fbpx

by:

posted in:

June 11, 2024

2-image

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.

by:

posted in:

June 6, 2024

TRCP Recognizes Opportunity to Conserve Habitat in BLM Draft Lakeview Resource Management Plan Amendment

Draft plan includes management options that would conserve big game habitat, ranching, and outdoor recreation

Today, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership applauded the release of the Bureau of Land Management’s long-awaited Lakeview Draft Resource Management Plan Amendment, which, when finalized, will establish a blueprint for the conservation and management of nearly 3.2 million acres of southeastern Oregon’s public lands.

“The release of the draft Lakeview RMP Amendment offers an opportunity for thousands of hunters who value this vast region’s wild and working landscapes to speak up to secure a successful outcome that benefits sportspeople,” said Tristan Henry, Oregon field representative for TRCP. “The plan includes management options that would conserve undeveloped backcountry and wildlife corridors for big game and other wildlife across this intact landscape.”

Hunters and anglers have been involved in Lakeview plan revision efforts since 2014, and today’s release of the draft RMP amendment is a significant step in a public process that will determine how wild landscapes, habitat, recreation, grazing, development, and other uses will be balanced for the next 20 years or more. This announcement kicks off a 90-day comment period during which the public can provide input on the preferred alternative and other management options developed by the Lakeview BLM Office.

“The TRCP appreciates the BLM’s dedication to develop a plan that balances sustainable use, working lands, and conservation to ensure that the quality hunting and fishing opportunities in the Lakeview District are safeguarded for future generations,” said Michael O’Casey, deputy director of Forest policy & Northwest programs for TRCP.

“The public lands of the Lakeview District provide high quality habitat for pronghorn, bighorn sheep, mule deer, and sage grouse,” said Mary Jo Hedrick, state director for the Oregon Hunters Association. “These public lands also provide extensive access to high quality hunting opportunities. It’s vital that hunters weigh in on this plan to conserve this high value landscape and safeguard hunting opportunities for future generations.”

“The TRCP and its partners are committed to working with their membership and other stakeholders to finalize a plan that prioritizes habitat conservation, while also supporting continued active stewardship for habitat restoration and sustainable economic activities, including ranching, hunting, and outdoor recreation,” added Henry. “We look forward to continued engagement and collaboration to finalize a plan that provides enduring conservation and resiliency of BLM public lands in Oregon.”

As the comment period begins, the TRCP urges its members and the hunting and angling community to participate. Public feedback is crucial in shaping the final Lakeview Resource Management Plan to reflect a balanced approach that honors our sporting traditions, supports local economies, and helps ensure the integrity and vitality of this landscape.

Photo credit: Brian Grossenbacher


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

by:

posted in:

June 5, 2024

In the Arena: Greg Breitmaier

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.

Greg Breitmaier

Hometown: Lodi, California
Occupation: Sustainability Program Manager at MYSTERY RANCH (Bozeman, MT)
Conservation credentials: As the Sustainability Program Manager at MYSTERY RANCH, Greg is a champion for sustainable manufacturing practices. He is a public lands advocate who is committed to fostering the next generation of conservationist to protect America’s legacy of conservation, habitat, and access.

Inspired from a young age and through a life of exploring, fishing, running, and recreating in the outdoors, Greg is driven by a personal responsibility to offer guidance and education to protect America’s legacy of  conservation, habitat, and access.  

This is his story.

I grew up in the countryside outside of Lodi, California, surrounded by a mix of pastures, vineyards, and orchards. From an early age, I spent countless hours unsupervised, climbing haystacks, searching for buried treasure, riding my bike between vineyard rows, and swimming in the nearby Mokelumne River. On my 10th birthday, my dad bought me my very own rod and reel combo. Little did I know that his gift would start my lifelong love of fishing. 

 

Fishing the blue-ribbon trout rivers of Montana is where I feel the most at home. To me, there’s no match in terms of the sheer beauty, variety of water, incomprehensible hatches, fishing tactics, and solitude (provided you’re willing to hike a mile from the river access). With that said, I’m not a well-traveled angler and would absolutely love to trade in my bootfoot waders for boardshorts and sandals. Fishing for a Tarpon that might outweigh me seems like a good time. Not to mention the obligatory après-fish ceviche and cold ones at a laid-back beach bar. 

