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July 17, 2023

ICAST Summit 2023-AlexReed-FDEP-panel

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July 13, 2023

Senate Subcommittee Hears Testimony on Pending Legislation 

The pending legislation seeks to benefit fish, wildlife, outdoor access, and the economy.

Yesterday’s hearing of the Senate ENR Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining featured testimony on pending legislation aimed at protecting, and benefiting, fish, wildlife, outdoor access, and the economy.  

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership thanks Chairwoman Cortez Mastro (D-N.M.) and Ranking Member Mike Lee (R-Utah) for holding this public lands subcommittee hearing, says Patrick Donovan, chief policy officer at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We remain dedicated to ensuring the places Americans love to hunt and fish are conserved and look forward to working with the Committee to advance these and other important habitat and access priorities this Congress.” 

Among the many pieces of legislation considered on Wednesday, TRCP priorities include: 

The Malheur Community Empowerment for the Owyhee Act

The Malheur Community Empowerment for the Owyhee Act aims to find collaborative solutions that benefit fish, wildlife, and the local outdoor economy. “We believe that the Owyhee Plateau is a landscape that should be safeguarded for future generations of American sportsmen and sportswomen, says Michael O’Casey, deputy director for the Pacific Northwest at TRCP, “We appreciate Senator Wyden’s efforts to bring diverse stakeholders to the table to discuss ways to protect the Owyhee canyon country and the multiple uses it supports. This hearing provided an opportunity for feedback and possible improvements to the bill, so it achieves its promise for public lands, fish and wildlife, and the Malheur County economy.  Speak up for Owyhee Protections here.

The Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act

The Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy (CORE) Act, led by Senator Bennet (D-Colo) seeks to protect over 420,000 acres of public lands in Colorado and safeguard outdoor recreation opportunities to boost the economy for future generations.

The Dolores River National Conservation Area and Special Management Area Act

The Dolores River National Conservation Area and Special Management Area Act, which enjoys bipartisan support in the House, would designate a National Conservation Area (NCA) for a portion of the Dolores River Corridor and protect over 68,000 acres of public lands in Colorado.

Together, The CORE Act and The Dolores River National Conservation Area and Special Management Area Act, would protect prime hunting and fishing destinations in Colorado, like the Thompson Divide, miles of trout streams and elk and mule deer range, and unlock new public fishing access in the Gunnison River Basin. Learn more about the importance of hunting and fishing access here.

The TRCP remains committed to working with Congress to advance these and other important public lands, habitat, and access legislation. 

Watch the Senate ENR Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests and Mining hearing here

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July 10, 2023

Updated Management Plan for Eastern Colorado BLM Lands Will Benefit Colorado’s Wildlife, Hunters, and Anglers

Backcountry Conservation Areas and other Resource Management Plan updates will ensure conservation of high-quality habitats

Last week, the Bureau of Land Management’s Royal Gorge Field Office published their proposed final Eastern Colorado Resource Management Plan revision and environmental impact statement for review before a final Record of Decision is signed. The final Resource Management Plan will provide management direction for 666,127 surface acres and nearly 6.5 million subsurface acres of mineral estate in Eastern Colorado for decades to come. The TRCP thanks all the BLM, Department of Natural Resources, and Colorado Parks & Wildlife staff, county officials, and TRCP members, supporters, and partners who have provided invaluable feedback, guidance, and expertise since this plan revision process began in 2015.

These BLM lands are home to elk, mule deer, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, and wild and native trout, and encompass 487 miles of streams and rivers and popular destination lakes and reservoirs valued by anglers. The updated BLM plan commits to managing 87,400 acres of extraordinary fish and wildlife habitat as Backcountry Conservation Areas, thereby protecting them from fragmentation and development while maintaining important access for hunting, fishing, and other forms of wildlife-dependent recreation and traditional uses of the land.

In these BCAs, the BLM will focus management activities on the conservation and restoration of key habitats, which can include wildfire mitigation work and habitat improvement projects where needed. By improving and protecting habitat, the BLM will support healthy big game herds and hunting opportunities in the region for decades to come.

“For decades the absence of a cohesive guiding framework for administering Eastern Colorado’s public lands and natural resources has contributed to management uncertainty and stakeholder confusion,” said Dan Gibbs, executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. “The final RMP will allow BLM to respond more effectively to evolving priorities and environmental conditions.”

This proposed RMP also includes a prohibition on renewable energy or oil and gas development within BCAs, and restrictions to oil and gas development in certain key habitats, generally consistent with those employed by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Additionally, the plan reflects management actions that local government, community members, and conservation partners in the South Park area cooperatively proposed to balance energy development with habitat conservation to support a diverse local economy.

“We appreciate that BLM has addressed the extraordinary wildlife and streams in iconic South Park separately from the rest of the proposed resource management plan,” said Suzanne O’Neill, executive director of the Colorado Wildlife Federation. “The improvements to the draft reflect most of the priorities that CWF and a coalition of other interest groups developed during a lengthy planning process.”

In Colorado, the BLM manages around 8 million surface acres, so updates to outdated land use plans strengthen the wildlife and outdoors values that the public enjoy.

“The TRCP is hopeful that implementing this revised Eastern Colorado RMP will improve how high-value fish and wildlife habitat is conserved and managed across these landscapes,” said Liz Rose, Colorado Field Representative for the TRCP. “We will continue to track and comment on other BLM planning efforts in-progress, Travel Management Plans, and other BLM-proposed actions to ensure that public lands support healthy, stable wildlife populations and provide quality places for all Americans to hunt and fish.”

