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One of the great things about this country is that when people come together they are very strong, and we need to come together to understand our natural resources, and how important natural resources are to future generations – Fernando Clemente, New Mexico Wildlife Federation Board Member and Wildlife Biologist

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Fernando Clemente, New Mexico Wildlife Services and NM Wildlife Federation board member with a Montezuma Quail. Photo by Lew Carpenter

I stepped in close to the desert scrub where I thought the fleeing Montezuma Quail had landed. These quail hold tight and I was right on top of one when it exploded up in front of me blasting out to my left. I pulled in line and my view suddenly clouded with a dense tree foiling my shot. I looked further left and saw Clemente smoothly and effortlessly raise his shotgun and drop the dynamic bird.

 

We were a mere 20 minutes into our Montezuma Quail (also known as Mearns Quail) hunt when the first covey had been busted. Field & Stream reporter Hal Herring had dropped a bird from that first flush and, apparently, I had become the bird dog for Clemente’s kill – both flushing and retrieving for him.

 

Our group had joined just a few miles from the US-Mexico border in the Coronado National Forest of New Mexico’s bootheel, just south of Animas. We were six – plus three dogs – out to hunt Montezuma Quail and talk wildlife impacts of a proposed border wall. Sixty percent of the Chihuahua desert grasslands are gone and further fragmentation of this essential habitat and its wildlife corridors would be devastating if a border wall is built.

 

“Some animals, because of their size, avoid predators, humans, autos and structures,” Clemente said. “So when they see a structure in the distance like the proposed wall, they will not even go near. So when you talk about home range and habitat for a species, it will be totally disrupted – from California to Texas.”

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Impressive tall-grass habitat of the Coronado National Forest in New Mexico. Photo By Lew Carpenter

New Mexico Wildlife Federation (NMWF) staff member Gabe Vasquez, board member Fernando Clemente and past NMWF board chair Ray Trejo – plus Field & Stream’s Hal Herring and Tom Fowlks (photographer) – were all on site to camp, hunt and expose a magnificent ecosystem filled with tall grasslands, wooded hills, Coues deer, bear, desert bighorn sheep and…oh yes, quail.

Vasquez organized the trip. He also authored the National Wildlife Federation’s (NWF) Border Wall policy resolution, which was ratified by 51 NWF state affiliates during the 2017 NWF annual meeting in Stevenson, Washington. He is also a Las Cruces City Councilman and heads the Nuestra Tierra conservation program for NMWF.

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From top left: Fernando Clemente, Lew Carpenter, Gabe Vasquez. Bottom from left: Ray Trejo, Hal Herring. Photo by Tom Fowlks

“Under recent Congressional bills there have been environmental waivers granted for construction of any type of structure for border security,” Vasquez said. “New Mexico Legislators this year pushed back strongly with legislation that would trigger a state-version of NEPA or EIS anytime the federal government wants to come in and do a land swap with the state of New Mexico to facilitate the construction of any property, where there are no environmental laws required (like Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act). It received strong support and passed out of a House committee.”

“So clearly here in New Mexico we place a high value on our land – and when people talk about state’s rights – well here’s a federal decision that comes with the power to decimate our state’s recreation economy, our wildlife and our culture, and we don’t want it,” Vasquez continued. “People talk all the time about state’s rights and some of these folks are the same ones who want the wall, but you can’t have it both ways. This is terrible for sportsmen and women in New Mexico and terrible for anyone else who uses these public lands.”

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Gabe Vasquez, Las Cruces City Councilman, NM Wildlife staffer and leader of Nuestra Tierra. Photo by Lew Carpenter

NMWF’s Nuestra Tierra Conservation Project, a program that helps underserved and Hispanic communities connect with the outdoors, has been advocating against the border wall since its inception, and the following is from its factsheet:

 

President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign promise to build a massive border wall across the U.S.-Mexico border is misguided, xenophobic, technically infeasible, and will deteriorate the country’s relationship with Mexico.

 

A massive border wall, on the scale that Trump has proposed, will also have a tremendously negative impact on wildlife and the natural environment.

