Live from the TRCP Media Summit, Day 2

Bill Klyn and Bob Marshall

Bill Klyn (left) and Bob Marshall prepare to wade into the brush to chase pheasants, quail, and chukar.

photo by Phil Monahan

The second day of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership Western Media Summit dawned as gorgeous as the first, and participants had the option of fishing for trout or hunting for pheasants, quail, and chukar. I spent the afternoon in the field with Bill Klyn, of Patagonia, and Bob Marshall, outdoors columnist for both the New Orleans Times-Picayune and Field & Stream, along with our guide, Willy, and his three Labrador retrievers. We walked pretty hard for just a few birds, but being out in the clean mountain air in a gorgeous valley was well worth the effort. The company was good, and I shot my first quail ever, which was exciting.

After the outdoor recreation, it was back to the serious business of the event: discussing how to protect vital conservation funding from deficit-hawk politics now prevalent in Washington. Director of the TRCP Center for Western Lands, Steve Belinda, kicked things off with a discussion on the role of energy development in large-landscape conservation. His talk was focused on this question: How can we ensure that energy development can occur in the landscape without defining the landscape? At the heart of the issue is the recognition that energy development will—and in some cases, must—happen in landscapes that are vital to wildlife. The conservationists job, then, is to make sure such development is done right. Miles Moretti, CEO and president of the Mule Deer Foundation, put it succinctly when he said, “If we don’t engage and direct how [energy development] happens, we’re going to watch it happen to us.

First Quail

Bill and Bob help me celebrate my first-ever quail.

photo by Meg McKinnon

As an example of what’s possible, Belinda pointed to Paul Vahldiek, one of the owners of The High Lonesome Ranch, our host for the event. Vahldiek discussed the ways in which he and his partners planned to move slowly and carefully to bring energy development to their property in an environmentally sound way. Such development is an economic necessity, said, if we are to maintain huge parcels of land that are vital to wildlife. It’s simply too expensive to maintain the land without the income generated from oil and natural gas. “We can be an example of private land development,” Vahldiek said, “and we can serve as an example of how public-private partnerships can work.”

It’s interesting to be at an environmental conservation meeting and hearing folks talk about how energy development is necessary, but the speakers at this summit have been hardcore realists. None more so that Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of TRCP, and Vaughn Collins, the organization’s director of government affairs, who next spoke about how the past six months have required intense political maneuvering in Washington to deal with very real assaults on conservation funding.

Building on Frank Hugelmeyer’s talk from the night before, Collins discussed how the conservation community had quickly banded together to create a lobbying effort aimed at softening the stances of some of the hard-line Tea Party members of the House of Representatives, who were prepared to use a “meat cleaver” approach to conservation funding. It’s an ongoing effort that’s showing some signs of success and will pay dividends when a Senate economic plan comes back to the House for approval.

Whit Fosburgh

Whit Fosburgh talks about the new legislative challenges presented by changing politics in Washington.

photo Phil Monahan

The night’s penultimate speaker was Patagonia’s Bill Klyn, who briefly discussed the future of fresh water on the planet and how manufacturers can reduce their use of this precious resource. He asked the audience to guess how much water it takes to produce a single pair of blue jeans. The answer was shocking: 170 liters per pair. Patagonia has launched a campaign called “Our Common Waters” to address many of these issues.

Finally, Matt Wagner of the Freedom to Roam program discussed the importance of wildlife corridors and connectivity, focusing on the Great Northern Plains. He showed how fragmented habitat adversely affects wildlife populations and makes it difficult for them to recover.

It was a lot to take in, but the night’s speeches made it clear how vitally important the TRCP’s work will be over the next months and years, running up to and beyond the presidential election of 2012. We’ll keep you updated on any important progress.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *