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This spring, our policy intern volunteered with a group of other college students to help tackle the NPS’s maintenance backlog across the country—here’s what she learned
For many college students, spring break means piling into a car, driving to Florida, and spending a week on the beach. But this spring, I spent a week with eight other students volunteering for the National Park Service (NPS) through my university’s Alternative Spring Break program. Organized by schools across the country, students get the chance to learn about issues impacting communities near and far from home through hands-on service opportunities. As a volunteer at the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park in Georgia, I saw firsthand just some of the issues that our National Park Service is facing as we celebrate the agency’s 100th anniversary.
Fort Oglethorpe wasn’t the most glamorous destination, but it gave us an opportunity to work directly with park rangers at one of the 412 areas of the National Park System, which covers more than 84 million acres. They put us to work on Glen Falls Trail, one of the most popular places to hike in the park, and we spent our week removing invasive species that threaten native biodiversity, building rock stairs to make the trail more accessible, and pruning overgrown vegetation, like thornbushes that had the potential to injure hikers.
We also focused on making the mile-long trail safer by widening it, removing hazards like fallen trees, and improving drainage, so the trail wasn’t as heavily impacted by storms. The staff at the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park greatly appreciated our commitment to enhancing their park and working on projects they didn’t have the resources to complete on their own. By removing all the garbage on the trail, we even made a small contribution to the fish and wildlife in the area.
These projects represent just a few drops in the bucket of deferred maintenance projects that are plaguing federal land management agencies, like the NPS, that don’t receive adequate funding. Earlier this year, the park service alone reported a $12 billion maintenance backlog. NPS seasonal and full-time staff was also cut from 21,897 people in 2010 to 17,967 employees this year, despite an annual increase in national park visitation. But the issue is a lot more complex than some would make it seem. The NPS has no way to track exactly how many visitors hike or walk their dogs down Glen Falls Trail, so it’s easier for Congress to underestimate how much money the rangers need to maintain these areas.
Knowing how strained the agency’s budget has become, I couldn’t help but feel disheartened that park staff spend any time removing the amount of trash we found that week. As the daughter of a sportsman, I learned at a young age to “leave no trace,” and I grew to understand why, after catching my fair share of flip flops and chip bags (a big disappointment when I thought I was reeling in a particularly shiny fish). It detracts from our outdoor experiences and, in some cases, keeps someone else from doing their job.
So, I offer this advice as we celebrate the NPS Centennial this summer: Find your park and respect it. Teach kids and grandkids that America’s public lands are unique in all the world. Tell your lawmakers to fund conservation and support the agencies who care for our national parks and other public resources. You can also check out NPS Volunteer Days to help get the job done a little faster.
All month long, we’re celebrating the National Park Service centennial with a blog series about our most significant experiences in the parks. Check back here for new posts from the TRCP staff and special guests, and follow the hashtag #PublicLandsProud on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Shannon Fagan is the TRCP summer intern through the Demmer Scholar Program. She is going into her senior year at Michigan State University where she is majoring in Social Relations and Policy and minoring in Science, Technology, Environment and Public Policy.
Ian and Charity Rutter own and operate R&R Fly Fishing, a fly fishing guide service located in Townsend, Tenn. They have two children and are active members with Little River Chapter of Trout Unlimited, spending many of their off days volunteering with fisheries biologists in the nearby Great Smoky Mountains. Their professional lives are spent treating anglers to the wild trout streams of the nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park and on East Tennessee’s tailwaters, rivers, and lakes. Charity and Ian have traveled across the country to share their knowledge and passion for fly fishing, and together, the Rutters have written and photographed multiple books on the subject. Their publications and presentations encourage people to get outside and enjoy the sport of fly fishing.
From now through August 31, Charity and Ian are guest judging your best “National parks, national treasures” photos for this round of the #PublicLandsProud photo contest. They’re looking for a winning photo that for photos that don’t necessarily highlight the best-known places but rather these equally impressive scenes that most people miss, so make sure your national parks moment beckons! And watch the TRCP Instagram account this week too, as Charity and Ian will be taking over our account the week of August 15 and giving us a glimpse into their lives on public lands.
