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Posts Tagged ‘New Mexico’

The author’s dog, Bartok “Hugo” Ahornzwinger, is a wirehaired dachshund, a breed often used to track wounded big game. He just passed his first field test for United Blood Trackers. Photo by Matt Vincent

As hunters put in for big game tags in Arizona and begin thinking about plans this fall there is one aching gap in Arizona Game and Fish regulations that needs to be addressed – the ability for hunters to access game recovery dogs to find wounded game.

 

Tracker Scott Gillespie, Lucy (dachshund), Lynas and recovered elk.

Forty three states allow tracking dogs as a reliable conservation component to reduce waste of big game species. In the vast majority of states the dog is required to be on a lead and in constant control by the handler. Most inveterate hunters have experienced the loss of a wounded animal at some point in their history. Those that haven’t are both lucky and, likely, take close approach shots with a rifle or the pull of their bow. But we all know the advances in optics, ammo and archery equipment provide opportunities for longer take downs – and also the opportunity to critically wound an animal that still has enough juice left to evade harvest.

Scott Gillespie and Lucy (dachshund) on a recovered black bear.

Game recovery dogs can solve many of these lost target issues during what becomes a stressful and emotional moment for hunters. The results can be amazing and salvage what may be the trophy elk, mule deer, Coues deer or bear of a lifetime (and one that possibly cost decades of bonus points to garner).

 

“A strong case can be made for the use of tracking dogs, both as a means of reducing animal suffering, and as a way of reducing the waste of a valuable natural resource,” says John Jeanneney in his landmark book Tracking Dogs for Finding Wounded Deer. “There are political and social implications involved that cannot be disregarded”

 

Efforts by United Blood Trackers of America, which has a searchable database of tracker contact info and resources on tracking and recovering big game, has transformed the conservation landscape by working to get state game and fish regulations in line with contemporary conservation concepts. In the West, too, there are social media landing spots like Rocky Mountain Big Game Recovery on Facebook that can guide hunters to being prepared for hunting season and lessons about arrow or rifle impact zones and what that means for recovering wounded game. In many cases, recovery dogs can be used at little to no cost compared to the financial outlay of the overall hunt itself.

Joe Bradley and a recovered mule deer that was partially consumed by a bear.

“Tracking is a serious business. It is about recovering a wounded animal that might be still alive, in great distress and pain,” according to Steven McGonigal and Julia Szeremeta in their book The International Working Teckel. “It all starts with the hit spot and a description from the hunter what has happened – an experienced tracker is like a detective, putting all the information together to determine whether and when to start tracking. Depending on the shot placement, the wounded animal needs time to expire.”

Hopefully, the Arizona Game and Fish agency can address this gap in hunting regulations and in the future consider allowing the use of tracking dogs (on a 30-foot lead) for recovering wounded game. Hunters will be grateful, and the resource will be more healthy and cared for as a result. For more information go to www.unitedbloodtrackers.org or visit the Facebook site for Rocky Mountain Big Game Recovery to chat with trackers throughout the region.

Reprinted courtesy of Arizona Wildlife Federation.

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Weaver Ranch. Photo by Kyle Weaver

Hard Country: A Lesser Prairie-Chicken Final Frontier

By Lew Carpenter

Reprinted with permission from the North American Grouse Partnership. This article originally appeared in the Fall 2020 edition of the Grouse Partnership News.

Thirty years of drought has been tough on lesser prairie-chickens in eastern New Mexico. The hard scrabble country leaves little opportunity for a bird that once exploded skyward by the hundreds throughout the landscape on any given day. And, while lesser prairie-chicken numbers have recently ticked up – offering hope that proper wildlife management and private landowner incentives will ultimately save this prince of the grasslands – so much still must be done.

 

Jim Weaver left his work – 18 years at Cornell University Laboratory of Ornithology, Department of Ecology and Systematics where he focused on endangered species – to raise both a family and cattle on an eastern New Mexico ranch; plus to engage his passion, hunting with a falcon. Drought and the  inherent logistics of the remote ranch got the better of the cattle operation, but the lesser prairie-chickens are still there – not in the great numbers of the mid 70s, but with respectable populations that would not exist without landowner passion and respect for the habitat.

