Glassing the Hill: April 13 – 17

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

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

After a two week break, both chambers are in session this week—the House from Monday through Thursday, and the Senate from Monday through Friday.

It’s cherry blossom season in the rest of D.C., but inside Congress it’s appropriations season. After passing its budget resolution last month, Congress is back in session with the intent to pass its twelve annual spending bills for fiscal year 2016. A memo from Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy stated that the first appropriations bill for the upcoming fiscal year will make it to the floor during the last week of April, leaving plenty of work to be done. During the recess, House and Senate negotiators drafted a compromise budget between the two chambers, and lawmakers are expected to reconcile this in the coming weeks.

Appropriators must come to a final agreement to provide guidelines for spending limits by May 15, and neither the House nor Senate can move forward to floor consideration of appropriations bills for fiscal year 2016 until the final budget is adopted. The first two measures headed to the floor are the easiest of the twelve to pass—but the process allows for members to offer an unlimited number of amendments during this time.

Fish and Wildlife Under Review

The Senate regulatory oversight subpanel of the Environment and Public Works Committee panel will meet Tuesday to examine the management of several environmental agencies. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as part of the Department of the Interior, will be among those under the microscope, and the focus will likely be on management of federal programs that provide grants to restore and manage sport fishing and wildlife. The hearing will provide Republicans, who have been highly critical of the Obama administration’s management and leadership, an opportunity to scrutinize agency practices.

A New Move to Derail Clean Water Protections

Hearings in both chambers this week could derail the process for clarifying protections for headwater streams and wetlands under the Clean Water Act. Sportsmen, including opponents of Pebble Mine, are urging Congress to let the rulemaking process play out, rather than slam the efforts of hunters, anglers, farmers, and business owners who have submitted more than one million comments on the original proposed rule since last March.

Also this week:

Tuesday, April 14

Wednesday, April 15

 

I Traveled from Colorado to Washington, D.C. to Stand Up for My Public Lands

Congress has been deciding on appropriations for the national budget, including line items that are way over my head. I don’t understand everything about this process, but I do know that it can shape the discussion of how our public lands are managed for years to come. This was my reason for traveling 1,900 miles to be in Washington, D.C., to stand up for sportsmen’s access to public-lands hunting and fishing. With help from the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, the National Wildlife Federation, and Trout Unlimited, I met with my representatives from Colorado, Sen. Gardner and Sen. Bennett, witnessed the process, and now I better understand how to fight for our outdoor rights.

Photo courtesy of Dan Harrison.

While we were in with Senator Heinrich, I also helped to deliver a petition against the sale or transfer of public lands. I have been guiding and outfitting for well over 20 years, almost entirely on public ground and in wilderness settings. During this time, I have hosted people from every corner of the U.S., and some from across the big water, whoseopinions and political leanings are all over the spectrum. (As much as I try to stay away from discussing religion and politics around the campfire, you can’t spend a week on the mountain without learning a little about people’s views and ideas.) Many see something going wrong and, as much as they may care, assume that there is nothing they can do—they’ll most likely be overridden. This assumption has gotten sportsmen in so much deep water that we are about to lose our uniquely American outdoor heritage that we love so much. The hunting industry alone is over 28 million strong, bringing billions of dollars to the economy. If you combined the hunting and fishing community with the outdoor enthusiasts who hike,raft, and cycle on public lands, it seems to me that you’d have one of the largest organizations in the U.S.

Photo courtesy of Dan Harrison.

The organizations that want to sell off our heritage are masters at getting their word out to our elected officials, and they have an advantage overus, because their only focus is to lobby in D.C. The organizations I belong to, many in life membership, do great work in most respects, but their fundraising dollars are spread verythin, because they’re focused on conservation, education, and habitat. We have to lend our support with individual voices.

Outdoorsmen are the original conservationists. We are the ones generating funds for our wildlife and youth education. We have to protect our outdoor heritage and lifestyle, too. So, when was the last time you picked up the phone or picked up a pen and actually voiced your opinion to a decision-maker in your hometown, home state, or in Washington? Your voice and opinion will count as long as we stand together and show how big our piece of the pie really is. Start flooding their offices with opinions. I don’t mean just write one letter, or make one phone call; be persistent. Harness the passion you have for the hunt to stand up for the places you go afield. Because once we lose them, we won’t get them back.

