Saturday, March 25, 2017

Inside the Trump admin's favorite conservation coalition

Corbin Hiar, E&E News reporter

On Ryan Zinke's first full day leading the Interior Department, he hosted top officials from more than a dozen sportsmen's groups — some of which were returning to the secretary's wood-paneled suite for the first time in years. The gathering provided a glimpse of both how Zinke's conservation priorities will differ from his predecessor's and which organizations he's most likely to consult. All but four of the 19 groups represented that day had one thing in common: They are part of American Wildlife Conservation Partners (AWCP), a little-known consortium of sportsmen's groups that is poised to wield considerable influence at Interior in the coming years. Some of the partner groups that sent executives to the meeting have deep ties to President Trump and Zinke. The National Rifle Association, which had little high-level contact with Interior during the Obama era, spent more $30.3 million during the 2016 race in support of Trump or targeting Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. That was more than any other outside group, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a money in politics watchdog organization. During the same election cycle, the Safari Club International donated $10,000 to the campaign of Zinke, who until earlier this month was Montana's lone Republican House member. Other partner groups, such as the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP), count Donald Trump Jr. as an active member. Along with the rest of AWCP, they will be pushing Interior to support overhauling the Endangered Species Act, reining in environmental litigation and streamlining environmental reviews of timber projects. Those were among the policy recommendations to "conserve our fish, wildlife, and habitat resources long into the 21st century" that the consortium's 47 partner organizations sent to presidential candidates last year. Though all the groups — from the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies to Ducks Unlimited — signed on to AWCP's "Wildlife for the 21st Century" report, some may push particular policies included in it, while others may stay silent. "It's pretty clear that Trump and Don Trump Jr. and Zinke all value the importance of the sportsmen community," said TRCP President and CEO Whit Fosburgh, who was also in the room with Zinke on his first full day in office. "We have access, and we're in a good position to make our voices heard in this administration."...more

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