Marnee Banks

October 11, 2019

TRCP’s President Calls for Collaboration to Solve Public Lands Challenges

Fosburgh highlights climate change as a major threat to public lands at the annual Society of Environmental Journalists convention 

Today, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s president and CEO Whit Fosburgh called on the Trump Administration to bring diverse stakeholders together and solve public lands challenges.

Fosburgh joined Acting Chief of the Bureau of Land Management William Perry Pendley, Dina Gilio-Whitaker from California State University San Marcos, John Freemuth from Boise State University, and Shea Loper from Encana Corporation to discuss issues facing America’s public lands at the annual Society of Environmental Journalists convention in Fort Collins, Colorado.

The panel, moderated by Washington Post Senior National Affairs Correspondent Juliet Eilperin, focused on how to balance conservation, recreation, and development on public lands.

Fosburgh encouraged the Administration to listen to the hunting, fishing, and conservation communities about how to manage the 640 million acres of federal public land in the U.S. “You have the authority to be creative in how you develop and how you balance [multiple uses],” he said. “Think creatively. Bring stakeholders together and don’t pit one side against the other.”

Fosburgh also discussed the importance of the outdoor recreation economy and the jobs supported by America’s hunting and fishing traditions—from guides and outfitters to main street businesses that thrive because of related tourism.

Eilperin closed the discussion by asking each panelist what they viewed as the biggest challenge to public lands. Fosburgh pointed to climate change:

“Climate change overall impacts every single acre of public land whether in Alaska, Maine, or Florida,” said Fosburgh. “Until we can get our hands around that, it impacts everything else we are dealing with from invasive species to public access—you name it. It’s all impacted.”

The entire panel discussion is available on the SEJ Facebook page.

5 Responses to “TRCP’s President Calls for Collaboration to Solve Public Lands Challenges”

  1. Jim roscoe

    I’m a Wy state Rep. I had a bill to rncouge improved access to landlocked public ground in Wy. It failed to pass . I could use some good arguments for trying to pass next session this Feb.

    • Vicki Cook

      I completely agree with the collaboration proposed. It is always the bureaucrats making decisions without consulting with the public, the advocates, the scientists etc., if half of the BLMs budget was used to better “manage” our public lands we without impacting them negatively we would all be happier. Unfortunately, they appear to be motivated more by domestic animal dollars instead of developing a plan for all!!

  2. The words and actions of William Perry Pendley are troublesome to say the least. We need people at the BLM who care about wildlife and habitat and show it. He seems more bent on hurting than helping. And this is a time for an all hands on deck approach to helping to take care of our natural resources, not diminishing and degrading them.

  3. In s.c. all federal owned lands the francis marion and sumpter national forest are controlled by scdnr. Hunters have very limited access to them.we are told when to hunt where to hunt and how to hunt.seasons for private and public lands. Are not the same. .private. Land owners have a 4 and a half month season.public land hunters 3 month season.

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Chris Macaluso

October 9, 2019

Fishing the “Big Muddy” After the Floods

Facing a new normal, how should we adapt conservation and infrastructure policy to improve the health of the Mississippi River and Gulf Coast?

The Mississippi River finally fell below flood stage in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on August 4—a record 211 days after it reached this milestone in early January.

For those of us who live along the banks of the “Big Muddy” and its tributaries, 1927 and 1973 have been the high-water marks used to judge all other extraordinary floods. This year, the river stayed at or above flood stage in Mississippi and Louisiana as much as two months longer than in 1927.

Submerged city riverfronts and flooded towns and farmlands throughout the Mississippi River Basin dominated news reports the entire spring and early summer. The National Weather Service reported more rainfall in the Mississippi and Tennessee River systems in the winter and spring of 2019 than ever recorded.

It would be easy to attribute all the ills of the Mississippi River Basin this year to historic rainfall. Given the unprecedented amount of water spilling into and out of the Mississippi and tributaries, it’s likely that even a perfectly managed system of levees, floodgates, and spillways would have been overwhelmed.

Bonnet Carre Spillway in St. Charles Parish. Photo by flickr user cmh2315fl.

However, this flood was like pneumonia for a system already fighting a pretty bad case of bronchitis. For some perspective, the Bonnet Carré Spillway—which was built about 20 miles upriver of New Orleans in the wake of the 1927 flood to divert enough water into Lake Pontchartrain and prevent levee overtopping—was opened twice this year and four other times in the last decade.

In the previous seven decades, it had been opened only eight times.

The flood changed fishing throughout the basin. Crappie, bluegill, and bass anglers itching to fish oxbow lakes and swamps still attached to the rivers had to wait until well into summer months before fish moved into predictable patterns. Extended high water along coastal Louisiana and water from the Bonnet Carré inundated coastal marshes and lakes, scattering some saltwater species and killing oyster reefs east of the river.

