Chris Macaluso

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posted in: General

May 17, 2013

Saving the Delta from Disaster

I’m a very lucky guy.

I hit the fisherman’s jackpot when I was born, the son of an outdoor writer who dwelt in the expanses of marshes and swamps, bays, lakes and barrier islands of south Louisiana aptly named “sportsman’s paradise.” My dad rarely went hunting or fishing without me and my brother in the truck.

Some of my fondest memories will always be of standing, fishing rod in hand, on the deck of our modest powder blue, 15-foot bass boat. The boat didn’t go fast or look pretty, but it managed to bring us back to the dock with plenty of speckled trout and redfish for dinner.

A couple of times each year we would head offshore on the 65-foot charter boats out of Port Fourchon to fish for snapper, grouper, king mackerel and whatever else was swimming around the rigs and reefs. My dad always made a big deal when we caught a red snapper, sneaking the first few into a small ice chest he kept away from the crowd to make sure we got a couple to take home for dinner.

Taking the big boat rides to the deep water and watching the older fishermen muscle in amberjack or an occasional shark was an adventure. But those days were no more special than the ones spent simply walking the surf at Grand Isle, casting top water Mirr-O-Lures and gold spoons at speckled trout as they busted shrimp on the Gulf of Mexico’s lightly rippled surface.

As I got older, I began paying close attention to the changes happening to my childhood fishing haunts and my ability to access the fish. My marshes were washing away and sinking. Bayou banks and marsh ponds where I had caught redfish and watched teal fly past by the thousands became open water seemingly overnight, while more and more of Louisiana’s coasts fell victim to saltwater intrusion brought on by manmade canals and the isolation of the Mississippi River’s water and sediment from its delta.

I watched commercial fishermen use purse seine nets off Louisiana’s coast to harvest brood stock redfish by the hundreds of thousands in the late 1980s. At times so many fish were brought to the dock that they rotted in the baking late-summer heat before they could even be processed. Recreational fishermen lost an entire year of fishing for reds, and limits were severely curtailed as state biologists scrambled to recover stocks.

I watched as regulations on my dad’s beloved red snapper became ever more restrictive, limiting access and breeding distrust of fisheries managers at all levels of government among recreational anglers.

I watched hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike carve up my beloved marshes and barrier islands and devastate towns from one end of Louisiana’s coast to the other. And I saw the region get slugged in the gut again two years later by an oil spill that coated my speckled trout surf and took away an entire spring and summer of fishing from Gulf anglers.

My state did not deserve these injuries and injustices. My fellow fishermen across the Gulf didn’t deserve them either.

Recreational fishing in the Gulf has a $10 billion impact on the region’s economy every year. But more importantly, it builds relationships between friends, families, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters. It teaches us how to respect our surroundings and where our food comes from. It teaches us to appreciate a perfect sunrise and how to make others appreciate it as well.

Limiting access to the fishery, whether due to habitat loss, manmade disasters or unnecessarily restrictive regulation not only threatens communities and jobs; it also jeopardizes our ability to raise the next generation of sportsmen and conservationists. This trend of access loss for recreational anglers is happening not just in the Gulf of Mexico, but across our nation’s coasts.

We can do better. We must do better.

That’s why I am honored to have the opportunity to work with fishermen across the Gulf and throughout our coastal areas to try and unite those who want to make our fishing and our fisheries more sustainable. Fishermen must use their collective might to advance positive change, but we must reach consensus on what we want that change to look like – and we must be willing to compromise when needed.

My dad taught me well. Now that I have a son of my own, I’d like him to have the chance when he’s my age to remember the red snapper he caught and took home for dinner when he was 10. Join us in making this a reality.

Do you have a favorite stretch of coastline or a favorite fishing memory? Post it below.

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posted in: General

May 15, 2013

Wednesday Win: T.R.ivia

Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

How well do you know Roosevelt? Give our trivia challenge a try. 

What family member accompanied T.R. on his African safari?

Leave us a comment on the TRCP Blog, or email your answers to info@trcp.org by Friday for your chance to win a copy of the first season of the Sportsman Channel’s “MeatEater” featuring Steven Rinella.

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posted in: General

May 10, 2013

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posted in: General

The Cost of Conservation

Money
Behind every thrilling hunting tale are the policies and politics that govern how, when and where we can pursue our passions.

When people learn I work in conservation, it often elicits responses of “that must be exciting!”  Truly, sometimes it can be.  More often though, the issues that the TRCP deals with on a daily basis, those  that have the greatest impact on hunting and fishing, are not the thrilling “in-the-field” projects people envision.

Take the subject of conservation funding for example – this is something every sportsman should be concerned about.  However, when I mention it to many avid hunters or anglers, I receive a glazed expression and a swift change in the conversation.

Federal funding for wildlife conservation is an integral part of our economy and allows resource managers to sustain fish and wildlife habitats and sporting opportunities. Since 2011, there has been a frenzy of budget cutting and deficit-focused politics in Washington, DC and unfortunately, federal funding to fish and wildlife conservation programs have taken a disproportionate hit. As a result, many natural resource agency budgets have also been slashed, and my home state of Wyoming is no exception.

