Colorado closes sage grouse hunting in two of the best units in the state because of lost habitat and fewer birds counted for three consecutive years. Nevada offers 40 percent fewer special permits to hunt grouse on the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge. Idaho, once a major stronghold for sage grouse offering liberal seasons and bag limits, now allows just one bird per day for either a 2- or 7-day season, depending on the unit. Oregon reduces the number of limited permits available to hunters for the 2020 season. And sage grouse hunting remains closed in parts of Wyoming, the Dakotas, California, and Washington. LEARN MORE >
Veasey, Graves, and Michaelcheck Receive TRCP’s Conservation Awards
MeatEater’s Steven Rinella and TRCP’s Whit Fosburgh co-hosted the annual awards event in an all-digital format on Wednesday evening
Last night at the organization’s virtual Capital Conservation Awards Dinner, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership was proud to honor Representative Marc Veasey (D-Texas), Representative Garret Graves (R-La.), and business leader William J. Michaelcheck for their commitment to bipartisan conservation solutions. MeatEater’s Steven Rinella co-emceed the online event with TRCP’s president and CEO, Whit Fosburgh.
“This year’s honorees share a dedication to commonsense conservation solutions that unite not only decision-makers on both sides of the aisle but also the various factions of the outdoor recreation community,” says Fosburgh. “Whether it’s finding common ground to make federal investments in the health of our wild deer herds, responding to the habitat impacts of sea-level rise and climate change, or rethinking a defunct approach to fisheries management, these champions of conservation have worked for many years to clinch conservation victories and they deserve our thanks as hunters and anglers.”
Michaelcheck, who won the TRCP’s Conservation Achievement Award, is founder and co-chief investment officer of Mariner Investment Group and has been instrumental in the effort to modernize the management of menhaden, a critical bait fish that supports some of the most popular and economically important marine predators.
Congressmen Veasey and Graves were awarded the James D. Range Conservation Award, named after TRCP’s founder.
As House co-chair of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus and member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Veasey has advocated for strong investments in outdoor recreation infrastructure, clean water, and wildlife resources—particularly research and testing for chronic wasting disease in deer.
Rep. Graves serves on both the Committee on Natural Resources and the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, where he champions critical conservation issues related to transportation, infrastructure, fisheries, and coastal restoration. He also managed the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority under Governor Bobby Jindal, helping to oversee Louisiana’s recovery from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
It was the 12th annual dinner but the first-ever all-digital presentation held over YouTube Live. More than 1,200 TRCP supporters viewed the presentation, which featured live remarks and Q&A sessions with the honorees as well as pre-recorded videos from VIPs, including sports stars (and avid outdoorsmen) Bo Jackson and Pete Alonso and Minority Outdoor Alliance Founder Durrell Smith.
The event, which included a silent auction and grand-prize sweepstakes featuring a Michigan turkey hunt with Rinella, raised more than $700,000 to support the TRCP’s mission of guaranteeing all Americans quality places to hunt and fish.
Pre-COVID, the in-person gala has drawn crowds of up to 500 people—including decision-makers, outdoor recreation business leaders, and other champions of conservation—and is known as a can’t-miss conservation event in D.C. Past awardees Sen. Martin Heinrich, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Rep. Mike Simpson, Rep. Rob Wittman, philanthropist Liz Storer, and Bass Pro Shops’ Johnny Morris were also featured via video last night.
The Capital Conservation Awards Dinner was made possible with the support of the following generous sponsors: Coca-Cola, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Shell Oil, Schlumberger, Walton Family Foundation, Yamaha, American Sportfishing Association, Bass Pro Shops, Boone and Crockett Club, L.L. Bean, Matt Cook, FSI, Outdoor Industry Association, Pure Fishing, Range Resources, Tod Sedgwick, Sitka Gear, Vista Outdoor, AFL-CIO, Archery Trade Association, The Baird Group, Browning, Coastal Conservation Association, Everglades Foundation, Costa, Elliotsville Foundation, First Lite, Leupold, Mossy Oak, Natural Resource Results, The Nature Conservancy, Next Era Energy, Outdoor Research, Outtech, Peak Design, Pheasants Forever, PotlatchDeltic, Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, RV Industry Association, REI Co-Op, RMS, Shimano, Simms Fishing Products, The Trust for Public Land, Weyerhaeuser, YETI, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, Captains for Clean Water, The Conservation Fund, Contender, Fly Fishers International, Forbes-Tate Partners, Land Trust Alliance, , Mystery Ranch, North American Falconers Association, Power-Pole, Ruffed Grouse Society, Stone Glacier, Property and Environment Research Center, Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, United Union of Roofers, Waterproofers, and Allied Workers, Vortex, The Cypress Group, Filson, National Park Foundation, National Wildlife Refuge Association, onX, Sage, The Turner Foundation, Brown-Forman, and New Belgium Brewing.
Next year’s CCAD will be held on April 28, 2021, at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium.
