Public Lands Are Where We Can All Heal, Hope, and Harvest

At a critical time for America’s public lands, hunters and anglers—the country’s original conservationists—are asking everyone who enjoys outdoor recreation: Will you go outside with us?

It’s safe to say that, as Americans, we’ve been through a lot in this election cycle. From the 24-7 media circus to the contention between the two candidates, no one would blame you for feeling overstimulated or just plain exhausted.

Sounds like it’s time to go outside.

Oregon’s Deschutes River. Image courtesy of Marty Sheppard/Little Creek Outfitters.

The outdoors have a true healing effect on the mind and body, and the hunting and fishing sports, especially, have an ability to transport. Whether you’re brought back to your earliest memories of watching the woods wake up at dawn or so lost in listening for the footfall of approaching game that you’ve completely forgotten your worries, the natural world provides us with serenity. Out there, we are part of something bigger than ourselves. It’s where we are challenged, and as we find ourselves capable, we feel validated.

That’s why the TRCP is proud to join a growing coalition of more than 400 groups who, inspired by outdoor retailer REI’s movement to #OptOutside the day after Thanksgiving, are finding unity and purpose in the outdoors.

As we come back together as a nation, the question of where we go to spend time outside is an important one. The abundance of public lands in our country, and the right to access them for recreation, makes the U.S. unique in all the world. All Americans are richer for being able to share in their ownership. And the landscapes that are appealing to hunters, anglers, hikers, bikers, climbers, and American families drive spending and support jobs in adjacent communities. Still, a movement to offload or privatize national public lands continues to find traction in Western states and on Capitol Hill.

Image courtesy of Kevin Farron.

This is not just unacceptable, it’s a threat to our national identity. Hunters and anglers who follow our blog know this—it has been a central fight for TRCP and our conservation partners since January 2015, and more than 35,000 sportsmen and women have signed a petition opposing threats to our public lands legacy.

But, to anyone else who heads outside to escape, heal, sweat, bond, or breathe a little deeper, I’d like to say to YOU that we can’t do this alone.

For every benefit that public lands provide, there’s an interest group ready to seize upon the opportunity. Even within our broader outdoor recreation community, there’s admittedly some mistrust between niches—those who ride versus those who run, those who watch wildlife versus those who harvest. With so much at stake, we cannot allow these unspoken hierarchies to divide us—it weakens the base of support that is absolutely critical to America’s public lands legacy.

Speaking for hunters and anglers, I hope that the rest of #OptOutside nation—at more than 1.3 million strong—will unite with us in the outdoors, celebrate the camo AND the climbers that you see in your social feeds, and check politics at the trailhead. If we can’t come together, we may just find ourselves united outside a locked gate.

In a Divided Nation, This Conservation Program Connects Sportsmen to Critical Access on Private Lands

The story of an important conservation program, one that helps to supply critical public access in states with mostly private land, started right here at the TRCP

Image courtesy of TRCP.

While American sportsmen and women are in the midst of an important fight for our national public lands out West and across the country, many hunters and anglers have a completely different access challenge. Leasing or buying land, or knocking on doors to gain permission to cross, hunt, or fish someone else’s private land, are some of the only options in states with very few public acres. That’s why we’re proud to work on strengthening conservation and access programs, many funded by the Farm Bill, that help level the playing field by bringing public access to private-lands states. In fact, TRCP’s co-founder, the charismatic Jim Range, was one of the creative minds behind a voluntary public access program that continues to change the game.

Once commonly known as “open fields,” the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP) was created to expand hunting and fishing opportunities across our nation by encouraging landowners and operators of privately held farms, ranches, and forest lands to not only provide public access, but also to conserve valuable habitat. In the early days of the TRCP, Range saw that the need for access and quality habitat go hand in hand.

Range always wanted to share our great outdoor heritage with others, and he was known for saying that we need to protect the things we love, because nobody else is going to do it. In 2007, he was instrumental in drafting legislation with our conservation partners in the Agriculture and Wildlife Working Group—groups like Pheasants Forever and the Association of the Fish and Wildlife Agencies—to establish VPA-HIP and open new sporting access that would allow our traditions to continue. Former Senator Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), former Congressman Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.), and Senators Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) sponsored the VPA-HIP legislation and were influential in adding the provision in the 2008 and 2014 farm bills. From 2008 to 2012, the Farm Bill made $50 million in grants available to states and tribes, and the 2014 Farm Bill authorized another $40 million to be granted through 2018. All told, 29 states have been able to open public access to private lands and waters since the creation of this program.

