Conservation Policy & Legislation

Hillary Clinton on Public Lands, Conservation, and Funding Wildlife Agencies

Clinton touts her environmental record and strongly opposes the sale or transfer of our federal public lands
Hilary Clinton

Hilary Clinton speaking at a conference in Washington, D.C. Wiki Commons

As the final weeks of the 2016 Elections tick quickly along, the rhetoric builds and sometimes it can be very hard to drill down to candidate positions on less “mainstream” issues that might be relevant to sportsmen. Outdoor Life reached out to both the Donald J. Trump for President and Hillary for America campaigns to get their take on a number of key conservation issues. Here’s what the Clinton campaign had to say.

While Hillary Clinton’s position on gun issues is very clear, the same can be said about her stances on conservation. Clinton has long touted her environmental record and strongly opposes the sale or transfer of our federal public lands. As a U.S. Senator, she supported increasing funding for conservation programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund and general funding for natural resource management agencies. She also has long recognized the importance of clean air and water and believes in proactively addressing impacts from a changing climate.

Clinton has never pretended to be an outdoorswoman, and she doesn’t hunt or fish. But during a candidate forum this past summer, her surrogate was a former co-chair of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus and an avid outdoorsman. Congressman Mike Thompson recognized that sportsmen’s issues might seem distant for Clinton, but that she supports their interests.

“I think the fact that she asked me to come and meet with you is an indication that she cares what the hook-and-bullet community wants and needs,” Thompson said. “She will listen to sportsmen and women and I anticipate that I will have an ear in the White House and I’ll be a good bridge.”

But what does she say about specific hunting and fishing issues? To get the details on the Clinton campaign’s positions, we sent them a two-page questionnaire focused on a number of issues that have impacted or will impact sportsmen: their access to and management of federal public lands; funding for natural resource conservation; and the protection of land and water resources. Here are the responses from Clinton’s campaign staff:

What is your position on hunting and fishing? Do you hunt or fish?

While I am not a hunter or angler, I understand the issues of concern to this community and will work as President to be their partner in the conservation and collaborative stewardship of America’s great outdoors. Through the many important organizations that support habitat conservation including wetlands protection and restoration, land acquisition, wildlife populations, and improving access for sportsmen and women, sportsmen and women play a vital role in fighting to protect and restore the health of our public lands and fish and wildlife resources. I also understand the critical role that they play as engines of our outdoor economy – which I am committed to doubling the size of within 10 years. The Clinton Administration will expand access to public lands for hunting, fishing, and recreation by making publicly accessible at least two million acres (50 percent) of the public lands that are currently inaccessible, and I will also commit to fighting efforts by special interests to privatize our public lands so that future generations of Americans, including hunters and anglers, have the opportunity to experience our nation’s unique public lands legacy.

Who are you considering for critical appointments to lead departments or agencies (Department of the Interior/Agriculture, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, and Natural Resource Conservation Service)? If no specific names, please list what qualities/qualifications you believe are important for these positions. Will you ensure that a person who hunts/fishes or supports hunting/fishing will be appointed to these positions?

With election day still ahead of us, it is premature to identify potential candidates for these leadership positions. Instead, my team and I are focused on speaking with the American people – discussing our commitment to conservation and keeping public lands public, and sharing my vision and plan for the Conservation and Collaborative Stewardship of America’s Great Outdoors.

Public lands are essential for most hunters and anglers and there are a number of key issues that are affecting public land management. Please respond to the following:

● What is your position on efforts to sell or transfer federal public lands?

We must keep our public lands public. As President, I will fight efforts to give away or privatize our national public lands, and I am committed to protecting this heritage for our children and grandchildren. There is no question that public lands are under strain due to underinvestment and the impacts of climate change. Instead of handing the control of these American lands to private entities, I have proposed establishing an American Parks Trust Fund to ensure we are providing our states and localities the resources to maintain our public lands and protect at-risk wildlife habitats.

● What is your position on legislation (Making Public Lands Public, HUNT Act, etc.) that seek to expand sportsmen’s access to federal public lands?

Improving access to public lands will benefit all Americans, including sportsmen and women. I have committed to make this a priority during my administration and have set a goal unlocking access to at least two million acres of currently inaccessible public lands by the end of my first term.

● Would your administration continue to expand hunting/fishing opportunities on National Wildlife Refuges?

Our National Wildlife Refuges, first established by President Theodore Roosevelt, have not only protected the habitats and species within their borders, but have provided the millions of visitors they receive each year the opportunity to engage in outdoor recreation. As President, I will set a goal of doubling the size of our outdoor economy, creating new jobs and up to $700 billion in new annual outdoor economic activity – to which hunting, fishing, and other outdoor recreation activities all play a vital role.