 

Disrupting the flow of water

  • In many places across the border, existing fences already act as dams during periods of heavy rainfall, which cause severe soil erosion, degraded habitat for wildlife, and flooding in rural and urban population centers. A concrete wall would likely amplify these existing problems.
  • According to the National Park Service, the pooling of water against existing border fences in Arizona has already caused severe soil erosion and damage to riparian vegetation.
  • When it rains in Palomas, Mexico, which neighbors Columbus, N.M., the town’s streets, many of them dirt roads, flood badly. Engineers have concluded that the existing border fencing and infrastructure is largely to blame. Additional and larger border infrastructure could severely flood our southern neighbors by altering the course of naturally flowing arroyos, impacting both their health, infrastructure, and economy.

 

Severe disruption to wildlife habitat

  • Reinforced fencing – in particular solid walls – along the Southwest border will continue to disrupt the migratory ranges of wildlife in the Chihuahuan and Sonoran deserts and their endangered species.
  • Current border fences have already hindered efforts to save the native jaguar, which was listed as an endangered species since 1977 and is slowly recovering from near extinction. Restricting the movement of these creatures will almost certainly eliminate their ability to reach their traditional breeding areas.
  • The current wall has seriously hampered the distribution of the ferruginous pygmy-owl and bighorn sheep and could isolate other endangered populations of large mammals, particularly in Arizona’s Sky Island region, including black bears.

 

Building a massive border wall to divide these two great nations will destroy the cultural heritage that the land represents to its modern day inhabitants and will severely impact wildlife habitat and endanger binational communities. Nuestra Tierra strongly believes that to preserve our frontera culture, and to move forward as a nation, the border wall must not be built.

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From left: Gabe Vasquez, Hal Herring and Fernando Clemente. Photo by Lew Carpenter

“We need to act, Clemente said. “We need to come together. One of the great things about this country is when people come together they are very strong. And we need to come together to understand our natural resources, and how important natural resources are to future generations. The United States has always been the leader in wildlife management and the conservation of natural resources, and I don’t understand why we would head down this route (of a border wall).”

 

Trejo fortified that notion, “We work very hard to articulate just that, on the landscape and on the border. It is our responsibility to bring people who are making decisions down (to the border), and to look at the landscape – otherwise they don’t understand. We are connected with Mexico and we have always been connected with Mexico. And that wall is going to create a barrier that impacts the ecosystem that spans the border, and what happens to the people, the wildlife, the habitat and the work between the countries?”

 

As we drove into the boot heel of New Mexico — the northern part of the Chihuahua Desert – the exotic landscape opened up with magnificent grasslands, mountain ranges and rich colors of gold, brown and green.

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Dog on point with Vasquez and Clemente. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Our campsite was at 5500 feet altitude and the temps ranged from 14 to 75 degrees.

 

Trejo, a high school administrator in these parts, brought his two German short haired pointers and Clemente, who owns NM Specialized Wildlife Services, brought his pointer as well. Both men are experts in wildlife conservation and Clemente manages wildlife populations on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.

 

“We are supposed to be a country that creates relations, and I hope that nothing will happen, but if the wall gets created, what will happen to those relations?” Clemente rhetorically asked. “And what do I mean by that? I’m going to talk about waterfowl, migratory birds, and many people say that ‘They can fly over the wall,’ but that’s not the point. The point is there are tri-lateral meetings every year between the US, Canada and Mexico.

 

“They meet to create a management plan for the migratory birds, and I’ve been fortunate to be a part of that within the Central Flyway. And they get to get together and talk about everything from habitat restoration and resting places (wildlife refuges) all the way to bag limits and how many each country harvests,” Clemente continued. “Why is that? Because they fly from Canada to Mexico and then back each year. It’s not a species that somebody owns – everybody owns them, and their habitat, and home range is from Canada to Mexico, so that’s the way it needs to be managed. So let’s say there is a break in our relationships, and now they don’t care because we don’t care about them – so we will change things to keep more birds for us. The problem is that if we start changing how we manage those migratory birds in order to keep numbers for each country, what will happen in 20 years?”

 

The same could be said about relations on Sonoran pronghorn, Coues deer, desert bighorn sheep – just a few in the game species category.

 

“We have a great population of Goulds turkeys because of releases from Mexico, and Mexico is doing great with Gould’s turkeys – almost half the country has Gould’s turkeys,” Clemente said. “So all those relationships have been created to build population sustainability with wildlife populations. If we damage that then it will be 10 times harder to be able to sustain a wildlife population. Now, with that being said, what kind of message are we sending to the wildlife biologists and ecologists about all that work from the past? When we build that wall we are saying we don’t care about the work.”

