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May 9, 2024

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May 8, 2024

New Legislation Would Support Wildlife Habitat on Private Lands 

The Habitat Connectivity on Working Lands Act is aimed at expanding voluntary efforts to enhance wildlife habitat connectivity on private and working lands. 

Today, Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Congressmen Ryan Zinke (R-Mont) and Gabe Vasquez (D-N.M.) introduced the Habitat Connectivity on Working Lands Act. This bill would support and expand voluntary efforts to improve wildlife habitat, including big game habitat, on private and working lands.  

Building on the success of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Migratory Big Game Initiative in Wyoming, the bill would allow the USDA to leverage unique cost-share, technical assistance, and payments provided under the Grassland Conservation Reserve Program (GCRP) and Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) for the benefit of wildlife and agricultural producers. These common-sense improvements remove administrative barriers that limit both the conservation outcomes and relevance to producers working to conserve important fish and wildlife habitat on private land.  

“Working lands provide key habitat for migratory fish and wildlife, including big game like elk and mule deer. USDA’s voluntary conservation programs need to work together to support farmers and ranchers who create and enhance this habitat, and the next Farm Bill is our opportunity to make that happen.” said Becky Humphries, CEO at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “The Habitat Connectivity on Working Lands Act removes unnecessary barriers to working lands stewardship. The TRCP thanks Senator Heinrich and Congressmen Zinke and Vasquez for their leadership on this bill and urges its inclusion in the Farm Bill.” 

The bill also spurs UDSA research on virtual fencing technologies, which allow for greater wildlife movement and animal safety on livestock operations and provides greater incentive through EQIP for the adoption of conservation practices that conserve or restore wildlife habitat connectivity.   


Learn more about Farm Bill conservation programs here

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May 7, 2024

A Short History of Conservation Collaboration in Nevada’s Ruby Mountains

Where we have been, and where we are going

The Ruby Mountains will always be a special place to me. I was first introduced to these incredible mountains and the wild they hold on a snowy November morning during the last weekend of the 1972 mule deer season. My brother-in-law’s family had hunted the Rubies many times, and it was with him and his younger brother that I first laid eyes on the mountain range that would fascinate me for the rest of my life.

Having arrived after dark late on a Friday night, we slept crammed like cordwood into my brother-in-law’s old 1959 Willys wagon. My first glimpse of the mountains at daybreak took my breath away. Being just a 15-year-old kid, I was awestruck by the beauty of the Rubies covered with six inches of fresh snow. My companions told me we should be well into the rut and this was going to be a weekend to remember.

We climbed, after a quick breakfast of chocolate chip cookies, to the top of a ridge where we could glass a huge basin filled with aspen groves intermixed with sagebrush, ceanothus, and bitterbrush. The small creeks were choked with aspens and beaver dams. As I looked into that snow-filled bowl, I spotted group after group of mule deer, six to ten or more in every little herd. Each group had a swollen-necked, rutting buck tending does. I had never seen anything like it, and honestly, haven’t seen anything quite like it since.

We looked below us and saw one of these small herds directly below us. The other two fellows were packing iron-sighted rifles, an old Lee Enfield .303 British and an even older Marlin lever action .30-30. I was carrying my Dad’s sporterized 1917 Enfield .30-06 topped with a 2.5 power scope. Since the deer were a bit far for their guns, they convinced me that I should take the shot.

With his mind on the does, the big four-by-four buck had no idea we were right above him. I rested on my knees, found the buck in the scope, and pulled the trigger. I was incredibly lucky that day and dropped a far better buck than a green kid like me deserved as a first deer. It took us several hours to drag that deer out the bottom through the beaver dams and downed aspen to where we could get to that old Willys.

I’m now honored that I have the opportunity to work to ensure that memories like this will continue to be made for others who admire the Ruby Mountains through my position at TRCP and the many partners who share a common vision for the future of this incredible landscape.

Conservation successes hardly ever happen overnight. Some take years, others take decades, and all the while organizations, decision makers, and engaged citizens work together for conservation measures that will maintain the high quality of life wild places provide.

The Ruby Mountains in northeastern Nevada is one such place where the work is still in progress, but progress is being made.

The Ruby Mountains support one of Nevada’s largest mule deer herds.

The Ruby Mountains stretch for nearly 100 miles in Elko County. These rugged, glacier-carved peaks and their cold, clear streams serve as a stronghold of native cutthroat trout and other wildlife, while providing an abundance of world-class public land opportunities for hunting, fishing, and other forms of outdoor recreation. They are also the origin of one of the most important big-game migration corridors in the state, utilized by one of its largest mule deer herds, and home to many other fish and wildlife species, including the Lahontan cutthroat trout.

