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.

Why Fishpond Founder Supports Land and Water Conservation Funding

As an angler and a bird hunter, I cherish opportunities to float Oregon’s beautiful rivers and explore my state’s wide open spaces. Part of that exploration process is poring over maps or using my GPS to navigate the polygons of privately- and publicly-owned land to find the places I can access. Until a couple of years ago, I didn’t know that the Land and Water Conservation Fund is responsible for some of our state’s best public access. Now that I understand what LWCF does, and why it’s so important to fish and wildlife, I’ve been working to rally support for reauthorizing this critical fund, which is due to expire at the end of the month. And I’m not alone. Recently, 114 hunting and fishing industry business leaders voiced their support for the LWCF. Read on to find out why Fishpond founder Johnny LeCoq felt so strongly about signing our letter to Congress.

First, a brief history. The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) was established in 1965 as a bipartisan commitment to a simple idea: Invest a small portion of federal offshore drilling fees towards protecting important land, water, and recreation areas for all Americans to support the outdoor economy. Since its inception, the fund has been used to invest over $16 billion in conservation and outdoor recreation, including the establishment of new public fishing areas, new corridors into previously inaccessible public lands, conservation easements and the acquisition of new public land parcels for the benefit of fish, wildlife, and the sporting public.

Image courtesy of Jonathan Stumpf.

Find out about projects funded in your state by clicking here.

This fund is due to expire, and without reauthorization from Congress, we will lose critical conservation dollars. This July, I attended IFTD to build business support for LWCF. At the show, I met Johnny LeCoq, founder and CEO of Fishpond and Lilypond, which are brands designed and manufactured for the fishing and outdoor enthusiast. Johnny has created his company with the philosophy that innovation, design, and a responsibility towards the environment are critical to the success of his business.

Johnny knows why LWCF is so important and why Congress needs to fully fund it. This is what he had to say at the North American Wildlife Conference last year:

“The economics behind LWCF demands that we get the full funding appropriated for our natural resources. It is critical to my own business that depends on our watersheds, and just as important to every individual that values our open space, and public access for so many forms of recreation and enjoyment. The public access component of LWCF is crucial for the future of our hunting and fishing industry,” he said.

Here’s the vision Johnny shared for the next 50 years of conservation work in America: One of collaboration. No longer can we look to Washington or our state governments to pave the necessary path for a sustainable future. We need to create private-public partnerships that leverage the strength of both sectors. From businesses like Fishpond to the private landowners who are willing to place their farmland or ranchland into conservation easements, we need to find valuable partners who will help tell the story of how our public lands and waters are linked to a growing economy and uniquely American way of life.

Image courtesy of Fishpond.

Johnny encouraged the entire Outdoor Recreation Industry, where thousands of companies are represented, to help lead the push for full funding of LWCF—and not to stop there. “It is the responsibility of these American businesses to use the power of their consumer reach to raise additional funds to augment a shortfall of the hundreds of millions of dollars in conservation needs,” he said. “Government funding and taxes alone will not be enough to get us through our environmental challenges, and it will be important for companies like Fishpond to creatively join forces with government and non-profit groups to collaboratively reach our goals.”

If you’re like me and Johnny, please tell Congress to fully and permanently reauthorize the LWCF and protect hunting, fishing, and the recreational industry for years to come. It’s easy to do. Just click here.

Recently, 114 hunting and fishing industry business leaders, voiced their support for the LWCF. Read on to find out why Fishpond founder Johnny LeCoq felt so strongly about signing our letter to Congress. 

We have a winner! Fishing and #PublicLandsProud

Thanks to everyone that has been using the #PublicLandsProud hashtag, showing us why they love public lands, and sharing why we need to stand up for them.

And now the moment we’ve been waiting for: our guest judge, Jess McGlothlin of Jess McGlothlin Media and American Fly Fishing Trade Association (congrats on the new job, Jess!) has selected the winner for our fishing-themed portion of the contest.

Your winners: 

Winner: @seaandines with his “blue line sessions” shot. This shot is an awesome reminder that sometimes the fishing we need isn’t on some epic river halfway around the world, but rather right in our backyards. Wherever you live, it’s worth taking the time to appreciate your local waters—you never know what you might find. Also a great example of #keepemwet.

Always fun hanging out at the best “rest area” along I-40. #bluelinesessions

A photo posted by Sean Deines (@seandeines) on

Runner-up #1: @josh.kuntz with his shot of an angler fishing a backcountry lake in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains serves as a potent reminder that fish don’t really tend to live in ugly places, and sometimes the experience is less in the catching, and more in the getting out there.

“Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god.”. #Aristotle ••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• The Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho are a popular public land backpacking and fishing destination. ••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• Photo:  An angler casts into the reflection of Upper Cramer Lake in the early morning. ••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• #fishing #mountainlake #backpackfishing #backpacking #id #idaho #solitude #publiclandsproud #thetrcp #keepitpublic #bha #backcountryhuntersandanglers #reflection #sawtooths #idahogram #exploreidaho

A photo posted by Josh Kuntz (@josh.kuntz) on


Runner-up #2: @mt406shooter with his shot of a “proper double haul” on the Yellowstone. Good composition, beautiful water, and a strong cast. Solid.


Show us your #PublicLandsProud moment and you could be featured on our blog, not to mention win a new pair of Costa Sunglasses or a Yeti Cooler. From now until October 4, show us the best scenery shots from public lands and tag them with @thetrcp and #PublicLandsProud, and our guest judge, Johnny LeCoq of Fishpond will be watching. More details and all entries are here.

Here are three ways you can support sportsmen’s access on public lands. 

Endangered Species Act Protection is Not Warranted for Sage Grouse

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced today that the range-wide population of greater sage grouse does not warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act. This decision comes after years of coordination and planning among federal, state, and local stakeholders to better protect sage grouse and other sagebrush-dependent species, while allowing for energy development, livestock grazing, and recreation to continue.

The BLM finalized a critical step toward achieving the not-warranted finding by signing two Records of Decision that will amend nearly 100 resource management plans (RMPs) across the West to benefit the bird.

Image courtesy of Bob Wick/BLM.

Sportsmen’s groups are encouraged by the decision and appreciative of the 11 states, federal agencies, private landowners, and other vested stakeholders that have come together in a daunting, often controversial effort. “The work to benefit sage grouse over the last five years has been the greatest landscape-scale conservation effort undertaken in modern times,” says Steve Williams, president of the Wildlife Management Institute and former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “The collaboration we’ve seen is unprecedented and extraordinary. It sets forth a model for what I believe to be the future of conservation in America.”

For many of the groups involved in this effort, today’s announcement comes with a cautious sense of relief. “For years, sportsmen, ranchers, developers, and biologists have anxiously awaited the day when the sage grouse listing decision would be made,” says Steve Riley, president and CEO of the North American Grouse Partnership. “Now, it is imperative that these collective conservation efforts are implemented and monitored for effectiveness in the long-term if we are to avoid winding up with sage grouse again at risk further down the road.”

Sportsmen have argued that an “all-of-the-above approach”—with distinct plans developed and implemented by the federal, state, and private sectors—was the only way to get to a not-warranted decision and sustain conservation into the future. Howard Vincent, president and CEO of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever notes that private landowner efforts, led in part by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, were a critical piece of the success leading to today’s decision. “Partnership-driven, voluntary conservation efforts have contributed to a positive decision for greater sage grouse and ranching communities in Western states, but our work has only just begun,” says Vincent. “We must continue to build upon this unprecedented level of management for sage grouse populations from federal and state agencies and the ranchers who are implementing landscape-level habitat improvements on private lands.”

Image courtesy of Ed Arnett.

The benefits of today’s decision, and the implementation of robust conservation plans already in progress, will extend to more than just sage grouse. “Thriving sage grouse populations are an indicator that sagebrush ecosystems are healthy, and this is important for more than 350 species of plants and animals, including many that are popular with sportsmen,” says Miles Moretti, president and CEO of the Mule Deer Foundation. “Now, we must remain invested in sustaining the health of this bird—and the landscapes that support it.” Land Tawney, executive director of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, notes that sportsmen and women will benefit as well. “What is good for the grouse is good for the grandeur—the large landscapes being conserved will help sustain backcountry hunting opportunities and big game populations,” he says. “That’s positive for sportsmen and the local communities that depend on proceeds from outdoor recreation-based businesses.”

The work of implementing conservation on the ground is just beginning, and threats still remain. “We’re happy with today’s decision, which proves that collaborative conservation can work,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “But it is critical that state and federal agencies enforce the full implementation of their plans and that we continue to oppose Congressional attempts to weaken them.”

Management of sagebrush habitat is a long-term endeavor that costs money and resources, and no one understands that better than a former director of the agency responsible for today’s announcement. “Investment in sagebrush management that balances many uses of the land, including responsible energy development and sustainable ranching, with conservation is essential for our nation’s economy and the Western way of life,” says Williams. “We have the blueprint in place, and now it’s time to build our future. Congressional support and funding can help get us there.”