 

Heading out into the National Forest I was struck by the glowing, golden high grasses – excellent quail habitat. The quality of the landscape was like nothing I had seen further north. Un-grazed public land as far as the eye could see – challenging us as we searched for quail.

 

Tracking along a small wash, which was wooded along the southern face, we came upon that first covey and flush. Holding a Montezuma in my hand for the first time, I could easily see what the fuss was about with these birds. To detail all its beauty in words would be nearly impossible considering the diversity of colors and patterns throughout its plumage.

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Montezuma Quail. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Exploring a small slice of this incredible grassland ecosystem was a gift. Thick golden fields of grass; rocky, woodland washes and hills; and open space without structure extending well beyond sight (with occasional groups of Coues deer busting forth).

 

“Culturally we refer to this little piece on the landscape as the border, but it’s a landscape just like any other,” Vasquez said. “It is diverse, it is beautiful and to us it is our home. It is becoming more dangerous to us as we see what is happening in Congress.”

 

I admit, it’s hard to weave a hunting story with an issue as significant, deep and connected to so many people, cultures and conservation values. The hunt left a mark on me. The conversation about the wildlife impacts of a border wall left an impact on me. My life is forever changed by this type of experience, when being present in a special place merges with responsible, pragmatic dialogue about common values. And when we connect with each other physically in a place that is meaningful, one can’t help but be transformed forever.

 

And, while we sought both Montezuma and Blue (Scaled) quail, we encountered Gamble’s quail, too – all remarkable game birds. Afternoons in this area beg a hat trick. Though I didn’t shoot as well as I would like, the hunt will be one of my greatest sporting memories. The combination of epic habitat, spectacular wildlife and the best of companions (dogs included) made the trip truly special.

 

I am invested in my role with conservation, and even more invested in my relationships, but to be in a place that not only connects people and culture from two nations, and touches upon the values of wild places and wildlife, I can’t help but be transformed even further in my resolve to protect the things I love – people, wildlife, heritage and the vast beauty of the public estate.

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SHOT Show floor. By Lew Carpenter

I work in conservation because I love our lands, waters, fish and wildlife.

I am a sportsman.

When I think about the incredible opportunities I have in America to fish and hunt on public lands and waters, I feel strong, proud and grateful. But protecting what I – and tens of millions of other sportsmen and women around the country – value isn’t easy.

Yet it should be.

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SHOT Show panel. Photo by Kristyn Brady, TRCP

So when the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) asked me to be part of a panel reviewing the Trump administration’s first year of conservation at the 2018 SHOT Show last month, I gladly agreed to speak in front of representatives from across the shooting and hunting industry. After all, this industry relies on healthy habitat, clean water and vast public lands, and supports wildlife conservation through excise taxes and investment.

It’s a symbiotic relationship where a healthy environment drives economic gain, fueling opportunity, access and large and small businesses. These basic values and tenants emerged during the SHOT Show panel, including the current threats to sporting values and wildlife health that continue to grow at a pace that should concern all sportsmen and women. Read on for an overview of what the panel discussed, focused on public lands policies, the recent withdrawal of Clean Water Act protections to headwaters and wetlands, and restoring the Mississippi River Delta.

Public Land Access and Energy Development

Enacting policies to expand sportsman access to public lands is not just popular, it’s also critical to the future of hunting and fishing. A staggering amount of public land is landlocked, surrounded by private lands, and in many cases efforts to close easement access to these lands is ongoing. Great victories, such as the Sabinoso Wilderness effort by New Mexico Wildlife Federation (NMWF) and TRCP – working with both senators in New Mexico to garner funding and purchase private land – allowed a donation to the federal government for access to that pristine wilderness.

With hundreds of NMWF members signing a petition telling Secretary Zinke to open up this wilderness, this was a landmark example of what happens when sportsmen and women fight for their access, and was a huge victory years in the making.

Discussion turned to energy development and dominance on public lands, where energy development and mining can coexist with healthy habitat and quality hunting and angling. But this balance does not happen by chance.

