Chris Macaluso

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posted in: Highlights

June 26, 2019

When the Mississippi Hits its High Water Mark, Anglers Shouldn’t Give Up

Annual flooding on the Mississippi River is part of life in South Louisiana

Each year, the Mississippi swells with late winter and spring rain and snowmelt, carrying sediments from the Midwest and the Great Plains down to the Gulf of Mexico. Before levees the length of the river were built to tame floods and help navigation, the swollen river would spill over into the swamps and marshes of Louisiana’s coast, building an intricate web of coastal rivers, bayous, ponds, lakes, bays, and thick, lush marshes.

The land underneath my house in Baton Rouge was built in the last 15,000 years by that annual flooding. The towns of Dulac, Dularge and Grand Isle, where I will launch from to fish in the coming days and weeks are built on land created by the great river in the last 5,000 years.

If the average annual flood is a garden hose, the floods of 2018 and 2019 are a fire hydrant that nobody can figure out how to turn off.

The Mississippi has been above the highwater mark (8 feet on the New Orleans gauge) for going on 230 days and there is no sign it will go below that mark in the coming month. While high water makes shipping more treacherous and dirties adjacent bays, the Army Corps of Engineers doesn’t act to protect New Orleans from flooding until the river gets to between 16 and 17 feet, prompting the opening of the Bonnet Carre’ Spillway, a floodgate located about 25 miles upstream that can direct about a quarter of the river’s flow into Lake Pontchartrain and take pressure off levees that protect the city.

This year, Bonnet Carre’ has been open for a record number of days–86 and counting. And it appears that number will grow to at least 95 days before its gates are shut for good. The old-timers talk about 1973 being the year the Mighty Mississippi almost broke free of its shackles. And the real old timers talk about 1927 when the river experienced unprecedented flooding. Now we have 2019 to add to the annals.

Generally, June is when the river begins to drop below flood stage and settle into its summer and fall channel, and when conditions downriver begin to change as the Gulf of Mexico’s green, saltier waters take over coastal bays southeast of New Orleans.

But this year the flood keeps pushing past and as a result silt-heavy freshwater from the Mississippi, Pearl, Atchafalaya, and Sabine Rivers has inundated coastal lakes and bays across Louisiana’s coast well into the summer. Sure, we understand summer doesn’t start until June 21 on the calendar, but once the thermometer touches 90, it’s summer. And that happened about a month and a half ago.

The muddy waters have some Louisiana anglers discouraged, assuming it’s just not worth the effort to put the boat in the water. But many have persevered, adapting to the freshwater influxes and finding speckled trout and redfish concentrated in areas adjacent to the freshwater, where there is enough salinity for them to feed on the shrimp, mullet,menhaden, and even freshwater shad, bluegill and crawfish that come with the floods. It’s far from an ideal summertime situation, but in some cases the fishing has been outstanding even in areas inundated by river water.

Often, Louisiana anglers lose sight of how adaptive the fish and animals can be. Speckled trout and redfish didn’t show up in Louisiana after levees were built along the Mississippi River. They were here long before that and live here because of the habitat, nutrients and food supplied by the river, not in spite of it. The speckled trout that have left coastal marshes and lakes close to the river to find saltier water this spring and summer will return this fall when the Gulf pushes back against the river,and the Gulf will most certainly push back. Then those fish will find areas full of vegetation, food, and new habitat.

Hopefully this year’s flood will be the catalyst for a serious examination of the way the Mississippi River is managed top-to-bottom. The strategy of narrowing the river, forcing it higher and higher through levees seems to be a failing approach in many parts of the country. Sediment is building up in areas throughout the basin, leading to reduced storage capacity during floods while areas downriver need more sediment to keep up with subsidence.

Those who make policy and folks who live and fish along the great river will have to adapt to what the present and future will bring, just like the fish residing in our favorite coastal lakes and bays have had to change over time.

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Randall Williams

June 21, 2019

Sportsmen Ask BLM to Support Outdoor Priorities in Eastern Colorado

Draft public lands management plan shows some promising provisions in the preferred alternative, some areas in need of improvement

Canon City, Colo. – On Monday the Bureau of Land Management made public its Royal Gorge Field Office (RGFO) draft Resource Management Plan, which when finalized will guide management decisions over the next few decades on 600,000 surface and 6.8 million subsurface acres of public lands.

A coalition of ten hunting- and fishing-related groups and 23 local businesses have been working alongside a wide range of stakeholders over the past several years to ensure that high-value backcountry hunting and fishing areas are accessible and big game populations conserved in the Royal Gorge Field Office. While sportsmen would like to see some changes to the final plan, the response to the draft plan was generally positive.

