocal advocate for farmers, foresters, and ranchers who are strong partners in conservation. This commitment is most recently shown through our membership in the Bipartisan Policy Council Farm and Forest Carbon Solutions Task Force, a group of organizations working together to develop policy proposals that enhance climate-smart agriculture and forestry practices. We’re proud to support the resulting recommendations that recognize and incentivize actions by private landowners to invest in the productivity of their land, while delivering better wildlife habitat, more hunting and fishing access, greater resilience to the effects of climate change, and increased carbon stored in soils, forests, and wood products.

The task force recommendations cover a range of actions across six broad policy objectives. Here are some of the highlights.

Start With What’s Already Working

The task force recommended expanding existing Farm Bill programs that already deliver climate benefits and offer pathways to new market opportunities for farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners. To do this, Congress should double funding for USDA conservation programs. Conservation practices have been proven to improve habitat while also storing and sequestering more carbon. The TRCP supports boosting funding to deliver increased carbon sequestration and soil health, rather than borrowing from existing funding that supports much-needed wildlife and water quality. Learn more about Farm Bill conservation programs and take action in support of doubling investments in private land habitat.

Give Landowners More On-the-Ground Support

With new opportunities for landowners to implement natural climate solutions, there’s also a need to expand technical assistance to support them and address related workforce needs. The USDA should recruit private-sector partners to work with their Extension offices and provide training on climate-smart practices. Farmers, ranchers, and foresters can play a pivotal role in addressing climate change, but most don’t know how or where to start. When they do look for help, it’s usually within their own community or from trusted representatives, including agricultural retailers, cooperatives, seed and feed companies, other landowners, procurement foresters, and nonprofits. Many of the TRCP’s partners regularly serve in this capacity with existing networks and should be leveraged to expand access to and engagement with USDA programs.

At the same time, the administration should strengthen USDA’s data and technology capacity to allow farmers, foresters, ranchers, and other landowners to more easily estimate the impact of adopting climate-smart practices on their land. Providing clarity and supporting their decision-making would maximize the benefits—including better habitat—of natural climate solutions.

Strengthen Carbon Markets

The task force also recommends that Congress pass the Growing Climate Solutions Act and the Rural Forest Markets Act, which would reduce barriers to entry for voluntary carbon markets, improve market integrity, and create jobs. Together, these bills establish trusted and credible third-party verifiers and technical service providers and offer guaranteed federal loans to voluntarily manage land that generates carbon credits while improving habitat and air and water quality.

USDA should use the Commodity Credit Corporation, which provides U.S. producers with financial assistance, to support piloting of climate-smart practices. By lowering the transaction cost for landowners and leveraging carbon markets, this initiative can promote innovation and test new tools. Priority should be given to projects and practices that provide other co-benefits, such as improvement in habitat, access, or air and water quality.

Tie Conservation to More Successful Farming

To help overcome barriers to the broad adoption of natural climate solutions, the USDA should conduct a comprehensive study to compare the impacts of conservation practices on crop yields and insurance payouts under the Federal Crop Insurance Program from yield losses attributed to drought, flooding, and other extreme weather events. We believe the findings from this study would confirm that conservation practices reduce losses and offer co-benefits in terms of carbon sequestration and emission reductions. The study would also help underscore the need for an improved crop insurance program that incentivizes reducing climate risk.

Support Forest, Grassland, and Sagebrush Restoration

There is also a need to enhance resilience to wildfire, drought, insects, disease, and invasive species on a landscape scale through reforestation, but we’ll need a doubling of the current output from tree nurseries to meet the demand. The task force is asking Congress to pass legislation to modernize and expand public and private seed collections and tree nurseries to support the scale-up of natural climate solutions like reforestation.

Congress should also establish and fund the North American Grasslands Conservation Act, a major initiative for the TRCP that is modeled after the highly successful North American Wetlands Conservation Act. The new bill would provide landowners with voluntary, flexible economic incentives and opportunities to help improve and conserve grasslands and sagebrush habitat while promoting carbon storage and sequestration.

