May 30, 2019

These Teams Are Responsible for 800 Fish Habitat Restoration Projects Across the U.S.

Help us urge Congress to lock down the program—and conservation funding—that allows the people who fish local waters to mastermind the projects to improve them

Americans across the country are hitting the water this summer in the hopes of hooking one of many iconic species of fish—from kokanee salmon and cutthroat trout to largemouth bass and red snapper.

You may not realize that there has been a collaborative effort at work behind the scenes for years to expand and guarantee your access to great fishing. The National Fish Habitat Partnership, a collective of 20 diverse groups across every landscape in America, has already succeeded in boosting fish populations through on-the-ground fish habitat conservation projects.

In Pennsylvania, the Fish and Boat Commission, parks department, bass anglers, and local businesses banded together to restore a degraded reservoir, adding more than 800 structures that give fish critical cover to spawn. In New Mexico, partners enhanced desert fish habitat and reopened a key migratory passage between the Navajo River and eight miles of Amargo Creek.

Since 2007, more than 840 projects have been completed across all 50 states. But the future success of these partnerships is perennially threatened.

The National Fish Habitat Partnership initiative has no permanent authorization from the federal government and funding has been cut year after year. But that could change this Congress, thanks to legislation that would secure the future of these collaborative fish habitat improvement projects.

Photo by Flickr user handels
The Best Partners Know Local Waters

Rather than develop a top-down, inside-the-beltway plan to restore and protect America’s unique fish habitats, the National Fish Habitat Partnership exists at the crossroads of science-based solutions, community partnerships, and state and federal agencies. The 20 Fish Habitat Partnerships focus on the needs of specific regions and ecosystems, each working to forge stronger local and regional partnerships with other key stakeholders to restore and protect fisheries. The program is designed to include a wide range of voices in decision-making.

A national board chaired by a state fish and wildlife agency representative meets three times annually to review projects submitted by the 20 individual partnerships and recommend how funding should be allocated. This isn’t your average federal Board of Directors: Real sportsmen and women unite with local leaders and scientists to steer fish habitat conservation and put the needs of our fish and wildlife first. (In fact, TRCP’s Chief Conservation Officer Christy Plumer is a member of the National Board and has been instrumental in the development and success of the National Fish Habitat Partnership.)

Each of the twenty regional partnerships includes state fish and wildlife professionals, local leaders, and representatives of the conservation community and federal agencies. Committees help determine which projects each region submits to the national board for approval, focusing on the interests of the communities within the partnership’s footprint and ensuring projects are advancing the needs of fish populations close to home.

But none of these individuals can do their jobs while the future of the program, or its funding, is subject to the annual whims of Congress.

Photo by USFWS-Alaska Region
We Know the Model Works

This isn’t the first time this model has been used to work better for wildlife: The North American Wetlands Conservation Act has a similar approach. NAWCA provides matching grants to conservation projects across North America to improve habitat for migratory birds, boost water quality, and conserve wetlands ecosystems—and it has been highly successful. Now, it’s time to allow this successful model to work for fish.

(By the way, legislation to reauthorize and fund NAWCA is also pending in both chambers, and Congress should act with expediency here, too.)

Defend Against Defunding

The Partnership receives its funding in the annual appropriations bills, but since it isn’t permanently authorized, Congress could decide to defund it without warning, ending community-based support for fish conservation across the nation. Luckily, bills have been introduced in both the Senate and House to fix that: S. 754, introduced this Congress by Sens. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and H.R. 1747, introduced by Reps. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) and Marc Veasey (D-Texas).

The National Fish Habitat Conservation Through Partnerships Act formally establishes the National Fish Habitat Board and guarantees that all stakeholders—tribes, nonprofits, local and state governments, private sector entities, and the federal government—have a seat at the table. The bill would also enact into law other components of the National Fish Habitat Partnership, including clear decision-making criteria and a process for designating new partnerships.

Importantly, this legislation would fund the program through 2023, with 5 percent dedicated to Indian Tribes and additional resources provided for several key federal agencies to provide scientific and technical assistance to fish habitat partnerships. The bill also sets a cap on administrative costs at 5 percent, preventing federal agencies from redirecting funding from the program to pay for other agency needs during tight budget times.

This five-year authorization would end year-to-year uncertainty, ensuring that each of the partnerships have the ability to plan ahead and do the best work possible.

Photo by Alexandre Estanislau via flickr.
Take Action

The National Fish Habitat Partnership is one of North America’s most successful conservation programs, but its continued success, and existence, depends on all of us speaking up for our waterways and the fish that call them home. Please join the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and our partners across the nation in urging Congress to pass the National Fish Habitat Conservation Through Partnerships Act into law.

One Response to “These Teams Are Responsible for 800 Fish Habitat Restoration Projects Across the U.S.”