 

“It’s not what people think about when they think of a beautiful New Mexico Ranch. We are out on the eastern side where the country has been beat up for so long it’s hard to find a place that easily fits the travel brochure – let’s put it that way,” Weaver said.

Weaver Ranch. Photo by Kyle Weaver

The Weaver Ranch is on the High Plains where it’s nearly all been farmed at one time or another. The redeeming thing for Weaver is that this was where all the prairie chickens were, which means at least from that standpoint everything was looking pretty good.

 

“We started off buying a couple of sections down here and it was $40 an-acre-land if that sort of puts things in perspective – so at that point a couple of sections wasn’t that big of a deal for someone still holding down a university job,” he said. “So, at any rate, that’s how we started, and over time other pieces and properties came together and we ended up with roughly 30,000 acres of this kind of country over the past 30 or 40 years.”

 

When Weaver put together a cattle operation he did things a little differently than others. He started out with some Mashona cattle, a tribal breed of the Shona people of Zimbabwe, that he ran into over in Africa when he was there doing bird research, and brought that breed over here through an independent USDA import protocol and started them in 1995. “That was more-or-less a success and it was great having the breed here. But we sold out of those cattle probably six or seven years ago,” he said. “We’d had a couple of exceptionally dry years, even for the overall drought, and we could no longer make that pencil out on a normal kind of cattle operation, so we sold out and went back to just worrying about prairie-chickens, more-or-less, and continuing to improve the land and get it back in shape where we thought it was optimal lesser prairie-chicken habitat.” Habitat on the ranch has been improved during the years and, along with the deep sand and hard flats, it has more than a hundred pastures of various sizes with some irrigated pastures running organic alfalfa. The improvements have been good for the chickens, keeping them alive by providing access to water and insects in those pastures.

Weaver Ranch. Photo by Kyle Weaver

“In the beginning, for a period of three or four years in the early to mid-70s, you could easily see a thousand chickens in a day,” Weaver said. “I was hunting chickens back then, and other game birds, with a falcon. And we would use pointing dogs, too. We were camping down here in those days and we were out there every day. Many, many times we would see three or four hundred fly right over the top of our camp.”

 

It’s hard to say what the total population was back then since there was no real effort to figure it out, according to Weaver. If the birds were gone folks would just say they’ll be back like they always have, but it has taken a lot longer than anyone anticipated.

 

“I’ve always been one of the people that’s been against the listing of the birds,” he said. “All management and control of a species rests with the US Fish and Wildlife Service once they are federally listed as Threatened or Endangered. But there just isn’t any money to do anything once they are listed. And this goes back to my time at Cornell years ago with endangered species. It’s just the worst thing in the world when you start inhibiting people’s ability to work with wildlife – at least from a wildlife management standpoint – if you can’t get in there quick and get your hands on something to make a difference then you’re pretty much dead in the water.”

Weaver Ranch. Photo by Kyle Weaver

However, in Weaver’s mind there’s always hope. It really depends on whether the remaining habitat can be optimized with such little suitable habitat left in New Mexico – just two or three counties still have appropriate habitat, and very small portions of those counties. In addition, Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) payments in the area have been cut to their lowest in the country making it difficult to convince farmers to get on board. “They don’t even pay them enough now to cover their expenses,” Weaver said. “And then they cut out the mid-management contract and cost sharing and so on. So the farmers’ incentive is to plow it back up and we’ve seen a couple of leks plowed out of expired CRP. In this area its mostly classified as Highly Erodible Soil that has suffered by wind erosion since the Dust Bowl days. That’s one of the saddest things about it. Private landowners are willing to help, but they need to get paid.”

 

Mesquite and shinnery oak were Weaver’s biggest problems on the ranch when he arrived. And they still are a problem today, sucking what little moisture the landscape receives, preventing the grass from growing. Lesser prairie-chickens need residual grass for nesting habitat, but you can’t have residual grass unless you have grass in the first place. “The shinnery oak prevents the grass from becoming dominant again in the way it used to be back in pre-European times, and you’re up against that battle all the time,” Weaver said. “Mesquite is another big problem because chickens avoid places where the mesquite is more than three or four feet tall, so you’ve got to get rid of the mesquite.”