● What is your position on public lands designations including wilderness areas, national monuments, national conservation lands, etc.?

President Teddy Roosevelt – one of our country’s greatest conservationists – once said, “It is not what we have that will make us a great nation. It is the way in which we use it.” Conserving these unique American places, from the Everglades in Florida, to the Organ Mountains – Desert Peaks National Monument in New Mexico, to the Cesar Chavez National Monument in California, honors and sustains our economy and way of life. In preserving these places, we need to ensure that we are fostering a collaborative approach to stewardship, working across industry, with States and local communities and other partners, to protect our natural and cultural heritage. As President, I will work in this way to ensure that we protect our diverse shared history through public lands designations that reflect the contributions of all Americans and provide access to these places to future generations.

● What would be your administration’s policies/positions regarding energy development (traditional and renewable) on federal public lands?

Our public lands can play an important role in our country’s energy future. I am committed to achieving a ten-fold increase in renewable energy production on public lands and waters within 10 years. At the same time, we also need to reform fossil fuel leasing on public lands. I will see that we complete the review that is just underway and reform onshore coal, oil, and gas leases to ensure taxpayers are getting a fair deal and close loopholes. My administration will be diligent in its planning, decision making, and solicitation of public input in all public lands energy development, to ensure that developers are being directed toward areas with the most potential and away from areas with environmental risk, including areas with conservation value that should be preserved for future generations.

Funding for natural resource management, conservation, and biological research have declined significantly as part of the federal budget. Please respond to the following:

● Do you support increasing natural resource related spending for conservation programs and scientific research?

Natural resource agency budgets have been cut to a point where resource management is being adversely affected. Despite their popularity, our natural parks and public lands have an estimated several billion dollar maintenance backlog, and their infrastructure requires modernization. Resources for programs that support at-risk wildlife are not adequate to spur needed voluntary conservation.

Through the establishment of the American Parks Trust Fund, my administration would support additional funding to address infrastructure needs, reduce maintenance backlogs, and protect at-risk wildlife habitats. This fund will also provide resources for our state and local governments, and tribal nations, to acquire, protect, and restore open spaces.

When it comes to the need to conserve and find solutions for our resources, we cannot overlook our water needs. As President, I will ensure we are increasing our federal investment in water conservation: investing in water reuse through additional loans and grants; doubling public-private partnership investments in water reuse and reclamation in my first term; and establishing a new Water Innovation Lab, so that our country can lead the way in water efficiency, treatment, and water reuse solutions.

In addition, I will work with Congress to ensure that our government is providing sufficient funding for research that allows for multi-year planning, accounts for inflation, and allows our scientists to explore emerging research areas.

● Do you support using federal funds for land acquisition and/or conservation easements?

As President, I will support the continued protection of our lands and waters through federal funding that supports land acquisition, including funding that targets conservation easements that can preserve America’s important working landscapes. Easements can also be critical to cement voluntary conservation partnerships with private landowners and state governments to establish new access points, trails, and easements – expanding public access to public lands. My proposal for an American Parks Trust Fund will fully support land acquisition priorities, and also ensure that state and local governments have the resources they need to create and improve spaces, especially our urban parks.

I also believe we need to increase both the availability and accessibility of funding to incentivize private conservation. This will include working to fully fund the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and directing the Department of Agriculture to help farmers and ranchers identify programs that will financially support their conservation practices, including securing additional access for hunters and anglers.

● What is your position on current funding to state fish and wildlife agencies for fish and game management under the Federal Aid in Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration Acts?

The states and federal natural resource agencies have had a long-standing partnership to support the conservation of fish and wildlife resources and enhance opportunities for outdoor recreation. I have committed to nearly doubling the current funding for the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants Program, to $100 million a year. I believe we must continue this collaboration and strengthen these partnerships that so greatly benefit public use areas, wildlife and fisheries, and habitat restoration.

● Do you support efforts to dedicate additional funding from energy development to expand state-based wildlife conservation efforts under State Wildlife Action Plans?

As President, I will work to promote a culture of collaborative stewardship that will allow us to pursue responsible energy development, grow our outdoor economy and ensure we are dedicating necessary resources to conservation, including wildlife conservation. My proposal for an American Parks Trust Fund is based on working closely with states, communities and partners to provide increased resources for strengthening the protections around our natural and cultural resources, increasing access to our public lands, and protecting wildlife, while also expanding renewable energy production on our public lands resources.

The next administration will engage on reauthorization of several key pieces of conservation legislation. Please respond to the following:

● What is your vision for the next Farm Bill? Do you support increased funding for conservation programs and do you have specific programs that you support or that you feel need to be changed?

