May 19, 2022

The Journey Toward Greater Inclusion in the Outdoors

Why training on diversity, equity, and inclusion must remain a priority at the state agencies that carry out conservation in America

On April 25, Colorado Parks and Wildlife director Dan Prenzlow was placed on administrative leave following remarks he gave at the 9th annual Colorado Parks and Wildlife Partners in the Outdoors conference in Vail. Specifically, Prenzlow recognized conference organizer Alease “Aloe” Lee, a Black woman and the CPW statewide partnership coordinator, noting that she was standing “at the back of the bus” in the room of more than 500 people.

Whether Prenzlow’s remarks were part of a pattern or merely insensitive, Governor Polis did the right thing in suspending him and launching an investigation amid charges of longstanding racism in the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.

The irony is that the remarks came at a conference designed to welcome new and diverse voices to Colorado’s outdoors. The issue of equity and inclusion in the outdoors is finally being taken seriously across the country, including in federal and state government. Colorado deserves credit for being toward the front of this effort, as evidenced by the Vail conference’s goal: “to cultivate common ground, explore best practices of partnering, and design collaborative solutions with diverse voices and stakeholders to conserve Colorado’s outdoor heritage.”

But the Vail event also shows what a slow and often difficult process this will be across the country. While we are working to help break down centuries of overt and subtle racism, many of the leaders in the conservation community are older, male, and white. I am one of those people. It is, unfortunately, not surprising that phrases like “back of the bus” are repeated without thinking about the root of the phrase and its impacts on people who were, before the civil rights movement, made to sit at the back of the bus.

The process before us will be one of intensive learning and introspection, and one that requires patience and humility. Undoubtedly, there will be more insensitive comments at public forums. We must learn what we can from these incidents, including what happened in Colorado, and take more steps toward getting it right.

What we can’t do is stop having these conversations. Some states will say that hosting a conference like Colorado’s is simply a recipe for disaster as it will expose fissures and potentially get someone fired. Such an attitude will not move conservation, or the country, in the direction we need to go.

There are things we can all do to make the journey forward go more smoothly. Training on diversity, equity, and inclusion must remain a priority for state natural resource agency leadership and staff, who regularly interact with the hunting and fishing community—and are, in fact, a critical part of the R3 work required to grow outdoor recreation’s reach. And there should be little tolerance for those who, despite such training, continue to make insensitive or racist remarks.

As we continue to embark on this journey, I ask our Black, Brown, Indigenous and other communities, who have been subjected to centuries of discrimination, to engage with us and help us do better. But ultimately, it’s the current, predominately white leadership that must embrace change. And when people show up in good faith to learn, there should be a safe space to question long-held beliefs and assumptions and understand how phrases and words impact different groups of people.

We need to get this right. TRCP’s mission is to guarantee ALL Americans quality places to hunt and fish, and we need to make sure that the conservation community reflects all the diverse voices of our great nation. That doesn’t mean that the process will be easy or quick, but it’s the right thing to do.


Top photo by Rimlight Media.

3 Responses to “The Journey Toward Greater Inclusion in the Outdoors”

  1. While I thought that the comment was insensitive, the more important idea is the following acronym: Diversity, Inclusion, Equity = D.I.E! We should strive for EQUALITY! We have been a diverse Nation since before our founding. We’ve been trying to be inclusive despite several (Democrat) missteps. Let’s not judge others (at all!) by the “content of their Character” and not by “the color of their skin.”

  2. Bill Crumrine

    Granted Dan Prenzlow’s remark was not given much thought, the whole situation is blown way out of proportion. Prenzlow should have thought prior to speaking. The Rosa Park’s incident happened, as I recall from history, over 75 years ago and has since been settled. Move on and bee done with it.

  3. Mark Stuckenbruck

    Respectfully, I wouldn’t say these issues are “settled”. They are definitely not. Telling people to “just get over it” isn’t constructive. Is this situation being blown out of proportion? Possibly and maybe even probably. But it needs to be recognized and dealt with so that people can learn to be better.

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December 16, 2021

The Importance of Your End-of-Year Donation

Why so many organizations are vying for your attention right now and how your support drives what we do

It’s December, so you (and everyone else) are getting mail and emails about year-end charitable giving. It’s easy to find this annoying and immediately send them to the trash bin.

Before you do this, I’d like to share more about why we ask you to give.

