Kristyn Brady

June 21, 2017

Anglers Look to New Federal Fisheries Head to Improve Recreational Fishing Management

With frustration running high, sportsmen and women want to continue working with the agency to recognize recreational fishing’s role in coastal economies through meaningful changes to federal management of saltwater fisheries

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and its sportfishing partners look forward to working with Chris Oliver, the newly appointed head of the National Marine Fisheries Service. Over the last five years, sportsmen’s groups have worked extensively with NMFS staff to try to bring about meaningful changes to federal approaches for managing recreational saltwater fishing in our nation’s public waters, and that work will continue as Oliver steps into this role.

“Chris Oliver has some monumental tasks ahead of him, including continuing to work with angling, advocacy, and conservation organizations to develop management approaches that emphasize conservation, while recognizing the explicit, fundamental differences between commercial and recreational fishing,” says Whit Fosburgh, TRCP’s president and CEO. “He must also continue to build our nation’s fishery stocks while ensuring those fish stocks are a publicly held resource.”

Recreational fishing is an enormous part of America’s culture and economy, with more than 11 million saltwater anglers annually driving more than $63 billion in spending. Without saltwater angling, coastal communities across the country would suffer financially. Anglers also contribute more than $1.5 billion to conservation and fisheries management each year through direct license sales, donations, and excise taxes on equipment and fuel.

Oliver will certainly face several challenges as he continues to advance badly needed reforms to federal recreational fishing management and work to build better relationships between anglers and managers of state and federal agencies. “We look forward to helping him meet these challenges and achieve meaningful progress on sound, reasonable management practices that will ensure recreational fishermen have sufficient access to public waters and fisheries,” says Fosburgh.

Top photo by Greg Stuntz.

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Nick Dobric

June 20, 2017

Fixing Infrastructure Means Rebuilding Roads and Keeping Wildlife Off Them

A national focus on infrastructure can provide an opportunity to benefit fish and wildlife in innovative ways that have upsides for public safety and our economy—here’s an excellent example in Wyoming

When you think about America’s infrastructure and picture the foundational systems that need an influx of federal support, what do you see? Bridges and roads? What about campground facilities, hiking trails, fish passages, and naturally filtering coastal wetlands?

As Congress and the Trump administration develop a much-needed national infrastructure package, it’s our job as sportsmen and women to elevate the profile of our country’s outdoor infrastructure and the natural resource solutions that tend to have only upsides: for public health and safety, local economies, and fish and wildlife. One such example is a fix for deadly wildlife collisions on our nation’s roads.

Man Meets Wild

Cruising down the highway as daylight fades, your music is playing and your mind is wandering, when out of nowhere you see a brown flash. Time slows to a crawl as you slam on the brakes to avoid the deer that just leapt in front of your vehicle.

Avoiding wildlife on our highways is an everyday struggle for motorists nationwide. Whether it’s whitetail deer in Virginia or mule deer in Colorado, most of us have been there. That’s why the Wyoming Game and Fish Department recently partnered with the Wyoming Department of Transportation and about a dozen stakeholders—including the TRCP—to host a solutions oriented summit on wildlife and roadways.

The overarching goal was to find ways to fund and implement projects that will reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions, increase motorist safety, and maintain or reestablish disconnected wildlife migration routes. According to WYDOT, there have been more than 12,000 wildlife-vehicle collisions over the last five years in the Cowboy State alone. This has resulted in 17 human fatalities, while crews have removed more than 23,000 animal carcasses from roadways over the same period.

It’s essential that we find solutions to these issues, not only for motorist safety and peace-of-mind but also for the wildlife that burn valuable calories dodging traffic and rarely survive vehicular collisions.

The good news? We know that solutions exist. The bad news? They aren’t cheap.

Image courtesy of Arizona DOT/Flickr. Cover image courtesy of Tom Koerner/USFWS/Flickr.
A Migration Model

Just west of Pinedale, Wyoming, where the Wildlife and Roadways Summit was held, Highway 191 cuts right through a pronghorn antelope migration corridor, creating a bottleneck known as Trappers Point that nearly every pronghorn summering in the Jackson Hole area must navigate. For years in the spring and fall, dangerous wildlife-vehicle collisions would occur as the antelope migrated between Grand Teton National Park and the Red Desert.

After years of discussion between various stakeholders, many of whom were at the summit, a $10-million investment allowed for construction of eight wildlife overpasses and underpasses along a 12-mile stretch of highway. Completed in 2012, these roadway improvements have already reduced collisions by roughly 80 percent—if you account for the value of each collision avoided and for lives saved, the project has more than paid for itself.

