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August 30, 2023

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August 24, 2023

Idaho Hunters Have 120,800 Reasons to Celebrate

Wildlife and hunters win big in the BLM’s Four Rivers record of decision

Last week, after nearly eight years in the making, the Idaho Office of the Bureau of Land Management signed a Record of Decision on revisions to the Four Rivers Field Office resource management plan.

“This win for hunters is because Idaho’s outdoor community—hunters, outdoor business owners, wildlife professionals, conservationists, and outdoor recreationists—came together to ask for sensible, active management to perpetuate huntable wildlife populations in perpetuity,” said Rob Thornberry, Idaho field representative for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We owe a huge thanks to our wonderful hunting and fishing community.”

The plan, which will set guidance in the 783,000-acre field office for decades to come, includes a major win for hunters: a 120,800-acre Backcountry Conservation Area where BLM “will promote public access to support wildlife-dependent recreation and hunting opportunities and facilitate the long-term maintenance of big game wildlife populations,” according to the ROD.

When successfully implemented by the BLM, the Bennett Hills BCA will be managed to:
• Protect and enhance public access to world-class hunting.
• Conserve intact wildlife habitat, including crucial big game winter range and migratory habitats for six distinct mule deer, elk, and pronghorn herds.
• Prioritize management practices that restore habitat and control noxious weeds (i.e. treat cheat grass, control conifer encroachment, and allow water developments).
• Support and maintain traditional uses of the land such as ranching and hunting.

In addition to the conservation of the Bennett Hills, the new resource management plan will continue wildlife-friendly management in the Boise Foothills and the conservation of habitat for both long-billed curlew south of Emmett and Columbian sharp-tailed grouse near New Meadows.

Release of the final plan follows roughly a decade-long effort by TRCP to make BCAs a reality. That path included the release of a draft environmental impact statement and resource management plan in May 2019 where the agency’s preferred alternative excluded all wildlife protections from the plan, such as the then-proposed BCA, 11 Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, and one area identified as Lands with Wilderness Character.

The TRCP worked with Idaho Wildlife Federation, Trout Unlimited, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Idaho Chukar Foundation, and other independent hunters and anglers to facilitate the return of wildlife friendly protections, including reinstating the Bennet Hills BCA and Boise Front ACEC, to the final plan. The Boise Front ACEC is a key piece in this public land conglomeration puzzle because the area annually hosts thousands of wintering deer, elk, and pronghorn. Like the Bennett Hills BCA, it is critical for the long-term viability of deer, elk, and pronghorn.

Thirty-nine Idaho-based sporting businesses also advocated that BLM include significant conservation measures within the final plan.

Drew Wahlin, executive director of the Idaho Chukar Foundation, echoed those comments and gave special praise to the BLM.

“BLM deserves a huge thank you,” said Wahlin. “These conservation measures wouldn’t have been possible without the thoughtful leadership of BLM.”

Learn more about TRCP’s commitment to guaranteeing all Americans quality places to hunt and fish here.

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59 Pennsylvania Trout Streams That Deserve a Conservation Status Update

Anglers are campaigning to update the designations of some Pennsylvania waterways to reflect the exceptional status of their wild trout populations and water quality

Four times each year, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission proposes streams to be added to the Wild Trout and Class A lists. Right now, there are 59 Wild Trout streams that represent the best of our best waters. Those eligible for protection during this comment period include streams that are well-known to local anglers, such as Baptism Creek in Chester County and numerous trout-filled tributaries of Johnson Creek and the Lackawaxen River in Pike and Wayne counties.

Pennsylvania sportsmen and sportswomen have a chance to influence this process and seal the deal for our best trout streams—here’s why you should take action today.

The Economic Power of Trout Waters

With 86,000 miles of streams and about 4,000 inland lakes, Pennsylvania is home to some of the best publicly accessible fishing that the East Coast has to offer, including phenomenal trout and bass fishing. With opportunities like these, it’s no wonder that 1.2 million Pennsylvanians fished their local waterways in 2020, helping contribute to the state’s $58-billion outdoor recreation economy.

Since 2010, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has worked with sportsmen and local universities to distinguish our best waters through the Unassessed Waters Program. Based on the UWP’s evaluation, stream sections that meet a set of criteria are eligible for certain protections. For example, streams that have abundant populations of wild rainbow, brown, and brook trout can be eligible for Wild Trout Stream or Class A Stream designations. Protecting these streams ensures that the outdoor recreation industry continues to thrive and that future generations can enjoy the same (or better) fishing opportunities.

Tackle shops and fishing guides are among the businesses that make up an important part of the robust outdoor recreation industry in Pennsylvania. And giving special consideration to the best wild trout streams supports these small businesses. “When I worked in the local fly shop, the Class A list provided a great reference to point people in the right direction to find trout water,” says Matthew Marran, a flyfishing guide and former fly shop worker in the Delaware River Basin. “As a guide, I depend on Class A waters to put clients on wild trout with consistency and confidence. And I’m seeing more and more people ask when booking to fish exclusively for wild trout.”

Why Does a Designation Matter?

In these cases, what’s in a name really matters: Wild Trout and Class A streams qualify for additional protections from Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection, including the limitation of activities around these streams that would degrade water quality. The Wild Trout Stream title designates a water as a Coldwater Fishery and protects surrounding wetlands from development. Similarly, streams that qualify for the Class A designation get additional recognition as high-quality waters, which restricts in-stream discharges and guards against habitat degradation.

