July 25, 2019

Sportsmen’s Groups Throw Support Behind Renewable Energy Legislation

Today’s House hearing will consider a measure that our coalition says will help protect wildlife and public lands with thoughtful planning and revenue for conservation

Sporting groups have rallied around a bill that would balance development of renewable energy with fish and wildlife conservation on public lands. The Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act of 2019, reintroduced earlier this month, was debated in a hearing this morning in the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources.

The bill sponsored by Reps. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and Mike Levin (D-Calif.) would:

  • Establish a forward-looking and efficient management system for wind and solar projects on public lands.
  • Direct at least 25 percent of royalties to a conservation fund.
  • Direct another 50 percent to state and local governments where projects are located.
  • Encourage smart planning and balance between development and protection of fish and wildlife resources.

Royalties directed into the newly established conservation fund could be used to restore fish and wildlife habitat affected by development and maintain access to hunting and fishing opportunities on public lands.

The bipartisan measure is aimed at building the framework for more efficient, responsible development of renewable energy on public lands. By planning ahead and identifying priority areas for wind, solar, and geothermal development, PLREDA encourages smart siting and efficient permitting of projects in places with high potential for energy and low impact on wildlife and habitat. (We outlined how PLREDA would work as it moved through Congress in 2017.)

Hunters and anglers are supportive of the development of renewable energy resources on public lands when it is done in the right places and in a manner that conserves fish and wildlife habitat as outlined in this bill.

“Renewable energy on public lands offers great potential to society, but it must be done right,” said Chris Wood, president and CEO of Trout Unlimited. “This bill does it right. It compensates local communities for the impacts of development and requires smart planning from the start. It creates a restoration and mitigation fund that ensures we take care of the fish, water, and wildlife resources upon which our nation depends. Trout Unlimited is grateful to the co-sponsors for their support of this important legislation.”

“This bill would achieve a rare win-win scenario by thoughtfully balancing renewable energy development and habitat needs, while creating a consistent stream of revenue to fund essential fish and wildlife management projects,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We’re heartened to see momentum behind this legislation, which will create opportunities to enhance sportsmen’s access, clean water resources, and critical habitat for important game species. This bipartisan bill and common-sense approach to conservation funding have TRCP’s full support.”

“Hunters and anglers support multiple uses, including energy development, on public lands with the understanding that fish and wildlife and the interests of sportsmen and women are acknowledged as a top priority,” said John Gale, conservation director for Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “PLREDA does this by facilitating clean energy infrastructure, elevating considerations for fish and wildlife habitat and supporting local economies. We thank Reps. Gosar and Levin for their bipartisan leadership on this issue.”

Public lands contain some of the most valuable fish and wildlife habitat in the nation. These lands also provide a great opportunity for well-planned and properly mitigated renewable energy development projects that could contribute to job creation, reduce carbon pollution, and boost the conservation of natural resources for the benefit of this and future generations.

Conservation has been a hot topic with lawmakers in recent weeks. Learn more about a new bill that would invest roughly $1.4 billion in proactive, voluntary conservation efforts to benefit the most vulnerable species.

 

Top photo by Jim Hardy.

16 Responses to “Sportsmen’s Groups Throw Support Behind Renewable Energy Legislation”

  1. Scott Sharer

    Isn’t This a sell out? Why is this any different than oil/gas drilling on public lands? The footprint of these type of energy projects is every bit as large and onerous as that of any fossil fuel industry…

  2. Yes, we need to protect and fight for our Federal Public Lands Which are under constant attack from extraction Industries, and dirty politicians i.e., like Cory Gardner, he was a major motivator to move BLM Headquarters to Grand Junction, which is the first move by corrupt politicians to convert Federal Public Lands to the States so they can sale the Lands to the highest bidder. Natural Lands Citizens should beware.

  3. Dan Thompson

    Have they already exhausted all the opportunities for putting these developments on private land? I’m sure that cows and corn care less about sharing land with wind turbines than elk, deer and trout do. I’m sure the farmers and ranchers wouldn’t mind a little extra money either.

  4. Adam Neff

    Why are all these sportsmen’s groups supporting these large invasive developments on public lands that will have negative impacts on wildlife? How are the impacts of these large solar and wind projects any different than that of a coal mine or housing development? Windmills kill millions of birds and bats, and have the same impacts to ungulates that a O/G well pad have.

