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April 19, 2024

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BLM Poised to Deny Permit for Industrial Corridor in Alaska’s Brooks Range

Hunters and anglers cheer important milestone to maintain America’s most wild and remote hunting and fishing grounds

Today, the Bureau of Land Management released the final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement concerning the proposed Ambler Industrial Road in Alaska’s Brooks Range. The development proposal has gained national attention for its potential to permanently alter the remote character of Alaska’s largest remaining swath of wild country.

After months of analyzing the potential impacts of the major industrial corridor on fish, wildlife, rural subsistence, and outdoor recreation in the region, the BLM selected the “No Action” alternative in the final SEIS, which indicates the agency’s intent to deny the permit for the Ambler Industrial Road later this year.

“Today’s announcement is a big step toward an enormous conservation win for all Americans who value the unbroken landscapes, exceptional habitat, and opportunities for solitude in this awe-inspiring region,” said Lewis Pagel, owner of Arctic Fishing Adventures in Kotzebue, Alaska.

“By selecting the ‘No Action’ alternative in this final environmental review, the BLM is acknowledging that the risks of the proposed Ambler Road far outweigh the rewards,” said Jen Leahy, Alaska senior program manager for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

“This milestone is the result of broad opposition to this project, led by local residents and Alaska Native Tribes, and supported by thousands of conservation-minded hunters and anglers from across the country,” continued Leahy, who lives in Anchorage, Alaska. “Those sportsmen and sportswomen have helped turn the tide of public opinion against the Ambler Road, and we appreciate the BLM recognizing this in their preferred alternative.”

Known as the Ambler Road, the proposed private industrial corridor would partially bisect the home range of the Western Arctic Caribou Herd, one of Alaska’s largest remaining herds. The 211-mile industrial corridor would cross 11 major rivers and require nearly 3,000 culverts, degrading habitat and potentially impeding fish passage for species such as Arctic grayling and sheefish.

“Brooks Range rivers are beautiful, wild, and there are few other places like them in the world,” said fly fishing guide Greg Halbach of Remote Waters in Anchorage, Alaska. Halbach’s small operation offers guided wilderness floats on the Kobuk River, one of the only places in North America to target sheefish—also known as “tarpon of the north.”

“Roads are the very opposite of remote and wild,” Halbach said. “A single road can fragment habitat, disrupt wildlife migrations, and introduce chemical pollutants on a scale much wider than the narrow strip of gravel that we see. A float down the Kobuk River that included passing under bridges and listening to the hammering of engine brakes from tractor-trailers would be a radically different recreational experience.”

The proposed Ambler Road has prompted strong opposition from the hunting and fishing community. In 2023, more than 40 Alaska-based businesses, leading outdoor brands, and conservation organizations launched Hunters & Anglers for the Brooks Range. The collective—which includes guides, outfitters, and transporters who operate in the Brooks Range—is urging the Bureau of Land Management to deny the permit for the private industrial corridor. To date, the growing coalition has delivered nearly 10,000 individual letters to the agency opposing the Ambler Road.

“While the BLM’s ‘No Action’ finding is a cause for celebration, our most important work is still ahead,” said Leahy. “Until the agency issues a final decision, hunters and anglers will remain engaged to help ensure a positive outcome and defend the Brooks Range from future threats.”

Individuals can sign a petition opposing the Ambler Industrial Road HERE.

Learn more about Hunters & Anglers for the Brooks Range and sign up for updates on the status of the Ambler Industrial Road HERE.


About Hunters & Anglers for the Brooks Range: Hunters & Anglers for the Brooks Range, a project of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, is a collective of seasoned hunters, anglers, conservationists, and leading outdoor brands. We are committed to defending the wild and remote character of Alaska’s Brooks Range—a world-class hunting and fishing destination—from the proposed Ambler Industrial Road.

Photo Credit: Greg Halbach

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April 18, 2024

BLM Final Conservation Rule to Benefit Habitat on Public Land

TRCP encourages strong collaboration as BLM proceeds with implementation

Today, the anticipated Conservation and Landscape Health Final Rule was published by the Bureau of Land Management. TRCP has been actively engaged with the rulemaking process since the draft conservation rule was released in April 2023 and collaborated closely with its partners to encourage the agency to make important improvements to the rule. In the final rule released today, TRCP recognizes the value of several key components for maintaining and restoring fish and wildlife habitats important to sportsmen and sportswomen.

“BLM public lands and habitats are under increased pressure from drought, severe wildfires, and invasive species, and the Conservation and Landscape Health Rule will help improve the agency’s ability to address those challenges for the benefit of hunters and anglers,” said Joel Webster, VP of western conservation at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “TRCP appreciates the BLM listening to feedback and making refinements to the final rule.”