In what feels like a lifetime ago, I was obsessed with trail running, exploring challenging terrains in Oregon and Washington. I not only participated in but successfully completed several supported ultra marathons. Yet, it was my inaugural unsupported ultra that remains a lasting memory – an extraordinary circumnavigation of Mount St. Helens via the 32-mile Loowit Trail. This is a feat that can only be achieved because of the incredible public lands our country offers. My buddy, whom I’ll call Dave, and I camped at the June Lake trailhead in the bed of his Tacoma, starting our adventure at sunrise. Our plan was straightforward: we stopped at each water crossing to replenish our water supplies and refuel with trails snacks and chia seeds. The weather was ideal, but around mile 18, Dave fell victim to nausea and unmistakable signs of dehydration. Fortunately, a fortuitous encounter with a kind older couple, leisurely picking huckleberries, led to their generous offer to guide Dave down the trail to their parked car, approximately two miles away. Determinedly, I completed the loop on my own, with a semi-humorous sock-losing incident at the final water crossing adding a twist to the day. As dusk descended, I finished the trail, forever cherishing the beauty of the Loowit Trail and the triumph over adversity, making it one of my most unforgettable experiences.  

It’s not an original idea from me, but I know my well-being is intrinsically tied to the well-being of my environment. We can’t be healthy if our outdoors spaces are suffering. Just like it’s important for me to maintain a clean home, healthy garden, and landscape, so is it to maintain and conserve our public lands. 

The fact is more people leads to more pressure on wildlife, habitat, and our natural resources. For the most part, I believe folks understand their own impacts and do what they can to minimize them, but we have an opportunity to offer guidance and education to new hunters and anglers so we can ensure that we protect what we value so highly.  

“Sustainability” is meeting the needs of the present, without sacrificing the ability for future generations to meet their needs. 

My partner and I are parents to three young children who deserve the same opportunities as we had when we were children. Fostering a love for the outdoors is one of the best ways we can ensure our children grow up healthy and happy.

Simply put, the next generation of hunters and anglers are relying on us to do the right thing today. The most common definition of “sustainability” is meeting the needs of the present, without sacrificing the ability for future generations to meet their needs.  That is why organizations such as the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership are so critical in today’s fight to protect America’s legacy of conservation, habitat, and access. TRCP’s ability to work with such a passionate and knowledgeable team of leaders and partners is really second-to-none. 

Click here to learn more about Mystery Ranch’s commitment to sustainability 

All photos courtesy of Greg Breitmaier and MYSTERY RANCH 



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

May 29, 2024

Ensuring the Future of Sage-Grouse

Now is our best, and maybe our last, chance to act on behalf of this iconic, American bird

Each spring across the vast, but increasingly fragmented, sagebrush ecosystem, greater sage-grouse perform their ancient and elaborate mating ritual with fewer and fewer performers. As an aging biologist, I’ve been witness to the drama of the display, the loss of the bird and its habitat, as well as unprecedented efforts to conserve both.

At his 2007 Sage Grouse Summit in Casper, Wyoming, Governor Dave Freudenthal didn’t mince words, “The scientific picture is clear,” he said. “We need to roll up our sleeves and develop a plan to protect and restore core sage grouse habitat. We have a narrow window of opportunity to protect the grouse and prevent it from being listed as an endangered species.”

That statement catalyzed policy-making efforts in Wyoming, often mirrored in other states, which were then largely incorporated into range-wide plans approved by the BLM and USFS in 2015. Cumulatively, these plans—shaped with collaboration from Wyoming’s industries, non-governmental organizations, and government agencies—provided the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with the basis to determine that the greater sage-grouse was not warranted for listing under the Endangered Species Act. Unfortunately, the plans developed in 2015 were never fully implemented.

Our success or failure with greater sage-grouse will be measured by whether or not we maintain enough of the remaining sagebrush sea so that the primal, guttural sounds of strutting sage-grouse continue to punctuate the clear, cold air of spring sunrises across the West.

My 33-year career with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the last 15 years of which were as the state’s sage-grouse coordinator, meant I spent thousands of hours out in the sagebrush. Over those decades, I learned that this conservation effort, and the threats to this ecosystem, is about much more than just a single species. The problems associated with a breakdown in the health of sagebrush country resulting from massive wildfires, invasive plants like cheatgrass, woody species expansion, and human infrastructure and disturbance impacts all of us, here in Wyoming and across the West. These lands underpin the economies of our rural communities.

In an unsettling revelation, we’ve recently learned through satellite imagery that the West is losing 1.3 million acres of functioning sagebrush habitat every year. And because the bird depends on healthy sagebrush habitat, the range-wide population of sage-grouse has declined 80 percent since 1965 and half of that decline has happened since 2002.

