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Policy Corner Brief: JUNE 2023

Policy Corner Brief: JUNE 2023

Policy Corner Brief: JUNE 2023

STORY BY
PHOTOGRAPHY BY

Policy Corner Brief: JUNE 2023

STORY BY
PHOTOGRAPHY BY
‘‘

CONGRESSIONAL SPORTSMEN’S FOUNDATION HOSTS FARM BILL FLY-IN, LEADING CONSERVATION GROUPS ENGAGE WITH CONGRESSIONAL POLICY MAKERS

May 17, 2023 (Washington, DC) – Yesterday, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) organized and led a Farm Bill Fly-In that brought together key members of Congress and like-minded advocacy partners to discuss their priorities for the 2023 Farm Bill. Joining CSF leaders on Capitol Hill were representatives from the American Sportfishing Association, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, Ducks Unlimited, the Federal Forest Resource Coalition, the National Alliance of Forest Owners, the National Deer Association, the National Wildlife Federation, Pheasants/Quail Forever, The Conservation Fund, The Nature Conservancy and The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. CSF, as one of the foremost groups focused on safeguarding and promoting hunting, fishing, recreational shooting, and trapping, ensures that the concerns of sportsmen and women are heard in the Nation’s Capital and that science-based conservation policies are implemented through their work with the bipartisan Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC).

The objective of the Fly-In was to demonstrate that, while each organization has its own specific priorities, the sporting-conservation community is aligned in support of robust investments in the Conservation and Forestry Titles of the Farm Bill. These investments benefit the sustainability, resilience, and profitability of the nation’s farm, ranch, and forest landowners and rural economies. The priorities were also designed to complement, rather than compete with, the nation’s agricultural production. Finally, meetings with leading CSC legislators and committees demonstrated the depth and breadth of expertise possessed within the sporting conservation community, collectively representing a resource that will stimulate further conversations as Members of Congress draft the 2023 Farm Bill.

“We were proud to host the 2023 Farm Bill Fly-In and to bring together such an expansive group of conservation partners to advocate for necessary funding in the Conservation and Forestry titles of the Farm Bill,” said Jeff Crane, CSF President and CEO.” I’d like to thank the members of the House Agriculture Committee, Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry, and the leaders of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus and their staffs who took time out of their busy schedules to meet with our groups to discuss this critical conservation issue. The Farm Bill is our nation’s single largest investment in conservation on private lands, yet it impacts all Americans, whether they be landowners or not. We believe that our priorities align with the nation’s agricultural production, and we know that our community’s expertise will make a meaningful contribution to the drafting of the Farm Bill.”

In addition to one-on-one meetings, CSF hosted the Farm Bill & Conservation Lunch Panel in the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center. Sponsored by Ducks Unlimited and The Conservation Fund, the panel featured comments from key congressional staff members regarding the status of the 2023 Farm Bill and talks from CSF’s Senior Director of Fisheries Policy Chris Horton, Pheasants Forever’s Director of Government Affairs Jim Inglis, Ducks Unlimited’s Manager of Agriculture and Sustainability Julia Peebles, National Alliance of Forest Owners’ Vice President of Government Relations Deon Nelson, and The Conservation Fund’s Associate Director of Government Relations Stacia Stanek.

The day concluded with a reception sponsored by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Ducks Unlimited at the historic Hart Senate Office Building. During the reception, remarks were given by CSC Vice-Chair Sen. Marshall (KS), CSC Co-Chair Rep. Panetta (CA), and Senate Agriculture Committee Chair and CSC Member Sen. Stabenow (MI).

CSF’s 2023 Farm Bill Fly-In proved to be a successful event that demonstrated the alignment of various stakeholders within the sporting conservation community in regard to Farm Bill priorities. As the backbone for conservation funding in the nation, America’s 55 million sportsmen and women have earned a seat at the table, and events such as this give them a voice in the nation’s highest governing body. For more information regarding Farm Bill priorities, please visit this link.

