June 22, 2017

President Proposes $1.3 Billion FY 2018 Budget for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Press Release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service:

Budget Makes Commitments to Public Lands, Energy and Public Access

May 23, 2017

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump today proposed a $1.3 billion Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) budget for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Service’s budget also includes $1.5 billion in permanent funding, which is mostly administered to states through various grants and other initiatives for their wildlife and sportfish conservation programs. The bureau budget helps put the federal government on track to a balanced budget by 2027.

“President Trump promised the American people he would cut wasteful spending and make the government work for the taxpayer again, and that’s exactly what this budget does,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. “Working carefully with the President, we identified areas where we could reduce spending and also areas for investment, such as addressing the maintenance backlog in our National Parks and increasing domestic energy production on federal lands. The budget also allows the Department to return to the traditional principles of multiple-use management to include both responsible natural resource development and conservation of special places. Being from the West, I’ve seen how years of bloated bureaucracy and D.C.-centric policies hurt our rural communities. The President’s budget saves taxpayers by focusing program spending, shrinking bureaucracy, and empowering the front lines.”

The President’s budget focuses funding on the nation’s highest priority conservation needs, access to public lands for all Americans, and the agency’s role in streamlining energy development, while containing costs through management efficiencies and other savings to address federal fiscal realities.

“Improving access to national wildlife refuges supports the great American traditions of hunting and fishing that together generate billions of dollars for conservation and billions more for our nation’s economy,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Virginia Johnson. “Accordingly, this budget request prioritizes deferred maintenance funding for national wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries, active habitat management across millions of acres of public lands, and core wildlife-dependent recreational opportunities.”

“Timely environmental review of energy development and other infrastructure needs will create jobs and help the U.S. achieve energy independence,” said Johnson. “This budget also supports our law enforcement officers who support cooperative efforts to secure our borders.”

The FY18 budget includes the President’s continued focus on the following priorities:

America’s Public Lands:

Through the National Wildlife Refuge System, the Service continues the American tradition, started by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903, of protecting fish and wildlife and their habitats and providing opportunities for hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation to all Americans. The proposed FY18 funding level for the Refuge System is $470.1 million. The proposed budget maintains a commitment to providing outdoor recreational opportunities in rural, urban or suburban landscapes, including through the Service’s Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnerships program, as well as supporting the vital role of volunteers on our refuges.

American Infrastructure:

Included in the request for National Wildlife Refuges is $136.2 million for improving the Service’s maintenance backlog and to take care of the American public’s investments in facilities and infrastructure managed by the Service. Of this, $41.0 million is to address the backlog in deferred maintenance. This would sustain the Service’s current commitment to eliminate its maintenance backlog in the National Wildlife Refuge System.

In addition, $19.4 million is requested for maintenance of national fish hatcheries, which stock sport and subsistence fish for states and tribes and also propagate and release endangered aquatic species to aid in their recovery. . A further $51.9 million in funding is proposed for national fish hatchery operations.

Invasive species cost our economy billions of dollars each year. To continue its commitment to address this important issue, the Administration proposes level funding for programs that focus on preventing the spread of Asian carp, quagga and zebra mussels, and sea lamprey.

A total of $225.2 million is proposed to implement the Endangered Species Act and related programs, of which $79.6 million is dedicated for species recovery efforts. Recovery funding includes an increase of $1.8 million for working on five-year species reviews and delistings and downlistings.

Birds are important to Americans in many ways. Birdwatching generates $43 billion in economic activity yearly; hunting of migratory waterfowl is a traditional recreational pastime that generates billions more. A total of $44.0 million is requested for the Service’s Migratory Bird program, which provides waterfowl hunting opportunities and encourages conservation of birds and their habitats.

The budget eliminates funding for Landscape Conservation Cooperatives and the Service’s science program, as well as funding for youth programs and the Cooperative Recovery Initiative.

American Safety and Security:

Refuge law enforcement efforts are funded at $37.9 million to enhance visitor and employee safety on our public lands and honor the President’s commitment to improving border security.

