Kristyn Brady

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March 25, 2015

Critter Madness fan prediction: Elk will go all the way

Josh Grieser from Colorado Springs, Colo., was selected as the first winner of our Critter Madness bracket challenge, and we sent him some great gear from Orvis, Buck Knives, and Berkley. He plans to use his prizes on his next trip to Eleven Mile Canyon on the South Platte River, where he’s pictured here fishing for brown trout.

Josh Grieser fishing the South Platte River.

TRCP: Josh, which species do you see going all the way in our Critter Madness Tournament?

JG: I think Critter Madness is a great idea, and I think that elk are going to take the whole thing. I’d definitely like to see steelhead make it pretty far, because I’m originally from the Pacific Northwest and grew up fishing for them, but elk are high on every hunter’s list. I bet, across the country, almost everyone who likes to hunt would love a shot at a big bull at least once in their lifetime.

TRCP: Does that include you?

JG: Oh, yeah! My wife and I recently got into bowhunting for elk, and we’ve got a pretty intense off-season training regimen going, so we’ll be prepared to stalk in close. I love that, especially with archery, you really have to work for it and put in the miles. We’re also planning to put in for our first mule deer tag this year.

Congratulations, Josh, and we hope you have great hunting and fishing this year!

Vote now for your chance to win prizes from Abu Garcia, Remington, and Yeti.

Want to read more fan predictions? Check out Brett Fitzgerald’s picks here.

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Snapshots of Success: Lemhi Valley, Idaho

From California to New York, from Montana to Mississippi, hunters and anglers are leading important efforts to improve the quality and quantity of our water resources. The most successful conservation efforts are locally driven with a broad base of support, including federal financial and technical assistance.  They honor and respect the traditions of hunting, fishing, farming and ranching while protecting the resources we share.

In a report released on February 26, 2015, the TRCP showcases ten examples of collaborative, sportsmen-led efforts and the importance of federal funding that fuels them.  The lessons sportsmen have learned executing these projects tell a convincing story about the need for responsible water management and adequate funding.

Here is lesson three from Lemhi Valley, Idaho:

Joining forces to rejuvenate the Lemhi River: Lemhi River restoration

Immediately after Idaho rancher Merrill Beyeler met with a state fish and game officer to discuss how best to keep grazing cattle away from the Lemhi River, he started getting calls from neighbors.
Photo courtesy of Bill Mullins.

“My neighbors wanted to know if I was going to jail,” Beyeler said. “That’s how bad the mistrust was at the time.”

That was more than 20 years ago. Funding was scarce. But Merrill Beyeler’s initial conversation eventually brought together the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and state agencies, which found funding to improve fencing on Beyeler’s ranch. And a major conservation partnership began.

The Problem

Before the partnership, irrigation along the Lemhi resulted in polluted water, limited flow and increased water temperatures. Irrigators had also installed diversions that prevented traditional spawning migrations for Chinook salmon. Water quality and quantity suffered, and so did salmon populations.

But relationships improved. Local landowners and irrigators along the Lemhi eventually teamed up with The Nature Conservancy to use Bonneville Power Administration grant funding through the Columbia Basin Water Transactions Program (CBWTP) to restore the river and redevelop the natural habitat for salmon and many other fish, wildlife and vegetation.

How It Worked

With funding from the CBWTP, project leaders acquired a 630-acre conservation easement allowing local landowners to protect 7.5 miles of river habitat. The project allows ranchers and landowners to continue their long-term stewardship of

The new channel.

their land while meeting the conservation needs of the ecosystem.

It’s not just the fish that benefit from the project. With help from The Nature Conservancy, farmers and ranchers in the Lemhi Valley installed high-efficiency sprinkler systems, which means less demand for river water for irrigation—and more water for fish.

Ranching and Stewardship

Merrill Beyeler, now a Republican state representative in Idaho, entered into a conservation easement with The Nature Conservancy. The agreement allowed him to purchase another ranch with an existing easement, almost doubling the size of his property. The expansion of the property provides more flexibility while adjusting to the conservation standards set forth by the easement. Grazing areas can be rested and rotated with greater frequency, and cattle have been kept off sensitive riverbanks without negatively impacting the ranch’s bottom line.

Lemhi River chinook salmon.

