CSF Continues to Support Active Management on the Hoosier National Forest
Posted on Monday, November 14, 2022
Contact: Bob Matthews, Senior Coordinator, Upper Midwestern States
- In 2021, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) joined an amicus brief supporting a project proposed by the United States Forest Service (USFS) on the Hoosier National Forest.
- The proposal, dubbed the “Houston South Project,” would have utilized active forest management practices to improve the forest’s health and thereby support Indiana’s wildlife and hunting traditions.
- In a partial ruling, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana ruled in favor of the USFS on two of three claims, but remanded the case back to the USFS, finding that it did not fully evaluate how the Houston South Project would have impacted the water quality of a nearby lake.
- CSF submitted comments last week on the USFS’s Draft Supplemental Information Report which is intended to address the District Court’s water quality concerns. CSF maintains that the USFS properly considered impacts on water quality and the Houston South Project should be implemented.
Why It Matters: Active forest management is an effective way of improving wildlife habitat and forest health, which in turn increases access and opportunity for outdoor pursuits of these healthier wildlife populations. Forest restoration projects such as the one proposed on the Hoosier National Forest are crucial to conservation and CSF’s mission of advancing the interests of sportsmen and women.
The Hoosier National Forest is experiencing declining forest health for numerous reasons, including overstocked stands that are low in biodiversity. This has resulted in overall poor habitat for both game and nongame species of wildlife that inhabit the National Forest. To address these issues, the Houston South Vegetation Management and Restoration Project was proposed by the USFS in 2020 and would have utilized active forest management techniques such as timber harvest and prescribed burning to improve forest health and wildlife habitat.
To prevent these severely needed management actions, activist groups sued the USFS to stop the Houston South Project. In 2021, CSF joined partners in filing an amicus brief demonstrating the need for the Houston South Project and supporting its implementation. Following the District Court’s decision, the USFS accepted public comment on a Draft Supplemental Information Report, addressing the District Court’s water quality concerns. Last week, CSF submitted comments to the USFS in support of this report’s findings and urged the USFS to move forward with the Houston South project. CSF’s full comments can be found here.
Active forest management is necessary to maintain healthy forest ecosystems. Prescribed burning is a cost-effective way to improve wildlife habitat, reduce vegetation competition, combat the spread of disease, pests and insects, and reduce fuel loads to minimize the wildfire severity. Likewise, timber harvest can support local economies while benefiting the health and sustainability of the forest. This is possible because harvest operations create openings in the forest canopy that allow sunlight to reach the forest floor and support the regeneration of native vegetation. These actions also promote the regeneration of desirable tree species, or the next generation of the forest, while supporting the many wildlife species that require early successional habitats. CSF will continue to support plans that benefit wildlife species, because those are the same plans that benefit the dedicated sportsmen and women that pursue them.
Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation Supports U.S. Forest Service Habitat Project in Virginia
Posted on Monday, November 14, 2022
Contact: John Culclasure, Southeastern States Director
- On November 7, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted comments on the draft environmental assessment for the Archer Knob Project on the George Washington National Forest.
- The Archer Knob Project would improve habitat for game and nongame species and restore forest health through a variety of silvicultural treatments.
- CSF strongly supports the use of active forest management practices on multiple-use public lands to improve wildlife habitat, forest health, and access for sportsmen and women.
Why It Matters: Despite the importance of young forests to a variety of wildlife species, young forests and other early successional habitats comprise less than 1% of the George Washington National Forest. Implementation of the Archer Knob Project is critical to reversing the habitat loss and declines in wildlife, including species pursued by Virginia’s hunters like ruffed grouse.
CSF expressed support for the proposed regeneration harvests, thinnings, prescribed burns, and timber stand improvement treatments as well as the proposed work to rehabilitate and expand wildlife openings. These activities would significantly increase the acreage of young forests, open woodlands, and grassland/forb habitat to support ruffed grouse, while-tailed deer, and wild turkey, among other species.
CSF’s letter stated, “To single out a bellwether species for habitat, the ruffed grouse population on the GWNF has been declining for decades primarily because of the loss of regenerating young forests caused by the significantly reduced timber harvesting levels. With more than 75% of the Project area comprised of stands over 80 years old that do not support a vibrant understory beneficial to wildlife, we encourage you to move forward with the Project to correct the age class distribution imbalance and improve habitat diversity to support Virginia’s wildlife species that rely on regenerating young forests and other early seral habitats.”
