Rob Thornberry

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posted in: General

July 12, 2016

Rob, the Henry’s Fork, and the So-Good, Very Bad Day

A memorable day on the iconic river cost our Idaho field rep his gear, his cell phone, and his dignity, but it was still a day on the water

Sometimes a day in the woods is all about fighting through the challenges. Thrilled to be free from chores on a recent Sunday, I decided to go fishing. I had no inkling I was in for a memorable day, for something other than trout.

Green drakes hatch each June on the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River in Idaho. Anglers from around the world descend on the famed river, hoping for a chance to see huge fish cruise the clear water and destroy unsuspecting bugs. I am lucky to live within an hour of this public jewel, and as I drove north I planned my attack: I’d start at Seeley’s and visit the backwaters before returning home for dinner. It was the perfect plan for a fishing addict. As always, expectations were high and thoughts centered on success. Sure, there is always a chance that Mother Nature will rule the day, but optimism always reigns.

The day, however, quickly took a troubling turn.

Image courtesy of Scott Butner.

My first three fishing spots were filled with people. Seeley’s was choked with four anglers in a section of river built for two. On the backwaters, fishermen looked like picket fences on both sides of the river. Undaunted, I headed upriver in search of a solitary spot, laughing at my optimistic belief that I’d have the river to myself. Upon reflection, I should have returned home to fish another day, but I was too gripped by the fly-fishing fever.

The beauty of fishing public water? I can go anywhere, anytime. The challenge, at times? So can everyone else.

It wasn’t a good start, but I have spent more than 25 years on the Henry’s Fork and I had backup plans for my backup plans. I decided to hike about a mile downstream to a little reach that is too far to venture for most foot-bound anglers.

As I dropped off the sagebrush flat, I rejoiced because it appeared my spot was empty.  My excitement was brief. As I went to step on a riverside rock, I noticed a guide boat and two anglers tucked into a back eddy, largely hidden from view. Maybe I was rushing. Maybe it was the sight of other anglers. Whatever the case, at that time I stepped on a wobbly rock, which lurched to the left and bucked me face first into a mud bog dotted with cow patties.

As I spit muck from my mouth, the anglers watched in bemusement. An older lady started to offer help, but her husband chided her for leaving rising fish to help some stranger. The guide just shook his head.

Undaunted, but a tad embarrassed, I washed off in the river and listened to the woman’s advice on safe wading. I didn’t have the courage to point out that I fell walking, not wading.

As I scooped mud from my waders, I moved to my fifth choice for fishing and finally found a spot to myself. I caught fish and generally had a ball. My troubles seemed to be resolved.

On my return to the truck, I spied a nice fish feeding near the bank, not 20 yards from my earlier dive into the muck. But I rushed my cast and hooked the highest branch on a tree behind me. To retrieve my bug, I had to scramble up a rather large boulder and lean into the tree, stretching awkwardly over another rock. At exactly the wrong time, a branch broke and I tumbled. I bounced off two rocks and fell face first again, this time into the river.

To the applause of downstream anglers—who again wouldn’t leave rising fish to bother with me—I did an almost perfect belly flop.

Having already broken one rod this spring, my four-piece loaner rod was now a seven-piece. My hat floated downstream and snagged on a rock. My glasses sunk quickly to the bottom. My phone went swimming too. Actually, it seemed to float like a feather to the river’s bottom. After resting the phone in rice for 24 hours, in the hopes that it would miraculously pull through, I had to replace it.

My attempt to rescue a $1.78 fly caused more than $1,000 in damage, plus my humility.

Bemused by the arc of the day, I spilled water out of my waders and hung my shirt in the tree to dry. I didn’t know what to do, worried that given the clear course of the day I’d take myself out of gene pool with any sudden movement.

Image courtesy of Rob Thornberry.

Still, the fish that kicked off the whole belly flop escapade kept rising, taunting me. I stomached the urge to throw all my gear at the trout and used six of the seven broken rod pieces to MacGyver myself a new rig. What was once nine feet now stood at a little less than seven.

I tied on my second best fly—the first remained lost in the riverside bramble—and made a cast at the lunker. And, as if launched out of a cannon, the fish devoured my imitation. I set the hook and then promptly broke the 5x tippet.

Cursed again.

We all love the outdoors and dream of the days when it all comes together, whether it is a deer within range or a fish on the line. On this particular outing, however, I got nothing but scrapes, bruises, and an uncontrollable urge to brush my teeth.

