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

• 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


Categories: Rob Drieslein

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