Policy Corner Brief: JULY 2022
Conservation Reserve Program: 2022 Enrollment Outpaces Contract Expirations Thanks to Record-Breaking Grasslands CRP Signup
Posted on Monday, July 18, 2022
Contact: Kent Keene, Assistant Manager, Lower Midwestern States and Agriculture Policy
- With the acceptance of 3.1 million acres during the Grassland CRP Signup, new CRP enrollments are on course to outpace contract expirations in Fiscal Year 2022.
- The 3.1 million acres of Grassland CRP, the highest amount accepted in program history, joins the 2 million acres enrolled during the General CRP Signup and the 464,000 acres enrolled thus far through Continuous CRP.
- As one of the most effective voluntary private land conservation programs in the world, this increase in enrollment represents a win for conservation, landowners, and sportsmen and women.
- The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) is proud to support CRP and similar Farm Bill conservation programs thanks to the benefits these programs provide to landowners who voluntarily enroll and to the wildlife that we, as sportsmen and women, care for so deeply.
Why it matters: As one of the most successful voluntary, private land conservation programs in the world, increased CRP enrollments represent a win for conservation, a win for sportsmen and women, and, arguably most importantly, a win for farmers and ranchers. This is particularly true in the face of increasingly high input costs that are facing many farmers and ranchers today. Fortunately, CRP provides a way to diversify an operation and focus inputs on the most productive acres, all while providing critical habitat for species that we, as sportsmen and women, care about the most.
On July 12, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that more than 3.1 million acres had been accepted during the Grassland Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) Signup that took place earlier this year. Grassland CRP is a specialized opportunity focused on conserving grasslands and promoting healthy grassland ecosystems while retaining the ability of landowners to perform haying and grazing practices. As part of the CRP umbrella, arguably the most successful voluntary private lands conservation programs in the world, this record-breaking Grassland CRP enrollment highlights the important value that CRP can have for our nation’s soil, water, and wildlife resources and for our nation’s private landowners.
Overall, CRP has seen plenty of struggles since its peak in the mid-2000s. However, 2022 is serving as a reminder of the safety net that the program can provide to our nation’s farmers and ranchers, many of whom are experiencing record high input costs this year. By voluntarily enrolling acres in CRP and receiving payments for installing conservation practices, farmers and ranchers are able to focus their commodity efforts, and the associated costs, on those acres best suited for farming and ranching while providing conservation value on less-suitable acres. Overall, the goal of the programs is to create a more profitable and sustainable system. However, this requires us to recognize CRP as a complement to, rather than competitive with, traditional agricultural practices.
The conservation community is keeping a close eye on the status of the Farm Bill’s conservation programs, including CRP, as we look toward the development of the 2023 Farm Bill. These results will play an important role in guiding lawmakers as they determine where future investments are directed. Looking toward 2023, CSF’s Midwest Staff held a Farm Bill breakfast forum in Wichita, KS last week during which state legislators from the region discussed the 2023 Farm Bill and ways for state legislators to engage. Special thanks for their support of this forum go to Title Sponsors: Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, Reynolds American Inc., and Host Sponsor: the Kansas Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation.
New Conservation Funding Sources were Created in LA and MS – What’s Next?
Posted on Monday, July 11, 2022
Contact: Mark Lance, Southeastern States Coordinator
- During the 2022 legislative sessions, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF)-priority bills were passed in Louisiana and Mississippi to provide additional sources of conservation funding.
- Mississippi Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Representative Trey Lamar’s House Bill 606 created the Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund and National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses Executive Council Member and Louisiana Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Representative Jerome Zeringue’s House Bill 762 created the Louisiana Outdoors Forever Program.
- Both new conservation funding programs received $10 million in appropriations from their respective State General Fund and will further supplement revenue generated by sportsmen and women through the “user pays – public benefits” structure known as the American System of Conservation Funding.
Why It Matters: With the creation of the Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund and the Louisiana Outdoors Forever Program, Louisiana and Mississippi will have additional dollars to qualify for federal conservation programs to benefit fish and wildlife resources along with hunters and anglers. For example, funding is available through the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Acts that match dollars at a 3:1 ratio. Additionally, the states could leverage these funds for habitat work through Farm Bill programs that provide $6 billion annually for conservation work on private lands across the country.
Creating an additional source of conservation funding has been a priority for the Louisiana and Mississippi Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucuses over the past several years. The topic was front and center during CSF organized events such as the Mississippi Caucus Sporting Clays Classic in November of 2021, the annual Mississippi Caucus Fish-Fry in February of 2022, and the annual Louisiana Caucus Luncheon in April of 2022. These initiatives were a priority for CSF, and by working alongside numerous in-state and national partners to advocate for these new conservation programs, they were successfully enacted.
