Policy Corner Brief: SEPTEMBER 2021
Tennessee Quail Habitat Restoration Project Meets Conservation Opposition – Public Meeting Scheduled
- The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) is proposing to conduct a wildlife habitat improvement project primarily directed towards the restoration of quail habitat, including establishing a mixed oak/pine savanna on the Bridgestone/Firestone Wildlife Management Area (WMA).
- While the project is part of TWRA’s Quail Restoration Initiative, the habitat work would benefit a range of game and nongame species that utilize early successional habitats.
- Due to public opposition to the project, a meeting has been scheduled on October 4, 2021 at the Sparta Civic Center, 514 East Bockman Way, Sparta, TN to discuss the proposed habitat work.
Why it matters:
The establishment of an oak/pine savanna would provide quality habitat for quail populations which have been on a continual decline across the Southeast for decades primarily due to loss of habitat. This habitat project would restore habitat for the South’s most iconic upland species as well as improve habitat for whitetail deer, wild turkey, and American woodcock as well as numerous nongame species and pollinators.
While members of the local community opposed to the habitat project on the Bridgestone/Firestone Wildlife Management Area (WMA) have expressed concerns about harvesting hardwood species and the supposed consequential negative impact on wildlife populations and hunting opportunities, utilizing active forest management practices, including harvest of both hard and softwoods, to improve wildlife habitat is critical to supporting robust and diverse wildlife populations.
Located on the Cumberland Plateau, the Bridgestone/Firestone WMA provides important hunting access in middle Tennessee, but much of the Plateau is comprised of mature, closed canopy forests that do not meet the habitat needs of quail or other shrubland/early successional dependent species.
Harvesting timber opens the forest canopy to allow sunlight to stimulate growth in the understory. This type of active management benefits a wide range of species, many of which are disturbance dependent and require young forests and other seral habitats to survive. Ruffed grouse, for example, used to be common on the Plateau, and their range formerly extended into north Alabama. Today, however, ruffed grouse are not common on the Plateau due to the loss of young forests.
In the absence of natural disturbances like wildfire, wildlife managers stimulate forest regeneration through timber harvesting. Used in conjunction with prescribed fire, timber management can be used to create mixed oak/pine savannas that offer favorable conditions for many wildlife species. For example, wild turkeys thrive in savanna/woodland habitats due to the abundance of brood rearing cover as well as a diversity of foraging opportunities.
Proponents of the project understand that while there may be fewer trees from which to hang tree stands and a few gray squirrels may have to find new nest trees, the long-term benefits to wildlife outweigh any perceived negative impacts. Creating savannas will increase habitat diversity and improve the overall health of the ecosystem, supporting increased hunting opportunities for Tennessee’s sportsmen and women.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) supports using active forest management tools to create healthy forests and support quality wildlife habitat. CSF supports the quail restoration plan proposed for the Bridgestone/Firestone WMA and encourages members of the hunting community to attend the upcoming meeting on October 4 at 6:00 p.m. (CST) to express their support for the habitat project.
For more background on this quail habitat restoration project, please click here.
The Outdoorsmen’s Guide to Climate Change Now Debate Available Online
- As discussions about climate change continue to gain momentum within the halls of government, the sportsmen’s community once again has the opportunity to take the lead as we seek to address the effects of this conservation challenge.
- In response to this opportunity, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) joins several of our mission partners in working to address the effects of climate change through pragmatic, conservation-minded efforts that promote climate resiliency while benefitting our fish and wildlife resources, as well as our opportunities to enjoy them.
- More information on this effort, including a breakdown of specific policy topics, can be found at csfclimateguide.org.
Why it matters:
As the original conservationists, sportsmen and women have a long history of supporting the science-based management of our nation’s fish and wildlife resources. Unfortunately, the best available science continues to suggest that the effects of a changing climate are impacting the resources that we care so passionately about. While climate change is still a hotly debated topic, CSF and others are working to shift the narrative and approach climate change as a conservation challenge. Using this perspective opens the door for sportsmen and women to take the lead in promoting active management efforts that can help address these impacts, just as we have done so many times before.