Additionally, CSF supported the proposed improvements to the Hite Hollow Rifle Range and the aquatic organism passages restoration work. CSF opposed the proposed decommissioning of almost 5 miles of Forest Service Roads as roads are important for sportsmen’s access and maintaining management capabilities.
CSF is excited about the prospect of the U.S. Forest Service implementing the Archer Knob Project. We will be tracking the status of the project closely to continue our work supporting Virginia’s outdoor sporting traditions.
Minnesota DNR Repeals Partial Lead Ammunition Ban
Posted on Monday, October 31, 2022
Contact: Bob Matthews, Senior Coordinator, Upper Midwestern States
- Earlier this year, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced that hunters in the state would be banned from using lead ammunition on certain public lands, which it implemented through an expedited emergency rule adoption in August.
- Last week, the Minnesota DNR adopted another emergency rule – this time repealing the earlier rule, stating that non-lead ammunition was not readily available for hunters to purchase, which would have significantly reduced hunting participation and undermined the wildlife management benefits that hunting provides each year.
- The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) supports this decision and the accompanying recognition of the important role that hunting serves in conservation.
Why It Matters: Because alternative ammunition options are often more costly and limited or difficult for hunters to obtain, bans like the one recently repealed in Minnesota can create a barrier for participation. With fewer hunters able to participate, the crucial role that hunting plays in wildlife management is diminished, both in population control and in state agency funding.
The Minnesota DNR adopted an emergency rule to repeal a new requirement that would have banned hunters from using lead ammunition when participating in special hunts or disease-management hunts in State Parks or in Scientific and Natural Areas. Without this repeal, hunters would have also been banned from using lead ammunition during regular hunts in Scientific and Natural Areas.
Alternatives to lead ammunition can be expensive and difficult to obtain, so bans on traditional lead ammunition can create barriers for hunters to participate in our time-honored traditions. Such barriers reduce the positive benefits that hunters contribute to conservation. This impact is especially significant in Minnesota, where in 2021 alone, hunters and anglers generated more than $103 million through the “user pays – public benefits” structure of the American System of Conservation Funding, ranking 4th in the country. Additionally, state agencies rely on hunting as the preferred wildlife management tool, so fewer hunters afield may jeopardize management objectives.
The Minnesota DNR has denied multiple petitions in recent years calling for broad bans on lead ammunition and tackle, but still expressed support for alternatives in this statement earlier this year. If a state legislature or agency seeks to implement policies that transition hunters away from traditional lead ammunition, the many benefits that hunters bring to conservation must be given heavy consideration.
CSF, Partners Urge Prioritization of Funding for Migration Corridors in FY24 Federal Budget
Posted on Monday, October 24, 2022
- Recently, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) and nearly 30 of the leading hunting-conservation organizations sent a letter to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to request adequate funding for the Department of the Interior (DOI) and Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help implement efforts to conserve wildlife migration corridors.
- Led by CSF, the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Boone and Crockett Club, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, and the Wild Sheep Foundation, the letter identifies specific funding requests for OMB to prioritize funding for to successfully conserve and enhance migration corridors.
- Increased and dedicated funding to the Department of the Interior for the implementation of Secretarial Order 3362, an unmatched effort to conserve migration corridors.
Why It Matters: To survive various seasonal conditions, wildlife, including big game species of interest to America’s sportsmen and women such as elk, deer, sheep, and moose, migrate to new areas in search of food, habitat, and more suitable temperatures throughout the year. Thanks to technological advances in global positioning systems, researchers have been able to better document and understand the importance of migration, and associated migration routes, for big game species in recent years. Adequate funding is necessary for our wildlife managers to further incorporate their data into on-the-ground conservation.
In a recent letter, CSF and nearly 30 of our sporting-conservation partners sent a letter to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget to encourage funding for efforts to conserve big game migration corridors, a high priority conservation effort for CSF.
In the letter, the signatories noted that in the past several years, DOI has made available $15 million to implement Secretarial Order (S.O.) 3362, an innovative and highly effective effort to conserve migration corridors. Specifically, S.O. 3362 directs DOI to work in partnership with states across the Western U.S. to enhance and improve the quality of big-game winter range and migration corridor habitat on federal lands under DOI management, while also recognizing state authority to conserve and manage big game and the need to respect private property rights. Thanks to highly coordinated and strategic considerations, S.O. 3362 is the nation’s most successful migration corridors conservation effort to date.
