Washington, D.C. -
01/31/2006 - With government leaders returning to business in Washington, The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is today releasing its 2006 Conservation Policy Agenda, developed through its partner organizations. The partner organizations of the TRCP, including leading national hunting, fishing, and conservation groups, have identified a core set of Policy Initiatives on which to focus sustained and coordinated efforts this year. The TRCP will facilitate these efforts to combine forces and put broad, unified support from across the spectrum of the hunting and fishing community behind important issues on which individual conservation organizations already are working hard.
The consensus priorities in the agenda below represent overarching concerns and opportunities of the hunting and fishing community that stand to affect all kinds of sportsmen and women – from small and big-game hunters to both freshwater and saltwater anglers. Building on momentum gained this past year, the groups represented in the Partnership together will seek to achieve meaningful results in these specifically agreed to policy areas in 2006 so that the country’s more than 40 million hunters and anglers can all be guaranteed quality places to hunt and fish.
The TRCP facilitates joint coalition work by its partner organizations in three core policy areas:
· Expanding Access to places to hunt and fish,
· Conserving Habitat necessary to sustain fish and wildlife, and
· Increasing Funding for conservation and management.
Guided by these priorities, the Partnership’s 2006 Conservation Policy Agenda contains the following seven priority TRCP Policy Initiatives.
Hunting and Fishing Access
1. Better Public Access through “Open Fields” Sprawl and other factors are making it more and more difficult for the average sportsman to find access to quality places to hunt and fish. The TRCP and its partner organizations helped develop the “Open Fields Bill” which directly tackles the access problem. This bipartisan legislation was reintroduced in both the Senate and House in 2005 and picked up almost 40 co-sponsors. “Open Fields” provides $20 million a year in federal funding that states can use to offer rural landowners incentives to voluntarily open their acreage to recreational hunting and fishing. Along with supporting passage of Open Fields legislation in 2006, TRCP partner organizations, led by Pheasants Forever, the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Boone and Crockett, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Whitetails Unlimited, and the Izaak Walton League of America, will concurrently explore the alternate possibility of making “Open Fields” part of the next Farm Bill authorization.
2. Improving USDA Conservation Programs in the Farm Bill This regularly renewed legislation provides the conservation community with an unparalleled opportunity to partner with the farming and ranching communities to encourage expanded and enhanced fish and wildlife habitat. The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP), Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), and Grassland Reserve Program (GRP) have made tens of millions of acres on America’s farms and ranches more hospitable to fish and wildlife. With the next Farm Bill set for enactment in 2007, this legislation is being formulated and crafted in 2006. TRCP partner organizations including Ducks Unlimited, the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the Izaak Walton League of America, Pheasants Forever, the Wildlife Management Institute, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the North American Grouse Partnership are leading the TRCP’s Agriculture and Wildlife Working Group in 2006 to coordinate efforts that will culminate in the form of consensus recommendations to be incorporated in the 2007 Farm Bill.
3. Improving Fisheries and Marine Resource Management Through The Magnuson-Stevens Act (MSA) The MSA governs marine fisheries management in the federal waters of the United States and is reauthorized and amended regularly. A new version of MSA is expected to be passed this year and the recreational fishing community has an important opportunity to weigh in with its conservation and management priorities. The TRCP’s Marine Conservation Working Group (MCWG), led by the American Sportfishing Association, the Berkley Conservation Institute, the Coastal Conservation Association, the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, is taking advantage of this opportunity. The MCWG already has made substantial progress in seeing its consensus priorities addressed in the Senate's version of the MSA bill – priorities including implementing a uniform, state-based saltwater fishing license, improving allocation of fisheries resources for recreational anglers, establishing appropriate guidelines for Marine Protected Areas, and reducing the use of destructive gear.
4. Conserving Fish and Wildlife in the Face of Energy Development on Federal Lands To ensure that oil and gas development on public land does not affect fish and wildlife resources adversely, TRCP partner groups including Boone and Crockett Club, International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the Izaak Walton League of America, North American Grouse Partnership, Trout Unlimited, and the Wildlife Management Institute are working on improving energy policies and practices to provide increased protections for fish and wildlife resources. Of particular concern are areas in the Rocky Mountain West that are home to some of the most important fish and wildlife populations in the nation. American hunters and anglers, regardless of the state in which they live, treasure the sporting opportunities still left in this part of America. Fish and wildlife; including trout, elk, mule deer, pronghorn, turkey, lesser prairie chickens, and sage grouse; all rely on specific habitats in this region. This initiative does not seek to hamper energy development, but simply to ensure that leasing and permitting decisions are made with criteria and provisions that ensure exploration and extraction don’t impact fish and wildlife significantly.
5. Roadless Area Management In 2005, the United States Forest Service adopted a new rule governing the management of Inventoried Roadless Areas within the country’s National Forest System. The new rule gives state governors the option of submitting petitions outlining how they would like Inventoried Roadless Areas managed within the National Forest System lands in their state. Governors currently are gathering feedback from interested parties as they formulate their roadless petitions, which are due this November. In 2006, the TRCP will work to help make sure the priorities and concerns of hunters and anglers are being heard by their governors so that roadless petitions take into account the views of sportsmen.
6. Funding State Wildlife Grants The hunting and fishing community has a strong interest in ensuring that State Wildlife Action Plans, which establish priorities for investments in fish and wildlife habitat conservation, are fully funded and implemented. The establishment of the state wildlife action plans by Congress in 2000 led states to prepare wildlife plans for their conservation work, which they finished submitting to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this past October. The main goal of this initiative is to ensure adequate funding and successful implementation of State Wildlife Action Plans. To help support this project, the Partnership, led by the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, The Nature Conservancy, the Izaak Walton League of America, and The Wildlife Society, will coordinate efforts to educate hunters and anglers about the importance of adequate funding for implementation of these plans.
7. Improving and Protecting Conservation Tax Incentives Conservation tax incentives, such as voluntary easements, have protected millions of acres of land from development and have become some of the most effective conservation tools available today. Giving landowners tax incentives under flexible agreements, such as land trusts, has induced them to protect land at a time when sprawl is consuming fish and wildlife habitat at an accelerated rate. In the coming months, Congress will consider a Senate produced bill that could encourage the donation of conservation easements further while instituting reasonable reform measures. The International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, the Land Trust Alliance, the North American Grouse Partnership, The Nature Conservancy, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and the Izaak Walton League of America are working together in the Partnership to raise awareness in the hunting and fishing community as to the important conservation benefits associated with the legislation being debated in Congress and ensure that lawmakers are aware of how integral conservation tax incentives such as easements are to the conservation work done by the country’s leading hunting, fishing and conservation groups.
The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is a coalition of leading conservation organizations and individual grassroots partners, working together to expand access to places to hunt and fish, conserve fish and wildlife and their habitat, and increase funding for conservation and management.