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Boone and Crockett Addresses Western Governors
Thursday, July 06, 2017

The state of our Western federal forests was a primary topic of discussion at the recently concluded Western Governors' Association conference held in Whitefish, Montana. In attendance were governors and staffers from nine Western states, as well as industry, tribal, and Canadian representatives including the Canadian ambassador to the United States. Also present was the group behind the creation of our national forest system - the Boone and Crockett Club.

Under the leadership of Gov. Steve Bullock, The Western Governors' National Forest and Rangeland Management Report was unveiled and discussed. This seminal document sets forth the steps required to restore our forests and rangelands and provides guidance to our congressional leadership to affect the necessary changes that presently inhibit the process.
"This is exactly what our federal forest land needs right now, bright minds and leaders coming together to work for the common good," said Tony Schoonen, chief of staff for the Boone and Crockett Club. "The health of our forest lands should be a concern to all citizens. They certainly are for those in charge of their care and those who recreate on these federal public lands."

Boone and Crockett Club member, Marc Brinkmeyer, owner and chairman of the Idaho Forest Group, addressed the group and stressed the issue of forest management, fuel build up, catastrophic wildfires, and the leadership needed to bring back healthy and productive forest ecosystems.

"Our company is striving to be a leader in all these areas, but we're only a tool in the USDA and Interior toolbox," explained Brinkmeyer. "The governors have the loudest and most effective voice. While we are excited about the details of the WGA Report, the governors must take action and guide the Senate and House and help the new Administration implement these recommendations. And, they must be clear with Congress that legislation on these broad agreements should not fall prey to partisan politics. Lastly, they must hold us all accountable so the results, so carefully outlined in the report, are accomplished."

Healthy forests and rangelands have been a longstanding priority of the Boone and Crockett Club, as is investing in wildlife and habitat conservation at the state level through increased appropriations and modernized funding models.

Schoonen said, "Improving working relationships is the key. The relationship among the state agencies, federal agencies and the private sector, including non-profit conservation organizations, landowners, businesses and industry needs significant improvement to achieve the desired wildlife and habitat conservation and management objectives for sportsmen, as well as all citizens."
What's preventing healthy forest management is an entanglement of overlapping and conflicting policies, massive chunks of the Forest Service's budget going toward fighting larger and hotter wildfires, and the expense of roundtable ligation against the Forest Service filed by groups opposed to the use of these lands for supplying timber.

"Our leaders in both the U.S. and Canada have their hands full in modernizing forest and range health. They have our gratitude for a great conference and they should know that those of us in the conservation community will do our part," Schoonen concluded.

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