Do you have any thoughts on this post?
For more than a year, the Natural History Museum in New York City has made national headlines for its decision to remove its statue of Theodore Roosevelt, citing the paternalistic and racist image of Roosevelt on horseback with a Black man and Native American on foot on either side of him. According to the New York Times, the museum’s director noted that the decision was based on the statue itself—namely its “hierarchical composition”—and not on Roosevelt, whom the museum continues to honor as “a pioneering conservationist.”
It prompted internal discussions at TRCP, as an organization named after Theodore Roosevelt, about the 26th president’s legacy as it relates to our mission and vision in contemporary times.
There are various academic studies on Roosevelt’s complicated and often contradictory views of race. This includes his embrace of Manifest Destiny, the displacement of Native Americans from the public lands he created, and his support of eugenics theories—but also his appointment of multiple Black people to important positions within his administration, which drew the ire of Southern lawmakers, and public defense of equality in well-documented speeches. In one, he said, “I cannot consent to take the position that the door of hope—the door of opportunity—is to be shut upon any man, no matter how worthy, purely upon the grounds of race or color.”
My job is not to moderate such discussions, which are healthy and important as we learn from the past to address today’s challenges. As Roosevelt himself said in a 1907 speech about the pilgrims, “Men must be judged with reference to the age in which they dwell.” And while Roosevelt was clearly wrong on some issues, 1907 was a very different time than 2021.
But to strictly ignore some parts of T.R.’s legacy while celebrating others is also to do a disservice to the organizations and communities of color that are essential to the work of keeping conservation alive.
In this work, Roosevelt’s conservation legacy and vision are still relevant today. During his two terms as president, he ended market hunting and set aside 240 million acres of public land as national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife refuges. His basic philosophy is summarized in this famous quote:
“Defenders of the short-sighted men who in their greed and selfishness will, if permitted, rob our country of half its charm by their reckless extermination of all useful and beautiful wild things, sometimes seek to champion them by saying the ‘the game belongs to the people.’ So, it does; and not merely to the people now alive, but to the unborn people. The ‘greatest good for the greatest number’ applies to the number within the womb of time, compared to which those now alive form but an insignificant fraction. Our duty to the whole, including the unborn generations, bids us restrain an unprincipled present-day minority from wasting the heritage of these unborn generations. The movement for the conservation of wild life and the larger movement for the conservation of all our natural resources are essentially democratic in spirit, purpose, and method.”
Roosevelt believed that wild lands and wild places should be accessible to all Americans. His vision for these public lands stood in stark contrast to the model in most European countries, where fish and wildlife belonged to the landed gentry or the crown. His views on access to the outdoors were consistent with his populist stances on other matters. Through his “trust busting” and threats to nationalize industry because of low wages and other abuses, he lifted up millions of Americans from all backgrounds, races, religions, and genders.
Today, our challenge is to advance Roosevelt’s conservation vision in the face of unprecedented threats, from development to climate change, while at the same time doing more to ensure that all Americans have access to the outdoors and feel welcome in the hunting and fishing community. This is not only the right thing to do; this is fundamental to the future of the North American Model of Conservation.
Hunting, fishing, and conservation depend on participation and broad acceptance by society. When hunting is 96 percent White, and overwhelmingly male and older, it is not a recipe for long-term viability. When large parts of our urban populations, including communities of color, lack access to public lands and waters, we deprive them of the connection to the outdoors that many of us take for granted, and we lose natural allies in the political battles to conserve open spaces and fish and wildlife. A diverse and well-represented hunting and fishing community, on the other hand, brings Americans together and helps to protect hunting and fishing from external attack.
The Haudenosaunee Confederacy has the principle of the “Seventh Generation,” which tells us that decisions made today must be understood in a lens of how they will impact future generations. If we ignore the centuries of wisdom that Native American cultures have about stewardship, we are weaker for it.
TRCP’s mission is to guarantee all Americans quality places to hunt and fish. This includes supporting recruitment, retention, and reactivation practices that make hunting and fishing welcoming activities for every person. We commit to working with Black, Indigenous, and Latino organizations and other communities of color, in combination with our longstanding conservation partners, to achieve this goal.
Conservation works best when we all work together and keep looking forward.
Photo courtesy of Harvard College Library.
New executive order establishes collaborative approach to prioritizing big game seasonal habitats
Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham today announced bold steps to conserve New Mexico’s land, water, and wildlife, adopting the goal of conserving 30 percent of all lands in the state by 2030. Through an executive order, the governor established a 30 by 30 Committee comprised of secretaries or designees of seven state agencies and directed it to “support and implement programs designed to conserve, protect, and enhance lands and natural environments across the state,” emphasizing among other things efforts that “support migratory wildlife habitat and ensure movement across the landscape.”
