Daily Archives: August 6, 2015

Without Congressional compromise, conservation will come to a halt

 

What 34 sportsmen’s groups have joined forces to ask of our nation’s lawmakers as they craft next year’s budget

 

By Steve Kline

TRCP Blog

 

Agreement in the year 2015 seems to be a rare thing—whether it’s among Republicans and Democrats or about Coke or Pepsi. Even hunters and anglers have loyalties that can lead to fireside arguments about smallmouth or cutthroat, ducks or deer. With so many options, disagreement just seems to be the natural status quo.

 

But there was absolutely no disagreement last week, when 34 of the nation’s leading hunting and angling conservation organizations, representing sportsmen and women from every region of the country, signed a letter urging Congressional leadership to begin negotiating a bipartisan budget deal.

 

Many of the issues that we work on at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) are regional by nature of being specific to certain terrain or species, like sage grouse, red snapper, or Prairie Potholes. It can sometimes be difficult, and understandably so, to get fishing groups interested in upland issues or to ask waterfowl groups to advocate for the sagebrush steppe. It’s not that these groups don’t care, it’s just that, with limited bandwidth and capacity, their focus on one core mission is essential. And so TRCP has made it our core mission to bring the widest swath of the sporting community to bear on the issues that truly impact the full spectrum of America’s hunters and anglers.

 

Few issues are more important to fish and wildlife habitat and the future of quality experiences afield than conservation funding.

 

The end of September marks the end of the federal fiscal year 2015, and as the fiscal year ends, so does the Murray-Ryan budget deal (formally known as the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015). It was negotiated in good faith by then-chairs of the House and Senate Budget Committees, Paul Ryan and Patty Murray, respectively. Its provisions allowed for a temporary lift from the onerous, sweeping, and automatic cuts referred to as “sequestration,” which would have fundamentally altered the landscape of fish and wildlife habitat conservation in the United States. However, the expiration of the deal means the return of sequestration and, in such a scenario, habitat projects often wind up on the cutting room floor. Access enhancement stops in its tracks. Conservation priorities wither on the vine.

 

That is, unless Congressional leaders can come together on a successor agreement to Murray-Ryan. Dozens of sporting-conservation groups have gone on the record in support of Congressional negotiations that result in a bipartisan budget agreement to provide for a meaningful reinvestment in conservation funding. Private lands, public lands, marine fisheries, water, and literally everything else in the universe of issues that sportsmen care about most would be dramatically impacted by the return of sequestration.

 

It is time for Congressional leaders to come together for this greatly needed compromise—we can all agree on that.

California bans bobcat trapping, despite evidence

 

With a contentious 3-2 vote, the California Fish and Game Commission approved a statewide ban on trapping of bobcats.

 

The Sportsmen’s Alliance and its Al Taucher Conservation Coalition partners favored following the science amassed by the state and federal governments.

 

“Today’s narrow decision by the commission to ban bobcat trapping in California flies in the face of the science made available by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” said Josh Brones, government affairs coordinator of western operations for the Sportsmen’s Alliance. “For the commission to willfully ignore the departments’ recommendations to not implement the ban, indicates an utter lack of regard for the role and value of science and wildlife professionals in resource policy-making decisions.”

 

In his presentation, Craig Martz, senior environmental scientist for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, provided ample evidence that the bobcat population in California was stable and possibly growing, and as high as 140,000 animals. When the maximum population was estimated to be no more than 72,000 bobcats nearly 30 years ago, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife established a threshold of harvest by hunters and trappers to be 14,400 bobcats. Given the current average annual take of approximately 1,800 bobcats, the department’s staff appropriately summarized their presentation by stating that the trapping of bobcats would have absolutely no impact on the population.

 

In a disappointing turn of events, newly appointed commissioners Sklar and Williams voted against sportsmen and were the deciding factors in the needless statewide ban, with commission president Jack Baylis joining them. Commissioners Kellogg and Hostler-Carmesin voted against the ban.

 

“We are very disappointed by the willingness of the new commissioners to cave to the irrational and emotional arguments of the animal-rights community by taking such a radical stance on a very complex topic that has been debated for more than year – especially when their knowledge and experience with the subject matter has been confined to this single meeting,” said Brones.

 

“When they were appointed by Gov. Brown, we had hoped Williams and Sklar would recognize the environmental and economic importance sportsmen serve in wildlife management. At the very least, we hoped they would take a prudent and thoughtful look at the evidence and recommendation of state and federal scientists,” continued Brones. “Apparently, that was too much to hope for in this hotly debated contest. This glaring disregard for credible science will most assuredly be exploited as we pursue our options to reverse this decision.”