To see what our other partners are saying about today’s announcement, click here and here.

Glassing The Hill: September 21 – 24

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

The Senate will be in session all week, except on Wednesday. The House will reconvene Tuesday, with votes expected on Thursday and Friday.

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

The much-ballyhooed arrival of Pope Francis on Tuesday brings Congressional business to a standstill, and leaves Congress with just four legislative days to negotiate a budget agreement to keep the government from shutting down on October 1. A compromise on defunding Planned Parenthood may have emerged out of Majority Whip Steve Scalise’s (R-LA) office: He suggested linking the controversial issue with the budget reconciliation process and letting a clean funding agreement move forward in the meantime. Now, conservatives in both chambers just need to agree to that strategy. If they don’t, House Speaker Boehner will have to choose between using Democratic votes to keep the government open or siding with House conservatives to pass a bill that the Senate can’t pass and the President won’t sign, ensuring shutdown gridlock. His history seems to indicate a clean bill will come forward, but some in the most conservative wings of the House GOP caucus have begun to foment a rebellion against the Speaker if he takes the route of compromise.

In the Senate, the Majority Leader has filed cloture on the motion to proceed to the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, legislation that would ban abortions after 20 weeks. The Senate will consider it on the floor on Tuesday. The cloture effort is almost certain to fail, but may serve to illustrate more clearly that the Senate simply cannot move legislation dealing with abortion (including Planned Parenthood defunding.)

Anything else to worry about? Yep, September 30 is still the deadline for a listing decision from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on greater sage grouse (read about their most recent population numbers here) and reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (contact your lawmaker about LWCF here.)

On the Floor

The House will begin consideration of Rep. Marion’s (R-PA) RAPID Act (H.R. 348), legislation that would establish regulatory review for environmental assessments. Both Chambers will hold a joint session with Pope Francis on Thursday at 10:00AM.

The Gap Between Better Lek Numbers and Sage Grouse Success

The pending decision on federal protections for the greater sage grouse has dominated a lot of the recent discussion about conservation in America. After all, multiple industries and millions of people have a lot at stake when it comes to use of lands containing the iconic Western sagebrush habitat, where the birds are determined to be at risk.

Healthy sagebrush ecosystems that support sage-grouse also provide excellent hunting opportunities for mule deer, pronghorn and other species. Image courtesy of Ed Arnett.

‘But, wait,’ you might say, ‘I just read that the sage grouse populations are rebounding.’ You wouldn’t be wrong, but we have a long way to go, and there is still justification to move forward with landscape-scale conservation, the results of collaborative planning efforts like we’ve never seen before.

Let’s clear this up.

For many species of wildlife, like the greater sage grouse, it’s extremely difficult to count or estimate population sizes and trends. Gamebird populations are often cyclical—they can wax and wane over the course of up to 10-year cycles—and fluctuate closely with precipitation levels. Rain yields grass, grass serves as ground cover, and cover usually translates to good nest production and chick survival.

It’s easy to get depressed when bird numbers are down or get excited when they are up. It’s also easy to jump to premature conclusions about what those numbers really mean, if we forget that one year’s counts are just a small part of the bigger picture.

Just two years ago, amidst a serious West-wide drought, numbers of male sage grouse attending their dancing grounds, or leks, were at near-record lows. Recently, however, rains have drenched much of the birds’ range, and numbers have responded as most might expect. In fact, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) recently reported a range-wide increase in males attending leks in 2015—up 63 percent from 2013.

While this is great news, some opponents of federal land management plans, which are about to be signed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), are taking these numbers completely out of context to support their agenda. In an August 24 letter to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, the American Exploration and Mining Association said, “We believe this study demonstrates that state and private conservation efforts to conserve greater sage grouse and its habitat are working… It also demonstrates that the mineral withdrawals and draconian land use and travel restrictions in the proposed Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) land use plan amendments are unnecessary to provide meaningful protection of sage-grouse habitat. The WAFWA report provides ample data and evidence in support of BLM adopting each state plan as the land use plan amendments across the 11 sage-grouse states.”

Other groups have made similar claims that increased numbers of grouse somehow prove that the BLM plans are unnecessary and that state plans and voluntary efforts are adequate. These statements are wildly misleading for a number of reasons. First, and foremost, the recent increase in sage grouse populations has not altered the overall downward trend from 1965 to present—the average decline over the past 50 years is actually about one percent a year, slowly but surely chipping away at the basis for survival of the species.

