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Lindsey Davis is an entrepreneur, conservation advocate, writer, and ecologist based in Salt Lake City, Utah, where she has been exploring public lands with a rod, gun, or bow for more than eight years. She currently runs SITKA Gear’s ecosystem grants and conservation partnerships program and serves on the board of directors for the Outdoor Alliance and Utah Wildlife Federation. Previously, she spent three years shaping the work of the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, a coalition of outdoor recreation trade associations representing over 110,000 American businesses.
We first met Lindsey when she was fresh off her first hunting season, during her tenure as CEO at Wylder, a built-by-women-for-women outdoor gear retailer she co-founded in 2016. Since then, we’ve been fortunate to be able to check in with her along the journey of developing her skills and mindset about hunting success.
Today, she shares her thoughts on some of the toughest conservation challenges we face.
TRCP: How and with whom do you prefer to spend your time outdoors?
LINDSEY DAVIS: I seek out ways to interact with the landscape around me through hunting, fishing, and foraging for wild food and observing wildlife. No matter where I am, finding wild edible plants and cooking my catch are my favorite ways to build memories in a new place. I love experiencing this on the home front with my friends and family here in Utah, and while exploring new places with friends and knowledgeable locals. Those with literacy in the landscape tend to be the people I enjoy being outdoors with most!
TRCP: Describe your most successful/rewarding day afield or on the water. When was this and what were you doing?
DAVIS: One of my most memorable days in the field was my first successful archery hunt. I had backpacked into the Uinta National Forest for the opening weekend of mule deer season. That year, we’d had a wet spring, so the gooseberries were ripe and full. As I stalked around the woods, I ate fistfuls of berries and looked for deer. I ended up being in the right place at the right time to find a bachelor herd of mule deer, and I put a successful stalk on one of them.
On that hunt, the days were long, the skies were clear, rain was regularly refreshing the landscape, and we were the only hunters around. It was perfect.
TRCP: What is the biggest habitat challenge in your area?
DAVIS: There are many challenges facing wildlife and its habitats here in Utah, but the most glaring in my opinion is the rapid pace of development and population growth in this state. Along the Wasatch front, we have four of the fastest growing cities in the nation and a ton of new housing developments. Advocates are working diligently to map key habitat areas and propose smarter development, but every year I see more wintering grounds and sagebrush habitat ripped out and replaced with condos. I fear that we are putting too much pressure on our wildlife in this urban interface with little understanding of the impacts.
TRCP: How has climate change affected your hunting and fishing experiences in recent years? (Example: Altered seasons or migrations, species decline due to drought or wildfire, invasive species pushing out native forage, etc.)
DAVIS: You have to pay attention to snow, rain, and wildfire like never before. The strength and severity of winter storms has affected the ability of elk, deer, and pronghorn to make it through the winter. The amount of precipitation determines whether there will be enough green-up in the spring for calving females and what elevations the herds will need to be at in the late-summer and early-fall to find food. These same factors impact where ranchers will be grazing their sheep and cattle on public land. It all matters so much and determines how and where I hunt in the fall.
Variability in these factors has changed where it is productive for me to hunt in recent years. Wildfires have made it necessary to pack an inhaler and an N95 mask. It has also made it near impossible, at times, to see wildlife more than a few hundred yards away. Warmer water temperatures have made flyfishing closures imperative for the health of fish, limiting recreational fishing hours to just a handful a day before noon.
In short, it feels like there are just too many pressures on wildlife.
TRCP: How has this affected outdoor recreation businesses and/or hunting and fishing participation where you live?
DAVIS: Here in Utah, hunting and fishing participation is growing for the first time in decades. This makes for even more pressure on delicate resources at a challenging time. Limited hours for flyfishing inhibits a guide’s ability to book full days, which is having a huge impact on the guiding and outfitting components of outdoor recreation. With population increasing, hunting tag allotments are growing more limited and permits are harder to acquire, frustrating residents who would like to hunt every year.