 

HOUSE, SENATE COMMITTEES EACH PASS TWO TOP CSF PRIORITIES

ARTICLE CONTACT: TAYLOR SCHMITZ

Why It Matters: The Committee passage of the America’s Outdoor Recreation Act, the Save our Sequoias Act, and two other bills to address the Cottonwood decision are important steps forward in improving access for sportsmen and women and restoring the health of our forests. These CSF legislative priorities are focused on enhancing public lands access and recreational opportunities, and critically needed policy changes to allow improved public lands forest management.

Highlights: 

  • Last Wednesday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the House Natural Resources Committee respectively passed the America’s Outdoor Recreation Act ( 873) and H.R. 2989, the Save Our Sequoias Act.
  • These Committees also respectively passed 1540 and H.R. 200, the Forest Information Reform Act; these bills address the problematic Cottonwood decision.

On Wednesday of last week, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the House Natural Resources Committee each passed two top Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) legislative priorities.  Prior to the Committee votes, CSF sent an action to members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus urging a “yes” vote on all four pieces of legislation.

The America’s Outdoor Recreation Act, S. 873, which is led by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Co-Chair Sen. Joe Manchin and CSC Member Sen. Barrasso, includes well over 30 provisions that seek to increase outdoor recreational opportunities, including hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting, by enhancing access, modernizing permitting processes, improving visitation data, and authorizing unique conservation measures. S. 873 will require the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service to ensure that each of their respective districts has at least one public target shooting range. This legislation will also assist federal agencies in efforts to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species, which pose a serious threat to native aquatic ecosystems and the economy. Additionally, S. 873 includes language that will help improve future federal land agency planning decisions and would enhance user planning efforts. Specifically, the Improved Recreation Visitation Data section directs certain federal land management agencies to capture various recreation visitation data. This section also establishes a real-time data pilot program to make available to the public real-time or predictive visitation data for federal lands, helping sportsmen and women with their trip planning efforts.

S. 1540, led by CSC Member Sen. Daines, and H.R. 200, led by Rep. Matt Rosendale, seek to alleviate the problems stemming from the 2015 Cottonwood Environmental Law Center v. U.S. Forest Service decision that has delayed and effectively halted the implementation of critical fish and wildlife habitat improvements on lands managed by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. The 2015 decision requires federal land managers to reinitiate consultation at the programmatic level when new critical habitat is designated, a new species is listed, or new information about a listed species comes to light. Plan level consultation is not needed as every major federal action is highly scrutinized at the project level under NEPA, including consultation with the USFWS or NOAA, and consultation would still take place when new forest plans are developed. Despite support from the current and preceding two Presidential Administrations to address the Cottonwooddecision in full, a partial fix to Cottonwood expired earlier this year, making S. 1540 and H.R. 200 even more necessary to fully manage our nation’s forests.

The Save our Sequoias Act, led by Speaker McCarthy and CSC Co-Chairs Reps. Panetta and Westerman and Vice Chairs Reps. Garret Graves and Jared Golden, among others, seeks to bolster the health of our nation’s forests, specifically our cherished giant sequoias. This legislation will improve coordination among the Department of the Interior, the Department of Agriculture, the state of California, the Tule River Indian Tribe, and local governments to improve the health of giant sequoia stands.  The Save Our Sequoias Act would enable land managers to improve forest resiliency to fire by reducing hazardous fuel loads and overstocking through thinning, insect and disease treatments, and prescribed fire. Additionally, the bill would facilitate the rehabilitation of lands negatively impacted by fire and the reforestation of giant sequoia stands to ensure the long-term viability of giant sequoias and the wildlife species that depend on these habitats.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation strongly supports these legislative efforts to improve access for sportsmen and women and help restore the health of our nation’s forests. CSF looks forward to working with the House and Senate to see these bills pass the full chambers.

 

NASC EXECUTIVE COUNCIL VOICES SUPPORT FOR FARM BILL CONSERVATION PROGRAMS

ARTICLE CONTACT: KENT KEENE

Why It Matters: Set to expire at the end of September, the reauthorization of the Farm Bill remains a top priority for many across the country. This includes the sporting-conservation community that supports the conservation programs contained in the Farm Bill’s Conservation and Forestry Titles. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) appreciates the state legislators who make up the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses’  Executive Council (EC) for recognizing these benefits and taking steps to voice their support for robust Farm Bill conservation programs.

