Monday, February 6th, 2023
Monday, February 6th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Commentary: For conservationists, what was most important in 2022?

Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership Report

Since its founding in 2002, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership has existed to unite hunters and anglers around common goals and then bring the strong, unified voice of our community directly to decision-makers who can implement pragmatic solutions that benefit fish, wildlife, and outdoor recreation access.

Our best metric of success is whether we’ve compelled members, readers, and social followers to act in support of conservation, whether that’s by signing a petition, sending a message to lawmakers, attending a public hearing or rally, or donating to keep our work going.

In looking back on this year – the TRCP’s 20th anniversary – we saw a pattern of strong support for many issues, both national and regional in scope. More than 30,000 of you took action at least once in 2022. Here are the issues that convinced the most sportsmen and sportswomen to speak up.

Public land access and management

Unsurprisingly, public land issues were high on the list, with many opportunities for sportsmen and sportswomen to weigh in on national and local proposals and protect against threats to habitat and access. TRCP supporters have long defended
public hunting and fishing opportunities, and some had reason this year
to remind decision-makers that our community strongly opposes the sale
or transfer of national public lands to states.

You also spoke out about the need for federal agencies to digitize their
paper maps and access records and make this information publicly
available. Thanks to your support, this is a requirement made by the
MAPLand Act, which was signed into law this year.

Chronic wasting disease solutions

In the past two years, hunters in this community have gotten us closer
than ever before to sending more adequate federal resources to state and
tribal wildlife agencies that are struggling to respond to the rapid
spread of CWD among wild deer and elk. As a result, the Chronic Wasting
Disease Research and Management Act sailed through the House in 2021.

This year, thousands of you have pushed senators to pick up the baton and
lock down these investments in better surveillance and testing and
next-level science. We hope to have good news to share on this any day

You also called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to hold captive deer operations
accountable for their role in spreading CWD between farmraised and wild
deer. This will be a major focus of our work once legislation is passed,
so stay tuned.

Defending Pittman- Robertson dollars

One bill that we’ll be glad to see on the cutting room floor at the end of
this Congress generated outrage (and action) among hunters and anglers
who are proud of our essential role in conservation.

The RETURN Act, introduced in July of this year, would have obliterated
Pittman-Robertson funding, which is collected via excise taxes on our
licenses, firearms, and other gear to underwrite habitat improvements,
enhanced hunting and fishing access, hunter education programs, and new
public shooting ranges across the country.

We’re always hesitant to bring too much attention to legislation that appears
to have no path forward, but in this case, with the bill co-sponsored
by so many decision-makers upon introduction, education and advocacy was
necessary. You rose to the occasion, firing off this message and
leading some lawmakers to quickly pull their support for the bill.

Farm Bill conservation programs

We also saw strong support for private-land conservation programs in one
of the most significant, yet commonly overlooked, pieces of legislation
for improving habitat and access: the federal Farm Bill.

the thousands of you who spoke out in support of greater overall
investments in private-land conservation, a stronger Conservation
Reserve Program, and giving a boost to the only federal program aimed at
enhancing outdoor recreation access on private land, your timing
couldn’t have been better.

The most recent five-year Farm Bill expires next fall, and lawmakers will
be working in earnest to craft a new package this spring. It is clear
that hunters and anglers will be paying attention.

Conservation funding proposals

The limitations on our good ideas and strongest conservation policies are
nearly always related to how much funding is available. While a balance
on federal spending must be maintained, it is worth noting that
conservation dollars, as a percentage of all congressional spending, had
been cut in half in recent decades.

Gains have been made in many existing programs, but new funding sources need
to be identified to keep conservation moving forward.

This may be why so many of you were compelled to take action in support of
the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, which would proactively fund
conservation of the most at-risk species. RAWA would provide dedicated
funding to restore habitat, recover wildlife populations, and rebuild
the infrastructure for both our natural systems and outdoor recreation
opportunities – and it could still pass this Congress as an omnibus
spending deal comes together.

Water conservation and drought planning

While public lands and looming threats took top spots on this list, a diverse
array of water resource issues also attracted your attention in a
meaningful way this year. The biennial Water Resources Development Act
was a surprising rallying point for hunters and anglers.

While the TRCP always advocates for habitat and outdoor recreation in this
process, it has rarely been met with so much support from sportsmen and
sportswomen. Thanks, in part, to you, WRDA just passed out of the Senate
and heads to the president’s desk with important provisions for
Mississippi River conservation efforts, natural infrastructure, and
Everglades restoration.

Grasslands and sagebrush conservation efforts

The TRCP and a diverse coalition of groups first appealed to hunters and
anglers in 2021 to support a solution for restoring and conserving
disappearing grasslands and sagebrush habitat. At the
time, our groups offered a proposal: Pattern a program for native
grasslands off the successful North American Wetlands Conservation Act,
which empowers private landowners to conserve and improve waterfowl

The response from conservationists was so overwhelming that lawmakers introduced
legislation to create just such a program this fall.

The action alert is still live, pushing for support of the North American
Grasslands Conservation Act, which is unlikely to pass this Congress but
has many champions who will make another run at securing this solution
in the next session.

Editor’s note: This commentary was edited for space considerations and relevance to Minnesota readers of Outdoor News.

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