Reduce Costs and Challenges

Finally, we stand behind the task force’s recommendation that decision-makers should foster innovation in the agriculture and forestry sectors to make natural climate solutions cheaper and easier to implement and to address measurement and monitoring challenges. Congress should provide increased funding across USDA research programs to enhance collaboration with other federal agencies, universities, and the private sector and improve the development of new technologies for landowners interested in implementing nature-based solutions. This work would build on existing innovation programs and accelerate scaling of successful approaches.

 

If implemented, these recommendations would provide a multitude of benefits for wildlife habitat, clean water, and the outdoor recreation economy, while spurring investment in rural communities and empowering farmers, foresters, ranchers, and other landowners to contribute to climate resilience.

For more information about the climate-smart policies backed by the hunting and fishing community, check out ourlandwaterwildlife.org.

 

Top photo courtesy of USDA NRCS Montana via Flickr.

2 Responses to “Six Ways to Help Farmers, Foresters, and Ranchers Combat Climate Change”

  1. Hello. I was hoping to read that predators are crucial to forest health — why aren’t you considering this? Even though coyotes, for example, aren’t controlling the deer population, they certainly take fawn. This alleviates to some degree the pressure on young saplings which perform rapid carbon uptake. I would appreciate your perspective on this.

    • Tiffany Turner
      Tiffany Turner

      Hi, Chris – Thanks for the question. The article above is focused on the resulting recommendations from our participation in the BPC Farm & Forest Task Force and don’t capture the entirety of our thinking on the issue. Climate change and biodiversity are most definitely interconnected and interdependent. Not only are habitats altered by climate change, but these habitats if functioning, healthy, and resilient provide space for wildlife to live in balance as intended – as well as support climate change mitigation and adaptation. Ensuring wildlife (predators included) is where it’s supposed to be, when it’s supposed to be there is crucial to ecosystem health and addressing climate change.

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Guest Author Spencer Shaver

February 3, 2022

The Threat to Habitat in the Boundary Waters Has Been Minimized—Now What?

Why the Biden Administration’s decision to conserve the Boundary Waters watershed is huge win for public lands and what comes next for America’s most visited wilderness 

The Department of Interior’s recent decision to cancel two hardrock mineral leases on public lands upstream of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness was widely supported by hunters and anglers. It was also in line with an agency process supported by our community. But this is just the first step toward permanent protection of these essential resources. Here’s what you need to know about what comes next.

First, a quick review of what’s at stake: The Boundary Waters, the most visited Wilderness Area in the country, is made up of more than 1,100 lakes and 2,000 designated overnight campsites all connected by rivers, streams, and portage trails along Minnesota’s northern border. The 1.1-million-acre Wilderness Area lies within the Superior National Forest, the largest contiguous forest in the eastern region of the United States.

The waters within hold high quality habitat for walleyes, smallmouth bass, northern pike, and lake trout. In the face of a changing climate, the area offers some of the clearest, coldest, and deepest waters in all of the boreal forest open to the public for fishing, camping, and hunting. Ruffed grouse, whitetail deer, moose, and migratory birds also frequent the lakes and rivers in and around the BWCAW, an area directly adjacent to Canada’s 1.2-million-acre Quetico Provincial Park and in the same watershed as Minnesota’s 220,000-acre Voyageurs National Park.

Last week, the Biden Administration decided to mitigate some of the threats to these resources by canceling two federal mineral leases upstream of the Boundary Waters. This rectified a process that would have endangered habitat and outdoor recreation access downstream. The action was in keeping with the science-based, public-facing approach we have advocated for since 2018, when the TRCP and its partners called on federal agencies and decision-makers for a “stop and study” approach to this new type of mining in the region.

But future leases could be considered unless Congress passes legislation to permanently protect the Boundary Waters. Further, there is still a need for more evaluation of the environmental impacts of hardrock mining, especially if we hope to put this idea—and the risks to fish and wildlife—to rest for good.

