Wildlife chief hits ‘dysfunction’ in sportsmen’s community

Phil Taylor, E&E reporter

Published: Tuesday, June 28, 2016

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Sportsmen’s advocates are waging petty battles in Congress that will do little to ensure that public lands and wildlife are conserved into the future, said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe.

Rather than push controversial bills to allow the importation of polar bear trophies or prohibit the regulation of lead ammunition, sportsmen should focus on bigger battles such as preventing the disposal of federal lands and recruiting a new generation of hunters and anglers, Ashe said late last week in a speech to the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s media summit at the Fort Collins Brewery & Tavern.

“This is our dysfunction,” Ashe said. “We let ourselves get drawn into these debates that allow us to not be working on things that are important: building a new, connected conservation constituency for the United States of America.”

His speech included a somewhat provocative message: A bipartisan sportsmen’s package that has been plodding its way through Congress for roughly the past four years will not significantly move the needle for conservation.

“Is conservation as we know it going to be crippled if the sportsmen’s bill doesn’t pass?” Ashe asked. “No.”

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That’s a tough pill for some groups that see passage of a sportsmen’s package as paramount. The National Shooting Sports Foundation, for example, called S. 405, by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), one of the recent iterations of the sportsmen’s bill, “simply the most important package of measures for the benefit of sportsmen in a generation.”

Ashe was clear that he wants a sportsmen’s bill to pass. He said he supports provisions like the reauthorization of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA). He also backs a provision authored by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) that would allow hunters to import 41 polar bear carcasses harvested before the animals were protected under the Endangered Species Act, which is opposed by some Democrats and the Humane Society of the United States.

“Let ‘em come in. They’re dead bears,” Ashe said. “But should we be spending our time on it? And is that going to help conservation in the United States?”

There are bigger fish to fry, Ashe said. By insisting on provisions that benefit only a few people or that tackle problems that don’t exist, sportsmen risk sinking good legislation and are taxing some of their chief allies on Capitol Hill, he said.

“We’re asking leaders like Martin Heinrich to spend his time — his valuable time — working on that stuff,” Ashe said. “And you know what I think it does in the long run? It wears those leaders out, because they go, ‘You know what? I can make a lot bigger difference working on something else.’ And so they tend to walk away after a period of time.”

Ashe’s comments came as Congress debates two competing sportsmen’s packages attached to House and Senate energy reform bills.

The Senate in April voted 97-0 to add a sportsmen’s and natural resources title to S. 2012 that would promote hunting and fishing access on Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service lands, reauthorize NAWCA, permanently reauthorize the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act, and promote access to federal lands that are currently shut off due to landownership issues.

S. 2012, which later passed 85-12, would also permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a top priority for sportsmen of all political stripes.

On the House side, Republican leaders recently introduced a revised version of their energy bill, H.R. 8, that includes provisions from the lower chamber’s sportsmen’s package, H.R. 2406. Unlike the Senate version, the House package include the polar bear and lead ammunition language, as well as provisions to remove Endangered Species Act protections for wolves and safeguard Second Amendment rights on water projects supervised by the Army Corps of Engineers, among others.

The chamber backed the revised energy package on a 241-178 vote in late May, with eight Democrats voting in favor of the bill and six Republicans opposing it.

Both energy bills, along with their sportsmen’s provisions, must be reconciled before reaching the president’s desk.

While most sportsmen’s groups support the House bill’s provisions, the language has drawn opposition from leading Democrats, the White House and environmental groups.

Ashe said the lead ammunition provision is a solution in search of a problem.

“Nobody is talking about taking away guns, but we as a community expend this immense energy on this fear that there’s a Second Amendment issue out there,” he said. “What we need to do is stop working on things that are not important, and work on the things that are important.”

While reauthorization of NAWCA would be good, the program, established in 1989 to fund the preservation of waterfowl habitat, is still receiving money from Congress, Ashe said. It’s currently funded at $35 million.

Paul Wilkins, TRCP’s chief conservation officer, said his organization supports both the House and Senate versions of the sportsmen’s act, and is hopeful that they can be resolved in conference.

