Outdoorswoman and director of SITKA’s ecosystem grants program shares her most memorable hunt, the toughest conservation challenges facing Utah’s Wasatch Front, and how climate change has affected her experience of hunting, fishing, and enjoying the outdoors
Lindsey Davis is an entrepreneur, conservation advocate, writer, and ecologist based in Salt Lake City, Utah, where she has been exploring public lands with a rod, gun, or bow for more than eight years. She currently runs SITKA Gear’s ecosystem grants and conservation partnerships program and serves on the board of directors for the Outdoor Alliance and Utah Wildlife Federation. Previously, she spent three years shaping the work of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, a coalition of outdoor recreation trade associations representing over 110,000 American businesses.
Today, she shares her thoughts on some of the toughest conservation challenges we face.
TRCP: How and with whom do you prefer to spend your time outdoors?
LINDSEY DAVIS: I seek out ways to interact with the landscape around me through hunting, fishing, and foraging for wild food and observing wildlife. No matter where I am, finding wild edible plants and cooking my catch are my favorite ways to build memories in a new place. I love experiencing this on the home front with my friends and family here in Utah, and while exploring new places with friends and knowledgeable locals. Those with literacy in the landscape tend to be the people I enjoy being outdoors with most!
TRCP: Describe your most successful/rewarding day afield or on the water. When was this and what were you doing?
DAVIS: One of my most memorable days in the field was my first successful archery hunt. I had backpacked into the Uinta National Forest for the opening weekend of mule deer season. That year, we’d had a wet spring, so the gooseberries were ripe and full. As I stalked around the woods, I ate fistfuls of berries and looked for deer. I ended up being in the right place at the right time to find a bachelor herd of mule deer, and I put a successful stalk on one of them.
On that hunt, the days were long, the skies were clear, rain was regularly refreshing the landscape, and we were the only hunters around. It was perfect.
TRCP: What is the biggest habitat challenge in your area?
DAVIS: There are many challenges facing wildlife and its habitats here in Utah, but the most glaring in my opinion is the rapid pace of development and population growth in this state. Along the Wasatch front, we have four of the fastest growing cities in the nation and a ton of new housing developments. Advocates are working diligently to map key habitat areas and propose smarter development, but every year I see more wintering grounds and sagebrush habitat ripped out and replaced with condos. I fear that we are putting too much pressure on our wildlife in this urban interface with little understanding of the impacts.
TRCP: How has climate change affected your hunting and fishing experiences in recent years? (Example: Altered seasons or migrations, species decline due to drought or wildfire, invasive species pushing out native forage, etc.)
DAVIS: You have to pay attention to snow, rain, and wildfire like never before. The strength and severity of winter storms has affected the ability of elk, deer, and pronghorn to make it through the winter. The amount of precipitation determines whether there will be enough green-up in the spring for calving females and what elevations the herds will need to be at in the late-summer and early-fall to find food. These same factors impact where ranchers will be grazing their sheep and cattle on public land. It all matters so much and determines how and where I hunt in the fall.
Variability in these factors has changed where it is productive for me to hunt in recent years. Wildfires have made it necessary to pack an inhaler and an N95 mask. It has also made it near impossible, at times, to see wildlife more than a few hundred yards away. Warmer water temperatures have made flyfishing closures imperative for the health of fish, limiting recreational fishing hours to just a handful a day before noon.
In short, it feels like there are just too many pressures on wildlife.
TRCP: How has this affected outdoor recreation businesses and/or hunting and fishing participation where you live?
DAVIS: Here in Utah, hunting and fishing participation is growing for the first time in decades. This makes for even more pressure on delicate resources at a challenging time. Limited hours for flyfishing inhibits a guide’s ability to book full days, which is having a huge impact on the guiding and outfitting components of outdoor recreation. With population increasing, hunting tag allotments are growing more limited and permits are harder to acquire, frustrating residents who would like to hunt every year.
TRCP: Why do you feel responsible for engaging in conservation and efforts to build climate resilience?
DAVIS: I see humans as a part of, not the center of, the ecosystem at large. We have an outsized impact on our natural habitats and also have the means and resources to do things differently. Because I am aware of my impact on the natural world around me, I feel responsible for being a steward and working to ensure generations that follow mine have the opportunity to experience wildlife and its habitats.
