Sharing Roosevelt’s Vision for Conservation and Sportsmen’s Access

Of all the senses we engage as sportsmen, vision is perhaps the most essential to having a successful day on the water or in the field. Whether we’re watching for rising fish, scanning the horizon for birds, or glassing a ridgeline for an antlered silhouette, we base our actions off of what we see out there. And the conservation of our fish, wildlife, and sporting opportunities is no exception.

More than 100 years ago, Theodore Roosevelt had a vision and a passion for the outdoors that led to our current model of conservation and management of public resources and wildlife. It’s what sets the United States apart from the rest of the world. These uniquely American principles are found in the hunting and fishing traditions we all enjoy—and easily take for granted.

Preserving this legacy for future generations is worth the fight. That’s why the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership was created: To unite sportsmen and amplify our collective voices around key conservation issues and promotion of sportsmen’s access, so that all Americans have quality places to hunt and fish. Among the many issues we work on related to saltwater fishing, clean water, and private lands conservation is a signature campaign to prevent the seizure of our federal public lands and to keep them open to sportsmen’s access. Through SportsmensAccess.org, hunters and anglers can engage in this conversation by signing a petition to lawmakers or showing their social media networks why they are #PublicLandsProud. We are thrilled that Costa is a supporter of the TRCP and this important sportsmen’s access campaign.

Costa is a company that exemplifies and celebrates the “strenuous life” that Roosevelt talked about. Their commitment to quality and innovation have made their sunglasses an essential piece of gear for millions of sportsmen. Costa also recognizes the role their brand and its customers can play in promoting the conservation of fish and wildlife habitat – it’s an industry-wide responsibility and investment in our future. Through various initiatives, such as The Watery Rave blog and the Kick Plastic campaign, Costa is educating and engaging sportsmen to help make a difference.

TRCP is extremely proud to call Costa our partner. Together, we seek to carry on with Roosevelt’s vision, and our collaboration on a fun and unique technical fishing shirt is your chance to get involved. This shirt will keep you cool on the water and display your proud support of T.R.’s conservation vision. It bears our logo with Roosevelt’s iconic silhouette, but we’ve swapped out his famous spectacles…for a pair of Costas of course!

You can support the TRCP and get your shirt here.

The Teddy Bear Delisting and ‘That Hunt’

You may know the tale of Theodore Roosevelt’s Mississippi black bear hunt in the fall of 1902, his second year in office. After all, it’s one of the most famous hunts to have taken place on American soil, and it inspired the most famous toy in the world – the Teddy Bear.

Image courtesy of Creative Commons.

But shortly after Roosevelt came to Mississippi in the early 1900s, over-hunting and agricultural development in the Delta’s swamps practically eliminated the Louisiana black bear from its native range in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley. It was eventually listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) as a threatened species by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1992, bringing about much concern from landowners, the timber industry, and wildlife professionals. This forward-thinking group hoped that the downward trend could be reversed and suitable black bear habitat within the region could be restored.

That same year, the Wetlands Reserve Program was instituted, building upon the successes of the Conservation Reserve Program, launched in 1985. Together, these programs resulted in the restoration of more than one million acres of black bear habitat, and black bear populations slowly began to rise across the bear’s historic range.

Now, Teddy’s bear is having a moment. After more than two decades of conservation efforts, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell has proposed removing the Louisiana black bear from the list of threatened and endangered species under the ESA. “The Louisiana black bear symbolizes how the Endangered Species Act can be a remarkably effective tool to protect and recover threatened and endangered species when we work in close partnership with states and other stakeholders,” Jewell said. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, state agencies, non-profit organizations, and private landowners are all to thank for the Louisiana black bear’s success.

Image courtesy of USFWS.

According to Hunter Fordice, a landowner and son of Mississippi’s former governor, Kirk Fordice, “The first documented black bear cubs born in the Mississippi Delta in some 30 years were born in the middle of a 12-year-old Wetlands Reserve Program tract on my property in Issaquena County in 2007. The Wetlands Reserve Program and the Conservation Reserve Program have restored hundreds of thousands of acres of bottomland hardwoods across the Lower Mississippi Valley, which in turn has provided habitat suitable for the Louisiana black bear to once again thrive in its historical home range. As a landowner, it is very gratifying to see these conservation programs working so well.”

We think Roosevelt would be proud to see the population’s rebound and to know that the next generation of outdoorsmen will share the woods with the bear that “bears” his nickname. To celebrate, let’s hear the story of this famous hunt.

