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posted in: General

January 13, 2016

Take Our Water Wheel of Fortune for a Spin

Interactive tool shows what is possible for water conservation with increased funding in 2016

In December, we wrote that Congress struck a spending deal that makes significant investments in conservation. While it doesn’t exactly amount to a big Powerball jackpot for sportsmen, this bill does begin to reverse a decades-long decline for funding that impacts fish and wildlife habitat.

We’ve updated this interactive water budget tool on our website, so you can get a full picture of how Congress plans to pay for water conservation, in particular, this year. But, if pie charts (even incredibly cool ones) aren’t your thing, here’s a breakdown of how spending on freshwater species, from public lands to private lands, will shape up in 2016—making your days on the water even better.

This Smart Water Program

The end-of-year spending bill extends the WaterSMART Grant Program, administered by the Bureau of Reclamation, and invests 15 percent more in the program than last year. That means more critical grants can go to locally-driven water conservation projects. Sportsmen have been asking for a bigger spend on WaterSMART and assurances that this successful program would not expire—and we got both.

A chunk of money that you won’t see reflected in our Sportsmen’s Water Budget has been earmarked for a response to Western drought, construction of fish passages, and other supplemental water conservation work. Congress has supplied this kind of funding to the Bureau of Reclamation every year since 2014, and this year $166 million—$100 million of which is for Western drought response—has been allocated. Reclamation must come up with a plan for how to spend this money by February 2016. If history is any guide, a significant chunk of the additional funds will go towards sportsmen’s needs: Last year, it was used to boost WaterSMART grant spending by 25 percent.

These Farm Bill Fundamentals

Although the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s conservation funding was already set by the 2014 Farm Bill and depends on how many farmers sign up for conservation programs, Congress still had the power to cut these programs back. Thankfully, it did not cut the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), meaning it will still receive about $1.3 billion, which could go toward enrolling farm acres in efforts to increase irrigation efficiency or select crops right for local moisture conditions.

Unfortunately, Congress did cap funding for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) at $1.329 billion—that’s a loss of about $321 million that could have gone toward improving wetlands and other wildlife habitat. This has a domino effect on the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), which helps award funds to projects that improve soil health, water quality, wildlife habitat, efficient use of water resources, and activities that otherwise support natural resources on private lands. It receives $100 million per year in base funding plus seven percent of the amounts made available for CSP, EQIP, and two other conservation programs. Therefore, the cut to EQIP will translate into a $22.5 million cut to RCPP.

But, overall, the combined effects of these funding changes at the Bureau of Reclamation and USDA mean there will be more money available this year for projects that restore fish and wildlife habitat, support agriculture, keep water in our rivers, and generally make water resources more resilient to drought, climate change, and increasing demand from a growing nation. That is all good news for sportsmen who need healthy waterways, which support the places where we love to hunt and fish.

No Dis-Chord on Clean Water

As any great jazz musician will tell you, sometimes the notes you don’t play matter as much as the ones that you do. Despite a strong push from lobbyists, Congress did not include a policy rider to block the Obama Administration’s clean water rule, which clarifies that Clean Water Act protections do indeed apply to 200,000 miles of headwater streams and certain wetlands to the benefit of trout, salmon, ducks, and other waterfowl.

The clean water rule is not out of the woods yet, so to speak (more on that later), but it appears that freshwater anglers and waterfowl hunters are starting out 2016 with some extra help from Congress.

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by:

posted in: General

Take Our Water Wheel of Fortune for a Spin

Interactive tool shows what is possible for water conservation with increased funding in 2016

In December, we wrote that Congress struck a spending deal that makes significant investments in conservation. While it doesn’t exactly amount to a big Powerball jackpot for sportsmen, this bill does begin to reverse a decades-long decline for funding that impacts fish and wildlife habitat.

We’ve updated this interactive water budget tool on our website, so you can get a full picture of how Congress plans to pay for water conservation, in particular, this year. But, if pie charts (even incredibly cool ones) aren’t your thing, here’s a breakdown of how spending on freshwater species, from public lands to private lands, will shape up in 2016—making your days on the water even better.

This Smart Water Program

The end-of-year spending bill extends the WaterSMART Grant Program, administered by the Bureau of Reclamation, and invests 15 percent more in the program than last year. That means more critical grants can go to locally-driven water conservation projects. Sportsmen have been asking for a bigger spend on WaterSMART and assurances that this successful program would not expire—and we got both.

A chunk of money that you won’t see reflected in our Sportsmen’s Water Budget has been earmarked for a response to Western drought, construction of fish passages, and other supplemental water conservation work. Congress has supplied this kind of funding to the Bureau of Reclamation every year since 2014, and this year $166 million—$100 million of which is for Western drought response—has been allocated. Reclamation must come up with a plan for how to spend this money by February 2016. If history is any guide, a significant chunk of the additional funds will go towards sportsmen’s needs: Last year, it was used to boost WaterSMART grant spending by 25 percent.

