Glassing the Hill: October 5 – 9

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

The Senate will be in session Monday through Friday. The House will begin legislative business on Tuesday and wrap up on Friday.

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

Congress narrowly avoided a government shutdown last week by clearing a “clean” short-term continuing resolution which funds the government until December 11. (Read our thoughts on that.) The CR also repays the U.S. Forest Service $700 million in emergency funds for dollars that had been borrowed for fire suppression costs—that’s the first time Congress has repaid borrowed funds since 2009. The CR did not address a permanent fix for fire borrowing, nor did it reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which expired on October 1. Lawmakers are already working this week to reauthorize the program and maintain its connection to funding through offshore oil and gas royalties.

Outgoing Speaker John Boehner announced the election for Speaker of the House will be held on Thursday, October 8, with Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) the odds-on favorite to win. If McCarthy is elected, the race for Majority Leader is expected to be contentious and competitive. Before Boehner steps down from his post and resigns from Congress permanently, he will likely seek to work with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to consider a way forward on a multi-year bipartisan budget deal effective through the November 2016 elections, plus a long-term highway bill and a deal to raise the nation’s debt limit prior to the November 5 default deadline. The run-up to the end of the year promises to be exciting under the Capitol dome.

The Senate gaveled in today at 4 p.m. to consider the NDAA conference report, which we are glad to report does not contain any language that would derail greater sage grouse conservation efforts. On Tuesday, the House will begin consideration of Rep. Barton’s (R-TX) H.R. 702 that lifts the export ban on crude oil, Rep. Hill’s (R-AR) H.R. 3192 to regulate mortgage loans for homebuyers, and consider Rep. Young’s (R-AK) H.R. 538 that would reduce federal regulations on Indian lands.

What We’re Tracking

Access to public lands, to be discussed in a House Natural Resources Committee mark-up of Rep. Wittman’s (R-VA) H.R. 2406, the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act of 2015. Date of this mark-up hearing is TBD.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Drought planning, in a Senate Natural Resources Committee hearing on water legislation for Western states and Alaska

The 2015 fire season, to be reviewed by the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry

Public land boundaries and exchanges, in a Senate Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining hearing regarding 10 legislative bills

Friday, October 9, 2015

Invasive species policies, to be examined by the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Interior

Clean Water Goes to Court

You may be ready to leave summer behind, but the events of the last few months will have a lasting impact on the way we protect clean water and wetlands. While we achieved a historic milestone for clean water protections and sportsmen’s access to healthy fish and waterfowl habitat, this victory has since been thrown into question by a number of court cases. Here’s what you need to know about where we stand.

The Clean Water Rule Takes Effect

Image courtesy of Marty Sheppard.

First, the good news: On August 28, the final clean water rule announced back in May went into effect in 37 states and the District of Columbia. (We’ll get to the other 13 states in just a bit.) This means that most of the country now has greater regulatory certainty and more effective Clean Water Act protections for trout streams, salmon spawning grounds, and duck nesting habitat. It has been a long, contentious process, stretching back nearly 15 years, but it’s a win that all sportsmen should be proud of.

On the downside, 22 lawsuits have been filed to challenge the final rule. This should come as no surprise, since lawsuits are a common response to every significant federal rulemaking. Most of the lawsuits argue that the final rule goes too far, while some of the lawsuits claim that the final rule doesn’t go far enough.

13 States Miss Out

A common request in many of these lawsuits is for a judge to put the final rule on hold, pending the outcome of the legal proceedings. Some courts have declined to issue such an injunction and postponed any further action on these cases, in general, because the federal government would like to consolidate many of the lawsuits into a single challenge. However, three courts decided to rule on the injunction prior to August 28. The Southern District of Georgia and the Northern District of West Virginia courts held that it isn’t their place to issue an injunction because district courts aren’t the right venue for Clean Water Act challenges.

A judge from the District of North Dakota, however, did believe he could decide on challenges to the Clean Water Act and sided with the 13 states asking for an injunction.

On August 27, just hours before the new clean water rule took effect, the North Dakota court put the rule on hold in the 13 states that filed the challenge, but declined a request to extend the injunction to all 50 states. The court reasoned that these 13 states should not be able to force other states that want cleaner water to forego implementation of the new rule.

Image courtesy of Dusan Smetana.