 

Weaver thinks the chickens could probably survive on a managed, million-acre complex. It doesn’t all have to be adjacent parcels, but they need to be close enough – not blocked by another wind farm or some high-tension wires, or something else that further breaks up the habitat that’s available.

 

“It’s really all they have left,” he said. “There’s really no place else for them to go. It’s absolutely the end of the line for the New Mexico lesser prairie-chicken if people don’t really start paying attention. New Mexico Game and Fish has been great. They’ve got chicken areas all over the place but they lack management money. But we’ve lined up some of those places for the Game and Fish to buy and it’s worked out great, and we’ve got a charitable foundation that buys acres when they become available to try to hold them for conservation-minded people that may want to buy them later, whether that be private folks, NM Game and Fish or US Fish and Wildlife Service – whoever might come along when they are solvent enough to want to make these kinds of conservation investments.”

Weaver Ranch. Photo by Kyle Weaver

Opportunities for the million acres of lesser prairie-chicken habitat could include Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. The BLM assets in this area aren’t all the best chicken habitat, but they do own some of it, and the BLM has made some positive strides, according to Weaver. “They’ve changed some of their grazing regimes around, which has been pretty unpopular for them in the ranching community, but it was the right thing to do to reestablish and maintain good habitat. There’s been no subsoil moisture here to speak of for almost 30 years. That moisture regime has to be returned and the brush has to be controlled and we might come back to a reasonable diversity of grasslands that will sustain these birds.”

Weaver Ranch. Photo by Kyle Weaver

Currently, there are about 17 leks on Weaver’s ranch up from three to four at the lowest point. He saw a good year, last year, with almost a tripling of numbers of birds on lek in just that one season. He’s optimistic that there are plenty of people coming along that want to conserve the country, and with good wildlife management and private landowner incentives something significant could be done. “We’ve worked closely over the years with groups or agencies that offer grant or cost-share assistance for conservation work. US Fish and Wildlife Partners for Fish and Wildlife, the NRCS Grasslands Reserve Program, Farm Services Agency EQIP and CRP programs, Bureau of Land Management, New Mexico Dept. of Game and Fish, New Mexico State Land Office, and Center of Excellence have all cooperated at some point. Folks want to do the best thing they can for the land and the wildlife and the habitat,” he said. “And they are proud of what they have to show for it when they do fix things up for game birds and for wildlife in general, which leads to better biodiversity overall.”

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Photo by Matt Vincent

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A new bill would provide critical investments to study and stop the spread of chronic wasting disease, a fatal neurological disease threatening deer, elk, and moose populations in the United States. The Chronic Wasting Disease Research and Management Act, introduced by Representatives Ron Kind (D-Wis.) and Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.) will help researchers better understand the disease, give state and Tribal experts the resources they need to control its spread, and protect wildlife.

“Chronic wasting disease is one of the greatest threats facing deer, elk, and moose populations across the country, jeopardizing hunting opportunities, ecosystems, and our nation’s outdoor economy,” said Mike Leahy, director for wildlife, hunting, and fishing policy for the National Wildlife Federation. “We are grateful for Representatives Kind and Thompson’s steadfast leadership on this critical issue. The bipartisan Chronic Wasting Disease Research and Management Act will help ensure state and Tribal agencies on the front lines of controlling this disease have the resources they need to better understand and stop its spread.”

Chronic wasting disease is a highly transmissible disease that spreads among members of the deer family, including white-tailed deer, mule deer, moose, and elk, that are critical to ecosystems along with local economies and hunting traditions. The disease is nearly always fatal and, once established in an area, hard to control.

Although there have been no reported cases of chronic wasting disease in people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention some studies “raise concerns that there may also be a risk to people.”

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Edited by Shane P. Mahoney & Valerius Geist

Review by Lew Carpenter

To begin, it seems best to articulate the focus of the book. The North American Model of Wildlife Conservation is “an evolved and shared system of conservation laws, principles, institutions, and policies that has enabled the successes of Canada and the United States in the recovery, management, and protection of wildlife and brought them global recognition,” write Shane P. Mahoney, Valerius Geist and Paul R. Krausman.

And, like many of you, I am most familiar with the seven principles associated with the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation (the Model):

​1. Maintaining wildlife as a public trust resource, entrusted to the state to manage.