This is why federal agencies are currently completing a study that could put a moratorium on any new hardrock leasing in 225,378 acres of the surrounding watershed of the BWCAW, putting that acreage off-limits, as well. While the study is underway, the Bureau of Land Management has initiated a two-year segregation of new federal mineral leases within the proposed withdrawal area.

Importantly, during a 90-day comment period concluded on January 19, 2022, sportsmen and sportswomen overwhelmingly urged federal agencies to take action to protect the watershed of the BWCAW. Thousands of business owners, hunters, anglers, and countless others in the outdoor community spoke in favor of the withdrawal because tourism and jobs in the local outdoor-recreation-based economy depend on the Boundary Waters.

There will be other opportunities for the public to weigh in as the study progresses, and at the conclusion we hope to see federal agencies commit to a 20-year moratorium of new hardrock mineral leasing in that area of the Superior National Forest. The Boundary Waters is a unique landscape and critical part of the American Wilderness system that is deserving of permanent protection from water pollution and impacts to habitat and access downstream. Federal agencies have the discretion to set the study area aside from new leasing for up to 20 years after gathering public input and scientific data that inform such a decision.

In the end, the Boundary Waters can only be permanently protected from this type of mining by H.R. 2794, the Boundary Waters Wilderness Protection and Pollution Prevention Act. After the current moratorium ends and federal agencies enact a longer-term mineral withdrawal order, an act of Congress must be signed into law to permanently declare the area off-limits from future hardrock mineral leasing. This would permanently reinforce the decision by federal agencies to set the 225,000-acre area of the Superior National Forest aside from this kind of leasing for up to a 20-year period.

The legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representative Betty McCollum (D-Minn.). Federal agencies have begun to right past agency decisions to renew hardrock mining leases in the watershed, and it is up to elected officials to seal the deal and secure this critical habitat and bucket-list paddling, fishing, and hunting destination for future generations.

Learn more and sign up for updates on this issue at SportsmenBWCA.org.

Spencer Shaver is the conservation director for Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters . He is a lifelong hunter and fisherman, a graduate of the University of Minnesota’s environmental science, policy, and management program, and has guided Boundary Waters canoe trips since 2014.

 

Photos by Hansi Johnson. Follow him @hansski43 on Instagram.

by:

posted in: Climate Change

January 13, 2022

TRCP’s Top 10 Conservation Priorities for 2022

The legislative and policy solutions we’re pursuing to improve habitat and your hunting and fishing opportunities

Following a 2021 that was a rollercoaster in so many ways, the year ahead provides hunters, anglers, and the conservation community with significant opportunity. Lawmakers deep in re-election cycles know that habitat, access, and conservation funding issues are things that most Americans can agree on and are eager to bring home legislative wins to their voters.

Working alongside our partners, here’s what we want to get done this year.

Infrastructure Implementation

Passed in late 2021, the $1.2-trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act provides significant federal investment in programs benefiting fish and wildlife on public and private lands, including a first-of-its-kind five-year wildlife crossings grant program. The TRCP will closely follow the implementation of this and other programs to ensure that dollars are both benefiting fish and wildlife and enhancing outdoor recreation opportunities.

 

Building Climate Resilience

Efforts to address our changing climate continue to become less polarizing in Congress. There is significant interest among lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in prioritizing carbon sequestration and nature-based solutions that mitigate the impacts of extreme weather events on vulnerable rural communities. Whether in the proposed Build Back Better package, other potential climate legislation, or the 2023 Farm Bill, the conservation community will have an active voice in the discussion.

 

Passage of the Chronic Wasting Disease Research and Management Act

Led by Representatives Kind of Wisconsin and Thompson of Pennsylvania, this comprehensive legislation would provide state wildlife and agriculture agencies with much needed resources for CWD management and suppression. The bill would also create a CWD research grant program to study the spread of the disease and direct the USDA to collect public feedback on ways to improve oversight of the captive deer industry. The legislation was overwhelmingly approved by the House of Representatives in late 2021 and awaits introduction in the Senate.

