Taking a Stand for Waterfowling and the Pastimes We Cherish

If the voices of hunters fall silent, it won’t be long before the voice of the waterfowl we cherish goes quiet as well. Photo by Paul Bramble.

I was driving down a back road on Maryland’s Eastern Shore when I pulled my truck over to let a tractor pass. The farmer tipped his hat in appreciation and was on his way to the next field. Before heading down the road myself, I took a look around; fields of crops gave way to the Chester River in the distance and a place I am proud to call home.

With tall corn and soy hiding goose pits and the vivid summer woods obscuring tree stands, it is tough to see the importance of hunting during a hot and humid Chesapeake summer. But just a few months from now, the days will get shorter and crisper, and homes across the Eastern Shore will come to life earlier than normal as decoy bags and gun cases are tossed into trucks and Labs wag their tails with the kind of anticipation only a gun dog can muster.

Waterfowl hunting means a lot to this part of the world. On the highway into town, geese adorn the welcome sign, and we have waterfowl festivals to celebrate the autumnal return of the birds. You may find yourself raking leaves in the backyard or picking out the perfect carving pumpkin at the local patch when you hear your first flight of Canada geese returning. It is a sound that compels your eyes skyward and makes many of us reflexively reach for our goose calls.

But the memory of the 2011-12 season remains stark in the minds of many hunters. Winter’s cold weather never came; nor did the birds. Some estimated that less than one quarter of the typical population actually made it as far south as the Chesapeake. The lack of snow and ice gave the birds no reason to venture to their normal southern grounds. The warmest winter anyone can remember gave way to the warmest summer, and hunters can’t be blamed for asking, “Will the birds return?”

More than a few hunters I’ve talked to are considering letting their blind leases lapse.

“I’m gonna give it one more year,” is a familiar refrain from waterfowlers pinched by a slow economy and slow days afield. Visit Higgy’s Diner on any Saturday morning during duck and goose season and you will see just what hunting means to the local economy. It’s not just about license and ammo sales; hunters open their wallets at motels, gas stations, watering holes and sub shops, as well as for guides and gear. As the birds go, so go the hunters.

Conservation is an essential part of hunting’s past – and future. Whether addressing global issues like climate change or local issues such as land use, hunters have a responsibility to become knowledgeable and participate in finding workable solutions. If the voices of hunters fall silent, it won’t be long before the voice of the waterfowl we cherish goes quiet as well.

Learn more about the TRCP’s work in the Chesapeake Bay.

TRCP Takes Conservation Message to South Africa

Fish and wildlife are a worldwide resource, and challenges to their responsible management – and, in some cases, their very existence – occur across the globe. This summer the TRCP sent representatives to the fourth International Wildlife Management Congress in Durban, South Africa, cosponsored by The Wildlife Society, a TRCP partner and leader in educating and informing wildlife management professionals.

The 2012 congress, “Cooperative Wildlife Management across Borders: Learning in the Face of Change,” focused on how wildlife managers can better conserve and manage wildlife resources on an international scale. The TRCP’s Tom Franklin and Steve Belinda were on hand to speak about the increase of shale gas development throughout North America and the associated negative impacts to wildlife. Their presentation described the boom in natural gas production in the United States over the last decade and the many challenges created for wildlife managers.

Kudu in Durban S. Africa

At a recent conference in South Africa, TRCP representatives demonstrated the importance of balancing the needs of wildlife and energy. Photo courtesy of Steve Belinda.

Franklin and Belinda, both wildlife biologists, explained how new technology has resulted in an unprecedented effort to find and produce natural gas in some of the most important wildlife habitats in the nation. Habitats – including those occupied by mule deer and sage grouse – have been seriously impacted by energy exploration and development.

During their presentation, the TRCP representatives demonstrated the importance of balancing the needs of wildlife and energy – an approach that includes comprehensive conservation planning, adaptive management, mitigation planning, monitoring and stakeholder involvement.

Their presentation highlighted the fact that responsible energy development can proceed while minimizing impacts to wildlife and water resources and thereby minimizing conflicts among a wide variety of user groups, including hunters and anglers.

Overall, more than 400 delegates from 35 countries attended the event in South Africa, exploring a wide range of issues including the following:

  • human dimensions of wildlife management and conservation: conflict, urban interface and land use
  • climate change
  • wildlife health and disease
  • endangered species recovery
  • invasive species threats
  • trans-border cooperation and conservation
  • natural resource use and sustainability
  • habitat restoration and modification
  • stewardship
Gemsbok -- Oryx Durban S. Africa

More than 400 delegates from 35 countries attended the event in South Africa, exploring a wide range of wildlife management issues. Photo courtesy of Steve Belinda.

