October 25, 2022

Charting a Path for Conservation Across the Sagebrush Sea

A coalition of hunters and anglers showcases what’s at stake in Oregon’s Owyhee country

The Owyhee River begins in Northern Nevada and flows for more than 300 miles through some of the West’s wildest remaining country, forming an integral part of the sagebrush steppe landscape. According to the latest U.S. Census data, less than two people per square mile call this region home. For anyone who has spent a few nights in the river canyons or stared at the vast starry skies from the mountains and plateaus that define this place, its remote character is a defining feature.


What this region lacks in human population, it makes up for in wildlife. These canyons, encompassing more than 2.5 million acres of wilderness-quality lands, provide vital habitat for mule deer, elk, pronghorns, bighorn sheep, and more than 200 other species. Anglers catch native red-band trout in the beaver ponds of the West Little Owyhee, cast for 20-inch browns in the reach below the Owyhee dam, and introduce their kids to fishing on the abundant and easy-to-fool smallmouth bass found throughout the river basin. Hunters in the area enjoy some of the best opportunities in the West for mule deer, bighorns, antelope, and chukar.

Until recently, its distance from population centers has allowed the Owyhee country to maintain its backcountry character. Today, increasing pressures from renewable energy, mining, oil and gas, and off-highway vehicles grow with each passing decade. The recent surge of growth around Boise and the outdoor recreation industry within the area from rafters, hunters, anglers, hot springs enthusiasts, and other recreation-seekers also presents difficult management challenges. The impacts of these increasing uses, combined with invasive annual grasses, wildfire, and climate-change-fueled drought, all threaten the unique fish and wildlife habitat within the region. While sagebrush steppe habitat faces many of the same challenges across the West, these pressures are particularly acute in the Owyhee country.

Both the health of the landscape and the rural economies of the nearby communities need more resources to address these issues. Thankfully, Oregon’s congressional delegation is seeking pragmatic solutions after multiple requests from the ranching, conservation, and Tribal communities. In 2019, Senator Ron Wyden introduced a bill after a series of many stakeholder meetings that sought to find common ground for legislation that would promote the long-term health of the landscape, while providing for economic development and the continued traditional uses of public lands. Debate of and refinements to that first bill have continued since then, and in September 2022, Sen. Wyden introduced a revised Malheur Community Empowerment for the Owyhee Act (S.4860) that is now awaiting a hearing in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

In a nutshell, S. 4860 would:

  • Safeguard one million acres of undeveloped backcountry across Malheur County, while releasing an equal amount of wilderness-quality lands back to multiple use management.
  • Increase the flexibility for grazing permittees to better respond to changing environmental conditions on the ground.
  • Provide important funding to restore the health of degraded sagebrush habitats.
  • Infuse economic development money into many surrounding rural communities.

At the outset of this decision-making process, the TRCP partnered with the Oregon Hunters Association, Trout Unlimited, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Friends of the Owyhee, Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, Soul River Inc., and the Oregon Wild Sheep Foundation to form, organize, and engage a coalition of hunting- and fishing-based conservation organizations called the Owyhee Sportsmen. Since August 2019, the coalition has worked closely with the Oregon congressional delegation—especially Senator Wyden’s office—to provide input and recommendations on legislation that would improve the conservation of the region’s fish and wildlife habitat.

We continue to encourage our elected officials to work together to move S. 4860 forward in Congress. Our coalition is also focused on educating the public about the need to protect Oregon’s Owyhee canyonlands from development by highlighting the abundant opportunities the region provides for hunters, anglers, and outdoor recreators of all types.

Over the past few years, I’ve had the chance to hunt and fish together with several other members of the coalition to showcase the opportunities it provides for sportsmen and sportswomen. We were accompanied by Alpenglow Press Productions, who recently completed a film for our coalition that highlights a successful mule deer hunt in the heart of the Owyhees. We’re also finalizing a short film that tells the story of a flyfishing adventure in search of some of the Owyhee’s famous 20-inch brown trout.

There are few large areas of land and water left in the U.S. where one can get truly lost, where skies at night are completely free of artificial light, and where sportsmen and sportswomen can chase such iconic game animals, upland birds, and trout. Oregon’s Owyhee country is such a place, and we are committed to keeping it that way.