“But when we look at those bills, the good conservation is in the Senate package,” he said. “We think the substance is what allowed it to pass 97-0.”

Yet divisions within the sportsmen’s community remain.

Neither the National Rifle Association nor the Safari Club International commented on whether they would support the Senate sportsmen’s package.

But SCI is pushing lawmakers to support House bill provisions that were omitted from the Senate bill.

They include delisting wolves, polar bear imports, a provision to allow for the continued legal trade of ivory, and a provision to overturn a National Park Service rule limiting certain hunting and trapping techniques on national preserves in Alaska.

“We, as hunters, must put the president in a position where he either stands with us or explains his opposition to us,” SCI said in an issue brief on its website in May.

Bigger threats

Bigger threats to sportsmen, Ashe argued, include the pending expiration of the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the political movement in the West to transfer federal lands to states and private citizens, a move many stakeholders fear would reduce access to hunters and anglers.

The issue rose to prominence in January when Ammon Bundy led a 40-day takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in southeast Oregon on lands managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service.

A move this spring by Republican lawmakers to allow 3,100 acres of the Vieques National Wildlife Refuge to be transferred to the Puerto Rican government as part of a bill to restructure the island territory’s debt was “all about creating a chink in the armor” of federal land control, Ashe warned.

“The very concept of public lands are under sustained assault,” Ashe said. “We have to have zero tolerance for politicians at every level of government — federal, state and local — who support divestiture of public lands.”

Ashe also warned that conservation risks becoming “irrelevant” to a younger generation that is more diverse, more urbanized and less exposed to outdoor recreation. The demographics of sportsmen’s organizations groups do not match the demographics of the nation at large, he warned.

“We do not look like America,” he said to a mostly white audience in Fort Collins. “If we do not look like America, then that means we do not think like America.”

The threat of irrelevance comes as the world population is forecast to grow by billions of people by midcentury and as a greater portion of the world lives like Americans, consuming more land, energy and food, Ashe said.

“There’s only one conclusion for everything else that we collectively call biological diversity: less,” Ashe said. “I wish that it wasn’t so, but it’s [the] law of thermodynamics. There’s only so much energy available on the planet, and we’re going to take more of it.”

As a result, Ashe added, “we have to be a lot better, a lot smarter, a lot more coordinated in the way that we think about conservation.”

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CLAY TARGET TOURNAMENT PRESS RELEASE FROM MSHSL

State Clay Target Tournament

The Clay Target programs of the Minnesota State High School League’s member schools gather for their state tournament on Saturday, June 25 at the Minneapolis Gun Club in Prior Lake.

The schedule
8:30 a.m. — Opening ceremony
9 a.m. — Team competition
3 p.m. — Individual competition

Awards Ceremonies will be held at the completion of each event.

Qualifying teams
Class A — Eden Valley-Watkins, Glenville-Emmons, William Kelley, Milaca, Osakis, Pillager, Red Lake Central, Rothsay, St. James, Spring Grove, Winona.
Class AA — Brandon-Evansville, Medford, Minnewaska Area, St. Louis Park, Wheaton, Worthington.
Class AAA — Edina, Hibbing, Hopkins, Irondale, Park Rapids.
Class AAAA — Apple Valley, LeSueur-Henderson, Pequot Lakes, United South Central.
Class 5A — Alden-Conger, Kimball, Roseau, Stillwater.
Class 6A — Bemidji, Chaska-Chanhassen, Elk River.
Class 7A — New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva, St. Michael-Albertville, Wayzata.
Class 8A — New Prague, Prior Lake.

What to watch

 

  • Clay Target is a sport of movement, action, skill and split-second timing as 4 ¼-inch discs are tossed in the air at a rate of about 41 mph.
  • The activity is all-inclusive for male, female or physically-challenged participants.
  • All participants are required to obtain a Firearms Safety Training Certificate.
  • There were more than 10,000 participants this season in Clay Target and 225 in Skeet.
  • The top 100 participants (plus ties), using the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League’s regular season average, have qualified for the state tournament.
  • Fairmont sophomore Bryan Grotte is the returning individual state champion.