Dan Harrison is a resident of Colorado’s Western Slope, longtime public lands supporter, co-host of Remington Country TV and Owner/Partner of Colorado Mountain Adventures.

Partnerships Power Conservation in Pheasant Country

The crowd was awash with blaze orange—on hats, t-shirts, and even one necktie—at the grand opening of Pheasants Forever’s new regional headquarters in Brookings, S.D., earlier this year. Perhaps the neon hue was a bright indicator of just how eager folks are to stand united for conservation.

Pheasants Forever’s Dave Nomsen addresses the crowd of conservation advocates at the grand opening of “the habitat organization’s” new regional headquarters in Brookings, S.D. Photo courtesy of John Pollmann.

This cross-section of the community, made up of hunters, state and federal wildlife officials, conservation leaders, and more, is exactly who needs to be at the table to help Pheasants Forever preserve and enhance habitat in South Dakota. “We live in a different world today, and there are new challenges to conservation on private lands that we can’t solve the way we have before,” Pheasants Forever president and CEO Howard Vincent said at the event. “We have to think differently. We have to bring in new resources and partners. And we’re going to have to bring together the entire state of South Dakota—agriculture, transportation, tourism, and hunting interests as well as private landowners and state and federal agencies—for one reason: to deliver more conservation.”

Habitat loss brought Pheasants Forever to South Dakota, where nearly 2 million acres of grassland habitat have been lost since 2006, and collaborating with partners across the state is how the organization plans to reverse that trend. “We know we can’t do it alone,” says the group’s vice-president of governmental affairs, Dave Nomsen. “Partnerships are how conservation happens today. A group of stakeholders comes together to pool resources and knowledge in order to meet a common goal of keeping habitat on the ground.”

The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) is a partner-based program which creates vital grassland habitat while also providing public access for hunting and fishing. Photo courtesy of John Pollmann.

The time is right, Nomsen says, to bring new support to the issue by championing the role that habitat plays in maintaining a healthy landscape and benefits to the general public.

“The value of this work extends beyond heavy game bags,” Nomsen says. “And as an increasing amount of pressure is put on the land to produce food, fuel, and fiber, it is vitally important to that we communicate how the conservation programs that we work to implement—those that provide stream buffers, protect wetlands, and maintain large blocks of grasslands to benefit pheasants, quail, ducks, and other wildlife species—also help protect water resources, maintain healthy soils, and improve air quality for everyone. The key is to find a balance.”

Tom Kirschenmann, chief of terrestrial resources for South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks, believes that South Dakota’s private landowners are conservation’s most valuable partner in reaching that balance. “We couldn’t achieve any success in conservation without the commitment and cooperation of families who live on the ground, care for the ground,” Kirschenmann says. “And part of our job is connecting these landowners with the programs that will help them provide quality habitat for pheasants and other wildlife, while still benefitting their operation’s bottom line.”

Partnerships for conservation in South Dakota will play a vital role in combating the loss of grassland habitat, including those acres of ground previously enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program. Photo courtesy of John Pollmann.

There is perhaps no better example of this than the success of the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) in the James River Valley of South Dakota, where 82,000-acres of marginal cropland have been enrolled and restored to grassland habitat. Kirschenmann says that nearly all CREP contracts, which vary in length from 10 to 15 years, were signed with the help of a Farm Bill biologist, a position made possible by Pheasants Forever in partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks. Landowners who enroll ground in CREP receive a 40 percent higher rental rate than traditional Conservation Reserve Program contracts, and every acre enrolled in CREP is open year-round to hunting and fishing.

“The program is a win-win situation all the way around,” Kirschenmann says, “and it is all made possible by partnerships involving local landowners, state and federal agency funding, and the work of a private conservation organization.” Continuing to leverage the power of these partnerships will be crucial to finding solutions to the challenges facing conservation on private grounds in South Dakota, adds Pheasants Forever’s Nomsen. “And the key element we need to focus on together—Pheasants Forever, the state of South Dakota, landowners, and everyone else involved—is keeping quality habitat on the ground. Preserving the pheasant hunting culture of South Dakota depends on habitat.”

Author John Pollmann is a life-long bird hunter and freelance outdoor writer from South Dakota. A 2012 recipient of the John Madson Fellowship from the Outdoor Writers Association of America, Mr. Pollmann is a regular contributor to the Sioux Falls (SD) Argus Leader; provides a bi-monthly report on South Dakota for the Minnesota Outdoor News; and is the waterfowl columnist for the Aberdeen (SD) American News Outdoor Forum. Other writing credits include the pages of magazines for Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl, and American Waterfowler.