A Famous Hunt and Hunter

Almost every aspect of Roosevelt’s 1902 hunt at Smede’s farm was the responsibility of the uneducated, but extremely intelligent, 56-year-old Holt Collier, who was born into slavery and served as a Confederate scout before becoming a legend for his hunting skills. Roosevelt (who announced that he was to be addressed only as “Colonel” throughout the hunt) expressed his desire to participate in the chase. However his demands for a shot on the very first day, and the timidity of his hosts, condemned him to a stationary blind. He was placed to have a clear shot when the bear, driven by Collier’s pack of nearly 40 dogs, would emerge from one of the dense cane thickets on the farm.

Roosevelt and his hunting partner, Huger Foote, waited on the stand all morning. Around mid-afternoon they broke for lunch, annoying Collier, who’d worked extremely hard to bring a bear to that exact spot only to find the stand abandoned.  As Collier recalled,

“That was eight o’clock in the mornin’ when I hit the woods an’ roused my bear where I knowed I’d fin him. Den me an’ dat bear had a time, fightin’ an’ chargin’ an’ tryin’ to make him take a tree. Big ole bear but he wouldn’t climb nary tree. I could have killed him a thousand times… I sweated myself to death in that canebrake. So did the bear. By keeping between the bear and the river, I knew he’d sholy make for the water hole where I left the Cunnel [sic]. After a while the bear started that way and popped out of the gap where I said he’d go. But I didn’t hear a shot, and that pestered me… It sholy pervoked me because I’d promised the President to bring him a bear to that log, and there he was.”

-Holt Collier: His Life, His Roosevelt Hunts, and the Origin of the Teddy Bear by Minor Ferris Buchanan 

It was at this time that the bear turned on the dogs. This put Collier in quite the quandary. He had been given specific orders to save the bear for Roosevelt, who was not to be found, and yet he had to protect the dogs from the deadly bear.

Image courtesy of Dale Divers.

Collier dismounted, shouting at the bear. He approached the bear and tried to distract it as someone rode to camp to get the President. In the meantime, the bear and the dogs fought viciously, and at one point his prize dog was caught in the bear’s grip. Collier swung the stock of his gun and landed a blow to the base of the bear’s skull. Stunned, the bear dropped the dog and Collier seized the opportunity to place a lariat around the bear’s neck so that, when Roosevelt and Foote arrived several minutes later, the animal was tied to a tree.

President Roosevelt refused to claim the bear, citing a “true sportsmen’s code” which holds that the taking of any animal that does not have a sporting chance is forbidden. This famous hunting event inspired the first widespread discussion of the modern code of “fair chase,” a tenet of the Boone and Crockett Club which Roosevelt founded. It is the oldest conservation organization in North America and the second oldest in the world.

Although Roosevelt did not count the hunt as “successful,” the press thought it a most delightful story and spread word of it across the country. Roosevelt’s refusal to kill a defenseless animal was far more newsworthy than the taking of a trophy bear, and as the news spread, Brooklyn toy store owners Rose and Morris Michtom wrote to ask his permission to name their stuffed toy bears after him. The President approved, and “Teddy’s Bears” were born.


James L. Cummins is executive director of Wildlife Mississippi, a Regular Member of the Boone and Crockett Club, and a member of the TRCP Policy Council.

The Sportsmen’s State of the Union 2015

November’s elections proved that change is a constant in Washington; today’s majority can swiftly become tomorrow’s minority. But regardless of which party controls the agenda and the gavels of Congress, it remains imperative for America’s hunters and anglers to make clear our priorities: excellent access to quality fish and wildlife habitat. Communicating that message to decision makers is the mission, indeed, the very reason the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership was created.

2015 promises to bring many changes and challenges, both positive and negative, to the sportsmen’s community. The TRCP and our partners will be closely tracking the following issues, all of which have the potential to significantly impact our ability to hunt, fish and otherwise enjoy what Theodore Roosevelt called “the strenuous life.”

2015 promises to bring many changes and challenges, both positive and negative, to the sportsmen’s community.

Our community of 40 million American hunters and anglers continues to be one of the very few stakeholder groups that pays our own way. Through license fees, excise taxes and membership to groups like Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Forever, who leverage every federal dollar they receive three or four times, we support our outdoor way of life. While so many citizens expect more from the government, sportsmen are a group of citizens who continue to pay more. We remain one of the very best investments the federal government makes. As an example, this year waterfowl hunters have elected to pay just a little bit more for Duck Stamps, as we asked Congress to raise the price from $15 to $25. Few walk the halls of the Capitol lobbying for increased fees, but sportsmen understand that tomorrow’s outdoor opportunities require conservation today.