After several months of development, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) is proud to announce the release of “The Outdoorsmen’s Guide to Climate Change.” This website contains valuable information related to the conservation challenges associated with climate change by providing background on several existing conservation priorities that can be used to address its effects while promoting critical habitat for fish and wildlife and opportunities for sportsmen and women. Joining many other members of the outdoor sporting conservation community, CSF looks forward to continuing its mission to protect and advance hunting, angling, recreational shooting, and trapping while advocating for the science-based conservation of our nation’s public trust resources.
Historically a hotly debated topic within the political arena, emerging science has made it clear that there is a need to address the impacts of climate change on our nation’s fish and wildlife resources. By changing the perspective and focusing on climate change as a conservation challenge, CSF and many others have recognized the opportunity to promote active conservation efforts that sportsmen and women, the original conservationists, have supported for decades. By looking at topics such as active forest management, the use of prescribed fire, voluntary and incentive based private lands programs, and efforts to improve habitat connectivity on land and in the water, sportsmen and women have an opportunity to advance many of our existing priorities in an effort to address the impacts of climate change while simultaneously providing critical habitat for the species that we care about most.
“The Outdoorsmen’s Guide to Climate Change” is currently broken down into eight conservation policy priorities of which CSF has already been actively engaged for years. This website, and the resource it provides, are designed to strengthen CSF’s efforts by highlighting important considerations related to climate change. In doing so, “The Outdoorsmen’s Guide to Climate Change” is meant to provide a pragmatic, non-partisan perspective that remains true to the CSF Mission. For more information, visit csfclimateguide.org.
Sharing the Harvest: How Hunters Can Help Feed the Hungry
- As many states enter the fall hunting season, hunters who may harvest more meat than they can reasonably consume should consider donating to a local game meat donation program.
- Game meat donation programs allow hunters to share their harvests, ensuring that our nation’s public trust resources are fully utilized.
- Through various national efforts and state-led programs, hunters provide millions of meals annually to those in need.
- In addition to their support of conservation through the American System of Conservation Funding and their economic contributions to rural communities while participating in their outdoor endeavors, game meat donation programs represent another way in which our nation’s sportsmen and women benefit their communities.
Why it matters:
While hunters and anglers are often credited as the original conservationists due to their historic contributions, including financially through the American System of Conservation Funding, advocating for science-based natural resource management, and through the sweat equity of their own on-the-ground efforts, the manner in which sportsmen and women give back does not end there. Through the availability of game meat donation programs, many sportsmen and women directly support their neighbors by providing a source of local, ethically harvested protein for those in need. As you prepare for the 2021 hunting, all sportsmen and women should explore game meat donation opportunities in their area.
Finally! We have reached that magical time of year when the time spent dialing in equipment, improving wildlife habitat, and saving up vacation days results in opportunities to get outside and do the things that we all love to do. In fact, some of you may have already left for your first big trip of the season. For those who haven’t, and for those who can read this while they’re already in the field or on the water, ponder this. What are you going to with your meat if you are successful?
Game meat is experiencing a renaissance of sorts thanks to an influx in outdoor media personalities who are promoting the consumption, as much as the harvest, of the animals that we pursue every year. For hunters, this is great news when considered within the context of the public opinion of our outdoor passion. In fact, recent research suggests that approximately 84% of the American public approves of hunting as a way to obtain natural, organic meat. Between a desire to consume the “groceries” that we harvest and the wanton waste laws that ensure nothing goes to waste, we can take pride in knowing that we are utilizing our public trust resources responsibly.
While we can pat ourselves on the back for our conservation – or “wise use” – ethic as it relates to the use of our harvest, hunters who have the means can truly be proud when participating in a game meat donation program. The programs allow hunters to donate the professionally processed fruits of their labor to those in need, effectively allowing hunters to act as providers in their community. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation is dedicated to working with our partners to remove state legislative hurdles to the creation of game meat donation programs. For more information on this topic, check out our state issue brief here.
Now, for those of you who are heading out this year, contact your state fish and wildlife agency and take a look at local opportunities to share your harvest and help feed the hungry. You will be glad you did.
USDA Announces Acceptance Rates for Conservation Reserve Program Following Program Changes Announced Earlier This Year
- On August 23, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that it had accepted 2.8 million acres in offers into the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) this year.