If you want to get involved, please take action HERE to support protecting the Owyhee country. Opt into our emails to stay informed on future opportunities to weigh in.

9 Responses to “Charting a Path for Conservation Across the Sagebrush Sea”

  1. Kurt S Kremers

    I am an native Oregonian who values the Owyhee country for its wildness and wildlife resources. This is truly one of the last great wild places that has it all. Please continue to fight to keep this land as wild as possible so future generations came experience its greatness.

  2. Larry Rosenow

    This collective effort is heart warming during a time of political divisiveness. Many years ago I floated down the Owyhee. Yep, it’s a gem. I have returned to another gem but in Mexico to live in my retirement years but sadly it’s being chiseled away by developers and a growing population … out here on the East Cape in Baja California Sur.

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October 24, 2022

Your Stories: How Climate Change is Affecting Hunting and Fishing

We asked our social media followers to share examples of this very real challenge—here’s what hunters and anglers said they’ve noticed 

In a 2022 poll of hunters and anglers conducted for the TRCP, 19 percent saw climate change as having an impact on their ability to hunt and fish right now, while a combined 51 percent believe climate change will have some impact in the future—whether in five years, 20 years, or the next generation’s lifetime.  

While not surprising, it is potentially dangerous to view climate change as a distant threat to fish and wildlife instead of a very present one. Intense storms, flooding, heatwaves, drought, and wildfires are ruining hunting and fishing conditions and access. Invasive species are pushing out native fish, while big game animals are displaying different behavior and migration patterns in reaction to weird and variable weather. Anglers are kept off the water by algal blooms or high water temperatures that threaten coldwater fisheries.  

To help illustrate this, we set out to find hunters and anglers willing to share their experiences with these impacts of climate change. Here’s what we heard from you: 

Changing weather patterns are recognizable, particularly to folks who have hunted or fished the same areas for a long time. One hunter writes, “Waterfowl hunting is nowhere what it used to be. Not enough cold fronts to push the birds down.” Another follower called out a major challenge for anglers: “Annual fishing closures in mid-summer on cold water river fisheries.” 

The proliferation of wildlife disease and parasites came up a few times. “As a hunter in the Northeast, I would have to say the yearly spread of ticks into new areas and changing weather patterns. I hunt a friend’s property that he has owned over 25 years, and due to the elevation and cold winters he never had to deal with ticks. However, in the past two years they have started turning up on harvested deer and on people who spend time in the woods.” 

A friend to the north writes about the effect this has on hunting opportunities: “Here in Ontario, the boundary between whitetail and moose range runs straight through the province, but as the climate warms, deer are moving further and further north, encroaching on moose habitat and bringing along parasitic brainworm. This, combined with the increase in winter ticks, is doing a real number on our moose, and getting a tag has become extremely difficult.” 

One Instagram follower notes, “Historic temperature rises in the Arctic have delayed caribou migration by several weeks.” A climate-driven shift in animal movement and migration has outsized impacts on subsistence hunters in Alaska, a topic that author Seth Kantner previously wrote about on our blog. 

According to the poll mentioned above, 72 percent of hunters and anglers believe that climate change is happening, and a majority agreed that climate change will affect their ability to hunt and fish one day. Hunters and anglers also believe that we can positively impact fish and wildlife habitat through human intervention—and that’s what we’re calling on decision-makers to support. 

Learn more about what we’re working on here.  

Want a cheat sheet on what to look for when it comes to climate change impacts? Download our two-page guide on 10 ways climate change is already affecting hunting and fishing.  

And if you missed our call for real-life examples, you can still send us yours right here. 

October 21, 2022

How Your Vote in Local Elections Matters for Conservation

PLUS: Ten conservation and access priorities we shared with candidates here in Wyoming 

Are you voting for conservation and access this November? Our decision-makers, especially at the state and local level, have a much greater influence on these issues than you might realize. From your county seat to Capitol Hill, decisions are being made every day that will impact the health of fish and wildlife habitat, the availability of access to outdoor recreation, and the many uses of our public lands. 