Additionally, the Office of Law Enforcement is funded at $73.0 million. The recent escalation in poaching of protected species and the illegal trade in wildlife poses an urgent threat to conservation and global security. Wildlife trafficking generates billions of dollars in illicit revenues each year, contributing to the illegal economy, fueling instability in range nations, and undermining regional security in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Poaching operations themselves have expanded beyond small-scale, opportunistic actions to become a coordinated, large-scale activity often commissioned by armed and organized criminal syndicates that also traffic drugs, arms and people, and that see wildlife trafficking as a low-risk, high-reward alternative. Our continued investment in combatting wildlife trafficking is important to addressing organized crime and saving hundreds of iconic species such as the African elephant and rhino from extinction.  The Service’s International Affairs program is funded at $14.2 million, nearly level with FY17 Continuing Resolution Baseline. The program provides grants and technical assistance for the international conservation of endangered and threatened species.

America First Energy:

The budget includes $98.8 million to facilitate planning and consultation that will support energy development, economic recovery and job creation in the United States. Timely evaluations of proposed infrastructure, energy and other development projects contribute to job creation and economic growth. Funding will allow the Service to expedite project reviews and work with developers on appropriate mitigation and avoidance measures.

The President’s budget also contains proposals to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas drilling; to enable the National Wildlife Refuge System to recover damages from persons who injure or destroy federal resources; and to permanently authorize the Recreation Fee Program.

The President’s FY18 budget proposal for the Department of the Interior supports his commitment to create jobs, provide outdoor recreation through hunting and fishing, facilitate energy development, and support law enforcement needs. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Congressional Justification can be found online: www.fws.gov/budget/2018/FY2018-FWS-Greenbook.pdf.

The Department of the Interior oversees one-fifth of the nation’s land and the entire Outer-Continental Shelf. The Department is charged with overseeing energy development on federal lands and waters, grazing allotments and timber sales, water conservation and delivery, upholding tribal trust responsibilities, conservation of wildlife and habitat, and maintaining access for recreation throughout public lands, among other priorities.

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Ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, made the following comment about Trump’s budget proposal:

“Once again, the Trump Administration has turned its back on Teddy Roosevelt-style conservatism and is instead trying to allow special interests to pillage our natural resources so a wealthy few can make themselves even wealthier. We won’t let him.”

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Cantwell, Western Democratic Senators Urge Feds to Lift Sudden Suspension of Public Land Advisory Groups

Press Release from the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources:

WASHINGTON, D.C — Today, Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and a coalition of western Democratic senators today urged the Interior Department to lift its sudden suspension of long-standing local committees and advisory boards that provide essential community input on public land management.

Their letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke follows reports that the Department of the Interior (DOI) postponed all meetings for public resource advisory councils and committees (RACs) until September. The letter was led by Sen. Cantwell and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and signed by Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.).

“We are very concerned about this news and would like an answer as to why the RAC meetings were postponed during the BLM’s review of all advisory boards and committees,” the senators wrote. “It is critical that local voices, including RACs, have the opportunity to provide input and take part in the process at all times, not just when those local voices align with the Administration or a large special interest.”

The advisory groups are designed to get diverse community input on often-contentious public land management issues. These advisory groups were included both in Wyden’s original legislation creating Secure Rural Schools support for counties in Oregon and nationwide; and the Interior Department’s own rules dating back to 1995.

Those advisory groups have long helped to balance questions of environmental and economic impacts by informing decisions on issues such as recreation, land use planning, grazing, oil and gas exploration, and wildfire management.

“Balancing these interests is challenging, which is why RACs were created,” the lawmakers wrote. “By working through difficult land management issues and getting local input from the beginning, projects are more likely to succeed. Without this tool, many good land management projects would never be completed.”

A copy of the entire letter is here.

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Totalitarian Control of All Land Disguised As Land Conservation

*Editor’s Note* – If I understand the information presented in the below linked-to article these people don’t want any big corporations to own, use or develop any land in Maine. These people don’t want any small, private development of land…or even the allotment of private housing scattered throughout the state. In short, they don’t want anybody to take advantage of any land or natural resources except them. It’s been that way for quite a while now and getting much worse. They keep forcing the hands of landowners and it appears the only way they can get what they want is to hand it all over to the State and Federal Governments, who can and will take what they believe is theirs to begin with.

And so where does that leave you and me?

“At some point, many Mainers have had the unsettling experience of discovering that a parcel of land on which they liked to hike, fish, hunt, or ski has been posted or developed. The Bangor Daily News once summarized the problem thusly: “Because land prices are being bid up by developers and by big outside money, Maine people are being pushed out of the market . . . [and] squeezed off the land that they or their neighbors once owned and to which they had traditional access.””<<<Read More>>>

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Wildlife Habitat Protected, Access Improved in Nevada

Press Release from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

MISSOULA, Mont.—The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation worked with a conservation-minded landowner, the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) and the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to protect 4,500 acres of key wildlife habitat in northeast Nevada via a voluntary conservation easement agreement. The project also improves access to nearly 19,000 acres of adjacent public land.

