Derek Eberly

November 25, 2019

When It Comes to Protecting Streams, Sometimes What’s in a Name Matters

Anglers are campaigning to update the designations of some Pennsylvania waterways to reflect the exceptional status of their wild trout populations and water quality—and secure the habitat protections that these designations afford

With 86,000 miles of streams and about 4,000 inland lakes, Pennsylvania is home to some of the best publicly accessible fishing that the East Coast has to offer, including phenomenal trout and bass fishing. With opportunities like these, it’s no wonder that 1.3 million Pennsylvanians fished their local waterways in 2016, helping contribute to the state’s $26.9-billion outdoor recreation economy.

Since 2010, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has worked with sportsmen and local universities to distinguish our best waters through the Unassessed Waters Initiative. Based on the UWI’s evaluation, stream sections that meet a set of criteria are eligible for certain protections. For example, streams that have abundant populations of wild rainbow, brown, and brook trout can be eligible for Wild Trout Stream or Class A Stream designations. Protecting these streams ensures that the outdoor recreation industry continues to thrive and that future generations can enjoy the same (or better) fishing opportunities.

Four times each year, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission staff propose streams to be added to the Wild Trout and Class A lists. Right now, there are 49 waterways pending designation for Wild Trout status and 36 eligible for the Class A designation. These waters include everything from local tributaries to well-known trout streams like Cross Fork Creek in north-central PA, Pohopoco Creek in Monroe and Carbon counties, and Spring Creek near State College.

Starting right now, local sportsmen and women have a chance to influence this process and seal the deal for our best trout streams.

Why Does a Designation Matter?

In these cases, what’s in a name really matters: Wild Trout and Class A streams qualify for additional protections from Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection, including the limitation of activities around these streams that would degrade water quality. The Wild Trout Stream title designates a water as a Coldwater Fishery and protects surrounding wetlands from development. Similarly, streams that qualify for the Class A designation get additional recognition as high-quality waters, which restricts in-stream discharges and guards against habitat degradation.

These designations from the PFBC are critical to helping the state manage and protect fish populations, especially as demands on Pennsylvania’s water resources continue to increase. When you consider that roughly 40 percent of streams across the state are NOT suitable for fishing, swimming, and/or drinking water, according to the DEP, it makes sense to safeguard the exceptional waterways that already meet top standards and support outdoor recreation that drives our economy.

Fortunately, sportsmen and women understand the importance of this process. A recent TRCP survey found that 92 percent of Pennsylvania sportsmen and women support designating streams when they meet the right criteria.

What You Can Do to Help

Pennsylvania’s hunters and anglers have an important opportunity to conserve more critical streams. If we don’t speak up, these exceptional waterways could easily be degraded and eventually lost to pollution.

From now through December 24, sportsmen and women across the state can voice their support for protecting important streams that provide our best fishing opportunities. Speaking up only takes a minute or two, but it could mean that these streams have important safeguards for decades to come.

To comment, just click here.

 

Photos by Derek Eberly.

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Randall Williams

November 22, 2019

Six Things We’re Grateful for This Thanksgiving

Rather than focus on what we need as hunters and anglers, let’s take a minute to appreciate what we have 

Every year around this time, we pause from the everyday distractions of the modern world to acknowledge those things in our lives for which we’re truly thankful. From family and friends to health and security, many indispensable parts of our lives can be easy to take for granted. 

It’s no secret that hunters and anglers face our share of challenges. No one knows this better than those “in the arena,” as T.R. would say, fighting against the unsustainable exploitation of our resources, unprecedented threats to our hunting traditions, and the rollback of our bedrock conservation laws. This is why we do our best to keep you informed on the issues that matter most. 

But in the spirit of next week’s holiday, we thought we’d take a moment to express our gratitude to things and people—in no particular order—that make our lives as hunters and anglers, and our work as conservationists, so rewarding. Sportsmen and women have a lot to be thankful for in this country and it’s worth remembering what makes this way of life possible.

Photo: Tim Donovan

 

Access in Abundance, Both Public and Private 

Whether it’s through the generosity of a landowner or the wealth of public lands owned by all, Americans enjoy a tremendous variety of opportunities to get outside and participate in our sporting traditions. We’re fortunate that our nation’s history saw the creation of both a vast public estate as well as a rich tradition of stewardship on family farms and ranches. 

