Kristyn Brady

July 18, 2019

TRCP Pitches Congress on Creating Better Drought Solutions While Improving Habitat

TRCP’s senior counsel and Colorado River expert speaks at a Senate hearing in support of legislation that would prioritize collaboration and natural solutions to water storage challenges

Melinda Kassen, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s senior counsel, testified this morning before the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power and offered the organization’s support for legislation that would help build drought resilience in the West.

“Hunters and anglers need water in the landscape,” said Kassen. “Outdoor recreation infuses $887 billion into the U.S. economy and is especially important for rural America. Fish swim in clean, flowing rivers and streams. Migratory birds feed and rest along the wetlands of our major flyways. Local bird populations nest along riparian corridors. But the TRCP, its partners, and other NGOs recognize that many interests compete for the West’s limited water supplies. Our experience shows that cooperation among diverse interests is the only path leading to durable solutions.”

Kassen testified on the Drought Resiliency and Water Supply Infrastructure Act (S. 1932), a bill that would strengthen the nation’s water supply and improve systems that help us respond to drought. She suggested several modifications to the proposed bill, including changes that would encourage better cooperation with Western state governments and allow more projects to improve natural water-storage systems, such as wetlands and riparian aquifers.

“Natural infrastructure allows the landscape to retain water and then release it for other uses,” said Kassen. “Like built water storage, natural storage makes wet season precipitation or runoff available during the next drier season with high water demand.”

She also called for funding to improve water conservation and efficiency efforts, including bold new programs to reduce water demand or boost voluntary conservation activities that will be critical in the Colorado River Basin and across the West.

Kassen is the third expert witness from the TRCP to testify in congressional hearings this year. In March 2019, Chief Conservation Officer Christy Plumer highlighted ways that Congress can support fish and wildlife this session, and President and CEO Whit Fosburgh offered solutions for tackling America’s public land access challenges.

Watch a video of Kassen’s testimony here:

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Randall Williams

July 15, 2019

Sportsmen Respond to New Effort to Lease and Drill the Ruby Mountains

New proposal for oil and gas leasing highlights the need for congressional action

Sportsmen and women are vocally opposing a new effort to open up the Ruby Mountains to oil and gas development concerns over impacts ot habitat and wildlife.

Days after the U.S. Forest Service denied authorization for leasing 54,000 acres in Nevada’s Ruby Mountains, energy developers submitted two new requests to open this prized landscape to oil and gas drilling. A private entity filed new Expressions of Interest (EOIs) to lease 88,000 acres for oil and gas development in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. Many of the parcels would affect the same areas previously rejected for leasing.

“Sportsmen and women see this new threat to the Rubies as further proof that lawmakers must act to conserve this special place for future generations,” said Carl Erquiaga, Nevada field representative with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “The Ruby Mountains, known as Nevada’s Swiss Alps, are home to Nevada’s largest mule deer herd, critical populations of the threatened Lahontan cutthroat trout, and numerous other fish and wildlife species.”

In January 2019 Senator Cortez Masto introduced the Ruby Mountain Protection Act (S258) which would permanently withdraw from oil and gas exploration 450,000 acres in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest’s Ruby Mountain Ranger District. A coalition of 14 influential hunting, fishing, and wildlife conservation groups, Sportsmen for the Rubies, has called for lawmakers to pass the legislation.

“The Ruby Mountains, one of the most rugged and beautiful landscapes in the west, supports Nevada’s largest mule deer herd and offers untold hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation opportunities. This latest attempt to lease the Rubies underscores the need to pass S258 quickly,” said Pam Harrington, Nevada field coordinator with Trout Unlimited.

By law, federal agencies must respond to these EOIs through a formal process, representing a considerable demand on budgets and human resources. The previous round of leasing requests required more than a year and a half of work before the “no leasing” decision could be made. Now the agency must go through the process again with no certainty that the outcome will be the same.

“It’s clear that the threat to the Rubies won’t go away unless Congress takes action,” continued Erquiaga. “Hunters and anglers in Nevada are counting on lawmakers to do the right thing for this one-of-a-kind landscape.”

Learn more and take action at SportsmenfortheRubies.com.