  5. Ben Sellers

    I do not support permanent structures on public land if it restricts or blocks access to those lands or adjoining lands. Statements that hunters support this are misleading because many of us feel that this is contrary to why we joined TCRP, BHA, or other organizations. If we are supposed to get behind this type of legislation it should be clearly stated in the law that no loss of public access will occur or an offsetting amount of public land will be purchased in the same region.

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Chris Macaluso

July 23, 2019

Bringing Back Florida’s Essential Seagrass and Coral Will Take a Team Effort

These marine resources have taken a major hit, but firm commitments from the state, feds, and researchers could help bring back lost fish habitat

Seagrass beds and coral reefs are two vitally important habitats for a variety of popular sportfish—including tarpon, redfish, snook, speckled trout, bonefish, permit, cobia, snapper, and groupers—as well as the forage fish and crustaceans these predators eat.

Increased salinity levels in Florida Bay, due to a lack of freshwater moving through the Everglades, has combined with poor water quality, hurricanes, and coral diseases to take a significant toll on these critical habitats over the last three decades. In fact, hyper-saline conditions in 2015 led to historic seagrass loss in Florida Bay, and it’s estimated that Florida’s natural coral reefs have experienced as much as a 90-percent loss in some areas.

But with funding and support from sportfishing conservation organizations, proactive steps have been taken at the local, state, and federal level to address the root causes of both seagrass and coral mortality. Here’s how.

National Commitment to the Everglades

Beginning with the authorization of the Central Everglades Planning Project in the 2016 Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), and continuing with the authorization of a southern storage reservoir in the Everglades Agricultural Area, key projects will allow for more clean water to move south into the Everglades and eventually Florida Bay, reducing the need for discharges that damage coastal estuaries.

State Steps Up

In June 2019, the state of Florida and U.S. Department of Transportation announced a combined $100-million commitment to elevating more than six miles of the Tamiami Trail highway (US 41) to allow for water to pass under the road and into Everglades National Park. The announcement was made just as an earlier phase of the project was completed—a $90-million effort that elevated more than three miles of the highway to allow for increased water flow.

In This Together

Commitments to coral restoration have been made, as well. Federal-state partnerships—including the Water Quality Protection Program, administered by the U.S. EPA and Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection, and the Florida Keys Water Quality Improvement Program—have aimed to better control wastewater discharges. Scientists with NOAA and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary have worked closely with Florida’s DEP and FWC to identify the causes of coral disease, develop effective responses, and determine how to best restore affected areas.

Florida’s Mote Marine Laboratory has also been studying coral diseases, investing more than $6 million in combined state and federal funds to plant nearly 100,000 corals in affected areas over the last five years.

Image courtesy of Amanda Nalley/Florida Fish and Wildlife.
Florida’s Fishing Future

The Everglades Foundation, American Sportfishing Association, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Captains for Clean Water, National Audubon Society, National Wildlife Federation, and a host of other conservation and sportfishing organizations have pushed for a federal commitment of $200 million each year for the next 10 years to complete vital Everglades restoration and water quality improvement projects across South Florida.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the Florida Legislature have allocated more than $400 million to Everglades restoration and water quality improvements.

These combined efforts to address habitat restoration in South Florida will ensure the future of sportfishing in this destination fishery.

This topic was featured at TRCP’s annual Saltwater Media Summit at ICAST on July 11, 2019.

Thank you to our expert panelists: Eric Eikenberg, chief executive officer of the Everglades Foundation; Sarah Fangman, superintendent of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary; Eric Sutton, executive director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission; Noah Valenstein, secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

And our sincerest gratitude to our generous sponsors: American Sportfishing Association, Bass Pro Shops, Costa, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, National Marine Manufacturers Association, NOAA, Peak Design, Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, takemefishing.com, and Yamaha.

Kristyn Brady

July 18, 2019

TRCP Pitches Congress on Creating Better Drought Solutions While Improving Habitat

TRCP’s senior counsel and Colorado River expert speaks at a Senate hearing in support of legislation that would prioritize collaboration and natural solutions to water storage challenges

Melinda Kassen, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s senior counsel, testified this morning before the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power and offered the organization’s support for legislation that would help build drought resilience in the West.

“Hunters and anglers need water in the landscape,” said Kassen. “Outdoor recreation infuses $887 billion into the U.S. economy and is especially important for rural America. Fish swim in clean, flowing rivers and streams. Migratory birds feed and rest along the wetlands of our major flyways. Local bird populations nest along riparian corridors. But the TRCP, its partners, and other NGOs recognize that many interests compete for the West’s limited water supplies. Our experience shows that cooperation among diverse interests is the only path leading to durable solutions.”

