POLICY NEWS

Broad Coalition Urges Support for Conservation Easement Incentives
In March, TWS and other conservation, agriculture, and sporting organizations urged both House and Senate members to support legislation to extend tax deductions for conservation easement donations and make the incentive a permanent part of tax law. The legislation includes the recently introduced Rural Heritage Conservation Extension Act, S.339and the soon to be introduced House counterpart, the Conservation Easement Incentive Act. Landowners have long had the option of retiring development rights of their land while keeping it in productive use through the donation of a conservation easement. The tax incentive for doing so, however, has been historically inconsistent and is set to expire at the end of 2011. If passed, the Acts would ensure continuity of this incentive and make conservation easements more affordable by enabling donors with modest incomes to receive greater tax benefits over a longer period of time. Identical legislation in the 111th Congress received considerable support from all 50 states and Presidents Bush and Obama have sought to extend the incentive in their budget requests.

TWS Urges Restoration of Vermont Wildlife Ownership to the Public
On 21 March 2011, TWS wrote to Vermont State Legislators, urging their support of H.91, the Vermont Wildlife Public Trust Act, which was passed the House in an amended form on 23 March. If the bill becomes law, it would return regulatory authority over "captive hunt" facilities to the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. The provisions address language in the state’s FY 2011 appropriations bill (H.789) that currently allows for the possession of publicly-owned wildlife by a private citizen. TWS opposes private ownership of native wildlife because it violates the Public Trust Doctrine, a core component of the North American model of Wildlife Conservation.. Past actions by the Vermont Legislature are currently undermining the foundation of wildlife management in North America by giving the public’s wildlife resources to an individual for his personal, private gain. TWS urges the passage of the bill into law, which would ensure that publicly-owned natural resources can no longer be privatized.

Bird Conservation Coalition Pushes for Funding
On 28 March 2011, TWS and other members of the Bird Conservation Funding Coalition (BCFC) sent a letter to Congressman Mike Simpson (R-ID) and Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, urging the continuation of funding at the highest level in the FY 2012 budget for programs crucial to maintenance of healthy and abundant bird populations throughout the United States. Such funding would support programs including the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act Grants Program, North American Wetlands Conservation Act, USGS American Breeding Bird Survey, along with International Programs within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and USDA Forest Service. The letter stressed the importance of all of these programs in conservation efforts, noting that birds provide billions of dollars worth of pest control and bird watching contributes $43 billion to outdoor wildlife related recreation activities each year.

TWS Weighs in onProposed Reforms to Wild Horse and Burro Management
On 30 March 2011, TWS submitted comments on the Bureau of Land Management’s Caring for America’s Wild Horses and Burros: Fundamental Reforms – An Overview. TWS commended the BLM’s efforts to address this difficult conservation issue and reform the current and unsustainable management regime. With respect to the strategies proposed by the BLM, TWS offered several comments. Rather than maintaining the existing number of wild horses and burros (WHB), TWS urged the BLM to carry out its statutory obligation to manage WHB numbers to appropriate management levels in all herd management areas. TWS expressed support of the use of round-ups to remove horses from rangeland and the BLM’s efforts to strengthen the humane treatment of the animals. While TWS supports the use of fertility control and increased adoptions to reduce the number of equids on rangelands, TWS questioned the effectiveness of a program based entirely on these measures. TWS stated that BLM must acknowledge the limitations of these methods to reach appropriate management levels and that euthanasia remains a legally, viable option. Efforts by the BLM to increase the transparency of this program were also commended, but TWS noted that doing so should not compromise the ability of wildlife and other professions to do their work.

Also on 30 March 2011, TWS joined other professional societies and hunting and conservation organizations in a letter to Bureau of Land Management Director, Bob Abbey, providing comments on BLM’s Proposed Strategy for Future Management of America’s Wild Horses and Burros. Collectively, the group advocated the following principles: BLM should manage WHB numbers to appropriate management levels in all herd management areas; BLM should not wait for a report from the National Academy of Science before making its own reassessment of its fertility control efforts and should continue use of reliable population control processes; euthanasia and sale without limitation remain appropriate management tools; and the BLM should fully explore alternative options for managing WHBs that would require modification to the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, such as the establishment of a limited number of WHB ranges.

TWS Comments onFY12 Budget
On 1 April 2011, TWS provided testimony to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies regarding the FY 2012 budget. TWS specified certain programs and recommended funding levels for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Geological Survey, and U.S. Forest Service. Funding levels were recommended for programs such as the National Wildlife Refuge System ($511 million), Endangered Species Program ($183.7 million), Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program ($62.19 million), and Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units (at least $22 million). TWS also requested additional funding to support efforts to combat white nose syndrome ($11.1 million).

In early April, TWS also provided testimony concerning the FY 2012 budget to the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Agricultural, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies. Budget recommendations for programs that fall under the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service include Wildlife Service Operations ($77.78 million), Methods Development ($3.9 million), and Veterinary Services ($22.6 million). For the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, TWS specified funding levels for The Renewable Resources Extension Act ($10 million) and the McIntire-Stennis Cooperative Forestry Program (over $29 million). Key programs highlighted within the Natural Resource Conservation Service include the Conservation Effects Assessment Project ($7 million) and Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program ($85 million). Also included was the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentives Program ($33 million), which falls under the Farm Service Agency. TWS expressed the importance of full funding for these programs, as each has essential functions regarding conservation of wildlife.

