June 24, 2015

Sportsmen-Legislators, Conservation Groups Discuss Federal Forest Policy

On June 24, members of the sportsmen’s conservation community gathered with Members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) at a Breakfast Briefing, titled, “The Resilient Federal Forests Act: Wildlife Habitat and Forest Diversity,” hosted by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF).

Speakers addressed issues from funding, increasing litigation, and complicated regulations to wildlife habitat management and public access for outdoor recreation on federal lands, many of which are addressed in H.R. 2647.

CSF President Jeff Crane, Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) Co-Chair Congressman Rob Wittman (VA), and CSC Vice-Chair Congressman Gene Green (TX) introduced H.R. 2647 and its importance, not only to sportsmen and women, but to all users of public lands.

CSC Member and House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Congressman Rob Bishop (UT) addressed the audience. “[Forest management] needs more money to be effective, but that alone is not going to solve the problem. There has to be some substantial changes. The Resilient Federal Forests Act is the first step forward.”

Congressman Tom McClintock (CA), CSC Member and Chairman of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands, stated: “[America’s first public lands] were managed well, not only to be preserved for future generations, but also for the use, resort, and recreation of the current generation. The people who founded our public lands policies understood that preserving these lands for future generations did not mean closing it to the current generation.”

H.R. 2647 bill sponsor, Congressman Bruce Westerman (AR) explained this legislation in detail. “This bill is the first step in allowing our forestry professionals to do what needs to be done. And as a result of that, we will all benefit environmentally and we will benefit fiscally.”

Erica Rhoad, Staff Director for the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands followed by explaining the current state of federal forests, and highlighting the facts. “There are currently 58 million acres at high risk to catastrophic wildfire. This year the Forest Service is expecting to treat three million acres. Since 2003, 76.6 million acres have burned in catastrophic wildfires, and on average, the Forest Service only reforests about 3 percent of that burnt area. We also know that species’ habitat is lacking, especially for species such as turkey, ruffed grouse, elk, and deer,” said Rhoad. “This bill does not solve all of the problems [that forests face], but it will give the agencies the tools they need to act quickly.”

Joel Pederson, Director of Lands and Policy for the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) praised the bill. “The best way to manage for the largest number of species is sustainable forest management. [Speaking] for NWTF, this bill is about creating quality wildlife habitat.”

Dan Dessecker, Director of Conservation Policy for the Ruffed Grouse Society, concluded the Briefing. He stated, “[Forest management] affects wildlife, and it affects sportsmen and women. This bill addresses forest management for wildlife, and this we have to remember.”

Today’s Breakfast Briefing was sponsored by the Boone and Crockett Club, National Wild Turkey Federation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and the Ruffed Grouse Society.

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?

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