“We appreciate Bryan Masini and his partner owners of the Wildhorse Ranch in recognizing the importance of protecting and conserving the wildlife values of their land,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer.

Located approximately 70 miles north of Elko, the property lies within the Owyhee River watershed just east of the Independence Mountain Range.

As part of the transaction, the NDOW holds an access agreement that allows public access for hunting and other recreational activities to the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest and Bureau of Land Management lands which border the ranch.

“We are grateful for all the partners in this effort and find great hope in innovative approaches such as this conservation easement,” said Tony Wasley, NDOW director. “This is a great solution that protects private land, while also maintaining the land’s benefits for the wildlife species that depend on it.”

“This specific area is year-round habitat and crucial summer range for up to 100 elk. It’s also a key area for mule deer and antelope, crucial habitat for Greater sage-grouse and it features riparian habitat for fish and other species,” added Henning.

Current range conditions consist of enough forage for cattle and wildlife and a plan has been implemented to ensure that best management practices maintain quality habitat going forward.

“This project is a great example of the private and public partnership efforts that exist to protect critical habitats and preserve agricultural working lands for future generations,” stated Ray Dotson, NRCS state conservationist.

The Natural Resource Conservation Service’s Agricultural Conservation Easement Program and the Nevada Department of Wildlife provided funding for the project.

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Small Utah Project Has Big Public Access Dividends

Press Release from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

MISSOULA, Mont.—Sportsmen and women now have permanent access to 3,800 acres of National Forest land in central Utah thanks to a collaborative effort between the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Manti-La Sal National Forest, Back Country Horsemen of Utah and Emery County.

“This project shows how working together can bring about improved public access that benefits hunters, hikers, horseback riders and so many other people who enjoy our national forests,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer.

“The American public benefits greatly by acquiring this property which allows access to some of the best country for hunting and horseback riding on the Manti-La Sal National Forest” said Darren Olsen, district ranger for the Manti-La Sal National Forest.

The project site is located approximately 20 miles west of Huntington and secures permanent public access from a parking area on Highway 31 to the popular Candland trailhead.

RMEF recently conveyed the 10-acre parcel of land to the Manti-LaSal National Forest which now oversees management responsibilities. Back Country Horsemen of Utah (BCH), San Rafael Chapter, originally acquired grant funding and coordinated trailhead construction. Emery County donated thousands of dollars in equipment use, labor and materials.

“The Candland Mountain trailhead more than triples the parking for users of the Candland Mountain trail system,” said Rod Player of San Rafael BCH. “It would not be possible were it not for the generous donations from Emery County and RMEF. RMEF has ensured the existence of the trailhead for future generations.”

“Emery County appreciates the opportunity to partner in this project which will benefit residents of the county as well as visitors to our area,” said Ray Petersen, Emery County public lands administrator. “The Emery County Road Department displayed its typical professionalism in constructing this parking area. We are very proud of the work they do. As is often the case, it takes a willingness to collaborate by many partners to accomplish beneficial results on our public lands.”

The area accessed by the trailhead is primarily elk spring through fall habitat, including calving areas, and is used by more than 1,000 elk. It is also home to mule deer, black bears, mountain lions and a host of bird and animal life.

RMEF’s Torstenson Family Endowment (TFE) provided funding for the project. TFE funding is used solely to further RMEF’s core mission programs of permanent land protection, habitat stewardship, elk restoration and hunting heritage.

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RMEF Maintains Stance: No Sale or Transfer of Public Lands

Press Release from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

MISSOULA, Mont.—The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation maintains its long-standing stance in adamantly opposing the sale or transfer of federal lands to states.

“We have always been against the sale or transfer of our public lands but now we’re seeing some western state legislatures mulling or taking action that could lead to that happening. We’re also hearing some chatter on the federal level,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “This is dangerous for two reasons. First, it could result in the privatizing of these lands and the subsequent permanent loss of public access for hunters, anglers, hikers and others. Second, this discussion is a smoke screen of sorts that does nothing to address the real issue of the crucial need for active management of our forests.”

RMEF released a detailed position on the issue in 2016. In addition to stating an opposition to the wholesale disposal, sale or transfer of federal land holdings, it also highlighted the urgent need for active land management.