TRCP: How do the Rutters like to spend time outside?
Charity & Ian: Public lands are more than just our livelihood, they are the source and reason for our outdoor lifestyle. We are “solar powered” people, so living a life outside is required for our good health and happiness. We spend time as a family camping, hiking, fishing, boating, swimming, backpacking, and exploring as many wild places as we can. We hunt, forage wild mushrooms, and teach our children how to recognize all the flora and fauna that surround us. We teach them how to live outside and have respect for our rivers and mountains. We volunteer for stream restoration projects, river cleanups and educating the children in our public schools on the importance of clean water and air through the Trout in the Classroom program.
TRCP: What makes a great photo of a summer day spent on public lands? What will you be looking for in the winning photo?
Charity: I love to see photos that highlight the little things that surround us every day in nature – the tiny wildflower or mushroom, a salamander on a rock, or the dew drops on a fern in the woods. I love the natural light that beams through the trees as if putting a spotlight on a mossy rock or creating a sparkle on the water.
Ian: Public lands are known for iconic scenes often seen on posters and calendars, but in my experience, it’s the places that are out of sight of a road or more than a few steps off a trail that catch my attention; I’m looking for photos that don’t necessarily highlight the best-known places but rather these equally impressive scenes that most people miss.
TRCP: What make the Rutters #PublicLandsProud?
Charity & Ian: Public lands provide a resource that can be used by everyone. We are proud to be involved in volunteer work that helps restore native brook trout in the Smokies. We take our ownership in public lands seriously and dedicate ourselves to educating others on the importance of public lands and clean water. We’re proud to live in a country that gives us and our children the freedom to explore so many wild places.
Show us your #PublicLandsProud moment and you could be featured on our blog and win a #PublicLandsProud prize package. It includes a new pair of Costa sunglasses, a copy of Steven Rinella’s new book, The Complete Guide to Hunting, Butchering, and Cooking Wild Game, a Simms TRCP-branded hat, a First Lite merino wool neck gaiter, TRCP/Sitka-branded YETI rambler tumbler, Orvis fishing shirt, and Bantam buck knife.
News for Immediate Release
Aug. 02, 2016
Contact: Kristyn Brady, 617-501-6352, firstname.lastname@example.org
Recreational fishing community still sees the need for legislative action to require allocation reviews
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In response to decades of criticism over not examining how the nation’s public marine fisheries resources are divided among fishing stakeholders, NOAA Fisheries released a Fisheries Allocation Review Policy that describes potential criteria for reviewing fisheries allocations. The recreational fishing and boating community expressed appreciation for this long-awaited recognition of the need to have an allocation policy, but also concern about the lack of firm commitments and timelines for initiating allocation reviews.
“We recognize and appreciate that allocation reviews are inherently difficult, but these decisions are too important for managers to continue dragging their feet,” said Mike Leonard, Ocean Resource Policy Director for the American Sportfishing Association. “While the Fisheries Allocation Review Policy represents an important acknowledgement from NOAA Fisheries of the long overdue need to address allocations, the amount of indecision in the policy leaves us questioning whether any meaningful action will result from it.”
In most federally managed fisheries that are targeted by both recreational and commercial fishermen, the formula used for dividing the quota between the two sectors was determined decades ago based on historic catch. Many in the recreational fishing community contend that these decisions need to be updated based on modern criteria that take into account the economic, social and conservation benefits the sectors provide to the nation.
The Fisheries Allocation Review Policy provides guidance to the Regional Fishery Management Councils on when to revisit allocations and what factors they might consider when making allocation decisions. Within the next three years, or as soon as “practicable,” the Councils are responsible for determining what triggers would prompt a review of specific fishery allocations.