At TRCP, we have an annual budget of about $7 million. This pays for the 37 staff members across the country who mobilize hunters and anglers around key issues, like conserving migration corridors, enhancing private land habitat, or protecting the base of the marine ecosystem. These are the folks who organize small businesses to weigh in and convene the disparate elements of the conservation community behind common causes.

Your funds pay for the government affairs and communications teams who design and implement complicated advocacy campaigns that help make ideas like the Great American Outdoors Act a reality and drive legislation like the pending MAPLand Act to expand your access to the outdoors. And your funds support the unseen infrastructure at TRCP that ensures the organization can maintain the highest levels of financial efficiency and transparency on Charity Navigator, GuideStar, and the Better Business Bureau. (Still have questions about how we solicit and handle donations? View our Gift Acceptance Policy or email our chief development officer, Jenni Henry.)

The TRCP is not like most conservation organizations. We do not have a funding model based on dues or banquets, because we don’t want to compete with our 61 partner organizations. We don’t do direct mail for the same reason, and because that process costs a lot of money to raise a small amount. In fact, membership is free at TRCP, because we want you engaged in and informed about the most important conservation issues. And we don’t have a beautiful quarterly magazine for you to enjoy around the holiday fire, because those are also expensive to produce.

About two-thirds of our $7-million budget comes from more than 40 foundations, and the great majority of this funding is restricted for specific projects—like migration corridor conservation in the Rockies or menhaden conservation in the Atlantic and Gulf. The remaining one-third of our annual budget comes from the more than 100 conservation-minded companies that support TRCP in some way and from you—our 125,000+ members, supporters, and advocates.

The importance of individual contributions cannot be overstated. Because your donations are generally not restricted, we can use the funds where we think they are most necessary. This could mean investing in key issues well before they are on the public radar. For example, the TRCP began investing in identifying natural infrastructure solutions more than two years ago, and this work came to fruition earlier this fall, when Congress passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

Your support also allows us to move quickly to address emerging threats and opportunities. We have done this in the past when, for example, a misguided member of Congress decided that it was a good idea to sell off public lands to help balance the budget.

So, before you hit ‘delete’ on an email from TRCP asking for your support, remember why your gift—no matter the size—is important. If you do choose to support our work financially, thank you. Click here to make a tax-deductible year-end donation to the TRCP.

Thank you for supporting TRCP’s mission of guaranteeing all Americans quality places to hunt and fish. Happy holidays!

October 18, 2021

This Is the #1 Threat to Deer Hunting

The movement of live deer is supercharging the spread of chronic wasting disease, and the captive deer industry must be held accountable

It’s a fantastic time of year to be in the woods, and as much as we’d love to just let you enjoy your deer season, without any nagging sense of unease, there is a critical need for hunters to speak out about the rapid spread of chronic wasting disease.

By now, you’ve heard us repeatedly state these facts about CWD: It’s 100-percent fatal in deer, elk, moose, and other cervids. It is now found in 26 U.S. states, and possibly others where they have failed to detect or even test for it. Infected animals can spread the disease through urine and saliva, sometimes for years, before succumbing to its effects. The prions—malformed proteins that cause CWD—can be taken up in plant matter and transported, and hunters can unwittingly spread CWD by transporting the carcass of an infected animal.

But it’s time that we get real about one more thing: The greatest threat to deer hunting is the movement of live deer within and between states by the captive deer industry.

Freak Deer, Profit Motive, and CWD

For those who lack the time, patience, or skills to harvest a deer the old-fashioned way—but who have plenty of money and no qualms about practicing fair chase—captive deer facilities are just the answer. A person can select his or her deer from a menu, and success is guaranteed. Moreover, these facilities can grow deer never found in nature. Genetic manipulation, steroids, supercharged feed, and no challenge from predators can create freaks that true hunters know did not come from the wild but look great on a den or office wall.

When a single deer can be sold for more than $25,000, it is easy to understand why there are 4,000 or more such facilities in the U.S. today. But we can point to at least four examples in the last five months that show the blatant disregard for science by the captive deer industry and the fecklessness of current state and federal regulations.

In northern Minnesota, CWD-positive carcasses from a defunct captive facility were discovered dumped on nearby public land, threatening to introduce the disease to a new part of the state. In Texas, the disease was detected at three facilities outside of Dallas and San Antonio, but only after those facilities shipped deer to more than 260 others across the state.

