By Kurt Ratzlaff
Kansas BHA Chapter Chair
The words “What the heck am I doing here?” rattled around in my mind several times during the 48 hours I recently spent in Washington DC. But there I was, walking the ‘halls of Congress’, no less. To say I’d never done that before would be the understatement of a lifetime!
The Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition had contacted the Kansas Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers (and a few other chapters) to see if any Board members could go to D.C. and talk to the Kansas senators and representatives about the importance of maintaining the LWCF funding we all recently worked so hard for and won. I ended up being the one that could go. This is vitally important stuff! So, I went. A fish out of water doesn’t begin to describe the situation.
But why does anyone need to go to DC on LWCF issues? Didn’t we win when the Great American Outdoors Act was passed by an overwhelming margin in both houses and President Trump signed it into law, saying it was one of his major accomplishments as President? Isn’t this particular war over? Not hardly. Four bills from Republican House members have been introduced that would substantially impact the effectiveness of the LWCF. Besides those bills, many other attempts are being made to reduce the impact of the ‘permanent’ funding of LWCF. Don’t forget, this is Washington DC in the middle of a ‘debt crisis’.
Meetings were quickly planned with Senators Marshall and Moran and Representatives Davids (3rd District) and Estes (4th District). Meetings with Rep. Mann and LaTurner could not be fit into the tight schedule. Much to my surprise, the LWCF Coalition representative and I actually met with Rep. Davids and Sen. Marshall. We had excellent discussions with them and their staff on the importance of the LWCF and potential future projects, as well. Rep. Davids even asked to be advised when BHA has service projects in her area so that she can attend, if possible. Sen. Marshall was very impressed with our collaboration with the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks on our Timber Stand Improvement projects at El Dorado Wildlife Area. We did not actually meet with Sen. Moran or Rep. Estes, but we did have very good conversations with members of each staff.
As I look back on that extremely fast trip, I am reminded of a line written by Kansas Board Member Matt Nicholl in a recent Kansas BHA monthly newsletter. In that message he wrote that Kansas BHA members are the Watchers on the Wall. I did want the Senators and Representatives to know we ARE watching. We will continue to watch. We pay attention and we are passionate about the outdoors. We will celebrate with them when achievements are accomplished. We will be vigilant and spring into action when attempts are made to compromise on conservation issues. We much prefer celebrations, but we are prepared for both.
The LWCF Coalition is a collection of very diverse groups, all with conservation needs that the LWCF can assist. The Coalition put together an amazing map Past projects – The Land and Water Conservation Fund (tplgis.org) that easily lets you see the projects that funds from LWCF have impacted. It’s a real education to look in the area where you live and see what has already been accomplished. Thanks so much to the Coalition for giving this country hick a chance to speak his mind to Senators and Representatives on issues that truly matter to Kansas BHA members. And now, this little fishy is safely back in his little pond!
Caption: Kansas Chapter Chair Kurt Ratzlaff meets with U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids of Kansas' 3rd District to discuss the importance of LWCF to public lands and waters in the U.S.