Now that the Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund and the Louisiana Outdoors Forever Program have been created – what’s next?
Members of the Board of Trustees (Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund), the Technical Advisory Board, and Project Selection Board (Louisiana Outdoors Forever Program) will need to be named. Counties, municipalities, state agencies, and nongovernmental entities will apply to these boards and detail proposed projects as well as how much funding would be required. These boards will then prioritize projects that improve fish and wildlife habitat, water quality, and recreational properties important for public access, including hunting and fishing.
Looking further into the future, the ultimate success of the projects born from the $10 million in seed money will pave the way for Louisiana and Mississippi to work towards establishing a dedicated source of funding for these programs, such as a dedicated sales tax on outdoor gear, rather than relying on annual appropriations made by the legislature. Voters in Georgia took a similar step in 2018 when they approved a constitutional amendment to establish the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Fund, which dedicates 80 percent of an existing state-level excise tax on outdoor recreation equipment to conservation, without raising taxes or creating any new fees. This dedicated source of conservation funding has provided $20 million per year for projects since its inception.
CSF applauds the efforts of the Louisiana and Mississippi Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucuses for their strong, bipartisan support of providing additional funding for conservation purposes, and we will continue to work with the Caucuses and our in-state and national partners to provide a dedicated source of funding for the Mississippi Outdoor Stewardship Trust Fund and the Louisiana Outdoors Forever Program in the years to come.
CSF Actively Opposing Bill That Would Undermine Nation’s Bedrock Conservation and Access Program
Posted on Tuesday, July 05, 2022
- Recently, Congressman Andrew Clyde (R-GA) introduced H.R. 8167, the RETURN (Repealing Excise Taxes on Unalienable Rights Now) Our Constitutional Rights Act of 2022, a short-sighted bill that would gut the nation’s most successful wildlife conservation funding and hunting and shooting access program known as the Pittman-Robertson Act.
- The Pittman-Robertson Act directs industry and user-supported excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment to provide on-the-ground funding for wildlife conservation, target shooting range construction, efforts to increase public hunting access, hunter education programs, hunter and recreational shooting recruitment efforts, among other staple sporting-conservation programs.
- Since the Pittman-Robertson Act was enacted in 1937, the program has served as the bedrock funding program to increase and promote our hunting and recreational shooting heritage. This legislation jeopardizes the important role maintained by sportsmen and women and threatens their seat at the decision-making table.
Why it matters: To date, the Pittman-Robertson Act has generated over $15 billion in critical funding to conserve wildlife, improve recreational shooting and hunting access, fund hunting education programs, and other programs that are vital to our hunting and recreational shooting heritage. Just last year alone, the Pittman-Robertson Act provided over $1.5 billion in on-the-ground funding for state wildlife agencies to build public target shooting ranges, purchase wildlife management areas to increase public hunting opportunities, conserve game species, and to recruit America’s next generation of sportsmen and women. This legislation threatens to dismantle the current funding structure.
On June 22, a bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Andrew Clyde (GA) that would dismantle the most important and significant wildlife conservation funding program in the nation – the Pittman-Robertson Act – an effort that is categorically opposed by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation.
Enacted in 1937 at the request of hunters and the manufacturers of firearms and ammunition, the Pittman-Robertson Act directs industry and user-supported excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment to be used for wildlife conservation purposes and programs to increase access for hunting and target shooting. The Pittman-Robertson Act is one of three pillars of the American System of Conservation Funding, a “user-pays, public-benefits” structure that is unique to the rest of the world, in which those that consumptively use public resources pay for the privilege, and in some cases the right, to do so. Unfortunately, H.R. 8167 ignores the value of this program, and seeks to disregard the input of the very industries and users who pay this critical funding as well as who overwhelmingly support the program.
By ignoring the wide-spread industry and user support for excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment, including the support of the very manufacturers who pay these excise taxes, H.R. 8167 severely threatens America’s hunting and recreational shooting heritage. With this in mind, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) is actively opposing this legislation and urging Members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus to oppose this legislation. CSF is unwavering in our opposition to this bill. In May, CSF helped lead a letter that was signed by 43 of the top hunting and recreational shooting organizations in strong support of the Pittman-Robertson Act in its current form.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation will continue to oppose H.R. 8167 and other efforts that seek to undermine our hunting and recreational shooting heritage.
Why Midwesterners Should Participate in National Forest Week
Posted on Tuesday, July 05, 2022
Contact: Bob Matthews, Senior Coordinator Upper Midwestern States
- National Forest Week begins July 11, 2022, and serves to remind sportsmen and women throughout the Midwest of the invaluable benefits of our nation’s National Forests and Grasslands.