 

Protection of Bristol Bay in Statute

In late 2021, the Biden Administration once again halted the proposed Pebble Mine in southwest Alaska. While this was welcome news, more work is needed to federally protect the world’s most prolific sockeye salmon fishery in statute. The TRCP is working with lawmakers and state and national partners in developing legislation to do just that.

 

Passage of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act

RAWA would provide state wildlife agencies with nearly $1.4 billion annually to implement state wildlife action plans, allowing for more proactive conservation of wildlife and associated habitat to avoid potential endangered species listings. Introduced by Representative Dingell of Michigan and Senator Heinrich of New Mexico, the legislation has bipartisan support in both chambers and would be a generational investment in wildlife conservation.

 

Passage of the Modernizing Access to Public Land Act

The MAPLand Act, championed by Senator Risch of Idaho and Representative Moore of Utah, would require that maps and easement records held by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are digitized and publicized for the benefit of all Americans. Doing so would bring recordkeeping into the 21st century and provide hunters and anglers with much greater certainty in planning outings on our public lands.

 

Introduction of the North American Grasslands Conservation Act

In the last half-century, the intense conversion of grasslands has precipitated a steep decline in associated bird populations. The TRCP and several partners have worked for the past year on developing an innovative grant program for grass and rangeland conservation that works with ranchers and landowners to improve ecosystem health and ensure that their acreage remains productive and healthy habitat for years to come. Our groups have worked closely with Senator Wyden in developing the legislation and are looking forward to bringing the bill before the House and Senate.

 

Improving the State of Gulf Menhaden

Largescale industrial menhaden fishing in the Gulf accounts for more than one billion pounds of this forage fish harvested each year, making it Louisiana’s largest fishery. Pogie boats often operate near shore, netting thousands of other fish species, including red drum and speckled trout. Anglers have fought to restrict these operations in the surf zone but continue to face opposition from menhaden processors citing economic impacts. In 2022, the TRCP will continue to work with partners and scientists who study the bycatch of such operations and pursue legislation to further reduce the impact of the industrial menhaden fishery on sportfish in the Gulf, with a particular focus on protecting beaches and other shallow-water habitat.

 

Using the Power of Habitat to Boost Water Resources

Western watersheds, such as the Colorado River and Rio Grande, face increasing pressure from wildfire and drought. Natural infrastructure approaches—such as the protection and restoration of headwater wetlands and riparian areas—have been shown to effectively reduce natural hazard risks while benefiting water users and watersheds. In 2022, TRCP is working to prioritize the implementation of natural infrastructure and nature-based solutions to address Western water challenges in various federal and state policy initiatives, with a focus on the 2023 Farm Bill and this year’s Water Resources Development Act. We’ll also be pushing for the latter legislation to improve Everglades restoration funding and build on the successful construction of projects to help restore natural waterflows.

 

Conserving Migration Corridors

Beyond the wildlife crossing pilot program included in recently passed legislation, additional solutions are needed to conserve big game migration corridors across the country. The TRCP and partner groups are continuing to work with state and federal land managers to increase investments in research and corridor mapping, improve interagency coordination, and conserve corridors on public land.

 

For more information, and to take action in support of these critical conservation priorities in the year ahead, visit the TRCP Action Center.

Kristyn Brady

December 15, 2021

10 Conservation Achievements We’re Proud of in 2021

Your support helped to make these organizational and legislative successes possible

Setting the Agenda

In early 2021, the TRCP staff clearly communicated top hunter and angler priorities to the incoming Biden-Harris Administration and members of the 117th Congress. Our top ten must-do list for the administration and top five priorities for Congress were among our most popular blog posts of the year, making it clear that American hunters and anglers are engaged in these policy discussions—and we let decision-makers know that sportsmen and sportswomen are paying attention. At the 100-day mark, we’d seen progress on many, but not all, of our top priorities, and conservation has advanced even further in the remainder of the year. Read on for details.

