Tag Archives: backcountry hunters and anglers

DNR Lands Study Bill Amended After Outcry; Now Includes Looking At Rec, Enviro Values

UPDATED 4:25 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018, at end with two new paragraphs

Part of a bill that would have studied turning certain Washington DNR lands over to counties, leasing them to private timber companies and considered their value as “higher revenue-producing assets” was dropped following outcry from a sportsmen’s group and others.

“We … acknowledge that sustainable financial returns to public schools and other trust beneficiaries are key to maintaining recreational access, including hunting and fishing opportunities, to these state-owned lands,” wrote Bart George, state co-chair of the Washington chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, in comments to lawmakers ahead of their vote on Engrossed Senate Bill 6140 this morning.

“However in our opinion, this amendment goes too far by directing the DNR to explore land transfer or liquidation as possible solutions for underperforming trust lands.”

A 2012 STATE LANDS MAP SHOWS DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES PROPERTIES IN DARK AND LIGHT GREEN. (DNR)

The amendment in question — Section 6 — was not in the original legislation from Sen. Curtis King (R-South-central Washington) when it was introduced in the Senate last month.

After it passed out of his Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks Committee, Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Olympic Peninsula) tacked it on on the floor of the Senate.

It aimed to “evaluate (the Department of Natural Resource’s) lands portfolio and revenue streams, management practices, and transaction processes, and develop options and recommendations designed to ensure the state’s fiduciary duty is being met and increase the amount and stability of revenue from state lands and state forestland over time.”

The bill passed out of the upper chamber on a 43-4-2 vote.

Then it went over to the House, where yesterday the new language stood for its public hearing, in front of the lower chamber’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

Most comments focused on Section 6, with support coming from Hampton Lumber of Portland, Washington State Association of Counties, Port of Port Angeles, Washington State School Board Association and the American Forest Resource Council.

Generally speaking, they were for the study as it would provide lawmakers with an understanding of how relatively valuable the state’s timberlands and other trust properties — Eastern Washington aglands, for example — are.

But it was opposed by the Sierra Club and Conservation Northwest, the latter of which had received a reported 400 responses from an action alert it sent out late last week.

Two private citizens also spoke against it, and one suggested that federally approved habitat protection plans for logging on state lands could be brought into question.

A DNR official acknowledged it was hearing quite a bit about Section 6 and “flagged it” for lawmakers.

Tuesday afternoon, AGNR Chair Brian Blake (D-South Coast) said his committee had a lot to consider, and this morning seven amendments had been drawn up for them, including one from Rep. Mike Chapman (D-Olympic Peninsula) that trimmed the scope of the study back.

During discussion, Rep. Vincent Buys (R-Whatcom County) said he recognized recreational values, but that they didn’t fulfill the fiduciary responsibility of state lands.

That is, buying a backpack for hiking DNR roads didn’t contribute to school funding the same way a 32-foot Doug fir section headed down them for the sawmill does.

Still, with millions of acres in holdings across and in every corner of Washington, the state agency’s lands are of immense value beyond the going price for a thousand board-feet of lumber, such as protecting salmon and wildlife habitat.

“Our members depend on public lands and hundreds of them hunt, fish and recreate on Washington state forest lands each year,” noted George in his BHA letter to state representatives.

“These forests are vital not only for timber production, but also for the cultural and natural heritage of Washington hunters and anglers. Legislation including public land transfer provisions, or provisions mandating the ‘study’ of such transfers, presents an unacceptable precedent for our membership and for the future use and enjoyment of Washington’s public forests,” he said.

When it came time for a vote, Chapman’s amendment scrapping studying transfer options was given a do-pass recommendation by a vote of 10-3, with two members excused.

Importantly, his amendment also included looking at DNR lands’ recreational and environmental values in the review.

The committee’s action drew a letter of thanks from 10 environmental organizations, including the two that testified yesterday, as well as Outdoor Research, The Mountaineers and others.

“Our public lands are cherished and heavily utilized by vast numbers of people for recreation, inspiration, and the clean water and other products of a healthy landscape that sets Washington apart,” the letter read in part. “We fully recognize the legitimacy of generating trust revenue by management of these lands, including extractive activities. But we reject any view that would subordinate to extraction much of the value the public gains from these lands, and put them at risk of mismanagement or even transfer to private entities that would lock the public out.”

BHA Blasts Proposed Federal Budget And Its Deep Cuts To LWCF, Natural Resource Agencies

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM BACKCOUNTRY HUNTERS AND ANGLERS

The release by the Trump administration of both its fiscal year 2019 budget request and a wide-ranging package of infrastructure programs drew criticism from Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, which zeroed in on deep cuts proposed for land management agencies and popular public access programs, including the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The president submitted a $4.4 trillion budget to Congress on Monday, recommending cuts of 16 percent to the Department of the Interior and the Department of Agriculture and a steep 34 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency, all while adding $7 trillion to the federal deficit.