TRCP: Why do you feel responsible for engaging in conservation and efforts to build climate resilience?
DAVIS: I see humans as a part of, not the center of, the ecosystem at large. We have an outsized impact on our natural habitats and also have the means and resources to do things differently. Because I am aware of my impact on the natural world around me, I feel responsible for being a steward and working to ensure generations that follow mine have the opportunity to experience wildlife and its habitats.
TRCP: What is one thing you wish every hunter and angler knew about the impacts of climate change?
DAVIS: While our individual experiences of climate change feel isolated and unique, it is a global issue we are all experiencing. I wish we had more of a shared sense of responsibility around it—more than the priority species we care about or the one region where we live.
TRCP: Do you think the hunting and fishing community is getting serious about fighting for climate change solutions? What would you like to see more of?
DAVIS: I appreciate the growing interest that the hunting and fishing community is showing toward climate change solutions. I think there is still more proving ground for our community at large before we are known as unified and serious, but we are getting there.
Just before the Christmas holiday, Congress quickly took up and passed a funding agreement that keeps the gears of government moving through September 30, 2023. Importantly, the package carried several conservation priorities across the finish line and boosted funding for key programs that are perennially stretched thin. On the downside, long-sought transformational solutions, like the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, and major public lands legislation failed to make it across the finish line.
Beyond these highlights, the package included modest funding increases for critical conservation initiatives, like the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, North American Wetlands Conservation Act, Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program, and others. Unfortunately, given inflation, many of these adjustments amount to flat funding from the year prior.
2022 was a rollercoaster year in Congress, and many expected the late-December flurry of post-election dealmaking that resulted in this funding agreement. Drafting and passing a package of twelve appropriations bills is no easy task, particularly during a midterm election year. The TRCP, our partners, and the entire hunting and fishing community have been actively engaged in the process from the start, and we look forward to building off these successes—and circling back to missed opportunities—in 2023.
Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency finalized a new rule that formally restores federal Clean Water Act protections for streams and wetlands that sustain fish and wildlife and hunting and fishing opportunities.
The new rule will replace the previous administration’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule, which significantly narrowed Clean Water Act protections for intermittent headwater streams and non-floodplain wetlands like prairie potholes. The new rule also largely restores Clean Water Act protections that had been in place since 1986, but with important changes to reflect recent federal court decisions, an extensive scientific record, and a robust public stakeholder engagement process.
This most recent clean water rule includes several provisions that reflect comments submitted by the TRCP and partners on behalf of hunters and anglers requesting stronger federal protections for headwater streams and wetlands. A 2018 national poll carried out by TRCP confirmed that a significant majority of sportsmen and sportswomen support both the Clean Water Act and strong protections for streams and wetlands.
The benefits of clean, productive wetlands and headwater streams are clear to hunters and anglers. Wetlands—including non-floodplain wetlands like prairie potholes and mountain wet meadow complexes—provide critical migratory and nesting habitats for waterfowl while filtering pollutants, enhancing natural water retention, and promoting resilience to drought. Headwater streams provide nursery habitats for salmon and regulate stream temperatures for coldwater trout fisheries.
The new rule reflects the importance of these aquatic ecosystems by reinstating federal protections for headwater streams and non-floodplain wetlands that significantly affect downstream waters.
It also strikes a positive balance between previous efforts to define the scope of federal protections by both the Obama and Trump administrations. The new rule does away with Obama-era bright-line distance requirements to determine whether adjacent wetlands are federally protected. Many stakeholders found these distance requirements complicated, as they often did not reflect more site-specific and regional factors that should be considered in assessing whether certain wetlands are covered under the Clean Water Act. Instead, the new rule provides categorical protections for wetlands adjacent to larger and interstate river and lake systems, while employing a more fact-specific analysis for other wetlands.
