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March 22, 2019

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Time is Running Out to Stand Up for Headwaters and Wetlands

Given the gravity of the EPA’s proposal on clean water protections, sportsmen and women need to speak up now

Often, we get to celebrate and take full advantage of the public’s significant role in shaping conservation policy. It’s something that makes our country, its one-of-a-kind natural resources, and the American system of public lands and waters very special.

When we ask you to take action for public lands, better water quality, or more investments in fish and wildlife habitat, it’s rare that we believe the odds are already stacked against conservation. Because when sportsmen and women unite, we tend to win.

But the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers are not doing hunters and anglers any favors in the public process of vetting their new rule for what waters deserve Clean Water Act protections. In just the latest chapter of the debate over what constitutes “Waters of the U.S.,” the agencies have given the public just 60 days to comment on a proposal that would eliminate protections for 50 percent of wetlands and 18 percent of stream miles across the country.

Before finalizing the 2015 version of the rule, the EPA held a 120-day comment period and ultimately allowed the public a total of 207 days to respond to the proposal. That was for a rule that made it clear that the Clean Water Act should apply to headwater streams and wetlands, because what happens upstream affects habitat downstream.

Additionally, the last administration held multiple listening sessions across the U.S. for the public to learn more about the 2015 rule. By contrast, only two in-person listening sessions were held on this new proposal—both in Kansas City. Elsewhere, sportsmen and women were not given this opportunity to hear from EPA staff or speak out in person about their concerns.

We think it should take more than two months of passively collecting comments to reverse course on decades of efforts to make America’s rivers, lakes, and streams fishable and swimmable. We think the EPA and Army Corps should have to face American sportsmen and women before stripping fish and wildlife habitat of Clean Water Act protection.

Sportsmen’s groups—along with elected officials, state agencies, and other organizations—requested an extension to the current comment period, but it was denied this week.

Since the EPA and Army Corps don’t want to give us more time, we need you to take action now. Our simple tool makes it easy to send a message to the EPA and your elected officials that hunters and anglers oppose this huge step backward for our wetlands and streams.

Top photo by USFWS/Katrina Mueller

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March 21, 2019

In the Arena: Thomas Baltz

TRCP’s “In the Arena” series highlights the individual voices of hunters and anglers who, as Theodore Roosevelt so famously said, strive valiantly in the worthy cause of conservation

Thomas E. Baltz

Home waters: South-central Pennsylvania
Occupation: Flyfishing guide
Conservation credentials: Board member of the Cumberland Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited for 20 years

Thomas Baltz would need a time machine to fish the absolute best trout waters he’s ever seen, and that’s part of the reason why he feels compelled to give back to the natural resources that power his business. Here he shares the story of his first fish, his beloved old fishing dog, and a few special flies he takes everywhere.


My father introduced me to trout fishing at a very early age in New Mexico, and from then on, I was hooked. Our family used to spend a week or so during the summer months at a cabin on the Gallinas River in the Sangre De Cristo Mountains near Las Vegas. When my father went fishing, I tagged along, and he often let me play and land the trout he had hooked. But even as a little kid I realized that the real skill was in getting them hooked in the first place! I spent years trying to do it on my own.

Dad worked for the U.S. Geological Survey and was an expert on the geology of New Mexico and southern/southwestern Colorado. On days when he went tramping the mountains above Evergreen Valley, I roamed the Gallinas at will, with some kind of fishing rod in hand. Finally, one early-October afternoon in 1963, I landed my very first trout solo, and it remains one of the most memorable events of my life.

I had my old fishing dog Penelope (Penny, for short) with me, and together we snuck up on a likely spot, where I lowered a worm over the bushes and into the creek. There, a bite! Of course, I missed it. Never discouraged, I again lowered fresh bait exactly as I had before. The hook wasn’t even fully set, but it was too late for that trout—a couple of tugs and it was mine! Penny seemed just as excited as I was.

(Now, as a full-time flyfishing guide, I still carry some nymphs in my fly box made from Penny’s fur. They are, of course, retired, but they live in my Richardson Chest Fly Box.)

There have certainly been many other great outdoor moments in my life. Deer hunting, some awesome November days chasing pheasants, fishing trips to Montana, and learning the limestone streams of the Cumberland Valley.

In fact, if I could fish anywhere in the world it would be Falling Springs in Chambersburg, Pa., in 1972. It was the epitome of true limestone-spring creek match-the-hatch type of fishing, even better than out West, with awesome rainbow and brown trout that freely rose to incredible hatches.

Unfortunately, it is gone now. So I’d settle for the Missouri River in Montana. There is good hunting in that area as well. The decline in hunting opportunities is one thing I worry about here in south-central Pennsylvania.

Locally and regionally, our biggest conservation challenges are rampant development, poorly planned stormwater runoff, and agricultural issues, such as nutrient management and erosion. Climate change also offers immense challenges. One result of our changing climate is the big swing between dry and wet periods. Torrential rain events in combination with some of the aforementioned issues cause severe bank erosion in streams, contributing heavy silt loads to the Chesapeake Bay system and ruining stream habitat for all of the creatures that live there.

Trout, especially wild trout, depend upon clean water to survive and prosper, and therefore so does my business. Clean water is the backbone of our outdoor recreation economy, and that’s why we must protect it. Clean and well-functioning watersheds aren’t just an aesthetic attraction, they are the basis for all fishing. I make my living from the natural resource, and that’s why I give back to help preserve it.

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New Interior Order Supports Recreational Access to Public Lands

Modernized BLM priorities for land disposal and exchange will benefit hunting and fishing access

Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt today directed the BLM to prioritize public access in decisions regarding the disposal and exchange of BLM public lands.