BLM’s process includes a 30-day protest period following publication, coinciding with a 60-day Governor’s consistency review. For more information about the current public involvement phase and to find BLM’s Eastern Colorado RMP documents, go to: https://eplanning.blm.gov/eplanning-ui/project/39877/510.

Photo Credit: USFS

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July 7, 2023

Five Takeaways from the 4th International Chronic Wasting Disease Conference

Because of the threat CWD presents to deer hunting, TRCP sponsored and attended the 4th International Chronic Wasting Disease Conference to discuss cutting edge science, share management successes, and learn from failures.

As most hunters are aware, Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a fatal disease spread by misfolded proteins called “prions” that affects elk, mule deer, and white-tailed deer. First detected in Colorado in 1967, CWD has spread to at least 32 states, including two new states (Oklahoma and Florida) in the past month! CWD has major repercussions for herd health, and there is precedence for other diseases of this type crossing the “species barrier” and affecting humans.  Because of the threat CWD presents to deer hunting, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) sponsored and attended the 4th International Chronic Wasting Disease Conference in Denver, CO from May 31 – June 2, 2023.  The conference brought together leading researchers, federal and state agency personnel, NGO, and industry representatives to discuss cutting edge science, share management successes, and learn from failures.

It would be impossible to fully describe several days of scientific presentations and panel discussions in the space we have here, so here are my Top 5 Takeaways from the 4th International Chronic Wasting Disease Conference. 

Hunters are the Key.

When it comes to CWD management, hunters must be a big part of the solution. When state or Tribal agencies use the best available science to create a CWD strategy, hunters must step up and help implement that strategy.

A key component of CWD management is simply promoting overall herd health. In many parts of the country, that requires reducing herd numbers and densities to sustainable levels. Not only can this help grow big, healthy bucks, but it also means hunters get to take more does. I don’t know about you, but any chance I get to solve a problem by hunting more is a chance I’m going to take. 

At a minimum, hunters should follow CWD regulations, including being sure not to move deer or elk heads and spines from CWD affected areas. We also should not spread information about CWD without verifying its accuracy. 

 

When agencies no longer consider hunters a partner in CWD management, we lose our seat at the table, and whoever replaces us is unlikely to have our interests in mind.   

Don’t Move Deer.

Too many live deer are moved around the country every day. Herd certification protocols have failed to prevent the spread of CWD among captive facilities. Testing requirements are too often ignored and when CWD is discovered in a captive herd it is sometimes ignored or covered up. If we are going to continue to allow deer and elk farming in the era of CWD, we must make sure that the industry holds up their end of the bargain. It was great to see representatives of the captive deer industry participating in this conference; let’s hope they take the next step and become part of the solution. 

Hunters must step up here as well. The best thing we can do is debone deer in the field and avoid transporting skulls, spines, and lymph nodes. 

CWD is Not Going Away.

CWD is a challenging disease, but we can manage around it.  

CWD prions can exist in the environment for years, bind to soil and plants, and spread very quickly. Multiple factors compound this challenge: CWD testing is not cheap, carcass-side tests need improvement, vaccines have not been successful, and breeding resistant animals has not made great strides (not to mention the fact that it has no applicability to wild deer). The silver bullet we have been looking for since CWD was first identified probably does not exist.  

It had been 14 years since this conference was last held, and as you might imagine, a lot of work has been done to better understand and manage CWD since 2009. There is tremendous value in getting all parties involved, including hunters, in the same place for a few days. If we want to make a dent in CWD, we need to make such gatherings happen more often. By continuing to learn more about this disease and collaborating, we can continue to put what we already know into action. That is why the TRCP worked to get the CWD Research and Management Act passed, and why we continue to work to ensure it is funded.  It’s also why we continue to advocate for hunting as a CWD management tool and continue to remind hunters that managing CWD means better hunting. 

Humans Have Not Contracted CWD.

No one wants to be patient zero. Get your deer tested and demand that your state make testing easier.  

One bright spot in the conference were the presentations reinforcing a lack of evidence for humans contracting prion disease from deer. Hunters in areas with long-term CWD currently do not show higher rates of prion disease than the general population, and even people who consumed meat from infected animals have not shown higher rates of disease. So far, the “species barrier” that prevents a CWD prion from affecting humans appears to be holding up. That is great news, but it does not mean we are out of the woods. Prion disease has spread across species, including to humans, in the past, and human prion diseases can take years or decades to become symptomatic.

The CDC still recommends that we do not consume meat from infected animals, so get your deer tested if you are hunting where CWD is prevalent. If testing is difficult or expensive in your state, make sure your elected officials know that this is important to you and to the future of deer hunting.  

We Need More Information.

If we are going to make a dent in CWD, eradicate it, or even learn to live with it, we need to keep learning more about it. Researchers across the country, and even around the world, are working to better understand how CWD spreads, what leads to the most spread, where pathways to human disease exist, and how overall herd health can be maintained. Right now, there is still a massive shortage of funding to do this type of research, creating a bottleneck between a problem and its solutions. There are also onerous requirements for researchers that prevent them from doing CWD research in the first place. 

Researchers know what is preventing them from getting answers, and the TRCP and our partners are taking that knowledge and using our policy expertise to remove roadblocks. This is how we will make sure we have the information hunters and agencies need to maintain healthy deer herds and great deer hunting. 

Learn more about Chronic Wasting Disease here.

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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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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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