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May 16, 2024

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American Wetlands Month: Celebrating Progress and Addressing Challenges

TRCP is rallying support for policies to protect and restore wetlands and the role they play in sustaining fish and wildlife.

May is American Wetlands Month – a time to celebrate the vital role wetlands play in sustaining fish and wildlife and our hunting and fishing heritage. Wetlands are not just habitats for a wide range of fish and game species, ranging from cutthroat trout to white-tail deer, but they also provide a host of other benefits, including enhancing water quality and storing carbon, which are crucial for our environment’s health. Altogether, the conservation and restoration of wetlands plays a critical role in sustaining fish and wildlife habitat, and in-turn, hunting and fishing opportunities for future generations.    

Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

However, while the benefits of healthy wetlands may be clear to hunters and anglers, America’s wetlands are arguably more at risk than ever. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently released their national 2009-2019 Wetlands Status and Trends report, the sixth in a series of congressionally mandated reports evaluating current wetland health. The report found that net wetland loss increased over the past decade, with vegetated wetlands, like marshes and swamps, being disproportionately impacted. These wetlands are disappearing so quickly that 670,000 acres were lost between 2009 and 2019, an area about equal to the state of Rhode Island. On top of the report, we’re also quickly approaching the one-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Sackett v. EPA, which dealt a significant blow to Clean Water Act protections for wetlands and smaller streams. 

Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Fortunately, the TRCP and our partners are working together to build support for federal and state policies designed to mitigate the impacts of the Sackett decision and reverse our nation’s decline in wetland habitat and the mounting risk to fish and wildlife, and our hunting and angling traditions. At the federal level, the TRCP, along with Ducks Unlimited and Trout Unlimited, joined the recent America the Beautiful Freshwater Challenge as inaugural members. The new initiative sets new national goals to reconnect, restore, and protect the nation’s wetlands, rivers, and streams and challenges participants to work collaboratively to sustain these important natural resources. The TRCP is also working with the National Association of Wetland Managers and the National Wildlife Federation to build Congressional support for strengthening the Environmental Protection Agency’s Wetland Program Development Grant Program, which provides funding to states and Tribes to develop wetland protection programs and strategies, which is critical at this moment in time. We’re also working to expand the program’s focus to include implementing these wetland protection efforts, which have been identified as a significant need by the state and Tribal wetland community.  

Photo by Trout Unlimited

At the state level, the TRCP is working with a coalition of groups to pass bipartisan legislation in Colorado that would create a new wetland program to ensure the protection of important wetlands and streams no longer covered by the Clean Water Act. On May 6th, the Colorado General Assembly passed this bipartisan legislation with overwhelming support from the regulated and conservation communities. The bill now heads to Governor Polis’ desk for his signature. The bill, among other things, provides more certainty at the state level regarding protections and permitting for wetlands as the debate of the Clean Water Act’s scope will likely continue. Colorado is now one of the first states in the country to pass legislation to restore protections for wetlands and streams. It can hopefully serve as a model for other states considering similar legislative efforts.  

Overall, despite the challenges facing America’s wetlands, hunters and anglers can play a pivotal role in the conservation of these critical resources. As the TRCP and partners continue to work to address these challenges it will be important for hunters and anglers to share their stories with members of Congress, state legislatures, and federal and state agencies on the important roles wetland play in sustaining fish and wildlife and opportunities for hunting and fishing.  

Top photo by USFWS/Katrina Mueller

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


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.

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May 15, 2024

How the Farm Bill Can Support Wildlife Migration on Private Land

The bipartisan, bicameral Habitat Connectivity on Working Lands Act would allow USDA to leverage Farm Bill conservation programs to benefit wildlife habitat connectivity and migration corridors in partnership with farmers, ranchers, and landowners.

In the Western U.S., where public lands regularly intermix with privately owned parcels, the ability to extend conservation efforts beyond fence lines is critical to conserving big game migration corridors and wildlife habitat connectivity. To access critical food sources throughout the year, animals like mule deer, antelope, and elk must be able to travel freely across the landscape utilizing historic migration corridors.  When these routes lose functionality or habitat, wildlife faces great risks.  Expanding voluntary efforts to improve wildlife habitat on private and working lands is crucial to ensuring that the next generation of sportsmen and sportswomen can experience the wonder of the outdoors.

Farm Bill conservation programs can play a pivotal role in corridor conservation, yet for many landowners and agricultural producers, inflexible program policies, bundles of red tape tied to conservation practices, and prohibitive restrictions on farm and ranch operations limit both the appeal and conservation outcomes of these programs.