The Farm Bill’s reauthorization presents an incredibly important opportunity to set both our agricultural, land conservation, nutrition/hunger, and rural development policy priorities – which are central to our economy, energy, and food security.

I will work to ensure we provide a focused safety net for farmers and ranchers by continuing to make progress in targeting federal resources in commodity payment, crop insurance, and disaster assistance programs – which is all the more important with current commodity market prices. I will also support the next generation of farmers by doubling funding for the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development program and strengthening USDA grant programs to make them less about bureaucratic buckets and more about funding flexibility, leveraging local resources, and measuring results.

The Farm Bill also provides important technical assistance and financial support for conservation on private farm, ranch, and forest lands. We need to ensure that the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is fully funded. Another important program, the Wetlands Reserve Easement Program, provides financial and technical resources for easements that restore and protect wetlands, avoiding their conversion to other uses. I would also work to provide additional funding for initiatives like the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, which provides communities with flexible funding to set priorities and lead the way on efforts to improve water quality, combat drought and wildfires, expand wildlife habitat, and enhance soil health. Similarly, the Healthy Forests Reserve Program supports landowners through easements and other financial resources to restore and protect forest resources on private lands. Both of these programs also provide climate and wildlife benefits. The Farm Bill’s focus on “landscape” conservation initiatives has also been an important way to support and build on efforts by local landowners to address water, wildlife, and ecosystem-wide issues. These programs will remain critically important under my collaborative stewardship model of addressing conservation challenges.

● Will you seek to increase state-based management of offshore fisheries and expansion of recreational fishing allocations during the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act?

The Magnuson-Stevens Act has made American fisheries arguably the most sustainable of any nation on earth. Our success in managing both commercial and recreational fisheries stems from the law’s clear and strong mandate to manage fisheries on a regional basis using the best scientific information available. I recognize the tremendous economic, recreational, and cultural value that fishing brings to Americans from coast to coast, and as President I will continue to support this science-first approach to ensure our natural resources are accessible to all Americans today and for generations to come.

● Do you support legislation in the House and Senate known generally as “sportsmen’s acts”?

I support keeping public lands public, ensuring increased access to public lands and waters for sportsmen and women, increasing funding to support State and Tribal wildlife programs, the protection and restoration of wetlands, and funding for federal, state and local land acquisition. Progress in all these areas will help us to meet my goal of doubling the outdoor economy over the next ten years.

● What is your position on climate change and what are some of the key policies you will seek to enact or change?

When it comes to the threat of climate change, the science is crystal clear and it is imperative that we act. Denialism or sheer defeatism in the face of the climate threat is reckless and irresponsible. That’s why I am committed as President to fulfilling our commitments under the historic Paris Climate Agreement and to making the United States into the world’s clean energy superpower of the 21st century. On Day One, I will set three bold, national goals that will be achieved within 10 years of taking office:

• Generate enough renewable energy to power every home in America, with half a billion solar panels installed by the end of my first term. • Cut energy waste in American homes, schools, hospitals and offices by a third and make American manufacturing the cleanest and most efficient in the world. • Reduce American oil consumption by a third through cleaner fuels and more efficient cars, boilers, ships, and trucks.

As part of that effort, I will launch a $60 billion Clean Energy Challenge to forge new federal partnerships with states, cities, and rural communities across the country that are ready to take the lead on clean energy and energy efficiency. This includes expanding the Rural Utilities Service and other successful USDA energy programs and ensuring the federal government is a partner, not an obstacle, in getting low-cost wind and other renewable energy from rural communities to the rest of the country, and helping electric coops capture the clean energy and energy efficiency opportunities of the 21st century.

I am also committed to expanding renewable energy production on public lands and waters by ten-fold over 10 years, taking a responsible approach to harness untapped potential on these lands. In addition, a focus on protecting and restoring wetlands, grasslands, rangelands, forests and other key natural landscapes will improve climate resiliency and provide positive climate impacts.

**● What is your position on efforts to clarify wetlands designations under the Clean Water Act? **

The Clean Water Act is one of our most successful environmental regulations, helping fulfill the basic right of all Americans to accessing clean water. Not too long ago our rivers were literally on fire, and polluters were free to dump toxic chemicals at will. The Clean Water Act not only stemmed these environmental disasters but helped to reverse course and restore healthy swimmable and fishable waters for all Americans to enjoy. Providing certainty under the law is an important goal. Importantly, any effort to provide clarity on what is covered and not under the Clean Water Act must incorporate the legitimate concerns of farmers and ranchers. As President, I will direct Federal agencies to establish a meaningful process that effectively communicates the problem, and to work with stakeholders to gain input on how best to address the challenges. Moreover, whenever a rule is completed, agencies will engage farming and ranching communities to explain how they will be impacted.