A Shared Mission Among Strong Partners 

When new challenges emerge or opportunities arise in the world of conservation, bold leadership from our policy council and partner organizations ensure that we’ll know what’s going on, what’s at stake, and how to respond. On the issues that matter most to sportsmen and women, there is a robust community working tirelessly towards solutions that will secure a bright future for our fish and wildlife. Collaboration, consensus, and coordinated action allow us to present a united front and strengthen the voices of hunters and anglers. 

Photo: Les Anderson
Smart Policy and Dedicated Decisionmakers 

This year, we have seen a lot of good ideas and top priorities gain traction in Congress, like the North American Wetlands Conservation Act and dedicated funding for LWCF. For all that we hear about dysfunction in Washington, D.C., there are lawmakers and public officials who take seriously the interests of our community and advance legislation and policy to benefit fish, wildlife, and access to our nation’s best hunting and fishing. 

A “Most Glorious Heritage”

As Americans, we benefit from a unique legacy of fish and wildlife stewardship, forged over more than a century by our predecessors in the sporting community. Every day on the water and trip afield, like every fish on the line or deer in the freezer, would not be possible without the hard work and problem-solving of earlier generations who took up the cause of conservation. These gifts are a powerful reminder that we must do our part if we hope to pass them on. 

Photo: Stephanie Raine
Businesses that See the Big Picture

Our work is made possible by the generosity of amazing corporate partners, such as SITKA GEAR’s pledge to match all new and increased donations to TRCP through December 31. We’re proud—and thankful—to have the support of industry-leading brands that recognize the critical role played by clean water, healthy habitat, and outdoor access in the economic futures of American businesses and communities. 

Everyday Advocates 

Of course, we owe everything to the hunters and anglers who comprise our membership and those of our partner organizations. It should never be forgotten that countless individuals dedicate their own time and money so that future ranks of sportsmen and women will inherit a strong outdoor tradition. As this season of harvest culminates in one major meal next week, we’ll be raising a glass to YOU, the lifeblood of conservation. Thank you for all your support of our work and America’s hunting and fishing traditions. 

 

Top photo: @kylemlynar on Instagram

Kristyn Brady

November 20, 2019

House Passes Legislation to Fund Waterfowl Habitat Restoration

An overwhelmingly bipartisan vote advances the North American Wetlands Conservation Extension Act

The House has passed the North American Wetlands Conservation Extension Act (H.R. 925), which would reauthorize a highly successful habitat conservation program benefiting migratory birds and other wildlife at up to $60 million annually through 2024.

Since its inception in 1989, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act has granted more than $1.73 billion and leveraged $3.57 billion in matching funds from local and state partners to complete nearly 3,000 projects on 30 million acres of habitat across all 50 states.

“As many Americans head out to duck blinds or volunteer to band or survey birds this season, it’s great to see the House prioritize a collaborative and popular conservation program to benefit wetlands across the country,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “This move to invest in our waterfowl habitat is also timely because wetlands loss will likely accelerate under the EPA’s rollback of Clean Water Act protections for wetlands and headwater streams. We hope to see NAWCA move through the Senate soon so on-the-ground conservation can continue.”

The legislation to extend NAWCA was passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee in September 2019, coupled with a reauthorization of the National Fish Habitat Partnerships program. NFHP uses a similarly collaborative model to enhance habitat and water quality for fish species, but it has not yet been brought to the House floor.

The TRCP has asked sportsmen and women to reach out to lawmakers in support of NFHP and fish habitat improvements.

Cory Deal

November 15, 2019

Three Ways You Can Help Improve Fishing Opportunities Today

For many of us, winter is closing in and our days on the water are numbered—make the most of the off-season by taking action for fish and clean water

While I’m hiking to my favorite trout stream or trailering to the neighborhood boat ramp, I’m almost always focused on the day ahead—imagining the line pinched between my index finger and thumb, the breathless anticipation of watching a fish trail my rig, and the heart-stopping joy that takes over after a successful hook-set.