TRCP: What is one thing you wish every hunter and angler knew about the impacts of climate change?
DAVIS: While our individual experiences of climate change feel isolated and unique, it is a global issue we are all experiencing. I wish we had more of a shared sense of responsibility around it—more than the priority species we care about or the one region where we live.
TRCP: Do you think the hunting and fishing community is getting serious about fighting for climate change solutions? What would you like to see more of?
DAVIS: I appreciate the growing interest that the hunting and fishing community is showing toward climate change solutions. I think there is still more proving ground for our community at large before we are known as unified and serious, but we are getting there.
A Hunter and Angler’s Guide to the Omnibus Funding Deal
Hits, misses, and other highlights for conservation in the end-of-year package that keeps government funding flowing
Just before the Christmas holiday, Congress quickly took up and passed a funding agreement that keeps the gears of government moving through September 30, 2023. Importantly, the package carried several conservation priorities across the finish line and boosted funding for key programs that are perennially stretched thin. On the downside, long-sought transformational solutions, like the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, and major public lands legislation failed to make it across the finish line.
Here’s a breakdown of what the omnibus deal included for hunters and anglers:
The Chronic Wasting Disease Research and Management Act authorizes $70 million annually to boost data on and curb the spread of the disease. The bill also directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture to carry out a review of its Herd Certification Program for captive deer operations. Read more about this victory here.
The Driftnet Modernization and Bycatch Reduction Act does away with the use of harmful mesh gillnets in federal waters, which has had devastating impacts on marine species and ecosystems.
The Charitable Conservation Easement Integrity Act eliminates a harmful exploitation of the charitable conservation easement tax deduction, ensuring Americans can continue to voluntary conserve private acreage.
The Growing Climate Solutions Act will improve farmers’, ranchers’, and foresters’ access to carbon markets, creating additional revenue streams and keeping lands intact in the process.
Beyond these highlights, the package included modest funding increases for critical conservation initiatives, like the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, North American Wetlands Conservation Act, Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program, and others. Unfortunately, given inflation, many of these adjustments amount to flat funding from the year prior.
Included a rider that continues to tie the hands of Fish and Wildlife Service experts when it comes to making decisions aimed at keeping the greater sage grouse off the endangered species list.
Overlooked funding for the implementation of the MAPLand Act, which the TRCP and hunters and anglers everywhere fought so hard to get across the finish line earlier this year.
Failed to include a suite of public lands or recreation bills that would have boosted access and opportunities for sportsmen and sportswomen on our nation’s vast public lands.
2022 was a rollercoaster year in Congress, and many expected the late-December flurry of post-election dealmaking that resulted in this funding agreement. Drafting and passing a package of twelve appropriations bills is no easy task, particularly during a midterm election year. The TRCP, our partners, and the entire hunting and fishing community have been actively engaged in the process from the start, and we look forward to building off these successes—and circling back to missed opportunities—in 2023.
Top 10 Conservation Issues of 2022 (According to You!)
TRCP members showed the most support for these legislative solutions and conservation priorities in 2022
Since our founding in 2002, the TRCP has existed to unite hunters and anglers around common goals and then bring the strong, unified voice of our community directly to decision-makers, who can implement pragmatic solutions that benefit fish, wildlife, and outdoor recreation access.
Our best metric of success is whether we’ve compelled you—our members, readers, and social followers—to act in support of conservation, whether that’s by signing a petition, sending a message to your lawmakers, attending a public hearing or rally, or donating to keep our work going.
In looking back on this year—our 20th anniversary—we saw a pattern of strong support for many issues, both national and regional in scope. More than 30,000 of you took action at least once in 2022. Here are the issues that convinced the most sportsmen and sportswomen to speak up.
Sportsmen and sportswomen from the Gulf of Mexico to Maine have been primed to act on the menhaden issue since we began sharing the impact of reduction fishing on sportfishing opportunities years ago, but multiple net spills and fish kills this past summer brought even more attention to Omega Protein’s bad behavior.
Our work for menhaden, and the need for your support, continues.
