Winner Alert! Capturing a Child’s First Hunt and a #PublicLandsProud Introduction

Thanks to everyone that keeps showing us why you’re #PublicLandsProud!

A big congratulations to Pat Fitzpatrick of Texas who is taking home a new pair of Costa Sunglasses and a copy of Steven Rinella’s new book for this winning shot of his son on his first quail hunt.

TRCP: You’ve shown us a favorite #publiclandsproud moment, now tell us the story behind the picture.

Pat Fitzpatrick: The photo was taken at Chaparral Wildlife Management Area on a youth hunt two weeks prior to the opening of the general quail season.  We usually don’t start hunting quail until Thanksgiving when temperatures have cooled enough for the dogs and rattlesnake encounters are unlikely but this season is shaping up to be one of the best in recent years and we couldn’t pass on the chance to see for ourselves.  As we geared up and prepped the dogs in the predawn light, we could hear covey calls in every direction from the truck.  Within minutes we had found our first covey and a few coveys later I snapped the photo of my son Sean walking in on a covey pointed by my setter Khaki.  We only hunted a few hours that morning, by lunch time the temperature had reached 90 degrees.  We moved several coveys that morning and fortunately no snakes, to top it off Sean and I had the chance to fire the opening shots on what should be a stellar quail season.

Image courtesy of Pat Fitzpatrick.

TRCP: How often do you visit public lands and why are they so special to you?

PF: Nearly all of my upland hunting takes place on public land and living in Texas, a place that is well known for its lack of public hunting opportunities, it can be a challenge.  Quail hunting on private land here is too expensive and it is cheaper to load up the truck and travel to public lands elsewhere.  Most of our hunts take place over the holidays when Sean is out of school.  Some of our favorite holiday memories are centered around quail camp and Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners cooked on a Coleman two burner stove resting on an open tailgate.  Looking forward to future seasons, Sean and I have talked about attempting to take each of the six quail species starting with the three we have here on public lands in Texas and working our way out west, hitting western public land for the remaining three species.

TRCP: If these public lands are lost, what do you and your fellow sportsmen stand to lose?

PF: We tend to think of the public land seizure issue as a Western states issue because most of these lands are located out West.  This is not a Western states issue, this is a National issue, these federal public lands belong to all of us as citizens of the United States.  My home state of Texas has a unique history among states that left Texas full control over its public domain.  Between the outright sale of state land or the sale of natural resources on state lands, Texas has evolved into what it is today, a vast amount of land with very little accessible to the public.  The transfer of federal lands to the states would result in the same thing, locked gates and pay to play access for hunters and other land users.

TRCP: When not out on public lands, where can we find you?

PF: When not chasing after bird dogs and quail, I live in The Woodlands, Texas and work in commercial construction.  I am married to my beautiful wife, Sharon, and have three kids Patrick, Madison and Sean.  Weekends during the off season consist of many youth baseball tournaments, football games and a little fly fishing in the Texas hill country or gulf coast.

Have a proud public lands picture to share? Tag with #PublicLandsProud and join the community!

The Importance of Migration Corridors to Healthy Big Game Populations

Conservation can’t just happen at point A or point B, because travel conditions impact the health of species like mule deer

As the great Thanksgiving migration commences on Wednesday, the busiest travel day of the year, it seems like an appropriate time to discuss these intrepid travelers—the mule deer herd that makes one of the longest known annual migrations of their entire species in the Western U.S. Last year, research using global positioning system collars revealed that the deer travel about 150 miles from the Red Desert in south-central Wyoming to the high mountains near Jackson Hole.

Mule deer need to travel between seasonal ranges to capture greening vegetation in the spring and to reach their winter range in the fall. Image courtesy of Joe Riis.