“Today’s commitment to safeguarding New Mexico’s migratory habitats is a strong step forward on a conservation challenge that has been front-and-center among the issues that matter most to sportsmen and sportswomen,” said John Cornell, the southwest field manager for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We want to thank Governor Lujan Grisham for recognizing the value of the outdoor recreation economy, for highlighting the importance of increased access and recreation, and for including these issues among her administration’s priorities. New Mexico has vast natural landscapes and incredible wildlife resources that will benefit greatly from the goals laid out in this order.”
Significantly, the executive order directs state agencies to “coordinat[e] as much as possible with federal agencies that manage lands and resources across New Mexico, including through direct engagement on natural resource management plans, transportation and energy development projects, and any other initiatives that impact land and water conservation, including wildlife migration.” In June, the TRCP released a report highlighting opportunities for the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service to work with state wildlife agencies to incorporate big game migration science and data into land management plans and decisions.
Governor Lujan Grisham’s executive order arrives as the Biden-led Departments of the Interior and Agriculture are shaping their next steps for migration corridor conservation, which was highlighted as a priority in the May 2021 report Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful. The Interior Department began partnering with Western states on the issue in 2018 when then-Secretary Ryan Zinke signed Secretarial Order 3362. Sportsmen and sportswomen see considerable opportunity for the federal agencies to build upon these early successes to ensure meaningful and durable habitat conservation.
According to the executive order, the committee will also focus on land- and water-based solutions that help sequester carbon and greenhouse gas emissions. Last year, the TRCP and 40 other hunting and fishing conservation groups launched Conservationists for Climate Solutions to drive solutions-oriented policies that combat the impacts of climate change on land, water, and wildlife.
“Hunters and anglers applaud today’s announcement and look forward to working with the governor’s office and the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish to achieve these outcomes,” continued Cornell. “Our community is ready to collaborate with a diverse range of stakeholders to be part of the solution and to bring sportsmen’s and sportswomen’s voices to the table as we tackle these important issues.”
To read more from the Governor’s Executive Order click HERE.
As we’ve shared over the past few weeks, the Senate has passed a once-in-a-generation infrastructure package that would provide significant funding for conservation priorities, including wildlife crossings, national forest road repair and maintenance, drought and climate resilience, clean water, and habitat restoration.
But leading lawmakers aren’t planning to advance this legislation without a budget reconciliation bill that invests in conservation and climate-smart measures at the same time. This means that hunters and anglers need to not only push Congress to carry the decade-defining infrastructure package across the finish line, but also urge decision-makers to include robust funding for conservation in this other crucial bill—which, as it stands, leaves out some essential habitat programs.
Reconciliation refers to a special, Senate-driven step in the budget-making process that is typically only possible when the same party controls both Congress and the White House.
When the Senate passes an annual budget resolution, it can include instructions to align—or reconcile—spending priorities with a particular objective. These instructions direct changes in spending, revenues, deficits, or the debt limit by specific amounts to pursue a specific policy agenda. In the past, this process has been used by both parties to lower taxes, adjust social safety net programs, and change health care and education law.
This time around, the intention is to significantly increase funding for conservation priorities, which is why hunters and anglers need to weigh in.
Unfortunately, though conservation funding and priorities still enjoy broad support by both Republicans and Democrats, this is not a bipartisan process. But it’s still important for hunters and anglers to speak up and alert the Senate and House Democrats driving this bill to the full scope of opportunities for fish and wildlife conservation success.
Here are five major priorities we’re still pushing for.
Early reports indicate that draft reconciliation instructions do not include adequate funding for the Department of the Interior. This is troubling, since the original goal of this process is to commit more funding to respond to critical conservation challenges facing our nation, many of which will be tackled by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Geological Survey, and Bureau of Reclamation—all agencies that could miss out if Congress doesn’t commit more funding to Interior. Bureau of Land Management lands alone account for nearly half of the nationwide acres experiencing fire or drought, not to mention an overwhelming amount of hunting and fishing opportunities in the western United States.
If Congress is serious about making a historic investment in conservation, lawmakers must ensure that Interior’s topline for funding is increased so that these funds can go to agencies that sportsmen and sportswomen rely on to restore and protect critical public lands and waters.
Hunters and anglers will benefit from doubling funding for one key program at Interior: the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), which has successfully restored nearly 30 million acres of waterfowl habitat in the last 30 years. This program has resulted in billions of dollars being invested in wetlands conservation, and the return on investment has been proven. That’s why we’re encouraging budget negotiators to not only increase funding for Interior, but also to make sure that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service receives double the annual funding for this signature conservation program.