Also, the 63-percent increase this year is relative to the second-lowest counts on record. While perhaps on the high end, this increase falls within the range of normal fluctuations for any gamebird population, especially given the climate conditions across much of the birds’ range. Fluctuations documented by the WAFWA report cannot be attributed to any one factor. This analysis was not designed to isolate the effectiveness of state plans, voluntary measures, or any other conservation effort, and shouldn’t be used to make that case. WAFWA makes this very clear in its report and in the accompanying press release.

Recently-employed conservation efforts have no doubt contributed to the improvement of conditions, but it is premature to say that increased numbers of males at leks are being driven by those efforts. It’s certainly inappropriate to debunk the need for strong conservation on federal lands that make up a significant portion of the birds’ range and that must be managed for multiple uses, like sustainable ranching, responsible energy development, and recreation. State conservation efforts are fundamental to achieving long-term conservation, but they cannot stand alone. And at this point, despite what opponents may say, there is no scientific data to prove that they should.

The good news is that climatic conditions have aided the population’s rebound and further conservation efforts are about to be put in place across the Western landscape by federal, state, and private sectors. This “all-of-the-above” approach is, in my opinion, the only way we’ll get to a place where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can say that sage grouse are not warranted for Endangered Species Act protections—and defend that decision in court. Only then do we have any chance of reversing long-term overall habitat and population trends from negative to positive.

The Big Picture on Collaborative Land Management from 10,000 Feet Above Colorado’s South Park

One great benefit of working in fish and wildlife conservation is the opportunity to intimately familiarize myself with the areas where I hunt and fish, especially as I’m fighting to protect them. Last Wednesday I was lucky enough to get a truly unique perspective on our state’s South Park region, as I looked down on this haven for hunters, anglers, and recreationists from a six-passenger aircraft.

Image courtesy of Ecoflight.

All of South Park’s legendary public lands and waters were spread out before me, including the section of the South Platte known as the “Dream Stream” and recognized by Colorado Parks and Wildlife as gold-medal waters. I also spotted the few lesser-known public hunting grounds that I frequent, hoping every season that these areas remain as under-the-radar—excuse the pun—as they are productive in turning out big bulls.

It made me think of “the big picture” that many stakeholders—including county agencies, ranchers, sporting groups, water utilities, environmental organizations, landowners, and extractive industries—as the BLM recently initiated its South Park Master Leasing Plan process. With America being so politicized these days, it’s hard to find consensus on issues dealing with land management in the West, especially when extremists are crying for the seizure and potential sale of our federal public lands. But this group’s level of collaboration has been refreshing and exceptional.

Image courtesy of Ecoflight.

Of course the process hasn’t been without contention. Not everyone agrees on every aspect the plan for every township in South Park, yet everyone at the table seems to share the goal of maintaining an overall way of life in the valley—and it’s not all that different from how we live today. We’re working towards managing the federal public lands of this area in a way that maximizes the benefit to all users. That means protecting irreplaceable fish and wildlife habitat and putting industrialization pressure only on the lands that can handle it.

As we move forward in the BLM planning process, it is absolutely crucial that members of the community, especially hunters and anglers who rely on these public lands, make our voices heard. It may take a few years to finalize these plans, but they will dictate management activities through multiple presidential administrations and waves of bureaucracy over the next 20 years.

For more information, and to get involved, visit the BLM planning page.

Locked Out: Utah’s Book Cliffs

In an increasingly crowded and pay-to-play world, America’s 640 million acres of public lands – including our national forests and Bureau of Land Management lands–have become the nation’s mightiest hunting and fishing strongholds. This is especially true in the West, where according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 72 percent of sportsmen depend on access to public lands for hunting. Without these vast expanses of prairie and sagebrush, foothills and towering peaks, the traditions of hunting and fishing as we have known them for the past century would be lost. Gone also would be a very basic American value: the unique and abundant freedom we’ve known for all of us, rich and poor and in-between, to experience our undeveloped and wild spaces, natural wonders, wildlife and waters, and the assets that have made life and citizenship in our country the envy of the world.

In Part Eight of our series, we stop in at Utah’s Book Cliffs.

Image courtesy of Joel Webster.

Stretching almost 200 miles from Price, Utah, to Palisades, Colorado, the Book Cliffs comprise the longest continuous escarpment in the world. High plateaus of ponderosa pines, firs, and aspen groves, and staggered lines of towering cliffs and isolated canyons, open out onto arid plains. Because the terrain and the vegetation changes so much with altitude, it is near-perfect mule deer and elk country, where summer range and winter range are closely connected.

