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November 5, 2015

Take Refuge: Five Havens for Wildlife and Sportsmen in New England

The National Wildlife Refuge System spans 150 million acres of land and water from coast to coast, with at least one refuge providing public access to quality fish and wildlife habitat in each U.S. state. Last week I traveled through New England with the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE) coalition, visiting five National Wildlife Refuges along the way. I was inspired by this immersion in living-and-breathing habitat restoration and enhancement projects that are benefiting local communities and future generations, but it became very clear that none of it would be possible without the help of local and national partners contributing financial assistance and on-the-ground support. Overall, refuges across the country are underfunded, and this has caused a real impact on the health of wildlife habitat and quality of visitor experiences.  Though the refuge workforce has fallen 12 percent in the past four years, the staff that we met over the past week were passionate, engaged, and responsible for executing conservation initiatives that may not see results for many years. Here’s a taste of what I experienced.

Image courtesy of Julia Galliher.

Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, Rowley, Mass.

Occupying two-thirds of Plum Island, this refuge’s Great Marsh is at the confluence of the Essex, Ipswich, Rowley, Parker, and Merrimac Rivers. In 2014, the National Wildlife Refuge System and its partners teamed up to remove dense invasive wetland reeds that spread quickly by water and air. They successfully decreased the invasive plant population by 85 percent and replaced them with native shrubs and grasses, supporting habitat for the more than 67,000 migratory birds that spend warm seasons in the marsh. Our small group wandered through past the dunes to where hunters may pursue waterfowl and whitetail deer thanks, also, to careful management. The refuge is less than 20 miles from route 95 and just an hour from Boston, providing quality access to sportsmen and birders from an ever-sprawling urban area.

Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Newington, N.H.

Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, Wells, Maine

The Great Bay and Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuges have partnered with their state fish and wildlife agencies to accomplish restoration projects and protect at-risk species, like the recently delisted New England cottontail rabbit. Just weeks before we arrived at Great Bay, the staff released ten young cottontails raised in a one-and-a-half-acre pen at the refuge. Meanwhile, partners and volunteers at Rachel Carson worked to remove invasive grasses and restore native shrubs where the rabbits breed.

Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge, Bethel, Maine

The Umbagog staff is currently partnering with timber contractors to clear out invasive trees and restore healthy forest habitat. They showed us trees marked with blue paint for removal this winter. Forty to 50 years from now, probably long after these dedicated refuge workers retire, the effects of the timber harvest will begin to sustain woodcock and other species reliant on hardwood forest habitat.

Image courtesy of Julia Galliher.

Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge, Brunswick, Vt.

This refuge places a high value on educating the community while maintaining and restoring the Connecticut River watershed. Fueled by the refuge’s relationship with local partners, French’s staff is able to restore salt marshes for migratory birds, like black ducks, reestablish wetlands by deconstructing manmade bodies of water, and provide education materials through the Watershed on Wheels (WOW) project—the refuge’s mobile visitors center. Unfortunately, many of these projects are on standby due to the lack of conservation funding appropriated to them by Congress.

Fortunately, local and national partners are providing assistance for restoration projects on our National Wildlife Refuges, but these efforts only go so far without a permanent refuge workforce. On behalf of the New England refuges that I had the pleasure to experience, I encourage you to reach out to your lawmakers and urge them to invest in conservation to protect and sustain the refuge system for the benefit of fish, wildlife, and sportsmen.

 

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posted in: General

Take Refuge: Five Havens for Wildlife and Sportsmen in New England

The National Wildlife Refuge System spans 150 million acres of land and water from coast to coast, with at least one refuge providing public access to quality fish and wildlife habitat in each U.S. state. Last week I traveled through New England with the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE) coalition, visiting five National Wildlife Refuges along the way. I was inspired by this immersion in living-and-breathing habitat restoration and enhancement projects that are benefiting local communities and future generations, but it became very clear that none of it would be possible without the help of local and national partners contributing financial assistance and on-the-ground support. Overall, refuges across the country are underfunded, and this has caused a real impact on the health of wildlife habitat and quality of visitor experiences.  Though the refuge workforce has fallen 12 percent in the past four years, the staff that we met over the past week were passionate, engaged, and responsible for executing conservation initiatives that may not see results for many years. Here’s a taste of what I experienced.

Image courtesy of Julia Galliher.

Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, Rowley, Mass.