“South Park-area BLM public lands offer some truly amazing and wide-ranging opportunities for sportsmen and women,” said Nick Payne, Colorado field representative with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “This is particularly true in the Upper Arkansas River area, which supports a great deal of recreation. By making a few adjustments to secure sportsmen’s priorities in the final plan – especially for key backcountry hunting areas – the BLM could make this land use plan a success.”

Safeguards for key hunting and fishing lands have been one focus of a years-long community-driven planning process for the South Park area. While some changes have been made to management provisions in the South Park Area, hunting and fishing groups believe this part of the plan remains largely true to the desired outcomes expressed by the community and various stakeholders.

“Although there have been some changes in presentation of the South Park management in the draft RMP, we feel good about where this planning process is headed and believe the community’s priorities can be represented in the final plan,” said Suzanne O’Neill, executive director of the Colorado Wildlife Federation, who has been on the forefront of these efforts since the first discussions in 2011. “Sportsmen, women, and wildlife enthusiasts will remain involved in this process as constructive partners to ensure that the final plan benefits the iconic South Park landscape and community.”

Terry Meyers, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Society, pointed out the importance of this plan to Colorado’s bighorn sheep hunters, “Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep hunting units in the RGFO offer hunters the chance to pursue this iconic Western species in Colorado every year. We encourage the BLM to conserve valuable intact habitat and hunting areas in the final plan”

“This process isn’t over yet and there are some things we’d like to see improved,” continued Payne. “But we also appreciate the work put into this plan by the BLM and we will remain at the table to see this process through to completion. We believe it can be a success.”

 

Photo: Scrubhiker (USCdyer) via Flickr

Michael O'Casey

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posted in: Highlights

June 20, 2019

Oregonians: Stand Up for Public Lands!

This is YOUR chance to play a role in how our public lands are managed and ensure that sportsmen and women have a say about the places where we love to hunt and fish

The Bureau of Land Management’s Vale District Office manages more than 4.6 million acres of public lands across eastern Oregon including the Trout Creek Mountains and the Owyhee Reservoir. These landscapes provide some of the finest hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation opportunities in the state, as well as important habitat for big game, upland birds, and lahontan cutthroat trout

Currently, the BLM is revising its plan that will determine the future management of these lands for the next 20+ years, and public meetings are scheduled that offer an opportunity for the public to share their ideas directly to the BLM. This process is a key opportunity to help protect habitat of the imperiled sage grouse, determine where Off-Road Vehicles can and cannot travel, and protect wild desert places to camp, hunt and fish. Three main issues will be addressed in this planning process: Lands with Wilderness Characteristics, Off-Road Vehicle and Travel Management and Livestock Grazing. Each meeting will include a brief overview of the alternatives being considered at 6 p.m. Maps, handouts and BLM staff to answer questions will be available for the duration of each meeting. Sportsmen and women must get involved to ensure that the best habitats are conserved and public access for hunting and fishing is maintained.

Please attend one of three local public meetings and make your voice heard – meeting dates, locations, and times, as well as suggested talking points are listed below.

Where and when

Public meetings (All meetings run from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.)

  • Monday, June 24, at the Four Rivers Cultural Center in Ontario, Ore
  • Tuesday, June 25, at the McDermitt Community Center in McDermitt, Nev.
  • Wednesday, June 26, at the Jordan Valley Lions Hall, Jordan Valley, Ore

Suggested talking points

Stakeholder Support: The BLM’s preferred alternative to revert to the management plan from 2002 does not reflect recommendations made after countless years of efforts by diverse stakeholders on the local Resource Advisory Council to improve the management of public lands for recreation and wildlife. Urge the BLM to select an alternative that will protect this landscape’s wild places by limiting OHV travel to existing routes and maximizes opportunities for common-sense conservation that improves the health and habitat of this vast landscape.

Conservation of unfragmented, functional habitats: These high-quality habitats benefit countless species including sage grouse, mule deer, and desert bighorn sheep. Over 2 million acres within the planning area have been identified as mule deer winter range and deserve common sense protections. Backcountry public lands also enable hunters to get away from the crowds and enjoy a quality hunting experience.

Wildlife and fisheries restoration and enhancement: We encourage and support efforts to prioritize active habitat restoration and enhancement on the landscape to benefit big game and other wildlife species.

Rob Thornberry

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posted in: Highlights

June 17, 2019

Idahoans: Show Up and Speak Out for Public Lands

This is YOUR chance to play a role in how our public lands are managed and ensure that sportsmen and women have a say about the places where we love to hunt and fish

The Bureau of Land Management’s Four Rivers Field Office manages more than 780,000 acres of public lands across western Idaho from the Bennett Hills to the eastern shores of Brownlee Reservoir. These landscapes provide some of the finest hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation opportunities in western Idaho, as well as important habitat for big game, upland birds, and wild trout.

