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With countless places to roam and enjoy the great outdoors, Americans are taking advantage of these opportunities, and as they go, spending significant dollars, too. New economic reports by Southwick Associates reveal that more than 53 million Americans consider themselves sportsmen, spending over $93.5 billion in 2016 on gear, licenses, travel, clothing, gas and more. 

South Park, Colorado. Photo by Lew Carpenter

A series of reports released yesterday by the American Sportfishing Association, National Shooting Sports Foundation and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation show that expenditures made in 2016 for hunting, target shooting and sportfishing gear and services supported 1.6 million jobs and provided $72 billion in salaries and wages. These monies also generated nearly $20 billion in local, state and federal taxes. Much of this tax revenue benefits vital conservation and educational programs that improve our outdoor areas for all who enjoy them and make hunting and shooting safer activities.

“If hunting, fishing and target shooting were a corporation, it would rank #25 on the Fortune 500, ahead of Microsoft,” says Rob Southwick, president of Southwick Associates. “While time spent outside may come across as something to do after the real work day is done, in reality hunting, fishing and target shooting is a critical industry, generating jobs and income for thousands of communities across the country.”

Key highlights of the reports include:



  • Each year, 35.8 million people 16 years and older take to America’s waters to fish.
  • More than 28 million people over 16 years old took to our nation’s forests and gun ranges to hunt and target shoot in 2016.
  • The number of people who participate in sportfishing, hunting and target shooting represents 16.5 percent of the total U.S. population.
  • When factoring in multiplier effects, spending by sportsmen created economic activity in excess of $220 billion.
  • Hunting, fishing and shooting adds $119 billion of overall value to our nation’s gross domestic product and generates $17.6 billion in federal taxes and $12.2 billion in state and local taxes.

Four separate reports are available: sportfishing from the American Sportfishing Association, hunting and target shooting from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (please register as a guest when asked), plus a report for all activities combined from the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation.

Southwick Associates is a market research and economics firm specializing in the hunting, shooting, sportfishing, and outdoor recreation markets. Celebrating 28 years in business, Southwick Associates has a strong reputation for delivering comprehensive insights and statistics to strategic decision making across the entire outdoor industry. Aside from custom market and economic information, Southwick Associates provides custom and syndicated research including customer-driven new product development, outdoor media consumption insights, and equipment purchase tracking studies. Visit www.southwickassociates.com for more information.

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Udall, Heinrich Join Conservation Leaders To Celebrate New Public Access To Sabinoso Wilderness, Call For Reauthorization Of Land And Water Conservation Fund

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Image courtesy BLM, Bob Wick

U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich May 29, 2018 joined the National Wildlife Federation, Wilderness Land Trust, Partnership for Responsible Business, Santa Ana Pueblo, and a number of other local conservation leaders and organizations to announce major gains towards improving access to public lands in New Mexico, including opening the Sabinoso Wilderness to the public, and the many successes of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The event was held at the Petroglyph National Monument Visitor Center in Albuquerque.

“Public lands like the Sabinoso Wilderness are essential to New Mexico’s way of life and are major economic drivers for our state. Unlocking Sabinoso’s rugged canyons and mesas to the public, for hiking, camping, horseback riding, and hunting, was a major victory for all New Mexicans. We showed that we can expand access to our public lands when we work together toward a common goal,” said Sen. Udall. “But we need to continue pushing back against the ongoing assault on our public lands coming from some in Washington. It starts with protecting the Land and Water Conservation Fund, an immensely popular and successful program which has provided funds to nearly every county in America to conserve public open space. The LWCF accomplishes so much with so little – protecting national monuments, national forests, wildlife refuges, lakes and rivers, state and local parks, and historic sites. As the top Democrat on the subcommittee that oversees funding for the Department of Interior, I will keep fighting to see that the LWCF is made permanent to support public lands in New Mexico and across the country for future generations.”

“The opening of the Sabinoso Wilderness is a major victory and will finally allow public access to this stunning landscape that we all own. I am proud to have worked hard for years alongside New Mexico sportsmen, wilderness advocates, and local community leaders to find a way to unlock this incredible place to the public. The Sabinoso will surely become an important destination for hunters, hikers and campers from nearby communities and around the nation, and contribute to our outdoor recreation economy,” said Sen. Heinrich. “I will continue working to protect and improve access to the places that we love here in New Mexico and fight for the permanent and full funding of conservation programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund that are critical to preserving our outdoor heritage for our children and future generations.”

The Land and Water Conservation Fund is one of the nation’s oldest and most successful conservation programs. Senators Udall and Heinrich have long advocated for the permanent reauthorization and full funding of LWCF. This vital program expires on September 30, 2018.

