Zinke Proclaims Sportsmen ‘Greatest Conservationists’ Before Signing Big Game Habitat Order

Written by Joseph Witham as published on The St George News

“…revising wild horse and burro-appropriate management levels or removing horses and burros from winter range or migration corridors if they degrade habitat…”

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan “Dinky” Zinke helps tag a mule deer near Salt Lake City, Utah, Feb. 9, 2018 | Photo courtesy of the Interior Department, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — While in Utah Friday, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke helped tag mule deer near Salt Lake City before appearing at a hunting expo to sign a secretarial order intended to improve big game habitat in the Western U.S.

While tagging the deer, Zinke said he noted that a recently developed neighborhood nearby likely supplanted habitat that would have previously supported a herd of 300 deer.

In recognition of the impact growing human populations in the West have on big game migration, Zinke signed Secretarial Order 3362, designed to improve habitat quality and Western winter range and migration corridors ​for antelope, elk and mule deer.

The order also calls for greater collaboration among federal management agencies, states, private landowners and scientists to develop guidelines to help ensure healthy big game populations.

Joined by Utah Division of Wildlife Director Mike Fowlks and Mule Deer Foundation President Miles Moretti, Zinke signed the order before a gathered crowd at the Western Conservation and Hunting Expo in Salt Lake City.

At the conference, Zinke said management plans like the ones in the order are made possible from the billions in revenue generated by hunters and fishers buying tackle, ammunition and other gear.

“There is no greater conservationist than our sportsman,” he said.

“American hunters are the backbone of big game conservation efforts,” Zinke said, “and now working with state and private landowners, the department will leverage its land management and scientific expertise to both study the migration habits of wildlife as well as identify ways to improve the habitat.”

Zinke said a collaborative approach is necessary to implement the habitat protection and improvement goals of the order, given the migration patterns of big game species that cross over thousands of miles on all types of land.

In Southern Utah, mule deer travel up to 110 miles from Bryce Canyon National Park into the Arizona strip area. They cross state, private, tribal, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service land. Part of the order’s goal is to address challenges encountered along the pathways of these migratory routes.

Specifically, the order proposes development of an action plan with the following goals:

  • Restoring degraded winter range and migration corridors by removing encroaching trees from sagebrush ecosystems, rehabilitating areas damaged by fire and treating invasive vegetation.
  • Revising wild horse and burro-appropriate management levels or removing horses and burros from winter range or migration corridors if they degrade habitat.
  • Working with private landowners and state highway departments to achieve permissive fencing measures, including working with ranchers to modify fencing.
  • Avoiding or minimizing development in the most crucial winter range or migration corridors during sensitive seasons.
  • Working with states on sagebrush restoration.

The order prioritizes public land management in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming​.​

“I’m not an advocate for ever selling or transferring public lands, but I am an advocate for management,” Zinke said, adding that the order emphasizes input from individual states.

The Center for Western Priorities, a conservation group, acknowledged that it’s important to plan for wildlife migration but noted that Zinke has inflicted major damage to lands by supporting the oil industry and recommending reductions to national monuments, the Associated Press reported.

“We won’t allow the secretary and his staff to greenwash this abysmal record with meager policy crumbs,” group Deputy Director Greg Zimmerman said in a statement.

The Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, blasted the decision as nothing more than “bureaucratic window dressing” to cover up damage Zinke has done to the habitat.

“If Secretary Zinke were serious about increasing America’s wildlife populations, he would stand by Western governors’ protections for sagebrush country, restore public input on drilling decisions, and stand up for America’s national monuments and wildlife refuges instead of selling them out,” the organization said in a statement.

Zinke said environmental groups that criticize his monument recommendation are using “nefarious” and “false” claims. He said “every inch” of the lands stripped from the monuments are still protected under other designations.

Associated Press reporter Brady McCombs contributed to this report.

http://www.stgeorgeutah.com/news/archive/2018/02/09/jcw-zinke-proclaims-sportsmen-greatest-conservationists-before-signing-big-game-habitat-order/#.Wn59zIJG3OQ

12 comments on “Zinke Proclaims Sportsmen ‘Greatest Conservationists’ Before Signing Big Game Habitat Order

  1. Excerpts from an EXCELLENT letter ( I don’t think the author will mind)

    Are Wild Horses & Burros “TRASHING” Nevada’s Wildlife: No!!!!

    Here are some actual facts about the status of wildlife in Nevada as of early 2014, and in the face of recurring drought conditions to boot:

    Elk numbers in Nevada are at historic high levels. Nevada has too many elk. No neighboring state wants our elk because they already have too many of their own.

    Bighorn sheep numbers are at historic high levels. Nevada has more bighorn sheep than any state in the country except for Alaska.

    Pronghorns are at historic high levels. Never have there been so many pronghorns in Nevada. They may be reaching “carrying capacity” limits.

    Mule deer numbers have been stable for over a decade. While not at historic high levels, biologists at the Nevada Department of Wildlife believe the current numbers are consistent with the conditions available. No one is suggesting that wild horses are affecting mule deer numbers.

    Waterfowl hunting in this state is limited only by the availability of birds coming down the Pacific Flyway. Drought is the only local factor discussed with respect to waterfowl hunting. Wild horses play no part in the life of the Nevada duck hunter.