The TRCP supports the responsible development of energy resources in appropriate areas. The TRCP’s set of principles on this issue, “FACTS for Fish and Wildlife,” provides guidance for responsible energy development that upholds our nation’s shared natural resources and unique outdoor legacy.

Learn more about the TRCP’s “FACTS for Fish and Wildlife” and approach to responsible energy development.

Filson’s Top Five Mobile Apps for Outdoorsmen

Filson came up with the five best mobile apps for the outdoorsman. Check them out below.

1) Primos Hunting Calls

Primos Hunting Call App. Photo courtesy of Filson Life.

We have to agree with the ratings on the best-selling hunting app of all time. Primos Hunting Calls attracts prey with a variety of over twenty remarkably natural calls. Improve your ability to lure in turkey, elk, deer, duck, hogs, and more. Use tried-and-true favorites of the hunting professionals at Primos like “The Gobbler” and the “Heart Breaker.”

2) Ducks Unlimited Waterfowler’s Journal

Ducks Unlimited Waterfowler’s Journal App. Photo Courtesy of Filson Life.

The DU Waterfowler’s Journal is the only app designed exclusively for waterfowl hunters to keep a detailed log of each trip to the field. Both seasoned pros and beginners can build a detailed diary of the number and type of birds harvested, hunting blind locations, weather conditions, photos, and personal notes. In addition to creating your own journal, you can catch up on Duck Unlimited’s extensive glossary of waterfowl ID characteristics.

3) iSolunar Hunting & Fishing Times

iSolunar Hunting and Fishing Times App. Photo Courtesy of Filson Life.

Filson anglers and hunters can trust the up-to-date hunting and fishing information from iSolunar Hunting & Fishing Times. iSolunar provides the best time of day for hunting and fishing anywhere in the world. Using astronomical data from the US Naval observatory, you can find precise local information on feeding/activity times, day rating, current weather, moon phase, moon rise and moon set, and Sunrise and Sunset periods.

4) Ducks Unlimited Waterfowl Migration

Ducks Unlimited Waterfowl Migration App. Photo courtesy of Filson Life.

Follow the ducks on your iPhone this season! The DU Migration App gives you access to more than 10,000 real-time migration and hunting reports across North America. View local reports of those from across the U.S. and Canada if you are planning a trip. Waterfowl hunters can submit their own report on current findings and access reports from trained Ducks Unlimited Field Editors and Avery Pro-Staff.

5) Hunting Light & Blood Tracker

Hunting Light & Blood Tracker App. Photo courtesy of Filson Life.

This app enhances hunters’ visibility in all lighting conditions. Hunting Light & Blood Tracker is a handy flashlight that provides screen lights of various colors for specific uses in the field under variable light conditions. Green light enables night vision and blue light enhances green objects that would otherwise be camouflaged. The addition of a “blood tracking” light filter enhances the visibility of a blood trail left by wounded game so you are quickly on the move to recover.

Click Here to view the article on Filson.com.

Sportsmen and Climate Change: A Long, Hard Look at Reality

Hunter Crossing River by Dusan Smetana

Science has made it abundantly clear that climate change is real, and it already is affecting our natural resources, fish and wildlife and outdoor opportunities. Photo by Dusan Smetana.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the United States writhes in one of the driest and hottest summers in history, with nearly two-thirds of the lower 48 states experiencing some form of drought, millions of Americans (including farmers and ranchers) are struggling from the resulting loss of income and higher prices for food and fuel.  Other recent disturbing news illustrates the practical implications this weather event can have on fish and wildlife. Millions of fish – sturgeon, large- and smallmouth bass, channel catfish and other species – are dying in the Midwest as water temperatures skyrocket to as high as 100 degrees.

What is clear:  both the human toll and the impacts to fish and wildlife caused by a changing climate and warmer temperatures have real consequences and cannot be ignored.

A new NASA report states that climate change is responsible for recent extreme weather events and that the probability of unusually warm summers has greatly increased. Now, Dr. Richard A. Muller, a physicist known for his staunch denial of global warming, has concluded that global warming is in fact real, with human production of carbon dioxide causing the world to slowly warm.

“I’m personally very worried,” says Dr. Muller. “I personally suspect that it will be bad.”

Of course, many continue to refute the science underlying climate change and indict the majority of scientists who accept its existence for promulgating a political agenda. In my opinion, as the TRCP’s climate change initiative manager, these individuals are simply resistant to accepting the reality of what science has made abundantly clear: climate change is real, and it already is affecting our natural resources, fish and wildlife and outdoor opportunities.

I recently wrote a guest article in The Seattle Times arguing that to develop an effective approach to addressing climate change, we cannot rely solely on public opinion polls. We must pay attention to those who are “voting with their feet” – the fish and wildlife that cannot debate habitability in the public square and must adapt to or migrate from changing habitat or die.