“Among the National Wildlife Federation’s top priorities are restoring America’s wildlife populations, conserving public lands, and ensuring that Americans have access to them, whether for hunting, fishing, hiking, camping, paddling or watching wildlife. We’re proud of the incredible work by New Mexicans to open the Sabinoso Wilderness to public access and our celebration today is a testament to the efforts of Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich and sportsmen in partnership with Secretary Zinke and the Interior Department and conservation organizations, like the Wilderness Land Trust and the New Mexico Wildlife Federation. America’s public lands belong to all of us and we must all continue to work together to protect and enhance our public lands legacy, including reauthorizing and fully funding one of our most important conservation programs–the Land and Water Conservation Fund,” said Collin O’Mara, President and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation.

“LWCF is essential to our country’s outdoor spaces—from neighborhood parks to national parks,” said Diane Regas, CEO of The Trust for Public Land. “Without it our work in New Mexico would be impossible and the future of parks and open space would be uncertain. Both Senators Udall and Heinrich set a high standard for what it means to be a leader in conservation and The Trust for Public Land is profoundly grateful for their hard work and commitment to the outdoors.”

“We’ve been working on creating access to the Sabinoso Wilderness since it was proposed for designation in 2009,” said Brad Borst, President of The Wilderness Land Trust. “We are deeply grateful to the Wyss Foundation for funding the acquisition and transfer of the heart of the Rimrock Rose Ranch to the Bureau of Land Management; to US Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico for their leadership and perseverance; for the support of the San Miguel County Commissioners; for the New Mexico Wilderness Alliance volunteers for helping with site cleanup; and for the sportsmen groups who publicly advocated for this New Mexico treasure.”

“The Land and Water Conservation Fund is a crucial program for New Mexico’s public lands, state parks, and restoration projects,” said New Mexico Wildlife Federation Acting Executive Director Todd Leahy. “We are pleased to come together with our Senators who have long been champions of LWCF as well as public lands access, and our partners who have worked side by side for conservation projects over the years. We hope this event brings the importance of LWCF to the forefront of New Mexican’s minds and inspire our entire New Mexico delegation to support permanently reauthorizing LWCF.”

“The Land and Water Conservation Fund has provided over $312 million to projects in New Mexico that have leveraged millions more in state, local, and private matching funds to contribute to the betterment of our state and well-being of our citizens. These investments also help sustain a network of parks and public lands that attract entrepreneurs, retirees, and tourists who strengthen our economy. Our state will suffer if the Land and Water Conservation Fund expires. Congress must not let that happen,” said Alexandra Merlino, Executive Director, New Mexico Partnership for Responsible Business.

“Latinos and all Americans in every state have benefitted from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, whether they know it or not. If you have visited a state park or played softball in your neighborhood, there’s a good chance those places in New Mexico were, in part, funded by the LWCF to the tune of over $310 million during the program’s lifetime,”said Ralph Arellanes, New Mexico LULAC Executive Director and Hispano Round Table of New Mexico Chairman.

“To grow up healthy, kids need a clean, beautiful, and accessible outdoors where they can play and discover the amazing world around them. Fortunately, New Mexico has numerous spectacular outdoor areas that have been protected thanks to the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which is set to expire this September. We can’t let that happen. In the bipartisan spirit that has characterized the LWCF since its inception, Congress must come together to reauthorize and fully fund this great provider of public lands access and enjoyment,” said James Jimenez, Executive Director, New Mexico Voices for Children.

“Growing up on New Mexico’s public lands, the Land and Water Conservation Fund is personal to me. As a Sportsman, I’ve seen firsthand how important LWCF is to increasing sportsmen’s access and improving wildlife habitat. If you’ve ever caught a Cutthroat trout in the Rio Grande Wild and Scenic river area, hunted in the Valles Caldera or the Gila, hiked in the Organ Mountains or seen bighorn sheep on the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument you are a beneficiary of LWCF,” said Rev. Andrew Black, Pastor at First Presbyterian Church Santa Fe. “Working with veterans, youth and families throughout the state, I’ve also seen firsthand how the lands funded by LWCF are places of great healing, wholeness and transformation.”

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Disrupting the flow of water

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

 

Severe disruption to wildlife habitat

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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Montezuma Quail. Photo by Lew Carpenter

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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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.”

***

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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Guest Post: Jodi Stemler (via http://camoisthenewblack.com)

I work in a pretty male-dominated field. I remember 20 years ago when I was interning for a wildlife conservation organization, my supervisor described our colleagues as “silver backed males,” a fairly apt description…

(more…)

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Next week the shooting, hunting and outdoors industry again will engage in one of the largest trade shows I’ve ever experienced. The SHOT Show is the once-a-year gathering place for manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, publishers and wildlife conservation organizations. It’s where a passion for firearms, ammunition and outdoors equipment, plus the industry’s unified support for the Second Amendment, are on display.

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Author Lew Carpenter at SHOT Show 2012 Media Day with a Smith and Wesson M&P 15 in .300.

This is the 35th annual SHOT Show. The first SHOT Show was in 1979 in St. Louis, Missouri, and more than 60,000 professionals in the shooting, hunting and outdoors industry attended SHOT Show in 2012. In addition more than 2,000 members of the outdoor and mainstream media, including international media, cover the show.

