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With all the recent talk about Clean Water Act jurisdiction and the unceasing congressional attacks on a rule that protects wetlands and headwater streams, what seems to be getting lost is the message from hunters and anglers on the ground. Sportsmen care about clean water as much as anyone, and we’re the first to stand up and make ourselves heard when a favorite fishing hole is at risk or a wetland is impaired. And sportsmen have spoken up for our most cherished waters and wild places throughout the rulemaking process that led to the EPA’s recent announcement of the Clean Water Rule.
Tim Mauck and Dan Gibbs, lifelong sportsmen and county commissioners in Colorado, shared their view with the Denver Post, saying in a joint op-ed that “the Clean Water Rule keeps us moving forward in protecting and restoring our headwaters.” Mauck has also testified (not once, but twice) before Congress about the positive impacts that a restored Clean Water Act will have on his county and his sporting traditions.
Chris Hunt captured it succinctly in Hatch Magazine, where he said this rule “simply protects the waters that contribute to our sporting culture.”
No federal rule is perfect, and this one has been particularly contentious because of the many demands on our nation’s waters and wetlands, but sportsmen understand the great strides made for fish, wildlife, and habitat in the final clean water rule, which clarified significant Clean Water Act uncertainty. Now, as Bob Marshall wrote at Field & Stream, we are “infinitely better than where we were for the last 10 years, when the majority of our stream sides and waterfowl habitat, and many of our drinking water sources, were vulnerable to destruction.”
And champions of the rule aren’t just looking to improve their days afield. There are some whose livelihoods depend on quality fish and wildlife habitat. According to Dave Perkins, executive vice chairman of the Orvis Company: “The clean water rule is good for our business, which depends on clean, fishable water. Improving the quality of fishing in America translates directly to our bottom line, to the numbers of employees we hire right here in America, and to the health of our brick-and-mortar stores all over the country.”
Travis Campbell, president and CEO of Far Bank Enterprises, an integrated manufacturer and distributor of flyfishing products from Sage, Redington, and RIO, agrees. “My company depends on people enjoying their time recreating outside, especially in or near watersheds,” he said in a press release. “Clarifying which waterways are protected under the Clean Water Act isn’t a nice-to-have, it is a business imperative.”
Despite all the good that the final rule does for hunting and fishing, opponents are using hyperbolic misinformation to persuade their allies in Congress to attack the rule at every turn. This, too, has earned a response from sportsmen. “We must strongly oppose efforts to overturn the rule—and question the motives of those who would undermine it,” said Greg Munther, co-chair of the Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “Consider everything Montana stands to lose if their efforts are successful.”
After nearly 15 years of Clean Water Act confusion and a multi-year rulemaking process that takes into account more than 400 meetings with stakeholders and over one million public comments, we finally have a restored Clean Water Act that protects fish and wildlife habitat and gives certainty to landowners. But the fight isn’t over.
We would do well to heed the words of Andy Kurkulis, owner of Chicago Fly Fishing Outfitters and DuPage Fly Fishing Co. in Illinois: “Anyone who has ever swam in our beautiful Great Lakes, or fished or boated on our abundant rivers and waters has benefited immeasurably [from the Clean Water Act]. Now is the time to raise our voices in support of clean water—our economy, and future generations of hunters and anglers, depend on it.”
To read more feedback on the clean water rule from engaged sportsmen across the country, click here. Learn more by digging into TRCP’s Sportsman’s Tackle Box for Understanding the Clean Water Rule.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund, a landmark American law, is up for reauthorization by Congress in less than 50 days, and 11 leading conservation organizations in Louisiana have expressed support—and urgency—for renewal of the law, which helps protect and improve habitat and sportsmen’s access.
This week, America’s Wetland Foundation, Audubon Louisiana, the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, Ducks Unlimited, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, the Land Trust for Louisiana, Louisiana Black Bear Conservation Coalition, Louisiana Wildlife Federation, the Nature Conservancy of Louisiana, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, and the Trust for Public Land released the following statement:
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has been enriching the lives of Americans for 50 years, creating thousands of public recreation sites from National Parks to neighborhood ballfields. Louisiana in particular has benefited from the LWCF, both in its federal and state components.
The LWCF played a major role in the development of Louisiana’s two National Parks, Jean Lafitte and Cane River Creole. Jean Lafitte National Historical Park has units in Acadia, Jefferson, Lafayette, Lafourche, Orleans, and St. Landry Parishes, while Cane River Creole is located in Natchitoches. Between them, these parks have received over a million visitors since they have opened, including tourists from around the country and world.