The future is full of possibilities on the morning of a fishing trip. It’s easy to lose sight of the challenges facing the broader future of fishing in America, and how much influence we have as anglers.

With some seasons winding down and winter closing in, take the energy you’d normally put into planning your next camping trip or day on the water and put it toward securing the future of our fishing opportunities.

Here are three things you can do to help America’s fisheries right now.

Volunteers work with Officials to Improve Lake Habitat. Photo Friends of Reservoirs – Shelbyville Lake, IL
Tell Congress to Fund Fish Habitat Improvements

There are many threats facing many of our fish habitats, including polluted runoff, coastline degradation, invasive species, aging infrastructure that blocks fish passages, and water mismanagement in places like the Everglades. Often, habitat restoration is too big a job for any one agency—whether state or federal—to address. The National Fish Habitat Partnership was created to tackle these issues with a boots-on-the-ground approach.

One of the country’s most successful conservation programs, this partnership has almost 900 completed programs under its belt and is made up of 20 distinct groups that work across America to bring together state, federal, tribal, and private resources. This approach has enabled partners to boost existing fish populations, improve vast swaths of habitat, and restore rivers to their historic flows.

In Shelbyville, Illinois, for example, the Reservoir Fisheries Habitat Partnership has succeeded in activating a group of 100 volunteers and professional fisheries and reservoir managers to improve existing habitat, stabilize shorelines, and restore native aquatic vegetation.

Jeff Boxrucker, the partnership’s lead coordinator, praised the success of this project and its forward-thinking approach, but stressed the program’s need for additional funding. “We need to demonstrate the positive return on investment of restoration efforts to not only ensure continued funding but to show that we have moved the needle.” His group is not alone.

The National Fish Habitat Partnership program has no permanent funding, but a piece of legislation could change that. Known as the National Fish Habitat Conservation Through Partnerships Act, this bill would secure reliable funding for NFHP through 2023. Your comments could rally lawmakers to move this bill to a vote—show your support now.

Man Flyfishing. Photo Joseph via Flickr
Defend Headwater Streams and Wetlands

In September 2019, the Environmental Protection Agency finalized its plan to roll back clean water protections for 50 percent of America’s wetlands and 60 percent of our stream miles. This announcement was made despite the thousands of public comments made by sportsmen and women in opposition to the agencies rule and the 92 percent of hunters and anglers who would strengthen or maintain current safeguards for clean water—not relax them.

Clean, productive wetlands and headwater streams are important for everyone, but essential for hunters and anglers and the species we love to pursue. These ecosystems enhance water quality, control erosion, provide fish and wildlife habitat, and maintain ecosystem productivity—and all of this supports a robust outdoor recreation economy worth $887 billion.

Together we can make a difference and hold the EPA accountable for jeopardizing healthy habitat and strong fisheries. Join the TRCP’s fight for clean water today and support our efforts to keep the Clean Water Act working for wetlands and trout streams.

Capt. Paul Dixon and Angler Rick Bannerot Pose with Striped Bass
Support the Forage Fish that Keep Sportfishing Fun

Forage fish make up the base of the marine food chain and include species such as menhaden, herring, anchovies, and sardines. A critical food source for predator fish such as tuna and striped bass, these small fish are essential for a healthy ecosystem.
But commercial fishing pressures are sometimes at odds with the needs of our tiniest baitfish and the sportfish that rely on them for food. Fortunately, legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to promote more responsible management and conservation of critical forage fish. In the meantime, we need anglers to take action quickly to prevent further declines in one important Atlantic species.

Menhaden—also known as bunker or pogies—are the preferred forage of striped bass that are suffering on the East Coast, according to recent stock assessments. Menhaden also play a vitally important role as food for red drum, bluefish, tarpon, and summer flounder. But hundreds of metric tons of these fish are removed from the region’s waters every year to be turned into pet food, fish meal, and other products.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission will soon implement an ecosystem-based management of menhaden, which will take into account the baitfish’s important role in the broader marine food web. They must also hold commercial fishing operations accountable for harvesting more menhaden than they should—this only robs struggling striped bass of their food source.

Sign our open letter and let the ASMFC know that you support healthy sportfish populations, strong marine ecosystems, and the menhaden fishery.