Image courtesy of Ariel Wiegard.

Unfortunately, Range passed away in 2009 after a fight with kidney cancer, and he didn’t get to see many of the successes for sportsmen’s access and fish and wildlife habitat, nor the ripple effects on the outdoor recreation economy, that he helped to make possible. For instance, in just the first year after VPA-HIP was created, the national outdoor economy grew by $41.7 million and supported over 300 new hunting- and fishing-related jobs. And in 2011, Iowa generated an additional $1.82 in revenue for every dollar invested into the Iowa Habitat and Access Program (IHAP). This is important to celebrate as a win for sportsmen, landowners, and the rural economy as we look ahead to the 2018 Farm Bill, especially since conservation and access are very much on the line.

Range used to quote former Senator Howard Baker when he told the staff to ration our good ideas. There will be no shortage of ideas about how to make the most of the conservation funding and incentive programs baked into the next Farm Bill, but we think that voluntary public access, the “open fields” of Range’s imagination, is still a very good one.

Celebrate with us the possibilities inherent in this idea that private lands can benefit all hunters, anglers, and the species we love to pursue. This month, we’ll look at the merits of VPA-HIP and why it has been a keystone effort for the TRCP since the organization’s inception, instilling everything we stand for—access, quality fishing and hunting habitat, and economic productivity.

Check back next week for more, and learn about our agriculture and private lands programs and partners, right now. If you would like to donate to the Jim Range Conservation Fund, please click here.

Welcome to the Next Four Years of Conservation in America

After an election night upset, the Trump camp takes up the immediate task of assembling a new administration. Our work for fish and wildlife, as always, continues

Sportsmen and women from across the country offer their congratulations to President-elect Donald Trump and wish him the best of luck as he begins his first term as the president of the United States. Indeed, we tip our camo hats to all of those who threw their names in the ring for elected offices, up and down the ballot and at the local, state, and national level. It is an honorable sacrifice of time and energy, and we thank you all.

But, of course, there is no job quite as tall as the one before President-elect Trump. The business of running the executive branch of the government is an immense task, and after an unprecedented election season, Trump only has about two and a half months before the inaugural kicks off his official presidency. In order to hit the ground running, things have to be well under way: Cabinet secretaries must be nominated, and the process of filling thousands of jobs must be started. To do this, not long after the nominating conventions, both presidential candidates started to assemble their transition teams—the folks, usually organized by cabinet department, who will help a new president enter the White House ready to get to work on day one.

Now, in this time of incredibly high activity, priorities are being determined and the rhetoric of campaign season is being turned into workable policy proposals, so it is imperative that sportsmen-conservationists are communicating clearly and repeatedly to new administration leaders. Over the past several weeks, the TRCP staff has been crafting transition documents that outline all of our policy priorities for the next four years of conservation success, including a 100-day agenda and goals for one year and two years into the new administration. Here are our top three asks.

Sunset behind the White Mountain National Forest. Photo via flickr user weesam2010.

Quality Places to Hunt and Fish
We’ll be making sure that our next president continues to hear from sportsmen and women that the defense of our national public lands is a line in the sand that cannot be crossed. This is a fundamental priority that both candidates heard from hunters and anglers throughout the course of the long campaign. Along with key partners, we will also work to make sure new public officials understand the importance of full implementation for the conservation plans in core sage grouse habitat across the West, as well as the need to defend those plans on Capitol Hill.

We anticipate that President-elect Trump will seek an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy plan, an idea we think makes good sense, as long as commonsense rules apply for oil and gas development and the production of renewable energy on public lands. Namely, we’ll push for a robust planning process that accounts for impacts to fish and wildlife habitat, as well as recreational access, and identifies places where energy production of all kinds can proceed with little impact to resources or places that might be too special to hunters and anglers to become energy production zones. And, just like oil and gas, renewables should be contributing a reasonable percentage of their profits from production on public lands into a trust fund that pays for mitigation of impacts on habitat and access.