Responsible energy and extraction development requires both careful planning and a commitment from decision makers to get it right from the start. It is, therefore, critical that our public land management agencies – the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service – have the right policies and procedures in place to facilitate both energy development and the conservation of healthy fish and wildlife populations.

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Waterfowl hunting on public land. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Withdrawal of Clean Water Act Protections

Moving on to water issues, we touched on the EPA’s decision to withdraw Clean Water Act protections for headwaters and wetlands impacting fish, waterfowl and businesses that rely on quality places to hunt and fish.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Environmental Protection Agency have begun the process of rescinding the 2015 provision that clarified protections for headwater streams and wetlands under the Clean Water Act, despite broad public support for the rule and its benefits for fish and wildlife habitat. This is the first step in a two-step process to replace the rule, set into motion by an executive order in February 2017.

The repeal and replacement plan is likely to roll back Clean Water Act protections for a majority of the nation’s streams and wetlands, including the headwater streams that are so important for fish and game, plus millions of acres of seasonal wetlands that store flood waters and provide essential habitat for more than half of North American migratory waterfowl. Areas like the Prairie Potholes and Louisiana wetlands are at tremendous risk.

As the panel came to the end of its time, Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt took the podium. His prepared words of admonishment were designed to minimize any panel criticism of the administration, which was disappointing in its anticipation of our healthy, but brief dialogue.

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Deer hunting the Piceance Basin north of Rifle, Colorado. Photo by Henry Byerly

I spoke to the Deputy Secretary afterward about the place he grew up — Rifle, Colorado – and the collapse of the deer herds north of there in a place once called the “Deer Factory.” Fifteen thousand new oil and gas wells are proposed for that area in the coming years – an example he disregarded. However we shifted back to the Gulf Coast wetlands and the need for his administration to ensure that the coordination of sediment diversion project-permitting in Louisiana happens efficiently, which was something he expressed interest in supporting.

Restoring the Mississippi River Delta

It’s easy to understand getting behind restoring the Mississippi River Delta. A football field of wetlands continues to disappear every hour along the coast of Louisiana, and with those wetlands goes vital fish and waterfowl habitat.

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6.5-pound flounder in the Bird Claw of Louisiana’s wetlands. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Later that week Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) and other state and federal agencies to collaborate on permitting for the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion under the guidance of Trump Executive Order 13807. Located in Plaquemines Parish, the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion is a Louisiana Coastal Master Plan project that would direct sediment, freshwater and nutrients from the Mississippi River into nearby wetlands to build and maintain land in Louisiana’s Barataria Basin.

The Vanishing Paradise campaign was pleased to see this firm commitment to adhering to the two-year timeline for project permitting in an environmentally and legally responsible manner.

Looking Ahead

We can’t continue to simply hope our politicians on both sides of the aisle protect our public lands, waterways and wildlife. We have to hold them all accountable every day, or the opportunities that drive our sporting legacy, heritage and businesses will disappear.

At every turn, our fundamental values are being challenged – in some cases on a grand scale, and others by a thousand small cuts. Access and opportunity rely on robust public lands that allow wildlife and people to move freely. They rely on clean water, clean air and healthy soil. We shouldn’t have to continually fight for these basic tenants, but instead spend our energy addressing other critical challenges impacting our wildlife.

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Artemis and NWF release report highlighting link between mule deer and sage-grouse

Just as mule-deer hunters are getting ready to head into the field for hunting season, members of the sportswomen’s group Artemis are releasing a report to raise awareness that anyone who cares about deer should care about greater sage-grouse and the remarkable effort across the West to save the iconic bird.

Artemis and the National Wildlife Federation, today released the report “Living on Common Ground – Sportswomen speak out to save the mule deer, sage-grouse and sagebrush country.”

Mule deer and sage-grouse have been in decline across much of the West. Sage-grouse used to number in the millions, but now less than a half million remain. A recent study in Pinedale, Wyo., found that mule deer herds have declined by 40 percent in the heavily developed gas fields of the region. The report explores what for sportswomen is impossible to ignore – sagebrush lands throughout the West provide vital habitat for both species and those lands are steadily disappearing.

“Mule deer and sage-grouse are the canaries in the coal mine for sage steppe health,” says Jessi Johnson, Artemis coordinator and Wyoming Wildlife Federation public lands coordinator. “If we fail to listen to the warnings they are giving us with their dwindling numbers, we will lose not only two iconic Western species but a host of dependent flora and fauna and the very essence of what makes living in the West so special.”

