Elk NetworkLegislative Update

Conservation | March 19, 2020

LWCF Funding

President Trump agreed to sign legislation to provide permanent, full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund and designate significant resources to address maintenance backlog issues at our national parks, forests and other federal lands. RMEF’s Falls Creek project, which permanently protected 442 acres of wildlife habitat along Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front and improved access to more than 26,000 acres of public lands, played a critical role in negotiations between Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO), Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and the President on the agreement. Sen. Daines shared project details with the President, including the fact that $250,000 in LWCF funds helped close the deal. President Trump stated that information “sealed the deal” for him. The legislation, named the Great American Outdoors Act, was introduced on March 9 and will receive a vote on the Senate floor in the coming weeks.

Chronic Wasting Disease

RMEF is working with appropriators in the House and Senate to increase funding for CWD research and state response. The 2020 budget agreement designated $9 million for cervid health activities, including $5 million to states for surveillance and response as well as research funds for a live test. RMEF hopes to increase this funding to $30 million, evenly split between research and state response.

Wildlife Corridors

RMEF cosponsored a briefing at the U.S. Capitol for members of Congress and their staff to learn more about the importance of addressing wildlife crossings and habitat connectivity in the nation’s transportation infrastructure system. RMEF worked with Wyoming Senator John Barrasso to include language and funding to address wildlife crossings in the Senate infrastructure bill. RMEF’s government affairs staff are focused on making sure the House infrastructure bill follows suit.

AWCP

RMEF Chief Conservation Officer Blake Henning chaired a daylong meeting of American Wildlife Conservation Partners (AWCP) at the 85th North American Wildlife & Natural Resources Conference in Omaha, NE on March 10. AWCP is comprised of 50 sportsmen and conservation organizations, working together to advance shared priorities to benefit fish, wildlife and land conservation. Meeting participants put the finishing touches on a document describing priority issues and suggested action items. These will be presented to the presidential candidates. RMEF also hosted a luncheon at the event where U.S. Fish and Wildlife Director Aurelia Skipwith delivered the keynote address—recognizing RMEF’s conservation leadership—and outlining the Administration’s successful record on many wildlife management issues.

STATE ISSUES

Colorado Wolf Ballot – RMEF is working 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 Government Affairs Director addressed audiences at Grand Junction’s Explore the Outdoors Expo in February. RMEF’s educational video (https://youtu.be/Lourhx22AIE) about the initiative is widely distributed on social media.

State Legislative Sessions – South Dakota RMEF members helped defeat legislation that would have allowed new owners of private properties with permanent conservation protections to nullify them after the death of the previous owner who originally agreed to them. More than 120 South Dakota members answered RMEF’s call to contact their state legislators to encourage them to vote against the bill, which was defeated in the House chamber.

RMEF members in Nebraska helped defeat legislation to provide free, unlimited, transferable kill permits for elk, deer and pronghorn and another bill to prevent the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission from acquiring additional public lands.