Image courtesy of Bob Wick/BLM.
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Image courtesy of Bob Wick/BLM.
TRCP hosted reporters in Louisiana to showcase the benefits of sediment diversion projects (and to catch our limit of keeper redfish!)
More than 25 years ago, Captain Ryan Lambert navigated a winding maze of bayous and bays to bring clients from the lodge at Cajun Fishing Adventures in Buras, Louisiana, to prime saltwater fishing and duck hunting areas. Today, he can point the bow of his boat south and barely turn the steering wheel at all.
To prove just how quickly land is being lost in Louisiana’s hunting and fishing paradise, Lambert pulled out his phone and showed me a photo he snapped of his GPS screen on a recent trip to productive redfish waters. It showed his boat sitting on land, but he certainly hadn’t run ashore. His electronics just can’t keep up as land is eroding and being swallowed by sea level rise all at once.
Solutions are in the works, and I was visiting my colleague Chris Macaluso to view one of them, a sediment diversion project planned for the Barataria Basin before doing a little fishing on the east side of the Mississippi River. Outdoor and environmental writers and TV hosts from across Louisiana were also there to witness the drastic consequences of cutting off the sediment supplies to the marshes of the Mississippi, the primary culprit in the loss of nearly 2,000 square miles of coastal wetlands.
The brown, murky water blocked us from seeing the floor of Barataria Basin, which is covered by loose soils made of rotting vegetation, rather than the layers of sediment once deposited by annual spring flooding of the Mississippi. The resulting land loss threatens species like pintails, teal, redfish, and speckled trout, which has implications for our days afield and on the water.This diversion project aims to reverse this land loss and improve habitat for the species we love. #Louisiana Click To Tweet
The Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion project aims to reverse this land loss and improve habitat for the species we love. It was approved in 2012 by the Louisiana state legislature as part of a comprehensive plan to restore Louisiana’s wetlands and protect coastal communities. With 75,000 cubic feet of water and sediment diverted every second during high-river periods, the benefits from this diversion would be swift—reinstituting fish and waterfowl diversity, especially for game species like largemouth bass, redfish, speckled trout, teal, and gadwalls, and providing a buffer from catastrophic storms like Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
But the environmental review process is delaying construction, just as the Louisiana coast is more vulnerable than ever. So, the need to expedite the environmental permitting procedures is essential to reversing land loss and improving fish habitat.
Several reporters and I stuck around long enough to experience what could be the future of Barataria Basin for recreational fishermen. On the east side of the Mississippi, I was hauling fish after fish into the boat after only one or two casts. Where it was tough to imagine (never mind see) fish in the basin’s straight, murky corridors between the barges, these marshes and inlets were hiding all sizes of specks and redfish. Within a few hours, I’d caught my limit—15 redfish over 16 inches, with one over 27 inches, and 25 speckled trout.
But days like this are at stake where marshes are critical to the coastal ecosystem and yet disappearing at an alarming rate. It’s critical that projects like the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion move forward.
VIDEO: Catch the segment of our tour from the Paradise Louisiana television show here.
The Georgia quail hunter will oversee $5 billion in conservation funding on private lands, which benefits farmers, ranchers, wildlife, clean water, and sportsmen
In an 87-11 vote, the U.S. Senate has officially confirmed Sonny Perdue, the former governor of Georgia and an avid sportsman, to lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture, where he’ll oversee land and water conservation on private lands and operation of the U.S. Forest Service. Hunters and anglers are optimistic that Perdue is up to the task of serving our rural communities and our natural resources well.
“As a hunter and angler, Secretary Perdue understands the importance of wildlife conservation,” says Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “He has a record of working in a bipartisan fashion to advance innovative land conservation programs, increase water conservation, and restore longleaf pine forests. We look forward to working with Perdue on critical issues facing USDA, including protecting America’s grasslands, expanding successful farm bill conservation programs and wildlife initiatives, and reducing nutrient runoff to improve water quality.”
Perhaps most importantly, Perdue will contribute to the debate around the 2018 Farm Bill, the legislative vehicle that drives approximately $5 billion in annual conservation spending on private lands. Voluntary, incentive-based programs authorized by past farm bills have been widely successful, helping to prevent the Endangered Species Act listing of the greater sage grouse and contributing to cleaner waters in the Chesapeake Bay.
“We are eager to begin working with Secretary Perdue to implement good conservation programs on working farms and ranches,” says Dr. Frank Rohwer, president and chief scientist at Delta Waterfowl. “The next farm bill will provide great opportunities to come up with solutions that work well for our nation’s producers, sportsmen, waterfowl, and other wildlife.”
Besides the Forest Service, Perdue will direct many of the other federal agencies with a major role in conservation, including the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency. Almost immediately, Perdue will need to defend his department’s budget and staff against cuts from congressional appropriators.
“With record demand from agricultural producers for the technical assistance and financial certainty that USDA programs offer, Secretary Perdue already has his work cut out for him, but sportsmen and women are also depending on his leadership in rural counties that are economically reliant on outdoor recreation, like hunting and fishing, that gets a boost from habitat improvements on private lands,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, which came out in support of Perdue early on.
“These programs cannot survive proposed budget cuts, especially when critical functions at the USDA, including wildfire suppression in national forests and conservation planning assistance for landowners, are already chronically short on funding,” says Fosburgh. “Sportsmen and women call on Secretary Perdue to strongly defend the USDA against budget cuts and support long-term, practical investments in natural resources management on public and private lands.”