Defeated, I headed home. Yet another memorable trip into the woods was under my belt.

3 Responses to “Rob, the Henry’s Fork, and the So-Good, Very Bad Day”

  1. Ed Bennett

    Well we missed out on some very good photos. Next time take a camera man with you. JK. We all have that one really bad day sometimes. I’d trade places with you anytime.

  2. Rob Giombetti

    Great read Rob. Wish I was there along side with you. I hope you didn’t spill or lose any beers in that escaped. Glad to see you still have it. Miss you bud.

    Rob G.

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posted in: General

July 11, 2016

Glassing the Hill: July 11 – 15

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

The Senate and House are both in session this week. They will return on Tuesday, September 6.

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

This is the last week before a lawmakers leave for a seven-week recess, and they are concentrating on appropriation bills. On Monday, the House Rules Committee will vote on “The Department of the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act.” They will consider more than 150 amendments to it, including one that would prohibit the Land and Water Conservation Fund from being used in wetland restoration projects, and decide what will be considered on the House floor. All amendments that have been filed to the Interior bill can be found here. The underlying bill includes other poison pill provisions, such as blocking the administration’s Clean Water Rule, halting federal and state governments’ collaborative efforts to conserve greater sage-grouse habitat, and a 90-day delay on the implementation of the Bureau of Land Management’s Planning 2.0 Rule.

Meanwhile, Senate leadership continues to clash on spending bills. Last week, the defense appropriations bill did not reach the 60-vote threshold needed to invoke cloture. Democrats failed to support cloture because the bill breaks the bipartisan budget agreement from October 2015, and because Democrats have long pledged to oppose a defense funding measure that had increases for military spending, without equal increases in domestic funding. Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is expected to bring the defense spending bill back to the floor for another go-round this week.

Leadership hoped to pass all 12 appropriation bills before members leave for the seven-week recess and prepare for their respective national party conventions. However, more and more lawmakers believe a continuing resolution will need to be passed before September 30, the end of the fiscal year.

Public land renewable energy development is up for discussion on Wednesday. The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources will meet to discuss Rep. Paul Gosar’s (R-Ariz.) “Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act,” which would provide modern approaches to energy development and conserving fish and wildlife habitat on public lands.

Steve Moyer, Trout Unlimited’s vice president for government affairs, will testify on behalf of the sportsmen’s community and our support for the bill.

Other legislation on the floor include a bill that would extend the authorization of the Federal Aviation Administration programs; the Senate bill that would require genetically modified food to be labelled; a bill that would address the concerns about health care providers offering abortion services.

The Senate will consider a House passed bill that would combat the opioid epidemic.

What else we’re tracking:

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

  • Public lands legislation will be discussed in at Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee markup hearing
  • Changing demands and water supply uncertainty in California are up for debate in a House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans hearing
  • Opportunities and challenges of developing the Mancos Shale resource will be discussed in a House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources hearing
  • The Securing Energy Infrastructure Act will be discussed at a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing
  • Conservation-related legislation is on the docket at a House Natural Resources Committee full committee markup

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

  • The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act will be debated at a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy oversight hearing
  • The Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act of 2015 will be the subject of a House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources hearing

Thursday, July 14, 2016

  • The Status of Ivanpah and Other Federal Loan-Guaranteed Solar Energy Projects on BLM Lands will be deliberated at a House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing
Carl Erquiaga

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posted in: General

July 7, 2016

Nevada’s Desert Bighorns and How Ewe Can Protect Them

TRCP’s Nevada Field Representative goes back on a promise to himself, for the sake of the sheep

The Carson City BLM district holds some of the best desert bighorn populations in Nevada today. Because of the efforts of sportsmen working with Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW), this area is now home to more than 2,400 desert bighorns, and this year, 83 lucky hunters will be hunting rams in this part of the state. More than 350 rams have been taken by hunters in the Carson City district in the last decade—just imagine all those stories filtering down to 350 sets of grandkids, who are raring to get outside and hunt!

Image courtesy of Carl Erquiaga.

With a little extra effort from the BLM, plus conservation-minded volunteers and advocates, wildlife can continue to thrive for this new generation of hunters. That’s why I recently found myself doing something that I said I would never do again—building fences.