“In many ways, this policy tells us what we already knew: that allocation decisions are controversial and that federal fisheries managers will come up with all sorts of reasons to avoid having to review them,” said Ted Venker, Conservation Director for the Coastal Conservation Association. “While we appreciate that NOAA Fisheries took the initiative to develop this policy, it unfortunately provides a litany of excuses for why not to review allocations, with only minimal recognition of the potential benefits that reallocations could provide to the nation. This reinforces to us the need for legislative action to require legitimate allocation reviews.”
One of the recommendations of the Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Management, also known as the Morris-Deal Commission named after co-chairs Johnny Morris, founder of Bass Pro Shops, and Scott Deal, president of Maverick Boats, was to require an objective process and regular time intervals for reviewing allocations.
A provision to require allocation reviews in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico that was championed by Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) was included in a bill that passed the House of Representatives last year to reauthorize the nation’s federal fisheries management law, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Similar language was also included in Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) Florida Fisheries Improvement Act, which was approved by the Senate Commerce Committee last year. However, neither of these bills have been signed into law at this time.
“Based on the significant progress made in recent years in ending overfishing, often with harsh impacts on fishing stakeholders, it’s clear that federal fisheries managers can achieve certain goals when sufficiently motivated,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation. “We are grateful that many in Congress have recognized the need to provide the necessary motivation on reviewing allocations, and we’ll continue to push for Magnuson-Stevens Act reauthorization to address this and other challenges for saltwater recreational fishing created by the current federal fisheries management system.”
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.
With the conventions over, the heat of campaign season is before us—and it’s not too late to voice your concern for conservation priorities
The confetti and balloons have been swept from the floors of both the Republican and Democratic national conventions, marking the traditional beginning of the general election season, a flurry of activity that will run through November 8. We all know what to expect: commercials, debates, door-knocking, bumper stickers, yard signs, and social media posts from our friends. Of course, in the midst of all this, the one thing that all Americans seem to agree on is that they have already grown weary of an election that has been going on for well over a year.
As a delegate myself, to the 2008 Republican National Convention in Minneapolis, I can attest that the messages the parties and candidates seek to deliver, both to those in the room and those watching from their living rooms, are pretty similar and follow a predictable course. A heavy dose of keeping American families safe, growing the economy, and creating good-paying jobs, plus assurances of competence and clarity of vision. The formula was alive and well in Cleveland and Philadelphia. It is the tale as old as time.
But after listening to the convention speeches of both candidates, and many other speakers, any sportsman would feel overlooked. Both parties missed a golden opportunity to communicate with an essential constituency, one important to anyone who hopes to actually win a national election. Neither candidate made a direct pitch to the more than 40 million Americans who hunt and fish, and in the process, contribute nearly $100 billion to the national economy.
What would a real pitch to sportsmen look like? A commitment to renewing the investment in fish and wildlife habitat conservation programs that benefit all Americans. A pledge to defend the values of common opportunity implicit in our national public lands. A vow to support the conservation of our private working lands. Perhaps a promise to enhance recreational access to our nation’s woods, fields, and waters.
Many candidates for elected office at all levels have created, or will soon create, sportsmen’s coalitions to support their candidacy, an acknowledgement that hunters and anglers are an important constituency, one that turns out to vote in higher numbers than many other subsets of the population. But we often don’t demand enough from candidates in exchange for our votes. So, this campaign season, attend a candidate forum or town hall, and ask questions about sportsmen’s priorities. Utilize your Facebook and Twitter accounts to put issues important to hunters and anglers in front of the candidates. Email their campaigns, in a thoughtful way, to share the things sportsmen and women in your part of the world are thinking about.
Candidates often profess to champion what America’s sportsmen care about, but it is up to us to let them know.
In the last two years, policymakers have committed to significant investments in conservation, infrastructure, and reversing climate change. Hunters and anglers continue to be vocal about the opportunity to create conservation jobs, restore habitat, and boost fish and wildlife populations. Support solutions now.Learn More