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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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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) today released its report on 2017 Trends in Duck Breeding Populations, based on surveys conducted in May and early June by FWS and the Canadian Wildlife Service. Overall duck numbers in the survey area remain high. Total populations were estimated at 47.3 million breeding ducks in the traditional survey area, which is similar to last year’s estimate of 48.4 million and is 34 percent above the 1955-2016 long-term average. The projected mallard fall flight index is 12.9 million birds, similar to the 2016 estimate of 13.5 million.

The main determining factor for duck breeding success is wetland and upland habitat conditions in the key breeding landscapes of the Prairies and the Boreal Forest. Conditions observed across the U.S. and Canadian survey areas during the 2017 breeding population survey were generally similar to last year with a few exceptions. The total pond estimate for the United States and Canada combined was 6.1 million, which is 22% above the 2016 estimate of 5.0 million and 17% above the long-term average of 5.2 million.

“The surveys indicate that wetland conditions and populations of most frequently harvested ducks remain above the long-term average, and for most species, populations were at or above those from last year,” said DU Chief Scientist Tom Moorman. “This is great news for waterfowlers who can now turn their attention to preparing habitat, tuning up dogs and relentlessly watching the weather forecasts for the onset of fall and winter weather that will push the birds on their annual southward migration.

“DU remains concerned about northern pintails and scaup in particular, as the survey information continues to indicate these two species remain below their long-term average populations. Both species have struggled to regain desired populations. We will continue to work with our many conservation partners to understand what drives populations of these two species. If science points to habitat limitations as contributing factors, we’ll rely on the science to develop conservation solutions to help restore populations of these birds.

“Hunters may notice in the report that mallards declined 11%, or about 1.3 million birds, from 2016.  The bulk of that appears to be related to drier conditions in the Canadian parklands region, where the surveys detected about 0.6 million fewer mallards. Overall, mallard populations remain in great shape, and FWS estimates the mallard fall flight will be similar to last year.

“Hunters should always remember that habitat and populations are going to vary over time, so we must keep focused on habitat conservation efforts over the long term. Ultimately, we need to maintain landscapes so that when precipitation and other conditions are right, the ducks will respond, produce more ducks and provide us all with a nice return on our conservation investments.”

Although most migratory game bird populations remain abundant, when and where birds will be encountered depends on many factors. Food availability, habitat and weather conditions, and other factors all influence local bird abundance, distribution, behavior and, ultimately, hunter success.

The spring surveys provide the scientific basis for many management programs across the continent, including hunting regulations. Individual states set their hunting seasons within a federal framework of season length, bag limits and dates. Hunters should check the rules in their states for final dates and bag limits.

Species estimates are:

Mallards: 10.5 million, 11% lower than 2016 and 34% above LTA

Gadwall: 4.2 million, 13% above 2016 and 111% above LTA

American wigeon: 2.8 million, 19% below 2016 and 6% above LTA

Green-winged teal: 3.6 million, 16% below 2016 and 70% above LTA

Blue-winged teal: 7.9 million, 18% above 2016 and 57% above LTA

Northern shovelers: 4.4 million, 10% above 2016 and 69% above LTA

Northern pintails: 2.9 million, 10% above 2016 and 27% below LTA

Redheads: 1.1 million, 13% below 2016 and 55% above LTA

Canvasbacks: 0.7 million, similar to 2016 and 25% above LTA

Scaup: 4.4 million, 12% below 2016 and 13% below LTA

Black ducks (Eastern Survey Area): 0.5 million, similar to 2016 and 12% below LTA

*Long-term average

View all the data and get a species-by-species breakdown at www.ducks.org/DuckNumbers.

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MigrationInitiative.org_Joe Riis photo credit

Photo by Joe Riis

There will be a lot going on with multiple games, events and prizes (including outdoor gear, guns, trips…)  Don’t get caught at home – come join in the fun!

Here’s what you’ll find:
Wall of Guns
Wheelbarrow of Spirits
Hers raffle
Kids raffle
Live and silent auctions
Shot shell pull and other games

March 5th, at the Holiday Inn/Radisson, 204 W. Fox Farm Rd, Cheyenne, WY
Tickets for Sale – go online to: wyomingwildlife.org

The Wyoming Migration Initiative will be at the WWF annual fundraiser banquet.  Learn more about the Initiative, about big game migration and about WWF’s work with the Initiative.  Make your reservations for the WWF banquet now!