Better Investments in Conservation
One of the very first things that the new administration will have to do is send Congress a budget outlining funding priorities for fiscal year 2018. Insufficient funding continues to be a major barrier to all kinds of conservation goals, like collecting reliable offshore recreational fishing data in order to improve fisheries management or providing technical assistance to our nation’s farmers and landowners who are interested in implementing wildlife habitat and water quality projects on private lands. And, of course, a litany of active management and restoration projects on national public lands has stalled out for want of funding, so it is well time to put the conservation house back in order.

We will make sure the next administration prioritizes conservation in their first budget, and every subsequent budget.

More Champions for Fish, Wildlife, and Sportsmen
Finally, as new folks are considered for leadership roles at the Department of Interior, Department of Agriculture, and key agencies—like the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Marine Fisheries Service, Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and many more—we’ll be helping to make sure that those chairs are filled with bona fide collaborators. This would include practitioners who are committed to the North American model of wildlife conservation and expanding access to quality fish and wildlife habitat, yes, but perhaps also those who are sportsmen and women themselves.

Election Day is the great reset button for American politics and policy making, but TRCP’s priorities, and our defense of the fish and wildlife habitat that America’s hunters and anglers depend on, won’t be subject to any transition.

Help us speak up for the species you love to pursue and the wild places that make our traditions possible—consider making a donation to the TRCP.




Yes, Let’s Set Politics Aside on Sage Grouse Conservation

This op-ed originally appeared in The Hill on Oct. 27, 2016. 

An Oct. 14 post on the Congress Blog (“It’s time to put politics aside on sage grouse”) gets many things wrong about greater sage grouse conservation efforts designed to keep the bird off the endangered species list. As wildlife biologists and lifelong sportsmen—a group the author attempts to discredit—we’d like to set the record straight.

First, claims that the federal land-use plans benefiting sage grouse impose restrictions that disadvantage our military are incorrect. In fact, they have been repeatedly denied by the Department of Defense, most recently in a letter to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) confirming that the plans adopted by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service “do not pose any threat to military readiness.”

Greater sage grouse were determined to be not warranted for listing under the Endangered Species Act in September 2015, based on the strength of proactive collaborative conservation efforts. Image courtesy of Ed Arnett.

It is true that sage grouse numbers are up across most of the bird’s range, but the 63-percent increase noted in the article is compared to historic lows recorded in 2013. Many have touted these numbers as evidence that state and voluntary conservation plans are adequate, but conditions have been naturally favorable since 2014, when rain finally found its way back to sagebrush country. The whole suite of conservation plans—federal, state, and private landowner efforts—must be allowed to work in unison to reverse an overall downward trend of about one percent per year between 1965 and 2015. Additionally, successful restoration measures across the range of sage grouse must be defensible in court.

That said, there’s not yet enough evidence to show that state plans, which vary in strength and assurances, can stand alone to address all threats to the bird in the absence of federal plans. Furthermore, the legislation referenced would block bedrock conservation statutes and judicial review while allowing state gubernatorial veto power over federal land management decisions on public lands—an unprecedented shift in management authority to the states that is reminiscent of other efforts to force our public lands into state and, likely, private control.

For all the doubt cast on national and Western-based sportsmen’s groups and businesses—105 of which signed a letter to decision-makers opposing bad provisions for sage grouse in any future legislation—we strongly agree with the author about one thing: None of us want to see a Western landscape devoid of humans, responsible grazing, balanced development, or hunting. We too want to see lawmakers set politics aside and allow science-based sage grouse conservation efforts to work.

Make your voice heard to help save this iconic bird and our hunting traditions.

Dr. Ed Arnett is the Colorado-based senior scientist for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. Dr. Steve Williams is president and CEO of the Wildlife Management Institute and former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under George W. Bush.

From the AT to the Tetons, How a Career in Conservation Led to the TRCP

TRCP’s Idaho ambassador discusses his first bull elk, his love of the Snake River, and how his family cabin in Massachusetts started it all

Launching this fall, TRCP’s ambassador program calls on sportsmen-conservationists to help advance our goals by offering local volunteer support. These #PublicLandsProud hometown heroes are not willing to sit idly by as the wild places we love are lost. They know there’s more to our sports than just hunting, fishing, and going home.

Meet Bob Breckenridge, our volunteer ambassador out of Idaho. He’s a veteran of conservation work who won’t let retirement stop him from giving something back to hunting and fishing, and we’re glad to have him on our side. Here’s what he loves about chasing Idaho elk, exploring the Tetons, and searching for giant, elusive browns on the Snake River.