The urgency for conservation safeguards began in 2017 when oil and gas exploration leases were requested on over 53,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service land. Over the next year, Humboldt Toiyabe Forest personnel analyzed potential impacts to the area, while at the same time, a groundswell of public opposition to development formed. When the public comment period on the proposal opened, thousands of individuals and organizations spoke out against the proposal.

Finally, in 2019, Forest Supervisor Bill Dunkelberger issued a no-leasing decision on the request. However, within days of that decision, expressions of interest were filedon an additional 88,000 acres, many of which were the same parcels previously denied. It became clear to TRCP and our partners that whoever was behind the requests for oil and gas leasing was not going away. 

After hearing the many pleas to protect the iconic Ruby Mountains by denying requests to lease for oil and gas drilling, Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto(D)introduced legislation to permanently withdraw the Ruby Mountains area of the Humboldt Toiyabe Forest from leasing for oil and gas development.

In a bipartisan move, Nevada Representative Mark Amodei (R) introduced a similar companion bill. The two bills have been reintroduced each session of Congress since 2019, including in 2023. Yet, despite many efforts, neither have gone to the floor of their respective chambers for a full vote. Both decision makers and the hunting, fishing, and conservation organizations that support the legislation have realized that the best chance of establishing the necessary safeguards is to incorporate the bills into a larger, compatible, multistate lands package. Unfortunately, Congress has provided no such opportunity.

Seeing the need for interim safeguards on the ground while a permanent approach waits to advance in Congress, Senators Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen (D-NV) requested a 20-year administrative withdrawal from leasing by the Biden administration. In a series of letters to Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland in August and November 2023, the Senators asked the Secretary to take the necessary action for a withdrawal of approximately 350,000 acres from mineral development. Under theMineral Leasing Act of 1920, the U.S. Department of Interior is charged with administering oil and gas leasing on the nation’s forests, as well as Bureau of Land Management acres.  

This action, and the related legislation, is supported by the Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone of Nevada, who consider the area sacred ancestral land and whose reservation sits along the western flank of the Rubies. The Ruby Mountains are considered central to the lives of the Western Shoshone peoples.

In addition, Sportsmen for the Rubies, a coalition of 15 Nevada hunting and fishing groups, has supported bipartisan efforts to pass legislation permanently conserving the Rubies since 2019 and also supports the request for a temporary administrative mineral withdrawal.

So many hunting and fishing opportunities for Nevada sportsmen and women are tied to the wildness of the Ruby Mountains and the Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Because of these invaluable qualities, the diverse, bipartisan support of tribes, legislators, and citizens remains strong and will continue to take steps forward to protect the places Nevadans love to hunt and fish. The TRCP has been at the forefront of urging conservation measures for this landscape be established, and while we’ve already come a long way, we continue our refrain of action: to urge the Bureau of Land Management to take administrative action to withdraw the oil and gas resources from leasing within the Ruby Mountains and Ruby Lake Refuge to safeguard this truly unique landscape in Nevada. And ultimately for congress to pass the Ruby Mountains Protection Act. 

To speak up for the Ruby Mountains, sign up below for our weekly newsletter that will keep you updated for opportunities to take action.

The TRCP is your 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.


This blog has been modified from an article first published by The Nevada Independent.

Photo Credit: J. Harsha

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In the Arena: Jon “Hoss” Haas

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.

Jon “Hoss” Haas

Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona
Occupation: Television show host/producer, conservation director for the Mid-South Fly Fishers club, and fisheries advocate
Conservation credentials: Producing and hosting an Emmy-nominated angling show focused on conservation issues and serving in board and director roles for conservation organizations, including being a past board member and communications director for the Coastal Conservation Association Oregon.

Jon “Hoss” Haas is host and executive producer of Emmy-nominated “Hoss Off the Grid,” which invites viewers into the rush of adventure-destination sportfishing. He’s a hardcore lifetime fisherman, whose endeavors are framed by a conservation focus in which he uses his sportfishing quests to highlight the need for fisheries stewardship. Hoss has also personally documented the menhaden reduction industry fleet removing these critical forage fish from the Chesapeake Bay, and freely shared that footage for conservation purposes. 

Here is his story.

