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Kristyn Brady

April 27, 2022

Senators Introduce Legislation to Study and Stop the Spread of CWD

The Chronic Wasting Disease Research and Management Act moved swiftly through the House last fall and hunters have urged the Senate to pass its version without delay

In an important step forward for chronic wasting disease solutions today, Senators John Hoeven (R-N.D.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) introduced legislation to address a host of state and federal needs in the fight to contain CWD, which is a serious threat to the future of deer hunting in the U.S.

The Chronic Wasting Disease Research and Management Act calls for an annual $70-million investment through fiscal year 2028 split between CWD management and research priorities.

“For years, hunters have been calling for a comprehensive legislative solution to help combat the rapid spread of chronic wasting disease, which threatens the very future of wild deer and deer hunting in America—this bill addresses multiple facets of this complex problem,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We were thrilled to see it move so quickly through the House this fall and we’re proud to see the bipartisan support this legislation already has in the Senate. Sportsmen and sportswomen look forward to working with lawmakers to see it through to the finish line, so we can support states in their ongoing response to CWD, while conducting research that will lead to better long-term solutions.”

Introduction, debate, and floor passage of the House version all occurred between October and December of last year. Since that time, hunters have been calling on senators to step up and act swiftly to send legislation to the president’s desk.

In both bills, $35 million per year for research would focus on:

  • Methods to effectively detect CWD in live and harvested deer and the surrounding environment
  • Best practices for reducing CWD occurrence through sustainable harvest of deer and other cervids
  • Factors contributing to spread of the disease locally, such as animal movement and scavenging

Another $35 million per year for management, including surveillance and testing, would prioritize:

  • Areas with the highest incidence of CWD
  • Areas responding to new outbreaks of CWD
  • Areas without CWD that show the greatest risk of CWD emerging
  • Jurisdictions demonstrating the greatest financial commitment to managing, monitoring, surveying, and researching CWD
  • Efforts to develop comprehensive policies and programs focused on CWD management

The bill also includes authorization for federal, state, and Tribal agencies to develop educational materials to inform the public on CWD and directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture to review its Herd Certification Program, which accredits captive operations as “low-risk” for CWD contamination but has proven inadequate to stem the spread of the disease.

Other Senators supporting the bill include Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.).

Learn more about chronic wasting disease and what’s at stake for wild deer and deer hunting here.

 

Top photo courtesy of Russell Wooldridge / Maryland DNR via Flickr.

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Andrew Earl

April 21, 2022

Six Conservation Priorities Congress Should Tackle Before August Recess

As session days become more limited, lawmakers should seal the deal on these conservation wins 

Spend any time around federal policymaking and you’ll quickly get a sense of the rhythm of legislating. To perhaps oversimplify things, Congress and the administration spar over funding levels in the spring, make the rounds to constituents during August recess, and do last-minute legislating in December.

This tempo, however, is complicated during election years. Incumbent legislators need victories to bring back to constituents in the summer and floor-time in the fall is eaten up by campaigning. If major legislation isn’t passed before August, the next opportunity is often a lame duck session in December.

So, while not the very last chance to act, the next few months will be critical to the future of some conservation solutions. Here’s what we want to see between now and early August.

Floor Action on the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, if enacted, would invest nearly $1.4 billion annually in state and Tribal wildlife agencies for proactive conservation of thousands of species vulnerable to listing under the Endangered Species Act and also provides funding for collaborative partnerships to voluntarily conserve habitat and recover species already listed as threatened or endangered. In short, the bill would make a generational investment in wildlife habitat conservation.

The House Natural Resources Committee passed its version of RAWA earlier this year, followed by the Senate EPW Committee earlier this month. Now, both pieces of legislation await consideration before their respective chambers. While differences between the bills remain, and negotiations over the bill’s ‘pay-for’ are ongoing, RAWA is further along than ever before and primed for floor consideration. The TRCP, our partners, and conservationists nationally continue to work with lawmakers and staff to see this landmark legislation pass.