- Among the 2.8 million acres, nearly 1.9 million acres were offered through the General CRP Signup that ended in July, while more than 897,000 acres have been accepted through the continuous CRP signup.
- USDA is in the process of evaluating offers submitted through the CRP Grasslands Signup and continuous CRP applications are considered on a rolling basis, meaning that overall enrollment for 2021 will likely exceed the 3 million acres currently enrolled that are set to expire at the end of FY21.
Why it matters:
The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) has historically been one of the most successful voluntary private lands conservation programs in our nation’s history. Down from a high enrollment of 36.7 million acres in 2007, CRP has seen recent changes made by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack that are designed to increase interest in the program. Recognizing the important benefits that participation in CRP provides for wildlife, efforts to address the impacts of climate change, and the overall profitability and resiliency for participating landowners, it is important that the program is fully enrolled to maximize these benefits.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that 2.8 million acres have been accepted into the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) thus far in 2021. Of these 2.8 million acres, 1.9 million were accepted through the General CRP Signup that began in January but was extended until last month as the Administration explored options to increase interest in the program. Another nearly 897,000 acres were accepted through the continuous CRP signup that persists on a rolling basis. USDA remains confident that changes to CRP announced earlier this year will further boost enrollment in the program in coming signup periods.
The Conservation Reserve Program provides landowners with rental payments in exchange for the voluntary conversion of lands used for production agriculture to alternative, conservation focused practices. For sportsmen and women, acres enrolled in CRP can provide quality habitat for game and nongame species in otherwise fragmented landscapes. In fact, during a recent webinar hosted by CSF, Jim Inglis, Pheasants Forever’s Director of Government Affairs, highlighted data that showed a clear link between CRP enrollment, game bird populations, and hunter participation rates.
This announcement comes just one month before 3 million acres of CRP are set to expire at the end of FY21. USDA expects that the recently closed CRP Grasslands Signup, coupled with ongoing Continuous CRP opportunities, will more than offset these expiring acres, moving the program closer to its acreage cap of 25.5 million acres in 2022 as established by Congress through the 2018 Farm Bill. For more information on the Conservation Reserve Program, click here.
CSF Leads Effort to Combat Anti-Hunting Petition
- Recently, two anti-hunting organizations submitted two petitions, one to the Department of the Interior and one to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in an effort to undermine legal, science-based, and sustainable hunting, both domestically and abroad, using the disguise of zoonotic disease prevention.
- The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) led two sign-on letters that were supported by 35 of the nation’s leading sporting-conservation organizations to strongly oppose these short-sighted petitions.
- Specifically, CSF and partners sent a letter to the Department of the Interior and the Centers for Disease Control outlining the importance of hunting and its unparalleled value on domestic and international conservation.
Why it matters:
Efforts to undermine legal, science-based, and sustainable hunting programs are on the rise across the country. These efforts fail to recognize the significant economic and conservation value of hunting both domestically in the U.S. and internationally. Any effort to undermine these hunting programs is an effort to undermine some of the world’s most successful conservation programs.
On August 26, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) led an effort to oppose two anti-hunting petitions submitted to the Department of the Interior and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The efforts of CSF led to the development of two letters that were signed by 36 of the nation’s leading sporting-conservation organizations, including CSF, in opposition to these emotionally driven petitions.
At the domestic level, our nation entrusts our state fish and wildlife agencies with the responsibility of managing their respective fish, wildlife, and their associated habitats. These agencies are the best positioned entities to make sound, science-based management decisions and are the driving force behind our remarkable conservation success stories. Since 1939, state fish and wildlife agencies have received over $71 billion from sportsmen and women. On average, this accounts for 60% of the funding for these agencies. These petitions would supersede state fish and wildlife agencies and undermine their primacy of management.
Internationally, actively managed and regulated hunting, often conducted by Americans, is the conservation linchpin of many species whose populations are stable, growing and in many instances, are at or above ecological and / or social carrying capacity. Efforts to undermine international hunting ignores credible science that clearly demonstrate the conservation benefit of existing hunting programs – programs that also support 53,000 full- and part-time jobs.