This month, the University of Wyoming’s Ruckelshaus Institute and the Wyoming Migration Initiative convened more than 160 scientists, wildlife managers, landowners, industry groups, and conservation professionals in Laramie, Wyo., to share more cutting edge science on big-game migrations in the West. I was among the participants gathered to discuss the next chapter for conserving and maintaining these critical migration corridors. Here’s what I learned:

Travel Conditions Matter

If you’re a waterfowl hunter or an avid birder, you know all too well how important migration is for these creatures. You would also know the importance of what are known as “stopover” habitats—places where animals can rest and refuel during their migrations before continuing on their journey from point A to point B. Recent advances in technology have allowed scientists to gather information on the exact location of migration corridors and stopover habitats with far greater accuracy. Researcher Hall Sawyer found that radio-collared mule deer traveling from the Red Desert to Hoback Junction in Wyoming spend up to 95 percent of their migration period in stopover habitat. Without these places, deer might not make it to their winter range in a healthy enough condition to survive the harsh winter. Sawyer summed it up best by asking us to imagine driving a long distance between two cities with no hotels, gas stations, or grocery stores in between.

This just illustrates that you can make every effort in the world to protect and enhance winter range, but it won’t mean much if the animals simply can’t get there, or if they arrive in poor condition.

It doesn’t take too much effort to see why sportsmen should care about the lengths that mule deer go to reach summer and wintering habitat, and the conditions they’re met with in between. I suspect the giant muley buck that my friend Steven Rinella shot this fall moved a good distance between summer and winter ranges and undoubtedly stopped many times along the way. Would he have even seen a buck like this if that migration corridor had been severed by a highway or other barrier five years earlier? Many migration routes have been lost in this way over the past several decades, which could be a key factor in long-term declines for mule deer populations across the West. And of course we know that decreased hunter opportunity translates into loss of income for many businesses in rural communities that are so dependent on sportsmen’s dollars.

Steven Rinella, author and host of the MeatEater, with his public lands mule deer buck taken along a migration corridor. Conservation of these habitats yields greater opportunity and results for sportsmen. Image courtesy of Janis Putelis.

Wanted: Better Data, More Support

More research on migration corridors and stopover habitats is necessary for us to more holistically conserve big-game populations across the West. Most of the information currently available comes from years of observations by biologists, game wardens, and sportsmen, but it’s often anecdotal, at best. Very few migrations have been identified using the latest in GPS technology, which pinpoints animal movements and plots maps with incredible accuracy.

But beyond getting more data, we also need greater understanding and engagement from the people who manage, own, or otherwise impact these lands. The science is helping us understand what we need to do, but landowners, industry officials, and sportsmen will have to champion the effort, like we do for so many habitat challenges. Building trust, clarifying expectations, quelling fears, will pave the path toward finding solutions for protecting these habitats.

Along Comes Policy

Public awareness and good science becomes even more critical when you consider that there are currently no specific policy or management requirements for migration corridors or stopover habitats on federal or state lands open to the public. State wildlife agencies often make recommendations to protect migration corridors and stopovers, but there are no policy guarantees to back them up or hold anyone accountable, including those who negatively impact this habitat. We need greater assurances for the future. At this month’s conference, Under Secretary of Agriculture Robert Bonnie and Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior Jim Lyons shared their support for the conservation of migration corridors. Their agencies are exactly who we need to work with to develop a management strategy for migration corridors with policy assurances for the long-term commitment to improving conditions for big game and many other species.

Aldo Leopold noted that “to keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering.” We’re long overdue for an intelligent plan that does more than just tinker with our big game populations. It’s time to get the wheels turning toward a solid future for the West’s extraordinary big game populations and our uniquely American hunting heritage.

Watch a video of the mule deer migrations:

Colorado Has a Plan: Scale Back on Water Use and Protect Rivers and Streams

The plan sets a precedent for improving resiliency to drought and disaster without sacrificing fish and wildlife resources

On Thursday, the final version of a statewide plan for water conservation, the first of its kind in the Centennial State, was revealed at a Colorado Water Conservation Board meeting. The Colorado water plan is the result of a comprehensive two-year process to set statewide targets for cities and towns to meet in conserving precious water resources and ensuring the health of rivers and streams. The plan also includes proposed annual funding for river restoration projects and makes some assurances that new, costly, and controversial trans-mountain diversions will be avoided.