Passage of the Water Resources Development Act

The Water Resources Development Act authorizes water management and conservation projects at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The two-year bill is critical to water infrastructure maintenance and management in the United States, affecting not just commerce and agriculture, but also fish habitat and aquatic ecosystems.

House and Senate committees began holding hearings on the 2022 WRDA earlier this year and heard feedback on priorities for the bill in March. The TRCP and our partner groups have been working with key lawmakers in both chambers to include provisions that support natural infrastructure projects—those that use the power of habitat to solve infrastructure challenges or even replace gray infrastructure—and build climate resilience.

The House and the Senate are expected to consider and pass their own versions of the 2022 WRDA in the coming months.

With some provisions in the existing 2020 WRDA scheduled to expire in December, lawmakers will look to align the House and Senate versions as soon as possible and send a final bill to the president’s desk. For that reason, it’s vital that the TRCP and our partner groups continue to be engaged and ensure that conservation measures remain in the final bill.

Senate Introduction of the CWD Research and Management Act

In late 2021, the Chronic Wasting Disease Research and Management Act was introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps Ron Kind and Glenn Thompson and was quickly passed by an overwhelming margin (393-33)—but we still need the Senate to act. The TRCP and partner organizations focused on wild deer and deer hunting are actively working with a bipartisan group of senators to bring forth the bill’s introduction in that chamber.

If enacted, the bill would provide $35 million annually to state agencies for CWD suppression and an additional $35 million for research into the disease and management techniques. We look forward to the bill’s introduction and expeditious consideration in the coming months.

Importantly, the bill also directs the USDA to carry out a public review of the Herd Certification Program, which is the federal standard by which states accredit captive cervid operations as “low-risk” for CWD spread. This review is critical now more than ever, as CWD detections originating from HCP-accredited facilities increase in frequency and voluntary participation in the program continues to decline.

Bipartisan Introduction of the North American Grasslands Conservation Act

For the better part of two years, the TRCP and several partner groups—including Pheasants Forever, National Wildlife Federation, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, and others—have been developing a first-of-its-kind national grassland conservation proposal, to enable partner-led conservation of our nation’s most imperiled habitat. In doing so, we’ve gathered feedback from state and Tribal agencies, conservation groups, land trusts, and, importantly, the broader agricultural community. The biggest threat to our remaining grass and sagebrush ecosystems is development, so ensuring that the program meets the needs of farmers and ranchers is paramount to the success of the bill. Senator Wyden has agreed to lead on the legislation in the Senate, and we’re continuing to work with like-minded Republicans. We look forward to having a bipartisan bill introduced before the August recess.

Committee Action on an Outdoor Recreation Package

Late last year, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Manchin and Ranking Member Barrasso introduced the Outdoor Recreation Act. Among the bill’s provisions is one that would direct federal land managers to consider opening lands for recreation during shoulder seasons, where appropriate. It would also direct managers to consider recreation improvements during management plan revisions and provide financial and technical assistance to “gateway” communities adjacent to federal lands.

Shortly after introduction, the committee held a hearing on the Outdoor Recreation Act along with a number of other bills aimed at improving recreation permitting, access, and infrastructure. The committee is expected to take up and approve a revised package of bills in the coming months. The TRCP, our partners, and many constituents of the broader $778-million outdoor recreation industry are excited about the opportunity to advance bipartisan recreation legislation. We’ll continue to work alongside lawmakers and committee staff to bring about its timely consideration.

Hearings on 2023 Farm Bill Priorities

The 2018 Farm Bill expires in September 2023, which is not quite as far off as it seems. With that in mind, the House and Senate Agriculture Committees have started holding hearings to review and gather feedback on the successes (and failures) of the 2018 Farm Bill.

The TRCP, through its Agriculture and Wildlife Working Group and other coalitions, is currently developing a conservation and forestry platform for the 2023 bill. We’re workshopping policy ideas and funding priorities, ground truthing them with state agencies and partners, and working with lawmakers to draft legislation. We look forward to a 2023 Farm Bill that builds on the successes of 2018, invests in conservation and forestry, and benefits fish and wildlife.

