fbpx

February 9, 2024

Wyoming’s 2023 Public Land Access Survey Results

Hunter & Angler Insights to Public Land Access in the Cowboy State

Wyoming boasts renowned expanses of public land, however, some of this public land remains difficult to access or completely inaccessible. The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership recently explored Wyoming’s public land access debate by conducting an access survey of resident sportsmen and women. Our goal was not only to identify the current sentiments surrounding public land access, but also to foster a deeper connection with Wyoming’s outdoor enthusiasts.

The survey was distributed to Wyoming residents in-person at six public land access listening sessions hosted throughout the state, as well as digitally through social media and TRCP membership emails in November and December of 2023.  

Results

At the campaign’s conclusion in December 2023, a total of 960 Wyoming residents completed the survey. The survey results highlighted a desire among Wyoming’s outdoor enthusiasts to enhance public land access. In fact, 73% of respondents, including both public and private land users, believe there should be more public access in the places where they currently hunt, fish, or recreate.  

Other findings include:

  • 76% of respondents support voluntary land acquisitions by federal land management agencies from private landowners.
  • 88% of respondents support state purchases of small parcels of land from willing private landowners to unlock access to larger parcels of inaccessible public land.
  • 82% of respondents support acquisition of voluntary access easements across private land by federal land management agencies to create new public roads that open access to inaccessible public lands.
  • 85% support state legislation that clarifies and facilitates public access to corner locked public lands while respecting private property rights.
  • 91% of respondents support voluntary agreements between state agencies and private landowners that expand public access to inaccessible public land and private land such as access easements, walk-in areas, and Hunter Management Areas.
  • 92% of respondents support consistent and thorough mapping software to show public access available to state and federal land through existing state-held access easements.

Through the survey and listening sessions, TRCP heard that collaboration will be necessary for solving public land access issues facing Wyoming. Collaboration between state and federal land management agencies can help minimize mapping discrepancies and fill the gap in digital access information. In addition, collaboration between public land recreators and private landowners resonated with many attendees, as surveyed landowners are willing to work with hunters and anglers on access issues. Wyoming’s private landowners understand how important their role is for healthy wildlife populations by providing habitat and refuge, but they also support sound wildlife management practices like hunting and fishing. They desire responsible management of resources and respect for their land and personal property. Finding common ground is an important step in taking care of the public land we all love. It’s the Wyoming way.

What’s Next

The TRCP looks to elected leaders to keep Wyoming sportspeople in mind this coming legislative session. Hardworking Wyoming residents value public land, open spaces, and robust wildlife herds. We urge lawmakers to represent Wyoming values by protecting current access to public land and looking for opportunities to increase ease of public access that is beneficial to all stakeholders.

In the meantime, conservation organizations including the TRCP will take steps to help hunters and anglers advocate for increased public land access by keeping constituents informed of relevant news, offering ways for the public to get involved, and advocating on behalf of public land hunters and anglers. Read more about TRCP’s work to expand public access HERE.

For an in-depth look at the survey findings, be sure to check out our PDF companion. This comprehensive resource offers a detailed breakdown of Wyoming’s public land access sentiments and provides insights into the perspectives of hunters and anglers within the state.

Photo credit: Josh Metten

Do you have any thoughts on this post?

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Comments must be under 1000 characters.

New Legislation Would Cement the Future of Crucial Conservation Programs 

Lawmakers have introduced a bill to boost funding and provide vital enhancements to conservation programs benefiting fish and wildlife. 

Today, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership celebrated the introduction of America’s Conservation Enhancement Reauthorization Act of 2024. The legislation would increase authorized funding levels and provide critical improvements to a wide range of conservation programs benefitting fish and wildlife such as the National Fish Habitat Partnership Program, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), the Chronic Wasting Disease Task Force, and the Chesapeake Bay Program.   

The bipartisan legislation was introduced by Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) 

“The reauthorization of the ACE Act will benefit fish and wildlife while enhancing outdoor recreation opportunities for millions of hunters and anglers,” said Becky Humphries, CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, “We applaud Senator Carper and Senator Capito for their leadership on America’s Conservation Enhancement Reauthorization Act of 2024 and we look forward to building on the success of these crucial conservation programs.” 