It’s an incredible event, and one where today’s important issues will be discussed with, no doubt, a wide spectrum of opinions. Top-tier issues that affect this industry will certainly include universal background checks for gun buyers, modern sporting rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

In 2012, modern sporting rifles (like the one seen in the picture above) accelerated in popularity. This year’s show will be no different, with an abundance of peripheral accessories to compliment these popular rifles. As hunters and shooting enthusiasts we all have a responsibility to engage in honest, open discussion about the safety of our communities and family members. SHOT Show is an important gathering place where people of integrity will have these discussions.

Other issues of concern to sportsmen will also be on tap. Primarily, conservation.

Personally, I have been engaged for the past four years in the Vanishing Paradise campaign – a movement to restore the Louisiana wetlands. And, as many of you understand, the Mississippi River Delta supports incredible fishing and is the winter home for 70-percent of the waterfowl in the Central and Mississippi flyways.

Vanishing Paradise team members Andy McDaniels and Land Tawney wait for waterfowl in the Louisiana wetlands.

Vanishing Paradise team members Andy McDaniels and Land Tawney wait for waterfowl in the Louisiana wetlands.

Due to efforts by Vanishing Paradise and other conservation organizations, The RESTORE Act last July passed through Congress with strong support from the sportsman’s community, and we can expect that most of the money (80-percent) from any Clean Water Act fines will be sent back to the states affected by the spill.

Unfortunately, the oil spill isn’t over—and America’s hunters and anglers know it.

Every week it seems that scientists discover a previously unknown consequence of the spill. For example, scientists recently announced  that species like mahi mahi—if even briefly exposed to small amounts of oil while still in their eggs—grow up unable to swim as fast as unexposed fish.

It is not surprising that in one recent poll, 81% of hunters and anglers said they thought BP should pay the maximum penalty for their role in the spill.

Last month, the Department of Justice hammered out a plea agreement where BP agreed to pay $4.5 billion to settle the criminal claims against it. Importantly, the company also acknowledged negligence in the deaths of 11 rig workers.

But this criminal settlement doesn’t mean it is all over—far from it.

The Justice Department is still pursuing civil claims against BP under our nation’s environmental laws. If found guilty of gross negligence at trial—and Justice seems to think it has a strong case—BP would face fines in the range of 20 billion under the Clean Water Act alone.

The company also faces billions of dollars in assessments under the Oil Pollution Act. This law requires the company to pay the costs of restoring the Gulf back to the condition it was in at the time of the disaster. To give you a sense of the potential scale, if BP paid the same amount per gallon as Exxon did in the Valdez case, we’d be looking at roughly $30 billion dollars for restoration.

These may seem like large numbers, but it will take an investment on this scale to make the Gulf whole again. It is the Department of Justice’s job to see that BP is held fully accountable. And it is our job, as hunters and anglers, to keep the heat on the Justice Department to make sure it happens.

Please speak up and demand that BP own up to its carelessness in the Gulf and that the Justice Department hold the company fully accountable. America’s hunting and fishing legacy depends on it.

Out West

SHOT Show is also an important place to discuss areas out West where I, like many of you, hunt mule deer, elk, pronghorn and other great species. If you have an interest in supporting and saving our great western hunting legacy, OPL_Sigplease see the Our Public Lands website. Ourpubliclands.org is a place for hunters, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts to get information about the public lands where they enjoy their favorite activities. The public lands issues on the website focus on:

FRIENDS OF COLORADOOUTDOORS.NET

Finally, SHOT Show is a place to reconnect with old friends. And although there are too many to list here, I’m going to take a moment to highlight two great partners who have helped with the Vanishing Paradise campaign and whose senior leadership have been friends of mine for decades.

RealTree Camo has developed the industry’s most realistic pattern ever. Last week the company unveiled its new camo pattern, Realtree Xtra, also available in Realtree Xtra Green.Image

The breakthrough in camo pattern realism comes from a combination of design and printing technology that delivers three distinct fields within one camo pattern: a foreground, mid-ground, and background.

“New Realtree Xtra and Xtra Green truly live up to their names, giving hunters extra effectiveness in the field,” said Realtree Designer and President Bill Jordan. “All throughout the development process, we focused on creating incredible depth, visual confusion and 3D effects in the pattern mid-grounds and backgrounds while still retaining total sharpness and detail in the foreground elements. The result is as close to nature as we’ve ever gotten.”The Realtree Xtra and Realtree Xtra Green camo designs feature 12 warm, natural colors-one with more green. The new designs provide all-season utility for hunters and outdoorspeople. Its subtle shadows, highlights, and textures blend with more terrain and lighting conditions than any other camo pattern available and make Realtree Xtra the most versatile camo on the market.

And our friends at Plano Molding have completely remodeled the Plano website. The new and improved version showcases all Plano products and is much easier to navigate. It also features videos and articles by members of photoPlano’s pro staff and highlights products that they personally endorse. Head on over to www.planomolding.com and have a look around.

Hope to see you all at SHOT Show 2013 and safe travels to the City of Sin!

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