2015 may well be the “year of the sage grouse,” but whether this will be a story of failure or a conservation success story for the ages remains to be seen. The continued commitment of state and federal land managers to take the steps necessary for durable conservation of both the bird, and more importantly the sage ecosystem on which hundreds of other species depend, will be vital to sustain both the grouse and species like mule deer and pronghorn antelope. Getting it right on sage grouse now will go a long way towards avoiding a veritable cascade of listing decisions that may well cripple the American West in a way that works for no one.

Public lands hunt

Photo courtesy of Jarred Kay.

On our national forests, the pendulum has swung away from active forest management, resulting in fuels accumulating, an increased risk of wildfire and fish and wildlife habitat in dire need of restoration. Even the most straightforward forest management projects frequently wind up in court, delayed unnecessarily for years while forest conditions deteriorate. A bipartisan, multi-stakeholder opportunity exists to improve the health of our national forests – and subsequently improve the forest-dependent economy. Short-sighted, single solution approaches that seek to return to the other extreme are no more workable than the status quo, but in this Congress TRCP believes the leadership and the will exists for pragmatic forest legislation, sportsmen look forward to being part of that conversation.

Sportsmen readily admit that management challenges exist on America’s public lands, but the sale of those public lands, an idea that seems to arise once a generation or so, remains a worrisome proposition. America’s public lands are interwoven into a sportsmen’s heritage that is more than a century old, and their accessibility to Americans of all stripes stands in stark contrast to the private ownership and moneyed access of privileged European monarchies. Few more un-American ideas exist than the notion that private economic interests should gain title to a large swath of the American legacy, and the TRCP and our partners remain committed to thwarting misguided attempts to sell, transfer or otherwise divest the federal government of its irreplaceable public lands.

Image courtesy of Howard Polskin.

Management challenges are not limited to the land, of course, but also extend to our oceans and coastal resources. Congress in 2015 may well continue to examine the law managing our nation’s fisheries, the Magnuson-Stevens Act, with an eye toward making changes in the next round of reauthorization. 2016 will be the 40th anniversary of the act. Over the past four decades, recreational saltwater fishing has grown up, but the Magnuson-Stevens Act hasn’t kept the pace. Communities that once depended on commercial fishing now just as surely depend on recreational anglers for their economic livelihoods. As congressional leaders from a variety of coastal states review American fisheries management, they would do well to consider the health of recreational fisheries on equal footing with commercial fisheries. The TRCP will continue to stress that ignoring recreational angling equates to bad economic policy.

Opportunities and threats exist, much as they always do. The theme of 2015 will be balance. With a thoughtful and open-minded approach, threats can become opportunities, and the collective interests of all Americans can be addressed. An “us versus them” mentality draws lines in the sand unnecessarily and assures that division remains the status quo.

The TRCP will seek collaboration where we can and defend strongly our rock solid principles where they are threatened. In so doing, we will make sure that the future of hunting and angling dawns bright for future generations of Americans.

Setting Priorities and Taking Names

Leadershiptenacity and foresight are three traits of Theodore Roosevelt’s that I most admire. T.R. embodied a certain largeness of character that is, of course, not unusual for many in the political arena. But while the man certainly could talk the talk, here is what set him apart: He got things done.

Bully pulpit or no, exceptional leaders know what it takes to make a tangible and positive impact on the nation and its people. A lot has changed since the days of Roosevelt, but I still believe great things can be accomplished in Washington, D.C., and sportsmen must play a leading role.

The TRCP has outlined the priority issues for sportsmen in 2013. Photo by Dusan Smetana.

This is why we’ve outlined our priority issues for 2013 in our annual Conservation Policy Agenda. Please read them.

I share these priorities with you in the hopes that you’ll be willing to step into the arena when the time comes. And the time will come soon.

What’s more, I hope that you will have the tenacity to carry the discussion about conservation policy into your community. I hope you will take leadership and talk about these issues at your local hunt club or shooting range. Consider hosting a roundtable with friends – those you agree with and those you disagree with – to discuss issues of importance for hunters and anglers. True change requires the foresight to work together and map out the areas in which sportsmen hope to progress in 2013.

It all starts with accurate information. Be sure to read the TRCP Conservation Policy Agenda to learn more, sign up to receive updates from the front lines of conservation via the TRCP’s weekly Roosevelt Report, check out our partner list and find out how you can get more involved.

Join the conversation and let us know areas in which you would like to make a difference in 2013.

 

Presidential Candidates Should Make Energy and Public Lands in the West a Priority

“Sportsmen and women understand that not every president can be as passionate an outdoorsman as Theodore Roosevelt. We do expect, however, that candidates for president understand the importance of keeping public lands in public hands while also acting on the need to balance energy development with abundant fish and wildlife populations, clean air and water, and recreational opportunities that include hunting and fishing. Both candidates would do well to listen to sportsmen and women.”

Read more at Denverpost.com.