column By: Staff | November, 19
Upland hunters in Oregon have joined the ranks of “The Habitat Organization” with the recent formation of the Columbia River Gorge Chapter of Pheasants Forever (PF). Local volunteers will now help deliver the mission of the nation’s leading upland conservation group through public access projects, hunter recruitment, habitat enhancement and much more.
Replicating more than 560 PF chapters nationwide, the new local affiliates will utilize the organization’s signature fundraising model. Unique among national conservation groups, PF chapters are empowered with 100% control over the funds they raise at banquets and other events. This allows chapters to direct their funds to upland habitat projects, public lands purchases or the ability to host youth outdoor experiences in their respective regions.
“Our chapter’s focus is to work in collaboration with landowners, individuals, businesses and industry experts to promote our habitat mission and public access in this amazing region,” stated James Williams, newly elected president of the Columbia River Gorge Chapter. “We will strive to do this by actively engaging our current members, getting local youth involved and thinking outside the box to find fun and exciting ways to educate our communities about the importance of upland habitat conservation. The end goal is to have an active chapter with multiple volunteer projects throughout the year and raise enough finances to support a local youth trap team. We’d like to grow a large committee of members to help schedule an annual fundraising banquet, golf tournament and multiple community functions throughout the year.”
“I am incredibly excited to start this new chapter in one of the most beautiful parts of the country. It is an area that has a rich history of pheasant hunting as well as opportunities for other upland birds and waterfowl,” stated Matt Hardinge, regional representative for PF in the Pacific Northwest. “Like most regions of the West, this area has been hit hard with forest fires recently, making the preservation and creation of habitat even more important.”
For more information about the chapter or to attend an upcoming meeting, please contact chapter president James Williams at 541-531-3930 or Jamesdw45@yahoo.com.
For more information about PF in the Pacific Northwest, to join a chapter or to inquire about starting a chapter, contact Matt Hardinge at 203-979-5555.
Federal Ammunition has renewed its commitment to conservation as Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever’s Official Ammunition partner. The national partnership extends a collaboration that has been ongoing since the mid-1980s between one of the world’s leading ammunition manufacturers and the nation’s leading upland conservation organization. The partnership also includes presenting sponsorship of the organization’s National Pheasant Fest & Quail Classic returning to the Minneapolis Convention Center on Feb. 14-16, 2020.
In addition to the national sponsorship, Federal Ammunition also contributes to the organization’s habitat mission every time a box of Prairie Storm or Wing Shok ammo featuring the Pheasants Forever logo is sold. Since the on-the-box royalty began in 1998, more than 50 million rounds of shotgun shells have been sold in support of Pheasants Forever.
Federal’s on-the-box royalty program with Pheasants Forever is a voluntary contribution that goes above and beyond the 11% federal Pittman Robertson excise tax charged on all firearm and ammunition sales to benefit conservation programs. The added contribution reflects the company’s commitment to conservation.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Congress passed the most extensive natural resources legislation in a decade. Both chambers of Congress are committed to dedicating full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and Colorado is considering opening over 100,000 acres of closed-off state lands to hunters. Across the country, states affected by chronic wasting disease are enacting protocols and programs necessary for protecting native cervid populations. These initiatives were driven by sportsmen and women clamoring for progress at record volume. Backcountry Hunters & Anglers drove over 53,000 letters to decision-makers in 2018 alone. For more than a century, hunters and anglers have been the pivotal voice in driving policy to conserve wild landscapes and important fish and game species — think bighorn sheep, wood ducks and the greater sage grouse.
History shows that these species serve as linchpins in cases for environmental protections. The next step in conserving threatened ecosystems (and protecting hunting and fishing opportunities), however, is rallying people behind thoughtful policies and funding sources intended to conserve species that fall outside of traditional hook and bullet priorities. The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (H.R. 3742) — introduced in the 116th Congress last July by Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and more than 60 original cosponsors — is solid, effective legislation that will dedicate funding for species of concern and, in addressing the needs of nongame species, protect valuable big game, waterfowl and upland habitat as well.
Backcountry Hunters & Anglers has supported this legislation since its inception, well before its introduction in the last Congress. Now, in the wake of passing S. 47, the John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act, the 116th Congress has a real opportunity to build momentum for conservation funding. H.R. 3742 would dedicate $1.4 billion annually to state and tribal-led wildlife conservation restoration programs, supporting chronically underfunded state and tribal fish and wildlife management agencies in their efforts to sustain species of concern.
This brand of legislation does not become law without the support of the hunting community. Like the Dingell Act, the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act depends on hunters stepping up to make sure that our priorities are heard in D.C. The challenge is helping our fellow sportsmen and women recognize the bill’s potential for benefiting all species and the need to improve the health and resiliency of the ecosystems upon which they rely. Habitat connectivity, intact food webs and diverse plant communities dictate how bird populations flourish across North America. We all recognize that robust upland bird habitat is necessary to the quality of our experiences afield. What must follow is the need to recognize the clear conservation nexus between species of concern and the birds we chase.