TRCP: What’s your earliest memory in the outdoors and how do you spend your time outside these days?

Breckenridge: Just off the Appalachian Trail in Massachusetts, my family cabin was built in the 1850s and had no running anything. Our family spent two weeks each summer in the woods, playing in our creek and having great times around the campfire. These days, I am often in the Tetons, or biking and hiking trails in Idaho. We have a cabin 12 miles east of Ashton, Idaho, that provides great access to fishing and hunting in Eastern Idaho.

Image courtesy of Bob Breckenridge.

TRCP: What got you interested in TRCP and the work we do? How do you see yourself helping TRCP achieve our conservation mission?

Breckenridge: I recently retired from a career working on conservation and stewardship issues in Idaho and around the world, and I’m anxious to put my talents to good use for TRCP. I’m particularly well-versed in working with many environmental agencies, and as a volunteer I will help the TRCP spread the word about the importance of conservation and ensuring the future of our resources for our children and grandchildren to enjoy.

TRCP: How can everyday sportsmen make a difference for fish and wildlife? Why is it so important?

Breckenridge: Sportsmen and sportswomen should tap into their passion and speak up for millions of Americans who enjoy the outdoors. TRCP is in a position to reach across traditional boundaries, build consensus, harness the power of individual voices, and be an agent of positive change for fish and wildlife, anglers, and hunters.

Image courtesy of Bob Breckenridge.

TRCP: What’s the most pressing conservation issue where you live?

Breckenridge: In Idaho, fragmentation of critical habit is the most immediate conservation issue. Natural forces (fire and drought) and a number of anthropogenic pressures (development, roads, growth, etc.) cause large, continuous landscapes to be broken up into isolated patches of habitat, which is a bad situation for wildlife. Management of fragmentation pressures requires a comprehensive conservation strategy, which can only be tackled through strategic partnerships, like the ones TRCP is working to create.

TRCP: What has been your most memorable hunt? What’s still on your bucket list?

Breckenridge: The hunt during which I shot my first bull elk in Idaho comes to mind. I hunted in northern Idaho’s Unit 10, and driving all the way up there from Idaho Falls gave me a lot of time to practice bugling. On the morning of opening day, I caught up with a bugling bull. After three hours pursuing him over several ridges, I shot him at 20 yards. He was my first bull—a nice six-point.

As for my bucket list, I would like to catch a five-pound brown on the South Fork of the Snake River, a public waterway that has been known to produce big trout.

Image courtesy of Bob Breckenridge.

TRCP: Where can we find you this fall?

Breckenridge: This fall I can be found floating the Salmon River and spending time mountain biking in the Targhee and Teton National Forests. I am also lucky enough to be going to Europe to explore three major rivers and travel from Amsterdam to Budapest. I’m interested to see how the Europeans have addressed conservation after being on their land for centuries longer than U.S. settlers. I will also be fishing the South Fork of the Snake and going on a black powder elk hunt once the weather cools.

We’ll be introducing more of our volunteer ambassadors throughout the fall. Read more about our other ambassadors here.

To find out more about the TRCP Ambassador program, please contact TRCP’s deputy director of Western lands, Coby Tigert, at CTigert@trcp.org or 208-681-8011.

Moving Forward from the Malheur Standoff Decision

Three ways you can turn shock and anger into proactive solutions for our public lands

Like many sportsmen and women, I was shocked and angry when I first learned that the seven armed outlaws who took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for 41 days earlier this year were acquitted of any wrongdoing. These radicals trashed public property and blocked public access to land that belongs to all of us, and they did it while brandishing weapons and talking tough. It is impossible to comprehend how some people, armed from head to toe, could seize a federal facility and not face any consequences for their actions, but that’s exactly what happened just last week. (Hatch Magazine points out that the verdict came down, in a cruel twist, on the birthday of conservation’s patron saint.)

While it feels satisfying to place blame—on the quirky nature of the charges, an incompetent prosecutor, or a weak jury—doing so won’t change the situation. The decision is made, and anti-government fanatics are likely emboldened as a result.

Image courtesy of the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office.

However, as sportsmen and women who love and rely on public lands, we can’t sit around and accept this outcome as some part of an inevitable future. More than 72 percent of Western hunters depend on access to public lands, and millions of anglers do, as well. Complacency and discontent will only serve to benefit those who wish to steal our heritage, and we need to make sure that this decision stands as an anomaly, one at odds with the course of history.

