COVID-19 had a significant impact on government affairs at both the state and federal levels, with Congress focused on economic stimulus and pandemic response legislation and state legislatures recessing until its safe for lawmakers to return to work. In the meantime, RMEF has worked diligently to advance its priority advocacy issues and worked with other sportsmen and conservation organizations to encourage state and federal agencies to keep public lands and waters open for hunting and fishing during the pandemic where federal guidance for safety can be followed.
LWCF Funding – The pandemic delayed legislative action on S. 3422, the Great American Outdoors Act—the bill to provide permanent, full funding for LWCF and significant resources to address maintenance backlog issues on federal lands. Lawmakers indicate there is a good chance this bill will soon be scheduled for a vote in the Senate. The Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service recently released their ranked lists of projects to be funded by LWCF next year. Several RMEF conservation projects were assigned very high rankings.
Increased Public Lands Access – The Interior Department expanded public hunting and fishing access at wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries all over the nation. The Department issued a rule in April giving hunters and anglers access to an additional 2.3 million acres, building on the 1.4 million acres opened up last year.
Wildlife Corridors – RMEF continues to fight for funding and policies to address wildlife crossings and habitat connectivity in the federal transportation bill. RMEF drafted a letter that was signed by 40 sportsmen and conservation organizations and delivered to leadership of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee requesting its transportation bill match the Senate bill, which provides significant funding for wildlife crossings and makes wildlife habitat connectivity a priority consideration for state transportation plans.
Colorado Wolf Ballot – RMEF remains significantly engaged with other sportsmen, agriculture and livestock organizations to educate voters about the negative impacts of a 2020 ballot initiative to force introduction of gray wolves in western Colorado. RMEF produced and distributed on social media a series of brief videos explaining why forced introduction of wolves is a bad idea. For more information, visit: https://bit.ly/35oLR6T.
RMEF provided comments to the Montana Grizzly Bear Advisory Council supporting hunting as a management tool should the bear be removed from the threatened and endangered species list. Comments were submitted to the U.S. Forest Service on the New Mexico Gila National Forest Plan Revision suggesting elk and elk habitat be a focus for management planning. RMEF sent comments to the Colorado Parks & Wildlife Commission supporting its West Slope Mountain Lion Management Plan and opposing an initiative to ban recreational trapping. Wild horse management plans for the Ochoco National Forest in Oregon and Pryor Mountains Wild Horse Range in Montana are being revised. RMEF submitted comments on both plans, requesting populations of these animals be reduced to the appropriate management levels to reverse long-term damage to the landscape and water resources and mitigate impacts to elk and other wildlife.