Bernhardt signed Secretarial Order 3373, Evaluating Public Access in Bureau of Land Management Land Disposals and Exchanges, to help ensure that BLM public lands, no matter how small, remain in public hands if they are highly valued for outdoor recreation access.

“Sportsmen and women across the West will benefit from this Interior Department action to sustain and enhance recreational access to BLM public lands,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “In some places, there are small parcels of BLM land that serve as the only means of nearby access to hunting and fishing or as the only access points to adjoining public lands managed by other agencies. The Secretarial Order will ensure that key parcels are valued for this recreational access and help keep these lands in the public’s hands.”

“We are glad to see that recreational public access was identified as a top priority for the BLM when they make land disposal and exchange decisions,” said Howard Vincent, president and CEO of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. “We believe this decision will bring great benefits for hunters by sustaining access and opportunity on federally owned lands. We thank the agency for their stakeholder outreach leading up to this announcement and for taking sportsmen and women’s interests to heart.”

For the past 40 years, the BLM has been required to identify small tracts of land available for sale or disposal. Until today, this frequently included public lands that offer important recreational access. As a result, the BLM has been identifying for disposal remote, yet high-value, public land parcels, including tracts in Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks’ famed big game hunting Region 7 and at the base of the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming.

Today’s guidance means that the agency now must consider public access when determining the value of these isolated parcels of public lands. Further, in the event that a disposal or exchange might affect public access, the order provides additional direction to help retain that public access or makeup for any losses of access through an associated acquisition.

“We express our sincere thanks to the Department of Interior for unequivocally recognizing the value of hunting and other recreational access when making crucial decisions regarding ownership of our federal lands,” said Brent Rudolph, director of conservation policy for the Ruffed Grouse Society and American Woodcock Society. “The conservationists that make use of these lands benefit greatly, and their activities in turn support the management of our natural resources and financial health of many rural communities.”

A recent study led by the digital mapping company onX and TRCP found that 9.52 million acres of public lands in the West are inaccessible to the public without permission from private landowners. Small, isolated parcels of BLM land often provide the only means of access to larger parcels managed by states or other federal agencies that would otherwise be similarly “landlocked.” Because of today’s directive, the BLM must now weigh such potential implications in any decision regarding the disposal or exchange of these types of parcels.

“GPS technology has revolutionized the way that Americans use their public lands, making it easier than ever before for the average outdoor enthusiast to identify and access smaller, out-of-the-way parcels,” said onX founder Eric Siegfried. “As a result, there’s been a growing awareness in recent years that landlocked or inaccessible public lands represent lost hunting and fishing opportunities for the American people. We applaud the Department of the Interior for reaffirming the importance of public land access, and for taking this step to ensure that all Americans can take advantage of the incredible experiences offered by our nation’s public lands.”

“Access is one of the most significant priorities for hunters and anglers and a real concern for new sportsmen and women in particular,” said John Gale, conservation director for Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “Our public lands and waters provide access to all regardless of stature. We thank the administration for their leadership and foresight in elevating consideration for lands that not only support fish and wildlife habitat but provide access and opportunities to ensure that our outdoor traditions endure.”

See the TRCP’s fact sheet on BLM public lands identified for disposal.

 

Photo: Jeff Clark/BLM

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March 19, 2019

Savings from “Fire Fix” Should Go to Forest Health and Recreational Access

Dozens of sportsmen’s groups urge Congress to act swiftly so that dollars made available by last year’s wildfire funding solution are not diverted away from forest management

Following up on progress made during the 115th Congress, 34 prominent hunting, fishing, and wildlife conservation organizations are asking federal lawmakers to take the next step in solving the U.S. Forest Service’s budget problems by using newly available funds to invest in the agency’s mission.

In a letter to the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Appropriations Committees in both the House and Senate, these groups—whose members represent a sizeable segment of America’s 40 million hunters and anglers—urged lawmakers to ensure the U.S. Forest Service can allocate full funding to its other vital programs beginning in fiscal year 2020.

The groups emphasized that last year’s act to end the practice of fire-borrowing, which for years had depleted the Forest Service’s budget and staff, would not alone the problem. They noted the agency had a responsibility to direct those savings toward improving forest management.

“Congress has taken a huge step to ensure the Forest Service is no longer hamstrung by an outdated model of paying the massive costs for fighting wildfires,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Now Congress must guarantee that those new resources are invested in good forest management, including restoration and access. By making smart investments in forest health and access, our nation will see lasting benefits to our public lands and outdoor traditions.”

From 2001-2015, the Forest Service saw dramatic declines in its budget for programs related to forest health, recreation, and access, as the costs of wildfire suppression and recovery escalated out of control. Until the passage of the 2018 government funding bill, the Forest Service was forced to use money from other accounts to pay for catastrophic fire seasons.

“We are grateful for the bipartisan support Congress demonstrated when implementing a partial fire-borrowing fix in early 2018,” noted Brent Rudolph, director of conservation policy with the Ruffed Grouse Society and American Woodcock Society. “We’re confident Congress will now provide the budgetary investment to truly reverse the long-term decline in forest management capacity that became entrenched through years of past practice.”

The 34 groups expressed concern that the continued underfunding of the Forest Service mission could have a negative impact on the nation’s $887 billion outdoor recreation industry.

“Last year members of Congress from both sides of the aisle came together to pass a solution to the problem of fire borrowing. This year it’s imperative to implement the fire borrowing fix responsibly by directing funding to Forest Service programs that support conservation and recreation,” said Corey Fisher, public lands policy director for Trout Unlimited. “Anything less leaves hunters, anglers, and recreationists with the short end of the stick.”

You can read the letter here.

 

Photo: U.S.F.S./Kari Greer

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.

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