Senate Passes Legislation with Benefits for Fish, Waterfowl, and Deer
The ACE Act breathes new life into successful programs that fund and facilitate habitat restoration and creates an all-new task force to take on a wildlife epidemic
This week, the U.S. Senate passed the America’s Conservation Enhancement Act, which supports investments in wetland and watershed restoration as well as advancements in chronic wasting disease research.
In particular, the ACE Act reauthorizes the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, which leverages private investments to improve millions of acres of waterfowl habitat, and establishes a task force to address the spread of CWD. (Our CEO testified in support of this idea last fall, but also urged House committee members to make robust investments in CWD response.)
The bill also codifies the National Fish Habitat Partnership, which tackles riparian and stream restoration projects through regional coalitions, and reinvests in the Chesapeake Bay Program’s clean water work. (Here’s what it’s going to take to clean up the Bay’s dead zone.)
“We applaud our senators for this latest effort to prioritize fish and wildlife habitat improvements and invest in programs that help put Americans back to work in conservation jobs of every kind,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Sportsmen and women are encouraging the House to follow suit and swiftly send the ACE Act to the president’s desk.”
You can still support the ACE Act before the House votes. Take action here.
Top photo by Tim Donovan/FWC
Senate Committee Considers the MAPLand Act
Sportsmen and women call for swift passage of important public land access legislation
Hunters and anglers around the nation voiced support for the bipartisan Modernizing Access to our Public Land Act as the bill received its first congressional hearing on Capitol Hill.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining held a hearing on Wednesday for the MAPLand Act, introduced by Senators Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) and Angus King (I-Maine).
The bill would enhance recreational opportunities on public land by investing in modern mapping systems that allow outdoor enthusiasts to access the information they need using handheld GPS technology commonly found in smartphones.
“Unfortunately, when it comes to public lands, incomplete and inconsistent mapping data prevents outdoor recreationists as well as land management agencies—including the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, and Corps of Engineers—from utilizing the full benefit of these technologies,” noted the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership in its formal testimony. “The MAPLand Act would help fix this problem by moving our federal land management agencies into the modern era so that public land users of all types can use digital mapping systems and smartphone applications to identify new opportunities for access and recreation while understanding the rules to help reduce unintentional conflicts and violations of the law.”
More specifically, the MAPLand Act would direct federal land management agencies to consolidate, digitize, and make publicly available recreational access information as GIS files. Such records include information about:
• legal easements and rights-of-way across private land;
• year-round or seasonal closures on roads and trails;
• road-specific restrictions on vehicle-type;
• boundaries of areas where special rules or prohibitions apply to hunting and shooting;
• and areas of public waters that are closed to watercraft or have horsepower restrictions.
In July, a coalition of 150+ hunting- and fishing-related businesses called on Congress to support the bill, highlighting the importance of public land access to the $778-billion outdoor recreation economy.
“GPS technology has become a part of everyday life and is now an essential part of the public-land user’s toolkit,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the TRCP. “Sportsmen and sportswomen thank Senators McSally and King and the members of the subcommittee for their attention to this issue and ask that lawmakers in both the House and Senate support the MAPLand Act.”
Earlier this year, the TRCP produced a short-animated video explaining the benefits of the bill. The video can be viewed HERE.
TRCP’s full testimony in support of the MAPLand Act can be read HERE.
Photo: Rick Hutton
80,000+ Landlocked Acres in New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey
A new report details the extent of inaccessible public lands in the Mid-Atlantic
The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and onX announced today that more than 80,000 acres of public land in New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey are entirely landlocked by private land and, therefore, inaccessible to hunters, anglers, and other outdoor recreation enthusiasts.
Using today’s leading mapping technologies, the collaborative study found that more than 39,000 acres of public land in New York, 27,000 acres in Pennsylvania, and more than 14,000 acres in New Jersey are landlocked and inaccessible to the public unless private landowners grant individual permissions to cross their properties. The detailed findings are now available in a new report, “The Mid-Atlantic’s Landlocked Public Lands: Untapped Hunting and Fishing Opportunities in New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey,” which also unpacks the history of the issue and how these states are working to solve it.
“The issue of landlocked public lands is one that has captured the attention of outdoor recreationists and lawmakers in recent years, and for good reason: These lands belong to everyone, yet they are currently unavailable to the general public,” said Joel Webster, with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Access is absolutely vital to our community and to the future of hunting and fishing. We hope that decision-makers will see this report’s findings as strong evidence that programs to improve and create new access need robust support.”
Of the various types of public land examined by the report, the majority of landlocked acres in each of the three states were state lands, followed by combined county/municipal acres. Ranging in size from just a few acres to several hundred, these parcels could potentially offer recreationists in the region new opportunities to get outdoors both in rural areas and those closer to major urban centers, where there is a growing recognition of the need for outdoor access.
