Report from TRCP Media Summit
Last week, I attended the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership's annual media summit in Colorado. The group has become an important source for Outdoor News in recent years on matters of national agriculture and natural resource policy, so spending a few days with staff provided an opportunity to put names to faces and commiserate about the challenges facing modern conservation. Here's a grab bag of nuggets.
• A fisheries biologist by training, TRCP board member Jim Martin hails from Oregon and speaks around the country mostly on marine fisheries issues. He attended the Minnesota DNR Roundtable two winters ago, and last week he told me he considers our state's roundtable one of the best public input sessions in the country. "I've been telling other states to use the same model," he said.
• Writer and outdoor TV host Stephen Rinella, the man behind the "The Wild Within" program on The Travel Channel (now headed to the Sportsman's Channel) spoke one evening. A young guy, Rinella doesn't fit the mold of your average outdoors communicator, but everyone there (and other scribes I trust) admire his brand of outdoor TV. He emphasizes what happens after the kill and spoke in more depth than I thought possible about how we view and respect wild game.
• Driving in a van to the White River last Tuesday for trout fishing, some Montana writers taunted me about wolves. They're farther along with delisting than Minnesota even though we have double the wolves (than the entire Inter-mountain West combined) and have had them longer than states like Montana. I couldn't stammer out much of a retort.
• During a late gravel-road drive to our lodging, I met the editorial staff from the Missoula, Mont.-based Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. We discussed elk management across the west, especially Colorado, which contains more elk than any other state. Though it contains numbers, Colorado produces a disproportionately low percentage of big bulls. The issue reminded me (almost word for word) of the whitetail buck debate in the southeast and statewide. The RMEF guys and I also unanimously lamented Minnesota's lack of interest in expanding our state's northwest elk herd.
• The owner, Paul Vahldiek, of the High Lonesome Ranch that hosted TRCP has an incredible conservation vision. He and his co-owners control nearly 300 square miles (about 220,000 acres) of extreme west-central Colorado. They're working hard to maintain quality lands while allowing mixed uses to generate revenue, like limited cattle grazing, oil and natural gas extraction, hunting and fishing trips, and family ranching and camping experiences.
• This space has documented the massive loss that natural resource Interior programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund face in the current budget cycle. Could be a bloodbath for the agriculture conservation title side, too, folks. As it stands right now, for example, the Open Fields initiative - the one that motivated Minnesota to launch its walk-in program - could be zeroed out for funding by FY2012.
• After three days of discussing the federal funding quagmire, a depressing pall had enveloped some of us. Martin wouldn't stand for it. During his closing comments, he pounded his fist on the table as he demanded that conservationists fight even harder to maintain what we've achieved the past 100 years. He suggested reading a 2009 book by Tim Egan, "The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America." It details some of the early days of the conservation movement, and - Martin said - reveals that the challenges conservation faces today are small compared to what Gifford Pinchot and Roosevelt tackled in the early 20th Century.