  1. David Coulter

    Please vote for S. 754 and H.R. 1747, The National Fish Habitat Conservation Through Partnerships Act, introduced this Congress by Sens. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and introduced by Reps. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) and Marc Veasey (D-Texas).

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May 24, 2019

Weekend Download: The Climate Change Impacts We Should Be Facing

The Hunting Collective’s Ben O’Brien visits TRCP President and CEO Whit Fosburgh at his home on the Potomac River to talk about the direct effects of climate change on hunting and fishing and the other top challenges facing our community.

Skip right to Whit’s Q&A at 48 minutes in, or enjoy the full episode featuring some of the top female leaders at MeatEater HQ. (Bonus: They decide, based on internet photos, that Whit stacks up in the fashion and style department, where Rinella apparently does not.)

May 16, 2019

BLM’s Proposed Plans for Montana Public Lands Should Reflect Sportsmen’s Priorities

Plans to conserve popular elk hunting destinations are among the various options in the draft plans, but not at the top of BLM’s list

Today the Bureau of Land Management released draft plans that – when finalized – will guide land management decisions for more than 800K acres of public lands over the next 20 years or more. This includes some of Montana’s most scenic and recreationally important public lands overseen by the agency’s Lewistown and Missoula field offices.

This is a key step in a public process of land-use planning, which helps determine how habitat, outdoor recreation opportunities, and development are balanced in a particular area. The BLM proposes a variety of management options for a planning area and names one preferred alternative—in these plans, the agency’s preferred paths forward lack important measures that would conserve some of Montana’s best hunting areas.

Specifically, hunters, anglers, and other stakeholders have been calling for sportsmen-friendly conservation measures on intact and undeveloped lands with outstanding big game habitat in both the Missouri River Breaks as well as in the Garnet and John Long Ranges just east of Missoula.

“After an initial review of the two plans, we’re encouraged to see that conservation measures for key backcountry hunting areas are among the options, but it is disappointing that they were left out of the BLM’s preferred alternative,” says Scott Laird, Montana field representative with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “At the start of these processes, the BLM received reasonable proposals to conserve some of Montana’s finest elk and deer country—measures that had broad buy-in and support from the governor’s office, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Council, timber interests, local business owners, and public land users of all kinds. We now ask that the BLM adopt sportsmen-oriented management for our best hunting areas in the final Missoula and Lewistown plans.”

Numerous outdoor-related businesses and conservation organizations support revising the two Resource Management Plans to better serve the interests of Montana’s hunters and other outdoor recreationists. “The Garnet Range is an often overlooked but important hunting destination just a short drive from Missoula and other surrounding communities,” says Casey Smith, owner of Straight6Archery in Missoula. “The BLM has an opportunity to do right by sportsmen and businesses through the Missoula resource management plan, and we are depending on them to incorporate measures in the final plan that will safeguard our best backcountry hunting areas near Chamberlain and Marcum Mountains.”

Popular public lands in central and western Montana help fuel the state’s $7.1-billion outdoor recreation economy, provide important wildlife habitat, and support various traditional uses of the land. These include Montana FWP Hunting Districts 410, 412, 417, 426, 281, 291, 292, and 298.

“The BLM has an opportunity to safeguard some of Montana’s best hunting areas and wildlife habitat through these land-use plans, and do it in a balanced way,” says John Borgreen, a Great Falls-area hunter who has been engaged in local conservation efforts for more than 45 years. “It’s a potential win-win for the varied wildlife we love to pursue, and will help ensure that our valued hunting heritage, outdoor traditions, and way of life can be enjoyed by future generations.”

“Sportsmen and other stakeholders will continue to speak up as these planning processes move forward, and we hope the BLM will listen,” says Laird. “We are talking about common-sense management provisions that would benefit our sporting traditions and wildlife habitat, while providing the flexibility to manage for other uses of these lands. It should be a slam dunk for the agency.”


Photo: Charlie Bulla

May 14, 2019

Sportsmen Applaud Senate Committee for Considering Ruby Mountain Protection Act

Hunters and anglers call for swift passage of this critical public lands legislation

The Sportsmen for the Rubies, a coalition of 14 hunting, fishing, and wildlife conservation groups representing thousands of individual sportsmen and women, expressed appreciation for a subcommittee hearing Tuesday on the Ruby Mountain Protection Act (S.258). This development, which took place in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining, marks the first progression for the bill since its introduction by Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV).

If passed into law, the act would conserve Nevada’s Ruby Mountains by permanently withdrawing from oil and gas exploration 450,000 acres in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest’s Ruby Mountain Ranger District.

