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  • September 14, 2012

    Beetles Running Out of Food in Western Forests, Climbing Higher

    By Bob Marshall

    First, the good news about the bark beetles that have been ravaging western forests for almost a decade: A new report indicates they may finally have eaten themselves out of house and home after killing conifers on some 42 million acres of forests at prime fish and wildlife altitudes.

    Now the bad news: The same report showed evidence that warm winters have allowed the bugs to push into higher altitude areas where cold temperatures once held them back.

    The U.S. Forest Service report said aerial surveys showed beetle-killed trees on 3.8 million acres of public down, the second consecutive year of a decline, and less than half of the nine million trees killed in 2009.

  • September 12, 2012

    Farm Bill Expires at End of Month, Conservationists Urging for Renewal

    By Bob Marshall

    This is where all the political gamesmanship over the budget for the last year has put fish, wildlife and sportsmen: The current Farm Bill expires at the end of the month, which could bring a halt to the wide range of programs it supports, including Conservation Reserve, Wetlands Reserve and Grasslands Reserve. The Senate passed a bill that drew praise from sportsmen during the summer, and the House Agriculture Committee followed suit. But GOP deficit hawks think it gives too much to nutrition programs like school lunches and conservation, while some Democrats think the cuts to nutrition programs are too steep.

    Veteran Hill lobbyists say they fear election year politics is now having an impact, with each side afraid a vote either way could be used against them.

    "The calendar doesn't lie, and right now it says we've got eight legislative days (days when congress meets and can vote) before the end of September, and there's no evidence of a Farm Bill on that (House) calendar," said Steve Kline, director Center for Agricultural and Private Lands Director at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

  • August 24, 2012

    Conservation Update: Romney Energy Plan Would Give Drilling Control on Federal Lands to States

    By Bob Marshall

    Presidential candidates traditionally spend their campaigns making plenty of promises--then quickly forget most of them if they get elected. After looking at the energy plan Mitt Romney released this week, sportsmen can only hope the GOP candidate follows that custom should he win this November. That’s because of the following, which is from page eight of Romney’s energy policy white paper.

    Empower States To Control Onshore Energy Debelopment

    • States will be empowered to establish processes to oversee the development and production of all forms of energy on federal lands within their borders, excluding only lands specially designated off-limits.

  • August 21, 2012

    Conservation Update: Numbers of Hunters, Anglers in US on the Rise

    By Bob Marshall

    A press release from the Department of Interior last week held some of the best news in recent years for sportsmen—and the quality of life of all Americans: After decades of steady declines, the number of hunters and anglers in the U.S. showed significant increases over the last five years.

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation showed the number hunters and anglers increased 9 and 11 percent respectively, part of the 38 percent of all Americans who participated in wildlife-related recreation. That was an increase of 2.6 million participants from the previous survey in 2006. A Service spokesperson said the survey, which has been done every five years since 1955, last showed an increase was in the late the 1980s — which means we've halted a 30-year slide.

  • August 15, 2012

    A Book That Makes You Understand Why You Need To Hunt

    by Hal Herring

    I was sitting in the airport in Grand Junction, Colorado, reading The Drake, and killing time. I’d dawdled with friends and missed my flight home to Montana. I flipped open the magazine, and read a few paragraphs in a story called “The Triumvirate” about the three Montana rivers that form the mighty Missouri.

    "Downstream you can catch bigger trout below Holter Dam. You can troll for walleye and sauger in Fort Peck and snag a paddlefish around Slippery Ann, but this is where the whole serendipitous shooting match has its start. Three valleys, feeding together to form, moment by moment, something unique to the world." Even for the Drake, that is some powerful verbiage. I flipped back to see who had written the story, and found that it was Allen Jones, a novelist, a friend of mine, sometimes editor, sometimes fishing and hunting buddy. I should have known as soon as I read the first sentence, because nobody writes like Allen.

  • August 14, 2012

    Conservation Update: Plan for Alaska North Slope Drilling Praised by Sportsmen's Groups

    By Bob Marshall

    Sportsmen scored a major victory yesterday when Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar announced critical wildlife areas in Alaska would remain protected as the nation began opening the National Petroleum Reserve to development.

