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April 5, 2016

Glassing The Hill: April 4 – 8

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

The Senate will be in session this week, while House members continue to work in their districts until April 12.

Road blocks continue for the bipartisan energy bill. Consideration of the Energy Policy Modernization Act on the Senate floor has once again been pushed to a later date. As you may remember, the bipartisan energy bill was a potential vehicle for a portion of the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act. Senator Murkowski (R-AK) and leadership have been trying to resolve issues stemming from the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, and a legislative hold on the bill from Senator Lee (R-UT) since February. The bill has to come to the Senate floor before May, when the Senate will likely turn its attention to appropriations.

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

In the meantime, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell decided to move forward with “The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2016” (S. 2658). The FAA bill is certainly not a small issue, since it funds air traffic control and other aviation advancements, so it could potentially occupy the Senate floor for weeks, thereby complicating the path forward for the energy bill.

And, speaking of appropriations… Because of the Republican and Democratic conventions at the end of July and the presidential elections in November, Congress has a narrow window to focus on appropriations. This week, various Senate appropriations subcommittees will continue to examine agency budgets, with an eye towards having individual appropriations bills on the Senate floor in May. Reminder: The goal is to pass the 12 individual appropriations bills needed to fund the government, rather than a sweeping omnibus funding package, by September 30 for the first time in—well, a long, long time.

The House is slightly further along than the Senate when it comes to appropriations, and several subcommittees plan to begin marking up their spending bills as early as next week. The Energy and Water appropriations bill is one of the first, and it’s one to watch because 120 House Republicans are requesting that appropriators add a rider to block funding for the Clean Water Rule that sportsmen celebrated last year.

We’ll be scanning for other riders that are bad for fish and wildlife habitat, access, or conservation funding throughout the appropriations process.

It’s ba-ack: An old threat re-emerges to undo sage-grouse conservation. Last year, Congressman Bishop (R-UT), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, added a greater sage-grouse provision to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in order to give governors veto authority over federal conservation plans aimed at boosting critical greater sage-grouse habitat. Because of good work by lawmakers and sportsmen, the Bishop provision was not included in the NDAA that was eventually signed by the President.

Now, Congressman Bishop has introduced a standalone bill that, while not as sweeping as last year’s efforts, would still potentially jeopardize the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision not to list the sage grouse for Endangered Species Act protection. A mark-up of the bill has yet to be scheduled in the House Natural Resources Committee, but expect a hearing on this issue in the near future. We also anticipate that this provision will be included in the House version of the NDAA, scheduled to be marked up by the Armed Services Committee on April 27.

What We’re Tracking

Budget requests for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and U.S. Forest Service

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Rural development programs and their economic impacts, to be discussed by the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Subcommittee on Rural Development and Energy in a hearing about the U.S. Department of Agriculture initiatives

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Habitat science and research will be on the table in a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on conducting oversight for the U.S. Geological Survey, the agency that collects, monitors, analyzes, and provides scientific understanding about natural resource conditions, issues, and problems.

Water infrastructure and costs, up for debate in a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing

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Jonathan Stumpf

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posted in: General

March 31, 2016

Spot the Hoax in Our April Fool’s Day Quiz

Did we make up these wacky headlines? Take the quiz to reveal the real stories

Mia Sheppard

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posted in: General

Compassion: A Surprising Ingredient in the Recipe for Cool, Clean Water

Our Oregon field rep hangs up her waders for a high-profile public-speaking opportunity in D.C., where she discovers a spirit of hope for water solutions

Last year, Oregon experienced the worst drought on record, with many adverse effects on our rivers and fish. I saw firsthand the results of drought and dam regulations in my own backyard on the Deschutes River, renowned for its native Redside trout. Water temperatures reached up to 74 degrees as salmon arrived, searching for a cooler refuge from the Columbia River—but the cooler water wasn’t there. The rising water temperatures caused an algae bloom that clung to the banks and rocks. Warm-water macroinvertabrates, such as water skippers, were abundant, but the expected cool-water mayflies and stoneflies were few and far between.

The river I knew was almost unrecognizable.

Image courtesy of Marty Sheppard.

Access to suitable water resources seems like a human right, but our fish and wildlife have rights to clean, cool water, too. As an angler, I know that salmon, steelhead, and trout need the right water conditions to thrive. While there are some policies in place that begin to help during a drought crisis, we need federal decision-makers to prioritize actions that invest long-term in better water quality for healthy, viable rivers and our outdoor recreation opportunities.

I recently hung up my waders to walk the halls of the Eisenhower building, part of the White House complex, in a navy blue suit. And I felt the energy of change, as people hustled around me.