Here’s the bottom line: Out of the 22 challenges filed, only one court has decided to take action to impede the clean water rule. And you are being denied the benefits of better Clean Water Act protections if you live in one of the following states: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

Other States Step Up to Support the Rule

On the bright side, seven states—Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington—and the District of Columbia have joined the litigation in support of the final rule. These states are in favor of the final rule because “it protects their water quality, assists them in administering water pollution programs by dispelling confusion about the [Clean Water Act’s] reach, and prevents harm to their economies by ensuring adequate regulation of waters in upstream states.”

It isn’t clear how long it will take to resolve the ongoing legal battles around this rule. (You know the difference between a good lawyer and a bad lawyer, right? A bad lawyer will drag your case out for years while a good lawyer will make it last even longer.) And in the meantime, members of Congress still have the ability to undermine clean water protections from their seats on Capitol Hill.

Don’t let that happen. Tell your lawmakers that you support clean water. If you want to enjoy better hunting and fishing opportunities, you need to let them know.

It’s Opening Day of Compromise Season

In exchange for doing his job, the Speaker of the House lost his job. Late last week, with the end of the fiscal year approaching and no viable budget deal having been prepared to keep the government open, John Boehner, the 61st Speaker of the House, decided to resign at the end of October. He’s devoted nearly a quarter century of distinguished service in the House to the American people.

Ironically, having freed himself from the wrath of the right wing of his own party, the Speaker was able to get a continuing resolution passed with 91 Republican votes and 186 Democratic votes. This legislation keeps our government open and funded until December 11.

Before you think, “I’m not wasting five minutes of hunting season thinking about how Congress can’t get its act together,” consider taking five minutes to urge your members of Congress to follow Boehner’s lead. Because by setting his resignation for the end of October, Boehner has created a month-long open season for compromise. The Speaker is free of the constraints of party politics, if he chooses to be. He could craft a budget deal with Senate Majority Leader McConnell and the President and rely on votes from across the ideological spectrum of the House to pass it.

Before you think, “Well that’s nice, but why should sportsmen care?”—consider these three infographics. The first shows federal funding for conservation as a percentage of the federal budget:

Image courtesy of TRCP.

In the last 37 years, funding for conservation as a percentage of the federal budget has been cut in half.  This is the money that pays for habitat protection and improvement on Forest Service land, National Wildlife Refuges, Bureau of Land Management acres, and private lands enrolled in Natural Resource Conservation Service programs. Quality habitat creates quality hunting and fishing opportunities, and if this trend line continues to drop, we will lose both.

This next graph shows where your tax dollars go:

Image courtesy of TRCP.

That’s right—only one percent of the money you pay in taxes goes toward conservation. Investments in conservation didn’t create our budget deficit and cutting investments in conservation won’t fix our budget deficit. In fact cutting conservation would likely increase our annual budget deficit, because federal investments in conservation have a great return on investment. That one percent of the federal budget that funds our national forests, wildlife refuges, and parks generates $646 billion in annual consumer spending on outdoor recreation.

That’s more than the country spends on gas or pharmaceuticals:

Image courtesy of TRCP.

So take five minutes to contact your members of Congress. Tell them to fill their tag during compromise season and stock conservation’s freezer with red meat: a budget deal that invests in fish, wildlife, public access, and your best days afield. Remind them of the dividends—your green going to the outfitters, retailers, gas stations, hotels, corner diners, and all the other American businesses that are a part of your hunting and fishing experiences. Your future seasons depend on it.

Authorization for the Land and Water Conservation Fund Has Expired. What now?

At midnight last night, the authorization for one of America’s most important and popular conservation programs expired. The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has been used over the past 50 years to invest $16 billion into projects that benefit sportsmen, including the acquisition of public fishing areas, important wildlife habitat, and blocks of land now open for hunting and fishing. Thousands of sportsmen and women have worked tirelessly over the past several years to convince lawmakers to reauthorize the fund, and legislation enjoying strong bipartisan support has been proposed in both the House and Senate. LWCF authorization bills would likely pass through both chambers of Congress, if the bills could only get a vote.

Image courtesy of Jonathan Stumpf.

But we’ve passed the September 30 deadline without action, and neither the House nor the Senate have given serious consideration to the pending legislation. While the continued dysfunction of Congress is more than disappointing, we should not view this passing deadline as ‘game over’ for this critical conservation funding program. Though new funds have stopped rolling into the account, the LWCF hasn’t been eliminated, and there is still time to reauthorize the fund in a way that doesn’t affect the way it works.