In recent years, Beyeler has witnessed the Lemhi River rush back to life, rejuvenating the entire valley and the economy it supports. Fish and wildlife have reappeared, and local communities see children return to establish their own families and businesses. Merrill Beyeler sees conservation as a catalyst for economic opportunity, business diversity and community vitality.

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March 24, 2015

Snapshots of Success: Grand Junction, Colorado

From California to New York, from Montana to Mississippi, hunters and anglers are leading important efforts to improve the quality and quantity of our water resources. The most successful conservation efforts are locally driven with a broad base of support, including federal financial and technical assistance.  They honor and respect the traditions of hunting, fishing, farming and ranching while protecting the resources we share.

In a report released on February 26, 2015, the TRCP showcases ten examples of collaborative, sportsmen-led efforts and the importance of federal funding that fuels them.  The lessons sportsmen have learned executing these projects tell a convincing story about the need for responsible water management and adequate funding.

Here is lesson two from Grand Junction, Colorado:

Sweet Success From  a Salty Situation: Colorado River salinity control and water flow restoration

Grand Valley canal.

Thanks to federal funding, innovative water managers and organizations like The Nature Conservancy, both endangered fish and local farmers benefit in Colorado’s Grand Valley surrounding the city of Grand Junction.

Cities as far away as Los Angeles and farmers as far downstream as Yuma, Arizona, also benefit from salinity control in the Grand Valley made possible by federal grants coordinated with major state, power user, and irrigator cost sharing.

How did it happen?
As part of a comprehensive program to control the loading of more than half a million tons of salt every year into the Colorado River from irrigation in the Grand Valley, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation engineers began lining sections of the 100-year old Government Highline Canal in the 1980s. The Highline Canal can divert over 1600 cubic feet of water per second from the Colorado River northeast of Grand Junction, and feeds several other irrigation systems in the Grand Valley on both sides of the river, including the Orchard Mesa Canal. Many farmers, meantime, took advantage of Environmental Quality Incentives Program funding to make on-farm irrigation improvements (such as installing pipes between the canal and farms) to control salinity loading.

It didn’t take long for all this cooperative salinity control to make irrigating in the valley much more efficient. But the combined diversions by the Government Highline Canal
and the Grand Valley Irrigation Company further downstream sometimes still de-watered a 15-mile stretch of the Colorado River that is critical habitat for two endangered fish species – the Colorado pikeminnow and razorback sucker.

“Humpback Chub.” Photo courtesy of Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program.

Working with the Bureau of Reclamation, supportive water users and numerous other partners in the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program, The Nature Conservancy secured even more improvements in the efficiency of the Highline Canal. With these water savings, the Highline Canal reduced its river diversions and stored the saved water upstream, restoring flows in the river—all without reducing farm deliveries.

These most recent improvements to the Highline Canal funded by the Bureau of Reclamation through the endangered fish program include state-of-the-art computerized monitoring equipment and check dams within the main canal. Before, the Government Highline Canal often carried up to 650 cubic feet per second. Now the canal can run at a rate of about 150 cubic feet per second late in the irrigation season.

What’s next?

Today the long-term effort to keep salt out of the Colorado River runs parallel to the effort to restore the flow of water for endangered fish recovery—as water efficiency improvements near completion.

Read the full report. 

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March 22, 2015

Critter Madness Highlight Reel: The Brook Trout’s Cinderella Story

No top seed is safe in March. All it takes is one precocious upstart, a late-game surge, and just a touch of luck to knock off a heavyweight.

Kansas knows it. Villanova knows it, too. But few may know it better than the largemouth bass.

During week one of Critter Madness 2015, the top-seeded largemouth bass faced off against the eight-seed brook trout. Five thousand votes later, America’s most pursued gamefish faced defeat. In the end, 55% of voters pulled for the Northeastern native, blowing the freshwater region wide open.

And there were a few other nail-biters. Bobwhite quail captured 40% of the vote in its matchup, putting up a strong fight against the heavily favored mallard. Yellowfin tuna narrowly edged out redfish, 55% to 45%. And the pronghorn handily upset the feral pig, 70% to 30%.

The sixteen species headed into round two weren’t the only winners last week. Congratulations to Josh Grieser of Colorado, who was selected from round one voters to take home an Orvis Gale Force backpack, a TRCP Buck knife, and a pair of Berkley pliers.