To that end, I’ve outline three active steps that public lands hunters and anglers can take to defend our public lands legacy moving forward:

  • Most immediately, sportsmen and women should let lawmakers know we need assurances that lawbreakers and extremists cannot take away our lands and our facilities. Congress should give land managers and law enforcement personnel the tools they need to protect our public lands legacy. Sign the Sportsmen’s Access petition—or share it with family and friends who may not have signed—to send a clear message to decision-makers at home and in Washington.
  • Second, be prepared to hold lawmakers accountable for their votes in 2017, as state and federal legislators will be considering a new list of proposals designed to seize your public lands. For our part, we will keep you informed on the best ways to make your voices heard on this and other conservation issues. Sign up for TRCP email alerts and check in with the leading state-based sportsmen’s group in your area, to ensure that you receive a complete picture of upcoming challenges.
  • Finally, get outside and enjoy your public lands this fall. Hunting and fishing opportunities abound this time of year, and it is important that we all get out there to reenergize and remember what we are fighting for. Take plenty of photos and share them with us on social media using the hashtag #PublicLandsProud. Meanwhile, we’ll make sure that lawmakers get the picture—hunters and anglers support and value public lands, and we’re proud to keep them that way.

The Bundy boys aren’t out of the water yet. They’re currently awaiting their next day in court, this time tied to the standoff in Bunkerville, Nevada, in 2014. We’ll be watching and hoping that the rule of law is applied through these proceedings and a clear message is sent to anyone considering attacks on our public lands and our way of life: These lands will not be bullied away from us.

A Girl’s Guide to Hunting Big Game

A chance meeting with a young hunter holding her first-ever mule deer tag inspires a lifelong outdoorsman

Sometimes the success of a hunt is measured in inches of horn or pounds of meat, but I believe it is more often measured by less tangible things like the thrill of early morning panoramic views, the camaraderie of a scouting session, the laughter of friends and family over camp chores, and, sometimes, the brief interactions with other hunters you meet out there. It’s certainly a success if you learn something, and I recently got my lesson from a young girl on her very first mule deer hunt.

Zoey Lingenfelter and her dad, Jay. Hunter orange is not required in Nevada. Image courtesy of Patti Lingenfelter.

I was elk hunting with my friends the morning that Nevada’s muzzleloader mule deer season opened, when a man and his daughter dressed in camo rode up to us in a side-by-side UTV. We had pulled off to the side of the road to allow them to pass when the gentleman stopped to talk to us and asked what we were hunting. We told him I had an elk tag and asked if he was hunting mule deer. “My daughter has the tag,” he responded, and the girl, who I guessed was 14 years old, smiled from ear to ear.

Father and daughter discuss firearm safety during Zoey’s Nevada mule deer youth hunt. Image courtesy of Patti Lingenfelter.

In Nevada, youth tags are allocated by hunt unit and set aside for kids aged 12 to 15. Young tag-holders are allowed to hunt for either a buck or doe during the archery, muzzleloader, or general season in their respective units. This was established about 20 years ago, when Nevada sportsmen and the Nevada Department of Wildlife recognized that recruiting young hunters was the best way to ensure that our sports could continue. In a draw state for all big game tags, there was an excellent opportunity to give kids a better chance of successfully harvesting a muley—and give the state a better chance at hooking a lifelong license buyer.

The girl’s father asked if we had seen many deer, and we shared what intel we could. We’d seen quite a few deer, but the bucks were mostly young forked horns. The girl gushed about wanting to hold out for something bigger and I had to smile back at her infectious enthusiasm. They described where they’d seen a couple of good bull elk that morning, and the man pulled out his phone to show us some pictures of a very nice six-point bull and one that was even bigger. “If I were you,” the girl said excitedly, “I would go there now! Seriously, right now!” We wished each other luck, and my group drove off to follow-up on her advice.

Zoey Lingenfelter and her dad, Jay glass a likely basin on Zoey’s first mule deer hunt in Northern Nevada. Image courtesy of Patti Lingenfelter.

When we did, in fact, see some very nice bulls in that part of the unit, my mind wandered back to the girl with the big smile, and I wished I’d exchanged contact information with her dad, so I could have followed up on her success. What a remarkable kid—polite and kindhearted, willing to spend the day with her dad on public lands far away from social media and friends. If she’s anything like my kids—or me, the first time I went deer hunting with my dad—she’ll be forever changed by the experience of having a tag in her pocket and all the possibility in the world.