These Farm Bill Fundamentals

Although the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s conservation funding was already set by the 2014 Farm Bill and depends on how many farmers sign up for conservation programs, Congress still had the power to cut these programs back. Thankfully, it did not cut the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), meaning it will still receive about $1.3 billion, which could go toward enrolling farm acres in efforts to increase irrigation efficiency or select crops right for local moisture conditions.

Unfortunately, Congress did cap funding for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) at $1.329 billion—that’s a loss of about $321 million that could have gone toward improving wetlands and other wildlife habitat. This has a domino effect on the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), which helps award funds to projects that improve soil health, water quality, wildlife habitat, efficient use of water resources, and activities that otherwise support natural resources on private lands. It receives $100 million per year in base funding plus seven percent of the amounts made available for CSP, EQIP, and two other conservation programs. Therefore, the cut to EQIP will translate into a $22.5 million cut to RCPP.

But, overall, the combined effects of these funding changes at the Bureau of Reclamation and USDA mean there will be more money available this year for projects that restore fish and wildlife habitat, support agriculture, keep water in our rivers, and generally make water resources more resilient to drought, climate change, and increasing demand from a growing nation. That is all good news for sportsmen who need healthy waterways, which support the places where we love to hunt and fish.

No Dis-Chord on Clean Water

As any great jazz musician will tell you, sometimes the notes you don’t play matter as much as the ones that you do. Despite a strong push from lobbyists, Congress did not include a policy rider to block the Obama Administration’s clean water rule, which clarifies that Clean Water Act protections do indeed apply to 200,000 miles of headwater streams and certain wetlands to the benefit of trout, salmon, ducks, and other waterfowl.

The clean water rule is not out of the woods yet, so to speak (more on that later), but it appears that freshwater anglers and waterfowl hunters are starting out 2016 with some extra help from Congress.

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posted in: General

January 11, 2016

Glassing the Hill: January 11 – 15

The TRCP’s scouting report on sportsmen’s issues in Congress

Both the Senate and the House will be in session this week.

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

One takedown, one takeover, and (big surprise) another delay. On Wednesday, the House will vote on a resolution to invalidate the EPA’s Clean Water Rule, which, as you all know by now, will help improve protections for headwater streams and wetlands across the country. The House is expected to pass the resolution easily, but back in November a Senate vote on this resolution fell short of the majority needed to actually overturn the rulemaking. The rule has been temporarily blocked by the courts in the meantime.

Meanwhile, the standoff at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Eastern Oregon, home to critical waterfowl habitat for much of the Pacific flyway, continues. In a press release last week, TRCP denounced the protest as “a profoundly un-American course of action” through which extremists are keeping us from our public lands. If you want to take legitimate action toward improving land management decisions, sign our petition against the wholesale transfer of federal public lands—a distraction that’s holding sportsmen back from our conservation goals.

And, once again, further discussion of the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act has been postponed by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee as negotiations continue between EPW Republicans and Democrats. Ideally this package of important conservation provisions can (finally) move forward with bipartisan support before the end of this Congress.

On Tuesday at 9:00pm, tune in to President Obama’s final State of the Union address, where he’ll reportedly discuss goals for the country that go beyond his presidency. Also expected to make a cameo: a push for approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and a mention of his recent executive action on gun control.

Kristyn Brady

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posted in: General

January 7, 2016

T.R.’s Greatest Quotes and More—Right in Your Pocket

Did you know that the TRCP is on Instagram? In fact, Wired to Hunt called us one of the 70 Instagram accounts all hunters should follow. And we’re bringing plenty of feathers, fins, and fur to your feed in 2016. Need your weekly dose of inspiration from Theodore Roosevelt? We’ll be posting great quotes about conservation, hunting, wildlife, and civic duty from T.R. and other thought leaders. We’ll also share images from the field and behind-the-scenes glimpses of our staffers making an impact on the Hill and on the ground in your state. And, of course, we’ll continue to repost your fantastic #publiclandsproud images and news from our partners.

Start following us @theTRCP.

Last day to wow @fishbitemedia with your big-game #PublicLandsProud pics!

A photo posted by TRCP (@thetrcp) on

 

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posted in: General

January 4, 2016

Glassing The Hill: January 4 – 8

The TRCP’s scouting report on sportsmen’s issues in Congress

The House returns to work on Tuesday. The Senate is not in session this week.

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

Let’s hold Congress to these New Year’s resolutions. As we reported before the holidays, Congress concluded its business for 2015 with a widely-applauded omnibus funding bill that increased investments in many conservation priorities. Lawmakers did leave some important issues for the second session of the 114th Congress, kicking off this week.

In 2016, we’re anxious to finally see a fix for fire borrowing, forest management reform, and final passage of the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act, a mark-up for which may occur in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee as early as Wednesday, January 13.

Gun control and the latest incendiary push from public lands transfer advocates will also be top-of-mind in Washington and across the country this week.

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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