CWD was then detected in a captive whitetail deer on a hunting preserve in Pennsylvania’s Northern Tier, spreading the disease to a new part of the state and posing a heightened threat to New York’s deer population to the north. Most recently, two CWD-positive captive deer in Wisconsin prompted an investigation into one of the most, if not the most, extensive web of deer shipments from a CWD-positive facility on record—nearly 400 deer were sent to 40 facilities in seven states over the last five years.

CWD was first detected in a captive facility in Colorado in 1967 and since that time has spread to almost every place captive deer facilities exist. Federal and state best practices demand that any facility where a CWD-positive deer is found be depopulated and closed. Science shows that the prions remain in the soil of an infected facility for a decade or more, so just getting rid of infected animals is not sufficient. But the profit motive is so great, it is common for deer breeders to hide infections, or simply not test, and thus spread the disease.

Four Ways to Prevent Captive Deer From Spreading CWD

It is past time for state and federal regulators to step in and prevent the threat of CWD to wild deer, as the captive deer industry either lacks the ability or willingness to police itself. Here’s how:

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture should immediately ban the interstate movement of live deer.
  • Congress needs to help fund surveillance and testing programs in all the states.
  • All captive deer facilities should follow the best management practices put forward by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies in 2018, including double fencing—which helps to eliminate direct transmission from captive to wild deer—and 100-percent testing of all captive deer deaths.
  • All deer breeders should be required to have insurance or post a bond to fund the depopulation and permanent closure of infected facilities, so taxpayers no longer have to foot the bill for a bad actor’s reckless behavior.

Hunters understand that success in the deer woods is not guaranteed. In fact, most of us return emptyhanded from a day in the woods but generally richer for the experience. But we cannot fail when it comes to stopping CWD. Hunters, politicians, and regulators need to step up and do what is necessary for the deer hunting tradition—and the billions of dollars in conservation funding that hunters generate—can continue into the future.

Do Your Part Now

Do what you can this season: Get your deer tested. Check your local regulations on carcass transport and disposal. Consider boning out your deer in the field to avoid transporting the parts of the carcass that would carry CWD. (MeatEater’s Janis Putelis takes you through the process in the video below.) Finally, take action to push the Secretary of Agriculture to take immediate action to stop the spread of CWD from captive deer facilities.


Top photo courtesy of the National Deer Association.

September 3, 2021

Theodore Roosevelt’s Legacy and its Relevance to Conservation Today

It is important to acknowledge our namesake’s flaws as well as his accomplishments. At the TRCP, we challenge ourselves to advance Roosevelt’s conservation vision while doing more to ensure that all Americans have access to the outdoors.

For more than a year, the Natural History Museum in New York City has made national headlines for its decision to remove its statue of Theodore Roosevelt, citing the paternalistic and racist image of Roosevelt on horseback with a Black man and Native American on foot on either side of him. According to the New York Times, the museum’s director noted that the decision was based on the statue itself—namely its “hierarchical composition”—and not on Roosevelt, whom the museum continues to honor as “a pioneering conservationist.”

It prompted internal discussions at TRCP, as an organization named after Theodore Roosevelt, about the 26th president’s legacy as it relates to our mission and vision in contemporary times.

There are various academic studies on Roosevelt’s complicated and often contradictory views of race. This includes his embrace of Manifest Destiny, the displacement of Native Americans from the public lands he created, and his support of eugenics theories—but also his appointment of multiple Black people to important positions within his administration, which drew the ire of Southern lawmakers, and public defense of equality in well-documented speeches. In one, he said, “I cannot consent to take the position that the door of hope—the door of opportunity—is to be shut upon any man, no matter how worthy, purely upon the grounds of race or color.”

My job is not to moderate such discussions, which are healthy and important as we learn from the past to address today’s challenges. As Roosevelt himself said in a 1907 speech about the pilgrims, “Men must be judged with reference to the age in which they dwell.” And while Roosevelt was clearly wrong on some issues, 1907 was a very different time than 2021.

But to strictly ignore some parts of T.R.’s legacy while celebrating others is also to do a disservice to the organizations and communities of color that are essential to the work of keeping conservation alive.