 In addition to outdoor writing, Mr. Pollmann holds an advanced degree in music and currently teaches at Pipestone Area School in Pipestone, MN. He is an active member of Ducks Unlimited, Delta Waterfowl, Pheasants Forever, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and was named to the country’s first conservation pro-staff with Vanishing Paradise.

 Mr. Pollmann lives in Dell Rapids, SD with his wife Amber, their son Miles, and a yellow Labrador named Murphy.

We’re One Step Closer to Restoring Protection for Trout, Salmon, and Waterfowl

Last Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers took a critical next step toward finalizing a clean water rule that clearly defines protections for headwater streams and wetlands important to trout, salmon, and waterfowl, while keeping farming practices exempt. Taking into account the genuine concerns of hunters, anglers, farmers, manufacturers, and business owners, who submitted more than one million public comments between April 2014 and November 2014, the agencies sent the most recent draft of the rule to the Office of Management and Budget for review. “The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership would like to commend the EPA and Army Corps for their continued commitment to this rulemaking process and to clarifying legislation that will benefit fish, wildlife, habitat, and anyone who values clean water,” says TRCP President and CEO Whit Fosburgh.

Photo courtesy of Dusan Smetana.

Without any corrective action, 60 percent of stream miles and nesting habitat for the majority of the waterfowl in America are at risk of being polluted, compromised, or destroyed. “The seasonally-flowing streams clearly protected by the proposed rule are often where trout and salmon go to spawn and where juvenile fish are reared,” says Steve Moyer, Trout Unlimited’s Vice President for Government Affairs. “All anglers benefit from the water quality and fish habitat provided by these streams, and we applaud the agencies for moving forward to restore protections to these incredibly important waters.”

As much as this review process is a behind-the-scenes step, it marks a milestone in the evolution of the clean water rule, especially for the growing coalition of organizations fighting to restore protection of our headwaters and wetlands. “Although the full draft hasn’t been released, from what we’ve seen, the comment period has had an impact and the final rule will be better than the proposal from last year,” says TRCP Center for Water Resources Director Jimmy Hague.

According to an April 6 blog post penned by U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Assistant Secretary of the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy, the new draft of the rule will clarify how protected waters, like streams and wetlands, are significant, and how the agencies make this determination. It will also better define tributaries and protect farming practices. Special consideration has been given to “other waters”—including prairie potholes, the regional waters where 50 to 80 percent of North America’s duck production takes place—that qualify for protection under the Clean Water Act. “We’ve thought through ways to be more specific about the waters that are important to protect, instead of what we do now, which too often is for the Army Corps to go through a long, complicated, case by case process to decide whether waters are protected,” McCarthy and Darcy wrote. The TRCP was one of 185 sportsmen’s groups to address agency leaders in a letter of support for the rulemaking process on the heels of the Clean Water Act’s 42nd Anniversary in October 2014.

Photo courtesy of Dusan Smetana.

“Sportsmen have been actively engaged on this issue and will continue to combat efforts to derail the clean water rule,” says Fosburgh. “Anyone concerned with the rampant loss of wetlands, the health of spawning areas for trout and salmon, or the future of our hunting and fishing traditions should be pleased with the effort to restore protections for these resources.”

Under normal procedures, the Office of Management and Budget has at least 90 days to review the draft. It can recommend changes or leave the rule as proposed, at which point the rule can be finalized and put into effect. Read more about the original rule proposal, public feedback for the rule, and the letter of support from sportsmen’s groups across the country.

Critter Madness highlight reel: 2015 Champion

We started out with 32 of America’s game species. Now we have one.

After four weeks of voting, hunters and anglers from across the country have crowned the elk as the king of American fish and game. The elk steamrolled its early competition, trouncing Team Moose and Team Muley with 70% and 75% of the vote, respectively. After gaining momentum in an upset win over whitetail, the elk faithful built up enough steam to topple the wild turkey. In the end, the Cinderella run of the brook trout didn’t stand a chance and the elk took home the distinction as the 2015 Critter Madness Champion.

We’ve had many other champions along the way and you can check out some of our past winners here and here. We gave away great prizes in every round from a killer line of sponsors, including Remington, Yeti Coolers, Costa Sunglasses, Abu Garcia, Orvis, Berkley Fishing, and Buck Knives.