Among the modifications made to the conservation rule, the BLM provided increased clarity to narrow the potential applicability of restoration leasing and mitigation leasing on BLM land. The agency also clarified that habitat connectivity is a component of intact landscapes. TRCP believes that these, and other refinements, address critiques made of the draft rule, and the organization encourages the BLM to focus heavily on collaboration during the implementation process.

“Like every public policy, the success and durability of the BLM conservation rule will depend on strong engagement with local communities, states, and Tribes,” continued Webster. “TRCP will do our part by remaining at the table to ensure habitat is conserved, restored, and enhanced to support robust fish and wildlife populations and continued hunting and fishing opportunities.”

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April 17, 2024

In the Arena: Ward Burton

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.

Ward Burton

Hometown: Halifax, Virginia
Occupation: Former NASCAR driver.
Conservation credentials: Founder of the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation.

Ward Burton’s NASCAR driving career stretched across most of two decades. He won five Cup Series races, including the 2002 Daytona 500, 2001 Southern 500, and four Xfinity races before retiring in 2007. 

As an avid sportsman and conservationist, he founded the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation in 1996. A quarter century later, the organization oversees more than 10,000 acres in Virginia and Pennsylvania and has helped landowners in Virginia and Pennsylvania conserve over 45,000 acres of land by developing conservation models aimed at sustainable habitat management, wise forestry management, stream water mitigation practices, and other tools to focus on preserving the integrity of the land and its wildlife.

Here is his story.

Ward Burton, a former NASCAR driver turned conservationist, has a deep-rooted connection to the outdoors that stems from his upbringing in Halifax, Virginia. Introduced to hunting, fishing, and nature by his grandfather, Burton’s childhood experiences instilled a lifelong passion for wildlife and land stewardship. Burton’s work ethic and unwavering persistence in spending time outdoors paved the way for his profound appreciation of nature’s wonders and ultimately led to the founding of the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation in 1996.

The Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation has helped landowners in Virginia and Pennsylvania conserve over 45,000 acres of land and owns and manages over 10,000 acres.

“I’ve never felt it was a choice,” said Burton, “I believe strongly that conservation is an inherent responsibility and I hope that my, and my foundation’s, efforts to share that message have helped impart that to our future generations.”

But his passion for the outdoors extends far beyond his home state.

“Being from the east coast, I am enthusiastic about learning what different habitats support different types of wildlife and hunting and fishing opportunities. I’ve spent time in a lot of cool places, British Columbia, Wyoming, Montana, the Florida Everglades, all for fishing and hunting. Hoping to get back to all of those areas soon.

Burton’s journey as a conservationist began amidst his racing career, inspired by conversations with influential figures in wildlife management. In collaboration with like-minded individuals, he founded the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation, driven by a shared commitment to conservation.

The mission of the WBWF is to promote the sustainability of our nation’s natural resources through conservation, land management, outdoor outreach, and educational practices.  Since their inception, the foundation has helped landowners in Virginia and Pennsylvania conserve over 45,000 acres of land and owns and manages over 10,000 acres.

The foundation develops and sustains their conservation models by managing habitat for endangered species, practicing wise forestry management, stream water mitigation, and prescribed burns to control non-native growth, and other tools to preserve the integrity of the land. Through partnerships with local, state, and federal organizations, and by working directly with landowners, the WBWF shares and advocates for conservation and land management best practices nationwide. 

Recognizing the critical role of conservation in preserving outdoor pursuits for future generations, Burton emphasizes the importance of habitat protection and wildlife management. He advocates for finding a balance between rural preservation and sustainable development, ensuring the longevity of natural resources.

“Giving land a voice and weaving conservation best practices into my day to day has become second nature,” said Burton, “Being conservation-minded has enhanced my love and appreciation for the outdoors – it’s our responsibility to sustain our natural resources and be stewards of our land and wildlife.”

Through his foundation, Burton actively engages in habitat restoration projects, leveraging programs like the Farm Bill to support his foundation projects as well as fellow landowners in enhancing and restoring wildlife habitats. His hands-on approach, from wetland restoration to prescribed burns, exemplifies his dedication to leaving a positive impact on the land.

Without good conservation practices, the activities we all enjoy outdoors are at risk. Without habitat protection and efforts to maintain and grow healthy wildlife populations, the hunting and fishing opportunities we hope to share with the next generation may not be there.”

