Kristyn Brady

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posted in: General

September 20, 2016

105 Sportsmen Businesses Agree: Don’t Mess With Sage Grouse Conservation

One year after the historic decision not to list the greater sage grouse for endangered species protection, retailers, outfitters, and gear manufacturers from across the country call on Congress to let sage grouse conservation work

Today, more than 100 hunting, fishing, and wildlife-related businesses are asking lawmakers to block attempts to undo collaborative conservation efforts that benefit the greater sage grouse.

As representatives of a $646-billion outdoor recreation industry that depends on sportsmen having access to healthy fish and wildlife habitat, business owners from 14 states have sent a letter that calls on Congressional leadership to oppose language or riders to any legislation that would force the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to abandon their own sage grouse conservation plans in favor of plans developed by the states.

Image courtesy of Department of Interior.

Almost exactly one year ago, on September 22, 2015, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the range-wide population of greater sage grouse did not warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act, following historic collaboration by federal and state agencies, industry, private landowners, sportsmen, and other stakeholders. This achievement, business leaders write, “should also be seen as a boon for business.”

However, some in Congress are attempting to derail the process by crafting language meant to block the federal conservation plans and attaching it to the only legislation moving in Washington, D.C.—the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and appropriations bills that keep the federal government operating.

“Sportsmen and outdoor business owners across the country are disappointed that Congress continues to play politics with our national defense and other must-pass legislation by attempting to insert unrelated and detrimental language about sage-grouse conservation into bills,” says Ryan Callaghan, marketing manager for First Lite, a hunting clothing company based in Ketchum, Idaho. “Healthy sagebrush is important not only for sage grouse, but also for mule deer, pronghorns, and elk, and to our customers that pursue these species each fall.”

Ed Arnett, senior scientist for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, adds that if language contained in the riders were to become law, it would throw into question decades of statutory precedent, several environmental laws, and the subsequent legal decisions around those laws. “Federal, state, and private landowner efforts are all needed to create on-the-ground results for sage grouse, and the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision last fall was predicated on all of these plans working in concert,” says Arnett. “Implementation must be allowed to continue.”

Business owners across the Western U.S. are counting on it. “There’s a lot that goes on in Congress that is confusing, frustrating or seemingly unrelated to what we care about as sportsmen, but when your bottom line—not to mention the activities you love and hope to pass on to your grandkids—depends on the health of an entire ecosystem, you pay attention,” says Melissa Herz of Herz Gun Dogs in Bend, Oregon. “We can’t allow the sagebrush landscape, vibrant with 350 species of plants and animals that rely on the same habitat as sage grouse, to become just a pawn in a political game, and we cannot waver on conservation plans that were put in place for good reason.”

The House version of the NDAA has already passed with provisions that would be detrimental to sage grouse conservation. The Senate is expected to consider its version of the bill, which does not include any language on sage grouse, in the coming weeks. Sportsmen’s groups and businesses have made it clear to lawmakers that the best thing they can do for sage grouse is ensure that state and federal land managers get the resources they need to implement their respective plans and that conservation efforts on private lands continue.

Undoing federal conservation plans might be the best way to ensure a listing, which is bad news for just about everyone.

Read the letter from 105 hunting and fishing businesses here.

Learn more about how conditions have improved for sage grouse in the year since the decision not to list the species.

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Glassing the Hill: September 19 – 23

The Senate and House are both in session this week.

Image courtesy of Library of Congress.

Breaking: An East Coast public land transfer bill may be introduced as early as Tuesday. This legislation, from Rep. Bill Keating (D-Mass.), would transfer thousands of acres of the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge in Chatham, Massachusetts. This proposal is being put forth as a possible solution to an ongoing dispute between the refuge and several local elected officials. Public lands advocates prefer to resolve the disagreement with a formal agreement between the parties, or perhaps through litigation that can determine the legal legitimacy of the dispute. These alternatives would avoid setting the dangerous precedent of transferring federal public lands to the states through a legislative decision. The Senate is not expected to introduce companion legislation.

