Finding balance between stewardship and productivity

By Ty Higgins, Ohio Ag Net

Stewardship is a long-standing, core American value that has been a backbone of farms for generations.

John Tomke, Wildlife and the Hunting Heritage Conservation Council (WHHCC) Chairman, said it’s important to find a balance between land ethics and productivity.

“We need to move the dialogue from conservation or productivity to conservation and productivity,” Tomke said. “Farmers and sportsman play a key role in that because they have had a long partnership and they are really some of America’s first conservationists.”

Tomke said that is the reason the WHHCC was developed. WHHCC is an official advisory group established under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA). The Council advises the federal government — through the Departments of the Interior and Agriculture — about agency activities that benefit recreational hunting and wildlife resources, and activities that encourage partnership among the public, the sporting conservation community, the shooting and hunting sports industry, wildlife conservation organizations, and federal and state governments.

The Council consists of 18 discretionary members — appointed by the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Agriculture to serve 3-year terms — and 7 non-voting, ex officio members representing five federal agencies (the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Farm Service Agency) and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

The Council’s primary goal is to promote and preserve America’s wildlife and hunting heritage for future generations.

The Council members believe solutions for addressing conservation and environmental challenges will be found through bottom-up approaches and not top-down national policy. At the same time, such solutions could also create jobs and support communities. Since federal funding for conservation is likely to be cut, Tomke says the CLC is promoting new policy options by encouraging conservative voices to join the dialogue about the environment.

“We’ve gathered a group of business executives, former government officials, former cabinet members, public policy experts and various community leaders,” Tomke said. “That group has started identifying and engaging a group of new thought leaders with real world experience to solve conservation related problems.”

Tomke said these leaders are focused on innovative solutions that need to be tackled during these limited budget times. A set of policy papers the CLC released this week provide some of these much-needed practical solutions.

With 75% of United States land being privately owned, Tomke said engaging farmers, ranchers and private landowners in solutions that balance the needs of America, the world and outdoor recreation.

“For me, outdoor recreation like hunting and fishing are quality of life issues as they enhance the life that I have,” Tomke said. “Farmers understand that very well, so I think sportsmen can be involved as a voice but also in working with private landowners to accomplish all of these objectives.”

Tomke stresses the importance of working for the right partnership of environment and economy, an important principle of the CLC.

“We created the Council to elevate and explore alternative and entrepreneurial-based solutions that bring everyone to the table,” Tomke said. “Hopefully by getting liberals and conservatives together, we can find local solutions that have applicability on a broader scale. I think that is the secret to finding new ways to accomplish conservation objectives in the next decade.”

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