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BY KATIE MCKALIP
Snow and sun, professional networking and friendly competition. The 2011 conference represented the best of what OWAA gatherings offer members, and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is proud to support the nation’s oldest and largest group of outdoor communicators.
OWAA members who traveled to Utah had the chance to learn more about the TRCP’s work on behalf of hunters and anglers, discuss conservation issues with TRCP staff and socialize at a memorable TRCP hospitality suite.
Unprecedented challenges face the sportsmen’s community as our outdoor traditions confront attacks — budgetary and otherwise — that could undermine prime fish and game habitat, public access to lands and waters, and inadequately fund critical conservation programs. Following are TRCP focal issues that could hold the key to America’s outdoor heritage:
• The controversial Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act would open to development tens of millions of acres of vital habitat. Most sportsmen understand that roadless areas provide unparalleled habitat and hunting and angling. While roads are important for enabling access, they increase big-game vulnerability and can result in shorter seasons and fewer tags — and can harm spawning habitat for fish.
Roadless lands also provide a wealth of economic benefits. Signed by 270 hunting- and fishing-focused businesses and organizations from across the country, the TRCP-led “Banking on the Backcountry” emphasizes the economic value of backcountry lands. Signatories believe that the federal government should maintain maximum roadless acreages, thereby supporting sustainable, backcountry-dependent economies.
• The Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development coalition, whose members include the TRCP, the National Wildlife Federation and Trout Unlimited, has worked for years to revise the approach to leasing federal lands for oil and gas projects. New reforms the BLM implemented, in part due to SFRED efforts, help ensure that public lands are conserved while also utilized to contribute to the nation’s energy needs. Consequently, an Interior Department report documenting a decrease in formal lease protests in 2011 came as no surprise to the sportsmen.
“Fish, wildlife and citizens deserve a federal lands management system that assures a balanced, multiple-use approach to the leasing and development of public mineral interests,” said the TRCP’s Steve Belinda in response. “The old system was a source of conflict and litigation and failed to facilitate public involvement except via protests.”
• Recently, hundreds of sportsman-conservation groups from 28 states advocated safeguarding the health of America’s water resources. In a letter to the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers, the hunters and anglers supported the agencies’ efforts to clarify which “waters of the United States” are protected by the Clean Water Act.
Simultaneously, Congress is attempting to block restoration of lost CWA protections to waters and wetlands that provide flood protection and critical habitat. Appropriations bills funding the Corps and EPA bar action in 2012 and beyond. These and other harmful measures attack America’s most important water law. With budgetary debates escalating, this troubling situation could intensify.
• Senate legislation facilitating cleanup of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill was lauded by a recreational-angling alliance. The RESTORE the Gulf Coast Act would dedicate 80 percent of penalties charged to BP to Gulf recovery. Members of the Gulf Spill Recreational Fishing Response Group, convened by the TRCP to guide rehabilitation of fisheries, habitat and sport-fishing economies devastated by the spill, commended the bill.
The TRCP welcomes the opportunity to inform OWAA members about threats facing our natural resources, fish and wildlife populations, and hunting and angling traditions. Your active involvement — and your ability to communicate these threats to your readers, listeners and viewers — can ensure our continued ability to enjoy, as T.R. described it, a “life in the open.”♦
TRCP Director of Media Relations Katie McKalip serves on OWAA’s executive committee. Contact her at email@example.com.