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Just in time for Halloween, the Senate is lining up three attacks on fishing and waterfowl hunting that should scare all sportsmen and women. They’re using rhetoric and must-pass legislation to disguise their attempts to take aim at the Clean Water Rule—produced by the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to clarify that small streams and wetlands do indeed deserve protection under the Clean Water Act—so Americans can’t tell if they’re getting a trick or a treat. But, if lawmakers succeed in undermining the rule, it’ll be open season on the small streams and wetlands that are so critical to hunting and fishing opportunities from coast to coast.
Here’s why you should be spooked:
Attack #1: Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa has called for the use of an obscure legislative tool, known as the Congressional Review Act (CRA), to substitute the judgment of Congress for the deliberate and thorough multi-year public rulemaking process that produced the Clean Water Rule. The CRA gives Congress the ability to overturn agency actions using special rules that bypass the normal legislative process, and it has been used successfully only once since it was created in 1996.
The Clean Water Rule was produced as a result of feedback from more than 400 stakeholder meetings and an extended public-comment period. Nearly 900,000 members of the public commented in support, and a recent poll found that 83 percent of sportsmen and women think the Clean Water Act should apply to smaller streams and wetlands, as the new rule mandates.
Nevertheless, Sen. Ernst wants to wipe away all that good work and send us back to a time when 60 percent of stream miles and millions of wetlands were susceptible to pollution and habitat loss. What’s more, due to the unique nature of the CRA, her bill would lock in the uncertainty that exists in the Clean Water Act indefinitely, offering no constructive path forward for regulatory certainty or better clean water protection.
Attack #2: Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming has introduced a bill deceptively titled “The Federal Water Quality Protection Act” that would send the EPA and Corps back to square one with new, unnecessary, and duplicative requirements that both agencies would have to meet before producing a replacement rule. If Sen. Barrasso’s bill stopped there, it would set the cause of clean water back many years, but unfortunately, it goes even further. The bill would eliminate protections for waters currently covered by the Clean Water Act, disregard the impact on wildlife when deciding how to protect a body of water, make it more difficult to protect smaller headwater streams, and do away with protections for waters the bill calls “isolated.” Many of these areas are prime hunting and fishing grounds or primary breeding grounds for the vast majority of waterfowl in North America.
It’s not clear in which order the Senate will consider the attacks from Sens. Ernst and Barrasso, but either could come up for a vote any day now.
Attack #3: As Congress limps its way to another end-of-the-year deal to keep the federal government open, many members of Congress will be pushing behind-the-scenes to get the Clean Water Rule rolled back by cutting off the funding needed to implement it. Tucking a dirty water provision into a 1,000-page must-pass piece of legislation is no way to deal with our bedrock clean water standards, and sportsmen shouldn’t stand for it.
It’s crunch time for America’s hunters and anglers. The next two months could determine whether we’ll have a Clean Water Act that protects wetlands and headwater streams, and gives certainty to farmers, ranchers, and foresters, or whether we will slip back to a time when trout streams and waterfowl nesting grounds are at increased risk.
On October 27, 1858, or 157 years ago today, one of the greatest wildlife conservationists in the history of our country was born. Known for his brute toughness and great leadership, Theodore Roosevelt certainly left his mark on America’s wild landscapes while he was here on earth. During his time as President, he established the U.S. Forest Service, created National Parks and National Forests, and was partly responsible for protecting over 230 million acres of land.
In his own time, these ideas were not unanimously popular, but no one ever made a move to reverse the legislative steps that would create T.R.’s conservation legacy—until now.
As you may have read on this blog before, a total of 37 bills were introduced in 11 Western states in 2015 to promote the transfer of federal public lands to individual states. If you live in the West, you probably heard that thousands of your friends, neighbors, and fellow sportsmen rallied against this bad idea earlier this year. And you definitely heard from us this spring, when the fight moved to Washington and our U.S. Senate passed a non-binding budget resolution that encourages Congress to “sell, or transfer to, or exchange with, a state or local government any Federal land that is not within the boundaries of a National Park, National Preserve, or National Monument.”
What was once regarded as a silly idea is now on record as something our federal lawmakers support, and that’s why it’s no time to sit back or lower our voices. Even though all but a few of the state bills were defeated, there’s still support—and funding to fuel support—for federal land transfer, which would mean the end of hunting and fishing as we know it on this vast public-land system.
More than 19,600 people have signed a petition to oppose this bad idea, resulting in more than 188,000 letters asking local, state, and federal lawmakers to stand with sportsmen. And we want to crank the volume up even further.
Help us get to 25,000 signatures on Theodore Roosevelt’s birthday—to honor a great man, with great ambition, and an astounding conservation legacy that fuels our sporting traditions. Sign the petition at sportsmensaccess.org.
Then let your friends know that you stand for public access to fish and wildlife resources and quality days afield that are unmatched in any country on the planet. (Yeah, we said it.) Post with #HappyBirthdayTR and #PublicLandsProud and we’ll repost our favorites all day today.
The TRCP’s scouting report on sportsmen’s issues in Congress.
The Senate will be in session Monday through Friday. The House will conduct legislative business Monday through Thursday.
