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May 3, 2016

Bringing back Lees Ferry

Back in the 1970s, the 15-mile stretch below Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River known as Lees Ferry was renowned as one of the finest tailwater fisheries in the world. Anglers flocked there to catch monster rainbows fattened on Gammarus scuds to the 10- to 20-pound range amid cold, clear river flows and spectacular desert canyon scenery.

The fishery has experienced ups and downs over the years. Today, the Lees Ferry trout fishery, while still good, is a shadow of its former self. Arizona Trout Unlimited and other partners would like to bring the fishery back to some semblance of its glory days.

Image courtesy of John Hamill.

Joe Miller of TU’s Arizona Council says managing flows from Glen Canyon dam is a key. “The Lees Ferry fishery has so much more potential than we’re realizing now,” he told me, “But we need to fine-tune the dam releases to find more sustainable and optimal conditions for the trout.”

The massive dam, completed in 1964, helped create a recreational coldwater fishery in a desert environment. But managing those flows over the years has proved tricky. Water releases and temperatures impact everything from the survival of juvenile trout to aquatic bug and food production.

In recent years, dam operations have led to a decline in bug life on the river and water conditions that fall short of a quality trout fishery. Gammarus scuds are greatly reduced, and main food base is now only midges and very small black flies. Several of the most common bug orders found in every other quality tailwater fishery in the West—mayflies, stoneflies and caddis flies—are totally absent from the Lees Ferry trout buffet.

Moreover, frequent High Flow Events (HFE’s) in the fall may be adversely impacting the rainbow trout fishery and the aquatic food base.

For the last 5 years, the Bureau of Reclamation, the dam operators, and the National Park Service have been developing the Glen Canyon Dam Long Term Experimental and Management Plan EIS (LTEMPEIS), which will determine how the Glen Canyon Dam operates for the next 20 years.

It’s a prime opportunity for anglers to have a direct say in how fishery is managed—but public comments for the EIS are due by May 9.

Some of the key LTEMPEIS recommendations from TU and other groups include:

  • recognize the Lees Ferry rainbow trout fishery as a priority resource “value” to be enhanced by dam operations.
  • test the use of sustained low and steady flows to increase the production and diversity of the aquatic insects in the Colorado River below Glen Canyon Dam.
  • modify the HFE protocol to shift more high flows from the fall to the spring to benefit a variety of resources besides sediment/sandbars, including aquatic food base and the rainbow trout fishery.  HFE’s should only be conducted in the spring if/when the condition of trout or the aquatic food base in Lees Ferry is poor.
  • reintroduce historic mayfly, caddis and stonefly species in the Lees Ferry reach.
Image courtesy of John Hamill.

These and other science-based recommendations (read the full report here) are supported by a wide range of conservation organizations and outfitters and guides, including Trout Unlimited and its Arizona Council and chapters, International Federation of Fly Fishers, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Arizona Wildlife Federation, Arizona Fly Casters, Desert Fly Casters, Orvis Company, Lees Ferry Anglers, Marble Canyon Outfitters and many more.  The Arizona Department of Fish and Game has issued a formal Lees Ferry Fisheries Management Plan based on those recommendations.

It’s time to get Lees Ferry back on track – go to the National Park Service LTEMPEIS website and express your support for trout-friendly dam operations and aquatic habitat restoration at Lees Ferry.

And please comment before May 9, 2016!

If we miss this opportunity, it could be decades before we get another shot at restoring Lees Ferry to its glory days.

Randy Scholfield is Trout Unlimited’s communications director for the Southwest region.

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Kristyn Brady

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April 28, 2016

Toasting to conservation: Three champions for the sportsmen’s community recognized at our annual gala

Conservation philanthropist Louis Bacon, Sen. Martin Heinrich, and Sen. James Risch recognized at eighth annual awards dinner

At its eighth annual Capital Conservation Awards Dinner last night, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership celebrated three honorees building a legacy of support for fish and wildlife on Capitol Hill and across the country: Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Senator James Risch (R-Idaho), and conservation philanthropist Louis Bacon.

