WILDLIFE CONSERVATION -- They don't make the evening news headlines, but sportsmen's groups working the halls of Congress are vital to wildlife conservation as the first hearings begin for the 2012 Farm Bill.
Getting a few positive votes on these measures can do more for putting food on the table for wildlife than 500 sportsmen's fundraising banquets.
Read on for the latest from the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, a bipartisan group that has its act together.
As the Senate Agriculture Committee prepares to hold its first hearing in preparation for the 2012 Farm Bill, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and its sportsmen-conservation partners underscore the need to continue investing in successful private-lands conservation programs in the wide-ranging legislation.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow will convene the field hearing tomorrow at Michigan State University in East Lansing. "Opportunities for Growth: Michigan and the 2012 Farm Bill" will focus on the upcoming Farm Bill reauthorization and review agriculture as well as energy, conservation, rural development, research and forestry policies affecting Michigan.
"Farm Bill programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program, Wetlands Reserve Program and Open Fields help farmers and landowners run economically sustainable operations and secure valuable fish and wildlife habitat," said Dave Nomsen, vice president of government affairs for Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever and member of the TRCP Agriculture and Wildlife Working Group. "America's continued investment in these effective programs will guarantee a future for hunting, fishing and other recreational opportunities on the nation's farms, ranches and forest lands."
Agricultural- and private-lands conservation remains a cornerstone of the TRCP's policy work, and the efforts of the TRCP and its partner organizations were instrumental in the inclusion of and improvements to vital conservation programs in the 2008 Farm Bill. The TRCP's farm policy work is guided by the Agriculture and Wildlife Working Group, formed by the TRCP to provide recommendations to Congress and the administration on conservation programs in the 2008 bill. Composed of representatives from the nation's leading sportsmen's groups, the AWWG currently is developing recommendations for the 2012 Farm Bill.
"Funding will be in short supply during the important deliberations to come, and some of the most critical Farm Bill programs fail to have baseline funding or could be consolidated," said Brad Redlin, director of agricultural programs for the Izaak Walton League of America and member of the AWWG. "The TRCP Agriculture and Wildlife Working Group is deeply invested in assuring a successful Farm Bill for both the nation's private landowners and its sportsmen, and we will be providing specific counsel to the Senate later this spring and in the summer."
TRCP partner organizations Ducks Unlimited and the Izaak Walton League of America have submitted testimony for the Saturday hearing about the importance of conservation programs.
"While Congress debates critical budget issues, it is important to be remember that conservation programs like CRP and WRP generate far more economic activity than they cost," said Dan Wrinn, director of public policy for Ducks Unlimited and AWWG member. "Hunters and anglers spend billions of dollars every year pursuing their passions, generating thousands of jobs and billions in local, state and federal taxes. Without adequately funded Farm Bill conservation programs, many of these jobs and revenues will be at risk."
"The Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program, or Open Fields, was established in the 2008 Farm Bill due in part to the dedicated efforts of sportsmen-conservationists with support from leaders like Senator Debbie Stabenow and Senator Pat Roberts," said Tom Franklin, TRCP director of policy and government relations. "Access to hunting and fishing is a growing problem for sportsmen, in Michigan and across the country, and Open Fields demands reauthorization and full funding to meet its potential for providing new outdoor opportunities for citizens and a much-needed economic boost to rural communities."
The Farm Bill is a vital part of U.S. private-lands conservation endeavors. Millions of acres of fish and wildlife habitat and the hunting and fishing opportunities they provide have been conserved and enhanced through Farm Bill programs. The TRCP Agriculture and Wildlife Working Group is committed to ensuring that the 2012 Farm Bill authorizes and strongly funds conservation programs and builds on a conservation legacy that secures America's hunting and fishing heritage.
Katie McKalip, 406-240-9262, firstname.lastname@example.org