If that sounds confusing, let me explain: The original authorization for the Land and Water Conservation Fund linked the program to a trust account that grew by $900 million annually from funds generated primarily through oil and gas drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf. This system creates a balance—we reinvest in the environment using funds from an activity that does environmental damage.

But, despite $900 million being allocated towards the trust fund each year, the fund is considered discretionary spending, and LWCF dollars must be appropriated annually by Congress, which has only fully funded the program twice. As a result, dollars that previously went unappropriated have remained in the trust. These remaining unused dollars can still be used to fund LWCF projects until the trust funds are exhausted.

Image courtesy of Jonathan Stumpf.

So, we do have a cushion to keep the fund working on great public access projects while we convince Congress to pass a clean reauthorization—and we think that’s likely to happen. But with the fund disconnected from its source of funding, we are living on borrowed time before the money runs out and the long-term future of a great habitat and access program is in jeopardy.

An opportunity to reauthorize the program could come with a bipartisan budget deal. Today, on the very first day of a new fiscal year that runs through September 30, 2016, the federal government is only being funded through a short term continuing resolution, passed just yesterday. A new budget will need to be passed for the remainder of the 2016 fiscal year by December 11, and we’re calling on all members of Congress to roll up their sleeves and work out a bipartisan budget deal that doesn’t shortchange conservation. Reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund should be a part of that deal.

If you like what the TRCP is doing to uphold your hunting and fishing traditions through conservation and access, please consider making a donation. We will use it in our fight to ensure that the Land and Water Conservation Fund is reauthorized and successful for another 50 years.

A Film to Fuel the Fight for the Klamath River Basin

Jason Atkinson.

A few years ago, even my closest friends were skeptical. I was leaving the State Senate to raise money for a film that would market an epic conservation effort out West to an urban audience in an attempt to heal 100 years of racial wounds and restore an iconic fishery. Some people said I was taking a big risk to win over people who wouldn’t care.

I confess, when you put it all into one sentence, it does sound like a risk. But I believed that a wrong had to be made right, so I set out to make a world-class film about the 300-mile Klamath River, where one of the West’s greatest fishing runs had been all but destroyed. Stretching from Oregon to Northern California, the Klamath is a place torn apart by racism and the exclusion of tribal communities, and a place where some of America’s greatest agricultural leaders live. I hoped it could be a place of healing and bravery, too.

Image courtesy of A River Between Us.

I wanted “A River Between Us” to speak to an audience who takes the subway to work, because if I could get them to care about the Klamath, I believed we could accomplish a very complex set of goals. First, we wanted to tell the very personal stories of the people who rely on the river, like farmers, anglers, and the tribes, and how these groups have come together to create a historic water rights compromise for the good of all. Using the film to score support, our hope was to begin working on the largest salmon and steelhead restoration in U.S. history.

Little did I know that most films don’t get finished or distributed. With the confidence that comes with ignorance, I got the film completed, paid for, and it comes out on October 13 (pre-order it on iTunes now.) It’s beautiful and I’m really proud of the story. Festival audiences have fallen in love with the characters and the notion that if you heal people, together we can heal the river.

Politics follows culture, so we tried to change culture. We’ve created momentum for the Klamath restoration project through social media, which makes the issue legitimate. For years, I’ve been on the receiving end of letters, petition requests, and write-your-Senator campaigns. They are good, but never as effective as showing a politician that culture has shifted right under their feet, and you’ve made it easy for them to get right on the bus and take credit. I made 26 behind-the-scenes clips of the film production and then spent two years lining up all my friends in conservation, culture, social justice, and politics to push them out. Every Facebook like, share, and send makes “A River Between Us” and the Klamath River restoration culturally relevant. That makes this a much easier ask, with four times the political muscle.

Image courtesy of A River Between Us.

I recently put this entire issue on the President’s desk, assuming I’d only get 60 seconds to make the case for a lifetime worth of work. I boiled down the entire issue into a single sentence: With the President’s existing authority, we could remove four dams, provide liability assurances to industry, guarantee water for farmers, create trust between water-users and area tribes, and complete the largest salmon and steelhead restoration in U.S. history. To leverage a film, and say with confidence that America is talking about it, I had to make sure that every side, not just special interests or lobby organizations, were represented in the political push to save this river. My team has men and women, Republicans and Democrats, East and West coast, by design.