Public Land Access and Management
Unsurprisingly, public land issues came in next on the list, with many opportunities for sportsmen and sportswomen to weigh in on national and local proposals and protect against threats to habitat and access. TRCP supporters have long defended public hunting and fishing opportunities, and some had reason this year to remind decision-makers that our community strongly opposes the sale or transfer of national public lands to the states.
You also spoke out about the need for federal agencies to digitize their paper maps and access records and make this information publicly available. Thanks to your support, this is a requirement made by the MAPLand Act, which was signed into law this year.
Finally, hunters and anglers stepped up to advocate for enhanced hunting and fishing opportunities and balanced, science-based management of national forests, refuges, and BLM public lands in Oregon, Montana, Nevada, and Alaska. Support for hunting and fishing opportunities in the Last Frontier was especially apparent: Across four different campaigns, TRCP members in Alaska and across the country supported re-establishing conservation safeguards for roadless areas in the Tongass National Forest, maintaining 28 million acres of prime habitat known as D-1 lands, preventing degradation of remote caribou and grizzly hunting areas in the Brooks Range, and creating commonsense protections against mine waste in Bristol Bay.
In the past two years, hunters in this community have gotten us closer than ever before to sending more adequate federal resources to state and Tribal wildlife agencies that are struggling to respond to the rapid spread of CWD among wild deer and elk. As a result, the Chronic Wasting Disease Research and Management Act sailed through the House in 2021. This year, thousands of you have pushed senators to pick up the baton and lock down these investments in better surveillance and testing and next-level science. We hope to have good news to share on this any day now.
You also called on the USDA to hold captive deer operations accountable for their role in spreading CWD between farm-raised and wild deer. This will be the major focus of our work once legislation is passed, so stay tuned.
Defending Pittman-Robertson Dollars
One bill that we’ll be glad to see on the cutting room floor at the end of this Congress generated outrage (and action) among hunters and anglers who are proud of our essential role in conservation. The RETURN Act, introduced in July of this year, would have obliterated Pittman-Robertson funding, which is collected via excise taxes on our licenses, firearms, and other gear to underwrite habitat improvements, enhanced hunting and fishing access, hunter’s education programs, and new public shooting ranges across the country.
We’re always hesitant to bring too much attention to legislation that appears to have no path forward, but in this case, with the bill co-sponsored by so many decision-makers upon introduction, education and advocacy was necessary. You rose to the occasion, firing off this message and leading some lawmakers to quickly pull their support for the bill.
Water Conservation and Drought Planning
While public lands and looming threats took top spots on this list, a diverse array of water resource issues also attracted your attention in a meaningful way this year. The biennial Water Resources Development Act was a surprising rallying point for hunters and anglers—while the TRCP always advocates for habitat and outdoor recreation in this process, it has rarely been met with so much support from sportsmen and sportswomen. Thanks, in part, to you, WRDA just passed out of the Senate and heads to the president’s desk with important provisions for Mississippi River conservation efforts, natural infrastructure, and Everglades restoration. The Everglades also got a boost in early 2022, but hunters and anglers continue to advocate for completion of the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir with federal support.
The limitations on our good ideas and strongest conservation policies are nearly always related to how much funding is available. While a balance on federal spending must be maintained, it is worth noting that conservation dollars, as a percentage of all congressional spending, had been cut in half in recent decades. Gains have been made in many existing programs, but new funding sources need to be identified to keep conservation moving forward.
We can always expect a positive response when we post about wildlife crossings and big game migrations, and it’s easy to see why these are popular topics with sportspeople: Crossings reverse habitat fragmentation, save lives, and keep herds healthy, while trail cam footage of their use—particularly during migrations—is just incredibly cool to see.
Hunters and anglers also stepped up this year to support conservation of big game seasonal habitats, including wildlife corridors and stopover areas, across the West. Sportsmen and sportswomen in Colorado and Oregon spoke out about proposed land-use plans and legislation affecting these habitats and the possibility of installing wildlife crossings. This work is likely to be important again in the 2023 state legislative sessions.
Nature-Based Climate Solutions
It is easy to feel overwhelmed at the scope of the climate change crisis and how habitat and species are already being affected. But healthier landscapes and waters are powerful solutions, as well. For this reason, we launched a new online educational resource this year to engage hunters and anglers in this conversation and push decision-makers to embrace habitat-powered solutions to climate change. Many of you downloaded our guide to climate change impacts on hunting and fishing and then took the next step to demand action from Congress and federal agencies. The next major opportunity to secure some of these nature-based solutions is in the upcoming Farm Bill debate, so check back here for more in 2023.
