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May 17, 2016

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May 16, 2016

Glassing The Hill: May 16 – 20

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

The Senate and the House are both in session.

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

One appropriation bill passed, 11 more to go. Last week the Senate passed a $37.5-billion Energy and Water Appropriations Bill on a 90-8 vote. The TRCP supported passage of this bill because it increased funding for water conservation and did not include harmful language blocking the administration’s Clean Water Rule that clarifies the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.  The House has yet to take up its version of the Energy and Water Appropriations Bill.

This week the Senate will consider “The Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act” and combine it with “The Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act.” The Senate Appropriations Committee will mark up legislation that affects the U.S. Department of Agriculture funding levels.

The House is expected to begin considering appropriation bills this week by starting with the military construction spending bill.

While Congress is making progress processing appropriations bills, many of the appropriations bills likely won’t be signed into law until Congress passes a continuing resolution or an omnibus bill in the lame duck.  It took the Senate three weeks to pass the Energy and Water Appropriations Bill. The chamber only has 29 legislative days before the national party conventions and 46 legislative days before the end of the fiscal year on September 30.

The National Defense Authorization Act is no place for attacks on critical conservation programs for sage grouse. The House begins consideration of its version of “The National Defense Authorization Act” (NDAA) this week.  The House bill includes language that would block conservation of critical habitat for greater sage grouse. Democrats are expected to offer an amendment to strike the language about sage grouse and two other endangered species provisions related to the lesser prairie chicken and burying beetle.

The Senate Armed Services Committee passed their version of the NDAA last week. This version did not include language regarding the greater sage grouse, but we’re anticipating that it could be offered as an amendment on the Senate floor as early as next week.

What’s the summer forecast look like for Western states?  On Tuesday, two drought bills offered by Senators Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Flake (R-Ariz.) will be debated by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power. Sen. Feinstein’s bill would primarily focus on California’s drought and change the state’s water facility operations, while Sen. Flake’s legislation would be directed at the Army Corps of Engineers to update a better forecasting plan for water storage. This will be the first time the Senate will consider comprehensive drought legislation that is directed toward Western states’ concerns.

Hearings and mark-ups:

Tuesday, May 17

Fisheries: Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water and Wildlife hearing on marine debris

Fish: House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Ocean hearing entitled; “The Implications of President Obama’s National Ocean Policy”

Conservation: House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry hearing entitled; “Focus on the Farm Economy: Impacts of Environmental Regulations and Voluntary Conservation Solutions”

Water: House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment hearing on the Army Corps of Engineers chief’s reports

Water: Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power hearing on drought legislation

Federal Regulations: House Judiciary Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law hearing on judicial review

Agriculture, FY17 Spending Levels: Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture mark-up on the agriculture spending bill

Wednesday, May 18

Energy: Senate Environment and Public Works Committee mark-up on coal ash, nuclear bills

NOAA, FY17 Spending Levels: House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies mark-up on the Fiscal Year 2017 commerce, justice, and science related spending bill

Public Lands: House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs hearing on legislation about transferring land to an Alaskan tribe

Thursday, May 19

DOI: House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources hearing on the U.S. Department of Interior’s economic development opportunities

Agriculture, FY17 Spending Levels: Senate Appropriations Committee mark-up on the agriculture spending bill

Energy: Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing to survey the OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Program

 

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May 12, 2016

WATER CONSERVATION FUNDING IN SENATE SPENDING BILL WILL BENEFIT RIVERS AND FISH

News for Immediate Release

May. 12, 2016

Contact: Kristyn Brady, 617-501-6352, kbrady@trcp.org

Increased funding will go to proactive, collaborative projects that leave water in the river for fish and wildlife, with new aid available for drought-stressed areas

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today the Senate passed a bill that sets funding levels for energy and water development and includes increased investments in conservation that would benefit fish, wildlife, riparian habitat, and sportsmen, especially in drought-stricken states.

In a victory for sportsmen, the bill did not include a rider to block the Clean Water Rule, which will restore protections to headwater streams and wetlands that are critical for fish and the majority of the country’s waterfowl. The Senate rejected Sen. Hoeven’s attempt to add the rider in late April.

“Hunters and anglers understand the essential nature of clean water and healthy river systems as well as the threats posed by drought and falling water levels,” says Jimmy Hague, director of the Center for Water Resources with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “The Senate’s investments in water conservation will bring about tangible benefits for all species, improve our days afield, and begin to restore balance to the wild places we cherish.”

Senators voted to match the president’s request for critical funding in the WaterSMART Program, operated by the Bureau of Reclamation. With $24 million available for WaterSMART Grants, projects can move forward that leave more water in our rivers for fish and wildlife. The appropriations bill also includes $100 million to help address Western drought issues, and increases the amount that can be spent on cooperative water conservation efforts for the benefit of the entire Colorado River system.

“There is a right way and a wrong way to deal with drought, and Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Feinstein have wisely chosen to fund programs that will help us find adequate water for fish and rivers, as well as for farmers and cities,” says Steve Moyer, vice president of government affairs for Trout Unlimited. “We are also pleased by the amendment offered by Nevada Senators Reid and Heller, which will strengthen a new and promising effort to develop water solutions for the Colorado River basin.”