Wherever she is, I wish her happy hunting.

We’ve Bagged the Big One Four Years in a Row

We’re pretty proud of our 4×4—that’s four stars from the largest charity evaluator for each of the last four years—and the track record that means you can trust us to reach conservation goals with your donations

As sportsmen and women across the country celebrate an abundant fall hunting and fishing season, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is celebrating its fourth consecutive 4-star rating from Charity Navigator—that’s the highest possible rating awarded by the nation’s largest independent charity evaluator.

This four-time recognition for our financial health, accountability, and transparency puts the TRCP in the top 10 percent of American charities rated.

In a letter, Charity Navigator president and CEO Michael Thatcher says this designation indicates that the TRCP not only “executes its mission in a financially efficient way,” but also “exceeds industry standards and outperforms most charities” in our area of work. Learn more about our rating here and see our financials here.

“We’re very proud to lay all our cards on the table, remain transparent about how we use donations and grants in service of our conservation mission, and be deemed trustworthy and effective by American hunters and anglers,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, which details its accomplishments for fiscal year 2015 in its latest Annual Report. “There is no higher honor than being entrusted with your hard-earned money or confidence in our ability to bring the voices of sportsmen and women to Washington, D.C., where we will continue to strive for conservation success.”

Learn how you can help the TRCP guarantee all Americans quality places to hunt and fish by clicking here.

Or take action for conservation right now.

A Toast to the Patron Saint of Conservation on His 158th Birthday

If you’ve looked at the state of our country lately and thought, ‘What would Theodore Roosevelt do?’ this might be your answer 

Hunting and the American outdoors were fundamental to who Theodore Roosevelt was—without them, he would be unrecognizable. There have been other sportsmen in the White House (Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, and Dwight Eisenhower were all passionate flyfishermen), but T.R.’s greatness cannot be separated from his passion for the outdoors, which is what makes him the patron saint of conservation in America.

So, it’s no wonder we’re thinking of him today, as his 158th birthday coincides with a pivotal time for our nation and the conservation priorities he helped to set in motion.

Image courtesy of Library of Congress.

Theodore Roosevelt led with a clarity of purpose, and he would have seen clearly the task facing modern-day hunters and anglers—it is no less than the survival of our outdoor traditions. The future of hunting and fishing, not to mention our fish and wildlife resources, is in the hands of decision-makers who are often uninformed or downright hostile. But it is also in our hands. We must move fish and wildlife conservation up the hierarchy of our own political decision making and vote accordingly. If, like Roosevelt, hunting and angling are foundational to your very being, something you want to pass down to your children, then fish and wildlife conservation can ill-afford to be only a peripheral concern as you step into the voting booth.

With an election looming, there are many questions that we won’t be able to start to answer until the evening of November 8. But we don’t have to wait that long to know that, once again, there will not be a sportsman or sportswoman like T.R. in the White House. A generation ago, many elected leaders learned the language of the land as kids, knew the culture of opening day, and shared stories of blaze orange and bird dogs at the Formica counters of small town diners. But today, the lawmakers who understand our culture beyond its value at the voting booth are few and far between. This reality reflects broader trends: an increasingly urban population that’s more and more profoundly disconnected from wildlife and wild places.

Image courtesy of Library of Congress.

Still there is no more important issue in this country than conservation, and to celebrate T.R. is to celebrate his famous maxim. Subsequently we must hold our elected officials accountable when they make decisions that threaten habitat and access. We must inform others, and be informed ourselves, on the importance of the North American model of wildlife management, and explain how hunters and anglers play an absolutely essential role in the funding of conservation work. After all, following in T.R.’s footsteps, we are the prime authors of some of the greatest fish and wildlife conservation success stories in the history of the world.

To be a hunter or an angler in 2016 is to be a steward for the future. It is no less an essential call than the one that motivated Theodore Roosevelt and a generation of American conservationists, to whom we owe a profound debt of gratitude. The hunters of the next century need us to carry that mantle forward with our words and actions.

Don’t wait until Election Day to start living by Roosevelt’s example—take action right now to ensure your access to the public lands that represent freedom in a troubled world. Click here to learn more.