Kassen testified on the Drought Resiliency and Water Supply Infrastructure Act (S. 1932), a bill that would strengthen the nation’s water supply and improve systems that help us respond to drought. She suggested several modifications to the proposed bill, including changes that would encourage better cooperation with Western state governments and allow more projects to improve natural water-storage systems, such as wetlands and riparian aquifers.

“Natural infrastructure allows the landscape to retain water and then release it for other uses,” said Kassen. “Like built water storage, natural storage makes wet season precipitation or runoff available during the next drier season with high water demand.”

She also called for funding to improve water conservation and efficiency efforts, including bold new programs to reduce water demand or boost voluntary conservation activities that will be critical in the Colorado River Basin and across the West.

Kassen is the third expert witness from the TRCP to testify in congressional hearings this year. In March 2019, Chief Conservation Officer Christy Plumer highlighted ways that Congress can support fish and wildlife this session, and President and CEO Whit Fosburgh offered solutions for tackling America’s public land access challenges.

Watch a video of Kassen’s testimony here:

Randall Williams

July 15, 2019

Sportsmen Respond to New Effort to Lease and Drill the Ruby Mountains

New proposal for oil and gas leasing highlights the need for congressional action

Sportsmen and women are vocally opposing a new effort to open up the Ruby Mountains to oil and gas development concerns over impacts ot habitat and wildlife.

Days after the U.S. Forest Service denied authorization for leasing 54,000 acres in Nevada’s Ruby Mountains, energy developers submitted two new requests to open this prized landscape to oil and gas drilling. A private entity filed new Expressions of Interest (EOIs) to lease 88,000 acres for oil and gas development in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. Many of the parcels would affect the same areas previously rejected for leasing.

“Sportsmen and women see this new threat to the Rubies as further proof that lawmakers must act to conserve this special place for future generations,” said Carl Erquiaga, Nevada field representative with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “The Ruby Mountains, known as Nevada’s Swiss Alps, are home to Nevada’s largest mule deer herd, critical populations of the threatened Lahontan cutthroat trout, and numerous other fish and wildlife species.”

In January 2019 Senator Cortez Masto introduced the Ruby Mountain Protection Act (S258) which would permanently withdraw from oil and gas exploration 450,000 acres in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest’s Ruby Mountain Ranger District. A coalition of 14 influential hunting, fishing, and wildlife conservation groups, Sportsmen for the Rubies, has called for lawmakers to pass the legislation.

“The Ruby Mountains, one of the most rugged and beautiful landscapes in the west, supports Nevada’s largest mule deer herd and offers untold hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation opportunities. This latest attempt to lease the Rubies underscores the need to pass S258 quickly,” said Pam Harrington, Nevada field coordinator with Trout Unlimited.

By law, federal agencies must respond to these EOIs through a formal process, representing a considerable demand on budgets and human resources. The previous round of leasing requests required more than a year and a half of work before the “no leasing” decision could be made. Now the agency must go through the process again with no certainty that the outcome will be the same.

“It’s clear that the threat to the Rubies won’t go away unless Congress takes action,” continued Erquiaga. “Hunters and anglers in Nevada are counting on lawmakers to do the right thing for this one-of-a-kind landscape.”

Learn more and take action at SportsmenfortheRubies.com.

 

Photo: USFS

Marnee Banks

July 12, 2019

Recovering America’s Wildlife Act Creates 21st Century Conservation Model 

Legislation will invest in on-the-ground fish and wildlife management 

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is hailing landmark legislation that will transform fish and wildlife management across the nation.  U.S. Representatives Debbie Dingell (D-Mich) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) introduced the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act to invest meaningful resources into proactive conservation. 

Right now, 12,000 species in America need conservation action and 40 percent of the nation’s freshwater fish species are at risk. This legislation will help prevent those species from becoming threatened or endangered by creating a 21st century funding model.  

“This legislation will invest in critical habitat, stronger wildlife populations, and a more robust outdoor recreation economy,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “This bill empowers on-the-ground wildlife experts to implement science-based conservation plans that will preserve these species into the future.”  

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act will invest roughly $1.4 billion to the Wildlife Conservation Restoration Program for proactive, voluntary efforts led by the states, territories and tribal nations to prevent vulnerable wildlife from becoming endangered. 

A national survey determined that each state needs an average of $26 million in new funding annually to effectively implement their State Wildlife Action Plans to prevent species from becoming threatened or endangered. Current funding levels are less than 5 percent of what is needed. 

 

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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