Hearing that warning, a diverse group of stakeholders from across the West, including the sporting community, came together to build conservation plans aimed at saving sage-grouse. Completed in 2015, these sage-grouse conservation plans allowed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to conclude that the bird didn’t need to be added to the endangered species list. The conservation plans instead represent a balanced approach to management of the bird’s habitat on our nation’s public lands that would also accommodate other careful uses.

However, changes being considered by the Trump administration could now derail implementation of the plans, threatening the fate of sage-grouse and the more than 350 species, including mule deer, which depend on the West’s sagebrush lands. Interior Secretary Zinke seeks to weaken safeguards meant to accommodate responsible development on sagebrush lands while preserving their value as habitat. Instead, the Secretary continues to drift away from conserving healthy habitats, continuing to explore instead unsound schemes relying on population numbers and captive breeding.

“Where will those captive-bred birds find homes,” asks Kate Zimmerman, the National Wildlife Federation’s public lands policy director. “The sage-grouse conservation plans are the result of long, hard work of stakeholders across the West who spent years finding common ground and a pathway to the future for both people and wildlife. It would be an ominous blow to sage-grouse and mule deer and all of us who live in the West if we can no longer safeguard the lands where they find food and cover.”

Artemis understands that hunters will be key to ensuring that both the species thrive into the future and is urging support for the sage-grouse conservation plans.

“As an avid hunter of mule deer on public land, I feel it’s of the utmost importance that their breeding and feeding grounds are maintained and protected,” says Artemis co-founder Cindi Baudhuin. “I hope that ‘Living on Common Ground’ will help drive home the important link between mule deer and sage-grouse for hunters.”

Artemis and NWF continue to move forward by reaching out to hunters, local communities, and other wildlife advocates to ensure everyone understands that the future of mule deer and sage- grouse are inextricably linked.

“As hunters, anglers and wildlife conservationists, now is the opportunity to work to ensure these populations exist for future generations,” says Sara Domek, Artemis Co-founder. “Sustaining and enhancing seasonal movement corridors and stay-over habitat of wildlife need to be a priority, and the conservation plans provide tangible measures to protect mule deer and sage-grouse habitat.”

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Artemis is a group of bold sportswomen creating fresh tracks for conservation and an initiative of NWF. Mule deer are a particular species of concern for Artemis. Follow Artemis on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

The National Wildlife Federation is America’s largest conservation organization, uniting all Americans to ensure wildlife thrive in a rapidly changing world. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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Last week the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission approved new definitions developed by stakeholders and the Game and Fish Department designed to protect big game migration corridors. The Commission’s vote on Thursday came after more than a year of Mule_deermeetings and new science-based conservation strategies with the aim to mitigate impacts of development and other causes that constrain the animals’ movements.

Wyoming Wildlife Federation (WWF) Field Director Joy Bannon provided testimony in support of the new measures. “Sportsmen support multiple-use management, energy development, grazing, and other uses of our western landscapes, but we believe that all uses must be balanced with wildlife habitat needs,” says Bannon. “Meetings between sportsmen, wildlife managers, and other stakeholders enabled us to collaboratively formulate a reasonable strategy for protecting our migrating elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep, and pronghorn.”

The Commission passed the definitions, which will now be included in the department’s mitigation policy. Migration bottlenecks and ungulate stopover areas will be listed as “vital” under the Commission’s mitigation policy. New data has introduced the need to define migratory bottleneck – where animal movement becomes constrained, including a highway or fence – and stopover areas where animals feed and rest during migration. These new policy definitions are important as the Game and Fish Department coordinates with federal land management agencies and state agencies on common goals and decisions regarding energy development, mining, and recreational activities. These definitions represent a victory for Wyoming’s big game animals; important protections as they migrate to and from their seasonal habitats.

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While the total number of anglers who enjoy fishing remains fairly consistent year-in and year-out, the number of anglers who actually bought a license in ten consecutive years remains amazingly small -four percent of the approximate 33 million anglers in the United States to be exact. This was the startlingly discovery revealed by a recent study conducted for the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) by Southwick Associates.

