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April 30, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Congress Wants to Cut Investments in Conservation Like It’s 2006

What would a 16-percent cut in federal funding do to your family’s favorite fishing hole? If Congress has its way, we’re going to find out. A House and Senate Conference Committee just released their budget for fiscal year 2016, in which funding for conservation would be cut back to 2006 levels. Accounting for inflation, this amounts to a funding cut of over 16%. A vote on the resolution could come as early as today in the House.

For hunters and anglers, this would mean 16 percent fewer dollars for public access projects, habitat improvements, road and trail maintenance, invasive species control, and hazardous fuels reduction.

Photo courtesy of National Parks.

Sportsmen have a long history of investing in conservation through our license fees, excise taxes, and sweat equity. Congress, on the other hand, spends just one percent of its budget on conservation. That’s down from two percent in the late 1970s. Clearly, federal spending on conservation didn’t cause our deficit problems, and cutting conservation won’t solve our deficits either. In fact, completely eliminating all federal spending on conservation would reduce the anticipated 2016 deficit by less than 9 percent, but Congress would still be putting about $360 billion on the annual credit card.

Conservation is one of the best investments the federal government can make. Our public lands, clean water, wetlands, and marine fish stocks drive $646 billion in consumer spending on outdoor recreation each year. To put that in perspective, Americans spend only half that amount on pharmaceuticals.

In 1907, Theodore Roosevelt said, “We are prone to speak of the resources of this country as inexhaustible; this is not so.” Congress’s budget may take us back to 2006 in terms of funding for conservation, but in terms of mindset it takes our country much further back, to the pillaging of our natural resources that Theodore Roosevelt railed against. The 20th century was unique in human history, because it saw a society flourish both economically and ecologically. Wild turkeys, bald eagles, and elk all bounced back from dwindling numbers at the beginning of the 1900s. And, to paraphrase Bill Ruckleshaus, all our rivers may not be fishable and swimmable, but at least they are no longer flammable. This double-bottom-line growth was achieved on the backs of wise policies put in place by Theodore Roosevelt and successive leaders, who knew that sustained economic growth required sustained investments in the natural resources of our country.

There are wise leaders in Congress today who care about conservation. Just two weeks ago, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership honored two of them—Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Senator Patty Murray of Washington—for their years of bipartisan work to steward the resources of our country, at our annual Capital Conservation Awards Dinner. We need them and other lawmakers of their caliber more than ever.

Congress’s budget isn’t the final word on conservation funding—legislators must still pass annual appropriations bills, which write the checks for various programs and agencies. Our leaders need to come together on a fiscal deal that avoids sequestration, invests in programs that have proven bang-for-their-buck, and gives certainty to the American economy—that includes ensuring that the great American outdoors remains a viable infrastructure for our hunting and fishing traditions, which have been proven to drive the economy.

Who will lead? Who will pick up the big stick for conservation?

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Up for Vote: Two House Bills Ignore the Wishes of Sportsmen Who Value Healthy Headwaters and Wetlands

This week, the House of Representatives will vote on two pieces of legislation that could hinder the ability to protect coldwater fisheries, indispensable waterfowl habitat, and drinking water for one in three Americans. A bill introduced by Pennsylvania Representative Bill Shuster (H.R.1732) and a harmful policy rider in the “Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act” (H.R.2028) would derail a deliberative rulemaking effort, which hunters and anglers everywhere are counting on to clarify Clean Water Act protections for wetlands and headwater streams.

“These two bills represent an attempt to ignore the wishes of sportsmen and snatch this opportunity from us at the eleventh hour—just weeks away from a final rule,” says Jimmy Hague, director of the Center for Water Resources at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, one of the more than 200 hunting, fishing, and sporting groups from across the country that have asked the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to take more action to protect wetlands and headwater streams. “Kicking the can down the road, without even seeing the final rule, would do a complete disservice to the hunters, anglers, farmers, and other stakeholders who submitted more than one million comments to improve the proposed rule—comments which have made an impact. Congress should reserve judgment until we can evaluate that impact.”

Trout Unlimited strongly supports the Clean Water Act rule because it will ensure protection of millions of miles of headwaters streams and wetlands, which are critically important to the health of downstream waters and fish and wildlife habitat,” says Steve Moyer, Trout Unlimited’s vice president of government affairs. “Anglers know that better habitat means better fishing, and better fishing helps local economies across the nation that depend on recreation dollars. Congress needs to honor the public comments of hundreds of thousands of sportsmen and other Americans who have participated in the rulemaking process.”

The current confusion over the Clean Water Act began in 2001—nearly 15 years ago. Since then, the legal issues have been hashed out; the science has been analyzed, peer-reviewed, and compiled; and the public and key stakeholders have weighed in. Simply put, the agencies have all the information they need to make an informed decision, and delays are unnecessary. “We hear a lot of talk in Washington about doing the people’s business and cutting red tape. Yet, with misplaced water bills scheduled for consideration this week, the House is doing just the opposite,” says Scott Kovarovics, executive director of the Izaak Walton League. “Although Americans have spoken loudly and clearly in favor of protecting clean water and healthy habitat, the House would block progress and drown EPA and the Army Corps in a sea of wasteful red tape. The constructive course is to vote these bills down and act now to restore badly needed protections for streams, wetlands, and other waters nationwide.”

