When you hear “Las Vegas,” bright lights, night life and the Las Vegas Strip may be what first comes to mind. But for one afternoon, the talk shifted to wildlife, natural resources and the outdoors.
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation hosted a forum in December 2023, with three members of the Congressional Western Caucus at its RMEF Hunter & Outdoor Christmas Expo in the Las Vegas Convention Center. The bipartisan event gave attendees an opportunity to ask questions and learn about topics relevant to RMEF’s mission of ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.
The discussion, hosted and moderated by RMEF Director of Government Affairs Ryan Bronson, included Congressional Western Caucus Chair Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA), Rep. Mary Peltola (D-AK) and Rep. Harriet Hageman (R-WY).
Subjects included migration corridors and focusing on ways Congress can help states better protect important seasonal habitat for big game, wildfires and active forest management, reforming the Equal Access to Justice Act and other litigation loopholes that delay and stop important habitat management projects, the different perspectives each representative has on grizzly bears and the congressional action it took to fix the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act’s impact on hunter education and survival training programs in schools, particularly in Alaska.
Also that day, RMEF participated in a forum about the Endangered Species Act with Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) and its issues that affect wildlife management.
“The Endangered Species Act is like an old ranch pickup. It once served a useful purpose but it’s in bad, bad need of repair,” said Sen. Daines.
“We like all wildlife. For endangered species, we want to recover them,” said Bronson.” The problem is the regulatory structure that has emerged is once an animal gets on the Endangered Species List, it’s almost impossible to get them off. And even when we have success with taking animals and getting the Fish and Wildlife service to delist them, they get pulled back on by courts and by other actions. So for us, the Endangered Species Act’s biggest flaw is that activists consider success getting an animal on the list while we consider success giving an animal off the list. So, we have a lot of animals that are trapped in that that just seems to be a revolving door and they can’t get delisted even though they are recovered.”
Examples include the gray wolf and the grizzly bear. Both populations are well above delisting criteria requirements and have been for years but remain listed because of repeated lawsuits by environmental groups.
Sen. Daines also spoke of continuing efforts surrounding the ‘Cottonwood Fix,’ a Senate bill he authored that would address a 2015 decision by the 9th Circuit Court that created a never-ending loop where lawyers slow down or stop forest management projects designed to improve wildlife habitat and reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire, an effort supported by RMEF for years.
“This would be the single biggest improvement in forest management probably in the last 30 to 40 years,” said Sen. Daines. “The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has been right there with us throughout this fight because they bring a voice from reasoning credibility to both sides.”
(Photo credit: Congressional Western Caucus)