 

  • Things to know
  • The MSHSL is the only state association in the nation to sponsor Clay Target as an activity.
  • Mills Fleet Farm is the presenting sponsor of the Clay Target state tournament for the second consecutive year.
  • Parking is free.
  • This is the third annual state tournament.
  • Results will be posted at https://www.claytargetscoring.com/tournament/splash.php
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Backcountry Hunters & Anglers

BHA in the News:

-“Sportsmen support Forest Service actions on sulfide mining leases.” Grand Rapids (Minn.) Herald-Review: 6/18/16. http://www.grandrapidsmn.com/opinion/sportsmen-support-forest-service-actions-on-sulfide-mining-leasees/article_5ebe0fce-34cf-11e6-af02-c7930b3460e5.html#utm_source=grandrapidsmn.com&utm_campaign=%2Fnewsletters%2Fheadlines%2F&utm_medium=email&utm_content=headline

-Urge the Forest Service to stop proposed sulfide mines in the BWCAW watershed: http://www.backcountryhunters.org/petition_boundary_waters

-Bad Public Lands Bills Advance in House; Sportsmen Strongly Critical: http://www.ammoland.com/2016/06/bad-public-lands-bills-advance-house-sportsmen-strongly-critical/

-Bulis joins board of national fishing and hunting group: http://www.angling-international.com/bulis-joins-board-of-national-fishing-and-hunting-group/

 

BHA Events/Member-Chapter Action/Tips:

-Train to Hunt (TTH) Challenge in partnership with MN BHA (July 30-31). For more information see: http://traintohunt.com/17386-2/. The Challenge will be located just across state line in WI, at the Chilakoot Bowhunters Club: http://chilakootbowhunters.org/home/about-us/. Contact Will Jenkins (willejenkins@gmail.com) or Joe Lang (Joe@stonevalleypainting.com) for additional information.

–Here’s info for anyone who is planning on competing in the TTH Challenge: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wIWA7Z7vUEA&feature=youtu.be

–News segment from the Missoula Train-To-Hunt Challenge Event: http://www.kpax.com/Clip/12487318/missoula-enjoys-train-to-hunt-challenge#

-The fourth annual MN BHA Rendezvous is scheduled for August 19–21, 2016. We’ll be setting up camp in Wild River State Park on the St. Croix River north of Minneapolis-St. Paul near Center City: http://www.backcountryhunters.org/index.php/state-chapters/minnesota-bha/mn-bha-newsletter/1051-minnesota-bha-rendezvous-august-19-21

 

Sulfide Mining:

-Attend the U.S. Forest Service Public Listening Session (at the DECC in Duluth) on proposed sulfide mining in the BWCAW watershed (Wednesday, July 13, at 4:00 pm): https://www.facebook.com/events/1333533656676244/

-U.S. Forest Service says no to renewal of Twin Metals leases: http://www.grandrapidsmn.com/news/u-s-forest-service-says-no-to-renewal-of-twin/article_36008494-3232-11e6-bb20-47a7ab5e7903.html#utm_source=grandrapidsmn.com&utm_campaign=%2Fnewsletters%2Fheadlines%2F&utm_medium=email&utm_content=headline

-Winona family is guided by Aldo Leopold’s passion: http://www.postbulletin.com/sports/outdoors/john-weiss-winona-family-is-guided-by-aldo-leopold-s/article_54828564-0c55-59ac-aee4-1b8e64078330.html

 

-Sportsmen for the Boundary Waters is going to have a booth at the Game Fair in Anoka during August and would appreciate anyone who can volunteer for a shift at the booth. Contact Scott Hed (scott@savetheboundarywaters.org) for additional information and see: http://www.sportsmenfortheboundarywaters.org/events

-Veteran for the Boundary Waters page on Save the Boundary Waters’ website: https://www.savetheboundarywaters.org/veterans

-Save the Boundary Waters video: https://www.facebook.com/savetheboundarywaters/videos/1612978868955399/?fref=nf

 

Public Lands/Waters/OHVs/Trails:

-Public Land: House Committee Passes First Land-Transfer Legislation: http://www.outdoorlife.com/blogs/open-country/public-land-house-committee-passes-first-land-transfer-legislation?dom=odl&loc=contentwell&lnk=public-land-house-committee-passes-first-landtransfer-legislation