- Officially launched by the National Forest Foundation, a non-profit partner of the United States Forest Service, the week occurs during the second full week of July each year.
- There are more than 193 million acres of National Forest and almost 4 million acres of National Grassland across the nation, with more than 18.8 million acres across the Midwest.
- Through the “Making Public Lands Public” Access Initiative, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) has led the fight to ensure that sportsmen and women can access and enjoy public lands, including National Forests.
Why It Matters: Access to public land is coveted by American hunters and anglers. Under the Public Trust Doctrine, federal and state governments alike hold natural resources, such as fish and wildlife, in trust for the use and enjoyment of the public, and public lands provide great opportunities to participate in our time-honored outdoor traditions. Most Midwestern states provide a constitutional right to hunt and fish, and Midwesterners have exercised that right within National Forests and Grasslands for more than a century. Sportsmen and women should take this week to reflect on the resources and opportunities that these forests have to offer.
National Forests and Grasslands provide sportsmen and women with miles of abundant rivers and lakes to fish, as well as vast, pristine landscapes on which we can hunt, trap, or recreationally shoot. Since 1905, when legendary sportsman and conservationist Theodore Roosevelt turned federal forestry management duties over to the Department of Agriculture by creating the United States Forest Service (USFS), Americans have enjoyed the many resources and opportunities that National Forests have to offer. Later, in the 1930’s, National Grasslands, located primarily across the Great Plains, were added to USFS’s purview. Through the use of active forest management, forests are being managed for multiple uses, including hunting, which separates National Forests from lands within the National Park System.
Sportsmen and women are encouraged to celebrate National Forest Week while recognizing that continued conservation of National Forests, Grasslands, and other public lands requires steadfast legislative efforts. In recent years, successfully enacted legislation sponsored or co-sponsored by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus members has secured funding to ensure that public land is accessible for continued use and enjoyment by hunters, anglers, trappers, and recreational shooters. Examples of such legislation include the recently enacted MAPLand Act and the Great American Outdoors Act.
To protect these sacred American traditions, we must continue to enjoy them. The 4th annual National Forest Week should encourage Midwesterners to exercise their right to enter and use the millions of acres of public land that this great region has to offer. So next week, head to your nearest National Forest to cast a line, practice your aim, or scout your favorite critter for the fall season, and appreciate all that our public land has to offer.
CSF Leads Effort to Oppose Bill That Undermines State Wildlife Management Authority
Posted on Tuesday, June 21, 2022
- Last week, the House Natural Resources Committee Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife held a legislative hearing on H.R. 7398, the Prohibit Wildlife Killing Contests Act of 2022, a bill that is opposed by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF).
- H.R. 7398 undermine state wildlife management authority by seeking to ban certain wildlife contests on federally managed public lands.
- Prior to the hearing, CSF sent a letter to the Chair and Ranking Member of the Water, Oceans, and Wildlife Subcommittee in strong opposition to the bill on the basis of upholding state wildlife management authority.
Why it matters: State fish and wildlife agencies have long been recognized as the primary and most effective managers of fish and wildlife in the United States. Unfortunately, in recent years, state fish and wildlife agencies have increasingly come under attack by those seeking to provide federal regulators with greater control of fish and wildlife management decisions, and H.R. 7398 represents the latest effort in that attack.
On June 15, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation sent a letter to the leadership of the House Natural Resources Committee Water, Oceans, and Wildlife Subcommittee in opposition to the Prohibit Wildlife Killing Contests Act of 2022, a bill that was scheduled to receive a legislative hearing in the Subcommittee the following day.
H.R. 7398 seeks to ban certain wildlife contests and tournaments on federal public lands managed by the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Bureau of Reclamation. This legislation is not only inconsistent with the intent of Congress for the last century, but it also ignores the professional expertise of our state fish and wildlife agencies, who are the proper and best equipped entities for managing our fish and wildlife. If enacted, this legislation could be the proverbial “camel’s nose under the tent” and open the door to future federal legislative efforts that would represent heavy-handed fish and wildlife management that ignores the input of state fish and wildlife agencies.
Rather than being based on sound science, H.R. 7398 is another attempt to undermine state fish and wildlife management authority through emotionally-driven federal legislation. CSF maintains that, with certain exceptions such as listing under the Endangered Species Act, state fish and wildlife agencies should be left to manage their wildlife as they see fit through science-based processes and public consultation.
In the submitted letter, CSF urged the Committee to support state fish and wildlife management authority and reject H.R. 7398 should it come up for a Committee vote at a later date. To support our state fish and wildlife professionals, CSF will continue to oppose this legislation.
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