Image courtesy of Kristyn Brady.

The gala event, held at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C., brought together policy-makers, conservation advocates, and outdoor industry leaders.

Bacon received TRCP’s 2016 Lifetime Conservation Achievement Award after more than two decades of supporting efforts to conserve threatened habitat, protect open spaces, and safeguard clean water through The Moore Charitable Foundation, which he founded in 1992.

In his opening statement last night, TRCP President and CEO Whit Fosburgh extolled Bacon’s remarkable work with former Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to create the 170,000-acre centerpiece of the Sangre de Cristo Conservation Area, the nation’s 558th unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System, and the efforts of all the honorees to embody Roosevelt’s words: “The nation behaves well if it treats the natural resources as assets, which it must turn over to the next generation increased, and not impaired, in value.”

“Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy is one of great environmental success, but conservation success today requires as much, or more commitment than in Roosevelt’s time when tens of millions of acres of natural wildlife habitat could be set aside with the stroke of a pen,” said Bacon. “Conservation success today is also about tackling the issue of environmental justice. We must guarantee that all citizens have access to clean water and clean air as well as access to the outdoors that we all love.” 

Sen. Heinrich and Sen. Risch were presented with the 2016 James D. Range Conservation Award—named for TRCP’s co-founder, a conservation visionary, and presented to one Democrat and one Republican each year—for their dedication to protecting what sportsmen value in Congress.

As he accepted his award from Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Heinrich lauded the overwhelming bipartisanship of last week’s Senate vote to pass sweeping energy modernization legislation including big conservation benefits for fish and wildlife. “Marble halls and concrete are certainly not my natural habitat, but I’m motivated to be here and ensure that the outdoor experiences I’ve enjoyed all my life are possible long after I’m gone,” said Heinrich.

In his time as senator, Risch has co-sponsored legislation designed to reauthorize key conservation programs and put an end to fire borrowing, and as governor of Idaho, he was instrumental in creating the state’s roadless rule—a fact highlighted by Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), a 2013 honoree who presented Risch with his award. “We can accomplish conservation in America if we all come to the table and enter the collaborative process with a spirit of goodwill,” said Risch.

Learn more about the TRCP’s Capitol Conservation Awards.

Kristyn Brady

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April 27, 2016

Barbecue, Beer, and Sportsmen: Celebrating Conservation with Secretary Jewell

Jewell discussed the power of hunter and angler voices in Washington and her dedication to public lands access and sage-grouse restoration at annual barbecue on the Potomac

Last night, at a celebration of her final year in office, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell thanked American sportsmen and women who speak up for conservation funding, habitat management, and the protection of public lands access. The event was hosted by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership at the Potomac Boat Club.

Image courtesy of Kristyn Brady.

After chatting over barbecue and beer with conservation community leaders from across the country, Jewell addressed the crowd and was candid about her remaining goals related to conservation, hunting, fishing, habitat restoration, public lands, and youth and minority engagement.

“We’re going to keep our good momentum going,” said Jewell, who highlighted the landscape-scale conservation effort on behalf of sage grouse and the need to look to the future of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. “Every day is a tricky balance between the here and now—non-renewable resources, fish and wildlife habitat, the livelihoods and heritage of the tribes and ranchers—and what we leave to future generations. People expect us to be in the forever business.”

Jewell also had advice for conservation advocates: “Never stop talking about how much sportsmen and women contribute to the economy. You represent a constituency that is Republican, Democrat, Independent, hunting, fishing, Latino, Caucasian, new generations waiting to get outside, and people like me, who grew up in the outdoors. All these people can help to make progress on the things we care about,” she said.