Infrastructure funding can benefit fish & wildlife in innovative ways. For example, look to #Wyoming Click To Tweet

You can even watch how the Trappers Point Wildlife Overpass is used in real time—the best action is from November to December and April to May, but take a peek at the live video feed here.

From Rock Springs to D.C.

Justifying steep up-front investments is one of the biggest hurdles in making these projects a reality, though the long-term economic and safety benefits are apparent. Blocking substantial cuts to federal funding for wildlife conservation and management is a top priority of ours, but an appetite for a massive legislative fix for America’s crumbling infrastructure could create an opportunity for more projects like the Trappers Point overpass.

For now, we’ll continue working here in Wyoming to craft strong migration policies at the state level and collaborate with the BLM to ensure that land management plans for the Rock Springs area, which is home to some of the best wildlife habitat in the West, carefully consider migration corridors utilized by wildlife for thousands of years. They are the roads and byways of the critters we love to chase, after all, and deserve not to be overlooked.

Want to be the first to take action on local land management issues that impact migration corridors and wildlife crossings? Sign up for the Roosevelt Report and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Kristyn Brady

June 8, 2017

Habitat Must Remain the Focus of Sage Grouse Conservation Efforts

With only 60 days to work together with DOI and see that strong, science-based plans for sage grouse conservation move forward, hunting and fishing groups emphasize that habitat must remain the priority

This morning, the Department of Interior released a Secretarial Order initiating the review of sage grouse conservation plans meant to keep the bird off the endangered species list.

The order establishes a DOI interagency team to evaluate, within 60 days, whether federal plans are complementary to state plans and compatible with recent administrative orders on energy independence. Any resulting recommendations could have a significant effect on the future conservation of all sagebrush-dependent species, including sage grouse, pronghorn antelope, and mule deer.

After careful review of the order, the top priority of conservation and sportsmen’s group leaders for habitat to remain the primary focus of conservation efforts. These experts maintain that administrative action must not undermine the safeguards provided by the federal conservation plans.

On a briefing call with press and stakeholders yesterday, before the order became public, Secretary Zinke noted that one goal would be to ensure that “innovative ideas” from the states are considered to allow flexibility. These might include setting population target goals, establishing captive breeding programs, improving predator control and monitoring techniques, and curbing West Nile virus, according to the Secretary.

“Many of these suggested tools are already available to the states,” says Miles Moretti, president and CEO of the Mule Deer Foundation. “Controlling predators and West Nile virus, for example, can be done within the current plans, but these measures cannot stand in place of managing habitat for a healthy ecosystem that benefits all sagebrush-dependent species and stakeholders—from sportsmen and landowners to industry. We support Secretary Zinke’s goal of strengthening collaboration with the states and resolving their remaining issues with federal sage grouse plans, but habitat conservation must remain the focus. That is the only real long-term solution.”

“Sage grouse conservation should be driven by science and guided by professional wildlife managers,” says Steven Belinda, executive director of the North American Grouse Partnership. “We support innovative ideas for grouse management, but some of the suggestions offered by the Secretary are simply not supported by current science. The preponderance of scientific evidence clearly demonstrates that habitat loss and degradation is the primary cause of declines in sage grouse populations over the past several decades. Addressing habitat concerns
will achieve the goal of healthy populations and minimize the impacts from disease, predators and drought, making captive breeding unnecessary.”

A letter sent by leaders of the Western governors task force on sage grouse indicates there’s little appetite for an approach where sage grouse would be managed based on targets for population size versus overall habitat health.

“Population size and habitat are inextricably linked, and undermining habitat protections while attempting to meet population objectives by other means is not sustainable,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “The combination of agreed-upon federal, state, and private land conservation efforts represents the best chance for long-term, range-wide survival of sage grouse. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision not to list the bird in 2015 will be reviewed in 2020, and opening up the plans to major changes legally requires an amendment process that threatens the outcome of that review. We look forward to working with Secretary Zinke and his staff to resolve remaining issues with the plans, and we’re confident that a legitimate review should demonstrate that they were based off the best science, with balance and flexibility built in so that state concerns could be addressed.”

“The work to benefit sage grouse over the last five years has been the greatest landscape-scale conservation effort undertaken in modern times, which is why this order to review the plans seems to be a solution seeking a problem,” says Steve Williams, president of the Wildlife Management Institute and former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “The decision not to list the bird was predicated on federal and state plans being implemented simultaneously, without interference, and in combination with ongoing conservation efforts on private lands. Any amendments to the plans before they’ve been fully implemented would impede real conservation results, threatening not only the bird but also certainty for stakeholders like sportsmen, ranchers, and industry.”

A review of conservation plans by a new administration is reasonable to expect, but sportsmen’s groups ask that the process is transparent and inclusive.