But we now have an opportunity to realize a healthier future for this ecosystem. The BLM, which oversees 67 million acres of sage-grouse habitat across 10 states, is currently updating the prior plans using new science and input from its partners.

Again, the health of the sagebrush ecosystem is larger than just one species. Our collaborative conservation efforts must shift from a sage-grouse focus to a sagebrush biome focus in order to more effectively address the threats facing not only sage-grouse but the entire ecosystem and those species, including human users, reliant on it. I implore the BLM to better incorporate this concept into their decision document.

Tom Christiansen, longtime Wyoming state sage-grouse coordinator, observes a lek on an early spring morning. Photo credit: Tom Christiansen  

Also, any and all plans, including those of the states, must make a commitment to transparency and collaboration in managing the sage-grouse habitat. Open data sharing across administrative boundaries is essential in fostering an inclusive environment where scientists, policy makers, and the public can access and contribute to the ecological data that guides management decisions. This approach not only enhances the trust and cooperation among stakeholders but also strengthens the scientific basis for those decisions and provides defensible evidence of the successes and failures of management actions.

Here in Wyoming, we are lucky to still have some relatively intact landscapes that rise above others in terms of their value to sage-grouse and associated species. I support efforts to secure the most effective safeguards for these “best of the best” areas, which are resistant to impacts like invasive species and resilient in their ability to return to good habitat after an impact such as wildfire. These landscapes are the cornerstones upon which the survival of the sage-grouse depends. Irreplaceable places, such as the Golden Triangle in western Wyoming, have such high biological value that these habitats must receive the highest level of conservation.

The current proposal by the BLM to update its sage-grouse management plans is an important step forward. By focusing on strategic habitat management, implementing open data practices, and utilizing advanced adaptive management tools, we can forge a sustainable path for the sage-grouse. This approach will not only benefit the bird but also the myriad other species and human communities that rely on a healthy sagebrush ecosystem. It’s a chance to reaffirm our commitment to conserving a vital part of our natural heritage thereby ensuring that we hand these natural resources in good condition to future generations.

Historically our record is less than stellar when it comes to grouse conservation. The heath hen of the eastern coastal barrens is extinct. The highly endangered Attwater’s prairie chicken is hanging on by a thread along the Texas Gulf Coast. And lesser prairie chicken populations in the southern Great Plains are now listed as threatened or endangered. Our success or failure with greater sage-grouse will be measured by whether or not we maintain enough of the remaining sagebrush sea so that the primal, guttural sounds of strutting sage-grouse continue to punctuate the clear, cold air of spring sunrises across the West.

Tom Christiansen retired after a 33-year career with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department where he served as a regional wildlife biologist and then as the statewide sage-grouse program coordinator. Tom served on the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ Sage and Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse Technical Committee, the Rangewide Interagency Sage-Grouse Conservation Team, and the Wildfire and Invasive Species Working Group. Like sagebrush, Tom’s roots run deep in Wyoming. His family has maintained continuous residence in Wyoming since 1885.

A version of this article was published by the Casper Star Tribune.

Photo credit: USFWS  

by:

posted in:

May 24, 2024

Legislation Update: Farm, Food, and National Security Act of 2024 

House Committee advances Farm Bill with benefits for habitat and access.

After a busy few weeks of Farm Bill proposals, House Ag Committee Chairman G.T. Thompson released a discussion draft on May 17th and formally introduced his bill on May 21st. Titled the Farm, Food, and National Security Act of 2024, Chairman Thompson’s bill represents several years of work. The Chairman and his staff, as well as Ranking Member David Scott (D-Ga.) and the rest of the Ag Committee Members, have traveled the country hearing from stakeholders, reviewed and discussed thousands of individual and coalition priorities, considered dozens of marker bills, and held several formal Committee hearings. On Thursday, May 23rd, the Committee debated this bill, proposed amendments, and ultimately advanced it to the House floor. Given the importance of the Farm Bill to hunters and anglers, and the difficulty of the task, we are excited to have a bill to review and formal committee action toward passing it. 

Before we summarize some key provisions of Chairman Thompson’s bill, there are a few important points 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. The details of this bill were chosen by Chairman Thompson and his staff, and although there are clearly bipartisan priorities reflected in it, it will take considerable support from outside the Chairman’s party for this bill to pass. Major sticking points include changes within the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, limitations to the Secretary of Agriculture’s authority within the Commodity Credit Corporation, and how Inflation Reduction Act conservation funding would be incorporated.  