The ACE Act was originally signed into law in 2020 with strong bipartisan support and it cemented long-term funding for programs that improve fish habitat, restore wetlands, boost research into chronic wasting disease, invest in clean water solutions, and prevent bycatch fatalities of important gamefish species. This reauthorization of ACE builds on that legacy and makes critical improvements to programs that benefit fish, wildlife, and our sporting traditions. 

Along with reauthorization of many important programs, the ACE Reauthorization Act of 2024 would: 

  • Increase annual funding for the National Fish Habitat Partnership Program from $7.2 million to $10 million. 
  • Better integrate fish habitat work through U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management. 
  • Increase the number of eligible conservation projects by easing local cost-share requirements.  
  • Provide dedicated funding for the National Fish Habitat Assessment.  
  • Increase annual funding for the North American Wetlands Conservation Act from $60 million to $65 million.  

The ACE Reauthorization Act of 2024 is supported by Ducks Unlimited, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, the National Wildlife Federation, American Sportfishing Association, the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, and Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. 

TRCP works to maintain and strengthen the future of hunting and fishing by uniting and amplifying our partners’ voices in conserving and restoring wildlife populations and their habitat as challenges continue to evolve.  

Learn more about TRCP’s commitment to healthy habitat and clean water here.

February 7, 2024

Lawmakers Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Extend Great Lakes Protections 

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act would extend and increase funding levels aimed at safeguarding, restoring, and protecting the Great Lakes ecosystem and the commercial and recreational fishery it supports. 

Yesterday, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Congressman David Joyce (R-OH) introduced the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act in the Senate and House respectively. The bill would reauthorize the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) through fiscal year 2031 at $500 million annually.   

Since its inception in 2010, the GLRI has served as a catalyst for federal action and coordination to protect and restore the Great Lakes ecosystem. This has included a five-fold increase in the successful cleanup of areas with extreme degradation, keeping over 2 million pounds of phosphorus runoff out of the Great Lakes, and protecting nearly half a million acres of habitat crucial to fish and wildlife. To accomplish this, the Initiative leverages investments, capacity, and collaboration across The Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of the Interior, Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of State, Coast Guard, and Department of Transportation to safeguard, maintain, and restore the Great Lakes ecosystem.  

“We applaud Senator Stabenow and Congressman Joyce for their leadership on the bipartisan Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act,” said Becky Humphries, CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, “This important legislation will serve to foster, and fund continued federal agency collaboration aimed at safeguarding, restoring, and protecting the Great Lakes ecosystem and the nearly $7 billion commercial and recreational fishery it supports.” 

With over 10,000 miles of coastline and 30,000 islands, the Great Lakes are a vital source of drinking water, transportation, and recreational activities for the 30 million people residing in the Great Lakes basin. As the largest collection of freshwater lakes on earth, they hold an astounding 95 percent of the United States’ surface fresh water.

The Great Lakes are also an economic powerhouse, supporting over 1.5 million jobs and contributing $62 billion in wages, with nearly $18 billion generated annually through fishing, hunting, and wildlife watching. However, years of environmental degradation have put this invaluable resource at risk, necessitating immediate action to preserve it for future generations. The extension and increased funding dedicated to The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative will help ensure that crucial efforts to protect our water can continue and that new and emerging threats can be confronted by increased agency collaboration. 

Notably, the GLRI will be critical in preventing the spread of invasive carp and combating harmful algal blooms in the Great Lakes which imminently threaten its nearly $18 billion fishing, hunting, and wildlife watching industries. 

Click here to read more about Aquatic Invasive Species Solutions

In the Senate, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act is cosponsored by Senators Vance (R-Ohio), Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Young (R-In.), Duckworth (D-Ill.), Brown (D-Ohio), Baldwin (D-Wis.), Durbin (D-Ill.), Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Smith (D-Minn.), Peters (D-Mich.), Fetterman (D-Pa.), Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Casey (D-P.). 

