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  • October 29, 2012

    The Truth About Gas Prices: More U.S. Drilling Won't Help

    By Bob Marshall

    One of the most persistent and effective threats to public fish and wildlife habitat is the energy lobby. They push for access to public lands--even wilderness and roadless areas--and then they push to demolish regulations that would make them be sensitive to fish and wildlife values on that public property.  

    And their most persuasive argument--visible everywhere during the current election season--is this: We need to drill more to lower the price at the pump.

    In fact, the most effective tool America (and its politicians) have in reducing fuel costs is regulations that stress conservation.

    That's not me talking. That's the word from energy economists--and always has been.

    As the Associated Press explained in this excellent report, the U.S. could yield to the wildest demands from the "Drill Baby Drill" crowd--opening everything from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to every acre of public land, plus shipping dirty tar sands from Canada--and still not make a noticeable dent on the price of gas at your local filling station. 

  • October 26, 2012

    New Partnership Promotes Conservatism and Conservation

    By Hal Herring

    A few weeks ago, the Conservationist had a story revealing (Jumpin’ Jehosophat!) that most sportsmen lean to the conservative side of the political spectrum. That leaves us with a bit of a conundrum, since there are so few conservative, pro-conservation candidates to vote for. This is a topic that Rob Sisson of ConservAmerica and I have discussed over the past 18 months or so.

    Rob is a staunch Republican conservationist, a Michigan native, an outdoorsman and avid elk hunter in the Rocky Mountain West. He is a fighter for what seems like a simple idea: conservation and protection of the environment is not a Republican or Democrat issue. It is an urgent matter of national interest to every citizen, and it always has been and always will be.

    “Make no mistake,” Rob says, “We are a Republican organization, and we’ve tried hard not to link arms with progressive groups even though we share some of the same concerns on conservation issues. Frankly, that is because we think that conservative solutions and ideas are stronger and more lasting than what we’ve worked with so far.”

  • October 24, 2012

    Farmland Prices Soar, Making CRP Less Competitive

    By Bob Marshall

    A news story about the increasing cost of farmland caught my attention this morning, while contemplating the fate of conservation programs once election day is over. It isn't good news.

    Every dollar increase in farmland prices makes CRP and other vital wildlife conservation easement programs less competitive, which means the public will have to pay more to convince farmers to take acres out of crop production.

    Worse, this story pointed out farmland prices continue to soar even in the face of a disastrous drought, because financial speculators consider farm commodities a better value than the stock market: "Across the nation’s Corn Belt, even as the worst drought in more than 50 years has destroyed what was expected to be a record corn crop and reduced yields to their lowest level in 17 years, farmland prices have continued to rise. From Nebraska to Illinois, farmers seeking more land to plant and outside investors looking for a better long-term investment than stocks and bonds continue to buy farmland, taking advantage of low interest rates."

  • October 23, 2012

    Marine Fisheries: Some Improvements, But Bigger Threats

    By Bob Marshall

    Question: How can things be "better than ever" but still flirting with disaster?

    Answer: If they are marine fisheries resources whose management is entrusted to Congress by the American people.

    Reason: Lack of funding to do a thorough job.

    That was the takeaway from the two-day Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership's Saltwater Media Summit in Sarasota, Florida last week, which drew leaders from the recreational fishing industry, sportsmen's conservation groups, and senior managers from NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service.

    There was plenty of good news for those willing to hear it:

    * Overfishing is less of a problem today than in the past, and the dire predictions of world fisheries collapsing made just a few years ago have been rescinded.

  • October 19, 2012

    Billfish Finally Gain Long-Needed Protection

    By Bob Marshall

    Anyone who has ever had the joy of fighting—or just seeing—a billfish as it rises from blue water, with colors blazing and big eyes flashing defiance, can understand why the experience of seeing one listed on a menu is a shock to the soul. Some things are just too majestic to put at the mercy of the commercial market, much less appear on your plate.

    Yet for decades that was the case—and to the shame of America’s sportsmen, the biggest market in the world for billfish was the U.S. The nation with the greatest fish and wildlife conservation legacy on the planet was also a leading cause for the steady decline of these majestic creatures.