“Hunters, anglers, and a wide array of stakeholder groups have been vocal supporters of the bill from its inception,” said Joel Webster, director of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s Center for Western Lands. “The Ruby Mountains, known as the Swiss Alps of Nevada, contain some of the region’s finest outdoor opportunities and serve as the foundation of a $165 million outdoor recreation economy in Elko County.”

Last week, the Sportsmen for the Rubies coalition sent a letter to the committee chair and ranking member, urging a speedy vote on the bill so that it can proceed to the Senate floor.

The groups highlighted the importance of the area as fish and wildlife habitat in addition to its tremendous economic value as a recreational destination. The Ruby Mountains are home to a number of unique species such as the Lahontan cutthroat trout and the Himalayan snowcock, as well as Nevada’s largest mule deer herd.

“The Rubies are an incredible fish and wildlife resource as well as an economic engine for rural Nevada, said Pam Harrington, Nevada field coordinator with Trout Unlimited. “We are pleased the Nevada delegation is working with the sportsmen’s community to protect the Rubies.”

“Sportsmen and women throughout Nevada appreciate the subcommittee’s timely hearing on this bill,” said Tom Smith, the vice president of the Coalition for Nevada’s Wildlife. “We hope that leadership will commit to a markup and move this legislation to the floor for passage, so that future generations can enjoy the Ruby Mountains as we do today.”


Photo: USDA Intermountain Forest Service via Flickr

May 10, 2019

Picky About Pine: These Forests Are Better for Wildlife and Water

Restoring longleaf pine forests improves wildlife habitat and drought resilience in the Southeast

Longleaf pine trees once dominated large swaths of the country’s landscape, covering more than 90 million acres—or roughly the area of Montana—from Virginia to eastern Texas. But this all began to change around the beginning of the 20th century, when longleaf pine was found to be excellent building material for ships and railroads. By the 1920s, most of these trees were gone, and many foresters replaced them with other types of pine that were thought to grow faster and offer a quicker return on investment.

Today, only 3.4 million acres of longleaf forests remain, and much of this is spread sparsely across the Southeast. This poses some serious challenges for game species and communities that are at risk of extreme weather events.

Here’s why.

Longleaf Is a Lifeline

With the potential to support roughly 100 types of birds, dozens of species of mammals, and nearly 200 kinds of reptiles and amphibians, longleaf pine forests are some of the most diverse ecosystems in North America. Sportsmen and women know them best as critical habitat for bobwhite quail, wild turkeys, and whitetail deer.

Longleaf, even as a seedling, is highly resistant to wildfire, and its wide-set leaves create a more open forest canopy so more sunlight can reach plant life on the ground. With a little help from strategic prescribed burning, longleaf forests can have incredibly healthy underbrush with native grasses and vegetation that offer food and shelter for wildlife.

But we need longleaf pines for more than just great habitat—they are master adapters that can survive the harshest weather events and a wide range of climates. A study conducted after Hurricane Katrina found that longleaf pine trees were better able to withstand hurricane winds than other types of pine trees. More storm resilience means less costly damage to wildlife habitat and forestry businesses.

As if that wasn’t enough, these trees are also more resilient to drought, can better withstand pests and most diseases, and store carbon more effectively than other pine species. All of this makes longleaf a win for our critters and for communities that face major storms and drought.

Photo by Randy Tate/Longleaf Alliance.
We Need Millions More

Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that by 2060 the South will lose up to 67,000 square miles of forest to development and other habitat challenges.

But there is hope. The federal agencies that carry out conservation in America, along with dozens of non-governmental partners—including key TRCP allies, such as the National Wildlife Turkey Federation, The Nature Conservancy, and National Wildlife Federation—have joined forces on the “Million Acre Challenge” to add one million acres of longleaf pine to public lands in the coming years. This would go a long way toward helping the Forest Service complete its goal of putting 8 million total acres of longleaf pine habitat on the landscape by 2025.

Photo by Randy Tate/Longleaf Alliance.

Recent passage of the 2018 Farm Bill could help, too. Programs such as the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, Environmental Quality Incentives Program, and the Conservation Stewardship Program help to coordinate landscape-scale conservation projects and reduce the cost for private landowners to restore or enhance their longleaf pine forests. With more than $5 billion in conservation funding to support private land efforts, the Farm Bill is a big win for habitat, but we also need strong funding for the Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife Service to help take on forest restoration.

The TRCP is committed to ensuring that the federal agencies have what they need to maintain and enhance our forests across public and private lands. And a powerhouse habitat-creator and wildfire-defender like longleaf pine is a great way to invest those dollars. It’s a critical down payment on the future of hunting and fishing in the Southeast.

Top photo by Andy Wraithmell/FWC. Quail by flickr user leshoward.



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.

$4 from each bag is donated to the TRCP, to help continue their efforts of safeguarding critical habitats, productive hunting grounds, and favorite fishing holes for future generations.

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