Missed out on the action? Check out the final results via the Bird’s Eye View tab on our Critter Madness page or read our recap of Round 1, 2, and 3 here.

Is there a species you want to see in the next Critter Madness? Leave your nominations in the comments section and you could be driving the cous deer bandwagon next year.

Thanks for taking part in Critter Madness and keep it locked here for more great ways to support quality places to hunt and fish.

Snapshot of success: The Missouri River confluence

From California to New York, from Montana to Mississippi, hunters and anglers are leading important efforts to improve the quality and quantity of our water resources. The most successful conservation efforts are locally driven with a broad base of support, including federal financial and technical assistance.  They honor and respect the traditions of hunting, fishing, farming and ranching while protecting the resources we share.

In a report released on February 26, 2015, the TRCP showcases ten examples of collaborative, sportsmen-led efforts and the importance of federal funding that fuels them.  The lessons sportsmen have learned executing these projects tell a convincing story about the need for responsible water management and adequate funding.

Here is lesson four from the Missouri River:

The Missouri River Confluence: Where hunters, landowners & rivers meet

The Challenge

Photo courtesy of Missouri/Mississippi Rivers Confluence Conservation Partnership.

As St. Louis grew from a Midwestern frontier town to a city of 2.8 million, the area around the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers (known as the Confluence Region) lost 90 percent of its natural wetland habitat.

But it wasn’t the fear of growth—and its impact on the floodplain—that prompted the 14-year, multimillion-dollar success story of the Missouri Confluence Conservation Partnership. It was a passion for ducks. If local hunters and birders didn’t sound the alarm, they knew the ducks would disappear.
The Confluence Region is now a revitalized wetland habitat in the heart of the St. Louis Metropolitan Area. The area is home to millions of migratory waterfowl and holds up to 260 billion gallons of water during the high flood season.

Photo courteys of Missouri/Mississippi Rivers Confluence Conservation Partnership.

“Building on and developing this floodplain has enormous impacts on wildlife habitat and neighboring communities,” says Jim Blair, chairman of the Great Rivers Habitat Alliance. “Ill-fated attempts to continually manipulate rivers, solely for commercial interests, ignores the needs of wildlife and the cultural values sportsmen treasure greatly. As has always been the case, it is sportsmen who protect and work to preserve precious habitats and the species that rely on them. Sportsmen are important allies in protecting our resources, and we knew we had to get them involved to find a solution.”

The Solution

In the early 2000s, a group of local landowners voted to take action, and it prompted a domino effect. Ducks Unlimited and the Missouri Confluence Collaboration Partnership used numerous private and federal grants, notably from the Doris Duke Foundation and the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) to leverage additional land protections in the area.

Photo courtesy of Missouri/Mississippi Rivers Confluence Conservation Partnership.

To date, thanks to the enthusiasm and momentum of local landowners and hunters, by early 2015, the Partnership expects to secure 9,194 acres of protected private property via 28 easements through Ducks Unlimited. Thanks to matching funding from NAWCA, the Partnership will ultimately protect and enhance a total of 43,000 acres of public lands in the region.

What’s Next

The Missouri Confluence Conservation Partnership hopes to acquire an additional $2.1 million to protect and enhance another 15,000 acres of habitat. If secured, the money will be used for easements on what is regarded as “highly expensive potential real estate.”

BLM debuts more balanced plan for 1.5 million acres of Colorado’s ‘Mule deer factory’

On Friday, the Bureau of Land Management’s White River Field Office in northwest Colorado issued its final Resource Management Plan Amendment (RMPA), with a specific focus on oil and gas development. The 1.5-million-acre area that will be impacted is home to two of the largest mule deer and elk herds in North America, and this RMPA will influence how those species are managed in the face of large-scale oil and gas development. After providing significant comments on the draft plan in early 2013, sportsmen are calling the final RMPA greatly improved.

Photo courtesy of the BLM.

“While there are still some concerns about long-term impacts tobig game and other wildlife, the BLM has made significant improvements from the draft plan,” said Nick Payne, our Colorado field representative. “The BLM has focused on maintaining wildlife populations and public recreationopportunities, while ensuring the responsible development of oil and gas resources. The ultimate success of this plan will depend on successful implementation in the coming years.”