Image courtesy of Bob Wick/BLM.

“The final Colorado water plan is a milestone in the long-term effort to protect water resources, fish and wildlife habitat, and the needs of agricultural producers and Front Range communities,” says Jimmy Hague, director of the Center for Water Resources at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP). “Hunters and anglers who submitted public feedback over the past year, during which 30,000 comments were considered, should be especially proud of their impacts on the planning process. It is clear that Colorado residents value the water resources that allow us to fish, kayak, and pursue healthy deer and elk.”

Earlier this year, the TRCP was joined by the Bull Moose Sportsmen’s Alliance, Colorado Wildlife Federation, Colorado Trout Unlimited, and Backcountry Hunters & Anglers in calling for a plan that prioritizes healthy rivers and streams and discourages large new trans-mountain diversion projects. These five groups sent a letter to Gov. Hickenlooper and Colorado Water Conservation Board leadership in April 2015.

“Of course, it does no good if these precedent-setting goals are simply filed away—sportsmen must remain engaged in implementing the plan, as it was intended, and get support from Colorado lawmakers to make it a success,” says Hague.

The Crown Jewels of Sportsmen’s Country Are Mule Deer, Elk, and Trout

From river breaks to high mesas, and from sage coulees to semi-arid mountain ranges, America’s 245 million acres of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) public lands are some of the best places to hunt and fish remaining on the planet. Sportsmen and women in the West depend on publicly-accessible, healthy BLM lands to produce quality big game, robust fisheries, and sustainable opportunities for recreation.

These lands are Sportsmen’s Country—and it’s your turn to weigh in on how they are managed:

Image courtesy of Coby Tigert.

The Idaho High Divide is possibly the most unique and important public landscape in North America. This awe-inspiring terrain in eastern Idaho provides connectivity for species dependent on large landscapes and critical habitat for fish and wildlife species that are valued by sportsmen. Opportunity is incredibly diverse here: Hunters can pursue deer, elk, black bears, mountain lions, pronghorns, moose, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats, while anglers can land grayling in high-mountain lakes and cutthroat trout, steelhead, Chinook salmon, and sturgeon in the mighty Salmon River.

Oregon’s Beulah Wildlife Management Unit contains Westfall and Beulah buttes in Eastern Oregon, and hunters and anglers come from all over to experience the high-quality hunting and solitude here. Of course, year-round Beulah WMU is an Oregonian’s playground. During 2010’s mule deer season, rifle hunters enjoyed a 53-percent success rate, harvesting 1,348 deer, but these are popular hunting grounds for archery hunters in pursuit of elk, as well.

Then, of course, in the heart of Oregon lies the mighty Deschutes River. This major tributary of the Columbia River on the east side of the Cascade Range wanders north through basalt cliff canyons and offers world-class trout fishing for anyone who chooses to reach the river canyon through public land.

Image courtesy of Coby Tigert.

New Mexico’s Otero Mesa provides excellent habitat and hunting opportunities for mule deer, Barbary sheep, bighorn sheep, and the state’s only remaining native pronghorn antelope herds. A large portion—about 1.2 million acres of public land—is managed by the BLM, and a resource management plan (RMP) is currently in development for the area. Now is the time to speak up for this complex ecosystem featuring many native plants and more than 1,000 other species of wildlife.

Northwest Colorado is home to the largest elk herd in North America and elk hunting is a huge part of the state’s identity. Even with a booming population and trophy bulls being harvested year after year, demand is so high for public lands elk hunts in this part of the state that it can take up to 20 years to draw a license.

Not too far away, the Piceance Basin ‘mule deer factory,’ the second-largest mule deer herd in North America, has been in decline in recent years, due to development pressures and more roads weaving through the core of the population’s range. Sportsmen continue to cherish the large bucks being produced in this area and are intimately involved in decisions being made about mule deer habitat to help ensure that this herd remains healthy for generations to come.

Image courtesy of Nick Payne.

