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July 7, 2023

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June 27, 2023

TRCP Applauds U.S. Department of Agriculture Announcement for Habitat Funding  

Federal agency commits at least $500 million over five years for Working Lands for Wildlife

Today the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced its intention to direct at least $500 million over a five-year period to benefit fish and wildlife habitat on private lands across much of the nation.  

“Today’s announcement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture will support America’s hardworking private landowners when they do good things for fish and wildlife,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “About 60 percent of the land base in the United States is privately owned, and these lands often represent the most productive fish and wildlife habitat—their conservation is critical.”   

The Working Lands for Wildlife model uses a landscape-level planning approach to restore and conserve wildlife habitat efficiently, over large areas. These USDA funds will be directed through this approach by utilizing the Farm Bill’s voluntary and incentive based Environmental Quality Incentive Program and the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program to keep working lands working while conserving critical fish and wildlife habitat. At least $40 million will be dedicated to conserving migratory big game habitat through partnerships in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. 

“With today’s announcement, USDA has committed to additional funding, broader geographic scope, longer term planning, and better coordination between the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Farm Service Agency toward wildlife habitat goals,” continued Fosburgh. “All of this adds up to great news for hunters and anglers.”  

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June 20, 2023

BLM’s Proposed Final Plan for Southeast Oregon Reflects Stakeholder Recommendations

The BLM’s plan includes balanced management for conservation on important public lands

Last Friday, the Bureau of Land Management released the Proposed Final Southeast Oregon Resource Management Plan Amendment that—when finalized—will guide land management decisions for more than 4.6 million acres of Oregon’s most scenic and recreationally important public lands overseen by the BLM’s Vale District office within the Owyhee and Malheur River country.

This significant step forward in the planning process will help determine how habitat conservation, outdoor recreation opportunities, grazing, and development will be balanced on BLM land. In the proposed final plan, the BLM has offered a management approach that incorporates recommendations made by the agency’s Southeast Oregon Resource Advisory Council, a group of 15 individuals selected by the BLM to represent diverse backgrounds who worked together for more than five years to develop recommendations. Under the plan, about 420,000 acres in the 4.6-million-acre district will be managed for their wild, backcountry characteristics and the wildlife habitat value they provide.

“A broad-based BLM advisory group rolled up their sleeves to create a well-rounded alternative within the Southeast Oregon RMP amendment, and we applaud the BLM for incorporating many of their recommendations in this proposed final plan,” said Michael O’Casey, deputy director for the Pacific Northwest with the TRCP. “We appreciate the BLM making changes to adopt a balanced alternative in the final plan that conserves special places from development, while ensuring continued access for hunting and fishing, habitat restoration, and ranching.”

Popular public lands in eastern Oregon help fuel the state’s $2.5 billion fish-and-wildlife-based economy, provide important wildlife habitat, and support other multiple uses. The Vale District manages most of the public lands within the Beulah (65), Malheur River (66), Owyhee (67), and Whitehorse (68) hunting units.

“Oregon’s Owyhee region is a critically important hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation area,” said Karl Findling, owner of Oregon Pack Works who grew up in Malheur County. “I appreciate that the BLM made changes that do right by sportsmen and businesses who depend on the management of these lands to safeguard some of the best wildlife habitat and hunting areas in the state.”

“The BLM has an opportunity to safeguard some of Oregon’s best hunting areas and wildlife habitat through these land-use plans, and do it in a balanced way,” said Chris Hager, Northwest Chapter coordinator for the Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “We’re supportive of the proposed final plan and see it as a win-win for the varied wildlife we love to pursue. Proper management that includes conservation measures such as what’s proposed helps ensure that our valued hunting heritage, outdoor traditions, and way of life can be enjoyed by future generations.”

Now that the proposed final is published, the agency has opened a 30-day protest period. Governor Kotek has 60 days to review the plan for consistency with state policy, after which the plan will be finalized.

“Sportsmen and sportswomen will continue to weigh-in as these planning processes move forward,” continued O’Casey. “We are encouraged with the direction the BLM is going, and we support this plan as it moves toward the finish line.”

Photo Credit:  Tyler Roemer

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June 15, 2023

Bill to protect Oregon’s Owyhee Canyons Reintroduced

S. 1890 would provide needed funding for local economic development, and help protect and restore the sage brush steppe

S. 1890 was reintroduced on June 8th by Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley. Senator Wyden spearheaded the bill in 2019 through a series of stakeholder meetings, which resulted in a bill that promotes the long-term ecological health of the region while providing support for economic development and continued traditional and recreational uses of public lands.

If passed, this bill would permanently protect fish and wildlife habitat on over a million acres in southeast Oregon. This region includes the Owyhee River, the Trout Creek Mountains, and key winter range and habitat for big game, chukar, and other species that offer prime hunting and outdoor related activities which sustain thousands of jobs.

The Owyhee Sportsmen Coalition members know this region well and understand the value it holds for sportsmen and women across Oregon. The coalition supports any approach that ensures the region’s open spaces and incredible fish and wildlife resources are managed in a balanced way.