In the letters, CSF and partners stated “Without question, domestic and international hunting are vital elements to conservation – maintaining biodiversity and ensuring species survival in the U.S., and in various regions around the world. Internationally, hunting programs, especially those involving rural communities within the conservation and management efforts, are proven tools to sustain both species and habitat. The revenue generated from licensed, regulated hunting is the primary source of management, conservation, and anti-poaching funds for national wildlife authorities as is the case in many southern and eastern African countries.”
CSF will continue to be a leading voice in opposition to any efforts that seek to undermine well-regulated and science-based hunting programs in the U.S. and at the international level.
Final Installment of Summer Webinar Series Looks to Future, Highlighting Opportunities for Sportsmen and Women to Remain Leaders in Conservation
- On August 25, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) hosted its fourth and final Summer Educational Series webinar discussion titled: “Sportsmen and Women as the Original Conservationists: Opportunities to Lead the Future of Conservation.”
- The webinar brought together a panel of industry experts and representatives of some of our nation’s largest sporting conservation organizations for a look at emerging conservation topics and opportunities for sportsmen and women to engage.
- As the final webinar in the series, this discussion highlighted ways in which the sporting conservation community have taken charge when facing our nation’s largest conservation challenges. Recognizing this history while highlighting actions that the community is already taking to address emerging challenges, the ultimate goal was to encourage legislators, and sportsmen and women in general, to remain engaged while protecting and advancing our outdoor heritage.
Why It Matters:
Sportsmen and women have a strong history of leading efforts to address our nation’s conservation challenges. From the development of laws guiding the harvest of fish and wildlife and the development of state fish and wildlife agencies to develop, evaluate and enforce these regulations, to the creation of a self-imposed, “user pays – public benefits” mechanism by which these agencies are funded, it is clear that sportsmen and women have a vested interest in addressing conservation challenges. Recognizing the vested interest, there is an opportunity to bring this perspective to conversations regarding emerging topics like climate change, water quality issues, and much more. By approaching these topics as the latest conservation challenges, we can once again lead in a manner that benefits our nation’s public trust resources, as well as our opportunities to enjoy them.
In this year’s final installment of the summer webinar series, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation’s (CSF) Nick Buggia provided a brief history of sportsmen-led conservation actions that have resulted in the abundant outdoor opportunities we enjoy today. Leaning on this experience, Nick pointed out that there are several emerging topics that provide excellent opportunities for sportsmen and women to take the lead in protecting and advancing our outdoor heritage.
Following Nick was Kyle Rorah, Regional Director of Public Policy for Ducks Unlimited (DU), who discussed DU’s efforts to restore and conserve wetland ecosystems throughout North America. While designed primarily to benefit waterfowl, Kyle explained how their management actions were benefitting the entire ecosystem, particularly in the face of challenges such as climate change. Kyle went on to highlight the role of these wetlands in reducing nutrient runoff into major waterways, sequestering and storing greenhouse gasses that contribute to climate change, and providing a reliable source of water for communities throughout the country.
Up next was Jim Inglis, Director of Government Affairs for Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. Jim focused on the important roles that grasslands serve and opportunities for private landowners to contribute to grassland conservation efforts within agricultural systems. Highlighting programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) – which has been directly linked to pheasant population success, hunter participation, and hunter satisfaction – Jim highlighted the potential profitability and sense of resiliency that landowners can experience when enrolling in these programs. Like Kyle, Jim also highlighted the role of grasslands in addressing the impacts of climate change.
The penultimate speaker was Jill Sims, Manager of Great Lakes Policy and Engagement for the National Marine Manufacturers Association. Representing the boating industry, Jill highlighted the importance of the outdoor recreation industry in the United States where it comprises approximately 2.1% of our nation’s GDP. Given this importance, Jill spoke to the boating industry’s commitment to contributing to efforts such as regional habitat restoration efforts, water quality improvements, and stopping the spread of invasive species.
Wrapping up, CSF’s Kent Keene provided a brief conclusion that reiterated that sportsmen and women have and continue to be leaders in conservation and encouraged participants to be engaged in these and other conversations about emerging conservation challenges. CSF thanks the panelists who participated in this and all installments of our summer webinar series, as well as members of the audience who took the time to tune in, and we hope that you will stay tuned for future webinar series.
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