Elk NetworkLegislative Update

Conservation , Volunteer News | September 22, 2020

NATIONAL ISSUES

President Trump signed the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA) into law on August 4, 2020. Among other things, it permanently and fully funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).

RMEF played an intimate role in the process. In March, Senators Steve Daines (R-Montana) and Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) secured a meeting with President Trump and several staffers in Washington D.C. Daines then reached out to RMEF to acquire high-quality maps, photos and other details about RMEF’s Falls Creek project. During their meeting, Daines shared project details with the president including how $250,000 in LWCF funds helped close the transaction. President Trump then stated that “sealed the deal” for him.

RMEF received an invitation to attend the White House signing ceremony and had two representatives attend celebrations – one later that same day in Washington DC and another  the following week just outside Yellowstone Park. RMEF is also taking part in bi-weekly calls with the USDA as well as stakeholder listening sessions to implement the GAOA.

Also in August, a report released by the Department of the Interior (DOI) highlighted the achievements to date of the current administration that support and improve habitat quality in western big-game winter range and migration corridors. Since 2018, DOI and its partners, including RMEF, facilitated 73 projects across 11 states with more than $47 million invested from federal and matching grants in state-identified priority research and habitat-related projects, data analysis and others.

As 2020 Chair of the American Wildlife Conservation Partners (AWCP), RMEF Chief Conservation Officer Blake Henning hosted the summer virtual meeting of the organization on August 12-13. Representatives from more than 50 conservation and sportsmen’s organizations participated in presentations by Secretary Bernhardt, U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Deputy Chief Chris French and many others.

In late August, RMEF provided its support for a bipartisan bill that provides the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) tools to fight and prevent wildfires, increases active forest management of federal forests, cuts red tape and reduces frivolous lawsuits.

In September, RMEF joined nearly 30 of the nation’s leading conservation groups to send a letter to Interior Secretary Bernhardt and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue urging the allocation of at least $55 million to enhance access for sportsmen and women.

A Senate committee held a September hearing on a bill to delist the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem population of grizzly bears and return management to state wildlife agencies. RMEF provided input and support.

RMEF is working with other sportsmen and timber industry groups, the USFS and the USFWS on a regulation to address the Cottonwood decision. RMEF also assisted Senator Daines’ staff in drafting stand-alone legislation to provide a “clean-fix” to the Cottonwood issue.

RMEF continues to monitor progress of transportation reauthorization legislation. In early July, the House passed its transportation bill that provides $300 million and policy direction to states for wildlife crossings and habitat connectivity. Since the full Senate is not expected to pass its version of the bill this session, a one-year extension of the current act will likely be approved prior to September 30.

STATE ISSUES
Colorado

  • RMEF committed $250,000 to defeat Proposition 114, a November ballot initiative seeking to forcibly introduce wolves into Colorado.

California

  • RMEF is working with the state wildlife agency to seek relief for those hunters who drew special elk tags but will not be able to hunt given forest closures due to wildfires.
  • RMEF opposed several bills including one creating undue burdens on youth outdoor recreational camps with firearms, another prohibiting the importation of African hunting trophies and a third that directs the state to conserve 30 percent of its lands and waters by 2030. This 30 by 30 initiative is gaining steam in several states, and may also show up nationally.