Kristyn Brady

April 25, 2018

TRCP Celebrates Three Champions of Conservation and Funding Solutions

Sen. Ben Cardin, Rep. Tom Cole, and Bruce Culpepper from Shell Oil Company to be recognized for advancing policy and habitat outcomes for fish and wildlife

At the tenth annual Capital Conservation Awards Dinner tonight, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership will celebrate three honorees from Capitol Hill and the private sector for their leadership on fish and wildlife habitat conservation: Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Congressman Tom Cole (R-Okla.), and Bruce Culpepper, U.S. country chair and president of Shell Oil Company.

The gala event at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C., will bring together legislators, outdoor industry innovators, and conservation group leaders at a critical time for hunting and fishing resources. Senators Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a 2016 Capital Conservation Awards honoree, will share the stage for opening remarks on a key component of conservation policymaking—bipartisanship.

Culpepper will receive TRCP’s 2018 Conservation Achievement Award for making Shell a leader on habitat restoration and advocacy for real solutions to climate change, particularly on the Gulf Coast. Informed by Culpepper’s lifelong passion for hunting and fishing, Shell has partnered with the Coastal Conservation Association, Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and other key allies to conserve more than 13 million acres of wetlands, remove 600,000 pounds of debris from America’s shorelines, and restore more than 1.8 million acres of critical habitat.

“Inspired by his love of the outdoors, Bruce Culpepper has used his influencer status in one of the country’s most lucrative and powerful industries to not only model a smart approach to energy development but also support conservation efforts that give back to the lands and waters that provide us with so much,” says Whit Fosburgh, TRCP’s president and CEO. “Tonight, we honor him for the meaningful partnerships he has helped to create, which will have a lasting impact on fish, wildlife, sportsmen, and the vitality of Gulf Coast communities for years to come.”

Sen. Cardin and Rep. Cole will each be presented with the 2018 James D. Range Conservation Award—named for TRCP’s co-founder, a conservation visionary, and presented to one Democrat and one Republican each year.

Cardin is being honored for his staunch opposition to rolling back Clean Water Act protections for America’s wetlands and headwater streams and his longtime leadership on many legislative efforts to improve habitat conditions for fish and wildlife. He was the lead Democratic sponsor on the 2017 HELP for Wildlife Act, the lead sponsor on reauthorization of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Chesapeake Bay Program at the EPA, and has introduced bills to improve water infrastructure in the next Water Resources Development Act.

Cardin has also been a longtime champion of the National Fish Habitat Conservation Act, Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act, and Land and Water Conservation Fund. He will accept his award from Senator John Boozman (R-Ark.)

Cole will be recognized for serving as an outspoken champion of bipartisan budget agreements and a vocal opponent of the brinksmanship that can lead to controversial riders and insufficient conservation funding.

Cole has been a voice of reason on the appropriations subcommittee overseeing Department of Interior spending, and he has co-sponsored legislation to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, secure alternative revenue sources for state-led wildlife conservation efforts, and modernize the Pittman-Robertson Act, which provides for federal funding for habitat restoration efforts through excise taxes on firearms, ammunition, and hunting gear. He will accept his award from Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.)

Learn more about the Capital Conservation Awards Dinner here.

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Jennifer Byerly

April 23, 2018

Six Books That Should Be on Any Conservationist’s Shelf

Recommended reading for the serious sportsman-conservationist, just in time for World Book Day

A good book provides escape and inspires us when we can’t get outdoors. So, to celebrate World Book Day, we’re giving you a peek at just a few of the conservation classics on our shelves.

 

 

Chadwick and the Garplegrungen by Priscilla Cummings

Steve Kline, TRCP’s director of government relations, enjoys reading thousand-page historical biographies when he’s not in a duck blind, but his recommendation is not going to make you go bleary-eyed. This children’s book is about a crab who escapes the National Aquarium to clean up the Chesapeake Bay with friendly fowl and flounder, you do it.