Ward Burton

Burton stridently believes that hunters and anglers are the original conservationists, emphasizing the ethical responsibility of stewardship for future generations. He underscores the interconnectedness of habitat conservation, wildlife populations, and outdoor recreation, emphasizing the need for collective action in safeguarding natural resources.

Today, he finds the most joy in sharing these experiences with his children and grandchildren, passing down cherished traditions and values.

With this focus on education and outreach, Burton strives to inspire the next generation of conservationists, urging sportsmen and women to serve as role models and foster a love for the outdoors. He believes that by sharing the joys of nature and instilling a sense of responsibility, future generations will carry forward the legacy of conservation.

“You really need to let them experience the joys, the adventures, and the challenges. It’s through those experiences that they’ll develop a passion for nature and wildlife. I had the great benefit of my grandfather as a very, very strong role model in my life. My mom and dad gave me a lot of freedom as a child. Maybe too much! Once they got used to me not coming in right after dark, they knew I was okay and that I was out in the forest or in the woods. It’s from this that I developed my passion for conservation.”

Looking ahead, Burton remains committed to expanding his conservation efforts, advocating for policy changes, and fostering partnerships to protect natural habitats. His unwavering dedication to conservation serves as a beacon of hope for the future of wildlife and outdoor enthusiasts alike.

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


The TRCP is your no-B.S. resource for all things conservation. In our weekly Roosevelt Report, you’ll receive the latest news on emerging habitat threats, legislation and proposals on the move, public land access solutions we’re spearheading, and opportunities for hunters and anglers to take action. Sign up now.

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April 11, 2024

BLM’s Western Solar Plan Puts Western Big Game Herds at Risk 

Solar goals can be achieved & wildlife habitat conserved through modified BLM proposal 

Some of the most iconic western hunts occur on Bureau of Land Management acres. Think about Wyoming pronghorn, Arizona mule deer, Nevada bighorn sheep. If you’ve ever experienced or dreamed of these hunts, you’ll be interested in the possible placement of millions of acres of solar panels. 



In January, the Bureau of Land Management released a draft plan that—when completed—will guide utility-scale solar development on federal public lands. The BLM administers 245 million acres, primarily in 11 western states and Alaska. The draft is an anticipated update of BLM’s 2012 Western Solar Plan that, when finalized, will identify areas in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming that will be made available for utility-scale solar across the region. The updated plan is viewed by the Administration as a key step toward deploying 25 GW of renewable energy on public lands by 2025 and achieving a 100 percent clean electricity grid by 2035.  

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership recognizes the need for renewable energy sources, and we believe that development must be thoughtfully planned so that it does not adversely impact crucial fish and wildlife habitats and valued hunting and fishing areas. Utility-scale solar generating facilities are high-fenced to exclude both people and wildlife, creating a solid barrier to big game movements. For this reason, improperly sited facilities pose a disproportionate risk to migratory big game species and could be catastrophic for big game herds if located in the wrong place. Since the earliest stages of the Western Solar Plan revision, TRCP and other hunting and fishing organizations have requested that the BLM exclude big game migration corridors and winter range from areas available for utility-scale development.  



Americans can have both renewable energy and robust wildlife populations, but deliberate steps must be taken now to ensure that future. The preferred alternative in the draft plan (Alternative 3) identifies 22 million acres of your public lands to be made available for solar energy development, including 1.8 million acres of migration corridors and 4 million acres of winter range for some of the West’s most well-known big game herds and hunting destinations. Storied mule deer herds like the Paunsaugunt in Utah, the Kaibab in Arizona, and the Wyoming Range could suffer if this proposal is not modified. 

Mule Deer: James Wicks

Encouragingly, the BLM’s draft plan specifies that only 700,000 acres are necessary to fulfill the agency’s solar deployment objectives. Even if the agency is wrong and solar deployment requires several times the anticipated land, the BLM could still fully meet their targets and exclude all big game crucial winter range and migration corridors from development.

To learn more, read the below state-by-state breakdowns and follow the links to maps that show some of the greatest development threats to big game habitat from utility-scale solar development.  

Comment now and request that BLM fix the final Western Solar Plan by excluding crucial big game habitats from potential development.    

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State-by-State Breakdown

Arizona

The proposed plan would allow for solar development across 2.3 million acres of BLM-managed ground in Arizona. 

However, even the preferred alternative of the plan allows for significant development in mapped mule deer migration and winter range habitat utilized by the Kaibab North mule deer herd, as well as the Paunsaugunt herd that travels south out of Utah to winter in northern Arizona. The Kaibab deer herd offers some of the most sought-after mule deer buck hunting in the world in units 12A and 12B. In 2019, the Kaibab herd had an estimated population of 10,200. The loss of winter range and migration habitats to utility-scale solar development would have extensive impacts on the herd. 


