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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

 

Coby Tigert

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posted in: General

A Great Year in the Outdoors: Brought to You by Public Lands

To enjoy our best year of hunting and fishing yet, there can be no off-season for defending sportsmen’s access

As we flip the calendar to 2016, we’re given an opportunity to reflect on the past year. It also becomes painfully clear that we have many pages to turn before another fall season of hunting and fishing. For most sportsmen, fall is the culmination of a year’s worth of anticipation and preparation. It’s all-too-brief and usually departs imperceptibly, like a ghost buck on the edge of a field at last light.

Image courtesy of Coby Tigert.

Last year, I spent September chasing screaming elk near the Wyoming border. In October, I followed my bird dogs in pursuit of sharptails and partridges in the Tex Creek Wildlife Management Area near Idaho Falls, Idaho. In November, I was trying to outsmart rutting whitetails along the Snake River. The brief opportunity to catch Macks as they ventured into shallower waters to spawn in Bear Lake or to fight a powerful Salmon River steelhead fresh from the ocean was all that could persuade me to leave the woods. As a hunter, I give that time grudgingly. As an outdoorsman, I appreciate the change of pace. A couple of late-October days wading cold water is not just good for the soul—it provides a needed respite for legs pushed to their limits over untold miles before I charge into high-desert rim rocks and canyons of the Owyhees for chukars or jump-shoot mallards on open eddies and backwaters of the Snake.

Fall wouldn’t be so special—and I wouldn’t yearn for it the way I do—without healthy fish and wildlife habitat and abundant public access to the places where we can take on these challenges. Certainly, for millions of sportsmen around the country, America’s public lands are essential to the hunting and fishing experiences we’ve come to expect.

Image courtesy of Coby Tigert.

No matter the season, we all have a joint stake in America’s network of 640 million public acres—national lands that provide the habitat needed for fish and wildlife to thrive and access for all of us to pursue our sports. This is a uniquely American concept, dating back to the days of Theodore Roosevelt, and serves as the basis of our sporting heritage. We should not take it for granted.

All year long, the TRCP will continue working to galvanize sportsmen and women against the public land transfer movement in the West—and in Washington, D.C.—and there can be no off-season when it comes to these efforts. The future of our hunting and fishing opportunities and the legacy we leave for our children depend on us standing up for public lands today.

So, while we all yearn for fall, and hopefully enjoy a good bit of meat still in the freezer, I urge you not to forget these feelings: that hunting season will always feel too damned short, but we’re privileged to enjoy. There truly is no other place in the world quite like this.

There is still time to speak up for your hunting access. Sign the petition or learn more at sportsmensaccess.org.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

SCRAPE TOGETHER A FEW BUCKS FOR CONSERVATION

Without the efforts of hunters and anglers, whitetails wouldn’t be a part of the modern American landscape. But we can’t stop there. Support our work to represent all sportsmen in Washington.

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