    Fur trappers are still free to trap as many animals…from muskrats and beavers, to foxes, to coyotes and bobcats…as they please. Trappers have not been asked to cut back or curtail any of their trapping activities because of wild horse impacts nor have they complained that wild horses are interfering with their activities.

    Fishing opportunities in Nevada are limited only by drought and water conditions. Wild horses have nothing to do with fishing on Lake Mead in Southern Nevada, or with fishing conditions on ponds, lakes and reservoirs in Northern Nevada.

    Birding opportunities in Nevada are unrelated to wild horses. The two Audubon Chapters in Nevada do not cite wild horse activity as a factor of concern in the ability of Nevada birders to enjoy spring and fall migration.
    Rabbit hunters have not complained about a lack of rabbits due to wild horse activity. Neither have they been asked to kill fewer rabbits due to wild horse impacts.

    Reptile collectors, primarily in Southern Nevada, have not appeared at the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners to complain that wild horses are interfering with their ability to collect snakes, lizards and other reptiles.

    Sage grouse hunting still occurs in Nevada. Hunters kill several thousand birds, annually. Sportsmen have not complained that wild horses are interfering with their opportunity to kill sage grouse. Nor have they been asked to curtail or stop sage grouse hunting because of wild horse impacts.

    Upland game hunters still take their bird dogs out to hunt chukkar and quail without any disruption from wild horse activity. No chukkar or quail hunter has, to my knowledge, ever come to the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners and tried to make a case that chukkar are losing out because of wild horses.

    Dove hunting continues to take place in Nevada without any disruption from wild horses.

    Here’s the real story from my point of view. The unsupported allegations about damage to the environment and “wildlife” by wild horses as claimed by ranchers, farmers and sportsmen amount to two things:

    Ranchers and farmers view wild horses as “competition” for their own (subsidized) use of the public lands and wish the animals gone for economic reasons.

    Sportsmen make their claims to show support for the livestock industry so that ranchers won’t limit sportsmen’s access to their private lands and to allow for access to public lands just beyond.
    Or so it seems to me

    http://nvwildlifealliance.org/are-wild-horses-burros-trashing-nevadas-wildlife-no/

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    • That link also led to this useful article:

      “Using public information about budgets of various conservation, wildlife advocacy, and land management agencies and non-profit organizations, published studies and educated assumptions regarding sources of Pittman-Robertson Act and Dingell-Johnson Act federal excise monies from the sale of sporting equipment, the authors contend that approximately 95% of federal, 88% of non-profit, and 94% of total funding for wildlife conservation and management come from the non-hunting public. The authors further contend that a proper understanding and accurate public perception of this funding question is a necessary next step in furthering the current debate as to whether and how much influence the general public should have at the wildlife policy-making level, particularly within state wildlife agencies.”

      http://nvwildlifealliance.org/wildlife-conservation-management-funding-in-the-u-s/

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  2. Ryan Zinke: An investment that’s paying off for oil and gas interests

    The question remains: Why is Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke working to lease every last bit of public land – including lands that directly border our most treasured parks and monuments – to oil and gas corporations?

    Zinke is ignoring the outdoor industry, hunters, anglers, ranchers and recreationists as well as the multiple use management directive that’s supposed to guide public lands decision-making. He is the Secretary of the largest land-managing department but is acting like an oil and gas land man paid by industry.

    https://westernvaluesproject.org/ryan-zinke-an-investment-thats-paying-off-for-oil-and-gas-interests/

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  3. This is NOT about Mule Deer or conservation or sportsmen.

    Wild horses & burros being removed for Richfield Tar Sands plan
    by Grandma Gregg

    The document goes so far as to say, “the management of wild horse and burro herds is not compatible within those portions of commercial tar sands lease areas”. How much clearer can it be. They want the wild ones GONE

    https://rtfitchauthor.com/2016/01/07/wild-horses-burros-being-removed-for-richfield-tar-sands-plan/

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  4. This can mean the end of three largest wild horse herds in Wyoming which are in the largest winter range and migration corridor for Pronghorn Antelope. Just another way to get rid of wild horses on our public lands.

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    • Not to even mention these species (and many others, like Sage Grouse) co-evolved here for millennia without adverse impacts. What is different: we intelligent humans cannot figure out how to do the same, it seems just about anywhere on earth.

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  5. Leave our Wild Horses alone!!! It’s public lands!!! Shouldn’t it be up to the taxpayers, public to decide whether or not they would rather help farmers or our Wild Horses????

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  6. Colorado has only four HMAs left, three are quite low numbers. The largest (The Sand Wash) shares the land with oil and gas leases and sheep grazing permits in an arid space in NW CO, adjoining the WY border (Adobe Town etc.). In short, just the annual harvest by hunters in only CO amounts to nearly all the wild horses known managed by BLM/US in 10 states.

    The ungulates are managed to these levels and are not considered “overpopulated” even when concentrated in certain parts of CO. It is true hunters pay to play in a very successful model, one wild horse supporters should emulate. There is no path currently to allow citizens to buy a habitat (or similar) stamp to support an HMA, but there should be! This can’t be hard to accomplish and should be put forward to allow wild horse supporters a way to “vote with their wallets” as hunters do.

    “Even after an annual take of about 80,000 ungulates by hunters, Colorado Parks and Wildlife estimates there are about 700,000 deer and elk in the state, he noted.”

    https://www.steamboattoday.com/news/talk-of-reintroducing-wolves-in-western-colorado-continues-with-february-presentation-in-carbondale/

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