The LWCF has been utilized to create and expand 12 of the 24 National Wildlife Refuges in Louisiana: Atchafalaya, Bayou Cocodrie, Bayou Sauvage, Big Branch, Black Bayou Lake, Bogue Chitto, Cat Island, Grand Cote, Lake Ophelia, Bayou Teche, Red River, and Tensas River. These Refuges provide critical wildlife habitat and prime areas for public hunting and fishing.
The LWCF has also helped fund over 700 state and local projects in Louisiana, in hundreds of cities and communities, including parks, boardwalks, boat ramps, and recreation centers. The Office of State Parks utilized the Fund to aid its state plan in 1965, and to develop and improve over 36 sites since then as the state administrator of LWCF. Local parish governments have worked with private partners to match federal funds to benefit their residents and the tourists who visit their areas.
Projects completed and underway in Louisiana reflect the mission of the LWCF to promote outdoor recreation, and play an important role in the ‘Outdoors Economy’ that provides many benefits to our state, supporting 48,000 jobs, generating $225 million in annual state tax revenue, and producing $3.2 billion annually in retail sales and services. The LWCF is funded through offshore oil production revenues, rather than tax dollars, and is a specified recipient of a portion of revenues in the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA), along with Gulf Coast States.
It is well understood now that the economic and environmental benefits of parks and refuges can extend beyond outdoor recreation and wildlife habitat. The area of the Red River National Wildlife Refuge added in 2014 included hundreds of acres that had been slated for development, but instead helped increase floodwater retention capacity in the recent (spring 2015) floods along the river. The Mollicy Farms Project on the Upper Ouachita National Wildlife Refuge, another project funded with the help of the LWCF, accommodated floodwaters that helped prevent a levee breach downstream in Monroe in 2009. Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge, located just outside of New Orleans, contributes to the city’s natural and constructed hurricane protection system.
Flood retention, infrastructure support, and coastal resiliency and restoration are some of the wider benefits that point to the future potential of the Land and Water Conservation Fund to help Louisiana in years to come. We urge our Congressional delegation to support its reauthorization to help meet those needs.
The conservation groups cited a number of recent examples of the success of the LWCF in Louisiana and the diversity of the projects it has supported, including:
Park and recreation facilities funded through the LWCF are slated for completion over the next two years in Acadia, Concordia, Jefferson, LaSalle, Livingston, Pointe Coupee, St. Bernard, St. Martin, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, and Washington Parishes. You might be surprised to learn what kinds of projects this important fund has made possible in your community.
It should come as no surprise that the sportsmen’s community is rallying around reauthorization of LWCF. But time is running out. Stay tuned for more information and how you can lend your voice.
In an increasingly crowded and pay-to-play world, America’s 640 million acres of public lands – including our national forests and Bureau of Land Management lands–have become the nation’s mightiest hunting and fishing strongholds. This is especially true in the West, where according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 72 percent of sportsmen depend on access to public lands for hunting. Without these vast expanses of prairie and sagebrush, foothills and towering peaks, the traditions of hunting and fishing as we have known them for the past century would be lost. Gone also would be a very basic American value: the unique and abundant freedom we’ve known for all of us, rich and poor and in-between, to experience our undeveloped and wild spaces, natural wonders, wildlife and waters, and the assets that have made life and citizenship in our country the envy of the world.
A big game hunter’s bucket list might include a trip to the slopes of Alaska’s Brooks Range for Dall sheep or an excursion deep into the southwestern desert for beautiful little Coues deer. But, one thing is certain: That list will hold a hunt for big bull elk, and there is no better place to do that than on high-country public lands in Colorado.
In Part Four of our series, we head to the northwest part of Colorado.
Moosehead Mountain is in the northwest part of the state, south of Dinosaur National Monument and not far from the towns of Rangely and Dinosaur. Its elevation tops out at about 8,400 feet and the terrain is thick with sagebrush, mountain mahogany, pinyon pine, and juniper—all the makings of a classic glass-and-stalk hunt to get in front of moving elk. Cross paths with bands of pronghorns in the warmer months and big mule deer bucks transitioning from high country to low as the snows come in.