Simply put, your vote matters. Here are just a few of the positions you could see on the ballot where you live and what role these officials play in conservation. 

County Commissioner 

Here in Wyoming and in many states, county commissioners are tasked with making a variety of decisions that affect wildlife, including those relating to the management of county roads, local representation in BLM and Forest Service land-use planning processes, and zoning on private land. For instance, when weighing a proposal to change zoning for land that overlaps with known big game migration corridors, an informed commission can work with landowners to ensure development is undertaken with appropriate consideration for potential impacts on our elk, deer, and pronghorn herds. 

State Senator or Representative 

Every state legislature will vote on critical wildlife and conservation bills each year. During the last session here in Wyoming, thanks to advocacy efforts from hunters and anglers like you, the legislature passed a $70-million increase to the Wildlife and Natural Resources Trust. This landmark conservation victory will support critical habitat work across the state for decades to come—and it’s just one example of the impact of our state lawmakers.  

In the past, our legislature has also considered bills supporting the transfer of or restriction of access to public lands. While these efforts have failed in prior sessions due to the strong constituency of public land advocates in Wyoming, new attempts to steal our heritage continue to emerge. It’s a good reminder for sportsmen and sportswomen to stay engaged in the political process.  

United States Senator or Representative 

Your state’s congressional delegation can support the passage of meaningful conservation and access legislation with impacts close to home and across the nation. An example of this is the recently passed MAPland Act, which directs federal agencies to digitize and make publicly available access easement data to landlocked public lands. This bipartisan legislation will bring huge benefits to hunters and anglers looking for legal access to what once looked like inaccessible parcels. 

“The first duty of an American citizen, then, is that he shall work in politics; his second duty is that he shall do that work in a practical manner; and his third is that it shall be done in accord with the highest principles of honor and justice.” – Theodore Roosevelt 

Be a Voice for Conservation Beyond Election Day 

Voting isn’t the only way to make an impact for conservation, of course. As residents of the least populous state in the union, Wyomingites are uniquely situated to build relationships with our state and local decision makers to drive important conservation policy, but anyone can become more involved in shaping policy by seizing a few key opportunities. Whether commenting at public hearings, meeting with your state legislators, writing letters to the editor, or volunteering with a conservation group like the TRCP, there are numerous ways to adhere to Theodore Roosevelt’s vision for conservation advocacy.  

(I’m tracking these kinds of opportunities for folks here in Wyoming, so if you’d like to take action beyond a petition signature or paper ballot, please contact me here.)  

Ten Conservation and Access Priorities for Wyoming Sportspeople 

It’s important to say that the TRCP doesn’t endorse anyone in an election. But we do work to educate candidates on what matters to hunters and anglers, so whoever is elected walks into their new role knowing how they can best serve fish, wildlife, public lands, and our community.  

With the general election approaching on November 8, 2022, and the 2023 state legislative session coming in January, we’d like to see candidates in Wyoming work with us and our partners on the following issues.  

Keep Public Lands and Wildlife in the Public’s Hands  

Public lands, waters, and wildlife are central to our way of life in Wyoming. Any proposal to transfer or privatize these resources is a non-starter for sportsmen and sportswomen.

Commit to Science-Based Management and the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation 

Science-based management guided by the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation has proven itself as the most effective approach for recovering and sustaining wildlife populations. Decision makers can build on our conservation legacy by supporting the state agencies and dedicated biologists who manage our shared wildlife resources.

Open Access to Inaccessible Public Land  

In Wyoming, 4 million acres of state and federal lands are surrounded by private holdings with no legal means of public access. Lawmakers should support cooperative solutions—including funding for voluntary access agreements—that respect private property rights and open access to these landlocked parcels.

Partner with Landowners to Increase Access to Private Lands  

Public-private partnerships such as Access Yes have opened over 2.6 million acres of private land to hunters and anglers in Wyoming. Lawmakers can continue to financially benefit landowners who steward wildlife habitat while providing public access by expanding funding for these programs.