    Located on the famed North Slope of the Brooks Range, the 23 million-acre reserve is the largest block of federally managed land in the United States. It has long been a battleground between energy interests, who wanted the entire area opened to drilling, and wildlife advocates, who wanted to set aside just 13 percent of reserve to protect habitat critical to migratory birds and caribou. The Obama Administration chose the wildlife-friendly alternative.

    Sportsmen's groups like Ducks Unlimited and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership had lobbied heavily for that choice.

  • August 8, 2012

    Senate Committee Approves Important Waterfowl and Wetlands Measures (Really)

    By Bob Marshall

    Hooray for the Senate! Both parties!

    No, that's not a mistake. I know this space spends more time slapping Congress in the face rather than on the back. But the entire membership of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee deserves a big fat "Attaboy!" for sending three important wetlands and waterfowl conservation measures to the chamber's floor without opposition. They are:

    - S. 2282, which reauthorizes the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA)  through 2017.

    As Ducks Unlimited points out, since 1989 NAWCA has leverage $1 billion in federal grants with $3 billion in matching and non-matching fund to conserve more than 25 million acres of habitat on the continent. NAWCA has been a prime target of GOP budget cutters in the House even to the point of elimination for almost two years. But this bi-partisan support from the Senate gives it muscle to survive.

  • August 7, 2012

    Special Post: A Rebuttal to Bob Marshall’s Report on the Movement to Open More Offshore Areas to Drilling

    A letter emailed by Randall Luthi to the Field & Stream editorial staff:

    I read Bob Marshall’s July 29 blog, “Conservation Update: Some in House Want Bristol Bay, West Coast Opened to Drilling.”  I believe some additional information would be helpful to Field and Stream readers.

    First, Mr. Marshall apparently misconstrued the subject of the E&E TV interview he references. The overall subject of the interview was a bill that was being debated by the U.S. House of Representatives, H.R. 6082, which would allow more oil and natural gas leasing off the U.S coasts through 2017. An offshore oil and gas lease is similar to a fishing license. It provides an opportunity for a company to explore in a specified geographical area for oil and natural gas. Leases are issued through a bidding process in which companies bid for the right to obtain a lease. The revenue generated from the lease sales provide substantial income to the U.S. Treasury and, where Congress has provided, a source of revenue to the coastal states as well. The offshore industry is generally the second largest source of revenue to the U.S. Government. Issuance of the lease does not guarantee that oil and/or natural gas will be produced, but only the ability to look. Companies must still obtain permits for seismic and geological, drilling and production activities. All laws concerning environmental protection and coordination with various interest groups still apply.

  • July 31, 2012

    Conservation Update: CRP Lands Come to Rescue of Drought-Stricken Farmers and Ranchers; Solar Will Be Wildlife-Friendly

    By Bob Marshall

    The headline above should be read out loud to all those congressmen and agricultural interests who oppose the Conservation Reserve Program.

    Here's why: Last week the U.S. Department of Agriculture released millions of acres of CRP lands to grazing and haying in the nation's drought-stricken heartland, coming to the rescue of farm and ranch operations that are facing disaster. But that's exactly what the law creating CRP says should happen in these circumstances.

    Conservation programs like CRP aren't just about helping critters and sportsmen. They are an asset to farmers and ranchers as well.

  • July 29, 2012

    Conservation Update: Some in House Want Bristol Bay, West Coast Opened to Drilling

    By Bob Marshall

    Sportsmen wondering why certain House members -- who claim to be the sportsmen's voice in Congress -- keep pushing to open up oil drilling in some of the nation's most sensitive fishing areas can get a good idea from this recent interview with Randal Luthi on Environment and Energy TV.

    Luthi claims that the push by the House GOP to lift the Obama Administration's protection from Alaska's Bristol Bay and the coasts off Washington, Oregon, California and Maine is the right thing to do -- even though his industry already has access to more than 75 percent of the nation's offshore waters.