“By starving key resource management agencies of funds, the administration essentially deprives them of the tools to execute their jobs efficiently and effectively,” said BHA President and CEO Land Tawney. “Economically speaking, the value of investing in our resource agencies is undeniable and contributes significantly to the $887 billion generated every year by outdoor recreationists, including hunters and anglers. Congress owes it to the innumerable communities that rely on this economy – and the citizens who sustain it – to summarily reject this shortsighted proposal and instead ensure that our federal land managers are given the resources they need to do their jobs.”

The president’s budget likewise takes aim at federal monies earmarked for conservation and access, eviscerating the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a nationwide program that uses royalties paid by energy companies drilling for oil and gas on the outer continental shelf to conserve public lands and waters and expand public access opportunities. The budget proposes cutting the LWCF by 98 percent from previously enacted levels. State grant programs under the LWCF have been completely eliminated, zeroing out popular elements like the Forest Legacy Program, which supports working forests and unique public-private business partnerships.

A package of infrastructure programs also was unveiled by the administration on Monday. A closer look suggests a shell game will be played with revenue from mineral and energy development on public lands and waters to pay for deferred maintenance backlogs. BHA maintains that while these backlogs should remain a priority, Congress must ensure that they are not resolved at the expense of revenues currently allocated to the LWCF.

Trump’s infrastructure proposal also weakens standards for review and public input on public lands projects, and it sets a potentially dangerous course for the privatization of public works that could be precedent setting and threaten other federal property assets.

“The administration repeatedly affirms the importance of maintaining and expanding public access,” stated Tawney, “and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke touts his department’s commitment to public access opportunities – such as his support of federal access programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund, support that he cited repeatedly during his confirmation hearing.

“So why, now, is the administration throwing its support behind a measure that would eliminate funding for the LWCF and cripple the program’s ability to acquire new access, including access to currently inaccessible public lands and waters?” Tawney remarked. “You can’t claim that access is the name of the game then gut the most successful, established, bipartisan public access program in existence. Sportsmen are sorely disappointed by this abrupt about face.”

Big Game Habitat, Hunting Get Boost With Secretarial Order

Western big game got a boost today with the signing of an order to improve habitat, migration corridors and winter range.

Expanding hunting opportunities are also included under Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s decree that benefits mule deer, elk and pronghorn antelope in Idaho, Oregon, Washington and elsewhere.

A HERD OF MULE DEER MOVE ACROSS WINTER RANGE. (DOI)

The order aims to use “best available science” and improve collaboration between the many landowners where our herds roam.

“American hunters are the backbone of big game conservation efforts, and now working with state and private landowners, the Department will leverage its land management and scientific expertise to both study the migration habits of wildlife as well as identify ways to improve the habitat,” said Zinke in a press release. “For example, this can be done by working with ranchers to modify their fences, working with states to collaborate on sage brush restoration, or working with scientists to better understand migration routes.”

He signed Secretarial Order 3362 at the Western Conservation and Hunting Expo in Salt Lake, and it was praised by major hunting organizations.

“The goal of this effort lies at the heart of our conservation mission, ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage. In order to do that we must maintain a focus on winter range and migration corridors for elk and other wildlife,” said Blake Henning, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation chief conservation officer, in the press release. “We support stronger collaboration between landowners, agencies, conservation groups like RMEF and all others seeking to enhance habitat for the benefit of our wildlife populations.”

The Mule Deer Foundation similarly praised the order.

Backcountry Hunters and Anglers’ Land Tawney was encouraged and said he was interested to see how it would play out.

“We commend the secretary’s decision but likewise urge him to apply the same rigorous approach to other resource management challenges, such as our Western sagebrush steppe, home to hundreds of species of wildlife and offering access to top-notch hunting and fishing,” the president of the Missoula-based organization said in a press release. “These unique public lands and waters deserve no less. Theodore Roosevelt would no doubt agree.”

As nice as it is to see habitat and hunting prioritized, Zinke’s recommendation to reduce the size of two national monuments in Utah and pro-mining and drilling stances on federal lands have left some unsettled. Energy develoment in Wyoming was seen as a risk to the 150-mile migration of one Wyoming mule deer herd. Today’s decree was termed “bureaucratic window dressing” by a left-leaning think tank.

Zinke was the subject of an informative interview and article by former Outdoor Life editor Andrew McKean last month.

He has also recently called for moving land managers to the West from DC and reorganizing regions around watersheds instead of political lines.

Zinke To BLM, USFWS, NPS: Figure Out How To Increase Fishing, Hunting Access

Federal land managers are being directed to figure out how to provide more fishing and hunting access under a directive signed by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke today, a move lauded by sportsmen’s groups.

It follows on troubling news earlier this week that participation in hunting dropped by 2.2 million between 2011 and 2016, but could help open more lands, so key to the opportunities we enjoy.