 

The Big Burn by Timothy Egan

The Farm Bill may be keeping Alex Maggos busy now, but he spent two seasons as a wildland firefighter in Utah before coming to TRCP as agriculture and private lands director. This might be why he considers this book to be required reading. Post up in a comfy chair for this story of the Great Fire of 1910, the early infancy of the U.S. Forest Service, and President Roosevelt’s response.

 

Trout are Made of Trees by April Pulley Sayre

Kids as young as three will love the bright artwork and simple narrative in this book about the importance of healthy habitat to trout and all the things fish need to survive. Read it to your budding angler at bedtime, then wake up early to look for bugs and watch the food chain at work.

 

Old Man and the Boy by Robert Ruark

This collection of Ruark’s best Field & Stream columns brought me to tears. Although it shows its age in other ways (“It pure riles a woman to see a man having any fun that doesn’t involve work. That’s why fishing was invented, really…”), the coming-of-age story is a classic one. The “Old Man” in the title is the author’s hunting mentor, greatest critic, and best friend—his grandfather, who teaches him what it means to be a sportsman and a gentleman.

 

The Most Important Fish in the Sea by H. Bruce Franklin

Our president and CEO Whit Fosburgh handed me this superlatively titled book about the stinky, oily baitfish known as bunker or menhaden—also known as the unsung hero of the Atlantic. If you’ve ever been striper fishing, you probably own your success to this little fish that put whaling out of business and appear in the ingredients list for makeup, cat food, and vitamin supplements.

If you want to expand your conservation library and support our work to guarantee all Americans quality places to hunt and fish, shop for any of these titles via our unique Amazon Smile link or create an Amazon Smile account and select TRCP to automatically receive 0.5% of your transaction, at no additional cost to you.

Have a recommendation that we missed? Share your good reads in the comments section or on Facebook.

Geoff Mullins

April 19, 2018

Restoring America’s Everglades Should Be a National Priority Right Now

Conservation champions from the “Fishing Capital of the World” will bring this urgent message to Washington, D.C., next week

The rich, diverse ecosystem and one-of-a-kind fishing opportunities in the Everglades have captured the imaginations of many Americans. And yet the response to South Florida’s decades-old conservation challenges has been drawn out and sporadic.

It’s time to prove that restoring the Everglades is a national priority. And there is a major opportunity coming up for Congress, especially, to show its support.

National Treasure

Not only is the Everglades home to hundreds of unique plant and animal species, it is the largest subtropical wetland ecosystem in North America and serves as the water supply for more than 8 million Floridians.

Hunters lucky enough to experience this special place anticipate each new hunting season and with it the thrill of pursuing whitetails, waterfowl, or even feral hogs. And anglers know all too well why Florida is the “fishing capital of the world.” Thoughts of stalking snook in the Caloosahatchee, scanning for tailing redfish in the Everglades, and even drifting live bait for tarpon in Florida Bay is enough to get the heart and mind racing.

Along with these activities comes serious economic benefits: Recreational fishing in the Everglades region alone supports nearly $2.9 billion in total economic activity and more than 26,000 jobs.

 

Fly-In for Florida’s Fisheries

For all these reasons, restoring the Everglades and improving the flow of water south is vital to our economy, health, and way of life. But hasn’t been easy. In fact, it has been more like trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube with some of the stickers missing.

Everglades restoration is about quantity, quality, location, and timing. We have to get the right amount and quality of water to the right places at the right time throughout South Florida—that’s a lot easier said than done. We’ve made progress over the decades thanks to some very dedicated partners, advocates, policy makers, and scientists. And in 2018, we could be on the verge of a significant step forward.

That’s why hundreds of advocates for Everglades restoration will come to Washington, D.C., next week to attend America’s Everglades Summit. Hosted by the Everglades Foundation, this two-day gathering will focus on the economic and environmental importance of a healthy Everglades ecosystem. Attendees will also ask lawmakers to prioritize policies and funding to keep restoration projects moving forward.