“A vote to block the Clean Water Rule is a vote against restoring protections to nearly two-thirds of America’s streams and 20 million acres of wetlands left vulnerable by ambiguous court decisions,” says Jan Goldman-Carter, senior manager of wetlands and water resources for the National Wildlife Federation. “There’s nothing ambiguous, however, about the support of hunters, anglers, and people across the country for clean, safe water for their communities, farms, fish, and wildlife. A vote to derail the process already under way is a vote against all of us.”


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April 29, 2015

Snapshot of Success: Yakima Valley, Washington

From California to New York, from Montana to Mississippi, hunters and anglers are leading important efforts to improve the quality and quantity of our water resources. The most successful conservation efforts are locally driven with a broad base of support, including federal financial and technical assistance.  They honor and respect the traditions of hunting, fishing, farming and ranching while protecting the resources we share.

In a report released on February 26, 2015, the TRCP showcases ten examples of collaborative, sportsmen-led efforts and the importance of federal funding that fuels them.  The lessons sportsmen have learned executing these projects tell a convincing story about the need for responsible water management and adequate funding.

Here is lesson nine from Yakima River, Washington:

Revitalizing a Creek, Creating Jobs: Cowiche Creek Water Users Association fish screening and barrier removal project

In Washington’s Yakima Valley, revitalizing a creek is helping to revitalize an entire community with jobs and economic activity.

Photo courtesy of Trout Unlimited.

Local stakeholders joined forces to restore Cowiche Creek in response to the major decline of endangered steelhead. A combination of low instream flows, unscreened irrigation diversions and physical habitat changes reduced the number of steelhead returning to the creek.

Today, thanks to Trout Unlimited and funding from the Bonneville Power Administration through the Columbia Basin Water Transactions Program (CBWTP), steelhead are now returning to Cowiche Creek and spawning naturally.

How It Worked

Trout Unlimited helped leverage federal funds through CBWTP and other sources to work with senior water rights holders to:

  • Eliminate an unnecessary diversion dam;
  • Renovate a diversion dam to increase its efficiency and allow fish passage;
  • Consolidate creek irrigation diversions to provide an alternative water source and leave creek water instream; and
  • Support partner efforts to remove approximately 1,400 feet of dikes and over 600 cubic yards of concrete to improve Cowiche Creek habitat.

What the Cowiche Creek Project Means for Water Users

Photo courtesy of Trout Unlimited.

This project helped irrigators and ranchers access and develop alternative water sources and use these sources more efficiently without affecting the productivity of their land. By connecting farmers and ranchers with alternative water sources, the project keeps creek water in Cowiche Creek and increases fish habitat without hurting agricultural productivity.

What’s Next

While the project is complete today, Trout Unlimited and the other partners hope to use Cowiche Creek as a model to demonstrate the success of collaborative efforts between partners in the Yakima River Basin and across the West.


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April 27, 2015

Glassing the Hill: April 27-May 1

The TRCP’s scouting report on sportsmen’s issues in Congress

The Senate will be in session from Monday through Friday. The House will be in session from Tuesday through Friday. (Don’t feel guilty, guys. We went fishing on Monday, too.)

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

Will they have the energy? After the House Appropriations Committee announced its spending plan that funds the Department of the Interior, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Environmental Protection Agency last week, House and Senate Committees will spend this week putting together the first comprehensive energy bill introduced in over a decade. Most notably, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will consider over 20 energy-efficiency bills from every end of the political spectrum in a two-part hearing on Thursday. One part will be dedicated to the consideration of efficiency policies and the other to the best uses of the U.S. petroleum reserve, considering increased domestic petroleum production. Details on the hearing and bills being considered can be found here.

A Last-Minute Swipe at the Clean Water Rule

This week, the House will consider an energy and water spending bill that would kill the Obama administration’s “Waters of the U.S. Rule,” a regulation that seeks to clarify which streams and wetlands are protected under the Clean Water Act. The bill would provide Fiscal Year 2016 funding for the Department of Energy, Army Corps of Engineers, and other agencies, but block them from using funds to implement the WOTUS rule. The House is expected to vote on the $35.4 billion spending bill after both chambers finalize a settled budget agreement.

Carbon Rule Roleplay

On Wednesday, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies will host EPA administrator Gina McCarthy, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will likely use this as an opportunity to heavily scrutinize the EPA’s budget, given his hardline stance on the EPA in the past. Sen. McConnell will likely attempt to undermine the EPA’s proposed carbon rule in the coming weeks by using policy riders. He and others in his camp must temper their expectations, however, as the President is likely to veto legislation that is too partisan or threatens his pivotal climate rule. More information on the hearing can be found here.