 

Strengthening a Popular Farm Bill Conservation Program

In April 2021, the Biden-Harris Administration implemented multiple recommendations from the TRCP and our private land conservation partners to boost shrinking enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program. These changes will not only help to pull the CRP out of a slump, they will also better support farmers and ranchers who want to incorporate conservation into their business plans. Learn more about Farm Bill conservation programs here.

 

BLM Colorado
Helping to Secure Conservation’s Role in “30 by 30”

Almost immediately after the inauguration, the news of the administration’s support for a global initiative to conserve 30 percent of the nation’s lands and waters by 2030 had left some landowners, politicians, industry executives, and even conservation groups fearful about what exactly this would mean. Fortunately, the voices of sportsmen and sportswomen—including those behind huntfish3030.com—were heard, and the White House’s 10-year “America the Beautiful” initiative includes key TRCP priorities, like expanding habitat conservation, increasing outdoor recreation access, incentivizing the voluntary conservation of private land, and creating jobs through conservation. Here’s what you need to know about 30 by 30.

 

Creating More Certainty for Special Places

After years of facing conservation rollbacks in bucket-list hunting and fishing destinations, hunters and anglers finally got some good news in 2021. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it would restore conservation safeguards for 9 million acres of the Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska, and the public can weigh in on the detailed plan until mid-January. The EPA also announced new steps to permanently protect Alaska’s Bristol Bay from mining, while the Ruby Mountains Protection Act—a TRCP priority, given its impact on Nevada’s largest mule deer herd—was debated and voted out of committee. Learn more at sportsmenfortherubies.com.

 

USFWS Alaska
Restoring Clean Water Protections

In an important step for fish and waterfowl, the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers began to reconsider which waters and wetlands should be protected under the Clean Water Act, with formal feedback provided by the hunting and fishing community. This marks the fourth pendulum swing since a series of Supreme Court cases created confusion in the early 2000s. For more detail, check out our brief timeline on the history of the Clean Water Act.

 

USFWS National Elk Refuge
Conserving Migration Corridors

Throughout the year, new commitments were made by the USDA, the Department of the Interior, and the governors of New Mexico, Nevada, and Colorado to conserve and enhance wildlife migration corridors—a signature TRCP issue. Learn more on our resource page devoted to all things big game migration.

 

BLM Wyoming
Creating Conservation Jobs

Many key priorities of the TRCP and our partners are also included in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was signed by President Biden in November. We successfully pushed for a revolutionary program to build more wildlife-friendly highway crossings and once-in-a-generation investments in stream connectivity, forest health, coastal and estuarine habitat conservation, water quality, and water conservation projects across the West.

 

Craig Okraska / Maven
Unlocking Public Land Access

In 2021, lawmakers reintroduced and advanced the TRCP-led MAPLand Act, which would require public land agencies to digitize their paper maps and access information. Once accomplished, this would help you identify more inroads to public hunting and fishing areas using smartphone apps and GPS devices. After clearing committees in both chambers, the legislation is poised for floor votes that could send it to President Biden’s desk next year.

 

USDA
Boosting Efforts to Study and Stop the Spread of CWD

This summer—as chronic wasting disease outbreaks traced back to captive deer operations in Texas, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Minnesota highlighted the need for definitive federal action—we worked with lawmakers to craft comprehensive chronic wasting disease legislation that would establish substantial funding streams for management activities, education, and research priorities. We’re very proud to stand behind the bill that was introduced by Representatives Ron Kind (D-Wis.) and Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.) in October and passed by the House just last week.

 

Gregg Flores / Rachel Smiley / Kelsey Johnson / Durrell Smith
Highlighting Individuals Who Are Shaping Conservation’s Future

Part of the fun of what we do is making you aware of the hunters and anglers out there who help to power conservation without asking for any acclaim. This is just a small window into the community that we feel lucky to be a part of. If you need some uplifting reading this holiday season, check out our Q&As with Durrell Smith, Kelsey Johnson, Gregg Flores, and Rachel Smiley. Be inspired by what Clint Bentley was able to accomplish for Nevada’s bighorn sheep populations, just by speaking up. Let Austin Snow take you along on his hunt with Steven Rinella and Janis Putelis of MeatEater. Or take just a few minutes to watch Suzy Weiser, Charles Garcia, and Geo Romero explain why conservation in the Colorado River Basin is personal for them.