One of these projects is the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir that is a central component of the Central Everglades Project. Once completed, the reservoir is expected to reduce damaging algae-causing discharges of polluted water by 60 percent, alleviating inundated communities along the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers. It will also send an additional 370,000 acre-feet of clean water south towards the Everglades and Florida Bay each year.

It is imperative that Congress seize this opportunity and authorize this important project in the 2018 Water Resources Development Act. Not doing so would mean another two years of unnecessary and costly delays for Florida’s celebrated fisheries.

Click here to tell members of Congress to seize this opportunity and prioritize the future of the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir.

And read the letter from 176 hunting and fishing businesses urging Congress to authorize the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir in the upcoming 2018 Water Resources Development Act.

TAKE ACTION NOW

Top photo credit to Steve Davis

Carl Erquiaga

April 17, 2018

Proposed Oil and Gas Leasing Threatens a Legendary Mule Deer Hunting Destination

Energy development in Nevada’s Ruby Mountains puts at risk the very qualities that make these public lands important to sportsmen and women

Often referred to as the Swiss Alps of Nevada, the Ruby Mountains in Elko County rise from 6,000-foot-elevation sagebrush steppe to alpine vegetation at over 11,300 feet on the summit of Ruby Dome. The rugged terrain is home to nearly every game animal in the state, including mountain goats, bighorn sheep, elk, and mountain lions, as well as Nevada’s largest mule deer herd. Resident game birds include Himalayan snowcock, blue grouse, chukars, and the greater sage grouse, while a host of eagles, hawks, and other birds are often seen soaring high above the peaks. Mountain streams contain healthy fish populations, among them the native Lahontan cutthroat trout. Hunters, anglers, backpackers, and recreationists of all types spend thousands of days and dollars each year camping and exploring this iconic mountain range.

Without a doubt, the Rubies are among Nevada’s most beloved landscapes and provide vital habitat for wildlife.

This past fall, the Humboldt Toiyabe National Forest invited the public to comment on a proposal to lease approximately 54,000 acres in the Ruby Mountains for oil and gas exploration. Parcels under consideration for leasing extend in places from the foothills to the top of the range, and several directly abut the boundary of the Ruby Mountain Wilderness. Others lie within a mile of Ruby Dome and the scenic, high-alpine Griswold Lake. The proposed leases spread several miles on either side of Harrison Pass, a very popular area for campers and deer hunters, while the southernmost tracts encompass crucial winter range and migration corridors for big game.

During an initial 30-day comment period, the Forest Service received more than 8,000 responses from various agencies, individuals, and organizations. Tellingly, only a handful of comments supported the proposal. Sportsmen and women, especially, expressed concerns at the prospect of someday seeing roads, machinery, and oil wells scattered across the landscape. Besides the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, other sporting organizations voicing their objections include Trout Unlimited, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, the Coalition for Nevada’s Wildlife, and Nevada Muleys.

Because of the intense public interest in the issue, the Forest Service has extended the comment period on the proposed leasing until April 23, 2018. Concerned sportsmen and women must make their voices heard. Energy exploration in the Ruby Mountains would jeopardize the quality of the region’s wildlife habitat and the celebrated opportunities it offers to hunters and anglers. This rich and storied landscape is no place for drilling and development.

Take action now. Please offer your comments on the proposed leasing and ask that the Humboldt Toiyabe National Forest:

  • Defer the leasing of any important wildlife habitat in the Ruby Mountains, including big game seasonal range and migration corridors, until a full Forest Plan revision can be completed.
  • Undertake a comprehensive upfront assessment of the potential impact of energy development on fish and wildlife in this area.
  • Commit adequate funding to prevent, monitor, and mitigate any damage or degradation to habitat and populations.

