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  • April 26, 2012

    Conservation Report: Sportsmen See Hope in Senate Action on Farm Bill

    By Bob Marshall

    When is a $6 billion cut in conservation spending not labeled terrible news?

    When it could have been a lot worse.

    We're talking here about the Conservation Title in the Senate version of the new Farm Bill that cleared committee Thursday and moved to the floor of that chamber. Although the measure shows $6 billion in cuts over the next 10 years for cherished wildlife initiatives such as the Conservation Reserve Program, that amounts to about a 10 percent cut in previous funding rather than the deep and senseless chops some in Congress were advocating about a year ago.

  • April 25, 2012

    Conservation Update: The Facts About Roadless Public Lands, and Why They Need to Stay Roadless

    By Bob Marshall

    The rhetoric in the growing battle over protecting the nation's roadless backcountry will heat up over the next few months, but sportsmen who want to understand what's really at stake should go to the new website Launched earlier this year by Trout Unlimited and supported by a coalition of national hunting and fishing groups, it does an excellent job of spelling out what sportsmen could lose, who is behind the effort to open up roadless areas, and exposing the weaknesses of their arguments.

    The site includes information every sportsman needs to know, including the specifics of the bill that would release tens of millions of acres of the finest trophy-hunting and fishing areas left in the nation; an interactive map showing all western roadless areas; featured roadless areas listed by state; a list of news articles and columns from outdoor writers at newspapers across the west opposing the release, and tools to get involved in protecting the backcountry and our sporting heritage.

  • April 20, 2012

    Heritage Act Has Sportsmen's Groups Facing Off

    By Bob Marshall

    It’s called “The Sportsmen’s Heritage Act of 2012,“ but this House-passed bill (H.R. 4089), has some of the nation’s highest-profile sportsmen’s groups facing off as the measure travels to the Senate.

    At issue are sections of the bill which would open portions of roadless areas in the west to motorized traffic, such as ATVs, as well as other uses prohibited by the Roadless Rule. (Editor's note: See Hal Herring's blog post on roadless areas remaining in the U.S.)

    Most sportsmen’s groups, such as the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, and wildlife managers have long opposed such openings, pointing to these undeveloped areas as key reservoirs of fish and wildlife in some of the nation’s last remaining pristine habitats. Hunting guide organizations as well as most western hunters also oppose openings, because roadless areas protect traditional wilderness hunting and fishing experiences accessed by only by hoof or foot.

  • April 19, 2012

    Our Last Wild Places, and Why They Need to Stay Wild

    By Hal Herring

    I’m lucky to spend a lot of my time with all kinds of people, from ranchers and tactical firearms instructors to conservation leaders, from liberals to libertarians. I like conflict and argument, and I’ve never been the kind of person who thought that everybody should agree, or that my friendship with anybody depended upon us agreeing on every issue.

    I’ve tried hard to understand the objection some hunters have to roadless areas and wilderness, but so far I have not been able to do that. I spend as much time as possible with my kids in roadless areas, and most of my best hunting and fishing experiences have been in those kinds of places, designated wilderness, or not.

  • April 16, 2012

    Conservation Update: Wildlife Leaders Join Opposition to Wilderness Release Bill

    by Bob Marshall

    As the rhetoric heats up during this election season, so do the lies about what's at stake in the push by the oil and gas lobby to open public lands previously closed to that type of development. My favorite is the characterization of any one opposed to "drill now, drill everywhere" as "environmental extremists" who want to "lock away public lands."

    Coming in a close second are those politicians trying to tell sportsmen that opposition to opening protected backcountry to development is a move by (and I paraphrase again) "extremist environmental groups to keep sportsmen out of the forests."

    But as sure as a wise old gobbler will hear you blink your eyes on a still April morning, you're going to hear those claims through early November. Well, here's some ammunition to shoot back when those "oil and gas extremists" start fibbing:

  • April 13, 2012

    Hunting, Fishing, and the Pursuit of Happiness

    By Hal Herring

    Ten years or so ago, a good friend of mine made a movie called The Naturalist, about an eccentric wanderer of Arkansas’ Buffalo River country. Kent Bonar, the subject of the film, was raised in the woods by his grandfather and a bunch of old-time coon hunters and hound dog men.

    Bonar has remained true to the tradition. He keeps a half dozen hunting dogs, doesn’t drive, lives in a falling down house in the woods, and spends his days walking, carrying a light pack, a falling axe, a pistol and his pencils and paper, pausing to sketch and describe every aspect of the plants, animals and fish of this country where he was born, raised and chose to never leave. Bonar is an artist of the first order (although he stoutly rejects the term “artist,” saying he just draws what’s already there) and is also known, these days, as “the John Muir of the Ozarks.” He’s a fierce and irreverent advocate for conserving the Buffalo River country.

  • April 12, 2012

    Conservation Update: The Oil Stopped Two Years Ago, but the Spill Continues

    By Bob Marshall

    In the coming weeks, media groups will be publishing and broadcasting special reports marking the second anniversary of the start of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. But what Ryan Lambert and other Louisiana coastal sportsmen and guides want the nation to know is that the spill isn't over.

    "The oil and gas might have stopped flowing, but the spill is still going on for us," said Lambert, who runs Cajun Fishing Adventures in Buras, La. "We're still seeing the impacts every day.

    "My fishing business is still way down. We still see some (isolated) patches of oil, some tar balls on the beach, some dead birds and dolphins.

    "BP likes to say they made it all right. The spill is over. Everything is cleaned up. They're wrong. It's not over, and it probably won't be over for years. And that's when we'll finally know how much damage it did."

  • April 10, 2012

    Conservation Update: New Ryan Budget Hits Sportsmen Harder - Again

    By Bob Marshall

    When it comes to fish, wildlife and public lands, the new House budget pushed through by the GOP reminds me of the old football cheer: "Hit- 'em again, hit 'em again — Harder! Harder!

" That's right, the elected representatives that led last year's unprecedented attack on fish and wildlife and hunting and fishing are back swinging the same sticks — only harder.

    The bill House Budget Chief Paul Ryan, R-WI, authored and steered to passage on a party-line vote, takes spending on conservation programs that support a healthy environment and outdoors sports to even lower levels than it had plunged last year.

  • April 5, 2012

    Conservation Update: Good news - NAWCA, Farm Bill, Wind Energy Guidelines. Bad news - BP Oil Still a Problem

    By Bob Marshall

    • Wetlands - especially those critical to waterfowl - got good news this week when a bi-partisan group of senators introduced a bill to reauthorize the North American Wetlands Conservation Act. S. 2282 would continue the now 30-year effort to conserve the long-term effort to protect the nation's dwindling wetlands base.

    Ducks Unlimited explains that the senate action mirrors a House bill introduced last month here.

    • Sportsmen's groups have been pushing back against efforts to trim funding for NWACA and many other wetlands programs by congress as well as by the Obama Administration. Unfortunately, this still doesn't address the issue of the new wetlands definition and guidance that leaves as many as 20 million acres of isolated wetlands and stream sides open to development.   

    • Trout Unlimited is happy about a new coalition of conservation and agriculture groups that joined to push for passage of the Farm Bill and its many conservation programs. The newly formed Western Agricultural and Conservation Coalition is arguing for the measures, saying "they are critical to the health of Western economies and landscapes."