Meanwhile, this new rule also restores federal protections that were narrowed under the Trump Administration, specifically for intermittent and ephemeral stream systems that sustain healthy watersheds, particularly in the arid Southwest. The final rule also maintains several longstanding exemptions for normal agricultural operations and more specific guidance for landowners to help provide clearer information on when mitigation actions are necessary.
This is a final rule, but the EPA continues to meet with landowners, farmers, businesses, and conservation organizations to achieve the original goals of the Clean Water Act. Meanwhile, the agency and stakeholders continue to wait for a ruling this year from the U.S. Supreme Court in Sackett v. EPA, in which the court heard arguments regarding the scope of federal protections for wetlands. The TRCP, along with Trout Unlimited and the National Wildlife Federation, joined an amicus brief in the Sackett case, advocating for the defense of federal protections for headwater streams and non-floodplain wetlands. This position was based on both federal court decisions and an extensive scientific record indicating that these aquatic ecosystems play important functions in sustaining healthy watersheds.
The EPA may need to change even this most recent clean water rule, or adopt a new one, depending on the majority ruling in this case.
For more backstory on the Clean Water Act and how its jurisdiction has changed over the years, check out this timeline.
Top photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Today, the Chronic Wasting Disease Research and Management Act was approved by Congress, advancing much-needed solutions for curbing the spread of this 100-percent fatal wildlife disease. The legislation now awaits only the president’s signature, having been included in the Fiscal Year 2023 government funding deal. The bill was previously passed by the House late last year.
“As hunters, we celebrate this decisive action by our lawmakers to infuse state and Tribal agencies with the resources needed to control CWD, while investing in targeted research to create stronger disease solutions,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Both efforts are necessary to ensure the future of our wild deer herds, our continued hunting opportunities, and the strong impacts of hunter-driven conservation funding.”
A peer-reviewed report published this month found that wildlife agencies in 16 CWD-positive states spent an average of $773,000 on disease management in 2021. Currently, the federal government invests just $10 million per year in these efforts through cooperative agreements between state and Tribal agencies and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In a 2022 poll, 88 percent of American voters said they support additional federal investment in CWD management at the state level.
“The National Deer Association has been working tirelessly to increase federal support for the research and management of CWD,” says Torin Miller, senior director of policy for the NDA. “We’re celebrating the passage of the CWD Research and Management Act, and we’re incredibly grateful to Representatives Kind and Thompson and Senators Hoeven and Heinrich for their dedication and leadership on this issue. We’re looking forward to efficient and effective implementation and finding additional ways to increase federal engagement and support to combat this devastating disease.”
The CWD Research and Management Act would split $70 million annually through fiscal year 2028 on management and research priorities. This includes $35 million per year for research that would focus on:
Another $35 million per year for management, including surveillance and testing, would prioritize:
The bill also includes authorization for federal, state, and Tribal agencies to develop educational materials to inform the public on CWD and directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture to review its Herd Certification Program, which accredits captive deer operations as “low-risk” for CWD contamination but has proven inadequate to stem the spread of the disease.
“The captive Herd Certification Program represents an area where we still have much work to do,” says Andrew Earl, TRCP’s director of government relations. “By passing this legislation today, Congress has set us up for the next phase, in which the USDA must hold the captive deer industry accountable for its role in the rampant spread of CWD. Hunters will be pushing for the department to take a hard look at the persistent failures of the Herd Certification Program and identify specific ways to strengthen it.”
Theodore Roosevelt’s experiences hunting and fishing certainly fueled his passion for conservation, but it seems that a passion for coffee may have powered his mornings. In fact, Roosevelt’s son once said that his father’s coffee cup was “more in the nature of a bathtub.” TRCP has partnered with Afuera Coffee Co. to bring together his two loves: a strong morning brew and a dedication to conservation. With your purchase, you’ll not only enjoy waking up to the rich aroma of this bolder roast—you’ll be supporting the important work of preserving hunting and fishing opportunities for all.Learn More