Highlights: 

  • In advance of CSF’s 2023 Farm Bill Fly-In, members of the EC submitted a letter to members of Congress joining the sporting-conservation community in voicing support for robust investments in conservation programs through the Farm Bill.
  • Reauthorized, roughly, every five years, the Farm Bill includes language that impacts every American. Of importance for sportsmen, the Bill’s Conservation and Forestry Titles represent some of the largest federal investments in public and private lands conservation in the world.
  • As Congress works to develop a bipartisan Farm Bill this year, the EC’s support for the Conservation and Forestry Titles highlights the importance of these titles to our nation’s sportsmen and women, including those walking the halls of state houses around the country.

In support of the 2023 Farm Bill Fly-In hosted by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation on May 16, members of the bipartisan EC issued a letter of support for robust investments in the Bill’s Conservation and Forestry Titles. Representing sportsmen-minded state legislators from around the country, the letter highlights the benefits that Farm Bill conservation and forestry programs can have for the conservation of our public trust fish and wildlife resources, and our ability as sportsmen and women to enjoy them.

Reauthorized roughly every five years, the Farm Bill includes programs that fund everything from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to crop insurance. For sportsmen and women, the voluntary, incentive-based provisions authorized under the Bill’s Conservation and Forestry Titles represent some of the largest and most impactful investments in private and public lands conservation in the country. This includes the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), through which farmers receive rental payments in exchange for transitioning cropped acres to a conservation practice, typically for a period of 10-15 years. Hunters around the country rely on CRP acres, in large part due to the creation of quality habitat for many popular game species.

Also of particular importance for sportsmen and women, who struggle to find access to quality hunting areas,  is the Voluntary Public Access – Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP). VPA-HIP provides landowners with monetary benefits in exchange for opening their private property for public access to outdoor recreational opportunities. With many states operating some version of a public access to private lands program, CSF is extremely proud of the EC’s support for VPA-HIP and its benefits to the sporting-conservation community and the associated rural economies.

The Farm Bill truly represents a piece of federal legislation that impacts all Americans. This is particularly true for the sporting-conservation community, and CSF encourages all hunters, anglers, and trappers to remain engaged and join us, the NASC Executive Council, and our partners in support of strong Conservation and Forestry Titles. To learn more about the Farm Bill’s role in supporting our time-honored outdoor traditions and opportunities to engage, stay tuned to The Sportsmen’s Voice and similar publications produced by CSF’s mission partners.

 

RIGHTING SEVERAL WRONGS – CSF SUBMITS LETTER TO FWS RELATIVE TO SILVIO O. CONTE HUNTING/FISHING PLAN

ARTICLE CONTACT: FRED BIRD

Why It Matters: In July 2021, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted a letter of support with recommendations to the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) relative to the originally proposed Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge (Refuge) Recreational Hunting and Fishing Plan. To the hunting conservation community’s surprise, the final plan that resulted following the public comment period included numerous new restrictions against, among other things, hunting with dogs. CSF subsequently sent the FWS a letter of opposition in early 2022 and following the reopening of the public comment period, as a result from a partner organizations’ lawsuit against FWS, CSF submitted a letter of support for reopening the hunting access that was lost through the final Plan.

Highlights:

  • On Thursday, May 25, CSF’s New England States Assistant Manager, Fred Bird, submitted a letter to the FWS in support of Alternative B with certain additional recommendations for the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge Recreational Hunting and Fishing Plan.
  • When reopening the public comment period for this Plan, the FWS offered two possible routes it could take: Alternative A, which would leave the plan as-is; and, Alternative B, which would reopen several opportunities for sportsmen and women that were lost through the Refuge’s final Plan.
  • CSF provided the FWS with support and additional recommendations for the originally proposed Recreational Hunting and Fishing Plan, but the final Plan that was revealed by the FWS had three surprising new restrictions and one that CSF had initially called to reject.
  • CSF corresponded its disappointment with the FWS, highlighting flawed processes under the Administrative Procedures Act, as there were significant changes to the original Plan in the final Plan with no opportunity for further public comment.
  • A lawsuit stemming from hunting conservation partners resulted in the FWS’ reopening of the public comment period, which allowed CSF’s further engagement.