I grew up on a ranch and spent plenty of days unrolling and stretching barbed wire in the hot Nevada sun. They’re not exactly part of my happiest memories outdoors, but wildlife fences could have been responsible for a few hunts that were. The livelihood of our wild bighorn sheep depends on barriers that keep wild bighorns away from domestic sheep, which carry diseases the bighorns aren’t resistant to. I recently volunteered to build a fence between some private property and a two public hunting units that hold some amazing sheep—also thanks to sportsmen.

The Excelsior Mountain Range in Nevada’s Mineral County has been the focus of NDOW’s program to re-establish bighorns since the 1980s. Natural water is lacking in these arid mountains, so there has been an ongoing water development effort parallel to the release of these sheep. More than a dozen guzzlers were funded by sportsmen’s dollars and built with nearly all volunteer manpower, particularly by groups like Nevada Bighorns Unlimited (NBU) and Mineral County Sportsmen. As a result, the current population estimate for bighorn sheep in units 206 and 208 is more than 300 animals.

Image courtesy of Carl Erquiaga.

The most recent release of bighorns was carried out in Garfield Hills on the northern edge of these units this January. These were pregnant ewes that are being followed as part of a doctorate research project focused on desert bighorn lamb recruitment and resource selection during the lambing period. There is hope that this research will provide greater insight into causes of pre-winter mortality in lambs and the effects of translocation on lambing activities.

As wild sheep often do, some of these recently released ewes are developing an affinity for the part of the Garfield Hills near the private property and its farm flock. To address these concerns, NBU offered to provide the materials and manpower to strengthen the property owner’s fence and rebuild sections that were in disrepair. Discussions are also taking place to secure an easement and build a second fence inside the private property, parallel to the existing one, to provide a buffer zone and hopefully prevent nose-to-nose contact between the wild and domestic herds.

My involvement with NBU spans nearly 30 years, and in that time I have volunteered on many water developments, including some in this hunting unit. When the call for volunteers went out to repair this fence, I put aside my disdain for handling barbed wire and made the two-hour drive on a Saturday morning in March. There, I met many familiar volunteers, plus some new faces who were eager to help. After a long hot day, we were even treated to a steak dinner, so everyone went home with full bellies, knowing we’d made a difference.

Image courtesy of Carl Erquiaga.

When I’m trying to paint a picture of a special place, one with a conservation success story that’s worth doing some work to improve or preserve, I think of the Excelsiors and those bighorns. The area holds large expanses of intact habitat that needs to be protected and could be enhanced through active management practices, such as continued water development and protection, pinion-juniper removal, and management of the feral horse and burro populations.

As active as Nevada sportsmen have been in bighorn releases, raising funding for conservation, erecting wildlife watering structures, and, yes, building fences, we need to be just as active about urging the BLM to manage these special places with the best tools available.

Backcountry Wildlife Conservation Areas (BWCA) are new tools at the agency’s disposal, and there’s an opportunity to apply this management concept on at least200,000 acresin the Excelsior Range and the Gabbs Valley Ranges, as well as in other high-value habitat. Conservation of intact backcountry areas is needed to maintain the hunting opportunities that are found there today. And every hunter’s voice matters. Contact the Carson City BLM district and state BLM Director John Ruhs and let them know you want to see these areas included as BWCAs in the final Resource Management Plan for the area.

We’ve made it easy—click here.

Dani Dagan

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posted in: General

July 6, 2016

While Forest Service Chases Down Wildfires, the Solution Gets Away From Us

TRCP’s new communications and operations associate grew up in wildfire country—now in D.C., she’s experiencing the impacts of fire in a completely different way

It was 4am on a school night when I woke up to sirens wailing in the streets. Firefighters were shouting into megaphones, informing us that our neighborhood was being evacuated. I couldn’t even finish brushing my teeth before first-responders were knocking on our door, making sure we were awake and on our way out. My family had already packed our SUV full of photo albums, social security cards, and sentimental odds and ends, so we piled in and headed across town to my aunt and uncle’s house.

Image courtesy of Anthony Citrano/Flickr.

Growing up in the suburbs of Los Angeles, we didn’t really have winter, spring, or autumn. We didn’t have tornadoes, hurricanes, or blizzards. We had TV pilot season—and we had wildfires.

I still remember hiking around my old neighborhood and stumbling upon the last line of fire—that charred boundary between the thriving chaparral and its blackened mirror-image. It was about a quarter-mile from my house, and just a few hundred yards from a friend’s. It was jarring to see how close we were to the flames. Though I never lost my home to fire, I knew people who did. Last month a single wildfire in California took two lives and more than 250 homes.