A word about advertising:
I want to acknowledge that hunters and anglers can’t take action on these or other conservation priorities if they are not aware of the opportunity to do so. This is why—in addition to reaching out to our email subscribers and social followers—the TRCP uses advertising, particularly on social media, to expose as many potential advocates as possible to a given issue.
The budget to do this varies from campaign to campaign, so there definitely could be an indication of more support for campaigns that can afford more advertising. Still, even with an unlimited budget, we can’t sell anyone on a weak call to action. So, enthusiasm for the above issues is clearly there.
Thank You for Your Commitment
Perhaps you, yourself, were compelled to take action through a Facebook ad or other sponsored post before knowing much about the TRCP. If so, we’re glad you’re here. If you’ve been subscribed to our emails for a while and filled out your first action alert this year, we thank you. It really does make a difference when we can show lawmakers that their constituents care about an issue.
If you would have liked to support one of these issues, but you’re just learning about it now, please consider signing up for TRCP’s emails. Our weekly Roosevelt Report gives a good overview of what’s going on in conservation across the country, while more regionally specific and issue-based emails go out to smaller groups as opportunities to take action arise. And we will never sell your information or spam you.
Signing up is also a great way to get ahead of any new year’s resolutions to get more involved in or informed about conservation. Let us do most of the work and deliver that information directly to your inbox! Expect your first Roosevelt Report to be sent on January 6, 2023.
In closing, we are extremely grateful for your support of TRCP and overall commitment to conservation, habitat, and access this year. Happy holidays, and we hope you have excellent hunting and fishing in 2023.
Our organizational and legislative successes made possible by your support
In the TRCP’s 20th year of providing a vital service to the hunting and fishing community, we’re proud to say that we haven’t lost any steam. Conservation remains an issue that creates common ground in an otherwise polarized and contentious Washington, D.C.—but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to advance policies and legislation that will benefit fish, wildlife, and America’s sportsmen and sportswomen. With a few weeks still remaining to clinch conservation victories (like these), here are our top achievements to date in 2022.
The House and Senate passed the 2022 Water Resources Development Act, which includes a first-of-its-kind study, conceived of by TRCP, to evaluate natural infrastructure project effectiveness. We’re tracking the conferenced version of the bill, which could pass in an end-of-year spending package as early as next week. Here’s our full wishlist for WRDA.
Legislation passed the Louisiana House to cap the industrial menhaden fishery in the state and create buffers to protect sensitive habitats along the coast. Both of these efforts would move the Gulf menhaden fishery toward ecosystem management, which is now in place along the Atlantic coast. East Coast anglers are still pushing for more consideration of menhaden, however, with more than 10,000 sportsmen, sportswomen, and local residents calling for Virginia decision-makers to move industrial menhaden fishing out of the Chesapeake Bay, a key striped bass nursery. Add your name to the petition.
After the administration implemented multiple recommendations from TRCP and its partners, enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program outpaced expiring contracts, resulting in a net increase of conserved acres. This legislation would boost the CRP even more.
So much of the work we do is educating lawmakers and the hunting and fishing public on conservation priorities. Through digital resources and reports this year, we shared:
Which trout streams are being overlooked, despite qualifying for top conservation safeguards. Explore our map.
Commitment to Transparency
Finally, TRCP again received top ratings by charity watchdog groups Charity Navigator, GuideStar, and the Better Business Bureau. We work hard to ensure that every dollar you give goes as far as possible for conservation, and this recognition of where we stack up against other charities is very important to us.
Given all that we’ve accomplished this year to guarantee Americans quality places to hunt and fish, we hope you’ll consider lending the TRCP your support during this season of giving. If you’re a first-time donor, SITKA Gear will match every dollar you give, and previous donors will get a match on any increase over their last gift. There’s no better time to get involved in conservation and make twice the impact.
How Your Vote in Local Elections Matters for Conservation
PLUS: Ten conservation and access priorities we shared with candidates here inWyoming
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.
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.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
CHEERS TO CONSERVATION
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.