On Thursday, May 25, CSF’s New England States Assistant Manager, Fred Bird, again submitted comments to the FWS regarding the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge Recreational Hunting and Fishing Plan. The FWS offered two possible routes that could be taken with this approach: Alternative A, or the “No Action Alternative, which “would continue the refuge’s hunting and fishing program as identified in the final 2021 Hunt Plan;” and, Alternative B, which would “expand the dog training season to follow the Vermont State dog training season” and align the use of dogs “with State regulations for hunting and training on the Putney Mountain Unit.” Alternative B would afford sportsmen and women the opportunities that they once enjoyed prior to the implementation of the restrictive 2021 final plan. CSF also offered two additional recommendations: the removal of the Special Use Permit requirement when hunting over more than two dogs and the reauthorization of night hunting across the Refuge.

As CSF previously reported, several of the anti-hunting provisions that were incorporated into the final plan were never raised by the FWS as options it was considering in the draft plan that was open for public comment during the summer of 2021. Therefore, the sporting community was unable to provide input against these restrictions. These included: hunters using more than two dogs must possess a Special Use Permit issued by the refuge manager; restricting the use of dogs to the of hunting ruffed grouse at the Putney Mountain Unity; and limiting the training of dogs to August 1 through the last Saturday in September during daylight hours, and only if the trainer possesses a Special Use Permit issued by the refuge manager.

CSF’s letter is the most recent update on its years-long engagement with the FWS relative to the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge Recreational Hunting and Fishing Plan. Additional updates will be provided as they are made available.

States Involved: NH / VT

 

CSF BACKED NONRESIDENT COLLEGE STUDENT HUNTING AND ANGLING LICENSES BILL CONSIDERED IN OHIO

ARTICLE CONTACT: BOB MATTHEWS

Why It Matters: Allowing full-time nonresident college students to purchase hunting and fishing licenses at the resident rate recognizes the financial realities facing students attending higher education out-of-state.  Additionally, by taking this step,  this furthers hunter and angler recruitment, retention and reactivation goals and balances the modest decline in conservating funding with the long-term gains realized through reducing barriers for an important demographic to participating in our time-honored traditions.

Highlights:

  • On February 15, Ohio Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Representative Jay Edwards introduced the Operations Appropriations for the Biennium bill, aka the Ohio House of Representative’s budget bill, which contained a provision that would allow full-time nonresident college students to purchase hunting and fishing licenses at the resident rate.
  • On June 7, the Senate released their version of the budget bill which retains the college student hunting and fishing license provision.
  • The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted a letter to Senate committees in support of the student hunting and fishing license provision.

Should the budget bill pass with the college student hunting and angling licenses provision included, Ohio would become the 30th state to offer hunting and fishing licenses to nonresident students at the resident rate. Specifically, the legislation would define “resident” to include an individual who is a full-time student enrolled in an accredited Ohio public or private college or university, resides in Ohio at the time of purchasing a license, and attests to being a full-time student.

If this provision is removed, full-time nonresident students will continue to have to purchase hunting and fishing licenses at the more expensive nonresident rate which often discourages students from participating altogether in these activities during a crucial time in a young adult’s life when they are exploring new experiences and forging lifelong attachments to recreational pursuits. Nonresident students generally spend at least nine months of the year living in the state where their college is located, and providing full-time nonresident students with the option to purchase hunting and fishing licenses at the resident rate supports students continuing to contribute to the American System of Conservation Funding.

Further, as CSF’s letter states, “Encouraging the college-age demographic to participate in hunting and fishing by removing cost-prohibitive barriers is likely to increase the number of licenses sold in the state, as well as the gear purchased by these hunters and anglers, benefitting both the ODNR [Ohio Department of Natural Resources] and local economies.”

CSF applauds the Ohio Legislature for including the college student hunting and angling license provision in the budget bill, and CSF will continue to work with the Ohio Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus and in-state conservation partners to support retaining the provision in the final version of the bill.