In 1967, the U.S. government designated the first federally recognized endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. Commonly referred to as the Class of ’67, these 78 fish, bird and mammal species became the first North American species to receive formal protection in their native ranges. These designations ensured the effective protection of hundreds of thousands of acres of prime habitat across the country. In the cases of the Mexican duck, Sonoran pronghorn, Montana westslope cutthroat trout, whooping crane and many more animals, these protections had the additional effect of preserving quality upland habitat from development and degradation. The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act gives us a similar chance to conserve upland species by proxy, while connecting habitats and improving hunting and fishing access and opportunity in states across the nation.
Please join Backcountry Hunters & Anglers in asking Congress to prioritize the swift passage of Recovering America’s Wildlife Act. Contact your members of Congress to make sure they understand the clear benefits of this legislation for hunters and local economies. Also, visit www.backcountryhunters.org to make your voice heard.
Most recently, NBCI, working with an Indiana-based marketing firm that specializes in conservation issues, developed and delivered a comprehensive marketing package designed to allow states to proactively engage private landowners about habitat creation.
“We’ve always known that a landscape-scale restoration effort will not succeed unless we get private landowners and working lands involved,” says NBCI Director Don McKenzie. “Many states told us they could really use some help in increasing interest among landowners and driving up the number of contacts and conversations.”
Interviews and focus groups with state quail coordinators, landowners and others helped identify and construct an effective approach to getting more landowners’ attention. The package includes a generic marketing plan that can be customized to states’ respective circumstances, as well as customizable ads based on three different land uses (farm, ranch, timber) and three difference species (bobwhites, wild turkey, deer). All a state — or a private conservation group — has to do is add its respective logo and contact information.
As part of the package, NBCI provides an avenue for the states to conduct online advertising that enables precise “geo-targeting” of audiences, such as private landowners in a certain region of the state, a county or even those adjacent to a state bobwhite focal area, for instance.
The package is just the latest in a series of NBCI’s “needle movers” on behalf of bobwhites. NBCI was also successful in having the use of “native vegetation” promoted in the Farm Bill for the first time ever. NBCI has signed agreements with the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service that have brought federal acreage and cooperation to the effort and worked with USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to include the bobwhite in its Working Lands for Wildlife program, which is resulting in thousands of acres of exotic pasture grasses being converted to native grasses, and thousands of acres of pine timber being thinned and managed for wildlife, as well as timber revenue.
“Certainly, none of this would be possible without the support of the states, various bobwhite research institutions and private conservation groups,” McKenzie said. “That support allows NBCI to be a force multiplier at regional and national levels on bobwhites’ behalf.”
Native grouse conservation is not rocket science; it is much more. That is why the North American Grouse Partnership (NAGP) exists, to help grouse advocates ensure that the future of grouse in the complicated world of conservation is prioritized and based on science. NAGP has been leading the way for over 20 years as we just celebrated our 20th anniversary in August. Our efforts work to ensure that the 12 native species of North American grouse thrive and are around for future generations.
Lesser prairie chicken (LPC) conservation is still in limbo. Last spring, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) decided to reassess its role in the management of LPC and the mitigation programs it runs. At the summer meeting in Kansas, WAFWA held a series of meetings and indicated it has not made a decision on changes to its efforts but committed to continue to work for fiscally sound and better delivery of LPC conservation. NAGP will continue to monitor the situation and help should WAFWA and other partners seek assistance with their LPC programs. Our 2017 assessment of the LPC Conservation Programs is still valid, and we recommended changes to ensure that efforts are effective and efficient and that the right actions are being taken at the right place, at the right time and at the right cost. The future of LPC is in doubt, and all hands on deck are needed to ensure the recovery of this species.
The 2018 greater sage grouse lek counts revealed a decline across the range, with 20-40% declines depending on which state and region. Some weather complications might have affected the counts as snow and muddy weather prevented proper counts at some leks. Sage grouse do exhibit population fluctuations through regular cycles, and we can only hope that the decline is due to this and not to continued loss and fragmentation of habitats or other factors. If the next peak of the population cycles is lower than the previous cycle’s trough (low point), we are in trouble, and we should expect ramped up efforts by some to list the bird under the Endangered Species Act.
NAGP still has a few vacancies on our Board of Directors and spots available on our Council of Scientists. If you believe you can help grouse and want to help guide NAGP in these efforts, please send an email to NAGP@grousepartners.org. NAGP believes we must work to conserve the birds, the places they live and the human connections to each. We believe that when native grouse species are doing well, it represents America at its best! So add your voice — join or donate to NAGP today at www.grousepartners.org.