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The recent introduction of the RETURN our Constitutional Rights Act of 2022, also known as the RETURN Act and H.R. 8167, has rightly shocked and outraged sportsmen and sportswomen, who proudly contribute to America’s successful conservation funding model through our firearm, ammunition, and other gear purchases.
If you’ve been following the story, you know the bill’s goal is to obliterate Pittman-Robertson funding—which allows state wildlife agencies to make habitat improvements, enhance hunting and fishing access, run hunter’s education programs, and create public shooting ranges across the country. It purports to use other “unobligated” federal funds in a misguided attempt to replace the excise taxes, shifting the cost to every American taxpayer and undercutting the role of hunters and anglers in conservation.
But it actually gets worse.
In digging into the bill language, our experts have found that the RETURN Act only replaces P-R excise taxes with funding for non-game species conservation—diverting funds that have historically helped to restore and maintain populations of whitetail deer, elk, wild turkeys, bass, walleyes, and trout and spending it on salamanders and butterflies.
At best, this is a disastrous oversight. At worst, it is yet another red flag for the fundamental misunderstanding of some lawmakers when it comes to how our country’s conservation model works.
Hunters and anglers, meanwhile, are not confused about our essential role in conservation. We asked for Pittman-Robertson and the Dingell-Johnson Act (the fishing equivalent of P-R) decades ago to ensure the future of our outdoor recreation opportunities. We have more recently championed the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act to fund the proactive conservation of our most at-risk game and non-game species. And we’ll continue to stand up for conservation funding today and into the future.
Add your voice to this outcry: Take action using our simple advocacy tool to urge your representative to oppose the RETURN Act. Public backlash has already prompted three co-sponsors to pull their support for this bill. Keep the momentum going and keep America’s proud conservation traditions working for fish and game.
Updating land management plans will result in better-informed decisions and conservation of high-priority big game habitats on Colorado public lands
Sportspersons applauded today’s announcement that the Colorado Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will formally and consistently incorporate big game seasonal habitat and migration corridor conservation into its land management plans. To do so, the agency has initiated an important land management plan amendment process. The BLM states that the primary purpose of the effort is to evaluate “alternative management approaches for the BLM planning decisions to maintain, conserve, and protect big game corridors and other important big game habitat areas on BLM-managed public lands and minerals in Colorado.”
“Robust elk, mule deer, pronghorn, and bighorn sheep populations are important not only because they provide Colorado’s sportspersons with world-class hunting opportunities, they are core to our state’s identity and absolutely critical for our tourism industry,” said Liz Rose, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s Colorado field representative. “We appreciate the leadership demonstrated by the Colorado BLM, and we hope this planning effort takes a habitat-centric view that focuses on the conservation and enhancement of these habitats, including habitat restoration and improvement and managing development pressures like high-density recreation and renewable and conventional energy development.”
The continued health of migratory big game populations depends upon their ability to move between suitable habitats seasonally, year after year. Of the 8.3 million acres of BLM-managed public land in Colorado, millions of acres constitute high-priority seasonal and migratory habitats for big game animals such as elk, mule deer, pronghorn, and bighorn sheep. These herds help support Colorado’s $5 billion-dollar hunting, fishing, and wildlife-watching economy, and conserving the habitats on which they depend also directly supports a broad range of other wildlife species that benefit from intact landscapes.
The majority of Colorado BLM’s existing Resource Management Plans are outdated, some of them decades old. These Resource Management Plans do not adequately reflect recent science demonstrating the dependence of migratory big game animals on various landscapes and habitats throughout the year and the need to be able to move freely between those seasonal habitats. By amending those land-use plans that overlap with high-priority big game habitats, the agency will increase consistency in management and decision-making in areas where it matters most for ensuring that elk, deer, pronghorn, and bighorn sheep herds continue to thrive in Colorado.
Conservationists are optimistic that this process will create valuable opportunities for investments in habitat restoration on BLM-managed public land, in turn bolstering private-land conservation efforts across Colorado.
“Conserving and connecting big game animals’ high-priority seasonal and migratory habitats helps build more climate-resilient ecosystems that wildlife will utilize as conditions on the ground continue to change,” said Rose. “By updating its plans and ensuring that management decisions are based on the best and latest science, the BLM will ensure a brighter future for Colorado’s wildlife, residents, and visitors.”
The BLM “seeks information related to all high-density activities and public land uses that may cause disturbance to important big game habitat and will consider that information as appropriate in determining if additional land use planning decisions are appropriate to incorporate into the scope of the alternatives for this planning effort.”
The deadline for comments from the public is September 2, 2022. The TRCP will be working closely with other partners representing hunters, anglers, and other wildlife conservationists as well as local officials, private landowners, and agency staff to provide the BLM with science-based guidance that will benefit Colorado’s big game animals, sportspersons, and those who reside in and around high-priority big game habitats.
Photo: Bill Sincavage (@jakeysforkphoto)
Commissioners include representatives from YETI®, Yamaha Marine, BoatU.S., B.A.S.S., the American Sportfishing Association, National Marine Manufacturing Association, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, and Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies
Members of the $689-billion outdoor recreation industry have established a blue-ribbon commission to stop and reverse the spread of aquatic invasive species in the U.S. The commission will convene leading biologists, environmentalists, policymakers, and resource managers to assess existing mitigation efforts and identify more effective eradication solutions. Findings from the analysis will be presented to Congress and the administration in 2023, with a goal of passing comprehensive legislation to better manage and eliminate aquatic invasive species.