A Frack Attack?

On Tuesday, Bureau of Land Management Director Neil Kornze will defend the BLM’s controversial new fracking rule before the Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests and Mining, led by Senator John Barrasso (R-WY). A premiere critic of the rule, which was finalized in March after years of consideration and public commentary, Senator Barrasso will have the opportunity to engage the agency on its proposals, perhaps citing the fact that Wyoming’s fracking regulations are among the strongest in the country and do not require expansion or clarification. Other states are not up to Wyoming’s standards, though. The new rule is the first significant change to fracking regulations in over three decades. The focus of the rule is to address public health concerns and suspicions of fracking fluid leakage, while accounting for the dramatic increase in sophisticated fracking technology in the last 10 years.

Also this week:

Tuesday, April 28

House mark-up of bill to opt out of Clean Power Plan

Energy and Commerce Committee

Wednesday, April 29

House mark-up of fiscal 2016 appropriations bill for the Transportation Department and Housing and Urban Development Department

Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and Related Agencies

House hearing on national forest management

Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry

Senate hearing on offshore drilling safety improvements since BP spill

Commerce, Science, and Transportation

9:30 AM, 253 Russell

Thursday, April 30

House hearing on EPA mismanagement

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee

House mark-up of Magnuson–Stevens Act reauthorization

Natural Resources Committee

Senate hearing on energy efficiency legislation

Senate Energy and Natural Resources

Senate hearing on BLM’s hydraulic fracturing rule

Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests and Mining


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April 22, 2015

Celebrating Achievements of the D.C. Champions of Sportsmen, Conservation, and Wildlife

At TRCP’s seventh annual Capital Conservation Awards Dinner last week, we proudly honored lifelong conservation leader Dr. Steven A. Williams, Senator Lamar Alexander, and Senator Patty Murray for their lasting commitment to real on-the-ground results for sportsmen. The gala event, held at the historic Decatur House, brought together policy makers, conservation advocates, and outdoor industry leaders.

Image courtesy of Kristi Odom Photography.

Williams received TRCP’s 2015 Lifetime Conservation Achievement Award for expanding access to sportsmen, addressing climate change, allowing science to guide management, and championing conservation funding throughout his career. He is currently the president of the Wildlife Management Institute and formerly served as director of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service under President George W. Bush. Williams also held leadership positions with wildlife agencies in Kansas, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts. “Steve has become the moral compass of the hunting conservation community, a role we hope he won’t relinquish anytime soon,” said TRCP President and CEO Whit Fosburgh in his opening statements last night.

Williams said he’d like to share the honor with the hundreds of collaborators he’s had in more than 30 years of wildlife conservation efforts. “No one gets anything like this done alone, so this award also belongs to them,” he said. “The people in this profession are like family, and it isn’t hard to see why. We all care about the future and where it intersects with nature.”

Sen. Alexander and Sen. Murray were presented with the 2015 James D. Range Conservation Award—named for TRCP’s co-founder and conservation visionary—for their dedication to protecting what sportsmen value in Congress.

Image courtesy of Kristi Odom Photography.

Alexander said that part of his job is “reminding our country how much the great outdoors is a part of our American character. Egypt has its pyramids, Italy has its art, and we have the great outdoors.” The third-term senator grew up hunting and fishing in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Indicative of his unrepentant support of conservation, Alexanderbucked 51 of his colleagues to oppose an amendment endorsing the sale of our public lands, during the recent budget resolution process. His award was presented by Representative Mike Simpson of Idaho.

Sen. Murray was the driving force behind last session’s budget deal that ended sequestration and reinvested in conservation, an achievement lauded by Senator Martin Heinrich of New Mexico, who presented her award. “Patty Murray was able to forge real, lasting bipartisan compromises to make sure we didn’t give short shrift to all those things we care about as sportsmen.” Murray spoke about her love of salmon fishing in the Pacific Northwest and the need to renew our efforts for conservation funding. “I’ll keep pushing for robust funding and to keep conservation and sportsmen’s access a top priority, so our children and grandchildren will have the same opportunities I’ve had to fish these unique, beautiful places,” she said.

View more photos from the evening, courtesy of Kristi Odom Photography.

Learn more about the TRCP’s Capitol Conservation Awards.



Theodore Roosevelt’s experiences hunting and fishing certainly fueled his passion for conservation, but it seems that a passion for coffee may have powered his mornings. In fact, Roosevelt’s son once said that his father’s coffee cup was “more in the nature of a bathtub.” TRCP has partnered with Afuera Coffee Co. to bring together his two loves: a strong morning brew and a dedication to conservation. With your purchase, you’ll not only enjoy waking up to the rich aroma of this bolder roast—you’ll be supporting the important work of preserving hunting and fishing opportunities for all.

$4 from each bag is donated to the TRCP, to help continue their efforts of safeguarding critical habitats, productive hunting grounds, and favorite fishing holes for future generations.

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