Mia Sheppard

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posted in: General

January 19, 2016

An Ode to Oregon, Access, and My Dogs

For our Oregon field rep, the events of the last three weeks are personal. So is her story

Oregon is my home, and it’s an incredibly special place, where I have access to hunting and fishing in rugged country with the most spectacular views, including more than 10 million acres of public land. Practically out my back door, I can float, fish a run, catch a steelhead, and then go for a hike with the dogs and gun searching for chukars on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) backcountry land. I’ve hunted places like the Deschutes River  for years, so I know exactly where to go to find the spots where sagebrush and bitterbrush intermingle and birds are abundant. I’ve crossed many a rusty fence and watched chukars dive from the breaks to escape #6-shot pellets by the dozen.

Image courtesy of Marty Sheppard.

This is the ultimate opportunity to experience wide-open, undisturbed landscapes and watch my dogs work. Cedar, our 10-year-old veteran Pudelpointer, does most of the work while Eddy, the new Munsterlander pup, plays. We’re not even 15 minutes from the boat, at times, before Cedar smells the air vigorously and starts following the scent.

His tail starts wagging faster and faster, his shoulders drop, he points, and starts creeping in. Maybe he stops, moves in a little closer, and suddenly the birds flush, just out of range. No shots taken. We’ll keep working the sagebrush flat while the wind is in our favor. In the distance, I’ve noticed mule deer watching our every move. We hike back and float to the next corner, where we can cover new territory, that hasn’t been hunted today.

These areas—where muleys and bighorn sheep are more likely to be found than reporters and news-trucks—they’re mine and they’re yours. That’s why the last few weeks have been so frustrating. The disruption caused by the extremists occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is taxing for the people who live and recreate here. The Refuge is typically open to hunting and fishing—but not today. What they’re doing is at odds with everything I love about a day like the one I’ve just described.

I’m anxious to get back to the boat, and float to the next corner. I think we all are.

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Steve Kline

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posted in: General

Glassing The Hill: January 19 – 22

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

The Senate is in session this week. The House is not in session, but a field hearing is planned.

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

On your mark. Get set. And go, already. After many postponements, the mark-up of a portion of the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act will proceed on Wednesday in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. (Reminder: The other half of the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act was cleared by the Energy and Natural Resources Committee by voice vote in November.) The bill before the committee includes a reauthorization of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, TSCA reform related to lead fishing tackle, and several other provisions. Both bills are eventually expected to be considered on the Senate floor together.  

Potential positive amendments that may come up during the mark-up include reauthorization of the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act, reauthorization of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the National Fish Habitat Conservation Act. However, TRCP has joined many of our partner groups in opposing a very short-sighted trapping amendment that may be offered by Senator Booker (D-NJ).

It also looks increasingly likely that the Energy Policy Modernization Act, a bipartisan energy package passed by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in July, will receive Senate floor time in the near future. Should this legislation pass, the Senate will be able to conference with the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act, which the House passed in early December.

Last Wednesday, the House passed a resolution of disapproval of the Clean Water Rule that seeks to clarify the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. The President is expected to veto the resolution as early as this week.

Meanwhile, the Senate will spend the bulk of the week on legislation that would ‘pause’ the entry of Syrian and Iraqi refugees into the United States.

What We’re Tracking

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Energy of the near future, with a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on future outlooks for energy and commodity markets

Friday, January 22, 2016

Multi-use resource management on public lands. Local input on legal consistency and BLM planning will be heard in a series of House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands field hearings in St. George, Utah.

Kristyn Brady

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posted in: General

January 13, 2016

Another Vote, Another Veto: Congress Moves to Derail Protection for Smaller Streams and Wetlands (Again)

The latest attempt to strike down the Clean Water Rule would prevent protection of headwater streams and wetlands

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives took advantage of a rarely-used legislative process known as the Congressional Review Act to attempt to kill the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers’ Clean Water Rule, which clarifies Clean Water Act jurisdiction over headwater streams and wetlands. The Senate used the same expedited process to pass this joint resolution (S.J.Res.22) back in November 2015, so the bill now goes to the President, who has threatened to veto it. Sportsmen urge him to follow through on that threat.

Image courtesy of Jonathan Stumpf.

“Once again, Congress has proven that they’re way out of touch with sportsmen on clean water,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Rather than sending trout and salmon spawning areas and waterfowl nesting habitat back into regulatory confusion, hunters and anglers want to see the Clean Water Rule implemented, so we can leave a legacy of healthy waterways for the next generation of sportsmen and women, while preserving existing assurances for farmers, ranchers, and foresters.”

By passing this resolution, lawmakers are disregarding the views of nearly 900,000 Americans, who were vocal in their support of the Clean Water Rule during the public comment period, and 83 percent of hunters and anglers polled, who said they want the Clean Water Act to protect smaller streams and wetlands.

Earlier this week, the TRCP sent Congress a letter opposing S.J. Res. 22 on behalf of eight hunting and fishing groups. The letter says “the Clean Water Rule will translate directly to an improved bottom line for America’s outdoor industry,” which, in the sportfishing sector alone, accounts for 828,000 jobs, nearly $50 billion in annual retail sales, and an economic impact of about $115 billion a year.

Learn more about the Clean Water Rule here.

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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.

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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