Occupying two-thirds of Plum Island, this refuge’s Great Marsh is at the confluence of the Essex, Ipswich, Rowley, Parker, and Merrimac Rivers. In 2014, the National Wildlife Refuge System and its partners teamed up to remove dense invasive wetland reeds that spread quickly by water and air. They successfully decreased the invasive plant population by 85 percent and replaced them with native shrubs and grasses, supporting habitat for the more than 67,000 migratory birds that spend warm seasons in the marsh. Our small group wandered through past the dunes to where hunters may pursue waterfowl and whitetail deer thanks, also, to careful management. The refuge is less than 20 miles from route 95 and just an hour from Boston, providing quality access to sportsmen and birders from an ever-sprawling urban area.

Great Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Newington, N.H.

Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, Wells, Maine

The Great Bay and Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuges have partnered with their state fish and wildlife agencies to accomplish restoration projects and protect at-risk species, like the recently delisted New England cottontail rabbit. Just weeks before we arrived at Great Bay, the staff released ten young cottontails raised in a one-and-a-half-acre pen at the refuge. Meanwhile, partners and volunteers at Rachel Carson worked to remove invasive grasses and restore native shrubs where the rabbits breed.

Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge, Bethel, Maine

The Umbagog staff is currently partnering with timber contractors to clear out invasive trees and restore healthy forest habitat. They showed us trees marked with blue paint for removal this winter. Forty to 50 years from now, probably long after these dedicated refuge workers retire, the effects of the timber harvest will begin to sustain woodcock and other species reliant on hardwood forest habitat.

Image courtesy of Julia Galliher.

Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge, Brunswick, Vt.

This refuge places a high value on educating the community while maintaining and restoring the Connecticut River watershed. Fueled by the refuge’s relationship with local partners, French’s staff is able to restore salt marshes for migratory birds, like black ducks, reestablish wetlands by deconstructing manmade bodies of water, and provide education materials through the Watershed on Wheels (WOW) project—the refuge’s mobile visitors center. Unfortunately, many of these projects are on standby due to the lack of conservation funding appropriated to them by Congress.

Fortunately, local and national partners are providing assistance for restoration projects on our National Wildlife Refuges, but these efforts only go so far without a permanent refuge workforce. On behalf of the New England refuges that I had the pleasure to experience, I encourage you to reach out to your lawmakers and urge them to invest in conservation to protect and sustain the refuge system for the benefit of fish, wildlife, and sportsmen.

 

Kristyn Brady

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November 3, 2015

Senate kills dirty water bill

Hunters and anglers celebrate brief reprieve for headwater streams and wetlands before preparing for a fresh threat to the Clean Water Rule

In a Senate vote today, “The Federal Water Quality Protection Act,” S.1140—which would have stripped Clean Water Act protections from some waters and nullified a rule to clarify protections for others—was defeated.

“For all Americans who love trout, beer, and a nice glass of water, today is a great day,” says Steve Moyer, Trout Unlimited’s vice president for government affairs. “We thank all of the senators who stood with sportsmen, turned away the blizzard of bad information, and supported clean water.”

Image courtesy of Nicholas A. Tonelli.

Earlier this week, eight of the country’s leading sportsmen’s groups sent Senators a letter opposing the legislation, introduced by Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming, saying that it would leave headwater streams and wetlands at risk, despite a multi-year public rulemaking process that highlighted the need to protect these areas. “Senators who voted against the Barrasso bill voted for clean water and the outdoor recreation economy, which depends on healthy streams and wetlands,” says Scott Kovarovics, executive director of the Izaak Walton League of America. “These lawmakers followed science and common sense and listened to hunters and anglers, who overwhelmingly support conserving vital water resources.”

A recent National Wildlife Federation poll 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. “The science behind the rule is strong, as is its public support, and these streams and wetlands are critical for fish, wildlife, and our way of life,” says Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the NWF. “So, while we are pleased that this bill failed to reach cloture, and we thank the senators who voted for clean water today, but it’s hard to understand why it was up for debate in the first place.”

Despite this support, not to mention the rule’s benefits for drinking water for one in three Americans and flood protection for local communities, multiple threats remain. Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa has called for the use of the Congressional Review Act to overturn the current rule and prevent any future rulemaking. The Senate is expected to turn to Sen. Ernst’s proposal next. [Updated 11-5-2015 3:48 p.m. ET: Sadly, the Senate approved Senate Joint Resolution 22 on Wednesday. The bill now goes to the House of Representatives, where it is expected to pass easily. Fortunately, the president is sure to veto S.J.Res.22.)

“Hunters and anglers must remain vigilant despite our victory today,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Many in Congress are determined to undercut the safeguards we need to enjoy clean water and quality days afield, whether it’s through obscure legislative processes or tucking offending provisions into thousand-page must-pass spending bills at the end of the year.”

“Everyone who likes to spend time outdoors—whether to fish or swim—needs to pick up the phone and let their senators know that clean water is non-negotiable,” says O’Mara.

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.

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

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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