May 1, 2018

Checking In on Our Wishlist for Congress and DOI

Back in January, we came up with six New Year’s resolutions we wished Congress and DOI would make, and some progress has been made on more than half

As we enter the fifth month of the year, it’s a pretty good bet that most Americans have long since abandoned their New Year’s resolutions. In fact, according to U.S. News and World Report, 80 percent of resolutions fail by the second week of February.

But we’re still looking to Congress and the Department of the Interior to work through some serious conservation goals we’ve been eyeing since January. Here are the six New Year’s resolutions we hoped to see them make to improve hunting, fishing, and habitat, and updates on where these issues stand today.

Fix Our Forests

A looming budget deadline offered a great opportunity to finally fix the way we pay for catastrophic wildfires—and reform forest management to help prevent fires in the first place. We thought lawmakers should pass a comprehensive fire funding fix in the budget deal to stop taking funds from forest restoration programs like prescribed burning and removal of invasive species and diseased trees.

Status: Done! Congress came through for sportsmen and all who rely on access to Forest Service lands in passing a comprehensive fix for fire borrowing in the fiscal year 2018 spending bill in March. We were thrilled and relieved to see bipartisan support for many other provisions that will benefit fish and wildlife habitat, clean water, sportsmen’s access, and the outdoor recreation economy, but the fire funding fix is a truly defining achievement, which will ensure that the Forest Service can get back to the business of maintaining healthy habitat and excellent facilities.

Bulk Up Water Quality Efforts in the Farm Bill

Looking ahead to the new Farm Bill, we hoped it would be one that would strengthen and maintain funding for USDA conservation programs. The work done with these funds keeps tons of pollutants out of rivers and expands water conservation on farms, which improves river flows to support healthy fisheries, strong outdoor recreation businesses, and flourishing rural communities.

Status: Possible. In the coming weeks, the House of Representatives is expected to vote on the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018—otherwise known as the Farm Bill. This particular version of the bill is pretty contentious and not likely to be signed into law, but it proposes doubling the scope of the Environmental Quality Incentive Program to $3 billion. Of the many features of EQIP, one of the most popular is the incentive for landowners and farmers to incorporate cover crops into their planting rotation, and this practice has some benefit for improving soil health and slowing the progress of polluted farm runoff.

Invest in Access on Private Land

With legislation as massive and far-reaching as the Farm Bill, we knew there would also be a unique opportunity to boost hunting and fishing access in areas where there are few, if any, public lands. If Congress could reauthorize and expand the popular Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program—the U.S. Department of Agriculture program that incentivizes landowners to open their property for public hunting and fishing access—the improved opportunities for hunters and anglers would create a draw in some rural communities that desperately need an economic boost.

Status: Signs look pretty good. There was bipartisan support for a standalone bill introduced in the House in February to reauthorize and enhance VPA-HIP. And though the House version of the Farm Bill did not include quite as much new funding for the program as we wanted, lawmakers have proposed a decent bump.

Defend the Clean Water Act

We were insistent that Congress should not make it easier for the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers eliminate a rule that more clearly defined the protections of the Clean Water Act. Americans overwhelmingly support protecting headwater streams and wetlands, which are critical to fish and waterfowl populations. Trimming down on regulation doesn’t have to mean leaving these foundational waters and rapidly disappearing wetlands vulnerable to pollution or destruction.

Status: Still trending in the wrong direction. The two-step repeal process has been ongoing since last year, despite broad public support for the 2015 Clean Water Rule’s benefits to fish and wildlife habitat. But Congress did not use legislative riders to waive any procedures or give the greenlight to move forward more quickly, which is a quiet win.

Image courtesy of Amanda Nalley/Florida Fish and Wildlife.

Modernize Marine Fisheries Management

For five years, the leading advocates of recreational fishing and conservation worked with policy makers to improve federal recreational fishing management by modernizing data collection and allowing more involvement from state agencies and anglers. These essential changes were included in legislation that passed the House Natural Resources Committee in December 2017 and headed to the House floor. As of the first of the year, the Senate had an opportunity to improve upon this legislation and ensure that the vital contributions—cultural, economic, and conservation efforts—of the recreational saltwater fishing industry are finally recognized in federal law and policy.

