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  • March 30, 2012

    A New Planning Rule for National Forest Land Will Benefit All

    By Hal Herring

    In April last year, I drove through a blizzard and below-zero temperatures to fish with some friends and make the first video of the Native Trout Adventures Series for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. The Conservationist covered the story here. That post was about a hoped–for new version of the planning rule that governs the use and management of our National Forest lands, a version that would protect the wildlife and fish habitat, the headwaters of our major watersheds, and give sportsman a clear way to express their concerns over everything from road closures to timber sales, fishing access and hunting and shooting opportunities.

    (TRCP’s Native Trout Adventures video. I recommend the whole series, if you have time.)

    This year, as April Fool’s day approaches, I’ve just come in from working with my 16-week-old Lab pup. The creek is ice-free. The only snow left is piled on the shady north side of my house, and I left my gloves behind on the kitchen table and didn’t even notice.

  • March 28, 2012

    Conservation Update: Deepwater Horizon an Insult to the Gulf That Keeps on Giving

    By Bob Marshall

    The Deepwater Horizon disaster continues to provide examples of why offshore drilling should be more tightly regulated than in the past. The latest:

    • The once prosperous dolphin population in Barataria Bay south of New Orleans has been racked by a sudden dramatic increase in diseases since BP's oil flowed into that estuary, according to an on-going study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

    • Oil from BP's blown well is taking a heavy toll of deep sea coral in the area of the spill, according to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences.

    The dolphin study involved intensive physicals given to 32 live dolphins last summer. Preliminary results showed "many of the dolphins were underweight, anemic, had low blood sugar and/or some symptoms of liver and lung disease. Nearly half also had abnormally low levels of the hormones that help with stress response, metabolism and immune function."

  • March 23, 2012

    How Public Land Has Shaped and Defined My Entire Life

    By Hal Herring

    I left Alabama when I was in my mid-twenties, to live and work in the West. I never planned to stay gone this long. People I grew up with, hunting and fishing friends, school friends, and extended family sometimes ask me why I’ve stayed here in Montana, and why I am raising my children here, so far from the rivers and creeks I grew up on, from the hardwood bottoms and flat-top foothills of the southern Cumberland Mountains that were and are so important to me. I’ve thought a lot about how to answer that question.

    The answer boils down to public lands, and the freedom they offer to people like us, who are of somewhat less than moderate means, and who live, when the work is done, to fish and hunt and shoot and wander.

    I mostly grew up in the country, and at a time when there were few whitetail deer. Small game hunting was the obsession, and access to that kind of hunting was not usually a problem. You could leave home with a pocket full of 20 gauge shells, from high brass 4s to low brass 8s, and come home with a squirrel, dove, snipe, quail (they disappeared around 1984), a rabbit, even a teal if you were lucky. By the time I went away to work and college, all that land was leased for deer hunting, or posted by the owners.

  • March 16, 2012

    Will $50 Increase Per Acre Save the CRP Program?

    --Chad Love

    Corn or conservation? That's the choice many landowners are facing as record grain prices are keeping farmers from enrolling more acres in CRP, even with a bump in the prices paid for signing up.

    From this story on

    The current strong grain markets are likely to limit U.S. farmers’ interest in putting ground in the Conservation Reserve Program, even with a signing bonus increase — to $150 an acre from $100. In a move to get farmers to enroll up to 1 million new acres of land into the federal Conservation Reserve Program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced it would increase a one-time signing bonus for the program to $150 per acre from $100. The increase will be available only to owners of approved land that features wetlands and benefits duck nesting habitat and certain animal species, including upland birds, the USDA said.

  • March 14, 2012

    Conservation Update: The Sky Isn't Falling!

    By Bob Marshall

    Covering conservation news recently has been like working the obituary beat at a newspaper: You spend your days reporting about good things passing away. And while that's not much fun to write about, I know some readers are tempted to quit and seek grief counseling.

    That's why it's important to revisit the news from recent weeks. Not only was there a string of victories for conservationists, but sportsmen's groups played pivotal roles in many of them.

    • The RESTORE Act passed a major hurdle in the Senate. If blessed by the House and signed by President Obama, this means 80 percent of Clean Water Act fines resulting from the Deepwater Horizon disaster will be spent on restoring the Gulf Coast that event damaged.

  • March 9, 2012

    Conservation Update: Act to Restore the Gulf Clears Hurdle

    by Bob Marshall

    Just in from the Audubon Society:

    The U.S. Senate today voted to include sweeping measures supporting Gulf restoration and land preservation in an amendment to the Transportation Bill.

    The Senate is scheduled to take action on full Transportation bill which includes the RESTORE the Gulf Coast States Act , a bipartisan, regional effort to restore and protect the gulf coast in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010.