Facing a budget shortfall of $7 million, mostly due to increasing costs with no additional revenue, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department recently proposed license and tag fee increases – a measure which was not supported by sportsmen. It’s easy to see why; nobody wants to pay more, especially in these tough economic times. However, I suspect that had more of Wyoming’s hunters and anglers been educated about conservation funding, what it provides and the potential ramifications of a lack of funding, they would have supported the proposed fee increase.

Wyoming sportsmen are about to lose much more than the extra $17.00 it would have cost for a resident antelope tag or $14.00 for an annual fishing license. The proposed budget reductions will have a direct impact on the places we hunt and fish, most importantly the loss of public access through easement reductions on private lands. There is also going to be less game to chase and fewer fish to catch, as Wyoming is losing both wildlife biologists and habitat improvement projects (which will affect future wildlife numbers). By 2014 there will be more than 600,000 fewer fish stocked in our reservoirs annually.

However the losses that will potentially have the greatest long-term impact are the cuts to youth programs. The Wyoming Hunting and Fishing Heritage Expo – a program essential to introducing school age Wyomingites to safe outdoor recreation and the value of wildlife conservation will be cancelled. Department support for the National Archery and Fishing in Schools programs is also disappearing.  Without future generations being responsibly introduced to hunting and fishing, declining sportsmen’s numbers are inevitable.

Wyoming sportsmen are no doubt going to weather the challenges resulting from their current conservation funding crisis, but this situation is not limited to the Cowboy State. As belts continue to be tightened nationwide we all need to remember that activities related to hunting and fishing have a significant economic impact, the sporting community is part of an outdoor recreation economic sector that generates more than $1 trillion for the U.S. economy every year.

All sportsmen have the obligation to become engaged in more than just the aspect of hunting that rolls around each spring and fall. Behind every thrilling hunting tale are the policies and politics that govern how, when and where we can pursue our passions. We cannot afford to be apathetic when it comes to the less exciting aspects of hunting or fishing; conservation-minded sportsmen must actively support legislation that provides adequate and stable funding for conservation programs to ensure that we all have quality places to hunt and fish, both now and for the future.

Whit Fosburgh

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posted in: General

May 7, 2013

We Can Do Better

Normally I post deep thoughts about matters of conservation policy. Today I will rant.

Just over a week ago I met two friends, packed up the car in Washington, D.C., and headed for Pennsylvania’s Little Juniata River, one of the best trout rivers in the East. The fabled Grannom caddis hatch was on, and it had been six months since I’d stood in a river chasing trout.

As has been my tradition for most of the last 15 years, we left town early to hit Spruce Creek Outfitters, an excellent fly shop where we could buy licenses, stock up on the latest bugs and hear fish tales before hitting the river for the afternoon. Unfortunately, the fly shop no longer sells licenses. Instead they told us to use our smart phones to buy the licenses online.

We set off for a high spot on the road where we could get cell service. After about 30 minutes, my friends succeeded in their efforts. I was unable to complete the transaction but decided to put my friends on the river and then complete my purchase at some other high point along the river.

After sending off my friends, I again found a spot with service and tried to purchase my license, each time reaching the final stage (after entering my credit card information) before receiving the message that the server was busy and to try again later. About 15 minutes into this process I called the toll-free help line and was put on hold to wait for the next available agent. Surely, I thought, between my continued efforts with the Pennsylvania website and help from a live person, I would succeed.

Nearly an hour later I had yet to speak to an agent and was still without a license.

Approaching a murderous rage, I gave up, drove back to the river, put on my waders and walked out to live vicariously through my friends, watching them catch fat brown trout on dry flies. After dinner that night I was finally able to complete my transaction and fish the next day.

Across America, conservation groups work to get kids outdoors and pass along the traditions of hunting and fishing. The Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation spends millions of dollars encouraging people to rejoin fishing or try it for the first time – and with remarkable success. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, participation was up 11 percent in the last five years, reversing a 20 year decline.

To ensure that we have quality places to hunt and fish, conservation groups also are restoring our lands and waters. Look no further than the Little Juniata, which 40 years ago was an open sewer devoid of most fish life.

Groups like the TRCP work to implement new programs, like the Open Fields program of the Farm Bill, to open private lands and waters to hunting and fishing. Since Open Fields launched in 2010, approximately 3 million acres have been opened to the public.

All this work on engagement, habitat and access falls by the wayside if sportsmen must struggle to obtain the proper licenses and tags. The responsibility for licensing falls to the states. According to a recent RBFF study, only five of the 50 states offer mobile friendly websites and only two of the 50 states offer mobile friendly license sales.  Really?

Folks, our sports depend upon participation. Fish and game agency budgets depend upon license sales. Conservation groups depend upon engaged members who will work like dogs for the resource but who deserve to be able to enjoy that resource with as little hassle as possible.

I’d like to think of my experience with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as an exception, but the RBFF numbers indicate otherwise. We can do better, and all sportsmen and -women should make sure that their states join the 21st century and make it as easy as possible for people to enjoy their resources.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

CONSERVATION WORKS FOR AMERICA

As our nation rebounds from the COVID pandemic, policymakers are considering significant investments in infrastructure. Hunters and anglers see this as an opportunity to create conservation jobs, restore habitat, and boost fish and wildlife populations.

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