Lead the Fight Against Wildlife Diseases  

Wyoming’s robust big game populations and the hunting opportunities they provide are threatened by the spread of wildlife diseases such as pneumonia in bighorn sheep and Chronic Wasting Disease in elk and deer. To address these issues head on, wildlife managers need support and funding from lawmakers.

Conserve Big Game Migration Corridors and Winter Range  

Migration corridors and winter range support wildlife abundance that maximizes hunting opportunities and supports our rich outdoor heritage. Wyoming Game and Fish needs the tools necessary to conserve these habitats on public lands while also providing financial incentives to landowners to voluntarily conserve key habitats on private lands.

Invest in Habitat Improvement and Conservation/Stewardship  

Wyomingites recognize that many of our best wildlife habitats need continued investment in on-the-ground stewardship work, such as habitat restoration and invasive weed control. Continuing to expand and support state programs such as the Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust will secure essential funding for these projects, while improving access to federal matching grants: a win-win for Wyoming’s fish and wildlife.

Recover Pronghorn Populations by Conserving and Restoring Sagebrush Ecosystems 

Wyoming’s pronghorn populations are declining, as are hunting opportunities. Supporting science-based management and policies that conserve the sagebrush ecosystem will help recover pronghorn and support other species, including greater sage grouse and mule deer.  

Expand State Land Conservation and Stewardship  

4.2 million acres of state trust land in Wyoming provide important wildlife habitat and opportunities for outdoor recreation, including hunting and fishing. By utilizing wildlife friendly options to generate revenue in appropriate areas—such as conservation leasing— decisionmakers can support public education and steward the landscapes and wildlife that drive tourism and outdoor recreation, Wyoming’s second largest economic sector.

Support Multiple Use and Sustained Yield  

Multiple-use management includes resource extraction, habitat stewardship, and outdoor recreation. Sportsmen and sportswomen support the balanced use of our public lands—which includes both responsible development and the conservation of our natural resources—so that future generations can experience the same opportunities we enjoy today.

October 18, 2022

Here’s How New Funding Should Be Spent to Enhance Private Land Conservation

Recently passed legislation has made it possible to do more for habitat and climate resilience in rural America—if we spend once-in-a-generation funds in the right places 

When it comes to creating wildlife habitat on private farms, ranches, and forest land, U.S. Department of Agriculture conservation programs are key. These programs are usually authorized and funded only once every five years, as part of the Farm Bill, but several programs recently received a huge one-time infusion of cash in order to boost their climate benefits.

When something like this happens, the hunting and fishing community needs to have a voice in how these dollars get put on the ground. Without our input, practices with no fish and wildlife benefit, or even those that are harmful to habitat, might be funded. That’s why the TRCP and 14 of our partners last week made recommendations to USDA leadership about the wise investment of private land conservation dollars from recently passed legislation.

These investments will empower America’s farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners to play an even greater role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, sequestering carbon, and mitigating the impacts of climate change. Of equal importance, they do so within the time-tested and landowner-supported framework of locally led, voluntary, incentive-based programs.

To assist the USDA in maximizing the positive impacts of this once-in-a-generation opportunity, we offered the following principles and guidance. 

Enhance Conservation Technical Assistance 

When wisely applied, the newly available funding for Conservation Technical Assistance can produce substantial climate benefits. Qualified staff, who have earned the respect of their local communities, are essential for program success. We encouraged the USDA and NRCS leadership to work with State Technical Committees to identify where these technical assistance funds can be targeted to fill pressing agency staffing gaps and enhance program delivery. Additionally, investments in a broad suite of climate-smart agricultural and forestry practice training certifications, such as conservation planning and wetland delineation, and competitive staff compensation are all necessary to meet our climate and broader conservation goals. Finally, we recommend that USDA expand technical assistance resources to support external partnerships with government and non-government partners. These partnerships strengthen USDA’s landowner outreach capabilities and connect USDA Service Centers to broader external expertise and resources. 

Prioritize Win-Win Practices 

Many, but not all, current climate-smart agricultural conservation practices provide multiple benefits for wildlife, biodiversity, drought adaptation, and water quality, in addition to emissions reductions and carbon sequestration. These multi-beneficial practices, such as range planting, upland wildlife habitat management, riparian forest buffers, and riparian herbaceous cover should be prioritized, as should multi-beneficial practices that are not currently categorized as climate-smart, such as wetland restoration, wetland enhancement, and prescribed burning.  

