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June 20, 2019

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New Study: Significant Opportunities to Open Recreation Access in Colo.

Outdoor Retailer audiences get a sneak preview of a new report from TRCP and onX identifying landlocked state lands across the West

Denver, Colo. — Today, onX and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership revealed a snapshot of new data uncovered in their latest collaborative study to calculate the acreage of landlocked state lands across 11 Western states.

In a press briefing at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, onX founder Eric Siegfried and TRCP’s director of Western lands Joel Webster announced their preliminary findings on access barriers to trust lands in the state of Colorado, including:

  • More than 435,000 acres are landlocked by private land and cannot be reached at all by public roads or through adjacent federally managed public lands.
  • Meanwhile, 1.78 million acres of accessible lands are closed to public access by state policy.
  • A total of 558,000 acres of accessible trust lands are currently open to hunting and fishing because of collaborative agreements between the State Land Board and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

There are 2.78 million acres of state trust lands in total across Colorado. All Western states were granted lands by the federal government at statehood, and Colorado is the only state in the Mountain West that does not allow public access to the majority of its trust lands. Webster noted that Colorado’s restrictive access rules are actually a greater hindrance to outdoor recreation on state trust lands than the landlocked land issue, which makes it an outlier among other Western states.

Governor Jared Polis is taking proactive steps to address this challenge. “Colorado is arguably the most beautiful state in America, and I’m committed to expanding the public’s access to our treasured federal and state-owned land,” said Governor Polis. “I’m delighted that Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Public Access Program for sportsmen and women will be growing by more than 100,000 acres in time for the upcoming 2019 hunting season. We will continue looking at more opportunities to increase access in the near future.”

“We appreciate the collaborative work that has already gone into opening state trust lands to public access in Colorado and believe the state currently has perhaps the single greatest opportunity to expand public access in the West,” said TRCP’s Joel Webster. “Without a doubt, Governor Polis’s commitment to expanding public access should be encouraging to everyone who recreates in the outdoors. Other states have come up with innovative ideas for opening access to trust lands, and they offer a model for how Colorado could continue to tackle this issue.”

The project is building on a 2018 report by onX and the TRCP that found more than 9.52 million acres of federally managed public lands in the West are landlocked and lack legal public access. Those findings are available in a new report, “Off Limits, But Within Reach: Unlocking the West’s Inaccessible Public Lands,” which unpacks the issue in unprecedented detail.

“Our company’s mission is to help people find places they can explore to create a memorable outdoor experience,” says onX founder Eric Siegfried. “State lands can be easily overlooked by the recreating public, and more can be done to make these lands accessible to all. We are looking forward to calculating the full extent of access challenges and highlighting constructive opportunities to open lands to the public.”

The full report will delve deeper into the issue of recreational access across 11 Western states by focusing on landlocked lands at the state level. It will be formally presented to the press and public at the TRCP Western Media Summit on August 19, 2019 in Seattle, Washington.

“We’re excited to partner once again with onX on a collaborative project that wouldn’t be possible without their world-class product and commitment to public access,” concluded Webster.

Learn more about the forthcoming report and sign up to be the first to receive it at unlockingpubliclands.org.

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June 19, 2019

In the Arena: Neil Sunday

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

Neil Sunday

Hometown: New Cumberland, Pennsylvania
Occupation: Flyfishing guide for Relentless Fly Fishing, a TCO Fly Shop employee, and snowboarding coach for USA Olympic athlete A.J. Muss
Conservation credentials: Board member for Cumberland Valley Trout Unlimited

Neil Sunday’s “Gram” probably didn’t realize she was creating a lifelong sportsman and fishing devotee when she purchased his first fishing rod at a local hardware store. These days, he’s something of a reformed bass fisherman, dedicated to helping people get out on the water for south-central PA’s brown, rainbow, and brook trout.

Here is his story.

I can still remember the trip to the hardware store in Mechanicsburg, Pa., where my grandmother bought me a Shakespeare spinning rod. Trindle Spring Run was quite demanding for a six-year-old, so I spent a few summers with very few fish stories! That all changed when I moved to Dillsburg and hit the farm ponds and Yellow Breeches Creek near Williams Grove.

When I was older, I took up flyfishing after a few years of tournament bass fishing on the Susquehanna River. I realized the impact we were having on the smallmouth bass populations and thought that something had to change. So, I gave away most of my traditional rods and reels and taught myself how to fly cast—I haven’t looked back.

I have so many good memories of fishing, and I’m making more every day. One of my most incredible days on the water was shared with my wife, Lori, and a good friend, Captain Scott Irvine, in Key West. We left the docks before sunrise, and after a 45-minute skiff ride we powered down the boat. In the distance, as far as we could see, fish were rolling on the surface.

We had over two hours of sight casting to feeding tarpon! By 9:30 a.m., we were doing celebratory shots of tequila. We spent the rest of the day chasing permit and hunting bonefish in the pristine environment of the Marquesas.

If I could fish anywhere, I would like to go back to New Zealand. Their focus on protecting the environment is evident. The people and government understand the importance of conserving what they have, and the fish happen to be the benefactors of this effort.

The overall conservation ethic is something I wish we had more of here in our great country.

As a fishing guide in South-Central Pennsylvania, my office is on the famous waterways of the Cumberland Valley. Without clean water, we would not have the wild brown trout of the LeTort Spring Run, the wild rainbow trout and native brook trout of Big Spring in Newville, or the dynamic trout factory known as the Yellow Breeches.

In fact, without clean water, I’d have to go get a “real” job.