The House still needs to vote on its energy and water appropriations bill, which contains the harmful rider that would block the Clean Water Rule.

Inspired by the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, the TRCP is a coalition of organizations and grassroots partners working together to preserve the traditions of hunting and fishing.

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BLM’S PLANNING RULE FOR PUBLIC LANDS WILL GIVE LOCALS MORE OF A VOICE, NOT LESS

News for Immediate Release

May. 12, 2016

Contact: Kristyn Brady, 617-501-6352, kbrady@trcp.org

Stakeholders call on House subcommittee to support Planning 2.0 when county commissioners voice their concerns today

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Sportsmen, Western landowners, and other public-lands stakeholders are expressing clear support for the Bureau of Land Management’s proposed land-use planning rule, dubbed “Planning 2.0,” as House lawmakers convene a May 12 oversight hearing to discuss county commissioner concerns about this revision to the planning process.

“We appreciate the careful and thoughtful approach BLM used in revising its planning regulations,” says Ed Shepard, president of the Public Lands Foundation, which represents a broad spectrum of knowledge and experience in public land management. “This rulemaking makes clear that the BLM, the public, and others have matured in their approach to planning, based on results achieved on the ground. It will be critical to garnering valuable public input.”

The effort to update how the agency creates Resource Management Plans (RMPs), which are the basis for every action and approved use of BLM-managed lands, represents the first substantial revision to the land-use planning process since 1983.

“Many Western landowners depend on BLM-managed public lands to make a living,” says Lesli Allison, executive director of the Western Landowners Alliance. “We believe that the BLM Planning 2.0 proposals are a positive step forward, because they would create more transparency and opportunity for public involvement when decisions are made about the management of our public lands. Enabling earlier and more meaningful participation by stakeholders in assessing resource values and management needs should result in higher quality information, better plans, and better outcomes.”

The proposed rule would also see that the BLM is planning at the landscape level to account for resources that span jurisdictional boundaries, like a mule deer herd that might migrate beyond the borders of a local BLM field office. “The agency should be able to take into account the landscape conditions, not just what they see inside the drawn lines on a map,” says Joel Webster, director of Western lands for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

According to the oversight hearing memo, some county commissioners are concerned that landscape-level planning will move decision making out of their communities, reducing their influence over the process. Yet, some commissioners have questioned the agency’s recent move to create additional opportunities for the public to comment, saying that it undermines their special cooperator status.

“If county and federal lawmakers are truly interested in creating better management of our public lands and increased community involvement on land-use decisions, they should be giving Planning 2.0 a big thumbs-up at this hearing,” says Webster. “The proposed revisions would increase public engagement and satisfaction with the use of our public lands, while also giving local, state, and tribal governments more chances to participate in BLM land management decisions.”

The comment period for the proposed BLM planning rule closes on May 25, and the final rule is expected to be published later this year. Many public lands stakeholder groups are encouraging their members to comment in support of the overarching principles of the proposed rule.

Inspired by the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, the TRCP is a coalition of organizations and grassroots partners working together to preserve the traditions of hunting and fishing.

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The Biggest, Burliest Grazer on the Plains is our New National Mammal

The bison joins the bald eagle as an official American icon with an equally inspiring conservation success story

Earlier this week, President Obama signed the National Bison Legacy Act into law, officially designating the American bison as our national mammal. This species has a special place in American history, especially in the West, and we’re pretty proud of the sportsmen, including our organization’s namesake, who worked to bring the bison back from the brink—without them, we’d be celebrating a different mammal today.

In 1883, Roosevelt traveled from New York to the Badlands of the Dakota Territory for a guided bison hunt, where he expected to find plenty of bulls. Unfortunately, he found that the great bison herds, which once boasted about 40 million animals, had been nearly exterminated from the prairies. Roosevelt endured grueling hunting conditions for two weeks before he finally laid eyes on a 2,000-pound bull grazing alone.

Image courtesy of Andy Dombrowski/Flickr.

TR successfully took down that bison, but the end result for him wasn’t just about the trophy. He became angry at the thought of losing bison from the landscape, and the trip sparked a fresh outlook on conservation as a whole. From then on, he strongly advocated for policies to curb market hunting and conserve big game species and Western habitat.

In 1887, Roosevelt founded the Boone and Crockett Club to proactively save big game populations, and in 1894, he encouraged Congress to pass the Lacey Act to make it illegal to kill wild animals in National Parks—at the time, one of the few remaining bison herds lived in Yellowstone National Park, but was being jeopardized by poachers. He also conceived and led the “New York repopulation plan,” a brand-new conservation initiative through which bison were bred in the Bronx Zoo, and then released across the West to repopulate the Great Plains.

As soon as 1911, bison were no longer considered endangered, and this was critical to the rest of the prairie ecosystem. Their grazing habits are essential to keeping shrubs and trees from taking over grassland habitat that is necessary for games species, such as mule deer, pheasants, and waterfowl to survive. If Theodore Roosevelt did not take action to benefit these beasts, and the places where they roam, the nation’s fish and wildlife landscape would have been drastically different today and for generations to come.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

CHEERS TO CONSERVATION

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

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