    Well, that cause was finally eliminated recently when President Obama signed the Billfish Conservation Act of 2001, capping a four-year struggle led by the International Game Fish Association to ban the import of marlin, sailfish and spearfish in the continental United States.

  • October 18, 2012

    Special Report: How I’m Helping to Save the Whitebark Pine, One Seed at a Time

    By Hal Herring

    As you get closer to the top, the big tree sways in the wind like a ship on a moderate sea. Your flip rope hangs behind you--if you used it to protect every move, you’d spend all day in one tree and never make a dime. Climbing spurs are not allowed on these old survivor trees, these last healthy whitebark pines that have clung to the high country rocks and ridges for centuries. You simply climb, trusting the live branches, trying to dance lightly on the dead ones, keeping your highlead or trail rope clear of snags and tangles that could halt you at some crucial, spooky move between branches.

    The job is to cage the cones on these survivor trees, to climb to the very crown of the tree, balance in the branches there, and pull an oblong rectangle of screen over the rich mahogany-colored cones, then fold the bottom corners of the screen to fasten the cage on the branch. The screen will protect the cones from the squirrels and the Clark’s nutcrackers that voraciously eat them every fall.

  • October 11, 2012

    RESTORE Act Funds, Which Would Help Fix Gulf Oil Damage, Now in Jeopardy

    By Bob Marshall

    Were celebrations about passage of the RESTORE Act in June premature?

    That question, which some veteran conservationists asked when the bill was passed in June, is beginning to grow after recent news accounts suggest the direction and tenor of negotiations between oil giant BP and the U.S. Justice Department are changing.

    It was in June that Congress passed the bill, which would send 80 percent of fines BP pays for violation of the Clean Water Act to the five Gulf states, rather than have the entire amount go into the general fund, as required by current law. While the purpose of the bill cheered coastal advocates, experience has taught them never to count fine totals until deals were actually done--or sentences handed down.

    Two news items last week now make that caution appear wise.

  • October 10, 2012

    Special Conservation Report: Energy Lease Purchase Could Protect 58,000 Acres of Prime Hunting and Fishing Lands

    Marshall: Area Never Should Have Been OK’d for Development
    Herring: Purchase Sets Precedent for What Amounts to Ransom

  • October 5, 2012

    Iconic Upland Gamebird Fading from the Wild and from Hunters' Minds

    By Chad Love

    Lesser prairie chickens are in big trouble. They were—at one time—the most important and probably most numerous gamebird on the southern and central plains. They numbered in the millions and rivaled the bobwhite quail in both numbers, popularity and cultural tradition. Everyone on the southern plains hunted chickens. These days, few hunters are familiar with them. And their decline is probably the most interesting and ultimately tragic upland game conservation story no one has ever heard of.

    All the usual suspects are to blame: habitat loss, climate change, booming energy development of both the wind and gas varieties—all have played a part. For example, grasslands are being converted for agricultural production at an absolutely stunning pace. But it's not only these factors. There is also the issue of non-awareness among hunters. The lesser prairie chicken, like most prairie gamebirds, has been on a well-charted long, slow multi-decade decline. Much like the chickens themselves, those who grew up hunting chickens are becoming fewer each year. Coincide that with the fact there are simply fewer new or younger hunters out there now who hunt any upland birds and you start chasing the demographic dragon.

  • October 3, 2012

    Supreme Court Move Keeps Roadless Rule Intact

    By Bob Marshall

    The decade-long fight over the Roadless Rule may finally be over--and it looks like sportsmen won.

    That was the consensus among sportsmen's conservation groups after the U.S. Supreme Court Monday decided not to hear an appeal of a lower court decision that upheld the rule, which limits road building and timber harvesting on about 45 million acres of undeveloped Forest Service lands, most of which are in the West.

    The state of Wyoming and the Colorado Mining Association claimed the Roadless Area Conservation Rule illegally hampered development on multi-use lands, while other petitioners said it created de-facto wilderness areas, a power the 1964 Wilderness Act gives only to Congress.

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