States Involved: OH

Policy Corner Brief: JUNE 2023 This article is published in the issue.
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Policy Corner Brief: JUNE 2023

CONGRESSIONAL SPORTSMEN’S FOUNDATION HOSTS FARM BILL FLY-IN, LEADING CONSERVATION GROUPS ENGAGE WITH CONGRESSIONAL POLICY MAKERS

May 17, 2023 (Washington, DC) – Yesterday, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) organized and led a Farm Bill Fly-In that brought together key members of Congress and like-minded advocacy partners to discuss their priorities for the 2023 Farm Bill. Joining CSF leaders on Capitol Hill were representatives from the American Sportfishing Association, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, Ducks Unlimited, the Federal Forest Resource Coalition, the National Alliance of Forest Owners, the National Deer Association, the National Wildlife Federation, Pheasants/Quail Forever, The Conservation Fund, The Nature Conservancy and The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. CSF, as one of the foremost groups focused on safeguarding and promoting hunting, fishing, recreational shooting, and trapping, ensures that the concerns of sportsmen and women are heard in the Nation’s Capital and that science-based conservation policies are implemented through their work with the bipartisan Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC).

The objective of the Fly-In was to demonstrate that, while each organization has its own specific priorities, the sporting-conservation community is aligned in support of robust investments in the Conservation and Forestry Titles of the Farm Bill. These investments benefit the sustainability, resilience, and profitability of the nation’s farm, ranch, and forest landowners and rural economies. The priorities were also designed to complement, rather than compete with, the nation’s agricultural production. Finally, meetings with leading CSC legislators and committees demonstrated the depth and breadth of expertise possessed within the sporting conservation community, collectively representing a resource that will stimulate further conversations as Members of Congress draft the 2023 Farm Bill.

“We were proud to host the 2023 Farm Bill Fly-In and to bring together such an expansive group of conservation partners to advocate for necessary funding in the Conservation and Forestry titles of the Farm Bill,” said Jeff Crane, CSF President and CEO.” I’d like to thank the members of the House Agriculture Committee, Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry, and the leaders of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus and their staffs who took time out of their busy schedules to meet with our groups to discuss this critical conservation issue. The Farm Bill is our nation’s single largest investment in conservation on private lands, yet it impacts all Americans, whether they be landowners or not. We believe that our priorities align with the nation’s agricultural production, and we know that our community’s expertise will make a meaningful contribution to the drafting of the Farm Bill.”

In addition to one-on-one meetings, CSF hosted the Farm Bill & Conservation Lunch Panel in the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center. Sponsored by Ducks Unlimited and The Conservation Fund, the panel featured comments from key congressional staff members regarding the status of the 2023 Farm Bill and talks from CSF’s Senior Director of Fisheries Policy Chris Horton, Pheasants Forever’s Director of Government Affairs Jim Inglis, Ducks Unlimited’s Manager of Agriculture and Sustainability Julia Peebles, National Alliance of Forest Owners’ Vice President of Government Relations Deon Nelson, and The Conservation Fund’s Associate Director of Government Relations Stacia Stanek.

The day concluded with a reception sponsored by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Ducks Unlimited at the historic Hart Senate Office Building. During the reception, remarks were given by CSC Vice-Chair Sen. Marshall (KS), CSC Co-Chair Rep. Panetta (CA), and Senate Agriculture Committee Chair and CSC Member Sen. Stabenow (MI).

CSF’s 2023 Farm Bill Fly-In proved to be a successful event that demonstrated the alignment of various stakeholders within the sporting conservation community in regard to Farm Bill priorities. As the backbone for conservation funding in the nation, America’s 55 million sportsmen and women have earned a seat at the table, and events such as this give them a voice in the nation’s highest governing body. For more information regarding Farm Bill priorities, please visit this link.

 

HOUSE, SENATE COMMITTEES EACH PASS TWO TOP CSF PRIORITIES

ARTICLE CONTACT: TAYLOR SCHMITZ

Why It Matters: The Committee passage of the America’s Outdoor Recreation Act, the Save our Sequoias Act, and two other bills to address the Cottonwood decision are important steps forward in improving access for sportsmen and women and restoring the health of our forests. These CSF legislative priorities are focused on enhancing public lands access and recreational opportunities, and critically needed policy changes to allow improved public lands forest management.