These designations from the PFBC are critical to helping the state manage and protect fish populations, especially as demands on Pennsylvania’s water resources continue to increase. When you consider that roughly 40 percent of streams across the state are NOT suitable for fishing, swimming, and/or drinking water, according to the DEP, it makes sense to safeguard the exceptional waterways that already meet top standards and support outdoor recreation that drives our economy.

Fortunately, sportsmen and sportswomen understand the importance of this process. A TRCP survey found that 92 percent of Pennsylvania sportsmen and women support designating streams when they meet the right criteria.

What You Can Do to Help

Pennsylvania’s hunters and anglers have an important opportunity to conserve more critical streams. If we don’t speak up, these exceptional waterways could easily be degraded and eventually lost to pollution.

Take action now and tell the PA Fish and Boat Commission that you value these protections for clean water and fish habitat.

This blog was originally posted in November 2019 and has been updated for each quarterly public comment period. The current comment period ends on September 18, 2023. Photos by Derek Eberly.

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August 21, 2023

Video: A Farm Bill Conservation Story

A Wisconsin family farm harnesses the power of Farm Bill programs and leads the way in conservation.

Join Ashly Steinke as he takes you on a turkey hunt and shares the inspiring story of his family’s journey raising sustainable grass-fed beef while harnessing the power of Farm Bill conservation programs. Witness firsthand how they have successfully restored grasslands, wetlands, and forests while building a profitable ag business.

In the video, Ashly shares how Farm Bill programs have enabled his family to improve habitat and boost wildlife populations on their farm and how the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), and the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) has helped them to make a positive impact.

Thanks to Farm Bill support and a commitment to conservation, the Steinke family’s Wisconsin farm has undergone a remarkable transformation. Join them in spreading the word about the remarkable impact these programs can have and discover how you can get involved too. 

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August 18, 2023

Sportsmen and Sportswomen Cheer BLM Decision to Conserve Bennett Hills

120,800 acres of big game winter range will be managed for the benefit of Idaho’s hunters and anglers

Idaho sportsmen and sportswomen today celebrated the Bureau of Land Management’s official move to conserve 120,800 acres of valuable big game habitat in the Bennett Hills north of Mountain Home.

The Idaho BLM state director has signed the Record of Decision for the Four Rivers Resource Management Plan, a document that will guide the agency’s management actions for more than 783,000 acres of public lands in central and western Idaho for the next two decades. Within the plan, BLM officials took action to conserve game migrations, winter ranges, and public access by creating the 120,800-acre Bennett Hills Backcountry Conservation Area.

When successfully implemented by the BLM, the Bennett Hills BCA will be managed to:

  • Protect and enhance public access to world-class hunting.
  • Conserve intact wildlife habitat, including crucial big game winter range and migratory habitats for six distinct mule deer, elk, and pronghorn herds.
  • Prioritize management practices that restore habitat and control noxious weeds (i.e. treat cheat grass, control conifer encroachment, and allow water developments).
  • Support and maintain traditional uses of the land such as ranching and hunting.

The new plan culminates roughly a decade of planning efforts by the BLM, state wildlife biologists, and the hunting community. Thirty-nine outdoor-related businesses and eight hunting and fishing organizations supported conservation measures in the Four Rivers RMP.

“The Bennett Hills are a bird hunting destination and an essential winter area for the famed King Hill mule deer hunt. It is worthy of protections that help wildlife and sportsmen,” said Brian Brooks, executive director of the Idaho Wildlife Federation.

The BLM Four Rivers Field Office includes Idaho Department of Fish and Game Hunting Units 39, 43, 44, and 45 in the central and western portions of the state. These popular public lands help fuel Idaho’s multi-billion-dollar outdoor recreation economy, provide important wildlife habitat, and support various traditional uses of the land.

“The Bennett Hills form key winter range for several of southern Idaho’s mule deer herds and provide local habitat for sage grouse and other upland birds,” said Ford Van Fossan, director of brand at First Lite. “As a member of Idaho’s hunting industry, First Lite is excited by efforts to conserve and enhance this critical part of the state’s natural heritage.”

“This area is prioritized by IDFG for the conservation of migratory habitats for six distinct mule deer, elk, and pronghorn herds,” said Rob Thornberry, Idaho field representative for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “From limited-entry big game hunting in Units 44 and 45 to the over-the-counter opportunities in Units 39 and 43, you aren’t going to find a better place to hunt mule deer than on public lands managed by the Four Rivers BLM field office.”

In addition to the conservation of the Bennett Hills, the new resource management plan will continue wildlife-friendly management in the Boise Foothills and the conservation of habitat for both long-billed curlew south of Emmett and Columbian sharp-tailed grouse near New Meadows.

“Sportsmen and sportswomen thank the BLM for these management prescriptions that will help conserve a vast suite of wildlife species, including huntable species such as mule deer, elk, chukar, and sharp-tailed grouse,” continued Thornberry.

Learn more about TRCP’s commitment to public access here.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

CONSERVATION WORKS FOR AMERICA

In the last two years, policymakers have committed to significant investments in conservation, infrastructure, and reversing climate change. Hunters and anglers continue to be vocal about the opportunity to create conservation jobs, restore habitat, and boost fish and wildlife populations. Support solutions now.

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