“The farms and ranches of the West provide much of the essential habitat that wildlife need to survive. Most landowners care deeply about wildlife and yet the costs associated with supporting wildlife can jeopardize their ability to stay in business,” said Lesli Allison, CEO of the Western Landowners Alliance. “As more and more land is developed, the pressure is increasing on the remaining intact private lands to provide food and shelter for many different species. The bipartisan Habitat Connectivity on Working Lands Act ensures ranchers and farmers have access to the full suite of tools and resources to conserve and steward these lands for the benefit of people and wildlife.”

For example, producers enrolling in the Grassland Conservation Reserve Program (GRCP) currently forfeit eligibility to receive cost-share and assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to address other resource concerns like invasive species, erosion, plant diversity, and wildlife habitat. That is a significant barrier to western farmers and ranchers who look to the Farm Bill for help in their efforts to create and enhance habitat for wildlife, while improving the economic viability of their operation.

Recognizing this, the USDA launched its Migratory Big Game Initiative (MBGI) in 2022 through a partnership with the state of Wyoming. Under the partnership, the USDA tested an innovative application of Farm Bill conservation programs to support farmers and ranchers stewarding key habitat for migratory big game species in Wyoming. Through the partnership, producers in WY are eligible to receive cost-share and technical assistance through EQIP to improve habitat and remove barriers to migrating wildlife in tandem with annual rental payments through GCRP that relieve development and conversion pressure on working lands in priority migration areas in exchange for improved livestock management.   

This partnership has proven as successful as it is innovative. In Wyoming, conservation program enrollments in priority corridors jumped 264% compared to pre-partnership levels. Despite that, USDA is unable to expand this model nationwide under the MBGI without a change to the 2018 Farm Bill. That is where the bipartisan Habitat Connectivity on Working Lands Act introduced by Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Representatives Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) and Gabe Vasquez (D-N.M.) comes in.   

“Western ranchers work daily to combat ecological challenges, improve water access, and `conserve millions of acres of healthy habitat for their herds and for native wildlife species. This bipartisan bill makes practical updates to successful, existing conservation programs to maximize the benefits of working lands for our native wildlife,” said Kaitlynn Glover, executive director of the Public Lands Council. “We appreciate Congressman Zinke and Congressman Vasquez’s work to incentivize and leverage ranchers’ investment in wildlife conservation.”  

The Habitat Connectivity on Working Lands Act codifies the MBGI model and would allow USDA to leverage the unique benefits GRCP and EQIP together nationwide. It also spurs USDA research on virtual fencing technologies, includes conservation and restoration of wildlife habitat connectivity as a critical conservation area under the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, and provides greater incentives through EQIP for the adoption of conservation practices that conserve or restore wildlife habitat connectivity.     

This bill builds on the MBGI program model popular with farmers and ranchers, allowing them to better tailor Farm Bill conservation programs to their operation’s specific needs. And it is good for wildlife, as Farm Bill conservation programs can be more precisely targeted for specific benefits, like improving habitat connectivity.   

“Farmers and ranchers have an immense opportunity to help wildlife endure and thrive for future generations,” said Aviva Glaser, senior director for agriculture policy at the National Wildlife Federation. “This common-sense, bipartisan legislation will help farmers, ranchers, and landowners support the wildlife that migrate through their fields, pastures, and forests — and the hunters, anglers, birders, and outdoor recreationists that enjoy them. Congress should include this common sense, no-cost proposal in the 2024 Farm Bill and strengthen U.S. Department of Agriculture voluntary conservation programs.”  

TRCP is excited about the Habitat Connectivity on Working Lands Act because it helps complement successful public land corridor conservation efforts with the long track-record of voluntary, incentive-based conservation on private land promoted through the Farm Bill. We appreciate the leadership of Senator Heinrich and Congressmen Zinke and Vasquez in introducing this legislation and hope to see this common-sense bill included in the Farm Bill as a clear win-win for agricultural producers and wildlife.  

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.”

Learn more about Farm Bill conservation programs here

Photo: Josh Metten


You can help. Conservation is, and should be, a shared priority regardless of party affiliation or ideology. Congress needs to hear that this is important to you. Take action here.

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May 14, 2024

Farm Bill Proposals Gain Momentum

Ag Committee leaders continue spelling out their plans for the next Farm Bill 

We’re now over halfway through a one-year extension of the 2018 Farm Bill, and several years of work have already gone into making sure the next Farm Bill is a good one for fish and wildlife, as well as hunters and anglers. Behind the scenes, this work has never stopped, whether we’re talking about Ag Committee Members, Congressional staff, or the conservation community. But from the outside, deadlock, gridlock, and election year politics have made getting a bill done this year look increasingly unlikely. But optimism persists and perseverance endures. 