“Sportsmen’s groups have worked extensively on sage grouse conservation efforts, including those of private landowners,” says Howard Vincent, president and CEO of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. “The Secretary mentioned there is a lot of anger and mistrust in local communities, but I’m confident that a comprehensive review process will also document the substantial and growing number of landowner success stories across the West, where improvements for sage grouse also benefit livestock. We strongly encourage Secretary Zinke to document those successes, include them in the review, and work closely with USDA Secretary Purdue to ensure supportive, conservation-minded landowners are not left out of the conversation.”

Sportsmen and conservation organizations have been actively engaged in sage grouse conservation for many years. Key groups were deeply involved in developing conservation plans that led to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision not to list the greater sage grouse for protection under the Endangered Species Act in September 2015. Key to that decision, which sportsmen celebrated, was the unprecedented landscape-scale approach through complementary conservation plans for federal, state and private lands.

Sportsmen have also worked closely with the Western Governors Association and the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies to develop a roadmap for future research, management, and conservation efforts across the sage grouse’s range. Hunters and recreational shooters have contributed well over $130 million to sage-grouse management and conservation since 2000 through license sales and gear purchases—this funding has been distributed to the states as dictated by the Pittman-Robertson Act. Finally, the community has strongly supported and coordinated with the aforementioned Western landowners and other individuals working to conserve sage grouse habitat through voluntary efforts under the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Sage Grouse Initiative and other collaborative programs.

Read the full Secretarial Order here.

Delaying This Infrastructure Project Will Have Very Real Impacts on Fishing in Louisiana

Agencies must implement sediment diversion projects quickly to safeguard habitat in the Gulf of Mexico for the sake of sportsmen and local communities

Land loss in the Gulf of Mexico has been a constant threat to a long list of species, including largemouth bass, redfish, speckled trout, tarpon, teal, and gadwalls. Fortunately, the Louisiana legislature has just approved a Coastal Master Plan that will put $50 billion to work over the next 50 years to address the increasingly severe combination of land loss and sea level rise.

The difficult truth is that it’s too expensive to recover all that has been lost, but implementing sediment diversion projects is key to sustaining what’s left. The longer we wait, the more land we lose—and Gulf anglers, especially, will become worse off.

Yet, the Army Corps of Engineers has delayed a much-needed project for more than five years. In fact, after signing an agreement in 2016 to guarantee review of the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion project within three years, the Corps announced that they’d actually wait until 2022.

By then, there might not be anything left to protect.

Anglers Pay the Price

Captain Terry Lambert talks about the waters in the lower Barataria Basin west of Buras like they’re family members and friends who have passed away.

“Over here to the left is where Chicharas Bay used to be and over here to the west was Cyprien Bay,” said the veteran guide, gesturing from the deck of his boat. Lambert has fished the areas both east and west of the Mississippi River in lower Plaquemines Parish for the last 30 years. “Where we’re fishing now, these three little clumps of cane are all that’s left of Dry Cypress Bayou. It’s hard to believe sometimes when you’re out here that a pile of shells here and there is all that’s left of our marsh on the west side of the river.”

Lambert guided our crew of outdoor writers and conservationists to a handful of washed out and submerged spoil banks out of Joshua’s Marina in early April, on one of the few days he said he could fish the west side of the river this spring. The trip was productive—50 beautiful, textbook two-pound speckled trout crossed the gunwales of Lambert’s boat that morning.

“We’re only here because the wind is blowing less than 10 knots today,” he said. “If it blows any harder, the water gets too dirty and it’s too hard to fish in all this open water. When I started guiding here, we always fished the west side of the river. There was marsh here then. There was protection. Now, there’s so little left here that most days we are forced to cross the river to where there’s marsh, so we can escape the wind and find fish.”

“When I started guiding here, we always fished the west side of the river. There was marsh here then.” Click To Tweet
Federal Agencies Must Step Up

The longer it takes to get sediment flowing and the more land that’s lost, the harder—and more expensive—it becomes to achieve sustainability, growth, and certainty for Louisiana’s coastal communities. Delaying this time-sensitive project is not only troubling, it’s irresponsible. That’s why the TRCP, along with 32 other groups, sent a letter to the secretaries of defense and commerce urging them to come up with a plan to expedite, rather than delay, this time-sensitive project.

“Delaying the construction of the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion would threaten the safety of coastal communities and make it much more difficult and expensive to sustain ecological diversity in a critically rich ecosystem,” our groups wrote.

To see how the diversion will work to literally build the coastline and its habitat, watch this video about plans for the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion.