First, Do No Harm to Wildlife   

Effective and practical climate-smart agricultural practices and supporting practices vary based on climate, soil type, and agricultural system. The NRCS should consider using regionally developed, ecologically appropriate practices and scenarios with guidelines and payment rates designed to effectively reach the goals stated in recently passed legislation. These lists should be vetted to maximize their climate benefit and avoid incentivizing practices that negatively impact fish and wildlife. 

Remove Barriers to Implementation 

To implement these generational investments equitably and with appropriate urgency, non-statutory match and cost-share requirements should be reduced or waived whenever necessary. These requirements are a barrier to implementation in many areas, but especially among historically underserved communities. The NRCS should immediately broaden their definition of significant partner contributions and reiterate that there are no financial match requirements within the Regional Conservation Partnership Program. 

Boost Participation in the RCPP 

This program has the potential to create innovative, partner-driven climate solutions, but is currently hamstrung by administrative barriers. To reach this program’s potential, alternative funding arrangements and granting authority should be emphasized, practice standards should be flexibly applied, and project agreement approval and renewals should be streamlined. In addition, Supplemental Partner Agreements should be used consistently. Currently, allocations are open to interpretation and costs associated with Hourly Rate Charges are unrecoverable, which discourages program participation. 

Retain Existing Habitat with Easements 

The value of conservation easements for achieving our nation’s climate goals can be best realized by recognizing that maintaining stored carbon, including on wetlands and grasslands of special significance, and avoiding conversion of farmland, ranchland, and forestland to residential and urban development are as important as creating additional sequestration. Targeted Agricultural Conservation Easement Program easement acquisitions will maximize the return on investment, as will using a portion of newly available RCPP funding to acquire easements.  

Don’t Overlook the CRP 

Despite its outsized potential for carbon sequestration and emissions reduction, the Conservation Reserve Program did not receive new funding in recently passed legislation. The USDA should work to fully implement the CRP through its existing authorities and should apply new funding to lasting grassland, wetland, and forest restoration and management projects through other programs wherever possible.  

Boost Native Grasses 

In all programs that did get a boost from legislation, there is a significant opportunity to increase the incentives for and the use of native plants, where ecologically appropriate, to increase climate resiliency, forage availability, water security, and provide habitat for wildlife and pollinators. USDA Plant Materials Centers play a key role in enabling these outcomes, as do local and community-based nurseries and seed producers, most of which are currently unable to meet demand. Support for these crucial research and production entities is needed to achieve our climate goals. 

Don’t Slack on Compliance 

Pressure to achieve ambitious goals may tempt staff to ignore conservation compliance requirements. USDA leadership should clearly and consistently communicate that Highly Erodible Land, Sodsaver, and Swampbuster provisions must be enforced in accordance with statute. Failure to do so will directly counteract efforts to reach our nation’s climate goals.  

 At the TRCP, we recognize that realizing this incredible opportunity will require a great deal of work and ingenuity within USDA and among partner organizations, and we appreciate the public servants who are making it happen. We also understand that investing these dollars to enhance on-the-ground conservation of private lands will be an adaptive process, and our staff stands ready to provide additional and more detailed support to decision-makers as they move forward.  

Learn more about Farm Bill conservation programs here. 

October 13, 2022

In the Arena: Matthew Monjaras

TRCP’s “In the Arena” series highlights the individual voices of hunters and anglers who, as Theodore Roosevelt so famously said, strive valiantly in the worthy cause of conservation. 

Matthew Monjaras 
Hometown: Albuquerque, New Mexico  
Occupation: Founder and CEO of Impact Outdoors  
Conservation credentials: Fundraising for local conservation projects, revamping wetlands and streambanks, creating opportunities for returning veterans to heal in the outdoors, and hosting outdoor education events for local families 

Matt Monjaras is like many lifelong outdoorsmen—he found his passion for hunting and fishing at a young age, felt shaped by his experiences on public lands, and developed an appreciation for the solace he found while tuned into the pursuit of fish or game. But what makes Matt unlike many of us is his effort to give this gift to others in his community by spearheading volunteer conservation efforts, fundraising, and mentorship. 

