Though big game species rely on these critical seasonal habitats, migration corridors have not been addressed in conservation policy until recent years. The WGA’s bipartisan support could help shape burgeoning policies affecting all the Western states.
“Migration corridors and connectivity across seasonal habitats are critical pieces of the conservation puzzle for big game and other wildlife,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We greatly appreciate the leadership of the Western Governors’ Association on the conservation of wildlife corridors and improvement of habitat connectivity. We look forward to working with each state to implement on-the-ground conservation strategies that ensure populations of big game animals continue to migrate and thrive.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.”
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
HOW YOU CAN HELP
WHAT WILL FEWER HUNTERS MEAN FOR CONSERVATION?
The precipitous drop in hunter participation should be a call to action for all sportsmen and women, because it will have a significant ripple effect on key conservation funding models.