The election for Speaker of the House will occur on secret ballots within the Republican caucus on Wednesday of this week, and the (recorded) floor vote will occur the following day. House Ways and Means Chairman and 2012 GOP Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan (R-WI) appears to have the votes to become the next Speaker, although he will immediately find out just how difficult the job will be, as key deadlines loom on a debt ceiling deal, an extension of the highway trust fund, and a long-term budget agreement. His ascendance has already kick-started a fight between Pat Tiberi of Ohio and Kevin Brady of Texas for the powerful Ways and Means gavel.
Last week, House GOP leadership had to pull a deal to pair a debt-ceiling increase with conservative reforms, because it lacked the votes for passage, even in the House. Senate Majority Leader McConnell has said that “the House should go first” on the debt ceiling, which runs out on November 3, but the path forward is unclear. Many in the Senate have a growing sense that, if the House doesn’t move soon on a deal, the Senate will indeed have to take the lead. Both chambers have reserved floor time this week for consideration of a deal. The President has threatened to veto any debt ceiling bill that includes spending cuts.
Last week, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee approved a bipartisan transportation bill through the next six years, but with the Highway Trust Fund—reminder: that’s funded by the federal tax on gasoline at the pump—set to expire this Thursday, there is no time to negotiate between the House T&I bill and the long-term bill that the Senate passed in July. A short-term patch of the Highway Trust Fund is expected later this week.
And ICYMI, President Obama kept his word and vetoed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) last week. The NDAA was sent back to Congress with the President’s clear message of disapproval due to “irresponsible” spending caps. The pressure for a budget deal that raises sequester caps and increases funding for things like key conservation programs is certainly growing in advance of the December 11 deadline. This promises to be a very real test for the new Speaker of the House.
Obama also urged Congress to reauthorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund in his weekly address on Saturday. Watch the clip below.
What We’re Tracking
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
Stream protection, in a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation, and Enforcement hearing on the proposed rule
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Public lands, to be discussed in a House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands hearing regarding the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Modernization Act of 2015
Legislation on projects related to public lands, water, and tribes, the subject of a House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans hearing
Every year on October 24, on “Food Day,” members of the American public, food and farm activists, and chefs come together to celebrate and enjoy real food and to push for improved food policies. In 2015, Food Day has the theme “Toward a Greener Diet”—the organizers hope we’ll all resolve to make changes in our own diets, and take action to solve food-related environmental problems.
In many ways, this is a terrific cause. Food Day rightly recognizes that “eating real” can improve your health and the environment.
But we also doubt the Food Day organizers spend much time thinking about, let alone thanking, the 40 million hunters and anglers in this country who feed their families with a harvest not just from the farm, but from forest, field, and stream.
Because of our unique relationship with the land and the species which live upon it, America’s sportsmen are this country’s first and foremost conservationists, paying millions each year to protect public lands and clean our waters. Sportsmen advocate for agriculture policies like CRP, which provide safety nets both for farmers and for the wildlife that live on the edges of farms. And today, when the average American wastes more than 20 pounds of edible food each month, sportsmen stand apart in their commitment to using the whole animal. True sportsmen waste nothing.
There are many important issues around food in this country that hunters and anglers can’t solve, such as childhood hunger, or poor working conditions for food and farm workers. But on Food Day 2015, when the food movement pledges to move “Toward a Greener Diet,” we hope you’ll join us in thanking the American sportsman for leading the way.
In honor of moving toward a greener diet, living off the land, and wasting nothing, we’re pleased to share a recipe from our friend Steven Rinella. He writes that the recipe “calls for a skinned-out deer’s head to be buried beneath the coals of a fire, which is fun, rugged and surprisingly effective. The meat comes off the bone easily, and it’s super succulent. You can eat it with nothing but salt, but it’s even better when you use it to build a taco…It makes a perfect hunter’s snack, and your friends will never forget it.”
Big Sky Roasted Head
Build a big fire and let it burn vigorously for a good 45-60 minutes in order to build up a strong bed of coals. Really let it rip. You can use about any wood, but a dense hardwood will produce hotter, longer-lasting coals. An ideal choice would be mesquite, but oak is also great. While the fire is burning, you can prep your head.
Salt and pepper the head heavily and triple-or quadruple-wrap it in foil. Take a burlap or game bag and soak it in a creek or with a hose until it’s fully saturated with water. Wrap your foil-covered head tightly in the wet burlap or game bag to make a neat package.
When a good crop of coals has collected, use a spade to scrape out a trench in the center of your fire, deep enough and large enough around for your venison head. Put about a gallon of coals in the hole. Cover it with 3 inches of dirt. Then set the head in the trench. Cover the head with another 3 inches of dirt and build the fire back on top of the head. Cooking time may vary from fire to fire, but in general 3-4 hours is a pretty good amount of time to let it cook.
Pull the roasted head out with a spade and put it on a stone to cool down. If you’re concerned, insert an instant-read thermometer through the foil and into the flesh in the head (aiming for the brain is a good idea). It should be at least 160 degrees. 170-180 is ideal. Unwrap the burlap and the foil. Don’t remove the meat from the head until it has rested 10-20 minutes.
Meanwhile, wrap the corn tortillas in foil and warm on the dying embers.
Being shredding the meat. There’s all kinds of good stuff on the head, particularly the tongue and the jowl meat, which tastes a bit like pulled pork. And it’s easy to remove with a knife and fork. Season the meat with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lime juice. And then get your fixings ready.
Assemble the tacos, crack open some beers, and check out the stars. You’ve earned it.
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