Here is his story. 

I was born in Colorado but raised in New Mexico along the banks of the Rio Grande. From Las Cruces to Southern Colorado, I spent many lifechanging hours pursuing bullfrogs and catfish along the river. I was also lucky enough to spend summers with my uncle, where I’d be waist-deep in the San Juan River stocking trout and learning about aquatic habitats with the aid of a dry fly.  

These days, I live in a small mountain home in the East Mountains of Albuquerque with my wife, Phoebe, and our two-year-old son, Carter. We are expecting our second child in November of this year. 

I’ve visited countless public lands across the West, and these places carved their way into my dreams and life goals. Meanwhile, my father’s reminder that we only get one life to live has truly stuck to my soul. My connection to Mother Earth has not only shaped my direction—it continues to give my life more purpose with each passing day.  

After high school graduation, I had about ten friends join the military and rush off to fight for the freedoms we continue to have because of their sacrifices for this great country. That year, I fell in love with waterfowl hunting along the banks of the Animas River in Northern New Mexico, just shy of the Colorado-New Mexico border. This developing passion demanded my presence and forced me to reflect on personal decisions like never before. Inside and outside of my duck blind, I thirsted for more information on all the species I encountered, and I began to recognize co-relationships that existed—right under my nose and since long before my time.  

Then my friends began to return home from places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of them were struggling to find purpose in their direction and had a longing for true community.  

One morning, I found myself sitting by the Rio Grande River consoling a friend about many of the haunting decisions he had to make while engaged in battle. I watched a man who I’d considered larger than life seek shelter in the experience of the outdoors. The shadows of ducks, our intended quarry, cut across both of our faces and time slowed as they dropped from the cottonwood canopy into the early morning fog on the river.  

We were both locked into that moment, one that demanded all our senses, and I realized that the outdoors can and will save lives. At that moment, nature gave me something to share with my struggling friend, and we transformed a negative hurdle into hope.  

It was the day that Impact Outdoors was born. Our mission, since then, has been to impact communities through education, conservation, and meaningful outdoor opportunities. Impact Outdoors achieves these goals through strong relationships, community involvement, dedicated volunteers, and a true passion for the outdoors.  

Our organization not only provides opportunities for veterans to hunt, but we also build a community of veterans serving veterans through volunteer work help to enhance habitat and access at the locations where we hold our workshops. We want veterans and families to come through Impact Outdoors and leave with a conservation-minded approach to being sportsmen and sportswomen.   

This engagement with the outdoors and each other is healing, but we also benefit from the skills and leadership our ex-military volunteers have to share with the broader Impact Outdoors community. From welding to maneuvering a tractor expertly around wetlands, our veterans bring so much to the table. Their efforts have helped us improve the function of wetlands and provide disability access that enhances others’ hunting opportunities. These projects are a true win for conservation and community leadership while building strong relationships with landowners who provide us access.   

We also get kids involved in projects from erosion control to wetland development. The habitat improvements benefit all who enjoy the outdoors, but these activities also help youth become stewards of the land with an awareness of habitat management, data collection, agriculture, and biodiversity. We want our youth to think like biologists in the field, even if they don’t consider themselves to be interested in science.  

The private lands that the youth participants interact with serve as an outdoor classroom and a venue for hunter education. We want to help our youth recognize the resources in their own backyards, gain a sense of pride in the outdoors, and understand that conservation requires involvement.  

I hope we’re empowering the next generation of conservation-minded leaders who will benefit this community. 

The outdoors has always been my safe harbor to deal with life’s challenges, and now I am able to share that gift with others. Helping people and improving the habitats that I have long enjoyed is molding me into the father, husband, and friend I was always meant to be. I am not content to watch my son’s wild places, fisheries, marshlands, or the overall health of the environment diminish—at least, not without a fight. 


Do you know someone “In the Arena” who should be featured here? Email info@trcp.org for a questionnaire.



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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