In celebration of World Water Day, the White House convened a water summit where innovators, policy-makers, advocates, and media were gathered to discuss our country’s water future. I was honored to attend and share my personal connection with water through fishing, especially as one of the only representatives of the sportsmen’s community. I had three minutes to reflect on the importance of considering fish, wildlife, and outdoor opportunities in concert with infrastructure challenges, human consumption, and water use for agriculture and forestry. I talked about the Deschutes and found myself getting choked up as I told the crowd, “When fish lose, we lose.” I guess that was the moment that I really felt the impact of what I’d seen during the drought and dam regulators were drawing  the warmer surface water of Lake Billy Chinook

Image courtesy of Marty Sheppard.

I felt confident and composed, however, when I shared that the TRCP’s petition recognizing serious threats to rivers and streams and calling on federal decision-makers for action has been signed by more than 1,000 sportsmen and women. It was nice to know these kindred spirits were standing with me, in a sense, at the podium.

As the summit came to a close, Pueblo Tribal Councilman Nelson Cordova from Taos, New Mexico, recited a prayer in his native tongue asking for the wisdom, strength, and compassion to deal with our water issues. Compassion, which was the last thing I expected from a D.C. crowd in suits and heels, was certainly what I heard from longtime colleagues, strangers, and local anglers after my speech. I’d shown more emotion than I’d intended, but many people assured me they felt the same way.

If you want to learn more about the changing water conditions on the Deschutes River, click here.

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March 30, 2016

Critter Madness: The Road to Victory Ends Here

The semi-finals of the 2016 Critter Madness tournament have come to a close. Thank you to all those who voted and entered for a chance to win a brand new TRCP-branded YETI cooler!

After the final votes were cast, the elk and the rainbow trout are moving on to the finals in this winner-take-all matchup. Both the elk and the rainbow won in convincing fashion to set up this sportsmen’s favorite heavyweight bout for the finals.

The rainbow trout comes into the finals as the only non-one seed to make it into semi-final play. They beat the salmon “kings” handedly, showing they do in fact have what it takes to match up against any critter in this tournament. The elk, however, have shown their dominance through every round of this tournament, beating all of their opponents by a combined 543 votes! The reigning champ from last year made no mistakes, steamrolling their way back to the finals again this year as they look to repeat.

On paper this is how a lot of sportsmen saw the tournament going. There were a few upsets along the way, a few close calls, and a few crazy battles, but in the end, it all comes down to this. King of the North American game vs. the crown jewel of America’s coldwater game fish.

One lucky winner will start their next hunting season off right with a brand new Mossberg Silver Reserve 12-gauge shotgun, so be sure to vote everyday!

Rob Thornberry

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posted in: General

March 29, 2016

The legacy of Idaho’s High Divide

All hunters and anglers should join me in calling for conservation of intact and undeveloped backcountry areas

Like most of my neighbors, I live in eastern Idaho because of the outdoors. Some days that is the clear water of the Henry’s Fork. Other days it is the sweet convergence of sage and timber, where I hunt grouse.

Last fall, I spent a day on the High Divide between Idaho and Montana. It was one of the coldest days of the year and there was a stiff breeze as I climbed the ridge. Hunting seasons were closed, so a camera was my only gear.

During a quick break to catch my breath, I spotted nine bull elk trying to sneak back toward the cover of timber. Two spikes, a rag horn with a misshapen antler and six bruisers stood on the ridgetop, providing a great photo and making my heart race with a hunter’s anticipation.

These elk were standing on Bureau of Land Management public lands, which belong to all of us.

Image courtesy of Mike Clements.

The High Divide includes three million acre area of BLM land that runs west from Sand Creek winter range, over the Gilmore Summit, and to high benches of the Pahsimeroi River. It is the Donkey Hills and the foothills of Bell Mountain. It is a place where cellphones are rendered largely useless and solitude is easily found.

The plans that help guide how the BLM manages these lands are decades old and in need of revision to ensure the future of these unique landscapes with the best science and public input. Revisions to the BLM Upper Snake plan have been in the works for a number of years but are yet to be completed. Planning for the Salmon and Challis areas will begin in coming years.

It is important that the BLM does not delay and moves forward with planning across this landscape. I’d encourage all hunters and anglers to get involved in this public process and join me in calling for conservation of intact and undeveloped backcountry areas that are prized for hunting and wildlife habitat.

Many will – and should – have a say in BLM’s resource and travel plans, but it is up to the sporting community to band together and stress the value of these important wildlife corridors, mating grounds and winter ranges.

In 1912 Theodore Roosevelt said, “There can be no greater issue than that of conservation in this country.”

Roosevelt made conservation a top-tier national issue. We should follow his lead. To ensure the viability of critical habitats and solitary places, we must plan carefully today.

For more information, visit SportsmensCountry.org and speak up for BLM public lands.

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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