Dani Dagan

by:

posted in: Outdoor Economy

May 24, 2017

Sportsmen and Women Head to the Capitol For Their Annual Spring Migration

Fly-in season is a busy time on Capitol Hill as folks migrate to D.C. to make a case for policies that strengthen our hunting and fishing heritage

For those who work on Capitol Hill, it’s a familiar sight: Streaming down the steps of a congressional office building, carrying identical totes, a crowd of out-of-towners wait in line to go through security. They’re holding matching folders and chatting excitedly about talking points and appointments. It’s a sure sign that someone in this town has organized a fly-in.

A fly-in is an event where constituents are invited to Washington to lobby lawmakers in a coordinated effort, meeting representatives and staffers face-to-face and sharing their perspectives. Non-profit and advocacy organizations often help participants with scheduling meetings, facilitating training and events, and constructing a unified and effective message for the group.

While advocacy tools like petitions or action alerts can leave some disconnect between a constituent and their representative, fly-ins are about as humanizing as you can get—and sometimes what everyone needs is a face-to-face conversation that leaves both parties more informed.

Advocates Flocking Together

If you’re an elected official, you’ve got a pretty good incentive to listen to the people who vote in your district. Constituents may not have the same data, nor training, as professional lobbyists, but they have something uniquely impactful: authority gained through on-the-ground life experiences at home.

At the Land Trust Alliance’s recent fly-in, staff briefed participants on key issues and outlined specific asks for lawmakers, like strengthening farm bill conservation programs. Bryan David, LTA’s advocacy & outreach manager, says the voices of their 120 Capitol Hill initiates deliver “a more effective and local message than ‘D.C. insiders’ could provide.”

But that’s not all that makes fly-ins unique or effective. After all, anyone can visit his or her congressional office, even if you’re just in D.C. on vacation.

In 2015, after a spring public lands fly-in hosted by the TRCP and our partners, Dan Harrison made the point that the players working to transfer or sell public lands have an advantage over the sportsmen’s community: They’re laser pointed at the U.S. Capitol while sportsmen and women are spread thin across the nation, keeping an eye on both federal and local issues affecting habitats on public and private land.

By bringing dispersed hunter and angler voices together in D.C., fly-ins facilitate the delivery of a cohesive message, usually including a very specific ask like a particular budget line-item or a policy priority, directly from the mouths of passionate constituents.

Jessi Johnson (left) and Maggie Heumann (right) from Artemis Sportswomen meet with representatives as part of National Wildlife Federation’s fly-in last month. Header image courtesy of Architect of the Capitol.
Timing is Everything

Since work (and life) in D.C. follow the congressional calendar, fly-ins tend to happen in bursts—often referred to as “fly-in season.” A reflection of Congress’ expected appropriations and budget timelines, spring is an especially strategic time to gather the troops and demand stronger programs that benefit access and fish and wildlife habitat.

Right now, lawmakers are crafting bills that allocate money to programs and departments within the federal government. It’s a good time to get in on the ground floor and ensure that our priorities are being considered at the right time.

Last month, National Wildlife Federation gathered representatives from 13 affiliates and outside groups to urge lawmakers to keep public lands public and improve funding for public-land management. They sat down with the people who are at the spearhead of shaping federal policy and discussed their on-the-ground concerns relating to sage-grouse management, wildfire funding, and more.

Just after that, the Outdoor Industry Association hosted 130 executives from their member companies to advocate for public lands and their role in the $887-billion outdoor recreation economy. They had specific asks for the lawmakers, like joining an outdoor recreation caucus and securing funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and worked in unison to drive the point home.

These weren’t the only spring fly-ins in our community this year. Many of our partners have been busy bringing folks into congressional offices to make the case for habitat and public lands—and if all goes according to plan, fiscal year 2018’s federal appropriations bills coming out of the U.S. House and Senate, as well as other legislation this year, will reflect what sportsmen and women care about most.

There’s More Than One Way to Take Action

Fly-ins are only one component of comprehensive and effective conservation advocacy. It takes countless people and a wide variety of efforts coming together to build a strong case for hunting and fishing. For example, when lobbyists—professional or otherwise—go to the Hill, they might tell lawmakers that more than 53,000 people are proud of their public lands, citing the Sportsmen’s Access petition. It’s a big number to throw out, but it’s important to remember that each of those names is an individual who took the time to learn more and take action. When lawmakers see some of those faces in their offices, it gives life to all 53,000.

Advocacy on Capitol Hill isn’t just about what policy staff and government relations professionals do, although their work is immeasurably valuable (seriously, they’re rock stars.) It’s also about how each person who becomes an advocate, whether they come to the Capitol or sign a petition from home, holds within them a lifetime of meaningful experiences—and their stories make a big difference for the future of habitat and access.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

CONSERVATION ISN’T
RED OR BLUE

But a little green never hurt anyone. Support our work to ensure that all hunters and anglers are represented in Washington.

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