The Arkansas River valley remains a crucial area for fish and wildlife and a haven for sportsmen in central Colorado, providing opportunities for bird and big game hunting and world-class wild trout fishing. Even more prized by sportsmen in this valley are its Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. Each year, a few luck hunters have the opportunity to pursue them in a mostly-intact and undeveloped backcountry setting—factors that are known to produce the hunt of a lifetime.

Thousands of sportsmen flock to South Park every year from the Front Range and around the country to fish the gold-medal waters of the South Platte River drainage. Great fishing access on several of these streams and rivers would not be possible without the surrounding federal public lands, state lands, and cooperation between private landholders and various land management agencies. The stretch of the South Platte known as the Dream Stream is well-known by flyfisherman across the country for consistently producing large brown and rainbow trout.

Want to contact your lawmakers and stand up for your favorite public lands? You can do it in just a few clicks—starting with this one.

Sportsmen’s Act Moves One Step Closer to Senate Floor – and to Improving Your Access

The bipartisan package of bills would prioritize recreation on federal lands and reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund

Today the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted to advance S.556, “The Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015,” which would protect and enhance public access for hunting, fishing, and target-shooting on federal lands. The legislative package would require federal land managers to consider how management plans affect opportunities to engage in hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting and that the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service keep lands open to these activities. The bill also includes reauthorization of two key conservation programs.

Image courtesy of National Parks.

“Lack of access is one of the major barriers to sustaining our uniquely American heritage of hunting and fishing—one that powers local economies and provides local jobs,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, who testified before the committee in support of the Sportsmen’s Act back in March. “We’re eager to see this legislation move forward and empower our federal land managers to make these assurances for the next generation of sportsmen and women.”

The Act mandates that, barring an emergency, publicly accessible hunting, fishing, and shooting areas cannot be closed without consultation of state fish and wildlife agencies or public notice. “For recreational fishermen, guides, and outfitters who drive spending in their local communities, the weather and water conditions can be unpredictable—but access to public waterways and boat ramps shouldn’t be,” says Ben Bulis, president of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association. Other provisions would allow the vehicular transport of safely secured bows and crossbows within federal parks and promote the use of volunteer hunters for wildlife management.

First introduced by Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Martin Heinrich in February 2015, the legislation also deals with reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act.

Image courtesy of Marty Sheppard.

“It is just as important to uphold the public’s ability to access key lands and waters as it is to conserve them, so we thank Committee Chair Murkowski and Ranking Member Cantwell for including compromise language for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, one of our nation’s most popular and successful conservation programs, in the bill,” says Land Tawney, president and CEO of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “The Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015 is a path forward for funding conservation programs that enhance fish and wildlife habitat and secure public access for hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation. We appreciate the committee’s commitment to advancing their portion of this important legislation.”

Hunting, fishing, and conservation groups are calling for both chambers to make floor time for a comprehensive sportsmen’s package as soon as possible, and certainly before the end of the 114th Congress.

Meet our next #PublicLandsProud contest judge: Bryan Huskey

Bryan Huskey is a photographer and filmmaker in Boise, Idaho inspired by the mountains, rivers, and skies of the Northwest. His photography often features intimate macro and fine details of trout and steelhead along with paused moments during the pursuit of fresh sign and lofting bugles in the high country. His fly fishing, archery elk and big game hunting films have been favorites of the Fly Fishing Film Tour, Full Draw Film Tour, and Hunting Film Tour. Recent works have turned to habitat conservation and stream restoration projects in Idaho. Bryan is also the originator of the popular “Keep ‘em wet” hashtag/slogan, and founder of Keepemwet Fishing.

From now through November 23, Huskey is guest judging your best big-game photos for this round of the #PublicLandsProud photo contest. He’s looking for a winning photo that calls the viewer into the moment, so make sure your big-game moments beckon!

Image courtesy of Bryan Huskey.

TRCP: So, Bryan, how do you like to spend your time outside?

Huskey: I enjoy a wide range of outdoor activities that are very important to me. From fly fishing trout and steelhead to archery hunting elk, adventure motorcycling and racing to mountain biking and trail running, throughout the entire year these activities overlap and keep me busy. 

