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Recreation infrastructure often is supported by LWCF funding, providing access to hunters and anglers. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Boat ramps, bathrooms, public open space, picnic tables, recreation infrastructure – simple things we often forget about until we can’t use them (due to pandemics or lack of maintenance). The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) often is a little-known financial backbone for communities that support hunters, anglers and outdoor recreation users in their wild pursuits.

LWCF generates new jobs, creates new opportunities for recreation and provides fuel for state and local economies. For more than five decades it has helped create and maintain parks, hiking and biking trails, ballfields, waterfront access, hunting and fishing access and so much more in nearly every county in the United States.

Since inception in 1965 LWCF has pumped $219,100,000 into Louisiana’s vast recreation and wildlife infrastructure.

When Congress created the Land and Water Conservation Fund in 1965, it devised a funding mechanism that would use offshore oil revenues instead of taxpayer money. The fund is entitled to receive $900 million a year, but only twice in its history has it received the full amount since Congress usually diverts funding to non-conservation projects. The permanent full funding bill currently coursing through Congress will finally remedy that situation so the Land and Water Conservation Fund will be able to reach its full potential.

Recently permanently authorized, but not fully funded – I know, it makes no sense – LWCF is in the crosshairs of current federal legislation. And, there are many reasons why you should care.

Since its inception in 1964, the LWCF program has established many of our nation’s most coveted public lands that generate billions of dollars for state and local economies. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, outdoor recreation supports $778 billion in annual consumer spending and 5.2 million jobs across the country. While LWCF enjoys broad support for these clear economic benefits, the program relies on a standing account of the United States Treasury which is subject to constant diversions from its intended purpose.

Permanent authorization of LWCF in 2019 was an important step in addressing these issues, but it did not ensure that all of the funds identified for LWCF are used for their intended purpose. This underfunding has created a backlog of conservation and recreation access needs in every state across the country. Therefore, Congress must pass legislation now to provide full and dedicated funding for LWCF at the authorized level of $900 million.

Bassmaster Magazine Editor James Hall lands a nice keeper redfish in the marsh

Lowering your boat to the river or marsh by rope without a launch sucks. So does erosion at epic scale making access difficult at best. We need public infrastructure now more than ever. We need to keep people hunting, fishing, recreating and we need to support communities that support our sport!

Recreation infrastructure development provides jobs, too, in places that will badly need them in the coming years. So now, when Congress is rightly focused on how to stimulate the economy, many leaders are realizing that one of the solutions is right in front of them. 

Across the country there are scores of shovel-ready projects just waiting for LWCF funding. These projects will provide jobs in construction, restoration and conservation. That in turn will provide additional opportunities for American families to get outside to hunt, hike, bike, camp, fish and pursue many other outdoor recreation passions. According to the Trust for Public Land, every dollar invested in LWCF returns at least $4 in economic benefits. For an investment of $900 million, that’s a $3.6 billion return.

While often unknown, LWCF funding supports access and habitat improvement to areas like Delta NWR in the bird’s foot of the Mississippi River Delta. Photo by Lew Carpenter

LWCF has helped support some of Louisiana’s most beloved public places. The list of major projects funded by LWCF in Louisiana includes:

Federal Public Land Investment ($143,000,000):

Atchafalaya NWR

Bayou Cocodrie NWR

Bayou Sauvage NWR

Big Branch Marsh NWR

Black Bayou NWR

Bogue Chitto NWR

Cane River Creole NHP

Cat Island NWR

Delta NWR

Grand Cote NWR

Isle Dernieres

Jean Lafitte NHP

Kistachie NF

Lake Ophelia NWR

Louisiana Black Bear NWR

Red River NWR

Southeast LA NWRs Tensas River NWR

Upper Ouachita NWR

Forest Legacy Program ($340,000)

Habitat Conservation, Sec. 6 ($500,000)

American Battlefield Protection Program ($450,000)

State Program, Total State Grants ($74,900,000)

Total: $219,100,000

To get a detailed look at LWCF investment in Louisiana since the 60s, see here: http://projects.invw.org/data/lwcf/grants-la.html

Now is the time to recommit this investment in conservation and restoration to begin the economic healing from the pandemic. Providing full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund will produce jobs for the unemployed, provide new parks and hiking trails for our health and well-being, and stimulate our local economies with new recreation opportunities for generations to come.

Anglers rely on recreation infrastructure to access Louisiana’s vast waterways. Here, Eric Cosby yanks a fine redfish from Louisiana waters.
Photo by Lew Carpenter

So when that big bruiser of a redfish crushes your lure, the sea trout stack up in your cooler, the call from offshore gifts you with a cow yellowfin tuna, or taking that brace of blue winged teal – after thanking the hunting and fishing gods, tip your hat to a quiet American program that supports communities in their ability to support you. It matters.

Click Here to Support Permanently Funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund >>

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Photo by Lew Carpenter

WASHINGTON, DC — New legislation aimed at updating one of the nation’s foundational hunting and angling programs will strengthen wildlife management and conservation across the United States. The National Wildlife Federation urged Congress to swiftly enact the Pittman-Robertson Modernization Act.

“Ensuring a future where wildlife thrive depends not only upon our ability to restore habitat and confront threats like invasive species and disease, but equally upon our ability to engage more and diverse participants in our outdoor heritage,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “The National Wildlife Federation enthusiastically supports Representative Scott, Representative Veasey, Representative Duncan, and Representative Dingell’s bipartisan efforts to advance both of these critical conservation goals and urge swift passage of the Pittman-Robertson Modernization Act.”

The legislation, introduced by Congressman Austin Scott, Republican of Georgia, and colleagues, would support important programs to recruit, retain, and reactivate hunters by allowing Pittman-Robertson hunter education funds to be used for hunter outreach and recruitment programs as well.

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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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SHOT Show floor. By Lew Carpenter

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

I am a sportsman.

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

Yet it should be.

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SHOT Show panel. Photo by Kristyn Brady, TRCP

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

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

Public Land Access and Energy Development

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

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

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

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

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Waterfowl hunting on public land. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Withdrawal of Clean Water Act Protections

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

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

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

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

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

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

Restoring the Mississippi River Delta

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

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

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

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

Looking Ahead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Species estimates are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Long-term average

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

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MigrationInitiative.org_Joe Riis photo credit

Photo by Joe Riis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photo by Lew Carpenter

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

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

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

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Photo by Lew Carpenter

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

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

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

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

2) Westerners support keeping public lands public.

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

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Photo by Lew Carpenter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Call to Action

Sportsmen:

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

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

 

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

Humboldt County Elk Management Sub-Plan Steering Committee

1010 E. National Ave.

Winnemucca, NV 89445

eddie@visionwestrealty.com

 

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

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