​2. Prohibiting deleterious commerce in dead wildlife products.

​3. Regulating and defining appropriate wildlife use by law.

​4. Ensuring wildlife can only be killed for legitimate purpose.

​5. Recognizing and managing wildlife as an international resource.

​6. Utilizing and safeguarding science as the appropriate basis for wildlife policy.

​7. Protecting the democratic allocation of citizen opportunity to harvest wildlife.

As hunters and conservationists we invoke the Model when advocating for our collective heritage. It is the philosophical foundation of our beloved sport and the significant implementation of how we engage with wildlife and the world around us in a respectful and scientific manner.

This essay is less a book review than an endorsement, a nudge and a hope that you will expand your knowledge of the the Model by making this book a well-engaged member of your nightstand or bookshelf.

Many people, and rightly so, believe that the Model came into existence as a fully formed concept. After all, it is often presented as such. But creation, evolution and structure came long before it was named, as you will find within the pages of this book.

It may come as a surprise to many that this is the first and remains the only book to ever address the Model. Author Shane Mahoney tells us that, “Given this pedigree it was designed first and foremost to be the most complete presentation of not only the Model’s history and structure (principles) but also the urgent context in which it arose (massive over-exploitation), the pre-conditions which gave rise to it (the ecological conditions of the continent as shaped by Native Americans and the influence of European ideals and perspectives) and which help explain its particular personality, and the characteristics of the Model which leave it open to challenge and reflection.”

There is no doubt that the authors of the various chapters seek to inspire an advancement in thought and creation for the next iteration of the Model. The book illustrates more than once the evolution of the Model and how we got to where we are today. And, through this gentle discourse, both strengths and weakness’ beg collective work and a desperate need to adapt and improve upon what has become the greatest system of sustainable wildlife management on the planet.

“The hope is that the book will encourage debate, incite deeper investigation of theModel’s assumptions and will force upon its proponents and detractors alike challenging truths that demand reflection and address,” says Mahoney. “While the book is meant to celebrate the Model’s successes and clarify the desperate plight of wildlife in late nineteenth century North America, it also contains an unequivocal recognition of what I perceive as the greatest misfortune in the Model’s origins and constitution….the complete absence of the perspectives and unparalleled natural history and landscape management knowledge of Native American cultures. If the book achieved nothing else, I would see bringing this to broader attention as a success.”

The format of the book is well designed as each chapter is self-contained, with Mahoney bringing it all home in conclusion. You can start with “A Comparison of the North American Model to Other Conservation Approaches” and jump to “The Great Early Champions” with ease. We are taken by many routes and a variety of voices to places of much deeper understanding about wildlife management, history, conservation and the critical role each of us plays in past and future success.

The historical context is compelling and emerges naturally from the beginning of the book. I simply had no real idea of the history of North American wildlife and its complicated path to being managed today. For example, Geist and Mahoney write, “…in the context of wildlife management and nature conservation in North America, it is important to note that the entry of modern humans at the beginning of the Bølling-Allerød Interstadial some 14,000 years ago marked the last time the continent’s biota and landscapes were natural.” Geist and Mahoney’s history lessons “…examine what is natural, and whether North America’s objectives for wildlife reflect realistic interpretations of the continent’s past and hopes for its future.”

Closer to home, James L. Cummins’ accessible essay on critical legislation explains how laws like Pittman-Robertson, Dingell-Johnson and Wallop-Breaux became key conservation funding cornerstones. As well, Cummins highlights other important conservation Acts, like the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act (Duck Stamp). 

But the history of how we got to be where we are today doesn’t stop with the examples above, as the significant past comes up time and time again in additional chapters. “Thereare many insightful passages that explain lesser known facts, such as how knowledgeably first North American cultures worked to manage landscapes and how they impacted wildlife, how diverse the personalities and intense the debates were amongst early conservation advocates, how complex our institutions are today and how farsighted founding thinkers were in creating international treaties more than a century ago,” says Mahoney.  

And every hunter should read the chapter on “Hunting and Vested Interests as the Spine of the North American Model,” by James R. Heffelfinger and Mahoney, which clearly illustrates the core role of the North American hunter. It further details how the idea of seeking incentives for successful conservation program implementation was intuitively “baked” into the Model by self interest of the North American hunter.

