July 24, 2012 (Washington, DC) – On Monday night, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) provided camaraderie amongst members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) and conservation partners during a “Whiskies of the World” and Cigar Reception with Diageo’s Whiskey Master, Ewan Morgan and Gary Pesh of Old Virginia Tobacco. The Capitol Hill event featured the attendance of a bipartisan group of Congressman.
Over thirty members of Congress joined Congressional staffers along with representatives from numerous sportsmen’s groups to enjoy various whiskeys and cigars while discussing issues important to the sportsmen’s community.
Leaders of the bipartisan Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC): Co-Chairs Senator Jon Tester (MT) and Representative Jeff Miller (FL), Vice-Chairs Senator Jim Risch (ID) and Representative Heath Shuler (NC), hosted the event.
“Thank you to the caucus members who come together to work on behalf of sportsmen,” said Jeff Crane, President of the CSF. “By working in a bipartisan fashion, we can ensure the future of our sportsmen’s heritage is protected.”
And in that spirit, the next morning, the CSF transitioned from an evening of camaraderie to the business of conservation during a policy briefing on conservation priorities for the 2012 Farm Bill.
The briefing was an opportunity for members of Congress and partnering conservation groups to discuss the reauthorization of the 2012 Farm Bill and its impact on hunting, fishing and conservation.
In addressing over 100 attendees, including over ten members of Congress, Representative Collin Peterson (MN) spoke first on the success of the House Farm Bill in the Committee on Agriculture. “We were able to get a bill out of committee the other night at 1 a.m. thanks to members who worked to get a strong bipartisan vote coming out of committee. We are pressing to get the bill on the floor before August recess. As far as the conservation title, we did a good job of putting this conservation title together, thanks to some of you in the room. We had a broad coalition that came together and worked with us to put the title together. This is as good as we can do with conservation in this climate.”
Additionally, Senator Jerry Moran (KS) and Representative Michael Conaway (TX) spoke on the urgency of the 2012 Farm Bill and the importance of collaborative bipartisan efforts in moving this legislation.
“A bill like the farm bill deserves the ability for all of us to offer our suggestions on its improvement and it was great to have Senate committee leaders insisting the Senate leadership allow all of us the opportunity to present those amendments,” said Senator Moran.
In Representative Conaway’s remarks he noted, “We talk about legacy in farming and ranching country and it’s pretty straight forward. People got land from their parents and grandparents and shared it with their children and thereby, keep it in the family. They want it better than when they got it. We have that exact legacy as a country. We were handed an America that was pretty darn good when most of us became adults. We are at risk of not being in a position to hand off an America as when we stepped into adulthood. We have a lot of hard work to fix that. For the longer good of our country, we’ve got to do some hard things. We have to keep focused on where we want our country to get to, that’s maybe fifty or sixty years out, so that our country gets better.”
Dale Hall, CEO of Ducks Unlimited highlighted the importance of the 2012 Farm Bill for conservation efforts as he presented the crucial components of the 2012 Farm Bill that impact the sportsmen conservation communities.
“It is critical that the federal government has these programs; whether it’s the North American Wetland Conservation Act or the Farm Bill, all of these programs are significant in making sure that [higher numbers of nesting waterfowl] happens. When you think about buffering the damage that has been done and the loss of habitat, and yet we are through partnerships able to still pull together good wetland habitat to support these birds, it really drives home how important the Farm Bill is to conservation in this country,” Hall stated.
The CSF and its partners in the conservation community have long been leaders in crafting and supporting conservation programs in the Farm Bill. More specifically, during the briefing, three provisions of the bill were highlighted as priorities for conservation efforts: 1.) maintain/strengthen effective wetland protections; 2.) include a national Sodsaver provision to protect native prairie; 3.) provide strong baseline funding for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), Wetland and Agriculture Easements Programs, the Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) and the Voluntary Public Access Program (VPA). The sponsors of the “Whiskies of the World” and Cigars reception included: ATK, Browning, Cabela’s, the Center for Coastal Conservation, Diageo, Kraftson Caudle, ITC, the National Rifle Association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Old Virginia Tobacco Company, Richard Childress Racing, Safari Club International, Shimano, Edison Electric Institute, Capitol Hill Consulting, Daimler, Forbes – Tate, Natural Resource Results, and Watershed Results.
The CSF hosted the policy briefing along with the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?