This snapshot of legislation in progress provides a glimpse of what the TRCP and our partner groups will be prioritizing on Capitol Hill in the coming months. Congress has some big opportunities ahead in 2022, and amidst it all, conservation continues to drive consensus in Washington. To track these legislative priorities along with us, sign up for TRCP’s weekly Roosevelt Report.

 

Top photo courtesy of the USDA via Flickr.

Kristyn Brady

April 19, 2022

Outdoor Recreation Spending in PA Is Up 26%

New research finds that hunting, fishing, biking, camping, and other activities drove $58 billion in statewide spending

A new economic study finds that outdoor recreation in Pennsylvania, including hunting and fishing, generated $58 billion in 2020—that’s 26 percent more than in 2016. The state’s wealth of natural resources and rich outdoor traditions also supported more than 430,000 jobs—up 10 percent—with Pennsylvanians earning $20 billion in salaries and wages.

The research, conducted by Southwick Associates for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, showed that hunters and anglers, in particular, spent $1.6 billion, or 23 percent more, to pursue their passions. Combined with activities like biking, camping, and snow sports, this helped to contribute more than $32 billion to Pennsylvania’s state GDP and over $6.5 billion in tax revenue at the federal, state, and local levels.

“The power of outdoor recreation spending in PA is undeniable, particularly since hunting, fishing, and boating provided a real lifeline to so many during the pandemic,” says Alexandra Kozak, Pennsylvania field manager for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Conservation of our natural resources is critical for this to continue. That’s why our decision-makers should prioritize legislation that helps to invest in better habitat, cleaner water, and stronger outdoor recreation businesses.”

The TRCP and its partners plan to point to the strength of the outdoor recreation economy when advocating for investments in Pennsylvania’s Growing Greener III program, a Clean Streams Fund, and other dedicated funding for conservation.

Read the full economic report here.

 

Photo by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program via flickr

Andrew Earl

April 1, 2022

7 Ways the President Wants Congress to Invest in Conservation Next Year

Here’s what the Biden Administration is prioritizing in its FY2023 budget request

The White House has released the president’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2023, which contains some important line items for conservation. The document is meant to guide Congress as lawmakers begin to negotiate funding levels for the next fiscal year.

According to the proposal, the Biden Administration is focusing conservation investments in several key areas and agencies, in part to tackle climate change and drive implementation of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which passed late last year.

Here are seven highlights that could affect hunters and anglers.

A Big Bump for South Florida Water Quality

Notably, the president has prioritized a $57-million increase—and over $400 million total—to support restoration in the Everglades, one of our most unique and ecologically significant ecosystems. This is in addition to the $1.1 billion committed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Hunters and anglers have been calling for full funding of Everglades projects since last fall. Take action here to add your voice.

Full Funding for Farm Bill Forest Efforts

Under the president’s request, the popular Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program would receive an increase from $28 million to $80 million, which is the full amount authorized in the 2018 Farm Bill. The CFLRP is one of our most successful programs for restoring the condition of forest habitats on private lands that benefit deer, wild turkeys, and so many of the species we care about. The budget also includes substantial increases to USDA Forest Health Management accounts.

A Milestone for Refuges

The White House is recommending that $581 million, or $62 million over FY22 enacted levels, go to the National Wildlife Refuge System. This would be the largest budget ever for management of these public lands, where access to hunting and fishing has grown substantially in recent years.

Steady Funding for Waterfowl Habitat

The administration also wants to sustain funding of $46.5 million for the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, our nation’s most successful public-private partnership conservation program. Strong support for NAWCA restoration could also be good news for grasslands, if lawmakers embrace the idea of a North American Grasslands Conservation Act this year.

Certainty for Local Wildlife Management

The administration would direct an additional $10 million dollars for the State and Tribal Wildlife Grant Program, which supports state efforts to manage fish and wildlife species. This would bring total annual funding for this program up to $82 million.

Boosting Conservation in Underserved Communities

The budget also includes a $54-million increase—from $32 million up to $86 million—for climate resilience programs at the Bureau of Indian Affairs and a $46-million increase—for a total of $140 million—for Environmental Justice grants at the EPA.