The Senate passed a water projects bill with big benefits for the Everglades last week, and now the House must do the same before talks move forward. House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) indicated last week that the House might consider its version of “The Water Resource Development Act” (WRDA) sometime before Friday. However, it looks as though that timeline has slipped, leaving just a six weeks or so after the elections for House passage and the conference process.

The Senate cleared its WRDA package, which would authorize Everglades restoration and provisions to improve habitat connectivity, on a hugely bipartisan vote count of 95-3. The House version of the bill does not currently match the Senate version’s provisions on using nature-based infrastructure, like wetlands and reefs, over manmade structures—so that will come up in conference.

It looks like a short-term funding mechanism, which would last until Dec. 9, could be a go. The Senate will begin consideration of a short-term continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government through December 9. Senate leadership decided to use “The Legislative Branch Appropriations Act” (H.R. 5325) as the legislative vehicle to move the CR. Disagreements about Zika funding, Planned Parenthood, Internet regulation, disaster relief provisions for Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Flint, Michigan, persist, but Senate leaders seem confident that the deal will be cleared this week, and then senators will head home for an early October recess. We expect the House will stay in session until next week, then both chambers will remain in their respective states until November 14, after the general elections.

What else we’re tracking:

Tuesday, September 20

The merging of seed and farm-chemical industries will be discussed in a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

Wednesday, September 21

Greenhouse gas emissions guidance by the Council on Environmental Quality will be debated at a House Natural Resources Committee hearing.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s mitigation policy will be reviewed in a Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife hearing.

The federal government’s management of wolves will be deliberated in House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing.

Public land legislation, including Rep. Rob Bishop’s (R-Utah) Public Lands Initiative bill will be discussed in a House Natural Resources Committee mark-up.

Thursday, September 22

A public land legislation mark-up is slated to continue in the House Natural Resources Committee.

Senate public land legislation is also on the docket in a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing.

Chesapeake Bay conservation will be discussed at a House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry hearing.

Economic fuel standards will be deliberated in a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, and Energy and Power hearing.

U.S. National Park Service management will be considered in a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing.

Regulation guidelines for agencies will be discussed in a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management hearing.

 

Kristyn Brady

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posted in: General

September 19, 2016

Plumer Joins TRCP as Chief Conservation Officer

Former congressional staff member and policy advisor for The Nature Conservancy brings expertise on appropriations process, proactive solutions for fish and wildlife, and renewable energy to TRCP’s conservation mission

Christy Plumer, former director for federal land programs and lead lobbyist for The Nature Conservancy, is joining the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership as the organization’s new chief conservation officer.

“I am thrilled to be joining the TRCP team and augmenting their work to ensure every American has quality places to hunt, fish, and enjoy the outdoors,” says Plumer, who travels out to Bozeman, Montana, to meet with TRCP senior staff and the Board of Directors today. “As a country, we are at a crossroads for conservation, access, our outdoor recreation economy, and land management decisions that will have an impact for generations to come. Now more than ever, we need organizations like the TRCP to lead the way and unite sportsmen and women around the key issues facing fish and wildlife. I’m excited about the important role this organization will play in tackling the conservation challenges of today and crafting the real-world solutions of tomorrow.”

Image courtesy of Christy Plumer.

Plumer comes to the TRCP after spending the past year working to advance solar and renewable energy policy with SolarCity, America’s foremost full-service solar energy provider. In her previous role at The Nature Conservancy, Plumer lobbied for improving conservation funding levels through the federal appropriations process, enhancing natural resources policy, and creating proactive solutions for fish and wildlife habitat. She also spent two years as director of government relations for The Conservation Fund and seven years on Capitol Hill working for moderate Republicans, including Sen. John Chafee and Sen. Bob Smith. Plumer also served as staff director for the Senate Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Water under then-chairman Sen. Lincoln Chafee. She holds a B.A. in Biology and Environmental Studies from the University of Pennsylvania and an M.A. in Environmental Studies from Brown University.

