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Washington, D.C. — This morning, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Build Back Better Act (H.R. 5376) in a 220-213 vote, advancing conservation provisions that would have an impact on hunting and fishing opportunities across the country. The $1.75-trillion budget reconciliation package now heads to the Senate for further debate.
“These transformational investments in public and private land, climate resilience, and habitat connectivity would provide direct benefits not only to at-risk landscapes but also to our economy—with specific impacts on outdoor recreation businesses and family farms, ranches, and forests,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Americans can and should debate the merits of congressional spending, but the return on investment from conservation has been proven time and again. And this bill recognizes the critical role of private landowners in addressing climate change through practices that also benefit fish and wildlife and water quality. We look forward to working with both chambers to ensure that fish and wildlife benefit from once-in-a-generation investments in our natural resources, rural economies, and climate resilience.”
Here are the areas where sportsmen and sportswomen would benefit from this important legislation, should it be passed into law.
Build Back Better would provide $10 million for mapping, restoring, and conserving wildlife corridors. Improving these seasonal habitats would directly benefit big game species, while boosting biodiversity and resilience in degraded ecosystems. There is also $100 million for the protection and restoration of grassland habitats to be distributed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements.
In its current form, the bill would provide more than $27 billion for Farm Bill conservation programs—effectively doubling the conservation title of the Farm Bill and making the biggest investment in private lands conservation since the Dust Bowl. Authorized through Fiscal Year 2026, the bill greatly increases the capacity of USDA technical service providers to work alongside landowners to conserve habitat and improve soil health and water quality.
If passed, the bill would be the largest climate-related spending bill in U.S. history. It includes $12 billion to launch a Civilian Climate Corps and an additional $30 billion for projects that the Corps would undertake related to wildfire resiliency and restoration. The bill would also provide $9.5 billion for coastal and Great Lakes restoration and resilience. These funds will be used for the conservation, restoration, and protection of coastal and marine habitats and resources, including fisheries, to enable coastal communities to prepare for extreme storms and other changing climate conditions.
The over $25 billion the package would invest in forestry programs further underscores the importance of natural climate change solutions and aligns with many of TRCP’s priorities. These include funding for better forest management, wildfire prevention and restoration, legacy roads and trails, and state and private forestry conservation.
Beyond conserving migration corridors, the bill would further prioritize habitat connectivity by investing $400 million in the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund, which helps to restore Pacific salmon and steelhead habitat necessary for their seasonal migration. And an additional $200 million would go toward data collection, management, and ecosystem-based assessments in support of federal marine fisheries. Finally, $250 million would help to repair, replace, and upgrade federal hatchery infrastructure.
The TRCP has tracked the budget reconciliation process since this summer and urged American hunters and anglers to push for the inclusion of many of these conservation provisions. Combined with the impact of conservation investments from the recently passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, final passage of the Build Back Better Act would set us on a course to make once-in-a-generation improvements to habitat and hunting and fishing opportunities.
Top photo courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service
USDA moving ahead with restoration of conservation safeguards in Southeast Alaska
The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership celebrated the next step in the U.S. Forest Service’s plan to implement a proposed new management approach for 9.2 million acres of public land in the Tongass National Forest. As one of the final moves toward restoring conservation safeguards to undeveloped forest lands and watersheds in Southeast Alaska, the Forest Service is slated to launch a 60-day public comment period on Nov. 23.
Reinstating the Roadless Rule on the Tongass is one component of the Southeast Alaska Sustainability Strategy, unveiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture earlier this year, which prioritizes the region’s biggest economic engines, local values, and overwhelming public opinion. The restoration of these conservation safeguards was one of TRCP’s top ten priorities for the Biden Administration.
“Hunters and anglers are some of the most outspoken supporters of the Tongass National Forest because they understand the importance of these lands to Southeast Alaska’s economy, culture, and world-renowned fish and wildlife,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Last year’s rollback of conservation safeguards for these public lands flew in the face of overwhelming public opposition, and we appreciate the USDA’s willingness to reverse that decision while also prioritizing more sustainable forest management practices that will result in healthier habitats, improved recreational opportunities, and more resilient communities.”
Pairing the restoration of conservation safeguards with new, robust investments in the region’s economic development, the USDA’s July 2021 proposal was welcomed by local communities and various stakeholders as a balanced solution that promises a sustainable future for a region widely regarded as some of the richest fish and wildlife habitat in Alaska. Among other things, USDA’s new strategy will reverse of one of last year’s biggest conservation setbacks and ensure that the Tongass National Forest will remain an iconic hunting and fishing destination.
“Right now, hunters and anglers have an opportunity to ensure that public lands in Southeast Alaska are managed according to a durable, balanced, and community-focused framework,” said Jen Leahy, Alaska field representative for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “It is critical that members of the sporting community—as well as every American who understands the value of the Tongass—speak up in support of restoring conservation safeguards to Southeast Alaska’s remaining undeveloped fish and wildlife habitat.”
Click here to learn more about the impact of the Roadless Rule on habitat in the Tongass.
Photo: Ben Matthews
This month, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis released new data on the health of the outdoor recreation economy in 2020—a year of uncertainty and fear, on the one hand, but also a time that inspired many more Americans to get outside.