POSITION STATEMENTS OPEN FOR COMMENT
Draft Position Statement: Feral Swine in North America
A draft position statement on Feral Swine in North America is now available for review and comment. Feral swine (Sus scrofa) are not native to North America and, for centuries, have been propagated and released throughout the continent, both intentionally and accidentally. Recent research indicates that feral swine number in the millions and, because of their population size, feeding behaviors, and tendency to exist in groups, damage agricultural commodities, aquatic systems, forested systems, and native wildlife. They also carry diseases that pose risks to humans, livestock, and other wildlife. TWS’ policy states that feral swine should not be left to degrade natural systems and threaten biological diversity and ecosystem integrity. State and provincial agencies should eradicate feral swine wherever feasible. TWS also encourages research on methods of control, programs to monitor impacts, passage of new laws and regulations to reduce feral swine, and a collaborative approach to addressing the issue.

Visit TWS’ Government Affairs site to read the position statement in full. Comments are due to Laura Bies ( This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it ) by 1 June 2011

Revised Position Statement: Shooting Preserves
A revised statement on Shooting Preserves for Game Birds is now available for review and comment. Properly managed shooting preserves offer recreation opportunities to the hunting public, provide an opportunity for those who have never hunted to be introduced to hunting, and have the potential to provide demonstration sites for desirable wildlife management practices. However, shooting preserves also raise a number of issues, including (1) the possibility of released animals establishing free-ranging populations, (2) disease transmission to native wildlife, (3) compliance with fair-chase hunting ethics and the Public Trust Doctrine, and (4) the development of negative attitudes towards hunting by the public due to the artificial and highly managed situations often created by shooting preserves. TWS recommends the science-based management of these preserves by state and provincial agencies, the use of game species only, assignment of primary regulatory authority to state and provincial agencies, encouragement of the licensing and continued private operation of preserves, and the development of management plans.

Visit TWS’ Government Affairs site to read the position statement in full. Comments are due to Laura Bies ( This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it ) by 1 May 2011.

Revised Position Statement: Feral and Free-Ranging Domestic Cats
A revised statement on Feral and Free-Ranging Domestic Cats is now available for review and comment. Feral and free-ranging domestic cats are exotic species to North America. A growing body of literature strongly suggests that domestic cats are significant predators on native wildlife and serve as reservoirs for several diseases that can have significant effects on the health of humans, wildlife, and domestic animals. TWS supports the humane elimination of feral cat colonies, passage of local and state ordinances to prohibit the feeding of feral cats, and educational programs that inform the public on feral cats, the importance of keeping pet cats indoors, and encourage owners to neuter or spay their cats. TWS also pledges to work with the conservation and animal welfare communities to educate the public about the effects of free-ranging and feral cats on native wildlife.

Visit TWS’ Government Affairs site to read the position statement in full. Comments are due to Laura Bies ( This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it ) by 1 June 2011.

Revised Position Statement: Scientific Peer Review of Agency Decision Processes
A revised statement on Scientific Peer Review of Agency Decision Processes is now available for review and comment. Peer review is an integral component of scientific research and publishing and an important means of assuring sound information. This idea has been translated into the policy arena through ‘scientific peer review’ – the review, by scientific experts, of in-house agency science, synthesis reports, or the body of science underlying management decisions. While unbiased and rigorous scientific peer review is an important tool for decision makers, a poorly designed process can do more harm than good. TWS’ policy states that the review process should be flexible and free of political interference and influence. Reviewers should be selected based on scientific knowledge and objectivity, reviews should be based on an assumption of integrity, and uncertainty should be addressed with a science-based experimental management approach that allows adaptation as knowledge increases.

Visit TWS’ Government Affairs site to read the position statement in full. Comments are due to Laura Bies ( This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it ) by 1 June 2011.

TAKE ACTION
Comment on the National Wildlife Refuge System Draft Vision Statement
On 17 January 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) released a draft of its new national effort to create a transformed vision for the National Wildlife Refuge System. The draft entitled “Conserving the Future: Wildlife Refuges and the Next Generation” looks at the Refuge System’s history, the challenges that it has faced, and recommendations of how the system can achieve excellence in the future. The FWS is asking for feedback and comments from the public in order to create their new vision for the Wildlife Refuge System encompassed in this document.

Comments will be accepted until 22 April 2011 and can be posted directly on the Draft Vision website, or emailed to This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it . The final vision document will be adopted in July 2011 at a national conference in Madison, Wisconsin.

Comment on the Forest Service Planning Rule
On 14 February 2011, the Forest Service released its draft planning rule that will determine the future management of the nation’s 155 national forests and 20 national grasslands. The rule establishes a new framework for the development of all land management plans and includes provisions to guide forest and watershed restoration and resilience, habitat protection, sustainable recreation, and management of multiple uses. The Service noted that the rule is designed to expedite planning efforts, utilize the best available science, engage the public, and enhance resilience to climate change, pests, and other threats. The new rule follows three previous attempts at rule revisions by the Service since 2000 that were ultimately rejected in court.

Visit the Forest Service Planning Rule homepage to view the draft rule, follow updates, and learn how to submit comments. The proposed rule is open for comment until 16 May 2011.

Comment on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wind Energy Plan
On 8 February 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) released its draft voluntary guidelines for land based wind turbine projects. The document is intended to provide developers, state organizations, and federal agencies, with the best possible decision making process in site selection for all community-scale and utility-scale land-based projects. The main objective of the guidelines is to minimize and avoid impacts to federally protected wildlife.

Comments on the draft will be accepted until 19 May 2011 and can be emailed to This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it . More information about the document can be found on the FWS Wind Energy Development Information website.

 
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