Entry/dinner ticket prices:
$50 per person (kids are $25)
$90 per couple

Members, bring a friend and you’ll be entered into a raffle drawing for a fabulous prize!

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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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Photo by Lew Carpenter

Reports from Burns, Oregon indicate that some community members condemn the violent tactics of the Bundy family and the militants but support their goals of turning American public lands over to private owners.

Without question, some in the West—including some citizens in Burns—share the view that the U.S. government’s ownership and management of the region’s public lands are to blame for economic challenges. Yet public opinion research indicates that this view is actually not shared widely in the region.

A large majority of Westerners see public lands as an asset to their state’s economy, not an economic drag. This perspective is confirmed by economic research that shows that areas with more protected public lands

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Photo by Lew Carpenter

have grown at a faster rate than other areas in the West.

Here are five key facts to know about Westerners’ opinions about federal land management agencies, and more information about what has actually caused economic challenges in the rural West:

1) A majority of Westerners approve of the job federal land management agencies are doing.

majority of Western voters approve of the job that the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Park Service are each doing. Despite heavy criticism that the Bundy family and militants are directing at the BLM, only 23 percent of Western voters disapprove of the agency’s work.

2) Westerners support keeping public lands public.

Public opinion research conducted by a bipartisan team of pollsters determined that a majority of voters in the American West do not support

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Photo by Lew Carpenter

a transfer of national public lands to state management, and instead believe that these places belong to all Americans.

3) Public lands are an asset, not a drain on local economies.

91% of Western voters believe public lands are an essential part of their state’s economy. They provide a variety of economic benefits such grazing, oil drilling, recreation, and benefits that are not as easily monetizable (like option value). Economic research has shown that Western counties with more protected national public lands have added jobs more than four times faster than counties with fewer protected lands.

4) Many factors are to blame for the very real difficulties faced by the rural West.

Some resource-based economies are struggling because of myriad factors including globalization, the transition to a cleaner energy, and a Western economy increasingly based on knowledge and service industries. Some areas in the West are struggling. While public lands and land managers can be a convenient scapegoat, there’s no data to support the blame.

5) Giving our American lands to the states or private interests is not a panacea for these problems.

The additional burden of managing millions of acres of public lands could break state budgets because the massive costs of fighting wildfires and cleaning up polluting mines would be transferred to state taxpayers. Grazing fees that ranchers pay would triple or quadruple at a minimum. A better option is to engage in collaborative efforts to manage public lands have worked, such as those that have taken place at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

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Call to Action

Sportsmen:

The Humboldt County Management Sub-Plan is nearing completion, and elk numbers proposed by ranching interests are pitifully low.  Ranchers are essentially demanding that few, if any, elk be allowed west of US 95.  Population objectives of zero in the Jacksons, no more than fifty (50) in the Pine Forest, and 0-10 in the Montanas and Bilk Creeks are being demanded.  You couldn’t find fifty (50) elk with a helicopter in the Pine Forest; what kind of hunting success can we expect.  Here are a few talking points:

  • Sportsmen fund compensation for damage from elk on cultivated fields.
  • Landowner incentive tags are issued when elk live on private range land.
  • Elk and ranching can co-exist with few if any conflicts as documented by the very contentious Central Nevada Elk Plan.
  • There are approximately 65,000 domestic cattle on our public land in Humboldt County.
  • While there are probably a hundred or so ranching interests in Humboldt County, there are 200,000 sportsmen in this state.
  • Elk are so light on the land that forage utilization is often impossible to measure.
  • Over 90% of forage utilization on public land is by domestic livestock.
  • Multiple use management of our public lands mandates the needs of wildlife be considered.
  • Elk can thrive in areas no longer suitable for mule deer whose populations have decreased dramatically.  Elk provide hunting opportunity as well as badly needed wildlife management funding.

 

Please send comments to:  Mr. Eddie Booth, Committee Chairman

Humboldt County Elk Management Sub-Plan Steering Committee

1010 E. National Ave.

Winnemucca, NV 89445

eddie@visionwestrealty.com

 

We need individual’s correspondence prior to December 15.  The ranchers will be out in force.  Let’s stand up for wildlife and sporting opportunity.

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