The commission will meet for the first time next week at ICAST.
Aquatic invasive species are spreading at levels that are unsustainable for the waterways where they have been introduced, posing a growing threat to aquatic ecosystems, local economies, and outdoor recreation opportunities across the country. Currently, the cost to control and eradicate these invasives in the U.S. amounts to more than $100 billion each year. For decades, a patchwork of federal and state initiatives has failed to address this crisis.
“Aquatic invasive species pose a national threat to both habitat and fishing and boating access, but it is possible to put more effective policies and mitigation efforts in place,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We’ve shown time and time again that when our community convenes around a common threat, listens to the science, and makes thoughtful recommendations, we can successfully shift conservation policy. The TRCP is proud to participate in the commission’s work and future advocacy to see recommendations through.”
“In central and southern states, invasive silver carp frustrate anglers and state and federal resource managers,” says Ben Speciale, president of the U.S. Marine Business Unit at Yamaha. “But silver carp represent just a fraction of the invasive species problem in our nation. For every region, state, coast, and body of water, there is a similar pressing issue. We need a different, national approach to solving the aquatic invasive species problem. Yamaha supports this effort, because we believe the commission’s recommendations to Congress and the administration will help combat the AIS situation and help to allocate the resources needed to meet this challenge.”
“BoatU.S. has long worked to educate boaters on the impacts of invasive species and how boaters can better protect our waterways,” says Chris Edmonston, president of the BoatU.S. Foundation. “We look forward to working with industry and government agencies to come up with commonsense solutions that protect and enhance America’s waters.”
“The Aquatic Invasive Species Commission, spearhead by some of the biggest names in outdoor recreation and conservation, will be at the forefront of working alongside the administration and Congress to stop and reverse the spread of aquatic invasive species, which threaten recreational boating and fishing access, local economies, and aquatic ecosystems,” says Frank Hugelmeyer, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association. “As the nation’s original conservationists, our industry looks forward to the commission’s findings and implementing more effective practices to eradicate AIS.”
“As the number and scale of aquatic invasive species grows, it’s clear that continuing with status quo isn’t going to solve the problem,” says Mike Leonard, vice president of government affairs for the American Sportfishing Association. “On behalf of the recreational fishing industry, which depends on healthy aquatic ecosystems, ASA is excited to be a part of the Aquatic Invasive Species Commission. While faced with a daunting task, I’m confident the experts that comprise the commission will help put us on a path toward better response, control, and eradication of aquatic invasive species.”
Members of the Blue-Ribbon Aquatic Invasive Species Commission:
John Arway, Retired State Director
Elizabeth Brown, North American Invasive Species Management Association
Jason Christie, Pro Angler
George Cooper, Forbes-Tate
Clay Crabtree, National Marine Manufacturing Association
Devin Demario, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies
Jake Dree, YETI
Chris Edmonston, BoatU.S.
Marc Gaden, Great Lakes Fishery Commission
Gene Gilliland, B.A.S.S.
Heather Hennessey, Yamaha
Alanna Keating, BoatU.S.
Mike Leonard, American Sportfishing Association
Chris Macaluso, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
Mark Menendez, Pro Angler
Ish Monroe, Pro Angler
Steve Moyer, Trout Unlimited
John O’Keefe, Yamaha
Martin Peters, Yamaha
Stephen Phillips, Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission
Christy Plumer, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
Ann Rogers Harrison, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Jennifer Silberman, YETI
Mathew Van Daele, Sun’aq Tribe
Nick Wiley, Ducks Unlimited
Drue Winters, American Fisheries Society
Dennis Zabaglo, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency
Top photo by Todd Davis/U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
On Friday, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed into law a budget that prioritizes conservation by investing over $696 million in clean water, habitat restoration, and outdoor recreation access.
“Pennsylvania’s hunters and anglers should be proud to live and recreate in a state with not only incredible natural resources and public access, but also a legacy of strong state conservation funding initiatives to ensure these amenities will be enjoyed by future generations,” said Alexandra Kozak, Pennsylvania field manager for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We appreciate the leadership of lawmakers who know the importance of conservation to our state and thank the governor for signing this budget into law without delay.”
Aspects of two bills supported by the hunting, fishing, and conservation community were incorporated into the final budget resolution. As originally proposed in S.B. 525, a portion of PA’s $320 million in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 will be used to establish a Growing Greener III program that enhances fish and wildlife habitat and creates better hunting and fishing opportunities with an additional $156 million to increase state park and outdoor recreation infrastructure. Further, $220 million will go to improving water quality, specifically focused on “non-point” sources of pollution, such as agricultural runoff and acid mine drainage, as originally proposed in S.B. 832 this session.
“CBF applauds the legislature and the governor for including in this budget much-needed funding to support farm conservation projects and the boots on the ground working hard to reduce pollution,” said Bill Chain, interim director and senior agriculture program manager in Pennsylvania for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
“The TRCP is grateful to state legislators for this commitment to supporting fish and wildlife populations, growing our state’s $58-billion outdoor recreation economy, and funding clean water solutions that will benefit habitat and communities from western Pennsylvania to the Chesapeake Bay,” continued Kozak. “We look forward to working with our partners and other stakeholders to see that these investments make a big difference in the field and on the water where they are needed most.”
Since December 2021, the TRCP has urged PA sportsmen and sportswomen to contact lawmakers in support of reinvesting American Rescue Plan funds in conservation through Growing Greener and a new Clean Streams Fund. Learn more here.
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