    “This is a moment for hope and healing. It’s the most important conservation victory in a decade,” said Audubon President & CEO David Yarnold. “And it’s only fair that most of the money will come from BP’s penalties. In this country, if you break it, you buy it and BP owes this to the Gulf Coast. And the new dollars for buying precious lands will help us live up to our responsibility to take care of America’s national heritage for generations to come.”

    The RESTORE the Gulf Coast Act would:

    - Specifically direct 80 percent of Clean Water Act civil penalties resulting from the oil spill to restoration of the Gulf Coast environment and local economies. This could mean as much as $10-20 billion.

  • March 8, 2012

    Group Founder Declares that North American Hunting Model is 'Socialism'

    By Hal Herring

    Seven weeks ago, Chad Love of Field Notes posted an article describing the resignation of Alaska Fish and Game’s Conservation Director, Corey Rossi, after Rossi was charged with 12 violations related to an illegal black bear hunt in 2008.

    Now, Anchorage Daily News reporter Richard Mauer has uncovered Rossi’s radical plan to privatize some of Alaska’s hunting and wildlife:

    Six weeks before he learned he was under criminal investigation for violating his department's hunting rules, state Wildlife Division Director Corey Rossi told his staff about a pet project -- unprecedented in Alaska -- to give private landowners special rights to hunt big game, even out of season, and to be able to sell those rights to whomever they want.

    Such a plan echoes the message of the controversial group Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, which is not surprising, since Rossi served on the board of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife-Alaska before his appointment to the state wildlife agency by then-Governor Sarah Palin. In the Anchorage Daily News story, Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife founder Don Peay says that it’s time to “revisit” the widely accepted principle in the United States and Canada that game is a public resource.

  • March 6, 2012

    Conservation Update: TU Asks President Obama to Keep Wild Salmon on Our Plates

    By Bob Marshall

    When the going gets tough in conservation battles, the tough should get going right at the top.

    That's one of the strategies Trout Unlimited chief Chris Wood is employing in the group's continuing effort to keep Alaska's priceless Bristol Bay fishery from being corrupted by development. Wood penned this op-ed in The Huffington Post urging President Obama to help save that gem.

    Among Woods' words of advice: It is not often that a fish can define your life's work. Rarer still can the most powerful man on earth, the President of the United States, determine the future of that fish. President Obama must decide before his re-election campaign is over whether nearly one-third of the wild salmon consumed in the United States can continue to provide an important source of delicious and healthy protein for millions of Americans (try, for example, grilled salmon with ancho honey porter glaze). Or, whether an ill-conceived, open pit mine in the headwaters of Bristol Bay, Alaska, is more important.

  • March 6, 2012

    The Collateral Damage of Energy Development

    By Hal Herring

    Driving home in the night from Little Guy Wrestling practice last week, the once-great emptiness west of the highway was broken by the drill rig, lit like a Christmas tree, in front of the dark bulk of Ear Mountain, the peak made famous by A.B. Guthrie’s classic novel “The Big Sky.” We knew it would come. The packed community meetings at Choteau’s Stage Stop Inn, the big water trucks and pickups with Colorado license plates in the parking lot at the Exxon, the gathering excitement--here on the Rocky Mountain Front--of change, lease and royalty money, jobs, new people coming in, and if the resource proves strong and profitable, maybe even a way of life ending and a new one beginning.

    For the past decade, I’ve written, sometimes it seems endlessly, about energy development, traveling, looking, interviewing and studying. I’ve been objective (I hope), knowing that energy development is a given. I’ve argued with those who say they are, for instance, “against fracking,” pointing out that it is fine to be against irresponsible fracking that ruins property values or pollutes water supplies with spills, or against drilling in critical wildlife habitat, but that to be against fracking is like saying, “I’m against cars” or “I’m against people building houses.”

  • March 2, 2012

    Conservation Update: White House Finds Funds for Wetlands, Grasslands

    By Bob Marshall

    Sportsmen, take a bow.

    Fish and wildlife finally had a good week on the conservation front because your hard work resulted in this news Friday afternoon:

    The Obama administration has found a way to fund an extra million CRP acres targeted for wetlands and grasslands, and will reshuffle upwards of 70 percent (almost $30 million) of the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund (MBCF) so it goes to work on the prairie pothole region.

    Those headlines were rare sweet relief for the conservation community, which has spent most of the last 14 months as the favorite piñata of so-called deficit hawks in congress as well as at the administration. In 2011, the House of Representatives attempted to eviscerate decades-long conservation programs that have proven to be money makers for the economy. And last month President Obama's 2013 budget showed no funding for the Wetlands Reserve or Grasslands Reserve  programs.