When American sportsmen began restoring the wildlife lost during the settlement of the West, it was BLM public lands like those in the Book Cliffs that made the experiment the most successful wildlife recovery on earth. Today, there’s a limited draw hunt for trophy elk and mule deer here. Colorado River cutthroat trout, wild bison, and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep have been restored, and pronghorn numbers are strong. All of these success stories were written almost entirely using sportsmen’s dollars on healthy public lands accessible to all Americans.

In 2012, the Utah legislature passed H.B. 148, “Transfer of Public Lands Act and Related Study,” a demand for 31 million acres of public lands like those in the Book Cliffs to be given to the state. You see, the cliffs are also a rich source of natural gas, coal, oil, helium, and potentially new reserves of oil.

Energy development under federal management has already been extensive enough here to pose real threats to big game and other wildlife resources. Federal management under the principles of multiple-use and sustained yield has forced the BLM to create management plans that at least lessen the impact of development on wildlife.

Image courtesy of Joel Webster.

As reported in a recent Utah study, the transfer of public lands would mean that the state would face huge new expenses for land management—an estimated $280 million per year. Utah has already sold 4.1 million of the 7.5 million acres it was granted at statehood, and millions of acres of the most valuable public lands could still be sold to foreign companies and billionaires, cutting off public access forever. If the state were to retain energy-rich lands like the Book Cliffs, it would need to aggressively develop mineral resources in order to cover the enormous costs associated with the management of its other lands. Energy-producing landscapes like the Book Cliffs would be industrialized at a scale that far exceeds levels under federal management, leaving nothing behind worth accessing.

Utah remains the epicenter of the land seizure movement, and two bills were passed during the 2015 state legislative session that are aimed at undermining America’s public lands heritage. Fortunately, Utah’s fervor for public lands seizure is not matched in most other states, and sportsmen will continue working to keep it that way.

Here are three ways you can support sportsmen’s access on public lands. 

Stay tuned. In the rest of this 10-part series, we’ll continue to cover some of America’s finest hunting and fishing destinations that could be permanently seized from the public if politicians have their way.

Where Do Arizonans Love to Hunt and Fish? We Want to Find Out

Image courtesy of SVM Coalition.

Arizona’s sportsmen and sportswomen will have an opportunity to help conserve their favorite public hunting and fishing destinations by participating in the Sportsmen’s Values Mapping Project, a statewide effort being launched by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and the Arizona Game and Fish Department, in cooperation with several state sportsmen’s groups.

The department soon will be mailing postcards to a random sample of individuals who have purchased Arizona hunting and fishing licenses, inviting them to participate in the survey and directing them to a website that allows them to draw their favorite areas on a map.

“The department is pleased to present a scientifically-sound method for outdoor enthusiasts to tell us what areas of the state are important to their wildlife-related recreation,” said Loren Chase, human dimensions program manager for Game and Fish. “This is an opportunity for Arizonans to participate in some innovative citizen-science research, so I would encourage anyone who receives a postcard in the mail to take a few minutes to participate.”

That input will be combined and assembled in a geographic information system (GIS), where it will be overlaid with maps of critical habitat, migration routes, land ownership, and other data. The resulting maps will provide important and previously unavailable data to state and federal agencies for the following purposes:

  • Balance other land uses with the needs of fish, wildlife, and sportsmen
  • Identify areas needing stronger conservation efforts, or expansion of hunting and angling opportunities
  • Identify key high-use areas warranting special conservation strategies, because of their value to sportsmen
  • Justify actions and funding requests aimed at conserving highly valued wildlife habitat and hunting and fishing areas
  • Identify areas where public access needs to be maintained or improved

“Access to some of the most valued public hunting and fishing areas in Arizona is at risk because of deteriorating habitat conditions and increased development pressures,” said John Hamill, state field representative for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We are seeking the help of sportsmen and sportswomen to identify lands that are cherished for their hunting and fishing values, where the conservation and restoration of habitat and the enhancement of public access should be a priority.”

The Sportsmen’s Values Mapping Project is a national initiative that was launched in 2007 by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. The project was completed in Montana in 2008 and Wyoming in 2011. Arizona is now front and center, with mapping efforts expected to be finished here, and in Idaho, later this year.

The project has also been endorsed by the Arizona Sportsmen for Wildlife Conservation, an alliance of 22 Arizona sportsmen’s groups, as well as the state chapters of the National Wild Turkey Federation, Trout Unlimited, Arizona Elk Society, and Arizona Antelope Foundation.