Currently, the BLM is revising its plan that will determine the future management of these lands for the next 20+ years, and public meetings are scheduled that offer an opportunity for the public to share their ideas directly to the BLM. Sportsmen and women must get involved to ensure that the best habitats are conserved and public access for hunting and fishing is maintained.

Please attend one of four local public meetings and make your voice heard – meeting dates, locations, and times, as well as suggested talking points are listed below.

Where and when

Public meetings (All meetings run from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.)
June 18: Boise District Office 3948 S Development Avenue, Boise ID 83705
June 25: Weiser High School 690 W Indianhead Rd, Weiser, ID 83672
June 26: Emmett Junior High School 301 E 4th St, Emmett, ID 83617
June 27: Mountain Home Junior High School 1600 E 6th S St, Mountain Home, ID 83647

Suggested talking points

• It is important to me that the Four Rivers BLM Field Office’s RMP revision conserve valuable big game winter range and popular hunting areas. The BLM should adopt a Backcountry Conservation Area for the Bennett Hills that would conserve valuable big game range, sustain sportsmen’s access, and prioritize habitat restoration for one of Idaho’s best mule deer hunting areas.

• I encourage the BLM to identify places where public access acquisition should be a priority, including the creation of access to public lands that are landlocked or difficult to access because there are few or no access points across private land that enable the public to reach BLM lands.

• I request that the BLM take steps to ensure the conservation of identified big game migration corridors and winter range. This should include not only conserving corridors that have already been mapped and analyzed by Idaho Fish and Game, but also migration corridors that will be mapped in the future.

Kristyn Brady

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posted in: Highlights

June 14, 2019

In the Arena: George and Amidea Daniel

TRCP’s “In the Arena” series highlights the individual voices of hunters and anglers who, as Theodore Roosevelt so famously said, strive valiantly in the worthy cause of conservation

George and Amidea Daniel

Hometown: Beech Creek, Pennsylvania
Occupation: George – Flyfishing guide instructor
Amidea – Educational specialist for the PA Fish and Boat Commission
Conservation credentials: Spreading the gospel of flyfishing, the mental health benefits of the outdoors, and bringing balance to areas where a growing populations puts extra demands on water resources.

These high-school sweethearts have been married for nearly 18 years, but their commitment to the outdoors runs just as deep. George says flyfishing is his life, and he spends close to 280 days on the water, while also serving as a coach for the U.S. Youth Flyfishing Team. In her work, Amidea leads a statewide initiative designed to promote and encourage more women to take up fishing. Oh, and that’s when they’re not busy raising two little water bugs of their own.

Here is their story.

George was born in Potter County, along the headwaters of Kettle Creek and started flyfishing at the age of six. Amidea was introduced to the outdoors by her father, who would take her and her brother out on camping trips at a very early age. So, both of us found a connection to the outdoors early on, which is why we spend so much time with our two children in the same capacity.

Collectively, our family has floated hundreds, maybe even a thousand miles, on our FlyCraft boats—in PA and throughout the country—especially when we first started taking our children fishing. It can be challenging and sometimes dangerous for a 5-year-old to wade, so our boats have taken us to waters they wouldn’t have been physically able to stand in.

One of our fondest memories is of taking our two children to Montana for the first time. We spent four full weeks exploring Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding areas, and from sun up to sundown, we were outside. The expressions on our kids’ faces as we drove through the park and witnessed all the wildlife and beautiful scenery is something we’ll never forget.

There’s a reason why we still live in central PA—it offers almost everything an angler could want. From freestone streams to legendary limestone rivers to the recovering West Branch of the Susquehanna, we have all our bases covered. Plus, we have so many miles of fishable water within a 30- to 90-minute drive from our home.

Clean water means everything in what we do. Trout, obviously one of our favorite species, demand high-quality water conditions, and without clean water, our angling opportunities would be reduced to a fraction of what we currently enjoy.

Most of our family activities revolve around the outdoors, and not having clean water and natural areas to access would have a negative impact on our lives. Technology and our smartphones can be wonderful, but we notice a difference in our mental health when we haven’t been outside for several days, either to walk, hike, float, or fish.

Numerous studies have shown the positive impacts of spending even 20 minutes in a natural environment. So, not only is conservation important to our planet, but we also feel it is imperative to Americans’ mental health and wellbeing.

In our area, development and urban sprawl are major concerns, especially because some of the aquifers that feed our limestone streams are also being tapped for drinking water. This may not be significant now, but eventually we may meet a threshold where we begin to see it having an obvious effect on our streams and water table.

Establishing a healthy balance, whether that’s between our indoor and outdoor lives or between increasing demands on our water resources, is crucial to the future of fishing and our family’s traditions.

Do you know someone In the Arenawho should be featured here? Email info@trcp.org for a questionnaire.

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.

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