We also request that lawmakers double the conservation investments in the Farm Bill through the reconciliation process. Demand for conservation on 13.8 million acres of private land goes unmet each year because of inadequate funding for the Farm Bill’s most popular and effective conservation programs. That means nearly 40 percent of all applications submitted for Farm Bill conservation programs cannot be enrolled. Congress should use this opportunity to double the reach of these programs and ramp up the on-the-ground technical support provided to farmers, ranchers, and forest-owners as they work to boost fish and wildlife habitat on their lands.
As I mentioned above, a decade-defining infrastructure package is tied to reconciliation, and once this legislation passes, it will kickstart a boom in necessary infrastructure upgrades and innovative new projects. This is a good thing! But with all of this activity comes a need to make sure that habitat will not be impacted by development. This can only be done through thorough and timely reviews directed by our bedrock conservation laws, which make sure that projects in and around public lands and waters don’t cause undue harm to fish and wildlife.
Reconciliation funding for the Department of the Interior currently overlooks the increased investments needed to build capacity for the deluge of new projects. Without the ability to complete these studies in both a timely and thorough manner, this will slow down the construction of new infrastructure projects and could threaten our lands, waters, and wildlife. Lawmakers should support and invest in the agencies that carefully manage fish and wildlife resources in balance with essential infrastructure projects.
Finally, Congress has the chance to help build resiliency in the Colorado River Basin in two ways. First, Congress should fund the ecosystem and water supply projects needed to comply with our treaty with Mexico, with whom we share the river. Second—not just for the Basin but across the West—Congress must boost funding for the U.S. Geological Survey so that they can continue to provide information on river flows and snowpack levels to do the modeling and scientific analysis that will help us develop more sustainable water-use strategies. The USGS is a critical, and often underfunded, conservation agency. It’s important that Congress supports their mission so that they can, in turn, inform important water, wildlife, and habitat restoration efforts.
Hunters and anglers, particularly in key House districts, can make an impact by sharing these urgent asks directly with target lawmakers. Click here to use our simple advocacy tool now.
Hunters & anglers celebrate the development of a statewide wildlife connectivity plan
Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak announced the creation of a new Nevada Habitat Conservation Framework to conserve, restore, and rehabilitate the Silver State’s sagebrush habitat. One of the key components of this initiative is the development of a Wildlife Connectivity Plan that will “identify and conserve migratory [big game] corridors.”
The Nevada Department of Wildlife, with input from stakeholders such as conservation groups, private landowners, and tribal communities, will identify and delineate migration corridors and seasonal habitats using the best-available science. As a result, these areas will receive much-needed special consideration in the land-use planning process.
“This plan recognizes the urgent need to ensure Nevada’s big game populations can continue to move across the landscape and access the seasonal habitats they need to survive,” said Carl Erquiaga, field representative for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “By working together, we can come up with a plan to restore and connect critical habitat for mule deer, pronghorn, and bighorn sheep. We thank Governor Sisolak for his continued focus on conservation issues that support our rural economies.”
According to a poll conducted last year by the research firm FM3 for the Pew Charitable Trusts, more than 93% of registered voters in Nevada supported the implementation of new conservation measures to protect wildlife migration corridors.
Sagebrush habitat covers more than 50 percent of the Silver State and sustains an outdoor recreation economy generating more than $12.5 billion in annual consumer spending and supporting 87,000 jobs. More than 367 species of plants and animals rely on the sagebrush ecosystem, which is considered one of the most imperiled in the U.S. These habitats are also essential to the functionality of Nevada’s big game migration corridors, allowing for healthy populations of mule deer, pronghorn, and bighorn sheep.
With so much of Nevada’s landscape managed by federal agencies, successful implementation of Sisolak’s executive order will necessitate coordination with the Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service, specifically their incorporation of big game migration science and data into land management plans and decisions. In June, the TRCP released a report highlighting opportunities for federal land managers in Nevada and across the West to do just that.
Fortunately, Nevada’s new executive order comes at a time when the Biden-led Departments of the Interior and Agriculture are shaping their next steps for migration corridor conservation, which was highlighted as a priority in the May 2021 report Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful. The Interior Department began partnering with Western states on the issue in 2018 when then-Secretary Ryan Zinke signed Secretarial Order 3362. Sportsmen and sportswomen see considerable opportunity for the federal agencies to build upon these early successes to ensure meaningful and durable habitat conservation.
“Nevada’s Habitat Conservation Framework could help pave the way for increased partnership between the Nevada Department of Wildlife and federal agencies, like the Bureau of Land Management which is responsible for overseeing 48 million acres in Nevada,” said Madeleine West, director of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s public lands program. “We are hopeful that federal land managers will increase their focus and investment in migration conservation across the West. Doing so is critical to conserving and restoring the important habitats that sustain the region’s storied big game herds and hunting traditions.
To read a copy of the Governor’s Executive Order click 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