In the House, the bill is cosponsored by Representatives Huizenga (R-Mich.), Dingell (D-Mich.), Kaptur (D-Ohio), Moore (D-Wis.), Bergman (R-Mich.), Moolenaar (R-Mich.), Tenney (R-N.Y.), Steil (R-Wis.), Stevens (D-Mich.), James (R-Mich.), Miller (R-Ohio), Schneider (D-Ill.), Slotkin (D-Mich.), McClain (R-Mich.), Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), Morelle (D-N.Y.), and Quigley (D-Ill.). 

The GLRI Act is supported by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, the American Sportfishing Association, the National Wildlife Federation, Great Lakes Fishery Commission, Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, Great Lakes Commission, Alliance for the Great Lakes, League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club, National Parks Conservation Association, The Nature Conservancy, The National Audubon Society, Great Lakes Port Association, Environmental Law & Policy Center, Great Lakes Business Network, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Michigan League of Conservation Voters, Clean Wisconsin, Save the Dunes, and the Ohio Environmental Council 

Learn more about TRCP’s commitment to healthy habitat and clean water here.

January 23, 2024

Weigh in on Forest Management to Support Hunting and Fishing

In December, the U.S. Forest Service released a notice to amend 128 land management plans across the National Forest System to promote the persistence and recruitment of old-growth forest conditions across the 193-million-acre National Forest System.

Hunters and anglers recognize that old growth is an important forest type for salmon, steelhead, and trout that benefit from the cold, clear water and habitat provided by older forests. In some places, old forests intercept snow during the coldest months, providing relief for wintering big game. Our community also values the young forests that provide forage for many wildlife species, including deer, elk, and grouse.

Fortunately, as proposed, the forthcoming Forest Service changes are thoughtful and would enhance the agency’s ability to maintain old growth stands through active stewardship—allowing for restoration to maintain forest resilience and to reduce the threat of uncharacteristic wildfire. The changes would also provide space for the creation of young growth habitats in areas of our national forests where old growth is not present.

Speak up for habitat by commenting today in support of balanced and scientifically defensible national forest policy. You can draft your own letter using our talking points below and easily submit them to the USFS comment portal link HERE.

Suggested Comments for your Convenience:

TRCP has developed suggested main points to help you submit formal comments on the Forest Service proposal. Individual comments carry more weight than form letters, and we appreciate you taking a few minutes to weigh in on this important issue:

Old growth trees and forests are important components of National Forest ecosystems, and we appreciate the USFS effort to create a consistent approach to protecting and managing old growth trees across our national forest system. Young, early seral forests are also important to the hunt-fish community, and we encourage the USFS to ensure that the value of early seral forests is recognized in the plan amendment process. Fortunately, as proposed, the forthcoming Forest Service changes are thoughtful and would enhance the agency’s ability to maintain old growth stands through active stewardship—allowing for restoration to maintain forest resilience and to reduce the threat of uncharacteristic wildfire. The changes would also provide space for young growth restoration projects in areas of our national forests where old growth is not present.

As you move forward with the nationwide amendment to create consistent management direction for old growth forests and other forest types, please consider these important comments to advance healthy forests on our public lands.

• Promote forest diversity and recognize that forests are dynamic. Young, middle-aged, and old forests across landscapes provide habitat for multiple species and their life cycle needs. To do so, we must view forests as dynamic collections of important seral states. Forests are healthiest when varying forest ages are interspersed across landscapes, from young forests to old growth.

• There is broad agreement that active forest management is necessary to reduce risks posed by wildfire, optimize carbon outcomes, improve wildlife habitat, safely restore fire to fire-adapted forests, and restore impaired ecosystems. The challenge is how to manage these landscapes at the scope and scale that will address the increasing need.

• The Forest Service must conduct more vegetation management on larger geographic scales to restore forest health and promote resilience, which includes an ecologically appropriate abundance and distribution of mature and old growth forests where those traits are lacking.

• The old growth inventory and analysis of threats completed by the USFS found that mortality from wildfires is currently the leading threat to mature and old growth forests, followed by insects and disease. I support management efforts that focus on science-based restoration and wildfire treatments to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire in mature and old growth as well as other forest types.

Photo credit: Jack Lander

January 22, 2024

Removing Retired Gulf Rigs Ruins Offshore Fishing

Decades-old offshore oil and gas structures, no longer involved in extraction, still provide critical marine habitat – and bipartisan legislation is aimed at protecting these rigs-turned-reefs

Here in Louisiana, I look forward anxiously to the first weekend in June every year.