 

“The fact that overall fishing participation numbers are quite stable from year to year could lead to the erroneous conclusion that anglers consistently renew their licenses,” stated Tom Allen, Vice President of Research at Southwick Associates. “This is the first in a series of reports to be released on the topic. Upcoming reports will show which types of anglers are at greatest risk of not coming back, how to keep them engaged and lifestyles of various angler segments.”

 

In the study, Southwick Associates, the nation’s leading researcher in outdoor economics and recreational market statistics, examined fishing license data over a 10-year period, from 2004 to 2013, from 12 states. Those states included Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Mississippi, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, Utah, and Wisconsin. The goal was to determine how many anglers transition in and out of the sport from year to year, a phenomenon also known as “churn”.

 

Key findings of the report, titled “U.S. Angler Population, Who Comes and Who Goes,” included:

The largest portion of anglers, 49 percent, purchased a license only one out of 10 years.

Only four percent bought a license in each of the ten years.

In any given year, close to half of anglers do not renew their fishing licenses.

The “typical” angler buys a fishing license just 2.9 out of every 10 years.

When looking at 5-year periods, that number drops to most anglers buying a license just every 2.1 years out of 5.

Those groups of anglers most likely to lapse each year include female anglers, urban residents and those people between the ages of 18 and 24.

Forty-four to 48 percent of anglers each year represent a group that had not bought a fishing license the previous year.

So what does this high rate of churn mean for state and federal fishing agencies? Or even the fishing industry as a whole?

 

For most, it translates into lost dollars as people who would otherwise be considered prime candidates for participating in fishing step away from the sport. These lost dollars not only impact the companies that make boats, tackle, rods and other fishing gear, but also guide services, hotels and local communities that cater to anglers.

“Perhaps the biggest impacts are realized by state game and fish departments who directly lose revenue from lost license sales, along with the lost excise taxes collected in the sale of fishing gear and boat fuels,” says Rob Southwick, president of Southwick Associates. “These monies are used to support fisheries and habitat work, as well as build and maintain sportfishing infrastructure such as of public piers and boat ramps.”

 

Ultimately, by realizing the reasons to which anglers step away from fishing each year, the ASA hopes to help agencies and other stakeholders develop strategies that will improve fishing interest and access among those groups-young people, women and urban residents-and keep them participating in angling every year.

 

For copies of the executive summary or the full report, visit http://asafishing.org/facts-figures/angler-participation/u.s.-angler-population-their-lifestyles-and-license-buying-habits.

– – –  
About AnglerSurvey.com, HunterSurvey.com & ShooterSurvey.com: Launched in 2006, AnglerSurvey.com, HunterSurvey.com and ShooterSurvey.com help the outdoor equipment industry, government fisheries and wildlife officials and conservation organizations track consumer activities and expenditure trends. Survey results are scientifically analyzed to reflect the attitudes and habits of anglers and hunters across the United States. Follow them on Facebook at http://facebook.com/huntersurvey and http://facebook.com/anglersurvey. 

  

About Southwick Associates: Southwick Associates is a market research and economics firm specializing in the hunting, shooting, sportfishing, and outdoor recreation markets. Celebrating 25 years in 2015, Southwick Associates is renowned for delivering comprehensive insights and statistics assisting business and strategic decisions across the entire outdoor industry; from government agencies, industry associations and non-profit organizations, to affiliated businesses and manufacturers. Aside from custom market research, and economic impact studies, Southwick also provides syndicated participation, media consumption, and equipment purchase tracking studies utilizing their three proprietary sportsmen panels. Visit http://www.southwickassociates.com for more information.

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Feb. 27, 2015

Tell House committee: No study, no land seizure!

Legislation to “study” the transfer millions of acres of national public land to the state goes before the House Judiciary Committee on Saturday morning.

Sportsmen need to speak up – loudly – if they want to stop House BIll 291 from going any further.

Call or email members of the House Judiciary Committee today and tell them you oppose any and all efforts to transfer our national forests and BLM lands to the state – including a study commission.

House Bill 291, sponsored by Rep. Yvette Herrell of Alamogordo, would create a 17-member commission to “study” the so-called land transfer issue. The bill’s supporters say they need a study before making a final decision on the transfer issue. But judging from their statements and past actions, their minds are already made up – they just want a hand-crafted commission to justify their position.