MANAGERS OF NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGES, BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT GROUND AND THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE ARE BEING ASKED HOW TO INCREASE HUNTING AND FISHING ACCESS UNDER AN ORDER FROM DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR SECRETARY RYAN ZINKE. THAT PROCESS HAS BEEN ONGOING AT PLACES LIKE TURNBULL NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, WHERE SPECIAL HUNTS FOR AN INCREASING ELK HERD HAVE BEEN HELD, BUT ZINKE’S ORDER COULD OPEN EVEN MORE OPPORTUNITY. (TURNBULL NWR)

“The more people we can get outdoors, the better things will be for our public lands,” said Zinke in a press release. “As someone who grew up hunting and fishing on our public lands – packing bologna sandwiches and heading out at 4 a.m. with my dad – I know how important it is to expand access to public lands for future generations. Some of my best memories are hunting deer or reeling in rainbow trout back home in Montana, and I think every American should be able to have that experience.”

His order calls for:

  • The Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Park Service to come up with plans within four months for expanding access to hunting and fishing on their lands;
  • Amend management plans for national monuments to specifically ensure hunting and fishing on them;
  • Identify federal lands where those activities are limited;
  • Expand outreach to underserved communities;
  • Develop a “one-stop” website outlining sporting opportunities on all Department of Interior lands;
  • And improve wildlife management collaboration with states, tribes, conservation groups and others.

Ducks Unlimited was supportive, particularly the part of Zinke’s order calling for “significantly” increasing waterfowl populations through habitat projects, as well as more hunting opportunities.

“Wetlands are not only a valuable resource for our nation’s waterfowl, but they also benefit more than 900 other species of wildlife,” noted Dale Hall, DU CEO, in a press release. “Investments in the conservation of wildlife habitats, like wetlands, are vital in preserving, protecting and advancing our nation’s long hunting and angling heritage. At the end of the day, it’s all about ensuring that all Americans and those generations to come, have access to the wildlife and wild places that we enjoy today.”

In recent years, USFWS has gradually been increasing waterfowl, big game and fishing opportunities on Northwest refuges and those across the country.

Land Tawney of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers said his organization looked forward to working with Zinke and Interior.

“Our hunting and fishing traditions rely on both conservation and access, with insufficient access being the No. 1 reason cited by sportsmen for forgoing time afield,” Tawney said in a press release. “The importance of Secretary Zinke’s commitment to sustaining and expanding public access opportunities to the outdoors, therefore, cannot be overstated.”

Others supporting the move included the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation as well as National Rifle Association.

“For too long, sportsmen’s access to our federal lands has been restricted, with lost opportunity replacing the ability to enjoy many of our best outdoor spaces. This extension to Secretarial Order 3356 will go a long way to reversing that trend and help grow the next generation of hunters, fishermen, and recreational shooters,” added Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, who chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, in a press release. “I appreciate this new order and am committed to working with Secretary Zinke and my colleagues to do everything we can to expand and enhance access to our federal lands for all Alaskans, and all Americans, so that we can continue our rich sportsmen’s heritage.”

Oregon’s Elliott State Forest Remains Public

The Elliott State Forest was officially kept public in a ceremony near Reedsport this morning, a victory by and for hunters, anglers and others and ending the potential threat of lost recreational access.

A CREEK FLOWS THROUGH A PORTION OF THE ELLIOTT STATE FOREST AT THE SITE OF A STREAM IMPROVEMENT PROJECT. THE 82,500 ACRES OF OREGON’S OLDEST FOREST ARE HOME TO COHO, ELK, DEER, GROUSE AND OTHER CRITTERS. (OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FORESTRY)

Gov. Kate Brown has signed into law a local lawmaker’s bill that moves the 82,500-acre parcel between the Umpqua and Coos Rivers out of the Common School Fund and its obligations to produce revenue, which had led to its near-sale to a private timber company and a local tribe.

“Oregonians overwhelmingly made it clear that the Elliott’s lands should remain in public hands. Now more than ever, it’s imperative that we not scale back any of Oregon’s public lands or national monuments,” Brown said, crediting fellow members of the state Land Board Tobias Read and Dennis Richardson, as well as bill sponsor Sen. Arnie Roblan and the state legislature for their work.

SB 847 passed the Senate 21-6 and the House 47-12. It raises $100 million in bonds to partially offset the transfer out of the school fund.

Among those on hand at the Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area was Ken McCall, resource director for the Oregon Hunters Association, and speaking on behalf of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Trout Unlimited and the Wild Salmon Center.

“Our public lands are highly valued among the groups involved in our coalition,” McCall said. “We see many benefits and opportunities to improve and share the Elliott’s public-land habitats that support our outdoor interests. The Elliott shines as an opportunity to continue a multiple-use forest model in Oregon’s Coast Range … We can envision a strategy that includes research, education, habitat management and recreation among the many benefits of our public lands.”

“Finding creative ways to keep public lands in public hands is paramount in our fight against losing access to the lands and waters that we as sportsmen and women love,” said Backcountry Hunters and Anglers Oregon Chair Ian Isaacson in a press release. “Just as important is engagement by the public. We must be active participants in the entire process, no matter how difficult, tiring and frustrating as it may be.”