To reintroduce and sustain an elk herd lost since the Civil War, it took a diverse partnership that is representative of 21st century conservation efforts—no one group can do it alone
As the TRCP’s newest formal partner, we’re in really good company with 51 other groups that are working toward a brighter future for America’s fish, wildlife, and natural resources. And we’re thrilled to work with passionate sportsmen and women bringing conservation priorities to the attention of D.C. decision-makers.
Partnerships can be multifaceted and powerful, aligning people and organizations to do more together than they could ever do alone. In essence, this describes The Conservation Fund’s core approach to everything we do. And in this day and age, collaboration isn’t just a nice-to-have—it’s necessary to craft conservation solutions that support fish and wildlife habitat, public access to the outdoors, and local economies.
That’s why we were founded more than 30 years ago with a unique dual-charter mission to not only protect America’s land, water, and wildlife, but to do so with a clear focus on generating economic returns for surrounding communities. By working in partnership with others who share our conservation goals—including federal and state agencies, land trusts, local community organizations, businesses, foundations, and other nonprofits—we do just that. The Conservation Fund has conserved nearly 8 million acres and counting.
For example, in southern West Virginia, coal fueled the state’s economy for generations. But in recent years, the industry has slowed, and local communities are struggling economically. By working directly with community members and local, state, and federal partners across the Appalachian region, we’re helping these communities transition by demonstrating how conservation can also support economic development.
Through our Working Forest Fund, a dedicated source of bridge capital, we purchased more than 32,000 acres of privately owned forestland that was vulnerable to fragmentation and development in the southern part of the state. We are now working with the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources to co-manage the property as a sustainable working forest, safeguarding the timber economy and forestry-based jobs while providing habitat for reintroduced elk—which had not been seen in the region for almost 150 years. This property is now the state’s largest conserved block of prime elk habitat, and it’s open to the public as a wildlife management area.
The prospect of bringing elk back to West Virginia for both wildlife viewing and hunting purposes has triggered excitement across the region, not least for the tourism opportunities that could drive spending in the rural communities that need it most. It’s no secret that sportsmen and other public land users help support $646 billion in annual consumer spending and 6.1 million jobs—numbers impossible to ignore. Read more about this partnership effort in West Virginia in an interview with WV DNR and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
It’s clear that making conservation work for America will take more than one group or individual. But we’re confident that as partnerships grow, so do the possibilities for fish, wildlife, and vibrant communities.
Whitney Flanagan is the creative director of The Conservation Fund, TRCP’s newest partner group. See all 52 partners here.
New under-the-radar administration policies would alter public land management, and this has major implications for hunting and fishing
Efforts to dispose of public lands may grab headlines, but a subtle shift in the management of public lands could present an even greater risk to the future of hunting and fishing. With the spotlight shining brightly on recent proposals to sell off our public lands, the White House and the Department of the Interior quietly set policies in motion last month that have the potential to change the way our public lands are managed.
In tandem, Executive Order 13873 and Secretarial Order 3349 would initiate a few specific processes that could change the way public lands wildlife habitat is valued and managed, especially when it’s at odds with energy development. All Americans—including sportsmen—depend on energy resources, but we want to see development carried out in a balanced way, not at the expense of fish and wildlife habitat or our best hunting and fishing areas.
There are absolutely ways to ensure all of the above, but these orders have the potential to put at risk the critical balancing act carried out by the BLM and other federal agencies. Here’s how.
Mitigation has long been used to accommodate development in ways that avoid or minimize impacts on important resources like wildlife habitat, and then compensate for unavoidable impacts. Mitigation has been used to avoid or minimize the fragmentation of mule deer winter range from energy development, for example. In some cases, if habitat suffers while accommodating energy development, funds from resource extraction are then put back into conservation of habitat, there or elsewhere.
These executive and secretarial orders eliminated the existing department-wide policy for mitigating impacts to wildlife from development on public lands. They also set a process for evaluating, replacing, or eliminating agency actions taken to implement mitigation. Without good mitigation policies, assurances for fish and wildlife get thrown out the window and accountability for maintaining habitat becomes an afterthought, rather than a requirement.Energy development should be balanced & not at the expense of fish & wildlife habitat... Click To Tweet
Second, these two orders establish a process for all federal agencies—including the BLM—to review all existing policies to identify potential “burdens” on energy development. The agencies have been ordered to make recommendations for changing or rescinding policies to remove those burdens, though what exactly constitutes a burden is subject to interpretation. Could it be that managing world-class big-game habitat or outstanding wild-trout streams are perceived as a burden to an energy developer? And, if so, would balanced land management as we know it be altered so that developers can do as they please without being ‘burdened’? Only time will tell.
Reviewing policies in an attempt to eliminate unnecessary regulations and increase efficiencies is one thing, but sportsmen and women will not support actions that undo the fish and wildlife conservation achievements our community has worked for decades to achieve. We are hopeful that a balance can be found.
At TRCP, we’re on the front lines to sound the alarm on sweeping threats to public lands, like H.R. 621 and other legislative attacks. But it’s not enough to keep public lands in public hands if wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation do not rank with energy development or other uses of the land. Executive Order 13873 and Secretarial Order 3349 were introduced with little fanfare, and with so much of the sportsmen’s community focused only on the most outrageous and obvious public land issues, low-profile actions like these are more likely to fly under the radar and become foundational policies.
Don’t let that happen. Not every threat will come with a catchy hashtag or fit nicely on a bumper sticker, but your voice will be just as critical in the fight against these subtle policy moves. And TRCP will be there to let sportsmen and women know when there’s a chance to take action.
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.Learn More