Do you have any thoughts on this post?
It may be “America’s hardest working river,” but the drought-hammered Colorado River can’t support current demand from cities, farms, and fisheries without collaborative conservation
No offense to your trout stream back home, but only the Colorado holds the title for being “America’s hardest working river.” If you live in the Southwest, chances are the water you drink came from the Colorado River Basin. Want a salad in January? Well, 70 percent of the river’s water goes to irrigate millions of acres of cropland, where virtually all of the nation’s winter lettuce is grown. Turbines on the river’s dams power large swaths of California as well as Arizona’s cities and farms.
Along with its major tributaries—iconic waterways in their own right, including the Green, Yampa, Roaring Fork, and Gunnison—the Colorado is part of a massive river network that encompasses some of the most legendary fish and wildlife landscapes, winding through seven states and ten of America’s national parks, including the Grand Canyon. In Wyoming, Colorado, and along its Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona tributaries, sportsmen and women can hunt mule deer, elk, and pronghorns and fish for native cutthroats and other trout.
The river supports an estimated $1.4 trillion in annual spending and supports 16 million jobs. Water and nearby recreation accounts for $27 billion a year. It is, quite literally, the lifeblood of the region, but many of the hunting and fishing opportunities the river supports could dry up if sportsmen and women don’t take action.
Sportsmen, farmers, businesses, and families all depend on the Colorado. But a 2012 federal and state joint study confirms that there’s more demand for water in the region than is available in the river, and this problem becomes compounded as the population grows and droughts worsen. While 2017 has been a wet year for most of the basin, it doesn’t fix the growing imbalance between water supply and demand.
That’s why local stakeholders, including sportsmen and conservation groups, are trying to incentivize users to share and conserve water in ways that maintain farms, let cities grow, and keep the rivers flowing, all within the confines of the Law of the River. The federal government and U.S. water interests are working with Mexico, too, to update the treaty governing how we share the river.
California, Arizona, and Nevada are working on a drought contingency plan that will actually pay water users to conserve water and store it in Lake Mead, the giant reservoir near Las Vegas that is currently only half full. Meanwhile, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and New Mexico are also trying to find ways to conserve, share, and maybe even “bank” water to ensure it would be available, even during a drought.
Along with realistic conservation plans and a sober-eyed assessment of what additional new water development might be sustainable, sportsmen agree that these state plans must also create incentives to keep water in the river for the benefit of fish and wildlife. This would bolster the American outdoor recreation economy in basin states and have additional benefits downstream in Mexican communities that have traditionally fished on their side of the border.
With so many interest groups in the ring, hunters and anglers must stay engaged to speak for fish and wildlife and our sporting traditions.
Luckily for us, folks in the Colorado River Basin have learned to work together on water issues. Ensuring that every interest has access to clean, reliable water really isn’t a partisan issue in our communities, and it shouldn’t pit rural users against city dwellers.
Local stakeholders are finding more and more ways to partner with federal agencies on water issues. A century ago, the federal government played an outsized role in creating the West’s water infrastructure through the Bureau of Reclamation’s work to build dams and pipelines in the Colorado River Basin. Today, Reclamation and other federal agencies still bring funding and programs to the region that are key for modernizing water management.
But lawmakers need to keep hearing from us. Sportsmen and conservation groups are currently asking members of Congress to maintain the critical funding that keeps key federal programs and policies working in the Colorado River Basin. (Read the TRCP Water Working Group’s letter here.)
Water programs within these agencies received some good news in the fiscal year 2017 omnibus spending bill, but President Trump’s vision for the fiscal year 2018 budget includes deep cuts, and we won’t get more detail on how conservation will fare until at least May 22. It is imperative that sportsmen remain engaged to advocate for federal programs and policies that protect the fish and game we love to pursue.
We’ll make sure you hear about every opportunity to speak up and remind lawmakers not only of the dollars we need to make conservation happen, but also of the dollars we spend in rural communities across the Colorado River Basin and the rest of the country. Make sure you’re signed up for our weekly Roosevelt Report to be the first to know.