The BLM has committed to sustaining habitat conditions that support big game populations at levels commensurate with long-term objectives established by Colorado Parks and Wildlife. This includes growing the White River mule deer herd, which populates what was once known as the ‘mule deer factory,’ to 67,500 animals. In the 2013 draft of the plan, the BLM had proposed a reduction of up to 50% of this herd, whose population was already 30% below the Colorado Parks and Wildlife management objective.

“Northwest Colorado offers some of the finest mule deer and elk hunting anywhere, and it is imperative that this resource be sustained for current and future generations of sportsmen,” says Ed Arnett, senior scientist for the TRCP. “I’d encourage BLM offices across the West to follow the lead of the White River Field Office in committing to the state fish and wildlife agencies’ established population objectives.” Arnett shared this opinion with the Denver Post’s Bruce Finley in this April 1 story.

The BLM will also be instituting a master leasing plan for more than 422,000 acres of BLM land surrounding Dinosaur National Monument in the northwest part of the field office. Development within that area will be introduced in stages to help minimize negative effects of development on wildlife and other resources. “Master Leasing Plans are an important component of responsible energy development,” says John Ellenberger, a retired Colorado Parks and Wildlife big game manager. “I was involved with establishing game management units in quality elk hunting areas, and I’m thankful that the BLM has adequately planned to give this important wildlife habitat ample consideration.”

Photo courtesy of BLM.

Within the White River RMPA, the BLM is applying measures to conserve about 167,000 acres of “generally intact and undeveloped backcountry,” which provide “high quality recreational settings, habitats, and primitive-type recreational opportunities.” This includes big game habitat and access to quality hunting opportunities in four Colorado Game Management Units that host thousands of hunters each year. “I appreciate the fact that the Bureau of Land Management has taken steps to maintain traditional land uses,” says Larry Amos, owner of Winterhawk Outfitters in Collbran and a volunteer with Colorado Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “This plan will ensure that hunting, fishing, and outfitting can remain viable in Colorado, by conserving some of our most spectacular lands and wildlife habitat and keeping it intact.”

A local coalition of 32 sporting organizations and businesses was involved in this planning process, and sportsmen across the West are prepared to stay involved as the plans are implemented. “The BLM has taken positive steps to conserve intact backcountry lands with high quality wildlife habitat and hunting opportunities, and as a business owner whose bottom line depends on public lands hunting and fishing, I appreciate that,” said Kevin Timm, owner of Seek Outside, a Grand Junction-based outdoor gear manufacturer that sells products directly to sportsmen. “The stage is now set for sportsmen to engage in the forthcoming full RMP revision. It’s what we need to do to ensure that intact and undeveloped lands are responsibly managed as backcountry conservation areas.”

Read the final EIS here. Protests may be filed through April 27, 2015.

Critter Madness highlight reel: Fur, fins and feathers will fly

This is it. The field is set. After 32 species have scratched and clawed their way through three rounds, we have our four regional champions.

After edging out a crowded field that included the mallard, the pheasant, and the sharp-tailed grouse, the wild turkey emerged as our avian representative in the Final Four. The elk easily steamrolled the competition in the first three rounds and has emerged victorious as the big game hunting champion. The brook trout continues to shock the world, upsetting the rainbow trout and writing another chapter in its underdog story. And the chinook salmon outmuscled the yellowfin tuna to claim its place atop the saltwater fishing division.

> > Click here to play Critter Madness! < <

Now, these heavyweights, unencumbered by divisional foes, face off in unfamiliar habitats. What happens when bird meets beast? Will the elk continue to dominate, or will the battle-tested gobblers emerge as America’s favorite hunt?

And how brackish will things get on the aquatic side of the bracket? The brook trout has certainly fought in a heavier weight class before, but can it hang with the King?

To celebrate each of our divisional champions, we’re giving away another prize. Congratulations to Dee Jolley of Colorado Springs, Colo., the proud new owner of an Abu Garcia Orra SX Low Profile baitcasting combo.

At 12:01 AM Eastern on Friday, April 3, the winners advance, and we’ll give away our Final Four prize: a Yeti Tundra 45 cooler, customized with the TRCP logo. So don’t miss out. Enter to win, vote for your favorite game animal or fish, and see which two species make it to the championship.

Want other updates from the tournament? Check out our round 1 recap here and our round two recap here.

Critter Madness fan prediction: Yellowfin for it all

Image courtesy of Brett Fitzgerald.