Our wildfire epidemic has always felt personal to me, but now that I live in Washington, D.C., safely removed from immediate danger, I’m realizing that we all feel the burn—and the enormous costs—of fire suppression.

The U.S. Forest Service’s budgetary allocation for wildfire management has been soaring, siphoning money away from critical activities such as wildlife and fisheries habitat management. Meanwhile, the Service’s maintenance backlog has exceeded $5 billion. That’s because over half of the Service’s budget is now dedicated to wildfire management—up from 16 percent in 1995.

Even the remaining 48 percent of the budget, the portion not dedicated to wildfire management, isn’t secure, because “fire-borrowing” is crippling non-fire programs. Essentially, when firefighting costs exceed what’s been budgeted, the Service is forced to dip into other unrelated program budgets and spend cash meant for habitat restoration, water quality improvements, and new public access points for hunters and anglers.

Image courtesy of Kansas Sebastian/Flickr.

The result of all of this is dramatic—instead of investing in preventative measures that benefit forest health, as well as suppression and rehabilitation efforts, we’re scrambling to control the damage as it’s happening. We’re chasing the problem down, instead of getting in front of it.

Living here in our nation’s capital, my relationship with wildfire has changed. I’m no longer worried about my house burning down, but I’m worried about the wild places that are at home in my heart and memories—the lands we all inherited from Theodore Roosevelt that are full of trees and wildlife and unrelenting beauty.

So, no, it’s not just the people within view of the fire line who should be paying attention to this problem. We need a wildfire funding fix, and we need it soon.

Here’s a possible solution. 

Kristyn Brady

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posted in: General

County Officials Support Proposed Changes in BLM’s Land-Use Planning

Western county commissioners and supervisors go on-record supporting the BLM’s land-use planning update after seeing pilot programs in action

Top county officials from Colorado, Montana, and California say the Bureau of Land Management’s proposed Planning 2.0 rule, which would update how the agency revises land-use plans in the West, will provide additional opportunities for public involvement earlier in the planning process and result in Resource Management Plans (RMPs) that better reflect the diverse needs of county citizens. They sent letters of support for Planning 2.0 to BLM Director Neil Kornze ahead of a House Natural Resources Committee oversight hearing on the rule.

The county commissioners and supervisors hail from the three BLM planning areas where the agency is piloting Planning 2.0 measures. The three early adopter land-use plans are the Eastern Colorado Resource Management Plan, the Missoula Resource Management Plan, and theNorthwest California Integrated Resource Management Plan.

Image courtesy of Eddie Claypool.

“We’re seeing that, in places where Planning 2.0 improvements have already been rolled out, there is support from elected officials and the public,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “These are the people who will benefit from having more input on land management decisions and enjoy better hunting, fishing, and outdoor experiences because of it. After two oversight hearings in the House and one in the Senate, we hope this is finally made clear.”

The Board of County Commissioners for Missoula County, Mont., wrote to commend the BLM for its efforts to better address the diverse interests in their county and communities across the West. “The proposed rules continue to provide for coordination with state and local representatives” and “early public involvement will help resolve conflicts and produce a Resource Management Plan that better reflects the needs of our citizens as well as others who use public lands and have a stake in their future,” they wrote.

Similarly, Mike Brazell, chairman of the Board of Commissioners for Park County, Colo., writes that he and his colleagues support, in particular, the provisions that plan for additional public involvement earlier in the planning process, “including the chance to review preliminary resource management alternatives and preliminary rationales for those alternatives.” Writing on behalf of Humboldt County, Calif., supervisors from two districts (here and here) emphasized that encouraging public involvement early and often would be especially important given that the BLM’s Arcata Field Office will be using this more inclusive approach as it revises its existing RMP, which dates back to 1995.

Montana’s Lewis and Clark County, though not an early-adopter plan area, has also written a letter in support of Planning 2.0.

As House lawmakers continue to examine the states’ role in Planning 2.0 tomorrownearly 8,000 hunters and anglers have signed a petition and sent letters of support for better BLM land-management tools that prioritize public access, conserve and enhance habitat, and balance energy and other development with the needs of fish and wildlife. More than 500 hunting and fishing businesses, sportsmen’s groups, and wildlife professionals have backed the idea that BLM lands are “Sportsmen’s Country” and should be managed in ways that support sportsmen’s values, including habitat conservation and access.

To learn more, visit sportsmenscountry.org.

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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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