Top photo by Kent Krebeck

Kristyn Brady

November 8, 2019

Fishermen Schooled Congress on These Three Possible Impacts of Pebble Mine

Sportsmen took the real concerns of the outdoor recreation economy to D.C. lawmakers

In a recent hearing of the House Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment, expert witnesses testified in opposition to the Pebble Mine project proposed for the headwaters of Bristol Bay in Alaska. Seated beside the CEO of the mining company that would benefit from the construction of Pebble, an environmental scientist, local sporting outfitter, and commercial fisherman highlighted the very real concerns of Alaskans and outdoor businesses.

Reminder: The now-infamous plan to carve out an open pit at the headwaters of Bristol Bay’s two largest rivers would threaten clean water in one of the finest fishing destinations on Earth and degrade fish habitat in a region that produces about half the world’s sockeye salmon. If Pebble were constructed, billions of tons of mine waste could remain in the area forever.

But that’s not all. Here are three lessons lawmakers learned from anglers and experts who know the real stakes.

Spawning sockeye salmon. Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
We’re Talking About 100% Consumption of the Habitat

Brian Kraft, owner of two remote sportfishing lodges in Alaska and an advocate for Bristol Bay’s salmon for the past 15 years, hosts fishing clients from every state in the nation and not one has failed to remark on how unique the landscape and fishery are. He says he and his wife understand the concerns of businesses in their community as part of the $65-million sportfishing industry in Alaska.

In his testimony, Kraft pointed out that the simple question of “Is this the right place to mine?” can only be answered when you assume that the mine will consume 100 percent of the habitat it touches. In this particular case, you can’t directionally drill and you can’t shift the ore deposit, so the smaller of the two mine proposals would still consume 80 miles of streams and 3,500 acres of wetlands in an area that was legislatively preserved for its fisheries in 1972.

Photo by Chris Ford via flickr.
The Army Corps Has Yet to Address the Concerns of Salmon Fishermen

Three generations of Mark Niver’s family have worked as commercial fishermen in Alaska, and as an expert witness, he pointed out that fishermen are just one link in a chain—Bristol Bay’s salmon fishery employs 14,000 people every summer and generates $1.5 billion in worldwide economic activity. But he adds that this wouldn’t be possible without the area’s pristine, undeveloped freshwater habitat and science-based fisheries management. “For over a decade, the proposed Pebble Mine has cast a shadow of uncertainty over my livelihood and my family’s future,” he said. “Nowhere in the world has a mine of this type and size been located in a place as ecologically sensitive as Bristol Bay.”

After weighing in thoughtfully at multiple stages of the lengthy public process to consider the mine, commercial fishermen have not had their concerns adequately addressed by the Army Corps of Engineers. Niver told lawmakers that he fears the permitting process is a runaway train toward approval, despite the science indicating that salmon and Pebble Mine cannot coexist.

Photo by Jonny Armstrong.
Unless the Proposed Footprint is Expanded, the Mine Will Lose Money

In his testimony, geologist and environmental scientist Richard Borden agreed that energy development is necessary in our society, but not all ore deposits can or should be mined. He believes Bristol Bay is the most “sensitive, globally significant, and challenging environmental setting” of any project he’s ever reviewed in more than 30 years of consulting for the mining industry, and the environmental impact statement completed by the Army Corps of Engineers in haste six months ago is deeply flawed. But, perhaps most surprisingly, he points out that the mining company is basing their timeline and promises about impact avoidance on examples of much smaller mines. To construct a mine on a scale that—they say—would minimize environmental risks, investors would certainly lose money, and pressures to expand the mine’s footprint would likely follow.

Now You Have Three Reasons to Get Involved

This testimony gives anglers three more reasons to speak out against Pebble Mine and safeguard habitat and our fishing opportunities in Bristol Bay. Sportsmen and women sent thousands of messages to the Army Corps during the last public comment period, but our lawmakers need to hear from YOU to influence Bristol Bay’s future. Reach out to your senators NOW using our simple action tool.

 

Watch the subcommittee hearing on the Pebble Mine project here.

Top photo by Wild Salmon Center.

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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