As well, in Heffelfinger’s discussion of non-game species and their absence from the hunter-incentive paradigm, he rightly makes the case – without naming the effort – for the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA), which would provide funding relief to state game and fish agencies for all species under their care. As of this writing RAWA is again set to enter the American legislative process in the U.S. Congress.

Challenges to the Model

The honesty of the book celebrates both the vast successes of the Model, building a case for its continued relevance, as well as points a finger at its current weaknesses. With seven highly articulated challenges, we also find an “Incomplete Historical Narrative” that fails to recognize important contributors to the Model’s success. Brennan, Hewitt and Mahoney write, “To its detriment the traditional narrative also fails to address how prevalent social inequalities between genders, races, and classes during the development of the Model negatively impacted its practical inclusivity.”

Acknowledging the weaknesses of the Model, Mahoney makes the case for an enlightened upgrade, one we should all demand – rather than deny in retreat. “Without commitment to fundamental change, we must accept that current trends in conservation will continue and that the North American Model will inevitably weaken as its foundational principles prove outdated to both nature’s requirements and society’s tolerances and values.” He goes on to emphasize that we should all be leaders of the change – heroes and mobilizers of knowledge.

Mahoney explains that, “Ultimately, of course, the hope for this book is that it contributes to the vital debate over wildlife’s future, reminds us of the cultural ties and community identities that abide within its nexus of historicity and self-awareness, and forces upon the reader the ultimate question: if not this Model, then what alternative is reasonably and realistically proposed. Wildlife, not the Model, is the crucial reality to be, above all else, defended, safeguarded and preserved.”

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with this book. As a hunter and conservationist I’ll be reaching for it time and time again as I advocate for its principles, as well as seek resolution to its current challenges. And, to be clear, the book is not just for the North American hunter, it is for all who seek to engage, protect and support wildlife and habitat.

Mahoney says it best in his final conclusion: “Wild nature cannot speak for itself. We must. The greatest question facing North American society today is whether we will.”

The book may be found here: https://www.amazon.com/North-American-Wildlife-Conservation-Management/dp/1421432803/ref=nodl_

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For someone who wears progressive lenses (think bifocals), sunglasses are never an afterthought. And, as a hunter and angler, good vision both near and far is a necessity. Add in WileyX safety ratings and I can’t imagine a better product for the modern sportsman in the field.

WileyX Prescription Captivate lenses raise the bar for comfort, clarity and color enhancement on the water or in the field. Photo by Dan Eichinger

Recently, I put a new pair of prescription Captivate lenses to the test while fishing a deep canyon on Colorado’s South Platte River. Chasing those wiley rainbows, browns and cutthroats was made easier with the clarity and enhanced color of the new shades. I clearly could see fish in their feeding zones and the structure I needed to navigate perfect drifts both on the surface with Caddis and with nymphs below around the rocky stream beds.

 

The changing light of a deep canyon is no match for these sunglasses, and they kept me on the water later into the evening than seemed possible. This kind of polarizing clarity deep into the golden hours has tremendous value for me.

WileyX Captivate lenses on the Twisted frame. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Wearing a pair of WileyX sunglasses is comfort and confidence on the water. My days of squinting from side glare and marginal polarization are long over. This is my second pair of prescription WileyXs – the first pair still working as fine as ever – and I’m grateful every time I tie on a size 22 midge on the trout steams or a Rat-L-Trap in the Louisiana marsh.

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NEWTOWN, Conn. — NSSF® the firearm industry trade association, marked a milestone achievement when firearm and ammunition manufacturers topped $14.1 billion in contributions to the Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund since its inception in 1937.


“This is truly a remarkable win for wildlife conservation,” said Joe Bartozzi, NSSF’s President and CEO. “This fund has been responsible for the restoration and recovery of America’s iconic game species, including the Rocky Mountain elk, whitetail deer, pronghorn antelope, wild turkeys and a variety of waterfowl. It is also responsible for funding the recovery and conservation of nongame species, including the American bald eagle, reptiles, fauna and conservation lands that allow them to thrive. The firearm industry is proud to perform such an important and vital function to ensure America’s wildlife remains abundant for future generations.”


The Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund, commonly known as the Pittman-Robertson fund or Firearms and Ammunition Excise Tax, is a tax paid by firearm and ammunition manufacturers on the products they produce. The excise tax is set at 11 percent of the wholesale price for long guns and ammunition and 10 percent of the wholesale price for handguns. The excise tax, paid by manufacturers and importers, applies basically to all firearms produced or imported for commercial sales, whether their purpose is for recreational shooting, hunting or personal defense. The tax is currently administered by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) in the Department of the Treasury, which turns the funds over to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).


USFWS then deposits the Pittman-Robertson revenue into a special account called the Wildlife Restoration Trust Fund, which is administered by the USFWS. These funds are made available to states and territories the year following their collection.


These 10 to 11 percent excise tax dollars collected since 1937 under the Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act are specifically designated to be used by state wildlife agencies for conservation. Collectively, purchasers of firearms and ammunition, hunters and the industry are the greatest source of wildlife conservation funding.



About NSSFNSSF is the trade association for the firearm industry. Its mission is to promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports. Formed in 1961, NSSF has a membership of thousands of manufacturers, distributors, firearm retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen’s organizations and publishers nationwide. For more information, log on to www.nssf.org.

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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, 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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The South Platte at Elevenmile Canyon, Colorado. Photo by Rich Holland

The South Platte at Elevenmile Canyon, Colorado. Photo by Rich Holland

Former Interior Secretary Salazar, NWF CEO and affiliates say keep public lands public

Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar joined Collin O’Mara, the National Wildlife Federation’s CEO and president, and business and conservation leaders Thursday to speak out for conserving America’s public lands and against attempts to sell or get rid of the lands that sustain fish and wildlife populations as well as hunting, fishing and the country’s multi-billion-dollar outdoor recreation industry.

The National Wildlife Federation’s 49 state affiliates have unanimously approved a resolution that calls for keeping public lands in public hands and opposes large-scale exchanges, sales or giveaways of federally managed lands. This week, 41 of the state affiliates sent a letter to the Republican National Committee asking that it rescind a resolution adopted this year that urges Congress to turn over public lands to the Western states that want them.

The affiliates noted that public lands help grow America’s economy by supporting an outdoor recreation industry that generates $646 billion in economic benefit annually and supports 6.1 million jobs. The organizations stressed that wise stewardship of the lands that belong to all Americans is a long tradition that cuts across political and social lines.

Shadow Mountain Lake, Colorado. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Shadow Mountain Lake, Colorado. Photo by Lew Carpenter

“Despite the economic importance of federal lands to wildlife and people, they remain under constant threat. In recent years, several state legislative proposals have called on the federal government to transfer ownership of public lands to the states, which in turn would pass them off to private interests in many instances,” the organizations wrote.

The Interior Department’s latest annual economic report shows the agency’s programs and activities generated $360 billion in benefits and supported more than 2 million jobs nationwide in fiscal 2013. Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar started preparing the reports in 2009 to highlight the department’s contributions to the U.S. economy.

“The nation’s public lands are the birthright and priceless heritage of all Americans. Our policymakers and elected leaders should be working to preserve and enhance these multiple use economic engines,” said Salazar, who served as Interior secretary from 2009 to 2013.

The National Wildlife Federation is on the front lines of conserving fish and wildlife and the places where they live, and in large part those places are public lands, O’Mara said.

“The National Wildlife Federation, our 49 state affiliates, and four million members and supporters strongly support keeping our public lands in public hands. As a diverse federation of hunters, anglers, hikers, wildlife watchers, and nature lovers, we are united in our passion for protecting public lands, which provide amazing outdoor experiences for all Americans, landscapes for deer, elk, pronghorn, and bison herds to migrate, forests for grizzlies, bighorn sheep and lynx, and critical habitat for more than 700 species of birds, 220 species of mammals, 1,000 species of fish and 250 reptile and amphibian species. For more than a century, protecting land for the benefit all outdoor enthusiasts and wildlife has been an essential element of the American experience—and we must pass on this legacy to future generations,” O’Mara said.