Highlights: 

  • Last Wednesday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the House Natural Resources Committee respectively passed the America’s Outdoor Recreation Act ( 873) and H.R. 2989, the Save Our Sequoias Act.
  • These Committees also respectively passed 1540 and H.R. 200, the Forest Information Reform Act; these bills address the problematic Cottonwood decision.

On Wednesday of last week, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the House Natural Resources Committee each passed two top Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) legislative priorities.  Prior to the Committee votes, CSF sent an action to members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus urging a “yes” vote on all four pieces of legislation.

The America’s Outdoor Recreation Act, S. 873, which is led by Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Co-Chair Sen. Joe Manchin and CSC Member Sen. Barrasso, includes well over 30 provisions that seek to increase outdoor recreational opportunities, including hunting, fishing, and recreational shooting, by enhancing access, modernizing permitting processes, improving visitation data, and authorizing unique conservation measures. S. 873 will require the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service to ensure that each of their respective districts has at least one public target shooting range. This legislation will also assist federal agencies in efforts to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species, which pose a serious threat to native aquatic ecosystems and the economy. Additionally, S. 873 includes language that will help improve future federal land agency planning decisions and would enhance user planning efforts. Specifically, the Improved Recreation Visitation Data section directs certain federal land management agencies to capture various recreation visitation data. This section also establishes a real-time data pilot program to make available to the public real-time or predictive visitation data for federal lands, helping sportsmen and women with their trip planning efforts.

S. 1540, led by CSC Member Sen. Daines, and H.R. 200, led by Rep. Matt Rosendale, seek to alleviate the problems stemming from the 2015 Cottonwood Environmental Law Center v. U.S. Forest Service decision that has delayed and effectively halted the implementation of critical fish and wildlife habitat improvements on lands managed by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. The 2015 decision requires federal land managers to reinitiate consultation at the programmatic level when new critical habitat is designated, a new species is listed, or new information about a listed species comes to light. Plan level consultation is not needed as every major federal action is highly scrutinized at the project level under NEPA, including consultation with the USFWS or NOAA, and consultation would still take place when new forest plans are developed. Despite support from the current and preceding two Presidential Administrations to address the Cottonwooddecision in full, a partial fix to Cottonwood expired earlier this year, making S. 1540 and H.R. 200 even more necessary to fully manage our nation’s forests.

The Save our Sequoias Act, led by Speaker McCarthy and CSC Co-Chairs Reps. Panetta and Westerman and Vice Chairs Reps. Garret Graves and Jared Golden, among others, seeks to bolster the health of our nation’s forests, specifically our cherished giant sequoias. This legislation will improve coordination among the Department of the Interior, the Department of Agriculture, the state of California, the Tule River Indian Tribe, and local governments to improve the health of giant sequoia stands.  The Save Our Sequoias Act would enable land managers to improve forest resiliency to fire by reducing hazardous fuel loads and overstocking through thinning, insect and disease treatments, and prescribed fire. Additionally, the bill would facilitate the rehabilitation of lands negatively impacted by fire and the reforestation of giant sequoia stands to ensure the long-term viability of giant sequoias and the wildlife species that depend on these habitats.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation strongly supports these legislative efforts to improve access for sportsmen and women and help restore the health of our nation’s forests. CSF looks forward to working with the House and Senate to see these bills pass the full chambers.

 

NASC EXECUTIVE COUNCIL VOICES SUPPORT FOR FARM BILL CONSERVATION PROGRAMS

ARTICLE CONTACT: KENT KEENE

Why It Matters: Set to expire at the end of September, the reauthorization of the Farm Bill remains a top priority for many across the country. This includes the sporting-conservation community that supports the conservation programs contained in the Farm Bill’s Conservation and Forestry Titles. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) appreciates the state legislators who make up the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses’  Executive Council (EC) for recognizing these benefits and taking steps to voice their support for robust Farm Bill conservation programs.