In this work, Roosevelt’s conservation legacy and vision are still relevant today. During his two terms as president, he ended market hunting and set aside 240 million acres of public land as national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife refuges. His basic philosophy is summarized in this famous quote:

“Defenders of the short-sighted men who in their greed and selfishness will, if permitted, rob our country of half its charm by their reckless extermination of all useful and beautiful wild things, sometimes seek to champion them by saying the ‘the game belongs to the people.’ So, it does; and not merely to the people now alive, but to the unborn people. The ‘greatest good for the greatest number’ applies to the number within the womb of time, compared to which those now alive form but an insignificant fraction. Our duty to the whole, including the unborn generations, bids us restrain an unprincipled present-day minority from wasting the heritage of these unborn generations. The movement for the conservation of wild life and the larger movement for the conservation of all our natural resources are essentially democratic in spirit, purpose, and method.”

Roosevelt believed that wild lands and wild places should be accessible to all Americans. His vision for these public lands stood in stark contrast to the model in most European countries, where fish and wildlife belonged to the landed gentry or the crown. His views on access to the outdoors were consistent with his populist stances on other matters. Through his “trust busting” and threats to nationalize industry because of low wages and other abuses, he lifted up millions of Americans from all backgrounds, races, religions, and genders.

Today, our challenge is to advance Roosevelt’s conservation vision in the face of unprecedented threats, from development to climate change, while at the same time doing more to ensure that all Americans have access to the outdoors and feel welcome in the hunting and fishing community. This is not only the right thing to do; this is fundamental to the future of the North American Model of Conservation.

Hunting, fishing, and conservation depend on participation and broad acceptance by society. When hunting is 96 percent White, and overwhelmingly male and older, it is not a recipe for long-term viability. When large parts of our urban populations, including communities of color, lack access to public lands and waters, we deprive them of the connection to the outdoors that many of us take for granted, and we lose natural allies in the political battles to conserve open spaces and fish and wildlife. A diverse and well-represented hunting and fishing community, on the other hand, brings Americans together and helps to protect hunting and fishing from external attack.

The Haudenosaunee Confederacy has the principle of the “Seventh Generation,” which tells us that decisions made today must be understood in a lens of how they will impact future generations. If we ignore the centuries of wisdom that Native American cultures have about stewardship, we are weaker for it.

TRCP’s mission is to guarantee all Americans quality places to hunt and fish. This includes supporting recruitment, retention, and reactivation practices that make hunting and fishing welcoming activities for every person. We commit to working with Black, Indigenous, and Latino organizations and other communities of color, in combination with our longstanding conservation partners, to achieve this goal.

Conservation works best when we all work together and keep looking forward.


Photo courtesy of Harvard College Library.

August 5, 2021

Remembering TRCP Supporter and Conservationist Rich Trumka

Above: Rich Trumka (center) with former TRCP president and CEO George Cooper (left) and former Union Sportsmen’s Alliance executive director Fred Myers in 2007.

It was with a heavy heart today that I learned about the death of Richard Trumka at the age of 72.

As president of the AFL-CIO, Rich will be remembered as a champion of labor and the working person—and for good reason. But his role in conservation cannot be overlooked.

Rich grew up hunting and fishing in his native Pennsylvania, and that remained a core part of who he was. In 2007, he joined with Jim Range, the founder of TRCP, to champion creating incentives for private landowners to open their lands for public hunting and fishing. This became the Voluntary Public Access program of the 2008 Farm Bill and what is now a $50-million Department of Agriculture program that has opened millions of acres of land and water for the public to enjoy.

Because Rich saw hunting, fishing, and conservation as important to the AFL-CIO’s rank-and-file membership, he then worked with Range to create the Union Sportsmen’s Alliance under the TRCP banner. In 2010, the USA spun off as a standalone organization, on the Board of which I proudly serve. Rich also served nine years on the TRCP board, where he became a friend and mentor.

Just two weeks ago, I had lunch with Rich, at his request, so that Nick Pinizzotto, CEO of the National Deer Association, and I could brief him on the spread of chronic wasting disease in his beloved Pennsylvania. The lunch lasted more than two hours as the conversation swerved from CWD to ballistics and reloading, to the new foods plots he was trying on his farm.

Rich Trumka loved life, his work, hunting and conservation, and his family. I have no doubt that his spirit will be stalking that 200-inch buck in the Pennsylvania woods this fall. For those of us still on Earth, we will miss him, but we certainly will not forget him.



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.

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