Streamside // Neil Sunday from Mathew Stambaugh on Vimeo.

In my time as a Board member of the Cumberland Valley chapter of Trout Unlimited, I have taken a keen interest in our Stream Access and Conservation Committee. Once a tract of land has been used and a waterway altered, it’s very hard to restore. As a committee member, I’m part of a team that goes to great lengths to have restoration projects approved by state agencies, landowners, and other stakeholders.

Right now, one of the biggest conservation challenges where I live, and for our country, perhaps, is that people don’t prioritize responsible building practices, development, and land-use management over financial gain. Conservation should be used as a preventative measure—it is the easiest way to keep what we have for future generations.

Do you know someone In the Arenawho should be featured here? Email info@trcp.org for a questionnaire.

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June 17, 2019

Sportfishing Groups Call for Science-Based Management of Gulf Menhaden

Marine Stewardship Council takes an irresponsible approach to fishery certification

The recreational fishing community is expressing concern about the process being used to certify the menhaden fishery in the Gulf of Mexico.

Omega Protein and Daybrook Fisheries recently announced that SAI Global is recommending that the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certify the menhaden fishery in the Gulf of Mexico as sustainable, despite ongoing concerns surrounding the industrial harvest of the small oily baitfish.

“There is a host of unknowns surrounding this industrial fishery, and yet the MSC continues to rapidly move forward,” said Patrick Murray, president of Coastal Conservation Association. “Sustainability obviously means different things to different people, and we continue to have significant concerns about this certification.”

Conservation groups and tens of thousands of anglers have all expressed concerns that menhaden management fails to account for the critical ecological role that menhaden play in the coastal ecosystem and their impacts to sportfish like snook, redfish, sharks, and other marine predators.

“No one yet knows how much Gulf menhaden is needed to fulfill its role as a primary prey species in the ecosystem,” said Mike Leonard, vice president of government affairs at the American Sportfishing Association. “There is work being done to determine that, but obviously the MSC didn’t consider that critical factor as a prerequisite for making its sustainability decision.”

“Every summer, anglers and charter captains see menhaden boats fishing right on top of Louisiana’s beaches and passes, in the same areas where important sportfish like redfish and speckled trout are feeding and spawning,” said Chris Macaluso, director of marine fisheries for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and an avid Louisiana angler. “For years, I’ve heard about and seen countless dead redfish floating in the same areas where menhaden boats recently fished. Recreational fishermen are right to be concerned, especially since there is so little information about what species are being affected the most from bycatch and how many non-targeted fish are being killed.”

“Menhaden provide the foundation of the entire Gulf recreational fishery, from redfish to tarpon,” said Whit Fosburgh, TRCP’s president and CEO. “Instead of a rushed process aimed at benefiting a few foreign companies, we should have a full science-based review of the fishery. There is too much at stake.”

SAI Global’s recommendation to certify Gulf menhaden as sustainable is a follow-up to the same recommendation for Atlantic menhaden made earlier this year. The Coastal Conservation Association, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, American Sportfishing Association, The Nature Conservancy, and Chesapeake Bay Foundation are all opposing the Atlantic menhaden certification.

In January of this year, the state of Virginia also formally notified the MSC of its opposition to certifying the Atlantic menhaden purse-seine fishery. In April, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation to protect menhaden in New York’s waters by prohibiting harvest by purse seine, essentially rejecting the industrial harvest of Atlantic menhaden altogether.

Learn more about menhaden and their role in the marine food web here.

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Idahoans: Show Up and Speak Out for Public Lands

This is YOUR chance to play a role in how our public lands are managed and ensure that sportsmen and women have a say about the places where we love to hunt and fish

The Bureau of Land Management’s Four Rivers Field Office manages more than 780,000 acres of public lands across western Idaho from the Bennett Hills to the eastern shores of Brownlee Reservoir. These landscapes provide some of the finest hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation opportunities in western Idaho, as well as important habitat for big game, upland birds, and wild trout.

Currently, the BLM is revising its plan that will determine the future management of these lands for the next 20+ years, and public meetings are scheduled that offer an opportunity for the public to share their ideas directly to the BLM. Sportsmen and women must get involved to ensure that the best habitats are conserved and public access for hunting and fishing is maintained.

Please attend one of four local public meetings and make your voice heard – meeting dates, locations, and times, as well as suggested talking points are listed below.

Where and when

Public meetings (All meetings run from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.)
June 18: Boise District Office 3948 S Development Avenue, Boise ID 83705
June 25: Weiser High School 690 W Indianhead Rd, Weiser, ID 83672
June 26: Emmett Junior High School 301 E 4th St, Emmett, ID 83617
June 27: Mountain Home Junior High School 1600 E 6th S St, Mountain Home, ID 83647

Suggested talking points

• It is important to me that the Four Rivers BLM Field Office’s RMP revision conserve valuable big game winter range and popular hunting areas. The BLM should adopt a Backcountry Conservation Area for the Bennett Hills that would conserve valuable big game range, sustain sportsmen’s access, and prioritize habitat restoration for one of Idaho’s best mule deer hunting areas.

• I encourage the BLM to identify places where public access acquisition should be a priority, including the creation of access to public lands that are landlocked or difficult to access because there are few or no access points across private land that enable the public to reach BLM lands.

• I request that the BLM take steps to ensure the conservation of identified big game migration corridors and winter range. This should include not only conserving corridors that have already been mapped and analyzed by Idaho Fish and Game, but also migration corridors that will be mapped in the future.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

CONSERVATION WORKS FOR AMERICA

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

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