Nevada

The proposed plan would allow for solar development across nearly 7 million acres of BLM-managed ground in Nevada.  

Alternative 3 includes development in several mapped deer migration routes in northeast Nevada, and would also impact mule deer winter range in Management Areas 6, 7, 22, and 24, pronghorn winter ranges in Management Areas 5 and 6, and several important ranges for desert bighorn sheep in Management Areas 21, 26, and 27. 

Importantly, the majority of the development areas are located in winter range and migration corridors—a limiting habitat for these big game populations—the loss of which will have disproportionate adverse impacts. 

The following links provide detailed maps of potentially impacted areas in Winnemucca, Mina-Tonopah, and North Caliente


Oregon

In Oregon, under BLM’s stated preferred alternative, the Solar PEIS has proposed 714,957 acres of BLM-administered lands as open for solar development. While much of those lands do not conflict with priority wildlife habitat, Alternative 3 allows for development that lies within important ungulate winter range and significantly impinges upon the migration pathways of several mule deer, elk, pronghorn, and bighorn sheep herd ranges. 

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s 2024 Draft Mule Deer Plan identified seven Herd Ranges of High Concern. Oregon’s Crescent, Bulelah-Malhuer, Klamath Basin, and southeast mule deer herds face significant impingements to their migrations and further fragmentation could create significant additional downward pressure on populations in several of Eastern Oregon’s most iconic game management units. 


Idaho

The proposed plan would allow for solar development across a total of 1.47 million acres of BLM-managed ground in Idaho.  

While most of the proposed acres do not conflict with priority big game habitat, Alternative 3 allows for extensive development in four mapped pronghorn and deer migration routes in southcentral and southwest Idaho, including over 9,000 acres in the Pioneer Mountain mule deer migration, which offers some of Idaho’s highest quality buck hunts in units 44 and 45. The potential solar development would also impact the Mountain Home (51,533 acres), Owinza (123,595 acres), and Gooding (27,886 acres) pronghorn migrations.  


New Mexico

According to the proposed plan, nearly 3 million acres of BLM-managed ground in New Mexico would be open to solar development, including significant development in mapped mule deer migration and winter range habitat utilized by the Crow Mesa herd in Game Management Units 2C, 5A, and 6A, as well as winter range habitat for the Pueblo of Santa Ana mule deer herd in Game Management Unit 9.  

Mule deer are an especially important species for the hunting community in New Mexico, as they account for more than 95% of the annual deer harvest across the state. 


Colorado

The proposed plan under Alternative 3 would make 548,225 acres of BLM-managed surface lands open for solar development in Colorado. 

A significant proportion of these acres overlap high-value habitat for important elk, deer, pronghorn, and bighorn sheep herds in western Colorado. The overlap includes elk migration, severe winter range, and winter concentration areas for the Cold Springs elk herd in Colorado’s northwest corner GMUs 2, 10, and 201; as well as mule deer migration, severe winter range, and winter concentration areas for the White River Mule Deer Herd in the Piceance Basin in GMUs 11 and 22. The BLM’s proposal would also make high-value big game habitat available for future solar development in the Uncompahgre area, South Park, and the San Luis Valley.  

Follow the links to view maps of potential overlap in the Dinosaur, Uncompahgre, and Piceance areas as examples of areas at-risk.  


Wyoming

Wyomingites previously saw crucial winter range and migration routes for pronghorn antelope in southwest Wyoming cutoff when the Sweetwater Solar project was completed in late 2018. To avoid similar mistakes in the future, it will be important for the BLM to exclude development in big game winter range, migration corridors officially designated by the state, and additional mapped migration routes. 

The BLM’s proposed plan for solar development in Wyoming includes nearly 3 million acres. Within this proposed area lies an overlap between iconic deer herds like the Sublette mule deer herd as well as the Wyoming Range mule deer herd (region G & H) famous for the Red Desert to Hoback migration route. In addition, proposed solar developments could also interrupt the famous “Path of the Pronghorn” migration route completed by the Sublette pronghorn herd. This migration route is currently in the process of being formally designated by the state due to its significance.  

The BLM’s proposed alternative also would disproportionately impact the Medicine Bow pronghorn herd and the Baggs mule deer herd—a migration route along the Colorado and Wyoming border. 


Pronghorn: James Wicks

All people who care about hunting, fishing, and wildlife habitat on public lands, can request these specific modifications to the Bureau of Land Management’s Western Solar Plan below.

Feature Photo Credit: Josh Metten

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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