What’s more, excessive nutrients leeched from farms and failing sewage systems throughout the Midwest caused high bacteria levels that shut down beaches along Mississippi’s coast and contributed to widespread uncertainty about the health of fish and shellfish in the area.

There were some benefits, too. An enormous slug of sediment is building new wetlands along the Mississippi River’s east bank below New Orleans, along with an explosion in the crawfish and largemouth bass populations. The freshwater concentrated redfish and gave them a variety of fresh and saltwater forage to feast on. And, as fall has arrived, white shrimp, crab, mullet, and menhaden populations are exploding east of the river, thanks to the nutrients brought by the freshwater.

Many factors have contributed to increased flooding frequencies. Higher levees built throughout the basin in the last 40 years keep forcing the water higher and higher instead of allowing it to spill out into natural floodplains. Also, changes in climate and weather patterns can’t be ignored. It’s a fact that rainfall has become more intense and more frequent over that last two decades.

Extensive wetland and farmland draining has reduced water storage and increased nutrient levels in the river. Tile-drained lands for corn, wheat, and soybeans simply don’t store water. And mismanaged sediment throughout the Mississippi has decreased storage capacity in reservoirs from the Dakotas to Nebraska, as well as in the main river channel between Memphis and Baton Rouge. That sediment is desperately needed to sustain coastal wetlands, however much of it stops short of the river’s deltaic marshes.

Recognizing the importance of the river to fisheries, wildlife, and America’s economy and culture, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership has organized a campaign of hunting, angling, and conservation organizations to identify substantive changes in federal law and policy needed to make the Mississippi a much healthier system.

Those recommendations will include reconnecting historic floodplains, increasing the amount of wetland acreage throughout the basin, better sediment management and invasive species control, and a concerted effort to protect communities and economic assets with natural infrastructure as much as physical structures like levees and locks. It will certainly take an enormous amount of time and effort to enact changes, but their importance cannot be denied.

The result will hopefully be a river that is admired for its wild beauty and unparalleled hunting and fishing opportunities while supporting the transportation and communities that are vital to America’s economic health.

Learn more about the TRCP’s efforts to restore the Mississippi River Delta.

This story originally appeared on the Fishing Tackle Retailer website on September 26, 2019.

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posted in: Outdoor Economy

September 19, 2019

Omega Protein Breaks the Rules in Chesapeake Bay

Fishing groups call on Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and Department of Commerce to take immediate action

Recreational fishermen are demanding that the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission intervene after industrial harvesting giant Omega Protein failed to comply with the Commission’s menhaden catch limits in the Chesapeake Bay.

Omega previously made a commitment to comply with the 51,000 MT catch limit, but just last week the foreign-owned corporation said it would exceed the cap in the Chesapeake Bay.

“While recreational fishermen face lower limits on striped bass, Omega is scooping up 70 percent of the coastwide catch of the striper’s primary food source,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Omega is willfully violating the Commission’s menhaden management plan, and this behavior is unacceptable. We urge the Commission and the Department of Commerce to bring this foreign fishing operation in line.”

Research suggests localized depletion of menhaden in Chesapeake Bay could be responsible for as much as a 30 percent decline in striped bass. A study determined the 2016 striped bass fishery generated $7.8 billion toward our nation’s gross domestic product.

“It’s frustrating and disappointing to see the menhaden Chesapeake Bay cap intentionally exceeded,” said Mike Leonard, vice president of government affairs for the American Sportfishing Association. “The Chesapeake Bay is a critical nursery for menhaden and many of its predators such as striped bass, which is why leaving sufficient menhaden in the Bay is so important. This action undermines not only the health of the marine environment, but also the science-based process the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission used to make their decision.”

“Just days after the Marine Stewardship Council christened the Atlantic menhaden fishery as a sustainable fishery, Omega Protein abruptly announced it will summarily disregard the harvest cap that was established through a legitimate management action of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission,” said Ted Venker, conservation director for the Coastal Conservation Association. “Our fears about the biased MSC process and Omega’s lack of commitment to consensus-based management and conservation have been shown to be well-founded. It is imperative that the ASMFC, and ultimately the Department of Commerce, find Omega out of compliance with the current Atlantic menhaden management plan and take the appropriate action.”

 

Top photo by Stephan Lowy.

Atlantic Striped Bass Are in Trouble and You Can Help

East Coasters have the chance to stand up for smart solutions to overfishing, including leaving more food in the water for stripers

Along much of the East Coast, sportfishing has been exceptional this summer. From red drum and cobia to flounder and Spanish mackerel, anglers have enjoyed great fun. A major exception, however, has been stripers. As in previous seasons, anglers reported seeing smaller, skinnier bass, particularly in the northern Atlantic.

This isn’t surprising, sadly. The 2018 stock assessment for striped bass confirms what we’ve seen on the water for far too long: Stripers are overfished and overfishing is still occurring. Unless decisive action is taken, this iconic sportfish is headed for serious trouble.

