No matter how many funds are raised or how many partners collaborate on a conservation project, if the right laws are not set forth and agency funding is not appropriated in the best way possible to streamline conservation efforts, the overall scope from contributing partners will not be as far-reaching nor as effective. This is why the NWTF is at the forefront of working with Congress and state governments alike, acting as a nonpartisan entity solely to further laws that bolster NWTF’s conservation efforts and sportsmen’s advocacy.
“The NWTF’s engagement at the policy level is vital to delivering our mission,” said Matt Lindler, NWTF director of government affairs. “Working alongside state- and federal-level legislators and agencies, the NWTF can encourage laws and regulations that protect and bolster our rights as hunters and ensure our ability to deliver conservation effectively and efficiently on the landscape.”
One recent pair of letters the NWTF signed – along with numerous other hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation organizations – were addressed to the Senate and House Appropriations Committees requesting support for watershed and habitat restoration on USDA Forest Service lands. This work will authorize and appropriate $100 million in funding for the Forest Service Legacy Roads and Trails Remediation program.
The Forest Service manages over 191 million acres of public land that provides essential habitat for wild turkeys and a plethora of other North America fish and game species, in addition to providing Americans nationwide recreational opportunities. Since 2008, projects funded through the Legacy Roads and Trails Remediation program have maintained and storm-proofed thousands of miles of roads, protecting wildlife habitat, water quality and downstream communities; reclaimed thousands of miles of unneeded roads; improved over 5,000 miles of trails; and much more.
“Roads and infrastructure on our national[MS1] forests provide access for hunters, anglers and recreational users as well as vehicles and equipment used in restoring forest health and improving habitat,” Lindler said. “This request for funding helps to address the tremendous maintenance backlog of these roads as well as funding important conservation work, such as installing culverts to allow fish to travel under roads and erosion controls that improve water quality. None of these activities come cheaply, and having funds allocated specifically to address them gives the Forest Service much-needed support to accomplish the work.”
The NWTF has partnered with the Forest Service in many capacities over the years to enhance wildlife habitat and improve overall forest and watershed health. This is especially the case in the western U.S. as the effects of a prior lack of forest management are resulting in habitat and watershed degradation and placing forests at a greater risk for wildfire.
“In the arid West, the connection between healthy watersheds and clean reliable water supplies for people, places and wildlife is clearly recognized,” said Travis Smith, NWTF’s Western water conservation coordinator. “Over 90% of the annual water supply in the West originates as snow on federal land that has been severely impacted by drought, disease and wildfire. Runoff and sedimentation from the Forest Service road and trail system can have dramatic impacts on water quality for downstream uses. The NWTF is partnering with the Forest Service through the Rocky Mountain Restoration Initiative to develop a new approach to forest restoration in the West.
“The $100 million funding request to aid in improving watershed conditions on federal land in the West aligns well with the NWTF’s conservation evolution and conservation delivery at a landscape scale, doing the right work at the right place at the right time.”
Similarly, the NWTF was recently key in facilitating the Great American Outdoors Act and Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act, which, like the Forest Service Legacy Program, will ensure proper funding for forest management, conservation projects and even hunter recruitment and access.
To read more about how NWTF’s conservation is tied to its policy work, click here.
The NWTF’s conservation delivery is comprised of many moving parts that are all interconnected for mission success. Whether it’s doing the work itself, raising the funds, collaborating with new and longtime partners alike or ensuring the NWTF’s mission is a priority at both state and federal governments, these moving parts are all pieces of the puzzle and part of the great NWTF conservation story.