-Randy Newberg: Scrubbing out public land transfer myths: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekv996IhjLM

-Randy Newberg explains why the costs of public land management are too great for states to take on: http://www.wideopenspaces.com/randy-newberg-discusses-costs-public-land-management/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Daily_pib_6.14-CO&utm_term=Colorado%20%2810%25%29

-Randy Newberg: Stealing Your Public Lands-History of State Land Sales (Episode 5 of 15): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lpvl0dL-tLs&feature=share&list=PLLdxutimd-JsEtFEIVd4kfFhn3EMTBRuC&index=5

-Learn the History of State Land Sales and You’ll Oppose Federal Land Transfers: http://www.wideopenspaces.com/learn-history-state-land-sales-youll-oppose-federal-land-transfers/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Daily-cb_6.16-wilderness&utm_term=Wilderness

 

-Arizona County Opposes Transfer of America’s Public Lands to the State: http://blog.trcp.org/2016/06/07/arizona-county-opposes-transfer-of-americas-public-lands-to-the-state/?utm_source=rooseveltreportshort&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Roosevelt%20Report%202015

-Recreationists should oppose land transfer pilot: http://trib.com/opinion/letters/degroot-recreationists-should-oppose-land-transfer-pilot/article_26c32c15-7fb9-548d-931e-06d71ca9ecb2.html

-Cliven Bundy’s Lawyer Hits Up Koch Brothers For Cash: http://www.triplepundit.com/2016/05/cliven-bundy-lawyer-hits-koch-bros-defense/#

-NWF: Sportsmen fend off public-land grabs, but more work remains: http://www.ourpubliclands.org/news/sportsmen-fend-public-land-grabs-more-work-remains?s_email_id=20160521_MEM_ENG_RMRC_May_Edition|STMem

-Our public lands are worth defending: http://www.pe.com/articles/public-802208-lands-national.html

 

Other News/Events/Updates:

-Clay Hayes: Trad shooting tips (part 2): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mg8SFBwOn7I&feature=youtu.be

-Violent Elk Brawl (use the FB link): http://www.wideopenspaces.com/this-violent-elk-brawl-will-make-your-jaw-drop-when-you-see-it/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Daily_pib_6.19-main&utm_term=WOS%20Main%20Production

-18 Best Trout Streams Waiting for Your Cast in the Western U.S. and Canada: http://www.wideopenspaces.com/18-best-trout-streams-western-us-canada-pics/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Daily-WS-6.15-VA/WV&utm_term=VA/WV%20%2825%25%29

 

-4 Wilderness Fishing Adventures to Try This Summer: http://www.outdoorlife.com/articles/fishing/2016/05/4-wilderness-fishing-adventures-try-summer?dom=odl&loc=contentwell&lnk=4-wilderness-fishing-adventures-to-try-this-summer

-10 Obvious Facts That Anti-Hunters Just Love to Ignore: http://www.wideopenspaces.com/10-facts-share-anti-hunters-pics/

-Eating squirrel with Steven Rinella: http://missoulanews.bigskypress.com/missoula/whats-good-here/Content?oid=2766840

-Steven Rinella Recipe—Chicken-Fried Squirrel or Rabbit: http://themeateater.com/2015/chicken-fried-squirrel-or-rabbit/

 

-Summer Recipe: Elk Backstrap Steaks: http://www.fieldandstream.com/articles/hunting/2016/06/summer-recipe-elk-backstrap-steaks?cmpid=enews061016&spMailingID=25711418&spUserID=ODY3ODQ4OTI1OTYS1&spJobID=821606743&spReportId=ODIxNjA2NzQzS0

-Summer Recipe: Beer-Can Rooster: http://www.fieldandstream.com/articles/hunting/2016/06/summer-recipe-beer-can-rooster?cmpid=enews061516&spMailingID=25748880&spUserID=ODY3ODQ4OTI1OTYS1&spJobID=822353036&spReportId=ODIyMzUzMDM2S0

 

Check out the MN BHA Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/MinnesotaBackcountryHunters/

 

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