I was lucky enough to have a best friend when I was young, around 9 years old, who had a much older stepbrother who liked to fish. He took us with him on occasion. This was mainly fishing in lakes and ponds for panfish, bass, and catfish in Arizona, but it gave me an appreciation for being in the outdoors and especially the bug for fishing at an early age.

Once my buddy and I were fishing in a park lake in Phoenix. It was an old, concrete-lined lake that had several fingers running out of it, and in one of them I saw a deeper hole at the bottom. In the hole I spied a round object that had moved slightly. Thinking it was a turtle, I dropped a worm on a hook down into the hole and to our surprise the “turtle” opened up and gulped the bait. It wasn’t a turtle at all, but a giant catfish.

Once hooked, it took off out of the concrete into the lake for a fight. We could see it was a big catfish and watched it tearing up the reedbed across from us. Eventually the line broke, but the impact forever changed me because I realized fishing was magical, it was a key to adventure since anything could happen. 

If I could hunt or fish anywhere, I would pick a fly-fishing trip in the Seychelles off the coast of Africa for giant trevally and bumphead parrotfish. The evolution of a fisherman generally goes from most, to biggest, then to hardest. For many species, hardest equates to the biggest on a fly. Those Seychelles fish are unique, aggressive at times, and very strong. Trying to land them on a coral atoll will test your skills and your gear. And being in a place like the Seychelles, remote and beautiful, with a limited footprint from mankind, is always rejuvenating to me. So, when I finally get there and hook one up, I’ll be scratching one off the top of my bucket list and recharging my batteries.

Conservation has enhanced my life significantly because without it being fought for by past generations, I don’t think there would be much wildlife or wild places left for my generation to enjoy. Being active in conservation is an opportunity for each of us to show we care about what happens to the world, now and in the future. Simple things like picking up the trash off a riverbank or donating to a conservation organization show you care. I have been lucky enough to travel the world and fish in a lot of wild places for great fish. The reason I did the television show “Hoss Off the Grid” was to show the great fisheries that are still left and why we need to fight to protect them.

“Without people being actively involved in conservation, there will likely be nothing left to conserve.”

I recently moved to Memphis, Tenn., and here we fish for big trout in a lot of the tailwaters below dams in northern Arkansas. Two of these rivers have produced world record-size brown trout and have robust trout fisheries. The Little Red River produced a 40-pound brown in 1992 and the White River produced a record 40-pound, 4-ounce brown that same year. These tailwaters are controlled by the Army Corps of Engineers for hydropower and flood control and have no minimum flow requirements that must be adhered to.

This last winter we saw water so low on the Little Red that it exposed the spawning beds upriver for over a week during the brown trout spawning run. That’s an issue. It’s never easy to get federal agencies to move quickly, so we will have to coordinate our efforts to magnify our individual voices to stop it from happening again.

I think conservation is a duty we all have to ourselves, the natural world, and future generations of outdoor enthusiasts. Without people being actively involved in conservation, there will likely be nothing left to conserve within a short period of time. A natural resource will always have folks who want to exploit it, and in most cases, if left unchallenged, they will overexploit it to the point they abandon it and move to the next thing to exploit. The Chesapeake Bay menhaden reduction fishery is a prime example of overexploitation to the point of decimation.  I saw the same thing on the Columbia River in Oregon, around commercial fishing for salmon when Endangered Species Act-listed runs of fish were trying to make it home through the same waters from which they originated.

It’s important for me to know I’ve contributed my part to try to make things better for the generations coming behind me. Conservation is really the only thing that will keep the wild places wild and ensure fish and other wildlife are available for the next generation of hunters and anglers to enjoy. I’ve already seen the degradation of some incredible fisheries in my lifetime and hope that our efforts to preserve ecosystems and guard our world’s natural environment from overexploitation will allow some of them to eventually recover. Without continued diligence on conservation efforts, we can’t hang on to what we have or make it better. That’s why it’s so important to get young people involved in conservation as much and as early as possible.

I also challenge the next generation to join conservation groups, since regulators care about votes. Membership in a group represents votes to those in power, and tells them they need to listen.

All photos courtesy of Jon Haas/Hoss Off the Grid

Support TRCP’s forage fish conservation efforts to help protect menhaden and herring.


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 26, 2024

TRCP Breaks Down Updates to BLM’s Oil and Gas Leasing Policies  

The Bureau of Land Management has modernized its rules regarding oil and gas leasing on public land to reduce conflict between oil and gas development and fish, wildlife resources  

Sportsmen and sportswomen have been promoting responsible land use and energy development for decades. Our community spends a lot of time exploring public lands, and at some point we all experience how energy development can impact our favorite time-honored traditions, recreational pursuits, and the fish and wildlife populations we love. 