Overall, data showed that the outdoor recreation economy accounted for 1.8 percent, or more than $374 billion, of the gross domestic product last year. Meanwhile, outdoor recreation’s share of each state’s GDP ranged from 4.3 percent in Montana to 1.2 percent in New York and Connecticut.
|United States||$ 374,266,455,000.00|
|New York||$ 21,092,369,000.00|
|North Carolina||$ 9,958,597,000.00|
Consequently, the leaderboard for states with the most outdoor recreation jobs almost completely mimics that of highest outdoor recreation spending, except North Carolina jumps to #9 and Colorado squeezes into spot #10, edging out Washington by about 6,000 employees. What is perhaps more interesting is the list of places where the outdoor recreation economy represents the largest share of total employment in the state: Hawaii at 7 percent, Montana and Alaska tied at 5.4 percent, and Wyoming at 5.1 percent. These are also the states where outdoor recreation’s share of all compensation is the highest.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis report notes that COVID-19 stay-at-home orders “led to rapid changes in demand as consumers canceled, restricted, or redirected their spending,” and there was a 17.4-percent drop in real gross output for the outdoor recreation economy in 2020. Outdoor recreation employment also declined, from a 9-percent dip in Indiana to a pretty major 27-percent loss in Hawaii.
Of course, the bright spot of the pandemic has been the uptick in outdoor recreation participation and public land visitation—but how did this translate to spending?
The BEA splits total outdoor recreation activities into three segments: 1) The core activities, like hunting, fishing, hiking, biking, etc.; 2) supporting activities, like visiting restaurants or booking hotel rooms while traveling for outdoor recreation; and 3) other outdoor recreation, like visiting outdoor waterparks, festivals, sporting events, and concerts.
Of those three categories, as you can imagine, there has been more of an impact on travel and tourism spending and outdoor events with big crowds during COVID. Meanwhile, the value added by the conventional outdoor recreation segment in 2020 jumped to 37.4 percent, compared with 30.6 percent in 2019. This increase was due to higher spending on boating, fishing, and RVing, which will hopefully continue.
The BEA makes an annual update of the Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account, which measures economic activity and sales generated by a broad range of outdoor recreation activities, including hunting, fishing, boating, and RVing. They track each industry’s production of outdoor goods and services, the sector’s contributions to the U.S. GDP, and statistics on outdoor employment and compensation. To learn more about the BEA’s 2020 report, click here.
This valuable data has only been available in the last five years, since passage of the Outdoor Recreation Jobs and Economic Impact Act. This was a major victory for the hunting and fishing community, because the more we can point to the economic benefits of outdoor recreation, the easier it becomes to advocate for habitat and access improvements and investment in conservation.
Understanding the value of outdoor recreation at the state and national level should help to push lawmakers to spend wisely on conservation priorities that will have a ripple effect on not only habitat but also hunting and fishing opportunities, employment, and our personal wellbeing.
The TRCP and partners have outlined six legislative priorities that would be a win-win for the economy and conservation, and we released a report that shows more jobs are created per million dollars invested in conservation than in most other business sectors. Learn more on our Conservation Works for America page.
MAPLand Act and Ruby Mountains Protection Act move one step closer to the finish line
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee today passed important legislation that would digitize public land maps and records for outdoor recreation and safeguard an iconic Western landscape from development.
Both the Modernizing Access to our Public Land Act (S.904) and the Ruby Mountains Protection Act (S.609) received markups in the committee hearing.
The MAPLand Act passed with unanimous support. With only a few minor technical modifications, the bill will now be referred to the floor for consideration by the full chamber. The House companion bill (H.R. 3113) similarly cleared its committee markup in July. The Ruby Mountains Protection Act passed out of committee by a vote of 12-8.
“We thank the members of the committee for advancing these bills, which have become top-line priorities for hunters and anglers across the country,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “The MAPLand Act will allow more Americans to get outdoors and share in the public land legacy that belongs to us all, while the Ruby Mountains Protection Act secures some of the best fish and wildlife habitats for future generations of sportsmen and sportswomen. We now encourage lawmakers in both the House and Senate to commit to final passage of these bills that will strengthen our hunting and fishing opportunities.”
Introduced in March 2021 by Senator Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, the Ruby Mountains Protection Act would prohibit oil and gas leasing in the Ruby Mountains, one of the most important landscapes in Nevada for fish, wildlife, and sportsmen and sportswomen. If passed into law, the bill would not affect other important uses of the area, including mining, but it would help ensure that future generations are able to experience the tremendous hunting and fishing opportunities in the Rubies.
Sportsmen and sportswomen have been among the most vocal in support of the bill. In 2019, fifteen hunting, fishing, and wildlife conservation organizations formed the Sportsmen for the Rubies coalition to raise awareness—both around the state and in Washington, D.C.—of the potential threats that energy development poses to this habitat.
Introduced with bipartisan support by Senator Jim Risch of Idaho earlier this year, the MAPLand Act would direct federal land management agencies to consolidate, digitize, and make publicly available all recreational access information in a format that can be used with computer mapping programs and GPS applications.
These records include information about:
“Given fall hunting seasons are ongoing across the nation, public access is on the minds of millions of Americans,” said Fosburgh. “We are encouraged by the MAPLand Act’s progress, and we will continue to voice our support for this commonsense investment that—when passed into law—will help provide outdoor recreation opportunities for all Americans.”
Learn more about the MAPLand Act here.
Learn more about the Sportsmen for the Rubies coalition here.
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