Investing to Reach Climate Goals

Finally, the president’s budget boasts nearly $45 billion in governmentwide climate spending, a near 50-percent increase from FY22 enacted levels. This proposed funding would run the gamut from climate-smart education programs to drought mitigation and carbon market development, and it is intended to move the United States closer to achieving the climate goals outlined when Biden first came into office. The TRCP and our partner groups continue share the perspective of sportsmen and sportswomen experiencing climate impacts and proposing solutions to the administration and Congress.

 

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, Appropriators in Congress will have the final say on spending levels for Fiscal Year 2023, a process now underway on Capitol Hill. The sporting and conservation communities are continually providing feedback on funding priorities and demand for programs on the landscape and look forward to building on these efforts in the year to come.

 

Top photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Midwest Region via Flickr

Andrew Earl

March 14, 2022

More Funding Will Go to CWD Containment as Congress Agrees on Spending

Chronic wasting disease containment at the state level got a necessary increase as Congress passed legislation to fund the government through the remainder of the 2022 fiscal year

With last week’s passage of omnibus legislation to fund the government, Congress has opted to make $10 million available to state wildlife agencies for CWD management through September 30, the end of the 2022 fiscal year. This is an increase of $3 million from the previous year and double the funding made available in FY 2020.

Dollars are administered by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Unfortunately, even with the increase, they won’t go as far as is needed.

In October 2021, the agency awarded 28 cooperative agreements totaling $5.7 million to state and Tribal agencies for CWD suppression. Unfortunately, 36 other proposals were left unmet, due to limited funding. Since then, CWD has been detected for the first time in Alabama, Louisiana, and Idaho. There have also been major outbreaks in wild and farmed deer in Iowa, Wisconsin, Wyoming, and Texas.

“The unchecked spread of chronic wasting disease across the United States poses an existential threat to deer hunting, which generates $40 billion in annual spending, and as the status quo on the landscape continues to worsen, the inevitable costs of managing CWD continue to balloon,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “This increase in federal funding is a positive step forward, but more work remains to be done, including securing investments in research that will make disease management more effective in the long-term.”

One state relying on the APHIS funding to support management efforts is Iowa, which received $200,000 in October 2021. The state has been aggressively testing for the disease since 2002, when CWD was first detected in nearby Wisconsin. It wasn’t until 10 years later that CWD was detected in Iowa. Since that time, the Iowa departments of Natural Resources and Agriculture have continued statewide testing and targeted harvests to manage the spread. Still, the disease has been detected in wild herds across a total of 10 counties—breaking new ground particularly in the past two years.

Many states have come to realize that the most effective strategies for addressing the spread of CWD rely on hunter and landowner participation. The Iowa DNR is using the funds to develop access agreements for hunters on private acreage within endemic zones and authorizing the harvest of an additional buck in specified management zones. Importantly, the agency will also study public perception and understanding of CWD and related management techniques to grow public support and encourage participation among the hunting and non-hunting public moving forward.

Other states are using funds to increase the availability of carcass disposal and testing sites or develop educational materials. The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is researching the potential use of dogs to detect the disease in live cervids. Here’s how South Dakota used its funding in 2020.

The TRCP and its partners pushed for this additional FY22 funding to be made available through APHIS, but the hunting community is also urging decision-makers to do more.

For starters, the Senate should take up and pass the CWD Research and Management Act, which passed the House of Representatives by an overwhelming margin in late 2021. That bill would immediately authorize $35 million annually for cooperative agreements with states and Tribes, as well as an additional $35 million to support critical research into the disease. Hunters can take action in support of the bill here.

Learn more about chronic wasting disease and what’s at stake for hunters here.

 

Top photo courtesy of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries via Flickr.

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In the last two years, policymakers have committed to significant investments in conservation, infrastructure, and reversing climate change. Hunters and anglers continue to be vocal about the opportunity to create conservation jobs, restore habitat, and boost fish and wildlife populations. Support solutions now.

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