With a new team in place to tackle water issues, the TRCP will be working as hard as America’s hardest working river to ensure hunters and anglers continue to have quality places to hunt and fish.
An unprecedented review of 21 years of national monument designations appears to be about rolling back government overreach, but could it also roll back hunting and fishing?
For more than 50 years, my friends and I have hunted what is now the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. I remember quail hunting before the monument designation thinking to myself that this place was special. A decade before this half-million-acre parcel was designated as a national monument, I was actually one of the many local sportsmen who joined conservation organizations in calling for the assurances that a monument would bring to fish and wildlife habitat and public access for outdoor recreation.
I’m proud of the role sportsmen and women played in this designation. We were critical to the effort, representing the more conservative side of the community, and helped to bridge any gaps between conservation groups and people who might otherwise oppose the monument. The ranching community, for example, thought that the monument would threaten their livelihood. It did not, however, as grazing is still allowed in the monument. From Doña Ana County to D.C., we—the locals—fought for this and we were heard.
It was an appropriate use of the Antiquities Act because there was a great need to protect these areas, but after many years of repeated attempts in Congress, we weren’t getting anywhere. Now, my buddies and I can continue to hunt these lands for mule deer, Gambel’s, Mearn’s, and scaled quail, and ducks and doves, when there’s water in the playas.
Initially, some sportsmen were skeptical of a monument designation, until they realized that national monuments managed by an agency with a multiple-use mandate—such as the Bureau of Land Management—allow hunting and fishing. There would be no locked gates or closed roads. The only thing the designation would change is the threat of these lands being pulled out from under sportsmen and other recreational users.
Once sportsmen understood this, it was easy to get behind.
Now, President Trump’s recent Executive Order on the review of monument designations under the Antiquities Act could potentially put these hunting lands—and other national monuments created in the last 21 years—at risk. This is something sportsmen cannot support, and we’ve asked President Trump that any changes to monuments be made carefully by Congress, not the administration. The TRCP and our partners would like to see the administration take actions to protect the integrity of the Antiquities Act and recognize it as the valuable conservation tool that it is.When used appropriately, the Antiquities Act can expand opportunities for hunting & fishing. Click To Tweet
That said, monument designations must be pursued in a way that addresses the priorities and values of the community, including its sportsmen. This means a process that is locally driven, transparent, incorporates the science-based management and conservation of important fish and wildlife habitat, and upholds continued opportunities to hunt and fish within the boundaries of a proposed monument. This is exactly the process used to obtain the OMDP National Monument designation.
Along those lines, 28 hunting and fishing groups and businesses developed a set of tenets that we believe should be followed when new monuments are created in areas important to hunters and anglers. These tenets, which we sent to Trump back in April, include the following:
When used appropriately with support of the sportsmen community, tools like the Antiquities Act, can successfully safeguard high-value public lands that are important to fish and wildlife, and expand opportunities for sustained high-quality hunting and fishing.
The greatest conservation president of all time, Theodore Roosevelt, established the Antiquities Act 111 years ago this June. Since then, 16 presidents—eight democrats and eight republicans—have used the act to protect lands important to our hunting and fishing heritage.
Some monument designations have been controversial, but instead of considering the repeal of national monuments, we’ve asked President Trump to set an example for how the Antiquities Act should be used responsibly, so that all future presidents may follow in his footsteps and uphold the conservation legacy of Theodore Roosevelt.
Certainly, here in New Mexico, the hunters I know would be left scrambling to find a new spot to hunt mule deer, javelin, pronghorn, and a trio of our favorite quail species. The other 170,000 annual users of OMDP National Monument would be out of luck as well.
The omnibus spending package provides for sage grouse conservation, drought resiliency, conservation practices on farms and ranches, and one step forward for the Everglades
Congress has passed an omnibus appropriations bill for fiscal year 2017 with some increased funding for conservation and no harmful policy riders. The House and Senate’s investment in conservation is seemingly at odds with the Trump administration’s budget outline for fiscal year 2018, which would deeply cut most conservation programs and entirely eliminate others, including Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts.