There’s More Than One Way to Build a Marsh (and We Need Both)

To combat the world’s worst bout of wetland loss, we can’t afford to use just some of the tools available—especially when you look at where marsh projects will be in 50 years 

To dredge or to divert?

That is the question many South Louisianans have asked over the last decade when considering the best approach to restoring and sustaining the imperiled wetlands of the Mississippi River Delta. Some residents, whose livelihoods depend on marine fisheries or a certain way of life, call for one solution over the other, but this has never been an either/or scenario for most coastal engineers and wetland ecologists trying to solve the world’s greatest wetland-loss problem. Here’s why.

Scaling Up Sediment Success
To give this world-class fish and wildlife habitat a fighting chance, it has always been recommended to combine approaches. Water containing floating sediment needs to be diverted from the Mississippi River into adjacent wetlands through gates built in the levees that protect New Orleans and communities north and south from floodwaters. At the same time, marshes, ridges, and barrier islands need to be rebuilt with sediment dredged from the Mississippi and other waterways.

However, some coastal residents have argued strongly against the diversions. Many of them are commercial fishermen, who are worried that redirecting freshwater into coastal estuaries will displace the shrimp and oysters they depend on for their livelihoods. They contend diversions are too expensive to construct and they don’t build land as fast as dredging. The toll that freshwater could have on their businesses means dredge pipes—and only dredge pipes—are the way to go.

Pictured here, the west bay diversion in 2012. In 2011, historic flooding in the Mississippi River delivered a slug of sediment that built large mudflats and new marshes in areas that had become open water over the last 50 years. Strategically placed islands built with sediment dredged from sandbars in the river channel have helped slow down the water coming out of the river and build more land and establish additional vegetation. Image courtesy of Google Earth.

Those arguing against diversions often look past the fact that in the handful of areas where the river is currently spilling into estuaries—the shallow lakes, bays, and marshes home to redfish, bass, speckled trout, countless forage fish, and wintering waterfowl—it is already building new land by dropping essential sediment into existing wetlands. In some places, that land-building process has been aided by the construction of small islands or a series of terraces, piles of sediment built to break wave action and encourage vegetation growth, placed in the diversion outfall areas to slow water flow and help the sediment drop out quicker.

Now, the engineers and wetlands experts preparing to build Louisiana’s largest controlled diversions are using these small-scale successes as a model for large-scale success upriver.

Borrowed Building Materials
Diversion designers and planners with Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) have identified a dozen areas in the Mississippi River channel where sediment can be dredged and used to build land. A dredge in the river picks up sediment from “borrow areas,” then pipes and booster pumps move the material as far as 20 miles or more to build new marsh. The holes created by dredging the material are filled in again in as little as five years with additional sediment coming down river.

Many of the borrow areas are close enough to where diversions will be flowing into degraded marshes to allow for terrace construction in advance of diversion operation. The terraces can then help slow the river water coming from the diversion, causing the sediment to drop out quicker. Advanced modeling and historical analysis of river conditions has also helped planners determine the times of the year and flow rates when peak sediment loads are in the river, giving them a better idea of when the river’s land-building capacity is at its best. In general, those peak sediment events occur in the winter when the basins adjacent to the river have their lowest water levels.

Opening diversions at these peak conditions, combined with the construction of wave-breaking terraces, would maximize land building, while minimizing freshwater inundation and the impact to many saltwater species of fish and crustaceans.

Furthermore, when vegetation and marshes build on the terraces, those diversions will help them survive longer. Models show that subsidence—the natural sinking of land—and sea-level rise will work together to submerge those marshes built with no diversion near to supply sediment within 30 years. However, projects built in conjunction with diversion to feed sediment into the system are able to stay above the water line beyond 50 years, which is the furthest into the future that models can predict, according to CPRA officials.

Using diversions to deliver sediment into adjacent wetlands will always be part of any realistic approach to sustaining the Mississippi River Delta. It’s a reality that even the staunchest diversion opponents can’t change or escape. By using dredged sediment to build land in combination with sediment carried by water, diversion proponents and opponents can reach an outcome they both agree upon – the creation of essential fish and wildlife habitat as quickly and efficiently as possible.

That’s why the TRCP is working with Louisiana coastal restoration officials and other conservation groups to advance coastal restoration efforts like this. We’re supportive of developing a new plan for coastal restoration and hurricane protection that could see legislative approval in 2017. For more information about that plan, please visit coastal.louisiana.gov.