Status: Closer than ever before. At the end of February, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation overwhelmingly approved the Modernizing Recreational Fisheries Management Act of 2017, otherwise known as the Modern Fish Act. This legislation calls for critically important updates to the oversight of federal fisheries, by adding more tools to the management toolbox, improving data collection techniques, and examining some fishery allocations that are based on decades-old decisions. If passed into law, the Modern Fish Act would bring to fruition five years’ worth of input from the recreational fishing community and increase the level of trust between America’s 11 million saltwater anglers and federal fisheries managers.

Champion Conservation and Access Equally

Some of the best news of 2017 came out of the Department of the Interior, when Secretary Zinke asked agency leaders to identify and prioritize opening new hunting and fishing access to previously landlocked public lands and national wildlife refuges. While this is to be celebrated, we were anxious to see the DOI define a “conservation vision” for valuable habitats and hunting and fishing areas in 2018, to work in tandem with the vision that they have already established for expanding sportsmen’s access. This would include clear measures to recognize and conserve wildlife migration corridors, avoid or minimize impacts to habitat from development, plan locally to safeguard our best hunting and fishing areas, and allow conservation plans for greater sage grouse work as intended.

Status: TBD. In February, Zinke issued a Secretarial Order directing agencies to work toward better conservation of critical big game habitat, including migration corridors, stopover habitat, and seasonal ranges. And we’re hearing every assurance that the DOI will begin to make a broader pivot toward conservation now that they are satisfied with the direction we’re going on energy development. But the BLM is launching an amendment process for greater sage-grouse conservation plans that were settled in 2015—changes could affect 98 land-use plans for about 67 million acres across the West.

 

We originally posted “Six New Year’s Resolutions We Wish Congress and DOI Would Make” on January 5, 2018.

9 Responses to “Checking In on Our Wishlist for Congress and DOI”

  1. Bob Lick

    Congress must revise the Antiquities Act to prevent all future presidents from locking up many thousands of acres of public lands. The Act should be used as originally intended, “the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.”
    God Bless Secretary Zinke.
    Sure shots and tight lines to all.

  2. Alan Gregory. Lt. Col., USAF, Ret.

    Our natural heritage is increasingly in danger. It is politicians’ fixation on doing what their campaign contributors want that needs to be fixed — to the side of conservation.

  3. Scott schaeffer

    Get that CRP cap raised to 40 million acres plus! More habitat, means more game for everyone! Access is reflection of game abundance. We can fix this and more ( water quality, erosion, forage
    reserve, etc) with the swipe of a pen! Farmbill for wildlife! I’m g

  4. Regarding reply # 5 from Mr.Petchrochko. Once again TRCP gives a complete MORON a platform to spew LIBTARD REMARKS!!! I’m willing to bet he has never written to, or spoken with any lawmakers? EVER! No matter what you do TRCP make sure you perpetuate division in our country by acknowledging statements backed by hatred…
    making certain I and others like me will NOT financially support organizations like you. Once again it’s the Natural World and Wildlife the looses by humans behaving like FOOLS!

  5. In response to reply #6, kurt, I don’t think it is fair for you to blame TRCP for the comments on their article. As long as the comments are not using inappropriate language, I think that it is nice to see that they allow for people to freely express their opinion both in support of and against the organization’s agenda. If you look up to reply #2, you will see that this person has made a statement that is directly opposed to TRCP’s stance on the Antiquities Act. While I do not agree with reply #5, I think that you should appreciate the fact that TRCP is not censoring all of their comments so that only there “perfect world” agenda is portrayed.

  6. Wow Kurt,

    You really think you’re any different than Pete Petrochko? Calling people “libtards” and morons is doing nothing to bring people closer together. Also, making egregious spelling errors while insulting the intelligence of others is generally not advised.

    As for Bob, I get the feeling you’re referencing Bears Ears which still allows hunting and fishing. Now there is just less land protected from development for hunting and fishing.

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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.

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

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.

Learn More
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