The wildlife federations have worked through the years to conserve the public lands necessary for fish and wildlife and hunting and fishing and will continue to do, said David Chadwick, Montana Wildlife Federation executive director.

“Every few decades this idea of selling off public land pops up, and public opinion always beats it back. Meanwhile, the challenges facing our national forests and other public lands have continued to grow,” Chadwick added. “We need our elected officials to quit wasting time on these speculative, ideological proposals and instead take action on the common-sense, collaborative efforts under way all over the country to improve land management.”

Hanging Lake, Colorado. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Hanging Lake, Colorado. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Surveys and polls show overwhelming support for public lands among voters in the West, the target of many of the drives to dispose of public land. That support extends beyond the region to other parts of the country where hunters, anglers and other wildlife enthusiasts enjoy the backcountry, rivers and forests, said Tim Gestwicki, the North Carolina Wildlife Federation CEO.

“Sportsmen and women and wildlife watchers in the Southeast value our public lands, from the Appalachians to the coast. We also value the Western lands and their abundant wildlife, big open spaces and great hunting and fishing. We stand with our fellow sportsmen and women in defending public lands and protecting the special places that offer some of the best of what this country is about,” Gestwicki said.

“Sportsmen are on the front line in this effort to prevent the transfer of federal public lands. These are the very lands where we hunt and fish, and where we pass on those traditions to our kids. The idea that somehow our federal public lands are dispensable is an affront to all hunters and anglers, and we are determined to protect these lands for ourselves and for future generations,” said Garrett VeneKlasen, executive director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation.

America’s national parks, monuments and rugged landscapes are not only a draw for people in this country, but across the world, said Peter Metcalf, CEO and president of Black Diamond, Inc., a leading manufacturer of outdoor sports equipment and clothing.

“No other country in the world has the public land infrastructure that we have. There’s such a richness of landscape and wildlife. Our public lands and outdoor recreation and lifestyles are coveted by people around the world and are a draw for communities and employers competing for new businesses and workers,” Metcalf said. “Black Diamond’s brand is synonymous with these iconic landscapes that capture the imagination of people all over the world. In addition they are a source of inspiration for our designers, engineers and marketing people.”

Additional Resources: `Valuing our Public Lands: Safeguarding our Economy and Way of Life,’

National Wildlife Federation affiliates’ resolution on transfer of public lands.

NWF affiliates’ letter on transfer, sale of public lands.

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organmtns

Years of work by sportsmen and others in Doña Ana County came to fruition in late May when President Obama created Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. The designation protects hunting and other traditional uses such as camping, hiking and grazing. The new monument covers nearly 500,000 acres in three sections. The BLM will continue to manage the monument.

“This is a great day,” said John Cornell (at right in image), president of Doña Ana County Associated Sportsmen and the southern New Mexico organizer for New Mexico Wildlife Federation. “Sportsmen, many of whom own local businesses, have been reaching out to community leaders and elected officials to make permanent protection of these important lands a reality for a decade. We have all been committed because of what these lands and wildlife mean to us and will one day mean to our kids’ outdoor opportunity and potential livelihood.”

Lifelong Las Cruces hunter Jim Bates (above left) added, “To many, this national monument effort has mainly been about protecting the iconic view Las Cruces residents and visitors enjoy on a daily basis. But for hunters and outdoorsmen like me, much more was at stake. We knew how much we stood to lose if the Potrillos, Robledos or Sierra de Las Uvas were covered in wind turbines or big box stores.”

It is the second monument designated in New Mexico in 14 months. Rio Grande del Norte National Monument protects about 230,000 acres of BLM. New Mexico Wildlife Federation worked with elected officials, agencies and other organizations to ensure that hunting, fishing and other traditional uses will continue in both monuments.

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Colorado mule deer. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Colorado mule deer. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Heat, Drought, Disease Target Big Game and Their Habitats, Threaten Outdoor Traditions

 

Rising temperatures, deeper droughts and more extreme weather events fueled by manmade climate change are making survival more challenging for America’s treasured big game wildlife from coast to coast, according to a new report from the National Wildlife Federation. Nowhere to Run: Big Game Wildlife in a Warming World details how climate change is already putting many species of big game at risk, creating an uncertain future for big game and the outdoor economy that depends on them.