“We have a great conservation ally in Secretary Jewell, who understands the clout of the outdoor recreation industry and the restorative power of spending time on our nation’s public lands—in solitude or with family and friends,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the TRCP. “Throughout her term, she has been a champion for many of the things sportsmen stand for, including making better investments in conservation, improving fish and wildlife habitat, balancing multiple uses of America’s public lands, and securing access for all. We’re anxious to work with her this year and see these priorities through.”

Kristyn Brady

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April 26, 2016

Key to success in conservation: Hunters and anglers like YOU

Annual report highlights 2015 growth and success in service of guaranteeing all Americans quality places to hunt and fish

We just released our 2015 Annual Report detailing the our diverse array of accomplishments benefiting habitat and sportsmen’s access in the last calendar year. It’s all thanks to hunters and anglers like you; thanks to our growing coalition of 46 formal partners, 23 corporate affiliates, and thousands of supporters across the U.S., you’ve helped us affect positive policy changes and conservation investments in service of Theodore Roosevelt’s legacy and our mission to guarantee all Americans quality places to hunt and fish.

“Too often, people mistake action for accomplishment. Nowhere is this more true than in Washington, where how many meetings you attend is often mistaken for actual success,” writes TRCP President and CEO Whit Fosburgh and Board Chairman Weldon Baird in the opening pages of the report. “For the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, 2015 was about accomplishment— achieving real results that will directly benefit fish and wildlife habitat and Americans’ access to those lands and waters.”

Despite ongoing threats from well-funded anti-conservation interests, the benefits of last year’s work will extend to marine fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico, greater sage grouse and other sagebrush species of the West, headwater streams and wetlands across the country, and all Americans who rely on public lands for their hunting and fishing access. The 501(c)(3) organization also confirms its accountability to donors by sharing 2015 financials and accolades from charity-watch organizations, including a third four-star rating from Charity Navigator.

Read the 2015 Annual Report here.

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Glassing The Hill: April 25 – 29

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

The Senate and the House are both in session this week.

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

The House NDAA includes a greater sage-grouse provision that is sure to ruffle some feathers. The House Armed Services Committee will hold a mark-up of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), legislation which helps fund our military, on Wednesday, April 27. The chairman’s version of the bill includes language from “The Greater Sage Grouse Protection and Recovery Act,” which would undermine conservation plans in core habitat areas. Congresswoman Tsongas (D-Mass.) is expected to make a motion to strike the provision to be stripped from the underlying bill. So far, this effort is playing out precisely as it did in 2015.

Aquatic habitat improvements that benefit wildlife and improved access. On Wednesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will mark up the Water Resources Development Act, which would address various aspects of water resources administered by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Sportsmen should be pleased with a possible addition to the bill calling for use of nonstructural, naturally-occurring infrastructure, such as wetlands, in place of sewer and stormwater inlets. Using natural infrastructure would improve water and habitat quality and enhance hunting and fishing opportunities.

It’s open to debate. The Senate will continue considering “The Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act,” which will not include a rider to block the administration’s clean water rule after Senator Hoeven’s (R-N.D.) amendment failed to pass last week. Later in the week, the Senate will begin consideration of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development spending bill. The House will consider two bills: a resolution to prevent retirement investment regulations from being altered; “The Email Privacy Act,” legislation that would require the government to obtain a warrant before accessing people’s electronic devices.

Here’s what else we’re tracking:

Tuesday, April 26

Senate Natural Resources Committee hearing on oil and gas development in different environments and economies

Wednesday, April 27

House Armed Services Committee mark-up on the National Defense Authorization Act

Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee hearing on the Clean Water Rule 

House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources hearing entitled; “Bureau of Land Management’s Regulatory Overreach into Methane Emissions Regulation”

House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power, and Oceans hearing on renewable energy resources

Thursday, April 28

House Science, Space, and Technology Committee hearing on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s role in the Pebble Mine case

Senate Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining hearing on invasive species

House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands hearing entitled; “Locally-elected Officials Cooperating with Agencies in Land Management Act”

House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing on public land management along The United States’ border

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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