Conservation Update: Sportsmen's Groups Step Up Campaign for Sodsaver

Some critics of my posts occasionally claim to see a hidden political agenda when I report specific actions by specific politicians and parties that threaten serious damage to programs that protect the resources supporting our sports. Some even believe I exaggerate the support from hunting and fishing groups for those programs and protections.

For this post, I'll let the nation's hunters and anglers speak for me.

In this case the issue is "Sodsaver," a feature of the Farm Bill that has protected our precious but dwindling base of upland cover since 1985. It doesn't cost taxpayers anything. It works by telling farmers they will lose government subsidies if they decide to plant land that hasn't felt a plow in at least 20 years. Yet there are some in Congress who would see it weakened or killed.

That would be terrible for fish, wildlife, hunting, fishing and the environment as a whole.

Don't take my word for it. Read this letter sent to the House Agriculture Committee's key officials yesterday. But first, read the names of the 30 groups that agree with me.

American Fisheries Society
American Fly Fishing Trade Association
American Sportfishing Association Archery Trade Association
Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies
B.A.S.S. LLC
Berkley Conservation Institute
Catch A Dream Foundation
Conservation Force
Dallas Safari Club
Delta Waterfowl
Ducks Unlimited
Izaak Walton League of America
Masters of Foxhounds
Mule Deer Foundation
National Rifle Association
National Shooting Sports Foundation
National Wildlife Federation
North American Bear Foundation
Pheasants Forever
Quail Forever
Quality Deer Management Association
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
The Nature Conservancy
The Wildlife Society
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
Trout Unlimited
Whitetails Unlimited
Wild Sheep Foundation
Wildlife Forever
Wildlife Management Institute

May 14, 2012

_The Honorable Frank D. Lucas, Chair
House Committee on Agriculture
1301 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Collin C. Peterson
Ranking Member
House Committee on Agriculture
1301 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Chairman Lucas and Ranking Member Peterson:

Our organizations represent millions of hunter and angler conservationists, scientists, and outdoor enthusiasts who are closely following the important debate over the upcoming Farm Bill reauthorization. We appreciate your bipartisan cooperation last summer in concluding draft Farm Bill recommendations for the so-called Super Committee, and urge you to continue in that vein to support strong conservation provisions robustly funded, as reauthorization proceeds through regular order.

We write you today to respectfully request that you include a strong sodsaver provision in the next Farm Bill, modeled on the provisions of the Senate floor-passed version of the Farm Bill passed December 14, 2007, H.R. 2419, the Food and Energy Security Act of 2007.

Farmers have long been some of the nation's foremost conservationists. As you move forward to write a new Farm Bill, it will be important to include effective economic support programs that will allow farmers to continue farming in uncertain times and ensure that farmland will not be developed for other uses that are incompatible with conservation. At the same time, it will be equally important to link those support programs to basic, sensible conservation provisions, such as sodsaver, to encourage responsible stewardship of agricultural land and direct program benefits to acreage that is most suited for crop production. With budget pressure on existing USDA conservation programs increasing, linking basic farm support programs to reasonable conservation requirements makes sense.

In conclusion, we strongly believe it is vital that the Farm Bill include effective economic support programs and that those programs be coupled with a strong sodsaver provision. Doing so will promote continued excellent stewardship of America's farmlands and foster production of crops, clean water and abundant populations of fish and wildlife. Thank you for your sincere consideration of our request, and we look forward to working with you in the coming months to achieve that goal._