Highlights: 

  • In advance of CSF’s 2023 Farm Bill Fly-In, members of the EC submitted a letter to members of Congress joining the sporting-conservation community in voicing support for robust investments in conservation programs through the Farm Bill.
  • Reauthorized, roughly, every five years, the Farm Bill includes language that impacts every American. Of importance for sportsmen, the Bill’s Conservation and Forestry Titles represent some of the largest federal investments in public and private lands conservation in the world.
  • As Congress works to develop a bipartisan Farm Bill this year, the EC’s support for the Conservation and Forestry Titles highlights the importance of these titles to our nation’s sportsmen and women, including those walking the halls of state houses around the country.

In support of the 2023 Farm Bill Fly-In hosted by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation on May 16, members of the bipartisan EC issued a letter of support for robust investments in the Bill’s Conservation and Forestry Titles. Representing sportsmen-minded state legislators from around the country, the letter highlights the benefits that Farm Bill conservation and forestry programs can have for the conservation of our public trust fish and wildlife resources, and our ability as sportsmen and women to enjoy them.

Reauthorized roughly every five years, the Farm Bill includes programs that fund everything from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to crop insurance. For sportsmen and women, the voluntary, incentive-based provisions authorized under the Bill’s Conservation and Forestry Titles represent some of the largest and most impactful investments in private and public lands conservation in the country. This includes the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), through which farmers receive rental payments in exchange for transitioning cropped acres to a conservation practice, typically for a period of 10-15 years. Hunters around the country rely on CRP acres, in large part due to the creation of quality habitat for many popular game species.

Also of particular importance for sportsmen and women, who struggle to find access to quality hunting areas,  is the Voluntary Public Access – Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP). VPA-HIP provides landowners with monetary benefits in exchange for opening their private property for public access to outdoor recreational opportunities. With many states operating some version of a public access to private lands program, CSF is extremely proud of the EC’s support for VPA-HIP and its benefits to the sporting-conservation community and the associated rural economies.

The Farm Bill truly represents a piece of federal legislation that impacts all Americans. This is particularly true for the sporting-conservation community, and CSF encourages all hunters, anglers, and trappers to remain engaged and join us, the NASC Executive Council, and our partners in support of strong Conservation and Forestry Titles. To learn more about the Farm Bill’s role in supporting our time-honored outdoor traditions and opportunities to engage, stay tuned to The Sportsmen’s Voice and similar publications produced by CSF’s mission partners.

 

RIGHTING SEVERAL WRONGS – CSF SUBMITS LETTER TO FWS RELATIVE TO SILVIO O. CONTE HUNTING/FISHING PLAN

ARTICLE CONTACT: FRED BIRD

Why It Matters: In July 2021, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted a letter of support with recommendations to the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) relative to the originally proposed Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge (Refuge) Recreational Hunting and Fishing Plan. To the hunting conservation community’s surprise, the final plan that resulted following the public comment period included numerous new restrictions against, among other things, hunting with dogs. CSF subsequently sent the FWS a letter of opposition in early 2022 and following the reopening of the public comment period, as a result from a partner organizations’ lawsuit against FWS, CSF submitted a letter of support for reopening the hunting access that was lost through the final Plan.

Highlights:

  • On Thursday, May 25, CSF’s New England States Assistant Manager, Fred Bird, submitted a letter to the FWS in support of Alternative B with certain additional recommendations for the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge Recreational Hunting and Fishing Plan.
  • When reopening the public comment period for this Plan, the FWS offered two possible routes it could take: Alternative A, which would leave the plan as-is; and, Alternative B, which would reopen several opportunities for sportsmen and women that were lost through the Refuge’s final Plan.
  • CSF provided the FWS with support and additional recommendations for the originally proposed Recreational Hunting and Fishing Plan, but the final Plan that was revealed by the FWS had three surprising new restrictions and one that CSF had initially called to reject.
  • CSF corresponded its disappointment with the FWS, highlighting flawed processes under the Administrative Procedures Act, as there were significant changes to the original Plan in the final Plan with no opportunity for further public comment.
  • A lawsuit stemming from hunting conservation partners resulted in the FWS’ reopening of the public comment period, which allowed CSF’s further engagement.