Unfortunately, due to limited funding availability, DOI has been diverting money from other existing programs rather than establishing a new funding line item for implementation of Secretarial Order 3362. To address the funding shortfalls with the implementation of Secretarial Order 3362, the signatories of the letter identified a number of funding requests to conserve migration corridors. These requests include: $1 million for DOI coordination and support; $5 million for science and mapping efforts from the U.S. Geological Survey, $3 million for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service science efforts to further migration corridor research; $5 million for Bureau of Land Management (BLM) resource management plan updates; $5 million for BLM’s Wildlife & Aquatic Habitat Management; $2 million for the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to provide competitive grants for the implementation of Secretarial Order 3362; and $2 million for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Partners for Fish and Wildlife to enhance corridor conservation efforts on private lands.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation strongly encourages the Office of Management and Budget to prioritize funding for the conservation of big game migration corridors.
Hunting Coalition Files Preliminary Injunction Over California Firearm Marketing Law
Posted on Monday, October 24, 2022
Contact: Keely Hopkins, Manager, Pacific States & Firearm Policy
- On October 21, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), Sportsmen’s Alliance, and Safari Club International filed a motion for preliminary injunction in federal district court to protect the free speech rights of hunting, shooting, and conservation organizations in the state.
- AB 2571, which was passed by the legislature earlier this year and signed into law by Governor Newsom on June 30, prohibits the “marketing” of firearms to minors, but the broadly written language cast a wide net over many communications and imposes fines of $25,000 per impression or occurrence of the prohibited communication.
- The motion for preliminary injunction is part of the coalition’s ongoing federal lawsuit that seeks to strike down AB 2571 for violations of well-established and constitutionally protected rights under the 1st, 5th and 14th amendments.
Why It Matters: California’s law-abiding hunters and shooters have long played a vital role in funding conservation and wildlife management efforts throughout the state. Under the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF), a unique “user pays – public benefits” structure, California’s sportsmen and women generate tens of millions of dollars each year for the California Department of Fish & Wildlife. These funds are generated through license sales and an 11% federal excise tax on sporting-related goods, including firearms and ammunition. Efforts to restrict the sportsmen’s community from recruiting and activating the next generation of hunters and recreational shooters will have far-reaching consequences on the very funding structure that underwrites the conservation of California’s wildlife and their habitats.
In an effort to block the implementation of AB 2571 and to protect the free speech rights of hunting, shooting and conservation organizations in California, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Sportsmen’s Alliance, and Safari Club International have filed a motion for preliminary injunction in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. This request is part of the coalition’s ongoing lawsuit to strike down AB 2571 in its entirety for violating 1st, 5th, and 14th amendment rights.
Purported as bill to prohibit advertising firearms to minors, the broadly written language of AB 2571, which was signed into law by Governor Newsom on June 30, casts a wide net over communications that promote the use of firearms by a member of the “firearm industry.” The bill defines “firearm industry” broadly to include organizations formed for the purpose of “… promoting, encouraging, or advocating for the purchase, use, or ownership of firearm-related products”, encompassing many hunting and conservation organizations that routinely communicate on firearm-related topics. Since the law has taken effect, many organizations have ceased communications that showcase or illustrate the use of firearms by youth, including social media, magazine articles, videos, and more, because of uncertainty over the law and the steep $25,000 fine per occurrence of any of these prohibited communications that may portray firearms as “attractive to minors”.
In addition to the free speech violations of AB 2571, the sportsmen’s community is also rightly concerned about the impact these restrictions will have on R3 efforts. Participation in hunting in California has been declining over the last several decades, which has resulted in decreased funding for conservation and wildlife management efforts through the state. Under the American System of Conservation Funding (ASCF), a unique “user pays – public benefits” structure, California’s sportsmen and women generate tens of millions of dollars each year for the California Department of Fish & Wildlife through license and tags sales, and also through an excise tax paid on firearm and ammunition purchases under the Pittman-Robertson Act. To combat these declining numbers, the state wildlife agency, conservation organizations, and hunting organizations have all invested heavily in R3 efforts and continue to identify strategies to increase participation in outdoor activities. AB 2571 threatens these efforts by significantly impacting the sporting-conservation community’s ability to effectively recruit and educate the next generation of sportsmen and women, thereby also threatening the funding structure that underwrites the conservation of California’s wildlife and their habitats.
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