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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.

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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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Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Releases Public Lands Report to Educate Sportsmen and Decision Makers on the Need to Keep Public Lands in Public Hands

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Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA) recently released “Our Public Lands-
Not for Sale,” detailing how the proposed transfer, or sale, of America’s federal public lands would negatively affect sportsmen and women in the United States. A growing number of western state legislators and federal elected officials are advocating for the transfer or all out sale of federal public lands. This report highlights how these ideas are nothing new and if the come to pass, how detrimental they would be to America’s sportsmen and women, ultimately resulting in loss of access to quality habitat for hunting and fishing.

The report also illustrates the incredible potential harm to both the outdoor business community and sportsmen and women. More than two thirds of hunters in the 11 Western states depend on public lands for all or part of their hunting, including both resident and non-resident hunters. And, outdoor recreation supports $646 billion in revenue and 6.1 million jobs annually.

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is 100 percent against the transfer, or sale, of our federal public lands. While we think that federal land management could be improved, this is no time to throw the baby out with the bathwater. We look forward to working with elected officials from both sides of the aisle to protect our outdoor heritage and keep public lands in public hands,” said Land Tawney, Executive Director of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers.

“Without public land we would be out of business, in fact, we would have never gotten into business because there would be no reason to make hunting clothes if only a select few could participate. The opportunity for individuals to access beautiful and wild places in an equitable manner is one of the core American values that enriches the quality of life for all,” said Kenton Carruth, Founder, First Lite, Idaho.

As someone who has spent his life enjoying the public lands of the West, “I consider this land a birthright and a heritage to be passed on to future generations. The State’s Rights arguments forwarded by those advocating turning federal lands over to individual states are thinly veiled mouth pieces for private interests seeking to purchase and exploit our public lands to the exclusion of the common American,” said BHA member Tim Note, Washington.

The Public Lands Report can be found on Backcountry Hunters & Anglers’ website at http://www.backcountryhunters.org.

Founded in 2004, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers is the sportsman’s voice for our wild public lands, waters and wildlife. With chapters in 23 states and one in British Columbia, BHA and its members represent sportsmen and women who hunt and fish on public land and work to protect the challenge and solitude that only the backcountry can provide.

For more information on Backcountry Hunters & Anglers and how you can get involved, please visit their website at http://www.backcountryhunters.org or visit them on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/backcountryhabitat.

Sign the Sportsman’s Pledge today to help us protect our public land!

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