In the end, it’s as true today as it ever was: You can accomplish anything if you give all the credit away. I want everyone who has helped, from President Obama and Secretary Jewell right down to that college kid who sent me 20 bucks through the crowd-source campaign, to take credit. I’m happy knowing that our film is not the final chapter of the story about one of the West’s greatest rivers.

Jason A. Atkinson is a public servant, filmmaker, author, consultant, and passionate outdoorsman. Atkinson served in the Oregon legislature for more than 14 years, and was a candidate for Governor. He took a sabbatical from public life to make the film “A River Between Us,” which will be released in October 2015. He writes on public land, conservation, fish, and wildlife issues for various publications and is the author of “Inside Out: Stories of Oregon’s stewards, unsung heroes of the land. Field & Stream named him a Hero of Conservation in 2015.

State vs Federal Public Land Management is Not an Apples-to-Apples Comparison

Today, the House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing to discuss improving coordination between the federal government and Western states—a conversation that is welcome and necessary—and the “need for the government to defer to state authority”—a sentiment that sportsmen should definitely question.

Access to state and federal public lands is vitally important to hunters, anglers, and other Americans who either work in or support the outdoor-recreation industry across America, particularly in the West. This $646-billion segment of our economy is often ignored—in fact, it was never even mentioned in the briefing memo for today. We believe that energy, forestry, water use, and wildlife should all be considered in the management of federal lands in the West, but future land management decisions cannot ignore sportsmen, our financial contribution to local economies, or our ongoing commitment to wildlife conservation.

Sportsmen are the first to agree that there are real challenges with federal lands management, but it’s impossible to make an apples-to-apples comparison between state lands management and the track record of federal agencies, because there are key differences in how states manage their lands compared to the federal government. States are constitutionally mandated to maximize profits from their state trust lands, which can reduce the quality of outdoor experiences and, at times, prohibit public access. In Idaho, for example, the state’s current asset management plan for “endowment” lands calls for dispersed recreational uses to be accommodated, provided that they don’t impair financial returns from other uses, like logging operations.

Federal lands are managed under a multiple-use mandate by which recreational opportunities are emphasized in management planning, while allowing energy development, grazing, and forestry to continue. If federal public lands had been managed for maximum profit since the time of Theodore Roosevelt and Aldo Leopold, our country would most likely look very different today.

States Do Play a Crucial Role—as Partners

Image courtesy of Jeannie Stafford/USFWS.

The best solution for balanced management of our public lands is collaboration, not deferment. A great example of this can be found in the state and federal plans meant to benefit the greater sage grouse. Eleven Western states crafted conservation plans that are critical and meet the needs of their constitutional mandates, while the feds crafted complementary plans that, by default, must be stronger. All efforts—state plans, federal plans, and voluntary conservation measures undertaken by private landowners—were necessary to get to the not-warranted decision announced on September 22, and none of these plans can stand alone and deliver the necessary habitat conservation or regulatory certainty to avoid a future listing.

Opponents of the federal plans have no scientific evidence to support their claims that voluntary efforts alone are working, or that substituting state plans for federal plans would provide adequate conservation for sage grouse. In fact, the recently documented increase in males attending leks (up 63 percent from 2013, the second lowest count on record) has not altered the overall downward trend in the bird population observed from 1965 to present (an average annual decline of 0.83 percent.) This year’s increase falls within the normal range of fluctuation for game bird populations, which are known to shift rather dramatically with climatic factors, like precipitation. The majority of the greater sage grouse’s range has experienced excellent precipitation in the past two years, helping habitat conditions rebound and facilitating improved nesting, brood-rearing, and chick survival. Read more about that here.

Furthermore, the notion that the federal conservation plans for BLM and U.S. Forest Service lands are “just as restrictive, or more than, a listing decision” is simply wrong. Had the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the species, these same federal plans undoubtedly would have been required as part of an overall recovery plan, but the Service would also be required under Section 7 of the ESA to consult on every project impacting sagebrush habitat. This would certainly have added extensive time and costliness to the process.

Hunters and anglers agree that improvements should be made to forest and range management on federal lands, and we are ready to engage in those conversations with state and federal agencies. Better habitat means increased opportunities for sportsmen who pump dollars into local economies, and all the while, energy development, grazing, and other activities will continue. This opportunity for the West shouldn’t be squandered on political and litigious intervention. Congress needs only to support and fund efforts to implement critical conservation efforts and remember that sportsmen are an equally lucrative part of the Western economy.