The lack of active management has a detrimental impact on the landscape in the form of ailing forest health, an increasing number of catastrophic wildfires and a reduction in quality habitat for elk and other wildlife.

RMEF maintains litigation reform is essential to limit non-stop, frivolous lawsuits by environmental groups that use their political agendas to frustrate the implementation of badly needed land management practices as they also seek to eliminate any consideration of multiple use in many national forests.

Additionally, RMEF maintains that some within public land management fundamentally oppose active management of forest and range resources in favor of a hands-off preservation approach to landscapes which has a detrimental effect on wildlife and wildlife habitat.

“We call on RMEF members across the nation and America’s sportsmen and women to contact representatives in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate to urge them to provide federal land managers the tools and direction to develop and implement effective active land management procedures. We also call on them to strongly urge state and federal lawmakers to speak out against the sale or transfer of public lands to protect our ability to hunt, fish, camp, ride and recreate, and then hold them accountable for their actions.” added Allen.

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Stay Off My Land You SOB

Or something like that. This morning I was reading George Smith’s article in which he stated that it was time for the Maine Legislature to enact two new laws. One would make it legal to provide “wild game” dinners and charge money for them.

Probably in this day and age, it is about time. But before Mainers go changing and/or creating more laws, they should understand that this law was first created in conjunction with commercial hunting. Lawmakers at the time believed that allowing commercial establishments to continue selling and serving “wild game” dinners, after the prohibition of commercial hunting, might promote illegal hunting. Perhaps those days are over? I dunno.

The second proposed law would be to make it illegal for people to enter private land and “pick crops on private land, such as mushrooms and fiddleheads.” He also suggests that, “No one else should be able to take those crops from our woodlot, without our permission.” And, “What gave him the idea that this was ok without asking us? Time to stop this bad behavior and show more respect for private landowners.

I’m not disagreeing with Smith’s notions. But is making a law that bans access to private land to “pick crops” the right choice and the direction Maine residents really want to go in? I would think and support an education program to teach people about respect of private land and the benefits all residents have by keeping private land accessible. Learning respect involves the act of seeking permission from a landowner – which is much more common today than ten or more years ago. What exists for education programs is working but more effort and time, and patience, is needed. Whatever is done, it will never stop them all. No law ever does.

Can we conclude that respectful people will seek permission, especially if it involves “taking” something from the land and that those, either ignorant or brazen enough to steal, probably will continue to do it even if a law is passed?

Maine is one of those rare states where private land is considered open to the public unless the landowner legally posts his/her property. This is a benefit to all people of the outdoors, some of whom may not fully understand that benefit, perhaps because they have never experienced locked-up private land. By forcing a law through the Legislature to prohibit access to private land to “pick crops,” steers the state in a direction toward reversal of the existing state of private land access. If a law is passed intended to prevent somebody from stealing mushrooms and fiddleheads, what is to stop the next person from seeking a law to prevent taking a walk, or fishing, etc.?

Outdoor recreation, including hunting and fishing, will drastically change when private land becomes closed and written permission needed to access it for any reason.

From my perspective, and yes, I am a landowner in Maine, Smith’s proposed law is a bit draconian. There is a difference between simple trespass and theft. There already exists laws on the books that make it illegal to take something that is not yours. What makes Smith believe that a law stating a specific event will make any difference?

Piling laws up on the books has proven to be a waste of time. There are so many laws now, few can or are ever enforced. This is a thoughtless reaction we often hear when someone says, “There ought to be a law!” In this case there doesn’t need to be a law, because there already is one. There needs to be some education that will target the disrespectful, but generally law-abiding people citizens, to learn that taking mushrooms and fiddleheads, apples, potatoes, Christmas trees, or any other privately owned property is already illegal.

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Wyoming Project Secures Access to 47,000 Acres of Public Land

Press Release from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

MISSOULA, Mont.—Hunters, anglers, hikers and those who enjoy other forms of outdoor recreation will benefit from a recent Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation project in Wyoming.

RMEF worked with a private landowner, Linda Zager, and several other partners to permanently protect and open access to 160 acres of prime elk and riparian habitat in southwest Wyoming.

“This small piece of property provides important habitat for elk and other wildlife but since we conveyed it to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), it is also now open to the public and improves additional access to approximately 47,000 acres of surrounding public land,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer.

