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November 9, 2015

Glassing The Hill: November 9 –- 13

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

The House is not in session this week. The Senate will conduct legislative business, except on the Veterans Day holiday this Wednesday.

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

On the road again, indeed. Late last week, House members exited D.C. for their districts on a strong note, after passing a $325-billion transportation bill that will fund highway and transit programs for the next six years. The bill also reauthorizes the Export-Import Bank until 2019. Both Congressional chambers have now passed a long-term bill, and they will need to reach a negotiated conference agreement before the Highway Trust Fund expires on November 20, otherwise another short-term extension will be required.

Meanwhile, congressional leaders continue to seek an agreement on how to spend the fiscal year 2016 budget. Over the past few months, Senate Democrats have blocked all appropriations bills while calling for a bipartisan budget deal, which was finally reached on October 30. Today they allowed the bill that funds Military Construction and Veterans Affairs to move forward to the floor. And Democratic Leader Harry Reid (NV) has indicated that he and Republican Leader Mitch McConnell are “very close” to an agreement on an omnibus spending bill to fund the government after a short-term continuing resolution expires on December 11.

This week, Senators are also expected to vote on a revised National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), after the first version was vetoed by the President. The House passed its revised version with a very strong 370-58 margin last week.

And, speaking of vetoes, the president may get his chance to nix a Congressional attempt to strike down the EPA’s Clean Water Rule—by now, you know it as the rule that will improve protection for America’s headwater streams and prevent future wetlands loss—as early as next week. After the Senate approved a resolution that would overturn the rule, and prevent federal agencies from ever issuing a similar rule to clear up regulatory confusion, this bill now goes to the House of Representatives, where it is expected to pass easily. Once it reaches the president’s desk, it is expected that he’ll say, ‘Do not to pass go.’ Learn more here.

What We’re Tracking

Last Thursday, Congressman Bishop (R-UT) introduced his long-anticipated plan for a revamp and reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Only, it sounds more like a bait-and-switch. Bishop’s bill would fully fund the program at $900 million for seven years and shift a much higher percentage to state-oriented projects. It would also slash funds slated for federal land acquisition— a proven strategy for reducing maintenance costs on checkerboard public and private lands—from $30 million to $2 million. Upon its release, the bill was decried by many in the conservation community, and it is unclear how much support the legislation has on the Hill. A hearing is expected in the House Natural Resources Committee next Wednesday, November 18.

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November 8, 2015

Are Your Senators Just Paying Lip Service to Sportsmen?

Here’s how they voted on clean water for headwaters and wetlands

In late October, I wrote about three upcoming attacks from Congress on sportsmen’s access to healthy headwater streams and wetlands. We’re now witnessing the aftermath of two of these attacks and, unfortunately for sportsmen, it’s not all good news.

Image courtesy of Bob Wick/BLM.

First, a victory: On November 3, the Senate voted down a bill that would have forced a costly and unnecessary do-over on a multi-year federal process to write a rule clarifying which waters are protected under the Clean Water Act. The Clean Water Rule has been (and continues to be) a target of Congressional ire. Had the bill just sent the rule back to square one, it would have set the cause of clean water back many years. But the bill would have gone one step further to eliminate protections for some waters currently covered by the Clean Water Act, and eliminate consideration of the impact on fish and wildlife when deciding how to protect a body of water. Sportsmen turned out in a big way to oppose this disastrous bill, and it failed.

The bad news? Remarkably, 57 of your senators still voted for the bill undercutting the Clean Water Act. Even worse, on the very next day, the Senate approved a resolution that would wipe away all the work done by federal agencies to produce the Clean Water Rule and prevent them from ever issuing a similar rule to clear up regulatory confusion. This bill now goes to the House of Representatives, where it is expected to pass easily. Fortunately, the president is sure to veto it.

Did your senator stand with sportsmen and vote in favor of healthy trout streams and productive wetlands? Click here to see how your senator voted on S.1140, which would have stripped protections from waters long-covered by the Clean Water Act. Click here to see how your senator voted on S.J.Res.22, which would have locked in Clean Water Act confusion and pollution threats to wetlands and headwaters indefinitely.

If your lawmaker voted ‘Nay,’ they voted correctly for sportsmen’s access and outdoor recreation industry jobs.

Throughout much of the debate about Clean Water Act jurisdiction, senators opposing the Clean Water Rule have claimed that “everyone is for clean water,” as if this is somehow self-evident. But, at some point, the actions of our elected officials have to match their words.

Senators cannot claim to be for clean water and then vote for a bill that would kill the Clean Water Rule and prevent efforts to better protect clean water in the future. Senators cannot claim to be for clean water and then vote for a bill that strips Clean Water Act protections that have existed for decades for many of the waters that are critical to fish and wildlife. Sportsmen need to know the difference between the lawmakers who are actually working to maintain and improve natural resources and those who just say they are. The votes in the Senate this week are a good place to start recognizing the difference.

Tell your senators how you feel about their votes. Tell them you need clean water where you hunt and fish.



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November 5, 2015

Winner Alert! Capturing the upland scene that makes us #PublicLandsProud

Thanks to those of you in #PublicLandsProud nation who shared their best upland hunting photos taken on public lands! With seasons opening up from the prairies of South Dakota to the plains of Texas and the pine forests of South Georgia, there were some really impressive submissions, and it was the very tough job of our guest judge, outdoor photographer Brian Grossenbacher, to ultimately select a winner.  After much deliberation, here are the winning shots:

First Place:  Instagrammer pfitzpatrick

“This image pulled me in and told a story about the excitement of a kid’s first hunt,” says Grossenbacher. “With hunter’s safety still fresh in his mind, I could just imagine his quickening steps and total concentration as he approached the dog on point. Great composition and lighting, but more importantly, this image speaks to the generations of hunters before us and after us who will have the privilege to enjoy public lands.” First Runner UpAnthony Hauck ‏@AnthonyHauckPF  Oct 19


“I love the perspective of this image,” says Grossenbacher of this shot from Pheasants Forever staffer Hauck. (He had a slight edge in this upland category.) “It shows the wide open space of the hunt and follows the point of view of the dog in the foreground. The more I look at this image, the more I see and get pulled into feeling of being there. Very creative composition that illustrates the long miles, and wide open country of a Western hunt.”

Second Runner Up: Instagrammer ajvavra

“This must have been one of those rare times when the scenery and lighting are so good that it puts pressure on the photographer to capture the perfect image—this one is very nicely done,” says Grossenbacher. “I love that the river tracks through this entire image, plus the play of light, contrast in the clouds, and even a rainbow is just classic Montana.”

Submit your best dog photos for the next round of our photo contest! You could win a new pair of Costa sunglasses, or even our grand prize—a Yeti cooler packed with great swag. Keep showing us what makes you #PublicLandsProud, and we’ll continue to protect your access to quality fish and wildlife habitat.


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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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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.



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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