Meet our next #PublicLandsProud contest judge: Johnny LeCoq

Image courtesy of Johnny LeCoq.

Johnny LeCoq, the founder and CEO of Fishpond and Lilypond, has woven conservation into the fabric of his businesses. He isn’t shy about recruiting the rest of the outdoor recreation industry for the cause, either (read about how he told outdoor retailers to take responsibility for the future of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.) And with a passion for outdoor photography, we though he’d make a great guest judge for the second round of our #PublicLandsProud photo contest.

Johnny will be reviewing your photos of epic public lands scenery and will select a winning photo for this category on October 5. Think you’ve got the eye for majestic vistas and awesome landscapes? Read on to find out what he’ll be looking for in a winning photo and learn how you can enter the #PublicLandsProud photo challenge here. (Hint: It’s all about the hashtag.)

TRCP: Johnny, what makes you #PublicLandsProud?

Public lands increase our quality of life, and many of my employees have come to Colorado for a lifestyle that benefits from access to thousands of acres of public land. It powers a $14-billion economy in our state. And at Fishpond and Lilypond, we aren’t defined by the products we make, but by our ability to convey the value of our public lands and waters as an American ideal. That makes me very proud.

Image courtesy of John Land LeCoq Photography.

I love just being on the water, rafting or spending time with my two daughters, who are 19 and 21. Obviously, fishing is a huge part of my life—I remember the very first trout I caught when I was four years old, and I think every move I’ve made in my life ever since has been based on those early experiences of fishing with my father. I also love to take photos. I was a commercial photographer before I founded Fishpond, so I basically enjoy chasing light. You can capture something beautiful and see how people respond to it.

TRCP: So, you’re pretty well qualified to judge our #PublicLandsProud photo challenge, then! What will you be looking for in a winning photo?

I’m looking for landscape photos that tell a story and are aspirational. Great photos of outdoor scenery should really take your breath away and just arrest you. I should look at it and want to live vicariously through the photographer, just so I can be there in that moment. A winning photo should be inspiring!

Show us your #PublicLandsProud moment and you could be featured on our blog, or win a new pair of Costa sunglasses. BONUS: During this round, Johnny’s offering up an extra prize. Pretty soon, you could be stashing your camera or smartphone inside some great Fishpond gear a new Fishpond Summit Sling Pack.  

Biggest Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Best When You’re #PublicLandsProud

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

A big congratulations to Sean Deines of North Carolina who is taking home a new pair of Costa Sunglasses for this winning photo of a trout from the Great Smoky Mountains.

A photo posted by Sean Deines (@seandeines) on


Here’s the story behind the pic:

While my wife and I were on the road back to western North Carolina after a friend’s wedding weekend in Nashville, we came to a detour where a rockslide had taken out I-40 with all traffic being diverted toward the Big Creek area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This stretch of water has always held a spot close to my heart, so I thought Why not make the most of a detour and do some fly fishing? Rebekah had some work that she could finish at one of the picnic tables in the campground, so it was a win-win for both of us.

That’s how I happened to snap this photo.

Sean Deines.

Fishing in Big Creek has never really been about the actual fishing for me. It’s one of those spots where you can sit down for hours and just stare at the riverscape in front of you without even picking up your rod. But when you do decide to pick it up, the gems at the end of the line are some of the prettiest fish I’ve seen in the southern Appalachians. Typically, I fish with a dry-dropper there, but I also love casting a solo caddis fly. You can always expect some explosive takes off the surface.

I spend a lot of my time outdoors, and with that comes a lot of use of public lands. Without that ability to access these resources, a lot of my favorite activities would be challenging, if not impossible, to pursue. Conservation of these wild places needs to be top priority for everyone. The world already has too many shopping complexes and movie theaters. We need people focused on the experiences of life, not the things you can buy. We NEED the wild.

Have a proud public lands picture to share? Tag with #PublicLandsProud and you’re entered into the contest. Full details here.

Glassing The Hill: September 28 – October 2

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

Both the Senate and the House will be in session from Monday through Friday this week.                                                                                                                                

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

Last week was all about the Pope’s arrival and Speaker John Boehner’s exit, so now it’s time to get a budget deal done. Boehner’s abrupt decision to resign the Speakership and his seat in Congress, effective on October 30, clears the way for a short-term agreement to fund the government through December 11. This short-term continuing resolution provides Congress with a two-month extension to make a lasting bipartisan budget deal.