“While last-minute funding solutions are not the ideal way to govern, sportsmen and women should be heartened to see Congress endorse funding levels mostly on par with what we got in 2016 and even give a modest bump to the things we care about, including healthier waterways, stronger sage grouse populations, restoration assistance in the Everglades, and better conservation practices on private lands,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.
Tucked within more than 1,600 pages detailing government spending through September 30, the FY2017 omnibus package includes the following:
Two Farm Bill conservation programs were trimmed through the Congressional budget process known as Changes in Mandatory Program Spending, or CHIMPS. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) was cut by $179 million and the Regional Conservation Partnership Program was cut by $28 million.
The spending agreement for 2017 arrives late in the congressional calendar, and thorough plans from the White House for fiscal year 2018—which begins October 1—are not expected until May 22, at least two months later than normal. Sportsmen and women will remain active in the debate over investments in habitat, access, and the outdoor recreation economy.
“We’re encouraged by the final FY17 funding for our parks, refuges, forests, and other public lands and waters,” says Alex Boian, vice president of government affairs for the Outdoor Industry Association, which just released its newest Outdoor Recreation Economy Report. “These investments in our nation’s outdoor recreation assets ensure the continued growth of the $887-billion outdoor recreation economy and the support of 7.6 million American jobs. Time and time again, we have seen that when our elected leaders invest in America’s great outdoors, it results in healthy communities and healthy economies nationwide.”
Photo above is courtesy of Ace Hess/BLM.
In a contentious election year, it was tough to break through the noise and put a focus on conservation, but we did a lot more than just talk in 2016—read our annual report
One truism in Washington is that not much in the way of policy happens in an election year, and last year was no exception. Yet, 2016 was far from quiet for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, as we’ve outlined in our newest Annual Report. Primarily, we focused on building the strength of the sportsman’s voice in Washington and laying the foundation for campaigns to come.
To push back on the seizure or transfer of public lands that belong to all Americans, we continued using social media and old-fashioned shoe leather to organize hunters, anglers, and outdoor recreation business owners who depend on public lands. We took the fight to elected officials and, by the end of 2016, counties across the West passed resolutions opposing the transfer or sale of public lands valued by locals. Our public lands petition site at sportsmensaccess.org became the hub for activists across the country, with more than 50,000 people signing up to take action.
At the same time, the TRCP and our partners successfully defended the Obama administration’s landmark agreement on greater sage grouse conservation from congressional attacks. These legislative maneuvers would have ultimately undone collaborative efforts to conserve 350 different species in the sagebrush ecosystem and keep this iconic Western game bird off the endangered species list.
In an effort to inform hunters and anglers, and everyone else, about where the presidential candidates stood on conservation and access issues, we hosted a forum with each campaign’s top surrogate at our Western Media Summit in Fort Collins, Colo. The resulting one-hour interview with Donald Trump Jr., moderated by Field & Stream magazine, became the definitive source of intel on our future president’s commitment to the sporting community.
We also took advantage of the legislative lull to bring the hunting and fishing community together on future challenges, including the 2018 Farm Bill. More than 20 partner organizations came together for three days at the Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation facilities in Illinois to begin organizing for what will be an extremely important Farm Bill debate, one that will guide conservation on hundreds of millions of acres of private lands from Maine to Hawaii.
Our work on drought resiliency—a benefit to habitat and our fishing opportunities—continued, and by the end of 2016, more than half of the 20 priorities we’d previously identified as ways to get ahead of the next drought had been put into official policy. Similarly, to provide concrete recommendations on how the federal government could do a better job in managing marine fisheries, we organized and facilitated two workshops on “alternative management” tactics that could work better for recreational fishermen and conservation.
In addition, we worked with The Orvis Company to convene the communications leaders from our non-profit and corporate partners for a retreat to discuss new ideas for inspiring sportsmen and women to take action for conservation.
The goal of the TRCP is to unite and amplify the voices of sportsmen and women to create positive change for federal policy. We did that in 2016, both to address immediate challenges and to lay the groundwork for future success. On behalf of the TRCP board and staff, we thank you—our partners, members, funders, and many other supporters—for making this work possible.
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