Kristyn Brady

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November 2, 2015

Sportsmen Oppose Congressional Threats to Clean Water and Healthy Wetlands

The Senate will vote on a dirty water bill tomorrow–here’s what sportsmen’s groups are doing about it

Today, eight sportsmen’s groups representing hundreds of thousands of hunters and anglers sent Senators a letter opposing the “Federal Water Quality Protection Act,” which would derail the Clean Water Rule, produced to clarify protections for headwaters and wetlands under the Clean Water Act. Sen. John Barrasso’s S.1140, which the Senate will vote on Tuesday afternoon, would also remove protections for some waters already covered by the Act.

Image courtesy of Nicolas Raymond.

The letter—signed by the American Fisheries Society, American Fly Fishing Trade Association, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, International Federation of Fly Fishers, Izaak Walton League of America, National Wildlife Federation, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, and Trout Unlimited—urges Senators to vote down the bill, because it would force the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to restart the rulemaking process, putting valuable fish and waterfowl habitat at risk in the meantime.

The letter highlights a recent poll, which found that 83 percent of sportsmen and women think the Clean Water Act should apply to smaller streams and wetlands, as the new Clean Water Rule directs. These resources impact drinking water for one in three Americans, protect communities from flooding, and provide essential fish and wildlife habitat that supports a robust outdoor recreation economy. “The sportfishing industry accounts for 828,000 jobs, nearly $50 billion annually in retail sales, and an economic impact of about $115 billion every year that relies on access to clean water,” the letter says. “The Clean Water Rule will translate directly to an improved bottom line for America’s outdoor industry.”

In a separate letter to lawmakers, sportsmen’s groups opposed a Congressional Review Act resolution that would invalidate the Clean Water Rule and prevent any future attempts to craft a rule. Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa has called for the use of Congressional Review Act, which gives Congress the ability to overturn agency actions using special rules that bypass the normal legislative process. In effect, this would substitute the judgment of Congress for the deliberate and thorough multi-year public rulemaking process that produced the Clean Water Rule. Congress may proceed to Ernst’s resolution after tomorrow’s vote.

Learn more about these attacks and other threats to clean water here. Sportsmen can contact their lawmakers in support of better protection for headwaters and wetlands here bout $115 billion every year that relies on access to clean water,” the letter says. “The Clean Water Rule will translate directly to an improved bottom line for America’s outdoor industry.”

In a separate letter to lawmakers, sportsmen’s groups opposed a Congressional Review Act resolution that would invalidate the Clean Water Rule and prevent any future attempts to craft a rule. Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa has called for the use of Congressional Review Act, which gives Congress the ability to overturn agency actions using special rules that bypass the normal legislative process. In effect, this would substitute the judgment of Congress for the deliberate and thorough multi-year public rulemaking process that produced the Clean Water Rule. Congress may proceed to Ernst’s resolution after tomorrow’s vote.

Learn more about these attacks and other threats to clean water here. Sportsmen can contact their lawmakers in support of better protection for headwaters and wetlands here.

 

 

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Glassing the Hill: November 2 – 6

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

The House will be in session Monday through Thursday. The Senate will be in session Tuesday through Friday.

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

Boehner sealed a budget deal just in time to say goodbye. In his ultimate departure from Congress, Former Speaker John Boehner passed the gavel to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan late last week, but not before collaborating with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on successful passage of an $80-billion budget deal that will increase spending caps and raise the debt limit through March 5, 2017. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees now have until December 11, when the current continuing resolution expires, to draft an omnibus spending bill that funds the government for the remainder of the fiscal year. The most contentious issue will be legislative riders, including those that Republicans want to use to roll back Obama administration regulations, like the recently finalized Clean Water Rule. Some members will also seek to add pro-conservation riders to reauthorize LWCFand provide a fix for fire borrowing.

This week, the House begins consideration of a six-year highway bill. Speaker Ryan is expected to work with Majority Leader McConnell and bring the bill to conference. The Export-Import Bank reauthorization will also be considered as a rider to the Highway Trust Fund legislation that keeps the Highway Trust Fund solvent for the next three years. On the floor, the House will also consider legislation related to the National Defense Authorization Act.

On Tuesday, the Senate will continue consideration of Senator Barrasso’s (R-WY) legislation regarding the Federal Water Quality Protection Act. With Halloween behind us, it’s time to unmask this ironically-named bill that would roll back clean water protections. Learn more here.

What We’re Tracking

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Legislation impacting federal lands in Nevada and Louisiana, to be discussed by the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands. Rep. Hardy’s (R-NV) bill, Eastern Nevada Implementation Improvement Act, and Rep. Fleming’s (R-LA) legislation on stability of title to certain lands in Louisiana are up for debate.