 

Photo: USFS

Marnee Banks

July 12, 2019

Recovering America’s Wildlife Act Creates 21st Century Conservation Model 

Legislation will invest in on-the-ground fish and wildlife management 

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is hailing landmark legislation that will transform fish and wildlife management across the nation.  U.S. Representatives Debbie Dingell (D-Mich) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) introduced the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act to invest meaningful resources into proactive conservation. 

Right now, 12,000 species in America need conservation action and 40 percent of the nation’s freshwater fish species are at risk. This legislation will help prevent those species from becoming threatened or endangered by creating a 21st century funding model.  

“This legislation will invest in critical habitat, stronger wildlife populations, and a more robust outdoor recreation economy,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “This bill empowers on-the-ground wildlife experts to implement science-based conservation plans that will preserve these species into the future.”  

The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act will invest roughly $1.4 billion to the Wildlife Conservation Restoration Program for proactive, voluntary efforts led by the states, territories and tribal nations to prevent vulnerable wildlife from becoming endangered. 

A national survey determined that each state needs an average of $26 million in new funding annually to effectively implement their State Wildlife Action Plans to prevent species from becoming threatened or endangered. Current funding levels are less than 5 percent of what is needed. 

 

Video: Hunters and Anglers Talk About the Importance of the Colorado River

Did you know that the WaterSMART program makes critical investments in local and regional efforts to conserve water and improve fish habitat? We need more of that on the Colorado River.

Chris Macaluso

July 3, 2019

Fight Against Atlantic Menhaden Certification Moves to Next Round

Sportfishing groups will argue case before an independent adjudicator

The objections raised by sportfishing groups in opposition to certification of the industrial Atlantic menhaden fishery as a “sustainable fishery” are scheduled to be heard by an independent adjudicator on July 8 and 9.

In March, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Coastal Conservation Association, and American Sportfishing Association filed an objection—which was later combined with a similar objection raised by The Nature Conservancy and Chesapeake Bay Foundation—to the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) recommendation that Omega Protein should receive a certification of sustainability for its U.S. Atlantic menhaden purse-seining operations.

Next week’s adjudication hearing is a significant step forward in the effort to ensure there is a healthy forage base for striped bass and other important sportfish in the Chesapeake Bay and all along the East Coast.

“To make it to the next stage of this process with a hearing and oral arguments is significant in that the independent adjudicator clearly recognizes that our objections have merit,” said David Sikorski, executive director of CCA Maryland. “The MSC process is not entirely predictable and has been criticized in the past as being far too aligned with commercial interests. We are encouraged that the very real concerns raised in our objection have had an impact.”

The recreational fishing community has long believed that Omega Protein’s relentless pressure on menhaden in the Chesapeake Bay, the primary nursery ground for striped bass and many other sportfish, has caused localized depletions of forage, leading to an increase in diseased, stressed, and skinny fish in the Bay. The TRCP, ASA, and CCA objected to many of the certification findings and scores, including one that would grant the certification of sustainability on the condition that Omega reach certain milestones over four years, and not because the operation can be considered sustainable now.

“Certifying the Atlantic Menhaden fishery as sustainable at this time could undermine efforts at the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to establish management that considers the entire ecosystem,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the TRCP. “Striped bass populations are shrinking and there is evidence that removal of forage has contributed to that. We should be making sure that conservation measures are being enacted now—not years down the road.”

In the past, the MSC’s impartiality has been questioned since it has been funded in part from royalties paid by the very seafood processors seeking to use the MSC ecolabel. Third-party certifiers are paid by the entity seeking certification, and if the certification is successful, those third-party certifiers often receive long-term contracts to monitor chain-of-custody of the products and update reviews of the fishery every five years. In other words, both the MSC and the third-party certifiers stand to benefit financially from a successful certification.

In 2011, the prestigious science journal NATURE published a sharp critique of the MSC process, claiming that after the signing of a contract between the MSC and Walmart, the number of certified seafood products skyrocketed.

“We are committed to participating in this process and raising the concerns of the recreational fishing community, because once the sustainable label is bestowed on a fishery, it will be much more difficult to make needed management changes to that fishery,” said Mike Leonard, vice president of government affairs at the American Sportfishing Association. “That is particularly perilous when certifying a fishery that targets a forage base on which so many sportfish depend.”

While it is not known what fees Omega has paid to the MSC to pursue certification, the TRCP, ASA, and CCA have been required to pay a £2500 (or roughly $3,150) “objection fee” to the London-based MSC to make their case in this next round of the process.

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

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.

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