The tract is nestled in the Wyoming Range at the confluence of Miller and La Barge Creeks which feature vital spawning and rearing habitat for the Colorado River cutthroat trout. In addition, it provides winter range for elk and is a key migration route for elk, moose, mule deer and other wildlife.

RMEF also worked with the BLM and a local contractor to repair what was an impassible road through the property.

The project links the Lake Mountain Wilderness Study Area, Miller Mountain Management Area, additional BLM lands and the Bridger-Teton National Forest while also providing public access and parking.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund’s Sportsmen Recreational Access and RMEF provided funding for this project.

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20,000-Acre Ranch Opened to North Dakota Hunters

Press Release from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

MISSOULA, Mont.—The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, North Dakota Game and Fish Department (NDGF) and other partners joined forces with dedicated landowners to create North Dakota’s largest hunter access tract.

The Richard Angus Ranch Access Project covers 20,153 acres. It also improves access to two adjacent state land sections covering another 1,280 acres.

“We are grateful to Byron and Kathy Richard for their willingness to recognize both the conservation values of their land and for allowing hunters free, walk-in access,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer.

The ranch, located approximately 15 miles north of Beach in extreme west-central North Dakota near the Montana border, is now part of NDGF’s Private Lands Open to Sportsmen program. A 10-year agreement allows hunters immediate access to what was formerly known as Beaver Creek Ranch.

The landscape features high-quality grassland with woody draws, bluffs, buttes and a winding Beaver Creek that offers quality habitat for elk, deer, pronghorn, turkeys and a wide array of other wildlife.

Volunteers also removed two miles of old fence and replaced it with wildlife-friendly fencing and better distributed water sources.

RMEF’s Torstenson Family Endowment (TFE) and Project Advisory Committee, NDGF, Pittman-Robertson funds, Mule Deer Foundation, National Wild Turkey Federation and Pheasants Forever provided funding for the project.

RMEF uses proceeds from the TFE solely to further its core mission programs of permanent land protection, habitat stewardship, elk restoration and hunting heritage.

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RMEF Tops One Million Acres in Public Access Projects

*Editor’s Note* – While it is encouraging and generally a good thing that land is accessible for public use, one has to question the decision by RMEF to buy and then deed land over to government agencies. Historically, government agencies, all of which are in bed with environmental groups, have a tendency to restrict or limit use of public lands. It seems a shame should RMEF use members’ money to buy up land to protect access for hunting and the promotion of elk growth, only to discover the government later bans hunting and/or access on the same lands. Perhaps there is a better way.

RMEF has opened or secured access to 84 acres per day since its founding in 1984

MISSOULA, Mont.—From its first project in Montana 28 years ago to its most recent this fall in New Mexico, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation just surpassed one million acres in lifetime projects that created, maintained or improved access to public land.

“This is a tremendous milestone that strikes at the heart of our conservation mission,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “Providing public access for hunters, anglers and others allows all of us the opportunity to better value, appreciate and care for our wildlife and wild landscapes. We especially appreciate the strong, continual support of our RMEF volunteers and members for helping make this happen.”

RMEF worked alongside scores of conservation partners over the years including the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), state wildlife agencies and other organizations to complete 249 access projects in 23 different states with wild, free-ranging elk populations.

First project: Robb Creek, Montana (16,440 acres)
RMEF purchased private land and conveyed it to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. It is now called the Robb-Ledford Wildlife Management Area.

Latest project: Alamocita Creek, New Mexico (40,000+ acres)
RMEF purchased 5,867 acres of private land which it conveyed to the BLM. The project also improves access to 35,000 of surrounding public land.

Largest project: Cumberland Forest, Tennessee (74,000 acres)
RMEF granted funding to assist the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency purchase a private forest previously owned by a paper company.

Smallest project: Evandale Township, Montana (.287 acres)
Part of the Royal Teton Ranch project, RMEF purchased and conveyed five small lots to the USFS which lie within the Yellowstone wildlife migration and winter range corridor.

“One million acres of public access is indeed a significant accomplishment but we have much more work to do,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “RMEF has an annual goal of creating or improving public access to 50,000 acres per year. Through our Access Elk Country Initiative, we have our sights set on an additional 150,000 acres of access by 2019.”

RMEF has opened or secured access to 84 acres per day, every day since its founding in 1984. That plays out to 4.6 acres for each of its 219,750 members.

One million acres equates to 1,563 square miles which is roughly the size of 758,000 football fields (end zones included) and slightly less in area than the state of Delaware (1.2 million acres).

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