Indiana NRCS Conservation Easement
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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.
Hunters and anglers often engage in conservation through our words and actions, speaking up for sound policies and volunteering to plant native grasses, pick up trash, or band birds. But we also contribute financially to conservation through excise taxes on our hunting, shooting, and fishing equipment, including ammo and boat fuel.
This funding is sorely needed by state agencies that carry out habitat conservation and upkeep of outdoor recreation access points and facilities—and, fortunately, there’s quite a bit more of it this year. It was announced late last week that sportsmen and sportswomen generated a record-breaking $1.5 billion in conservation dollars for the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program.
You might know this funding source as the combined result of the Pittman-Robertson Act, or Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, which created an excise tax on firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment in 1937, and the Dingell-Johnson Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Act, which created a similar tax on fishing tackle, boat equipment, and boat fuel in 1950.
The hunting and shooting side of our community brought in over $1.1 billion for conservation in the past year, while the fishing and boating side generated almost $400 million. Together, this shatters the previous high mark of $808 million distributed for conservation in 2015.
The Associated Press reports that Texas will receive the largest pot of funding ($71 million) followed by Alaska ($66 million) based on land and water area and the number of hunting and fishing license holders in the state. A state-by-state listing of how the funding will be spent can be found here.
To date, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has distributed more than $25.5 billion in Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program apportionments for state conservation and recreation projects, according to a Department of the Interior press release. The recipient state wildlife agencies have matched these funds with approximately $8.5 billion, primarily from hunting and fishing license revenues.
In the final days of 2019, Congress passed a package of its annual appropriations bills that implemented an important change to the Pittman-Robertson Act: Hunting and shooting equipment excise taxes can now be used to help recruit, retain, and reactivate new hunters and recreational shooters, a provision that was made in Dingell-Johnson and that successfully helped to grow the ranks of fishing participation in recent years.
The TRCP and our partners pushed for this change and, at the time of the bill’s passage, we called it “a landmark achievement” for the 116th Congress.
Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson are just two of the cornerstone sources of conservation funding in America, but we rely on many other federal investments in our lands and waters. Click here for a refresher on where your conservation dollars come from.
Top photo by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation via flickr
In 1994, John Annoni started out as a schoolteacher with a simple goal: To introduce a new generation of youth to America’s outdoor heritage through after-school activities. That effort has now turned into a life-changing year-round experience known as Camp Compass, where volunteer mentors make a difference in the inner city by sharing their knowledge of hunting, fishing, archery, and other outdoor activities, while providing tutoring assistance and much-needed social guidance for students aged 10 to 18. This award-winning non-profit program gives young people the exposure to outdoor activities that Annoni discovered as a child only with the help of books, relatives, neighbors, and his limited resources. We are inspired by his commitment to empowering others through these experiences, and we’re proud to share his words with you.
Here is his story.
They say if you don’t get love in one place, you’ll find it in another. I’m grateful that Mother Nature embraced me.
I was introduced to the outdoors while I was trying to avoid abuse in my home in the housing projects of Allentown, Pa. I have a chapter in one of my books about seeing a pheasant in the local junkyard, while I was hunting starlings and rats. It was quite a time in my life for joy and pain.
My grandmother got me scholarships to summer camp—big shout out to Camp Horseshoe!—where I fished and learned about firearms. I also had a few uncles who showed their love by spending time with me in the outdoors, and that helped me grow in my teen years.
These days, my dream hunt would be west of the Mississippi River, because in 33 years of teaching I have never had a week off during the fall mule deer, antelope, elk, or duck seasons to head out West. I’m not allowed by contract to have more than two days off back-to-back, so by the time I could get there, I’d have to turn around and come back. I just hope that one day I can make the trip, be around good people, and chase critters with time on my side.
I’m what could be considered a non-traditional hunter and fisherman, because I wasn’t brought in by my immediate family, so I guess my viewpoint on conservation is a bit non-traditional as well. To me, the most important “critters” we can help are America’s youth, because they will affect wildlife with their future decisions and actions. There is an opportunity to use conservation activities to empower youth, and even adults, and give them the tools needed to navigate life’s challenges. For me, conservation is a battery; it powers the outdoor experiences that help to grow others.
In some circles, the biggest conservation challenge is about animals and flora. In my case, and in a lot of places across America, the human is the one trying and needing to be saved. If you are getting shot at, or getting things taken, or you don’t have the chance for experiential learning, your chances for a decent quality of life are diminished. Conservation is so separate from the daily grind of the concrete world, until it is introduced and used as a support mechanism or an escape.
There are all kinds of people who hunt and fish. We are selling ourselves short if we don’t recognize that. The opportunities available in the outdoors, in fact, are just as diverse, but the space is not very inclusive. And that’s what I’m trying to change seven days a week. Using a bunch of equity, diversity and inclusion words or workshops to make us think we should care, or that we are making progress, pales in comparison to real proof that we all want to be together in a common space for a common reason.
It’s important for me to be involved in conservation because I believe in what conservation has to offer those who participate in it, what it does for wildlife, and how it molds us as humans.
Many of TRCP’s members hunt, fish, camp, and enjoy Pennsylvania’s abundant natural resources every year, and we want future generations to have these opportunities, as well. But there are changes occurring in the waters we wade and forests and fields we scout. Agricultural runoff and abandoned mines pollute nearly 30 percent—more than 25,000 miles—of our rivers and streams and degrade hundreds of thousands of acres of land, robbing sportsmen and sportswomen of access to quality places to hunt and fish.
To support habitat and access while boosting our economy, Governor Wolf and the General Assembly should provide adequate funding for a Growing Greener III program—which has a long track record of proven success in conserving the state’s fish and wildlife habitat—and a Clean Streams Fund using resources already granted to the state as part of national economic recovery efforts.
That is why TRCP was so pleased to see Wolf’s announcement last week about a plan to prioritize federal American Rescue Plan Act funding for conservation, recreation, and preservation. This announcement, along with accompanying legislation in each chamber of the General Assembly, would provide the funding needed to create jobs while conserving natural resources that increase our quality of life.
Specifically, S.B. 832 and H.B. 1901 would create a funding source known as the Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program to help farmers implement conservation practices that keep valuable topsoil in place and reduce potentially harmful material from reaching local waterways. Polluted runoff is not just an issue for anglers seeking clean water and abundant fisheries. Restoring the health of agricultural land to reduce runoff will boost farm businesses and provide meadow and woodlot habitats for just about all the game species we pursue—from ducks to whitetail deer.
We’ve already seen increased hunting opportunities and more abundant wildlife after completion of just a portion of the state’s plan to send fewer nutrients downstream to the Chesapeake Bay by 2025, also known as Pennsylvania’s Phase 3 Watershed Implementation Plan. It includes several new initiatives and accelerated strategies that will benefit anglers, hunters, and anyone who enjoys the outdoors or cares about clean water. The governor’s plan, combined with the legislation discussed above, would hasten these efforts to restore Pennsylvania’s impaired waters across the Commonwealth.
S.B. 832 and H.B. 1901 would go a long way toward helping us conserve Pennsylvania’s water resources and expand access to outdoor recreation, while shoring up the health of vital industries like tourism and agriculture. If you value our state’s coldwater fisheries, big game and bird habitat, and widespread public access to outdoor recreation that supports local jobs, do NOT wait. Act now and urge decision-makers to support S.B. 832 and H.B. 1901 today.
Top photo courtesy of Joanna Gilkeson / USFWS 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