As required under their mandate, the fisheries managers at the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission must reduce the annual fishing-related mortality for striped bass along the Atlantic coast and in the Chesapeake Bay. Their staff has recommended a minimum 18-percent reduction to reverse this troubling decline and get the species back on a healthy track.

The ASMFC is considering several options to achieve these reductions and will hold a final vote at its October meeting. In an effort to get input, commissioners are holding public hearings up and down the Atlantic coast to solicit comments from anglers and outdoor recreation businesses.

Showing up and speaking out at these meetings can make a big difference. When you step up to the microphone, here’s what the TRCP recommends supporting.

Sharing the Burden of Rebuilding the Stock

First, the TRCP believes that the ASMFC should reduce the overall catch equitably among both commercial and recreational fishing. We’re all out there benefiting from the resource, so we should all be part of the solution.

Limits We Can Live With

On the rec side, the TRCP’s preferred option is a one-fish-per-angler limit in the bay and along the Atlantic ocean. Any striper you keep in the Chesapeake would have to be 18 inches or longer and only stripers longer than 35 inches would be keepers out on open water within three miles of the shore.

This would help more rockfish reach spawning size, which in turn would boost overall population numbers.

Tip: At a hearing or in written comments, you’ll want to specifically say, “I support Options 2-A1 and 2-B1.”

Requiring Circle Hooks for Baitfishing

Research has shown that circle hooks can significantly decrease gut hooking, when used correctly. In turn, this reduces the number of rockfish that die after being released. This is an important step in reducing the overall mortality rate for these fish, with size limits to guide what fish you take and safer release standards for fish you throw back.

Tip: At a hearing or in written comments, you’ll want to specifically say, “I support Option B on circle hooks.”

Standing Strong for Menhaden

Angler conservation ethics and revised stripers rules can help the striped bass stock recover more quickly. Yet, as these sacrifices are being made, it makes no sense to allow the industrialized harvest of menhaden—the stripers’ primary food source—to increase. A single foreign-owned industrialized harvester sucks up more than 70 percent of the coastwide menhaden catch, and much of that is in the Chesapeake Bay. Research suggests localized depletion of menhaden in the bay could be responsible for as much as a 30-percent decline in striped bass.

That’s why the TRCP and our sportfishing partners have launched a campaign to ensure that coastal states and the ASMFC honor their commitment to moving forward on an ecosystem-based management model for menhaden. This would provide a more accurate accounting of menhaden’s critical role in the marine food chain.

The Bottom Line

The ASMFC is absolutely correct to take swift action—in fact, some Atlantic states, like Virginia, have already reduced seasons and bag limits on their own. This is laudable. The bottom line is that the TRCP wants to see the best possible outcome for stripers and their forage base, but we need anglers like you to get involved.

If you cannot attend a hearing in person, submit your public comment via email to comments@asmfc.org with “Striped Bass Draft Addendum VI” in the subject line. The deadline is 5 p.m. EST on October 7, 2019.

 

Capt. Chris Dollar is an outdoor writer, fishing guide, and outfitter based on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. He has nearly 25 years of experience as an outdoors professional and is dedicated to conserving all things wild. He currently serves as program manager for the TRCP’s Atlantic menhaden conservation campaign.

 

Top photo by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program.

Kristyn Brady

September 9, 2019

TRCP Adds 60th Partner to its Policy Council of Conservation Experts

Our diverse coalition reaches a new milestone

The National Alliance of Forest Owners has joined the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership as its 60th organizational partner, marking a major milestone for the coalition-building organization. This newest addition to the TRCP’s expert Policy Council rounds out an impressive and diverse group of organizations that read like a who’s who of the hunting, fishing, and conservation community and collectively represent millions of Americans.

“We’re so proud to continue expanding our ranks in service of building consensus and empowering advocates across our community to effect real policy change for fish, wildlife, habitat, conservation funding, and sportsmen’s access—this is why the TRCP exists,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO.

“Private forest owners in the U.S. care for more than 450 million acres of forestland–60% of the nation’s forests–and the abundant wildlife that call our forests home,” says Dave Tenny, founding president and CEO of NAFO. “NAFO brings the nationwide scale of privately owned, sustainably managed forests and a deep-rooted commitment to collaborative conservation to the TRCP, where we are looking forward to working closely with partners to advance real conservation outcomes.”

Other recent additions to the partnership include The Conservation Fund, Wild Salmon Center, Property and Environment Research Center, and Outdoor Recreation Roundtable.

All 60 organizational partners meet at least twice a year to find alignment and consensus on conservation priorities, while working groups dedicated to specific issue areas meet frequently to collaborate and track progress. It is a coalition of the willing, with no membership dues and the understanding that, while we won’t agree on everything, we have a better chance of success when we unite behind the things we can agree on.

To see the full roster of partners, click here.

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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