Photos courtesy of USFS

Kim Jensen

April 11, 2018

This is the Difference Between Blocking Fish Passage and Creating Portals to Habitat Heaven

When it comes to infrastructure that works for flood-prone communities and fish, not all culverts are created equal

When fish run into man-made barriers, such as roads or bridges, carefully planned and executed infrastructure can mean the difference between disrupting their typical migration and allowing passage to spawning grounds or more available food sources. Often, to get from one side of a road or bridge to another, fish pass through culverts, which are often long metal tubes that allow water to pass under a roadway.

But not all culverts are created equal. Some can be easily overwhelmed by rain or other weather related events and become hazardous for fish. Culverts that are too small can create fast-moving water, harming juvenile fish that aren’t yet strong swimmers. As the stream bank around a culvert erodes away, it can become perched too far from the surface of the water for fish to access it safely.

The people who designed these crossings never intended them to hurt more than they help, but we understand much more now about how to make culverts fish-friendly. This is particularly an issue in the Southeast, an area with an abundance of fish species but also some of the highest rates of fish endangerment. This is due, in part, to poor-quality stream crossings. Luckily, the work of conservation groups and the Trump administration’s appetite for infrastructure funding could turn things around in the Southeast and across the country.

Increasing Fish Passage One Culvert at a Time

Federal agencies, such as the U.S. Forest Service, and sportsmen’s organizations have taken the lead on replacing culverts to improve fish passage. From 2008 to 2015 alone, the Forest Service and other partners invested more than $105 million to replace or remove 1,049 culverts on Forest Service land across the country. In the Forest Service’s Southern region, this led to the removal or replacement of 77 culverts, which reconnected 256 miles of aquatic habitat.

This work continues today. Sportsmen’s organizations like Trout Unlimited continue to reconnect fish and wildlife habitat through innovative and nature-based solutions to infrastructure. One of these efforts in the Southeast was the Roaring Creek Project that removed an undersized 36-inch-diameter culvert and replaced it with a 40-foot-wide clear span bridge.

Roaring Creek project before and after, photo courtesy of Trout Unlimited.

The old culvert had repeatedly failed, causing downstream flooding and necessitating its repeated replacement. The pipe had also become perched, stopping fish from crossing from one side to the other. The replacement bridge is not only strong enough to allow a fire truck to drive over it, now it also allows trout to pass from the headwater streams of Upper Roaring Creek to North Toe River, which is meaningful because Roaring Creek is one of the most productive native trout streams in the state. More than 4 miles of high quality trout streams have been reconnected because of this project.

Fish-Friendly Culverts Benefit People, Too

Utilizing fish-friendly culverts doesn’t just help fish and wildlife, it is also more cost-effective for taxpayers. During heavy rains, many small culverts cannot handle the increased water flow, causing roads—like this one in Cherokee County, Ga.—to collapse. Every time a culvert under a road blows out due to poor design, taxpayers have to foot the bill. Roads have to be closed, as traffic is diverted, costing U.S. businesses valuable time as trucks are detoured or detained. Importantly, this also impacts the roads that emergency vehicles can take.

 

However, stream crossings with natural bottoms or culverts that are appropriately sized for fish passage can withstand heavier rainfalls. In Alaska’s Mat-Su Valley, 100 dated culverts were replaced with fish-friendly alternatives that still remain, even after a catastrophic flood in 2012.

Culvert Revival and Funds

The TRCP is actively seeking to ensure broader installation of fish-friendly culverts through our work with the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Fish Passage Prevention Roundtable. We’ve also joined with other hunting, fishing, and conservation organizations to champion nature-based solutions to infrastructure challenges and advocate for federal funding to help replace old, ineffective culverts. By highlighting the public safety, financial, and fish habitat benefits provided by effective culverts, the TRCP is working to move the needle on an issue important to anglers nationwide.

 

Top and bottom photos courtesy of USFWS/Katrina Liebich. 

HOW YOU CAN HELP

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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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