“We want to thank Senator Wyden for introducing this legislation that has been vetted with input from local sportsmen, ranchers, conservationists, and decision-makers,” said Jim Akenson, state board member for the Oregon Hunters Association. “We look forward to working with Congressman Bentz and others to further build upon this bill and find the best way forward for this unique corner of Oregon.”

“For generations, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, and mule deer hunts in places along the Owyhee River have been a favorite for sportsmen and sportswomen,” said Kevin Martin, state board member for the Oregon Wild Sheep Foundation. “This bill provides a key opportunity to do right by sportsmen and the fish and wildlife we depend on by safeguarding this iconic winter range and wild, backcountry landscape long into the future.”

“Our organizations support the multiple uses of public land in this region and recognize that good stewardship means sustainable ranching, wildlife habitat management, public access, and meaningful resource conservation,” said Michael O’Casey, deputy director of the Pacific Northwest region for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Our goal is passage of legislation that supports rural economies, respects local interests, protects and restores the ecological health of the Owyhee landscape, and ensures that our hunting and angling traditions continue for generations.”

“I was born and raised in Malheur County and continue to visit the Owyhee Canyonlands to recreate in many forms,” said Karl Findling, regional director for the Oregon Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “This is an incredible landscape in need of restoration, protection, and additional financial resources within one of Oregon’s last best places and we’re excited to see this bill move forward in Congress.”

“This legislation shows what can happen when stakeholders sit down together and find common ground,” said Michael Gibson, field coordinator for Trout Unlimited. “The real winner in all of this is the land and the fish and wildlife that live there. If passed, future generations of hunters and anglers will get to enjoy robust populations of Redband rainbow trout, chukar, pronghorn, mule deer and California bighorn sheep, while ranchers get the flexibility their operations need to be viable into the future.”

Photo Credit: Sage Brown

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June 13, 2023

Louisiana Lawmakers Take First Step to Conserve Redfish

Senate Resolution unanimously passed Louisiana Legislature, promoting protections for spawning-size redfish

Louisiana lawmakers recently passed Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 46, which urges the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission to prohibit the harvest of any redfish over 27 inches in length, to conserve the spawning stock of this iconic species.

Though it doesn’t force the Commission to make any changes to creel or slot limits for redfish, the resolution is a significant first step toward increasing the redfish spawning stock. The TRCP and its partners will continue promoting the adoption of this recommendation as an official regulation at the Commission level.

It’s become clear, based on public opinion and now the opinion of legislators in the state, that something needs to be done to address declining redfish populations in Louisiana.

Recreational fishing in the “Sportsman’s Paradise” is a $2.5-billion industry that supports thousands of businesses and nearly 18,000 jobs. Fishing is a fundamental part of Louisiana’s culture and brings over 1.2 million anglers from around the world to the state each year. This wouldn’t be possible without science-based regulations that ensure abundant food sources and healthy habitats to support sportfish populations.

Survival rates for juvenile redfish, also known as red drum, to achieve spawning age have been declining for more than a decade in Louisiana. The percent of mature red drum able to successfully spawn also has declined to 20 percent–or 10 percent lower than the state-mandated rate. Numerous factors have contributed to the decline; primarily, the loss of more than 2,000 square miles of coastal marshes in the last century. However, there is no doubt that recreational harvest and pressure from commercial fisheries, on both forage fish and via direct mortality of redfish as bycatch, also play significant roles.

While redfish are not considered overfished, they are currently undergoing overfishing, meaning the mortality rate is too high to maintain a healthy stock size. Recreational anglers, fishery managers, and political leaders must remain dedicated to protecting spawning-size redfish–generally fish 27 inches or longer–by returning them to the water. Efforts to limit bycatch and restore marsh habitat also are necessary to ultimately increase the overall population.

Although anglers are committed to being part of the solution for redfish conservation, more is needed to ensure healthy populations. Each year, foreign-owned industrial boats remove nearly 1 billion pounds of menhaden, forage fish also known as pogies, from Louisiana waters. Pogies are a critical food source for healthy redfish. Tens of thousands of reds are also killed annually while being trapped in the massive seine nets.

Gamefish like redfish and other popular sportfish need large populations of pogies to thrive. Louisiana is the only coastal state in the Gulf or the Atlantic that has no catch limit on pogies or has few to no restricted areas where industrial purse seining is prohibited.

Additional state regulations, including science-based catch limits, are needed to ensure sportfish populations have ample food available and to protect shallow-water beaches and spawning areas from the impacts of large-scale industrial pogie harvest. The TRCP and its partners remain committed to both redfish and pogie conservation, so that marine ecosystems in Louisiana—and along the entire Gulf Coast–can thrive for generations to come.

If you’re a Louisiana resident, send a message to your state legislators, thanking them for supporting Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 46, and encouraging them to support further sportfish conservation efforts.

Photo credit: Rob Shane

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.

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