BLM “Conservation Rule”
RMEF submitted comments regarding the BLM’s proposed Conservation and Landscape Health rule that would create “conservation” as a new use of BLM lands, as opposed to a management guidance for all of the various uses of BLM lands now. While there were a number of positive concepts the proposed rule addressed, the vagueness and lack of input in the development process were significant concerns. RMEF expressed concerns about fundamentally changing the multiple-use mandate of the agency, including more specificity and clarity of the authorities involved, and the impacts that the rule would have on public access and active management of habitat. If the agency attempts to finalize the rule it will likely be litigated.
Farm Bill – Forest Conservation Easement Program
RMEF’s Farm Bill priorities include a strong conservation and forestry title, including the renewal and expansion of private land access incentives and a new Forest Conservation Easement Program (FCEP). Private land forest management is critical to many species of wildlife, and building incentives for private forest management in the same vein as the conservation programs for crop and grazing lands is an increasingly important need. There is bipartisan support for FCEP, and RMEF is part of a large coalition of conservation organizations seeking its inclusion in the upcoming Farm Bill.
California – Legislature still in session.
AB 28 would impose an excise tax of 11% on the retail sale of all firearms, firearm parts and ammunition. Revenues collected would be deposited in the Gun Violence Prevention, Healing, and Recovery Fund and used to fund various gun violence prevention, education, research, response and investigation programs. The bill was passed the Assembly and is moving through the Senate. RMEF encourages members to contact their Senators and urge a NO vote.
SB 772 would expand eligibility for junior hunting licenses from 15 and under to 17 and under. SB 772 was heard in the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee on April 11th passing out on a unanimous vote. The Senate Appropriations committee was placed in the suspense file and is now languishing until the 2024 session.
Three new commissioners were appointed by Governor Polis and his selections have hunting interests very concerned. Jess Beaulieu of Denver is an environmental lawyer and professor of animal law; Jack Murphy of Aurora is a wildlife rehabilitator; Gary Skiba is a retired endangered species biologists who now works as an environmental advocate and was a wolf advocate member of the Stakeholder Advisory Group. The commission now has a working majority of preservationists with records of apathy or hostility towards traditional wildlife management and hunting. RMEF encourages members who live or hunt in Colorado to get engaged with commission policy because radical change is expected.
Minnesota DNR and the Fond du Lac tribe have formed a working group to plan and execute an elk relocation project in the state. RMEF staff are participating in the oversight group. The legislature appropriated $2.4 million to kickstart the effort to capture elk in the northwest part of the state and relocate them to the Carlton and Cloquet area. CWD monitoring will occur in both the capture and release areas, and planning for the logistics of capturing and moving elk will also occur. Ensuring that there are enough elk in the capture area is a concern as state law mandates limiting the population by hunting, and another tribe has indicated interest in increasing harvest.
RMEF submitted comments on the statewide elk management plan that FWP released this summer. The detailed comments address key principles including improving distribution of elk across public land; improving data collection and use; responding to conflicts and disturbance on public lands caused by non-hunting recreation; considering the impacts of the long season structure; recognizing the impacts of large predators; and considering habitat quality or lack thereof on public lands to elk distribution. RMEF’s critiques included support for regular (every 5 years) updates of the plan; looking across public and private land to address elk management needs; clarifying how new population modeling will be incorporated into management; updating the habitat data used for planning; and support for increased private land programs to address both access and damage.
RMEF members generated hundreds of letters in support of HB3086, which passed both the House and Senate in the final days of the legislative session. Oregon’s governor is already implementing this Fish and Wildlife Commission structure in appointments. Now, it is key that science-based wildlife advocates apply for the open positions and the governor appoint reasonable commission members.
The organizers of IP3, the ballot measure that they refer to as “a Slaughter, Hunting and Experimentation Ban,” have received two $50,000 donations and have hired professional signature gatherers. They report having 30,000 signatures, or one quarter of what they need to qualify for the 2024 ballot. The initiative would make killing an animal for any reason other than self-defense illegal, including hunting, livestock slaughter or pest control. Sportsmen need to prepare to fight this existential threat for the next year.
RMEF testified on Draft Fish and Wildlife Conservation Policy, Wolf Plan. Regional Director Alex Baier expressed concerns about redefining conservation as to be indistinguishable from preservation. Additionally, RMEF members submitted more than 430 letters commenting on the proposed policy, emphasizing that Hunting is Conservation®. Baier also urged the commission to follow the scientific guidance of their biologists and consider down-listing wolves on the state-endangered species list.
RMEF ADVOCACY WEBPAGE
If you are interested in getting involved in advocacy, visit the RMEF advocacy webpage to see the bills RMEF is tracking, to contact your representatives at the state and federal levels and even to get contacts for your local newspapers to write letters to the editor.