Some good buddies and I always get together to fish our high school’s alumni tournament in Port Fourchon. Weather permitting (and sometimes even when we should have stayed in bed), we snapper fish on the oil and gas rigs and artificial reefs that have come to life on those structures, almost always with incredible success.

Our favorite destination was once the South Timbalier 50’s blocks, specifically the red-and-yellow-painted double platform that towered over the other dozen or so structures in the area. It was about 12 miles southwest of Belle Pass, meaning it was generally accessible in a 24-foot bay boat. It stood in 60 feet of water and always held nice-sized red and mangrove snapper. Six years ago, we aimed the boat right for it on the first day of the tournament, only to find it wasn’t there anymore.

From a marine fisheries standpoint, Gulf rigs provide an extensive network of the world’s most productive artificial reefs.

This has become a common story along the Gulf Coast. In the early 1980s, there were some 4,000 oil, gas, and sulfur production platforms in the northern and western Gulf. Obviously, the metal structures fixed to the sea floor in depths of 3 to 1,300 feet of water were built to extract and transport petroleum and minerals. But from a marine fisheries standpoint, they also quickly became an extensive network of the world’s most productive artificial reefs.

In the last 25 years, that number of rigs has been cut by 60 percent. In the next decade, as many as 700 more of the 1,550 or so remaining rigs could be removed as well. And, when they are removed, federal law currently requires that the sea floor be stripped bare, with all signs of the rig and associated reef removed.

Fortunately, two Gulf Coast congressmen have recently stepped in to try and save some of the ecologically and economically valuable reefs that have colonized the rigs. Rep. Garret Graves, a Louisiana Republican, and Rep. Marc Veasy, a Texas Democrat, introduced H.R. 6814 late last year. Named the “Marine Fisheries Habitat Protection Act,” it would change federal law and policy to require the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to examine the Gulf’s artificial reefs and associated fisheries production while encouraging more participation in the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s Rigs-to-Reefs Program.   

Critics of artificial reefs, and of the oil and gas industry, have long claimed these structures are simply fish aggregators, meaning they make fish easier targets for anglers and commercial harvesters, likening them to piles of corn or salt licks that attract deer. However, research conducted over the last 30-plus years by Texas A&M Corpus Christi, Louisiana State University and a host of other academic institutions have thoroughly debunked those claims. For some fish, especially snappers and groupers, rig reefs are just as productive or more productive than natural hard bottoms and corals. And these vertically oriented structures can host as many as 90 species of fish that utilize different water depths, while steering fishing pressure away from sensitive natural reefs.  

Within weeks of being in the water, rig legs begin to be colonized by benthic creatures like corals, sponges, barnacles, algae, and other organisms. Some fish species also arrive almost immediately, with jacks, dolphin (mahi mahi), sharks, mackerels, barracuda, tunas, and others quickly orienting higher in the water column. Reef fish and crustaceans come soon after with snappers, groupers, spadefish, triggerfish, and numerous other structure-loving fish colonizing the maze of vertical pilings and cross members.

While Atlantic coast and eastern Gulf states seek out decommissioned naval ships, old tugboats, subway cars, and many other hard structures to sink to expand fish and coral habitat and increase fisheries production and opportunity, Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama had artificial reefs built for them free of charge by the oil and gas industry. All four states have worked with the owners of those platforms on programs to keep as many decommissioned structures as possible in the water, but the rate of removal has far outpaced the effort to navigate the web of bureaucracies, laws, and policies allowing them to stay in place.

For Gulf anglers, the removal of their favorite fishing spots has been a punch to the gut. Many are rightly frustrated, and even angry, at the lost fisheries production and opportunity. Reps. Graves and Veasy, both avid anglers, are deserving of praise for trying to do their part to help their constituents and, more importantly, the fish themselves. With your support, hopefully all of Congress sees it that way and gets behind this bill.   

Tell Congress to support legislation to protect artificial reefs and offshore fishing.

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.

Learn More
Subscribe

You have Successfully Subscribed!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

You have Successfully Subscribed!