On Thursday, May 25, CSF’s New England States Assistant Manager, Fred Bird, again submitted comments to the FWS regarding the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge Recreational Hunting and Fishing Plan. The FWS offered two possible routes that could be taken with this approach: Alternative A, or the “No Action Alternative, which “would continue the refuge’s hunting and fishing program as identified in the final 2021 Hunt Plan;” and, Alternative B, which would “expand the dog training season to follow the Vermont State dog training season” and align the use of dogs “with State regulations for hunting and training on the Putney Mountain Unit.” Alternative B would afford sportsmen and women the opportunities that they once enjoyed prior to the implementation of the restrictive 2021 final plan. CSF also offered two additional recommendations: the removal of the Special Use Permit requirement when hunting over more than two dogs and the reauthorization of night hunting across the Refuge.

As CSF previously reported, several of the anti-hunting provisions that were incorporated into the final plan were never raised by the FWS as options it was considering in the draft plan that was open for public comment during the summer of 2021. Therefore, the sporting community was unable to provide input against these restrictions. These included: hunters using more than two dogs must possess a Special Use Permit issued by the refuge manager; restricting the use of dogs to the of hunting ruffed grouse at the Putney Mountain Unity; and limiting the training of dogs to August 1 through the last Saturday in September during daylight hours, and only if the trainer possesses a Special Use Permit issued by the refuge manager.

CSF’s letter is the most recent update on its years-long engagement with the FWS relative to the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge Recreational Hunting and Fishing Plan. Additional updates will be provided as they are made available.

States Involved: NH / VT

 

CSF BACKED NONRESIDENT COLLEGE STUDENT HUNTING AND ANGLING LICENSES BILL CONSIDERED IN OHIO

ARTICLE CONTACT: BOB MATTHEWS

Why It Matters: Allowing full-time nonresident college students to purchase hunting and fishing licenses at the resident rate recognizes the financial realities facing students attending higher education out-of-state.  Additionally, by taking this step,  this furthers hunter and angler recruitment, retention and reactivation goals and balances the modest decline in conservating funding with the long-term gains realized through reducing barriers for an important demographic to participating in our time-honored traditions.

Highlights:

  • On February 15, Ohio Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Representative Jay Edwards introduced the Operations Appropriations for the Biennium bill, aka the Ohio House of Representative’s budget bill, which contained a provision that would allow full-time nonresident college students to purchase hunting and fishing licenses at the resident rate.
  • On June 7, the Senate released their version of the budget bill which retains the college student hunting and fishing license provision.
  • The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted a letter to Senate committees in support of the student hunting and fishing license provision.

Should the budget bill pass with the college student hunting and angling licenses provision included, Ohio would become the 30th state to offer hunting and fishing licenses to nonresident students at the resident rate. Specifically, the legislation would define “resident” to include an individual who is a full-time student enrolled in an accredited Ohio public or private college or university, resides in Ohio at the time of purchasing a license, and attests to being a full-time student.

If this provision is removed, full-time nonresident students will continue to have to purchase hunting and fishing licenses at the more expensive nonresident rate which often discourages students from participating altogether in these activities during a crucial time in a young adult’s life when they are exploring new experiences and forging lifelong attachments to recreational pursuits. Nonresident students generally spend at least nine months of the year living in the state where their college is located, and providing full-time nonresident students with the option to purchase hunting and fishing licenses at the resident rate supports students continuing to contribute to the American System of Conservation Funding.

Further, as CSF’s letter states, “Encouraging the college-age demographic to participate in hunting and fishing by removing cost-prohibitive barriers is likely to increase the number of licenses sold in the state, as well as the gear purchased by these hunters and anglers, benefitting both the ODNR [Ohio Department of Natural Resources] and local economies.”

CSF applauds the Ohio Legislature for including the college student hunting and angling license provision in the budget bill, and CSF will continue to work with the Ohio Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus and in-state conservation partners to support retaining the provision in the final version of the bill.

States Involved: OH

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