TRCP: What makes a great photo of day spent afield chasing big game? What will you be looking for in winning photo?

Huskey: Any number of things make for great photos, and great images don’t need to come from great cameras. Images that capture any form of emotional expression or mood are my favorite. That may or may not include a person in the shot. Sometimes landscape photos can possess this quality, a calling to the viewer, an invitation to imagine what it would be like to be standing in the photographers shoes in that moment. Where would our next step take us if we were in those shoes? What would we expect to see if we looked to the left or right? What’s about to happen next? I like moments like these that engage us to crawl into that moment, escape the computer screen we’re looking at now, and be there in that place! 

Image courtesy of Bryan Huskey.

TRCP: What makes you #PublicLandsProud?

Huskey: With each passing year I become more aware of just how important public lands are. They really do shape the lifestyles so many of us enjoy. Intact swaths of public land shape communities, both short- and long-term with the kinds of jobs they support and the culture of how those lands are managed. I’m #publiclandsproud every time I’m out enjoying areas that exist because of the wisdom, foresight, and hard work by  individuals and groups in the past who have established the very conditions for quality public land. Priceless resources for the entire public to keep and call their own. 

Show us your #PublicLandsProud moment and you could be featured on our blog and win a new pair of Costa sunglasses and a copy of Steven Rinella’s new book, The Complete Guide to Hunting, Butchering, and Cooking Wild Game.   

Glassing the Hill: November 16 – 20

The TRCP’s scouting report on sportsmen’s issues in Congress

The Senate and House are both in session this week.

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

More money, more… well, you know the rest. Last week, the Senate passed the first of twelve appropriations bills, the Military Construction and Veterans Affair Appropriation. This is the first step towards the creation of a Fiscal Year 2016 omnibus appropriations package from Senate and House leaders before the December 11 shutdown deadline, but spending priorities are only half the battle. Controversial riders, including those that could undermine the Clean Water Act, Clean Power Plan, and the Endangered Species Act, could threaten the path forward for a funding bill.

Now is the time to tell your lawmakers what is important to sportsmen, including clean water, conservation funding programs, healthy fish and wildlife habitat, and access to public lands. That’s why the TRCP and 27 partners sent this letter  to House and Senate appropriators today.

A Senate panel will vote Thursday on the “Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015,” which would improve access for hunting, fishing, and shooting on federal public lands. The legislation is considered popular. Dozens of other public-land and water bills are also on the docket for that hearing.

And keep your eye on the Highway Trust Fund—its short-term extension expires Friday and conferees from both chambers met today to begin negotiating the long-term packages each has passed. A conference agreement could come up this week, but the House is planning on passing another short extension, in case the conference doesn’t wrap up in time, especially with adjournment for the Thanksgiving holiday approaching.

What We’re Tracking

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

  • International negotiations on climate, in a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing
  • The Land and Water Conservation Fund, to be discussed in a House Natural Resources Committee hearing on Chairman Bishop’s (R-UT) legislation to reform the expired program

Thursday, November 19, 2015

  • Energy regulations, in a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on the Well Control Rule and other offshore oil and gas production regulations


See the Wet-Nosed, Waggly-Tailed Winning Photos That Make Us #PublicLandsProud

We know there’s nothing better than seeing your dog retrieve ducks in the marsh, hold a point in the brush, investigate the trail ahead, or curl up next to you after a long, cold sit in a treestand. Having a great gun dog by your side makes for a better outdoor experience—and we’d argue that having access to millions of acres of public lands does the same.

So, thank you to everyone who submitted pictures of their furry, four-legged friends for the latest round of our #PublicLandsProud photo contest, which continues to help us highlight the value of our uniquely American public lands heritage. Here are the three shots that our guest judge, wildlife photographer Bill Buckley, chose from weeks’ worth of fantastic canine contenders:

First Place: Instagrammer b_rio802

“This image has great light, color, and a perfect catch light in the shorthair’s eyes,” says Buckley. “The hand holding the rainbow trout leads right to the dog’s face in a wonderful example of great composition. Perhaps best of all, this shot shows that hard-running pointing dogs also make perfect fishing companions. I loved this picture!”