As we move into round two, things are about to get really interesting. America’s favorite game animals and sport fish face off head-to-head, beak-to-beak, and fin-to-fin. How will you choose between the elk and the mule deer? We know America loves its turkey hunts, but does it love a good pheasant hunt more? And will the brook trout continue its Cinderella story into the third round?

Log in. Vote for your favorites. Enter to win a pair of Costa sunglasses. And keep it locked on Critter Madness 2015.

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March 18, 2015

Seven Reasons Why Wingshooters and Sage-Grouse Conservationists Should be Hopeful

Ongoing concern for sage-grouse resources was matched with guarded optimism by a room full of state, federal, and non-profit wildlife conservation professionals at a gathering during the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference in Omaha, Nebraska, last week. The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership organized the event to celebrate the largest landscape-scale conservation effort in the history of contemporary wildlife management on behalf of this threatened game bird.

Sage-grouse in the company of other sagebrush species. Image courtesy of Sasha Nelson, Conservation Colorado.

The fact that a once abundant, widely-distributed, and liberally-harvested game species is now at population levels low enough to be considered for listing as threatened or endangered—that decision will be made in September—has greatly concerned many. But habitat loss impacts more than just sage-grouse. Sagebrush ecosystems are critically important to more than 350 species of plants and animals, including mule deer, pronghorn, and elk. Thriving populations of sage-grouse would indicate healthy sagebrush ecosystems, and this is the bigger-picture goal of those working to restore this troubled landscape, many of whom were in attendance as the TRCP expressed its gratitude for their efforts.

A presentation from the TRCP’s Tom Franklin at the NAWNRC reception.

Collaboration between the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, Natural Resource Conservation Service, and the states has been augmented by the participation of sportsmen, conservation groups, academic and research institutions, private landowners, and a multitude of other stakeholders in the energy and agriculture industries. At the event, posters and displays from many TRCP partners, including the Sage Grouse Initiative, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, North American Grouse Partnership, Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, Mule Deer Foundation, and the High Lonesome Ranch, demonstrated their efforts to conserve sage-grouse and sagebrush ecosystems

The highlight of the evening was a fascinating and impressive presentation by Jason Weller, Chief of the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). In its Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI), the NRCS has played a tremendous role in working proactively with private landowners to balance sustainable ranching with sage-grouse conservation. Under Weller’s leadership, the NRCS is demonstrating solid results, continued investments, and committed stakeholders as they remain steadfast in their dedication to protecting and bringing back the greater sage-grouse. Weller shared some outstanding achievements of that program:

  • In the five years since SGI was started, NRCS has worked with 1,129 participating ranches in 11 western states, and SGI and its partners have invested $424.5 million and conserved 4.4 million acres—that’s an area twice the size of Yellowstone National Park.
  • These investments have focused attention on large populations by successfully targeting 75 percent of investments inside Priority Areas for Conservation (PACs).
  • Conservation easement acreage has increased 18-fold under SGI. Of the more than 450,000 acres of easement, more than 80 percent are inside occupied habitats and 94 percent provide permanent protection.
  • Conifer removal has reclaimed 405,241 acres of otherwise suitable habitat. Nearly half of these acres are in Oregon, where the threat to habitat has now been reduced by more than 68 percent on priority private lands in the state.
  • Additional resources are enabling SGI to nearly double past achievements, and an estimated 8 million acres should be conserved by 2018.
  • Taking a business-like approach, Weller is asking each state to come up with an investment strategy for the next four years.
  • SGI will receive $198 million from NRCS starting in 2015 – this is a new commitment to conservation well into the future. Combined with partner contributions, this will bring the total SGI investment to an estimated $751 million.

Event attendees were also treated to a sneak preview of “The Sagebrush Sea,” a new film about sagebrush and sage-grouse sponsored by the George B. Storer Foundation and produced by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology for the NATURE series on PBS. The episode will air on May 20.

A sage-grouse lek in western Wyoming. Image courtesy of John Dahlke.

As they celebrate the heroic progress made in the sagebrush-steppe ecosystems thus far, the TRCP and its partners are continuing to press federal, state, and private landowners to create solid plans and make sufficient commitments to keeping this iconic bird of the American West off the threatened or endangered lists.

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.

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