Brett Fitzgerald from West Palm Beach, Fla., was selected as the second-round winner in our Critter Madness bracket challenge, and we sent him a shiny new pair of Costa shades to wear the next time he goes out fishing for snook. He knows a thing or two about Atlantic Coast fish—Brett is the southeast regional director for the Snook & Gamefish Foundation, where we’re lucky enough to work with him on conservation policy—but will his beloved saltwater species represent in the final round of Critter Madness?

TRCP: Brett, what did you think of the upset action in the first two rounds?

BF: You know, I really thought one of the bass would take the whole tournament, just because they have the broadest appeal. And I figured that people who fish for both would probably favor the smallmouth. But since the brook trout beat them both, it’s hard to say how things will turn out. This isn’t like picking a college basketball team—this is important stuff! For what it’s worth, I remember the first brookie I ever caught more than 40 years ago. It was tiny, I used a fly out of my grandpa’s flybox, and I’ve probably told the story a hundred times. I can’t say that about my first bass.

TRCP: Do you think the brookie will win it all?

BF: I do think the winner will be a fish, but the yellowfin tuna is going to pull it out. It’s an underdog, too.

Congratulations to Brett, and best of luck to his Critter Madness picks for the Final Four.

Vote now for your chance to win prizes from Abu Garcia, Remington, and Yeti.

Check out some other fan predictions here.

The sale of your public lands is more possible now than ever

Yesterday the US Senate passed a budget resolution that, while it does not carry the weight of law – does serve as an internal instructional document, a broad outline of the policies and priorities that Congress will seek over the next few months to implement in legislation that most certainly will carry the weight of law. As such, it included a series of up or down votes that put members of the Senate on record on several issues important to sportsmen.

Photo courtesy of Marty Sheppard.

And, in general, it was not good news.  First, the numbers:

The Senate budget resolution would maintain sequestration for non-defense discretionary spending (including all conservation spending) and then cut an additional $236 billion over the 2017 to 2025 period.  The Senate budget would cut conservation funding in FY2016 by about $5 billion dollars relative to 2013 levels.  Conservation Funding wouldn’t return to its 2013 funding level of $41 billion until 2022.  If you adjust for inflation the cuts inflicted by the budget will be far worse.

And now the policy:

I’ll start with the two bright spots.  Senator Debbie Stabenow’s (D-MI) amendment clarifies that all existing agricultural exemptions in the Clean Water Act, which date back to the early 1970s, should be maintained in the proposed Waters of the US rule.  That the amendment passed unanimously may signal that Congress may be willing to look at the facts on the proposed rule and not just the rhetoric from status quo stakeholders.  The next bright spot was an amendment offered by Senators Crapo (R-ID) and Wyden (D-OR) that changes the way we pay for catastrophic fires, which now eat up almost half of the Forest Service’s annual budget. The amendment had sufficient support that it was included in the manager’s report by acclimation.

Besides the basic funding levels, the giant alarm bell coming from the budget resolution was the amendment offered by Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) that essentially encourages Congress to “sell, or transfer to, or exchange with, a state or local government any Federal land that is not within the boundaries of a National Park, National Preserve, or National Monument…” The amendment passed 51-49. Here is a roll call of the vote.

Photo courtesy of Eric Petlock.

As most sportsmen know, transferring lands to the state or selling them off is a bad deal for sportsmen.  See www.sportsmensaccess.org for more information on the issue.  If Congress were to follow these instructions, all BLM lands, National Forests and even National Wildlife Refuges could go on the chopping block.  Heck, even national battlefields and historic sites could be transferred or sold.

All Democrats voted against the Murkowski amendment, and three Republicans — Senators Alexander (TN), Senator Ayotte (NH) and Senator Gardner (CO) — bucked leadership and sided with sportsmen.

The budget resolution does not carry the weight of law and is an easy place for members to make “symbolic” votes without actually changing the law.  But symbolic votes show what members think and what they think is important.

Make no mistake about it, the public lands vote on the budget resolution was a finger in the eye to sportsmen everywhere.  But the real action is still to come, the question is whether sportsmen and women will pay attention and make their elected representatives know what they think about selling off or giving away our public lands.

As a sportsman who cares about access to our federal public lands, you can do two things right away.

  1. Sign the Sportsmen’s Access petition at www.sportsmensaccess.org – and then forward it to two other friends and urge them to sign as well.
  2. Call your Senator’s office at (202) 224-3121 and thank them if they voted ‘No’ or voice your concern if they voted ‘Yes’ (see how they voted here).