First Runner-up: Instagrammer

“I love the perspective of this shot: low, from the dog’s viewpoint, with an interesting sky and environment,” says Buckley. “Rich in detail and color, the underneath of the pheasant’s tail against the dog’s fur really grabs my attention. If only the dog’s head was turned slightly toward the camera, enough to show one eye!”

Second Runner-up: Instagrammer upland_ish


“I can’t help smiling every time I view this image! I think it’s a familiar scene for anyone who’s owned a bird dog that can’t get enough of birds, even the dead ones inside a hunting vest,” says Buckley. “To me this captures, in a funny way, a bird dog’s intensity. Brings me back to when my last pointer was young!”

Submit your best big game photos for the next round of our photo contest! You could win a new pair of Costa sunglasses, a copy of Steven Rinella’s lastest book, or even our grand prize—a Yeti cooler packed with great swag. Keep showing us what makes you #PublicLandsProud, and we’ll continue to protect your access to quality fish and wildlife habitat.

Are the BLM’s Sage Grouse Conservation Plans Really Worse Than an ESA Listing?

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) recent decision not to list the range-wide population of greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was perhaps the greatest collaborative conservation effort in the history of contemporary wildlife management—but it didn’t happen overnight or by accident. The years of planning, monitoring, research, and coordination among state and federal agencies, private landowners, and many other stakeholders have also resulted in a new model for conservation.

Image courtesy of Ed Arnett.

But rather than celebrate a great achievement, stakeholders at both ends of the special-interest spectrum have proclaimed that listing the bird would have been a better choice. Some in the environmental community have argued that far more should have been done to strengthen protections for the species and believe a listing is still warranted. Meanwhile, some industry proponents and members of Congress have cried out that a listing would have been better than the “draconian” federal overreach they see in the BLM’s amended land-use plans that will impact a majority of the bird’s remaining range.

All of this rhetoric makes for good soundbites and headlines, but would we really be better off? Is it possible that compliance with the proactive conservation measures needed to avoid a listing is actually a harsher reality than a listing itself? Let’s look at the facts about what could have happened under the law.

Project Management

Under a listing scenario, anyone with plans for federal land designated as sage-grouse habitat would need to comply with all the restrictions and conservations actions under the ESA and consult with the FWS on every future project, extending the timeline. This would apply to businesses, the BLM, the states, and private landowners—even those who have received funding or other resources from a federal agency for a project on their land. Compared to this case-by-case consultation process under a listing, the BLM land-use plans provide a firm set of guidelines to give every industry and community stakeholder the certainty they need to plan for the future.

Buffers and Caps

The BLM plans prescribe buffers and caps for the disturbance to breeding ground areas from human activity and development. One opponent of the plans has promoted the idea that an ESA listing doesn’t come with these buffers and disturbance caps. It’s true that the Act itself doesn’t mandate these restrictions, but immediately following any listing, there would be a designation of critical habitat and development of a recovery plan, which could include even more stringent buffer zones. It’s very doubtful that a post-listing plan would be weaker than the current federal plans.

‘Take’ Note

Obviously, sportsmen would lose the opportunity to hunt sage grouse if they were listed, but the concept of ‘take’ under the ESA also extends to the habitat of the listed species. Under Section 3 of the ESA, ‘take’ means “to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct.” Aside from hunting them, any activity that would disturb or harass the bird, or alter its habitat in a negative way, would technically be a violation of the ESA and could be subject to penalty under the law. If you don’t believe me, just ask the timber industry what ‘take’ meant to them after the northern spotted owl was listed.

Image courtesy of Jeannie Stafford/USFWS.