 

That wraps up our top ten for the year. Thanks for following along and supporting our work to create conservation success across the country. It wouldn’t be possible without you. Want to do even more for habitat, access, and the outdoor recreation economy? Donate to the TRCP before December 31, and SITKA will match some or all of your gift. Learn more here.

Email subscribers: The December 17th Roosevelt Report is the last of the year, and we’ll be back on January 7, 2022. Want to get on the list for the next one? Subscribe here.

 

Top photo courtesy of Kyle Mlynar.

Tiffany Turner

December 1, 2021

Three Important Forest Health Bills We’re Watching

This legislation could boost habitat, climate resilience, and rural economies—here’s what you need to know

With the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law in November, a significant commitment was made to our nation’s land, water, and wildlife.

The bill’s $8-billion investment in our forests, in particular, will support federal, state, Tribal, and private forest restoration efforts, while making these landscapes more resilient to wildfire, drought, pests, and diseases—the spread of which is now fueled by climate change.

New data confirm that climate-driven events are a part of our daily lives and threaten our hunting and fishing opportunities, but there are solutions all around us in the land, coasts, and trees that also support fish and wildlife. In fact, U.S. forests and forest products currently capture and store nearly 15 percent of our annual carbon emissions.

With the right policies, our nation’s forests can do even more. Here are three forestry bills we’re following closely that you should know about.

America’s Revegetation and Carbon Sequestration Act

America’s Revegetation and Carbon Sequestration Act would establish a national revegetation program to weave together fragmented landscapes and improve habitat connectivity. The legislation would prioritize ecological- and landscape-appropriate revegetation, incentivize forest management for enhanced carbon sequestration, and support targeted research to better connect between forest and rangeland planning and carbon storage. Additional provisions would create improvements in the entire forestry pipeline, from nursery inventory and capacity to market creation for low-value forest products.

We’re particularly interested in the abandoned mine land revegetation pilot program created in the bill, which offers a unique opportunity to rehabilitate regional landscapes and economies by creating new jobs. The program would provide financial assistance to establish native trees, shrubs, or grasses on federal, state, Tribal, and privately mined lands. These lands are often overrun with non-native, invasive vegetation and shrubs that have little benefit to wildlife and fail to add capacity in terms of carbon storage.

Expert forestry witnesses recently testified in support of the act during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources hearing. The bill will need a committee markup before moving to the floor for passage.

National Prescribed Fire Act

We believe the science-backed approach of active forest management—including prescribed fire, paired with mechanical treatments—is crucial to reduce the risks of catastrophic wildfire and restore ecosystems. Forest systems that are not actively managed are at greater risk for not only wildfire but also pests and disease.

But forest management is needed at a greater pace and scale than agencies can handle right now. The National Prescribed Fire Act would provide dedicated funding for prescribed fire projects and establish a workforce-development program and prescribed fire training center to help agency staff get equipped. The bill also recognizes the science and wisdom of long-standing practices by indigenous communities to yield balanced, diverse landscapes and improved native wildlife habitat.

Expert forestry witnesses recently testified in support of the act during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources hearing. The bill will need a committee markup before moving to the floor for passage.

Rural Forest Markets Act

Introduced earlier this year in both chambers, the Rural Forest Markets Act recognizes our farmers and foresters as important land stewards by providing them with loan guarantees and incentivizing climate-smart practices. Access to funding will remove barriers for rural farmers and foresters to participate in carbon markets, providing new income sources and related forestry jobs. The sustainable forest management that this bill promotes will give a boost to the timber market while providing habitat and climate solutions. The next step for this bill is a hearing and mark-up in either the Senate or House agriculture committees.

 

To be the first to hear about opportunities to support legislation that improves habitat while strengthening our country’s climate resilience, sign up for our emails.

 

Top photo courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service.

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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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