At the TRCP, we accept the growing evidence that climate change is real and that changes go well beyond disturbances driven by entirely natural forces. We regularly consult with fish and wildlife biologists in state and federal agencies throughout the United States on the habits, distribution and abundance of fish and wildlife.

The facts leave no doubt that climate change is undeniable. Here are a few examples:

  • Even before this year’s Midwestern fish kills from hot water, smallmouth bass have been migrating upstream nearly 40 miles in the warming Yellowstone River, displacing Yellowstone cutthroat that require colder water.
  • Warming winters and summers have led to an explosion in mountain pine beetle infestations over millions of acres in many Western pine forests, causing a dramatic conversion of forest cover to grass and shrub meadows in elk habitat. This leads to changes in elk populations and distribution during hunting seasons.
  • In a direct response to warmer springs and summers and elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, invasive cheatgrass has out-competed sagebrush and native grasses and shrubs throughout 100 million acres of the sagebrush steppe in the West, leading to decreased mule deer and greater sage-grouse habitat and populations, as well as diminished hunting opportunities.

What is the TRCP doing now? We are actively working to inform, educate and mobilize sportsmen by reporting timely data from state fish and wildlife agencies and federal land management agencies. Our state-specific presentations highlight the implications of a changing environment on fish and wildlife and the consequences for sustainable hunting and fishing. We’ve developed presentations for Montana, Washington and Colorado – with Oregon and New Mexico in the works.

Rather than debating specific points of air temperature or carbon dioxide data, the TRCP focuses on the cascading effects of a changing climate in the biological world, including impacts to species of fish and game most important to sportsmen. We highlight on-the-ground projects that help fish and wildlife adapt to a changing environment.

We are taking these state-specific presentations directly to sportsmen-based clubs throughout the West with the goal of providing factual evidence on climate change. Take five minutes to watch the video below and draw your own conclusions.

A Colorado Sportsman’s Perspective on the State’s New Roadless Rule

Native Trout

The Colorado roadless rule keeps some of the state’s last remaining intact public lands accessible to sportsmen and other citizens. Photo by Nick Payne.

Following numerous revisions and several years of debate, a management plan for Colorado’s 4.2 million acres of roadless national forest backcountry has been published in the federal register, cementing it as the law of the land until another politician or judge sweeps through with enough momentum or gusto for reform.

Considered in the context of the 10th Circuit Court’s recent decision to uphold the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule, the finalization of the Colorado rule – and the importance of maintaining a high standard for backcountry lands in the state – is undeniably clear.

The Colorado roadless rule maintains that standard by including roughly 30 percent, or 1.2 million acres of backcountry, under a higher level of safeguards (i.e., “upper tier” areas) from unneeded development. While the rule keeps these areas intact, it also allows some backcountry lands to be developed for coal mining and ski area expansion. It also allows tree-cutting and some road building in backcountry lands located within 1.5 miles of communities recognized as at risk for wildfires. Colorado’s remaining backcountry areas are managed in a similar fashion to the 2001 rule.

Sportsmen were a consistent, engaged and reasonable presence throughout the multi-year rule-making process. Recommendations from members of our community helped result in the final Colorado rule being a common-sense management tool able to assure conservation of some of the state’s best hunting and fishing grounds and most valuable fish and wildlife habitat. The state of Colorado and the U.S. Forest Service likewise deserve recognition for their efforts to refine and improve the plan for the benefit of Colorado’s backcountry traditions.

As someone who enjoys backcountry hunting and fishing throughout the state and who is well-acquainted with both the Colorado and national rules, I can celebrate the fact that much of Colorado’s most important national forest lands will remain intact and accessible for hunters and anglers into the foreseeable future.

Data from the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife demonstrates that more than 900,000 acres of lands designated as “upper tier” under the new rule provide extremely important habitat for much of Colorado’s bedrock fish and wildlife, including cutthroat and other wild trout species, elk, mule deer, pronghorn antelope, grouse and bighorn sheep.

Backcountry roadless areas are lands already largely devoid of roads and other development. Daily, they are becoming rarer and rarer. The Colorado roadless rule does not close any existing roads or trails. Instead, it keeps some of the state’s last remaining intact public lands intact and accessible to sportsmen and other citizens. That equals thousands of acres that I know I can depend on for a true backcountry experience, and that’s huge in my world.

Worried About the State of Fishing?

The Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation, creators of the award-winning “Take Me Fishing” campaign, works to increase boating and fishing participation in the United States. Watch RBFF’s video about the positive state of the fishing and boating industry as well as some of the newest RBFF tools.