This is why we’re pleased that the Bureau of Land Management has modernized national onshore oil and gas leasing regulations to help reduce the conflict between oil and gas development and other important multiple uses, including hunting, fishing, and wildlife habitat. Some of these updated rules come directly from the Inflation Reduction Act passed by Congress in 2022 and are required to allow BLM staff to implement that new law. Many of BLM’s rules governing oil and gas leasing on public lands were over fifty years old; these new rules are more up to speed with modern day science and technological advancements, resource needs, and state and federal guidance. That is just good policy.  

Below are a few specific provisions from the updated rules that will help conserve your hunting and fishing opportunities and cultural resources where oil and gas development occurs: 

Updated bonding requirements. When for-profit entities develop public lands, the government should ensure that those entities can cover associated clean-up costs in the future to protect public land users and landscapes. One way to do this is to require bond money at the beginning of a project lifecycle. Oil and gas infrastructure, operations, ongoing maintenance, and reclamation have all become more costly since the existing bond rate was set in 1960, therefore the updated rule increases the minimum lease bond amount for developers/operators from $10,000 to $150,000, and the minimum statewide bond to $500,000. This will reduce the number of abandoned wells that taxpayers must foot the bill to clean up, which helps public land that’s no longer in production go back to providing us all with room to roam. 

Prioritization for leasing outside of important wildlife and cultural areas. The updated rule will help steer oil and gas leasing and development away from important wildlife habitats, such as migration corridors, and cultural sites, and toward lands with existing infrastructure or high production potential. 

Increased royalty rates. Because BLM’s leasing and development regulations allow for-profit entities to generate revenue from producing public assets (including oil, gas, and other hydrocarbons and minerals) on federal public land, a small portion of that revenue is paid back to the public agency through royalty payments. Under the new rules, royalty rates for leases will increase.  For leases issued during the 10 years after the effective date of the Inflation Reduction Act the royalty rate will be 16.67 percent (up from 12.5 percent), and after August 16, 2032, the rate of 16.67 percent will become the minimum. 

Increased minimum bid requirements. BLM oil and gas lease auctions have a minimum bid amount established to ensure that public lands and minerals maintain a minimum base value across the country. The BLM’s updated rules, per the Inflation Reduction Act, will increase the national minimum bid from $2 per acre to $10 per acre. A higher minimum bid rate will help ensure that only lands with high development potential are leased at auction and that the public lands we all value so much aren’t sold for pennies. 

Minimum rental rates per acre. Normally, lessees can hold on to federal onshore oil and gas leases for ten-year terms. The BLM’s new rules, per the Inflation Reduction Act, include a rental fee of $3 per acre per year during the first 2-year period of the lease term; a $5 per acre per year for the following 6 years; and then $15 per acre per year thereafter. After August 16, 2032, those rental rates will become minimums and could be increased. This creates a financial incentive for developers to release leases if they have no intention of developing them.   

Expression of interest fee. BLM staff assess all parcels for which there are ‘expressions of interest’ in leasing, and companies or individuals can propose lists of parcels whether they fully intend to bid on them during lease auctions or not. By adding a fee of $5 per acre, or a fraction thereof, for filing expressions of interest, the BLM will encourage speculators to submit expressions of interest for parcels for which there is genuine interest and value, which will likely reduce administrative burden on BLM staff as well. 

The case for updating BLM oil and gas leasing policies 

We all use significant amounts of energy to power our day-to-day activities and to get us to our favorite hunting and fishing spots, so ensuring that energy is developed responsibly is critical to maintaining our way of life.  

The 2024 Colorado College Conservation in the West Poll found that ninety percent of Western voters believe that oil and gas companies should pay to clean up their messes – a burden taxpayers have shouldered for too long. Also, sixty-three percent of Western voters believe drilling should only occur on land with the highest likelihood of producing oil and gas. The new oil and gas rule addresses both of these concerns by steering leasing away from land with little potential for drilling, and raising bonding rates to limit future abandoned and orphaned wells.  

The TRCP supports updating federal rules to facilitate low-impact and high-return energy development (including but not limited to oil and gas development) when and where it is appropriate according to the best data, science, and policy.  

These updates are not anticipated to impact domestic energy production but will ensure taxpayers receive a better rate of return on that development, and fewer impacts and disruptions to our public land pursuits and traditions. 

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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