At Home and Afield

With a listing, mandatory enforcement of ESA restrictions extends to all critical habitat, which would include, at the least, everything currently considered priority habitat areas on public land, plus at-risk habitat on private lands. Regardless of ownership, any take of sage grouse or habitat on these lands could be subject to prosecution under the law, with the exception of those already enrolled in conservation agreements with the FWS. This includes applicable programs under the NRCS’s Sage Grouse Initiative or Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances (CCAAs), of which there are several million acres already enrolled.

The Best Path Forward

So, does a listing of the greater sage grouse really sound better than implementing the current federal and state plans? I’d say that this rhetoric is really just a last-ditch effort to thwart change and maintain business as usual. Perhaps some of the largest companies and landowners in the region could afford to comply with the ESA, but would this have been the best path forward for the West as a whole? Of course not.

Clearly, and without question, a listing scenario would be far more time-consuming, expensive, and disastrous for the Western economy than implementing the proactive conservation plans that have already been finalized. And that’s not to say that we’re settling for the devil we know. The decision not to list sage grouse required that strong federal plans, complemented by solid state plans and extraordinary voluntary efforts exhibited by private landowners, be developed with assurances that they’d be implemented. And all of this needs to stand up in court.

The next step should be to make sure everyone does what they said they would do to implement their plans. And Congress needs to ensure full funding for implementation of conservation measures in the federal plans and continue supporting the NRCS’s Sage Grouse Initiative to benefit these birds. Let’s not get distracted by attempts to dismantle the collaborative efforts that got us where we are today.

Want to learn more? Watch the video from this discussion of how the Endangered Species Act is impacting the sporting, recreational, and environmental sectors. Expert panelists, including TRCP’s Ed Arnett, have been gathered by the Western Governors’ Association in Cody, Wyo

Glassing The Hill: November 9 –- 13

The TRCP’s scouting report on sportsmen’s issues in Congress 

The House is not in session this week. The Senate will conduct legislative business, except on the Veterans Day holiday this Wednesday.

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

On the road again, indeed. Late last week, House members exited D.C. for their districts on a strong note, after passing a $325-billion transportation bill that will fund highway and transit programs for the next six years. The bill also reauthorizes the Export-Import Bank until 2019. Both Congressional chambers have now passed a long-term bill, and they will need to reach a negotiated conference agreement before the Highway Trust Fund expires on November 20, otherwise another short-term extension will be required.

Meanwhile, congressional leaders continue to seek an agreement on how to spend the fiscal year 2016 budget. Over the past few months, Senate Democrats have blocked all appropriations bills while calling for a bipartisan budget deal, which was finally reached on October 30. Today they allowed the bill that funds Military Construction and Veterans Affairs to move forward to the floor. And Democratic Leader Harry Reid (NV) has indicated that he and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell are “very close” to an agreement on an omnibus spending bill to fund the government after a short-term continuing resolution expires on December 11.

This week, Senators are also expected to vote on a revised National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), after the first version was vetoed by the President. The House passed its revised version with a very strong 370-58 margin last week.

And, speaking of vetoes, the president may get his chance to nix a Congressional attempt to strike down the EPA’s Clean Water Rule—by now, you know it as the rule that will improve protection for America’s headwater streams and prevent future wetlands loss—as early as next week. After the Senate approved a resolution that would overturn the rule, and prevent federal agencies from ever issuing a similar rule to clear up regulatory confusion, this bill now goes to the House of Representatives, where it is expected to pass easily. Once it reaches the president’s desk, it is expected that he’ll say, ‘Do not to pass go.’ Learn more here.

What We’re Tracking

Last Thursday, Congressman Bishop (R-UT) introduced his long-anticipated plan for a revamp and reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Only, it sounds more like a bait-and-switch. Bishop’s bill would fully fund the program at $900 million for seven years and shift a much higher percentage to state-oriented projects. It would also slash funds slated for federal land acquisition— a proven strategy for reducing maintenance costs on checkerboard public and private lands—from $30 million to $2 million. Upon its release, the bill was decried by many in the conservation community, and it is unclear how much support the legislation has on the Hill. A hearing is expected in the House Natural Resources Committee next Wednesday, November 18.