Take a minute right now and call or email members of the committee – particularly if you live in the same community as the committee members. But hurry – the Judiciary Committee meets at 8:30 a.m. Saturday so its critical to reach them today. Tell them you’re a New Mexico hunter/angler who opposes all efforts to transfer our national public lands, including HB 291!

If you can, come to the Capitol on Saturday morning. The Judiciary Committee meets at 8:30 a.m. in Room 309. A big crowd of public lands users – hunters, anglers, hikers, campers, boaters, horseback riders, mountain bikers – will help show that we want to KEEP OUR PUBLIC LANDS IN PUBLIC HANDS.

Here are the members of the House Judiciary Committee. Anyone can call any legislator, but they are most interested in hearing from their constituents. If any of the committee members represents you, it is especially important that you contact them. And remember – they are in Santa Fe to represent the public, not special interests!

Chairman Zachary Cook, Ruidoso, office phone (505) 986-4411, zachary.cook@nmlegis.gov
Vice chairman Paul Pacheco, Albuquerque, 986-4238, paul.pacheco@nmlegis.gov
Rep. David Adkins, Albuquerque, 986-4453, david.adkins@nmlegis.gov
Rep. Eliseo Lee Alcon, Milan, 986-4220, eliseo.alcon@nmlegis.gov
Rep. Cathrynn Brown, Carlsbad, (575) 706-4420, cath@cathrynnbrown.com
Rep. Gail Chasey, Albuquerque, 986-4452, gail@gailchasey.com
Rep. Jim Dines, Albuquerque, 986-4242, jim.dines@nmlegis.gov
Rep. Brian Egolf, Santa Fe, 986-4757, brian.egolf@nmlegis.gov
Rep. Nate Gentry, Albuquerque, 986-4776, natefornm@gmail.com
Rep. Georgene Louis, Albuquerque, 986-9144, georgene.louis@nmlegis.gov
Rep. Antonio Maestas, Albuquerque, 986-4214, antonio.maestas@nmlegis.gov
Rep. Ken Martinez, Grants, 986-4776, ken.martinez@nmlegis.gov
Rep. Terry McMillan, Las Cruces, 986-4327, docmcmillan@gmail.com
Pass it on

Please share this newsletter with a friend and ask them to get involved by joining our Sportsman’s Alert network. Click here to sign up now. New Mexico sportsmen need to stay involved to ensure our hunting and fishing traditions continue. And please make a contribution to NMWF. With sportsmen like you, we can continue to make a difference. Go to http://www.nmwildlife.org to donate today.

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The recent efforts to turn public lands back to the states is a far-fetched, and blatant attack on American values. Our public lands are both a legacy handed to all Americans by great leaders of the past, and an essential, critical value to the generations that follow. The public lands that we recreate upon feed our collective soul, nurture and protect the wildlife and habitat within and build jobs related to a sustainable resource intrinsic to our very existence. The price for clean air, water and land is tied to this basic asset within our borders.

A growing number of Western states and lawmakers, both state and federal, are calling for the take-over or sale of public lands. Sportsmen and other outdoor and wildlife enthusiasts oppose attempts to dismantle our public-lands heritage and will fight to see that our public lands stay in public hands.

Surveys and reports, including a recent one by Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, show that more than two-thirds of hunters in 11 Western states depend on public lands for all or part of their hunting. Without access to public lands, many of us wouldn’t be able to go hunting or fishing.

Getting rid of our public lands would be a serious blow to our state and national economies. In Colorado, outdoor recreation contributes more than $13 billion to the economy. Nationwide, it generates $646 billion in consumer spending and directly supports 6.1 million jobs.

These schemes for states to take over public lands are a solution in search of a problem. Survey after survey show that Coloradans and other Westerners love their public lands. This year, a Colorado College poll found that three-fourths of voters in the Rockies oppose selling public lands to balance the budget and nearly all of them visited public lands in the past year.

Public lands belong to all Americans. They’re our birthright. They were conserved for us and future generations by people from both political parties and all kinds of backgrounds. We owe it our children and grandchildren to fight to keep public lands in public hands so they can enjoy the benefits we have.

States that want to seize public lands say they can do a better job of managing them, but what happens when they figure out they don’t have the money and other resources? The states will start selling our public lands to the highest bidders and we’ll all be the losers.

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