Negotiations will continue.  Work on this Farm Bill began as soon as, or even before, the 2018 bill was signed. Although five years seems likely plenty of time to resolve differences, there is a lot of negotiation to go. The May 23rd markup was a big step, but further debate will happen as the bill moves forward to the House floor. Beyond that, Senate Ag Chairwoman Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Ranking Member Boozman (R-Ark.) are working on their own bill in the Senate. Taken together, this means that any individual provision in Chairman Thompson’s bill has a long way to go before it becomes law, and many are likely to change.  

Time’s getting short. 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. Floor time is already becoming difficult to find, especially for large and complex bills. 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 this bill? Below, we run through a few of the key elements of the proposal from Chairman Thompson. Remember here that Farm Bills cover topics as varied as nutrition support, agricultural research, trade, risk reduction, livestock disease, and more, so a comprehensive analysis of the entire bill (over 950 pages) is beyond the scope of the TRCP. We focus below on a few of the pieces we believe would have the biggest impact on habitat and access for hunters and anglers. 

The Farm, Food, and National Security Act of 2024 would: 

Reallocate Inflation Reduction Act funding for conservation programs into the Farm Bill Conservation baseline. This piece of the bill alone would be a huge win for hunters and anglers, and it has both bipartisan and bicameral support. It is also urgent, with the amount of funding available decreasing with time. There is still considerable disagreement about how this should be done, including to what extent climate mitigation remains a focus of these funds and which programs receive the bulk of the funding, but we remain hopeful that these disagreements will be resolved, and we can see the first meaningful increase to the Conservation Title in years. 

Increase funding for the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program to $150 million and provide program continuity. 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. This proposal provides for the continuity of VPA-HIP, which means that in future Farm Bills we would begin in a much stronger negotiating position thanks to the program having mandatory, dedicated funding. 

Make multiple changes to the Conservation Reserve Program. The Chairman’s bill appears to include changes proposed in several CRP marker bills, including the CRP Improvement Act. On the positive side, these changes would increase rental payment rates on marginal cropland, restore cost-share for mid-contract management activities, increase incentive payments, and increase payment limitations. These taken together are significant improvements. On the negative side, this bill would reduce rental rates for CRP reenrollments, allow early cancellation of contracts, and remove some of the wildlife focus of Grassland CRP, which could be detrimental to initiatives like Working Lands for Wildlife or the Migratory Big Game Initiative.  

Support voluntary conservation easement programs. Conservation easements provide the most durable habitat protection of any Farm Bill program, and landowner demand for them has long exceeded funding by a huge margin. Chairman Thompson’s bill makes multiple positive changes to easement programs, including increased funding across the board, creating a new Forest Conservation Easement Program with mandatory funding, improving management opportunities on existing wetland easements, and increasing cost-share for Agricultural Land Easements. One drawback of this bill is the removal of Buy-Protect-Sell authority, which would hinder the ability of some of our partners to permanently protect habitat. 

Encourage a focus on wildlife migration corridors. This bill includes several sections relevant to western wildlife (including big game) migration corridor enhancement, including allowing the Secretary of Agriculture to “support the development, restoration, and maintenance of habitat connectivity and wildlife corridors” in all USDA conservation programs. It would also add language specifically including the “restoration and enhancement of wildlife habitat connectivity and wildlife migration corridors” as a priority resource concern under the Regional Conservation Partnership Program and add rangeland research, including virtual fencing, as a High Priority Research and Extension Area. These priorities reflect the intent of the Habitat Connectivity on Working Lands Act that the TRCP and partners worked with Congressman Vasquez (D-N.M.) and Congressman Zinke (R-Mont.) to develop. As noted above, shifting the focus of Grassland CRP away from corridors would run counter to these goals, and the bill would not codify the USDA’s authority leverage benefits of different programs to support farmers, ranchers, and wildlife as proposed in the Habitat Connectivity on Working Lands Act. 

There are many other pieces of this bill we will be following, and there is a long way to go before we see its impact on the ground. The TRCP thanks both House and Senate Ag Committee leadership for their work toward a bipartisan Farm Bill that supports habitat and access. 

Learn more about Farm Bill conservation programs here

Top photo by Nicholas Putz


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.

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

You have Successfully Subscribed!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

You have Successfully Subscribed!