Abandoned mines and maintenance costs, in a House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources hearing

Thursday, November 5, 2015

EPA’s efforts to block Pebble Mine, as examined by the House Science, Space and Technology Committee in a hearing

Budgetary impacts of wildfires, in a Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee hearing

Kristyn Brady

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October 30, 2015

While You Were Sleeping Congress Passed a Bipartisan Budget Deal

Default crisis was averted. Spending levels were moderately increased. But will any of it go toward conservation?

Shortly after 2:30 a.m. today, the U.S. Senate passed a two-year bipartisan budget agreement that will permit a modest reinvestment in important programs through fiscal year 2017 and lift the debt ceiling through March 2017. An additional $80 billion in government spending will be split evenly among defense and non-defense accounts, which could mean a much-needed increase in funding for conservation, natural resource agencies, and public access projects that benefit sportsmen and women.

“In the last four decades, we’ve seen funding for conservation as a percentage of the federal budget get cut in half,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “The increased funding for domestic programs in the new budget deal means more resources could go towards habitat protection, conservation easements, access enhancements, and water quality improvements.”

“It would be an investment in our economy, because quality habitat creates quality hunting and fishing opportunities, and we all know by now that sportsmen and women pour dollars into local businesses in their pursuit of great experiences afield,” says Fosburgh.

Image courtesy of Nicolas Raymond.

Before today’s action, and passage in the House on October 28, the dual threat of a default and a government shutdown was all too real. The outcome of today’s vote creates greater certainty that the government will remain functional—good news for sportsmen who were disproportionately affected by the 16-day government shutdown preceding the passage of the Murray-Ryan bipartisan budget deal in 2013. But, exactly how funding will be appropriated, and what the threat from various legislative riders will be, is left to be determined in the weeks ahead.

Since early this summer, the TRCP and its partners—including the Outdoor Industry Association, The Nature Conservancy, and 30 others—have been urging lawmakers to take up negotiations on a true successor to the Murray-Ryan deal, “the only way Congress is going to be able to make the investments in conservation that American sportsmen deserve,” Fosburgh said in a press release in June. The groups sent a letter to Congress in July.

Keep following the TRCP for news on how this year’s budget will be spent to implement conservation, improve fish and wildlife habitat, and protect America’s heritage of hunting and fishing on public lands.

Kristyn Brady

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posted in: General

October 29, 2015

Meet our next #PublicLandsProud contest judge: Bill Buckley

Bill Buckley is a Montana-based outdoor photographer who is known for his regular contributions to Field & Stream, Outdoor Life, American Hunter, and Ducks Unlimited magazines, but he’s also a heck of a storyteller. I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Bill every time his work was chosen for F&S’s First Shot section—a two-page spread of a fantastic photo that makes you say, “What’s going on here?” or “I so want to be there.” (Case in point, this shot and this shot.)

From now through November 8, Buckley is guest judging your best dog photos for this round of the #PublicLandsProud photo contest. He’s looking for a winning photo with an intriguing, animated quality, so let your gun dog’s personality shine through.

Image courtesy of Bill Buckley.

TRCP: So, Bill, how do you like to spend your time outside?

Buckley: Living in Montana, I spend a lot of time doing what most folks I know do here: hunting, fishing, hike, and enjoying nature. That’s why I’ve been an outdoor photographer for much of the 24 years I’ve lived out West. I’m probably revealing my age here, but one of my favorite activities is being in my backyard, where I might see anything from mule deer, whitetails, and tons of turkeys to the occasional elk, bear, and even pheasants or ruffed grouse.

TRCP: What makes a great photo of man’s best friend?

Buckley: Great dog photos convey whatever’s animating a dog at that moment, whether it be a Lab focused on a flock of ducks, a pointer snuffling bird scent, or a house dog staring intensely at a ball about to be thrown. I’m always looking for intensity and drive, like whatever the dog’s doing right now is the most important thing he could imagine. And a good catchlight in their eyes never hurts!

TRCP: What makes you #PublicLandsProud?

Buckley: I moved West to have daily access to thousands of acres of public land, from the backcountry to the plains. What satisfies me most is filling my freezer every year with meat largely collected on public land. Downing a good bull elk on private land usually isn’t that big a deal; doing it regularly on public land says you’re a competent hunter.

Show us your #PublicLandsProud moment and you could be featured on our blog and win a new pair of Costa sunglasses and a copy of Steven Rinella’s new book, The Complete Guide to Hunting, Butchering, and Cooking Wild Game.   

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Attacks on clean water protection are scary no matter what costume they wear

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.

Image courtesy of Ian Sane/Creative Commons.

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.

Tell your lawmakers where you stand. Tell them you want clean water for hunting and fishing.

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.

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