“Having worked on both sides of the legislative process, as a congressional staff member and a lobbyist, Christy’s insider perspective will be invaluable to the TRCP at a pivotal time in Washington,” says Whit Fosburgh, TRCP’s president and CEO. “Her leadership will be an asset to the organization, our partners, and the conservation community as a whole, as we move forward with ambitious goals for conservation policy and welcome a new administration and Congress.”

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September 15, 2016

Six Out-Of-Office Replies That’ll Make You Proud to Be a Sportsman

When we’re not working tirelessly to protect our country’s hunting and fishing heritage, we’re outside enjoying it, so leave a message

For the next few months, you can expect to get a lot of automated out-of-office replies from folks who love to hunt and fish. And, while we never stop working to guarantee all Americans quality places to pursue these sports, TRCP staffers definitely take the time to get outside and enjoy the season when we can.

We like to have a bit of fun, while we’re at it. Here are the real and embellished email replies you’ll get from some of us this fall, complete with shout-outs to our favorite spots and critters. Our time out there inspires what we do for conservation, and it might just inspire a little envy for those of you stuck at your computers.

Spot and Stalk

Coo, Hiss

 Free Relationship Advice, Anyone?

Unicorns and Daydreams

Steak Out

Why We Do This

TRCP’s director of Western Lands. Image courtesy of Joel Webster.

 

Kristyn Brady

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posted in: General

Everglades Restoration and Fish Habitat Get a Boost in Senate Water Projects Bill

Major water projects legislation authorizes Everglades restoration, using wetlands as infrastructure, and improving habitat connectivity

The U.S. Senate has passed the Water Resources Development Act of 2016 (WRDA), which contains provisions to benefit fish and wildlife habitat and water quality in some of America’s most iconic places. The bipartisan bill would authorize more than $10 billion in water projects overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 18 states.

Notably, the legislation authorizes $1.9 billion for restoration projects in the Everglades, where critical steps for restoring natural flows and removing pollutants must be fast-tracked to reverse algae blooms and other conditions devastating South Florida’s fisheries.

Image courtesy of Daniel Hartwig/Flickr.

“We are delighted to see key Everglades restoration projects advancing in the Water Resources Development Act,” says Dawn Shirreffs, senior Everglades policy advisor for the Everglades Foundation. “Authorization of the Central Everglades Planning Project is critical to removing barriers and restoring Everglades water flow, which can bring 67 billion gallons of water to improve habitat in Florida Bay. This is particularly important for spotted seatrout and snook, but also helps prevent future seagrass die-offs that affect the entire fishery.”

The Senate version of the bill also contains a provision that would emphasize the use of nature-based infrastructure, like wetlands, dunes, and reefs, over new man-made structures. Natural infrastructure provides for sustainable and cost-effective means of reducing flood and storm damage, improving water quality, and protecting vital fish and wildlife habitat in the process.

“As we’ve learned from recent storms and floods, nature is often our first and most effective line of defense against such natural disasters,” says Lynn Scarlett, The Nature Conservancy’s managing director for public policy. “The projects and policies included in this WRDA emphasize the important role nature can play to help meet the needs of people, communities, and public safety.”

More than a dozen groups—including the American Sportfishing Association, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, B.A.S.S., Trout Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership—have been calling on Congress for support for “water resource development projects that consider natural and nature-based features” since June 2016.

The Senate version of WRDA also contains language to ensure that enhancing and sustaining fish and wildlife habitat connectivity is a robust part of the Army Corp’s mitigation planning process.

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee reported out their version of the 2016 WRDA reauthorization, but the bill has not yet come to the House floor for final passage. The House bill does not currently contain funding for Everglades restoration or a push for natural infrastructure, but once passed, the process of reconciling the Senate and House bills can begin.

“With the clock ticking down to the end of the 114th Congress, the Water Resources Development Act remains amongst TRCP’s highest conservation priorities,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “With expiration of the current law set for 2017, it is critical for this Congress to send a WRDA bill to the president, so that we don’t have to start this process over again next year. Today’s action by the Senate, on a bill with many benefits for fish and wildlife habitat, is a great first step. Now, the House must act expeditiously.”

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