This area serves as a portion of the home range for the second-largest elk herd in North America, including some truly big bulls scoring up to 370. It’s a wild place, remote and empty, and accessible to hunters on foot or on horseback. The bull tag for Game Management Unit 10 has been one of the most coveted big-game tags in America for decades.
Colorado elk hunters have been among the first citizens to oppose proposals for largescale transfer of federal lands to the states, because they know best what is at stake: their access to places like Moosehead Mountain and, quite possibly, the future of hunting in Colorado. Despite public opposition, some Colorado politicians are pushing the idea, and two land transfer bills were promoted by anti-government activists during the 2015 legislative session. More than 200 sportsmen and women rallied at the Colorado state capitol in opposition to this legislation, and the bills were defeated.
Currently, federal land managers are bound by law to manage public lands like Moosehead Mountain for multiple uses, such as for wildlife habitat and hunting opportunities. The state of Colorado has no such multiple-use mandate, and, to the contrary, its mandate is to maximize profits from state-held public lands, not to conserve resources or access to hunting and fishing. In fact, most state lands in Colorado are closed to hunting, fishing, shooting, and camping, and so sportsmen must remain diligent to put a stop to any proposals that threaten our ability to pursue these American traditions on federal public lands.
State management of these lands could result in unrestricted development, based solely on what will net the highest possible profits. It might even mean the outright sale of game-rich lands, like Moosehead Mountain, to private interests that will make a fortune selling access or high-priced hunts on what now belongs to every American hunter. If we want once-in-a-lifetime big-game hunts to be available to the average hunter, sportsmen need to continue to voice our opposition to this controversial idea.
Let’s cross Moosehead Mountain off our bucket lists because we’ve been there, not because we’re locked out forever.
Stay tuned. In the rest of this 10-part series, we’ll continue to cover some of America’s finest hunting and fishing destinations that could be permanently seized from the public if politicians have their way.
What 34 sportsmen’s groups have joined forces to ask of our nation’s lawmakers as they craft next year’s budget
Agreement in the year 2015 seems to be a rare thing—whether it’s among Republicans and Democrats or about Coke or Pepsi. Even hunters and anglers have loyalties that can lead to fireside arguments about smallmouth or cutthroat, ducks or deer. With so many options, disagreement just seems to be the natural status quo.
But there was absolutely no disagreement last week, when 34 of the nation’s leading hunting and angling conservation organizations, representing sportsmen and women from every region of the country, signed a letter urging Congressional leadership to begin negotiating a bipartisan budget deal.
Many of the issues that we work on at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership are regional by nature of being specific to certain terrain or species, like sage grouse, red snapper, or Prairie Potholes. It can sometimes be difficult, and understandably so, to get fishing groups interested in upland issues or to ask waterfowl groups to advocate for the sagebrush steppe. It’s not that these groups don’t care, it’s just that, with limited bandwidth and capacity, their focus on one core mission is essential. And so TRCP has made it our core mission to bring the widest swath of the sporting community to bear on the issues that truly impact the full spectrum of America’s hunters and anglers.
Few issues are more important to fish and wildlife habitat and the future of quality experiences afield than conservation funding.
The end of September marks the end of the federal fiscal year 2015, and as the fiscal year ends, so does the Murray-Ryan budget deal (formally known as the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015). It was negotiated in good faith by then-chairs of the House and Senate Budget Committees, Paul Ryan and Patty Murray, respectively. Its provisions allowed for a temporary lift from the onerous, sweeping, and automatic cuts referred to as “sequestration,” which would have fundamentally altered the landscape of fish and wildlife habitat conservation in the United States. However, the expiration of the deal means the return of sequestration and, in such a scenario, habitat projects often wind up on the cutting room floor. Access enhancement stops in its tracks. Conservation priorities wither on the vine.
That is, unless Congressional leaders can come together on a successor agreement to Murray-Ryan. Dozens of sporting-conservation groups have gone on the record in support of Congressional negotiations that result in a bipartisan budget agreement to provide for a meaningful reinvestment in conservation funding. Private lands, public lands, marine fisheries, water, and literally everything else in the universe of issues that sportsmen care about most would be dramatically impacted by the return of sequestration.
It is time for Congressional leaders to come together for this greatly needed compromise—we can all agree on that.
In the last two years, policymakers have committed to significant investments in conservation, infrastructure, and reversing climate change. Hunters and anglers continue to be vocal about the opportunity to create conservation jobs, restore habitat, and boost fish and wildlife populations. Support solutions now.Learn More