Last week, a spending bill that would fund the government but defund Planned Parenthood was sent to the Senate floor. Unsurprisingly, this effort was voted down and Leader McConnell has scheduled a vote for Monday at 5:30pm on a “clean” continuing resolution that will meet the September 30 deadline and fund the government through the second week of December. The House is expected to pass the clean CR later this week.

All signs indicate that the Land and Water Conservation Fund will not see floor time and will be allowed to expire as of the end of the month. At this point, appropriators can still use the fund for conservation projects, but offshore oil and gas royalties will stop coming in to refill the coffers for future investments in public access to America’s natural resources.

After celebrating National Hunting and Fishing Day on Saturday, we’ll be happy to avoid a government shutdown—for now—that could impede sportsmen’s access at one of the best times of the year to get outdoors.

Other legislation on House members’ minds: Rep. Meehan’s (R-PA) bill, Justice for Victims for Iranian Terrorism Act and Rep. Thornberry’s (R-TX) defense authorization legislation.

What We’re Tracking 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015:

The EPA, in the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee hearing on President Obama’s clean air initiative

Federal forest management, in a House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands hearing

Proposed improvements to the Endangered Species Act, in a Senate Environment & Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife hearing

Pipeline safety, as examined by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security

Wednesday, September 30, 2015:

The Clean Water Rule, in a Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Water hearing

Energy development, as the House Natural Resources Committee holds a hearing on states’ authority in regards to resource management

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, as the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment checks in on progress

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The Gold King Mine spill, in a Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee hearing on the EPA’s flub*

Sodium production on public lands, as discussed by the Senate Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining

*Just for fun: Read how Durango-area brewers have created a special orange-tinted “Heavy Metal Extra Pale Ale”—or EPA, for short—to raise money for the Community Emergency Relief Fund (CERF). The fund donates to individuals whose businesses were financially impacted by the spill—almost exclusively in the river rafting industry, according to the Durango Herald.

This is the Weekend to Celebrate Hunting, Fishing, and the American Conservation Legacy

National Hunting and Fishing Day is this Saturday, and while there seems to be a national holiday for just about everything—National Ice Cream Day, National Beer Day, National Talk Like a Pirate Day, National Moldy Cheese Day—a day honoring our uniquely American outdoor lifestyle and traditions is one that our staff can really get behind. (If you get more fired up about moldy cheese, no judgment, but join us sometime at the archery range. We’d love to change your mind.)

Image courtesy of Cyrus Baird.

This weekend, we hope you get outside and enjoy the outdoors with friends and family, but also reflect on the major contributions that hunters and anglers have made towards conservation—Tuesday’s ruling on the status of greater sage grouse was just the most recent wildlife win where outdoorsmen had an assist.

The founders of conservation in North America (I’m looking at you, Theodore Roosevelt) implemented a system of science-based wildlife management to ensure the future of many of the species we pursue today. And in 1971, when Sen. Thomas McIntyre (D-N.H.), introduced Joint Resolution 117 authorizing National Hunting and Fishing Day on the fourth Saturday of every September. An identical measure was introduced in the House by Rep. Bob Sikes (D-Fla.), and both were passed in 1972.

On May 2, 1972, President Nixon signed the first proclamation of National Hunting and Fishing Day, urging all citizens to join with sportsmen in the “wise use of our natural resources,” thereby “insuring their proper management for future generations.”

Each year since, more than 3,000 hunting- and fishing-related events have been held by national, state, and local organizations to give people of all ages access to traditional outdoor sports—some for the very first time. This year, from casting instruction on neighborhood ponds to free courses at public shooting ranges, there are activities planned and publicized in more than 20 U.S. states.

We want to know how you plan to spend National Hunting and Fishing Day on September 26. Get in touch or tag us in your photos on social media. And if you take advantage of our country’s unrivaled public lands this weekend, give a shout out with the hashtag #PublicLandsProud. You could win a pair of Costa sunglasses, and we’ll repost our favorite photos, posts, and tweets. Find out more here.

If you want to protect sportsmen’s access to our federal public lands for the next 100 years of National Hunting and Fishing Days, consider signing our petition. We’re trying to get at least 25,000 names! Now, that would be something to celebrate.

For more information on National Hunting and Fishing Day, click here.