“Public land access is vital to outdoor enthusiasts,” said onX access advocacy manager Lisa Nichols. “Because handheld GPS technologies have made it easier to discover areas of public land—particularly isolated, small, or out-of-the way parcels—these landlocked acres represent lost opportunities that would otherwise be available to all of us. Expanding access to these places would offer very real benefits to communities, especially those in places where the possibilities to get outside and enjoy the outdoors are relatively limited.”
Last month’s passage of the Great American Outdoors Act secured full funding for the most powerful public land access tool, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). As a result, the program will now provide a guaranteed $27 million in annual federal funding for public access work. Additionally, at least 40 percent of the program’s overall $900 million budget must be used for state-driven projects. This funding can be dedicated to opening landlocked parcels through each state’s State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan, part of which prioritizes projects eligible to receive LWCF funding.
The onX-TRCP report further highlights several important state-level programs that help to create new access for public land users.
New York’s Open Space Conservation Plan, established in 2016, prioritizes land acquisitions that fall under seven major types, among which is land that unlocks access to public land beyond. One of the means of supporting these projects is the state’s Environmental Protection Fund, funded by a real-estate tax, which has supplied around $30 million annually for land acquisition in recent years.
“Enhancing access to public lands and quality habitat throughout New York and the mid-Atlantic is absolutely critical to the future of hunting and angling here,” said Todd Waldron, host of the Outdoor Feast Podcast by Modern Carnivore and resident of Chestertown, NY. “Finding places to hunt, fish, and get outside is often cited as the paramount challenge for new hunters, anglers, and outdoor recreationists of all kinds. This great collaborative work by onX and TRCP highlights how landlocked public lands could provide more access opportunities for all New Yorkers to enjoy, ensuring that wildlife and habitat will continue to be supported through hunter and angler conservation funding well into the future.”
Pennsylvania’s Community Conservation Partnerships Program is administered by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and can be used to establish access through conservation easements and state land acquisitions. The program is funded by both the state’s Environmental Stewardship Fund and the federal LWCF. In addition, the state game fund is the primary funding source used by the Pennsylvania Game Commission to acquire state game lands.
“Overseeing more than 2.5 million acres of state park and forestlands, this department prides itself on providing wholesome, healthy outdoor recreation to all, which, since the founding of Pennsylvania’s park system in 1893, always has been free,” said Pennsylvania. Department of Conservation and Natural Resources secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. “Our parks’ record-shattering attendance numbers during the pandemic show people need that access and we commend the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership for its effort to make all public lands accessible to all people.”
“From state game lands to state forests, Pennsylvania’s 5.4 million acres of state lands are critically important for hunting and fishing,” said Derek Eberly, Pennsylvania field representative with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “But sportsmen and women are losing out on days afield with 27,000 of those public acres being landlocked and inaccessible to the public. Thankfully, Pennsylvania has the state game fund and the Community Conservation Partnerships Program to help unlock these lands through cooperative efforts with neighboring private landowners. We owe many of our outdoor opportunities to these programs, and it is critical that they receive robust funding so that Pennsylvania’s hunting and fishing traditions only grow stronger over time.”
Launched in 2019, Connecting Habitat Across New Jersey is an innovative initiative to secure and improve habitat connectivity by establishing corridors between important areas for game and non-game species. By guiding strategic land acquisitions to tie together parcels of public land, this program also facilitates new and improved access for sportsmen and women, particularly in those areas where public lands are isolated and/or fragmented.
“I’m an avid archer who grew up hunting Pennsylvania state game lands, but I’ve lived in New York City for the past 12 years and public lands in New Jersey offer great hunting areas, a lot of them within an hour of the city,” said Kyle VanFleet, a lifelong sportsman and a member of Hunters Helping the Hungry, a New Jersey-based organization that provides venison to food banks across the state. “I’ve been able to harvest many whitetail deer there with my bow. Landlocked public lands present a unique opportunity to expand access to these types of opportunities, especially where they might be currently limited, which is important both for those of us sportsmen and women living in urban areas and also for recruiting new hunters and anglers.”
The new report follows up on last month’s announcement that more than 300,000 acres of public land are inaccessible in Minnesota and Wisconsin. This analysis builds on a two-year effort to calculate the total acreage of landlocked public lands in the Pacific and Intermountain West. To date, a total of 16.25 million acres of these public lands have been identified.
A companion website, unlockingpubliclands.org, unpacks the issue in more detail and provides links to additional information about landlocked public lands. Visitors to the site can download the report as well as the reports published by onX and TRCP in 2018 and 2019.
Earlier this year, onX also launched a new crowd-sourcing initiative, Report a Land Access Opportunity, with the help of partners, including the TRCP. The program provides the public with a platform to share on-the-ground knowledge about locations where access to outdoor recreation has been threatened or could be improved. The information received by onX is then provided to the relevant nonprofits and land management agencies that can help.
Learn more about the landlocked public lands challenge here.
Photo: Jess Delorenzo
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.Learn More