Oil shale is getting so much attention lately that it’s starting to feel like a cure-all pill for whatever ails us.
Need more energy? Have some oil shale.
Fiscal cliff got you down? How about a little oil shale?
The problem with this assessment is, fundamentally, we’re just not there yet. We have been hearing this same promise for decades. A viable commercial oil shale industry has yet to exist. And as we move forward, oil shale development needs to be done with considerable thought and caution.
“Research must precede any commercial leasing,” the letter states, “and that research must demonstrate that extraction technologies and mitigation options exist that will protect clean air and water, conserve fish and wildlife, and sustain the economies that depend on those resources.”
To be clear, we are not saying oil shale is bad – the problem is it’s too early to tell. There are significant concerns still associated with oil shale development – concerns like water supply, water quality and impacts to wildlife populations. They should not be taken lightly.
This is classic, “cart before the horse” type behavior – but it seems the BLM is working to right that situation. Its plan, released in early November, balances acres dedicated to oil shale research with protecting fish and wildlife habitat.
Here’s what sportsmen are saying: Go slow. Let’s do this right. Think clearly. Evaluate what we stand to gain against what we could lose. And if we get to a point where oil shale technology is viable and impacts are acceptable, then we can make decisions about when and where. But we’re not there just yet.
Congressional Bickering Leaves Sportsmen in the Lurch
We called the Sportsmen’s Act easy to love for a reason. Until yesterday it appeared that a large majority of lawmakers in Congress agreed.
The bill recognizes the broad economic and social impacts of conservation, improves access for sportsmen and supports habitat conservation. It integrates 17 separate bills, including the Making Public Lands Public Access Act, the Permanent Electronic Duck Stamp Act and the Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act. It also would reauthorize the North American Wetlands Conservation Act and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
Until yesterday’s Senate vote, the Sportsmen’s Act had passed all legislative hurdles with widespread support from both political parties – a rarity in such a divisive political environment. But somehow, even after Americans expressed strong distaste for partisan politics, dysfunctional gridlock returned to Congress.
With their backs up against the so-called fiscal cliff, elected officials from both sides of the aisle locked antlers again. American sportsmen are paying the price.
Hunters and anglers are experiencing the fallout from congressional inaction as access dwindles, development diminishes opportunities for sportsmen and funding for conservation disappears.
A diverse alliance of powerful groups ranging from the National Rifle Association to The Nature Conservancy has joined forces in support of the Sportsmen’s Act. Together, in the spirit of Theodore Roosevelt, we will continue to stand up for sportsmen.
The TRCP and our partners are working with congressional leaders and members of the sporting community to form partnerships on the Hill and in the field that will benefit our sporting traditions for current and future generations.
In the coming days and weeks we will be asking for your voice in this fight. Be ready.
Presidential Candidates Should Make Energy and Public Lands in the West a Priority
“Sportsmen and women understand that not every president can be as passionate an outdoorsman as Theodore Roosevelt. We do expect, however, that candidates for president understand the importance of keeping public lands in public hands while also acting on the need to balance energy development with abundant fish and wildlife populations, clean air and water, and recreational opportunities that include hunting and fishing. Both candidates would do well to listen to sportsmen and women.”
By Jason Schratwieser, Conservation Director, International Game Fish Association
It’s been a long, slow road, but the Billfish Conservation Act of 2011 has been signed into law by the president. The new law prohibits the importation of marlin, sailfish and spearfish in the continental United States. It represents the culmination of nearly four years of sweat equity overcoming hurdles, roadblocks and naysayers.
The process began from concerns raised from members of the International Game Fish Association, a TRCP partner group, about the large quantities of marlin and sailfish that were being commercially harvested in Central America. For some time, IGFA also had periodically sent letters of opposition to restaurants and grocery stores known to serve or carry marlin and sailfish. However we didn’t really know how big the problem was until went looking.
In 2007 IGFA commissioned a report to investigate the global billfish market. We wanted to find out which countries were harvesting, exporting and importing the most billfish. What we found shocked us. With an average of 2.7 million pounds each year, the U.S. was squarely identified as the world’s biggest importer of billfish.
At that point it became clear that a reactive approach of writing letters to businesses selling billfish was not the answer. To tackle the problem IGFA partnered with the National Coalition for Marine Conservation to develop a proactive campaign to educate the American populace as to what billfish are, their imperiled status and their importance to ocean ecosystems.
The Take Marlin off the Menu campaign was successful in that several very prominent restaurants, grocery stores and even celebrity chefs decided to go “marlin free.” Interactive media polling also showed that the campaign was making an impact in consumers’ perceptions about importing, selling and consuming billfish. Still, we knew the only way we could get rid of America’s dubious distinction was to seek legislation that would end these practices outright.
In 2010 we were successful in introducing legislation in Congress that would ban the commercial harvest, sale and importation of billfish in the U.S. Our billfish report found that annual U.S. billfish market revenues (including harvest and sale from Hawaii) totaled a measly .07 percent of the entire U.S. commercial fishing industry. Nevertheless, Hawaii proved to be an unsurpassable obstacle in the bill’s progress.
By the time the next congressional session convened, we had a new strategy. In order to avoid the ire of commercial fishing interests in Hawaii, we created a carve-out that would exclude Hawaii and the Pacific Insular Territories. Billfish no longer would be able to be imported into the continental U.S., but Hawaii still would be able to harvest and sell billfish commercially. While not our ideal strategy, the strategy allowed us to reach our primary objective: ending the reign of the U.S. as the world’s largest importer of billfish. With the leadership of Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana and Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida, the Billfish Conservation Act of 2011 was introduced in the 112th Congress.
We felt that closing the U.S. to billfish imports would do two things: (1) close a sizeable piece of the international billfish market and (2) position the U.S. to take a more aggressive approach to international billfish management and conservation. The Billfish Conservation Act already is making waves around the world, with groups in other countries considering similar measures.
I suppose the old adage “change is slow” is true. But, it sure is sweet when it finally happens.
This determination effectively ends all legal uncertainty for the 2001 roadless rule and assures its permanence into the foreseeable future.
Areas managed under the roadless rule include renowned big-game hunting destinations such as the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming, the Elkhorn Mountains in Montana and the Warner Range of Oregon and California.
These large blocks of undeveloped public lands provide the habitat security necessary for wildlife managers to provide substantial public hunting opportunities for game such as mule deer and elk.
The great thing about the roadless rule is that it represents a balanced and reasonable approach for the management of high value, undeveloped public lands. The rule conserves roadless areas while providing management allowances to protect communities from wildfire, restore habitat and ecosystems and even develop oil and gas, as long as this development is done in ways that maintain the areas’ backcountry values.
With big-game hunting seasons commencing across the country, sportsmen can celebrate by grabbing our gear and setting out in pursuit of deer, elk and other critters on America’s national forest lands. This Supreme Court decision represents an unqualified victory for our community.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
WHAT WILL FEWER HUNTERS MEAN FOR CONSERVATION?
The precipitous drop in hunter participation should be a call to action for all sportsmen and women, because it will have a significant ripple effect on key conservation funding models.