What do America’s farmers have in common with elk? Plenty. And that’s why the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation pulls up a chair when the 2023 Farm Bill is the topic of discussion. In February, that was the topic in Washington D.C. One month later, it came up again 2,100 miles to the west in southwest Montana.
RMEF participated in a Farm Bill roundtable at the Arthur H. Post Farm, a Montana State University research facility, along with Sen. Mike Daines (R-MT), his staffers, ranchers and others interested in farming and conservation. The legislation is set to expire in 2023 and Congress is working on a renewal bill, which it does every five years.
“To be successful, conservation programs highlighted in the Farm Bill need to work well for landowners and ag producers. Also, they need to help promote forest management projects that increase habitat health,” said Ryan Chapin, RMEF lands operations manager. “Increasing CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) payments to landowners and allowing forest landowners to use wildlife management plans to treat forests are examples of what RMEF supports in the bill.”
Among others, RMEF points of emphasis include more attention given to big game migration corridors, reaffirming hunting and fishing as a priority, and prioritizing working forests and forests managed for wildlife.
Chapin also expressed appreciation for Sen. Daines’ work on what’s called the Cottonwood Fix, a national legislative priority for RMEF. In 2015, the Ninth Circuit Court issued a decision requiring federal agencies to reinitiate consultation about land management practices and forest management plans in relation to the Endangered Species Act. That ruling blocked or severely slowed many previously approved forest management, wildlife enhancement and wildfire fuel reduction projects.
The Montana senator and four others recently sent a bipartisan letter to President Biden urging the administration include a legislative fix to clean up the Cottonwood decision in his 2024 budget.
(Photo credit: Rocky Mountain Elk Country)