In the past two weeks, for the first time in a long time, we’ve seen tangible progress. Last Friday in the House, Chairman G.T. Thompson (R-Pa) put forward a summary of the bill he has scheduled for a committee markup on May 23rd. The week prior, Senate Ag Chairwoman Stabenow (D-Mich) released a detailed section-by-section breakdown of her own proposal.  

Before we get into the substance of each proposal, there are a few things to remember: 

Farm Bills must be bipartisan to become law. With Democrats controlling the Senate and a Republican majority in the House, bipartisanship will be essential. Both frameworks were produced by the Ag Committee Chair of their respective chamber, and it is not entirely clear where disagreements exist between parties or among constituencies at this point. However, we can be certain that a final farm bill will look different and contain more points of compromise than these frameworks. Thankfully, Ag Committee leadership from both parties has a long history of navigating the challenges that come with bipartisanship. 

Farm Bills are huge. All twelve titles (topic-based sections) of the Farm Bill impact hunters and anglers in one way or another, but Title II – Conservation and Title VIII – Forestry get most of our attention, and for good reason. Our review of proposals will focus on those two titles.  

More and better details will emerge with time. The information currently available is in a summary form, rather than actual bill text. As expected, we are receiving more details with time. It will be important for the TRCP and our partners to review bill text before fully forming a position. This will help ensure that any changes made will accomplish what they are intended to do. 

Negotiations will continue. Nothing in either of these publicly available proposals is set in stone. The first formal action, barring a quick schedule change in the Senate Ag Committee, will be the House Ag Committee’s markup on May 23rd. In this markup, committee members will have the opportunity to offer amendments to the Chairman’s bill, speak for or against individual provisions, and vote on whether to advance the bill to a Floor vote. Changes can also happen through Floor amendments and during a Conference Committee between the House and Senate. All of this to say, what we’re seeing in these proposals is not necessarily what will become law. 

A lot must be done in a short time. We are in an election year, and a presidential election year at that. While this will motivate some Members of Congress to show efficacy in getting a Farm Bill done, party conferences and campaigning also compress the legislative calendar. The months of May and June will be critical if we’re going to get a bill done. 

Farm Bill programs have a huge impact on hunters and anglers. Engaging in this bill is crucial, as policy and funding changes in this Farm Bill will impact fish and wildlife habitat and hunting and fishing access for the next five years and beyond. You can find explanations about how Farm Bill programs support hunters and anglers here. 

Keeping these dynamics in mind, let’s dig in. What exactly is in the proposals? How might they impact habitat, fish, wildlife, and our sporting traditions? Below, we run through a few of the key elements of the proposals from Chairman Thompson and Chairwoman Stabenow.


Chairman Thompson’s Overview 

Following the release of a broad overview on May 1, Chairman Thompson released a more detailed title by title summary of his bill on Friday, May 10. This summary includes multiple references to marker bills, or bills filed with the intent of later inclusion in the Farm Bill base text, which gives us a glimpse at what base text might look like, although we still can’t make assumptions. There are several items’ hunters and anglers will want to follow in Chairman Thompson’s proposal including:    

Reallocates Inflation Reduction Act funding for conservation programs into the Farm Bill Conservation baseline.

This is a major investment in conservation. Making this funding permanent will increase the Title II-Conservation baseline by close to 25%, the first such increase in decades. The TRCP and our partners have been calling for this throughout the Farm Bill process, and Chairman Thompson and his staff should be commended for resisting calls to repurpose these funds for non-conservation purposes. 

Creates a new Forest Conservation Easement Program. 

Depending on how it’s structured, the Forest Conservation Easement Program would streamline the process by which willing landowners can permanently protect working forests, creating and enhancing wildlife habitat while supporting sustainable timber harvest. We look forward to seeing bill text on this program and are encouraged to see it included in the Chairman’s summary. 

“Modernizes” the Conservation Reserve Program. 

The details will be very important here. The marker bill referenced in this section (H.R.8270) makes multiple positive changes to the Conservation Reserve Program, including increasing rental rates on marginal cropland, providing cost share for mid contract management, and increasing the CRP’s payment limitation. On the negative side, the bill would reduce rental payments for CRP reenrolling at the end of a contract, which could lead to lower enrollment in the long run. We still don’t know what parts of the marker will be included in the Farm Bill’s base text. 

Reauthorizes the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program. 

The Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Improvement Program is the only federal program designed to incentivize landowners to allow public hunting and fishing. The TRCP and our partners have been leading the charge to reauthorize and plus-up VPA-HIP, as was proposed in the Voluntary Public Access Improvement Act, and we are thrilled to see that Chairman Thompson’s proposal does just that. Beyond that, Chairman Thompson’s proposal states that they will “create continuous funding” for programs like VPA-HIP, which would put us in a much stronger position in future Farm Bills  

Incentivizes active forest management through public-private partnerships.

Expanding existing authorities like the Good Neighbor Authority and Stewardship End Result Contracting enhances flexibility for our partners to increase the pace and scale of forest and watershed health restoration and wildfire risk reduction efforts. These updates are commonsense, widely supported, and will provide benefits to fish and wildlife.    


Chairwoman Stabenow’s Summary

On May 1, Chairwoman Stabenow released a section-by-section summary of her own proposal. There is currently no scheduled markup in the Senate Ag Committee, and it is likely that many of these proposals will not go into bill text exactly as they are written now. Even so, there are many provisions in this summary that hunters and anglers will be glad to see. Key provisions to watch include:  

Reallocates Inflation Reduction Act funding for conservation programs into the Farm Bill Conservation baseline and permanently authorizes those programs.

Chairwoman Stabenow was instrumental in passing the Inflation Reduction Act and making that investment permanent would be another major achievement. Permanently authorizing conservation programs puts us in a stronger position in the next Farm Bill and lessens the impact of any future Farm Bill expiration. 

Provides substantive updates to the Conservation Reserve Program.

The proposal includes multiple positive changes to the CRP, including several components of the bipartisan CRP Improvement Act, which the TRCP and partners have supported for years. The Chairwoman is also proposing to raise the acreage cap by 2 million acres and increase rental rates, improve cost-share, and provide opportunities for longer term conservation in the CRP. 

Codifies key provisions of the USDA Wyoming Big Game Initiative.

This initiative, recently expanded to Montana and Idaho, combines USDA conservation programs to ensure that working lands and public lands provide a seamless route for migrating big game like elk, mule deer, and pronghorn. Codifying these authorities ensures that this model can be applied long term and in new areas. 

Improves and funds the Water Source Protection Program.

The Water Source Protection Program provides the U.S. Forest Service with resources to work with water users to increase the pace and scale of watershed restoration efforts, including the restoration of streams and wetlands, which in turn enhances resilience to drought and wildfire and benefits fish and wildlife that depend on healthy headwaters.      

Furthers investment in nature-based solutions and better on-farm decision making.  

Most of the provisions we’ve noted also serve as nature-based climate solutions, furthering agriculture’s role in sequestering and storing carbon while delivering wildlife habitat and food security. The proposal also enhances agricultural data protection and access to help farmers and researchers know how adopting conservation practices will impact their farm’s resilience and profitability. Additionally, it provides loan guarantees to help rural private forest landowners earn and sell carbon credits on working forests.

Reauthorizes the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program at $50 million over five years.

As discussed above, VPA-HIP reauthorization is a top TRCP priority, and we appreciate the challenge of finding funding for a program without baseline in a Farm Bill. However, given the importance of VPA-HIP to hunters and anglers and bipartisan support in both chambers for increased funding, we were disappointed to see this program held flat. 


There is a long way to go before we see the impact of these proposals on the ground. The TRCP thanks House and Senate Ag Committee leadership for their work toward a bipartisan Farm Bill that supports habitat and access.

You can help. Conservation is, and should be, a shared priority regardless of party affiliation or ideology. Congress needs to hear that this is important to you. Take action here.

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May 13, 2024

Hunters and Anglers Applaud Senate Passage of the Bipartisan ACE Reauthorization Act  

The ACE Reauthorization Act aims to boost funding and provide vital enhancements to conservation programs benefiting fish and wildlife. 

The America’s Conservation Enhancement (ACE) Reauthorization Act of 2024 passed the Senate on Wednesday May 8, 2024, by unanimous consent. The ACE Reauthorization Act was sponsored by Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Shelly Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and would reauthorize multiple programs that benefit hunting and angling including, the National Fish Habitat Partnership, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, the Chesapeake Bay Program, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. It also helps address threats like chronic wasting disease. This reauthorization provides technical improvements, administrative streamlining, and increased authorized funds to improve these programs. 

“The America’s Conservation Enhancement Reauthorization 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, “TRCP applauds the Senate’s passage of this important bipartisan legislation and looks forwards to building on the success of these crucial programs.” 

The original ACE Act was passed in 2020 and sponsored by Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.). Many of its authorizations expire next year, necessitating the passage of the ACE Reauthorization act to ensure these programs can continue to operate in good legal standing.  

The ACE Act is co-sponsored by Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Angus King (I-ME) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.). 

The legislation is endorsed by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Ducks Unlimited, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, the National Wildlife Federation, American Sportfishing Association, the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and the National Audubon Society. 

The TRCP looks forward to working with the House of Representatives to ensure this essential legislation for hunters and anglers becomes law.  

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. 

Photo: 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.

$4 from each bag is donated to the TRCP, to help continue their efforts of safeguarding critical habitats, productive hunting grounds, and favorite fishing holes for future generations.

Learn More

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