 

“The recovery of big game species is one of America’s wildlife conservation success stories, made possible in large part by sustained investment by generations of sportsmen,” said Dr. Doug Inkley, senior scientist at the National Wildlife Federation “But today, a changing climate threatens to rewrite that success story.”

 

Wildfire, floods and extreme weather events like heat waves, droughts and heavy rainfall, are becoming more frequent and more severe. Unprecedented changes in habitat are having far-reaching consequences for big game and for sportsmen and women, affecting, for example, the timing of hunting seasons and the distribution and survival of animals.

“We’re already seeing changes where we hunt big game – reduced snowpack, dying forests, shifting migration patterns,” said Todd Tanner, founder and chairman of Conservation Hawks. “We have to let our elected officials know that we need solutions and we need them now. We’re running out of time.”

 

Nowhere to Run takes a comprehensive look at the best available science on climate change’s impacts on big game, covering moose, mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, pronghorn, bighorn sheep and black bears. The most significant effects include:

 

·         Heat: Moose can become heat-stressed in warm weather, especially in summer if temperatures climb above 60 to70 degrees when moose coats are thinner. Heat stress leads to lower weights, declining pregnancy rates and increased vulnerability to predators and disease. Because of warmer fall and winter temperatures, black bears are already more active than usual during times when they normally conserve energy through hibernation, pushing fat stores to the limit.

·         Drought: More droughts have reduced aspen forests in the west, a favorite elk habitat, and many elk are not migrating as much as they traditionally have. Increasing periods of drought, more invasive plants and wildfires will alter sagebrush and grassland ecosystems, favored pronghorn habitats.

·         Parasites and disease: With less snowpack to kill ticks, moose in New Hampshire are literally being eaten alive, losing so much blood to ticks that they die of anemia. White-tailed deer are susceptible to hemorrhagic disease caused by viruses transmitted by biting midges.

“Cutting carbon pollution is the key in the long run, but in the short term we must also take action to help big game survive the climate changes we’re already seeing,” said Dr. Robert Brown, former dean of North Carolina State University’s College of Natural Resources and former president of The Wildlife Society. “We can do this by promoting climate-smart approaches to conservation and managing big game populations with a changing climate in mind. But with investments in wildlife research at a generational low, policymakers risk making these decisions in the dark.”

 

In 2011, there were more than 12 million adult big game hunters who spent more than $16 billion on hunting.  More than 22 million people observed big game near their homes and 10 million traveled to view big game.  Sportsmen have invested decades and millions of dollars in restoring big game habitats and populations, in excise taxes, hunting and fishing licenses and fees.

“Not only are our sporting traditions at risk, but jobs-producing tourism dollars could decline as there will be fewer wildlife to see in America’s wild places,” saidLarry Schweiger, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “To protect America’s outdoor heritage, we must cut carbon pollution, speed our transition to clean energy and safeguard big game and their habitats from climate change.”

Nowhere to Run outlines the key steps needed to stem climate change and save big game:

 

1.      Address the underlying cause and cut carbon pollution 50 percent by 2030.

2.      Transition to cleaner, more secure sources of energy like offshore wind, solar power and next-generation biofuels and avoid polluting energy like coal and tar sands oil.

3.      Safeguard wildlife and their habitats by promoting climate-smart approaches to conservation.

4.      Factor a changing climate in big game plans and management.

 

The National Wildlife Federation is also running radio ads educating sportsmen about climate change’s threat to moose in Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana and New Hampshire. The version running in Maine, Michigan, Minnesota and Montana is available here: http://bit.ly/MooseRadioAd-MT. The New Hampshire ad is available here: http://bit.ly/MooseRadioAd-NH.

 

Read the report at NWF.org/SportsmenNowhere to Run is the latest in the National Wildlife Federation’s 2013 Wildlife in a Warming World series:

 

·         Wildlife in a Warming World: Confronting the Climate Crisis

·         Shifting Skies: Migratory Birds in a Warming World

·         Swimming Upstream: Freshwater Fish in a Warming World

 

Get more National Wildlife Federation news at NWF.org/News.

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The National Wildlife Federation is America’s largest conservation organization inspiring Americans to protect wildlife for our children’s future.

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