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November 8, 2019

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Fishermen Schooled Congress on These Three Possible Impacts of Pebble Mine

Sportsmen took the real concerns of the outdoor recreation economy to D.C. lawmakers

In a recent hearing of the House Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment, expert witnesses testified in opposition to the Pebble Mine project proposed for the headwaters of Bristol Bay in Alaska. Seated beside the CEO of the mining company that would benefit from the construction of Pebble, an environmental scientist, local sporting outfitter, and commercial fisherman highlighted the very real concerns of Alaskans and outdoor businesses.

Reminder: The now-infamous plan to carve out an open pit at the headwaters of Bristol Bay’s two largest rivers would threaten clean water in one of the finest fishing destinations on Earth and degrade fish habitat in a region that produces about half the world’s sockeye salmon. If Pebble were constructed, billions of tons of mine waste could remain in the area forever.

But that’s not all. Here are three lessons lawmakers learned from anglers and experts who know the real stakes.

Spawning sockeye salmon. Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
We’re Talking About 100% Consumption of the Habitat

Brian Kraft, owner of two remote sportfishing lodges in Alaska and an advocate for Bristol Bay’s salmon for the past 15 years, hosts fishing clients from every state in the nation and not one has failed to remark on how unique the landscape and fishery are. He says he and his wife understand the concerns of businesses in their community as part of the $65-million sportfishing industry in Alaska.

In his testimony, Kraft pointed out that the simple question of “Is this the right place to mine?” can only be answered when you assume that the mine will consume 100 percent of the habitat it touches. In this particular case, you can’t directionally drill and you can’t shift the ore deposit, so the smaller of the two mine proposals would still consume 80 miles of streams and 3,500 acres of wetlands in an area that was legislatively preserved for its fisheries in 1972.

Photo by Chris Ford via flickr.
The Army Corps Has Yet to Address the Concerns of Salmon Fishermen

Three generations of Mark Niver’s family have worked as commercial fishermen in Alaska, and as an expert witness, he pointed out that fishermen are just one link in a chain—Bristol Bay’s salmon fishery employs 14,000 people every summer and generates $1.5 billion in worldwide economic activity. But he adds that this wouldn’t be possible without the area’s pristine, undeveloped freshwater habitat and science-based fisheries management. “For over a decade, the proposed Pebble Mine has cast a shadow of uncertainty over my livelihood and my family’s future,” he said. “Nowhere in the world has a mine of this type and size been located in a place as ecologically sensitive as Bristol Bay.”

After weighing in thoughtfully at multiple stages of the lengthy public process to consider the mine, commercial fishermen have not had their concerns adequately addressed by the Army Corps of Engineers. Niver told lawmakers that he fears the permitting process is a runaway train toward approval, despite the science indicating that salmon and Pebble Mine cannot coexist.

Photo by Jonny Armstrong.
Unless the Proposed Footprint is Expanded, the Mine Will Lose Money

In his testimony, geologist and environmental scientist Richard Borden agreed that energy development is necessary in our society, but not all ore deposits can or should be mined. He believes Bristol Bay is the most “sensitive, globally significant, and challenging environmental setting” of any project he’s ever reviewed in more than 30 years of consulting for the mining industry, and the environmental impact statement completed by the Army Corps of Engineers in haste six months ago is deeply flawed. But, perhaps most surprisingly, he points out that the mining company is basing their timeline and promises about impact avoidance on examples of much smaller mines. To construct a mine on a scale that—they say—would minimize environmental risks, investors would certainly lose money, and pressures to expand the mine’s footprint would likely follow.

Now You Have Three Reasons to Get Involved

This testimony gives anglers three more reasons to speak out against Pebble Mine and safeguard habitat and our fishing opportunities in Bristol Bay. Sportsmen and women sent thousands of messages to the Army Corps during the last public comment period, but our lawmakers need to hear from YOU to influence Bristol Bay’s future. Reach out to your senators NOW using our simple action tool.

 

Watch the subcommittee hearing on the Pebble Mine project here.

Top photo by Wild Salmon Center.

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November 4, 2019

Podcast: Whit Fosburgh Discusses Conservation on Bass Pro’s Outdoor World

TRCP’s president and CEO Whit Fosburgh appeared on Sirius XM’s Rural Radio channel 147 this weekend to talk about conservation with Bass Pro’s podcast with host Rob Keck. The Outdoor World show airs every Saturday at 10 a.m. and Sunday at 9 a.m. across the nation.

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November 1, 2019

Alaskans: Show Up and Speak Out for Public Lands!

Hunting and fishing on public land in Alaska is at risk

The Forest Service recently released a draft proposal that would roll back conservation measures for 9.2 million acres of public lands in the Tongass National Forest. RIGHT NOW, you can 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.

Please consider attending a local public meeting in the next few weeks (see schedule below) and share your perspective as a local public land user. We need to speak up for our traditions and for the importance of balanced use of public resources.

Here are a few things you can say in a meeting to make an impact:

  • The Tongass National Forest provides hunters with some of the finest and most readily available opportunities to pursue Sitka blacktail deer, and it is among the world’s largest wild-salmon-producing regions. [Tell your personal hunting or fishing story.]
  • An Alaska roadless rule exemption would eliminate conservation safeguards from 9.2 million acres of unroaded and undeveloped national forests in the Tongass. This proposal is extreme, and it could open some of Alaska’s best hunting and fishing areas to development, degrading spawning habitat for salmon and negatively affecting wildlife habitat over the long-term.
  • I request that the Forest Service maintain safeguards for roadless areas within the Tongass National Forest.

Visit the project webpage for the most up-to-date schedule.

Monday, November 4, 2019
  • JUNEAU
    Public Meeting: 5 PM – 7 PM
    Location: Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall, Room #1, 320 Willoughby Ave.
Tuesday, November 5, 2019
  • KETCHIKAN
    Public Meeting: 5 PM – 6:30 PM
    Subsistence Hearing: 7 PM – 9 PM
    Location: Southeast Alaska Discovery Center, 50 Main St.
  • YAKUTAT
    Public Meeting: 5 PM – 6:30 PM
    Subsistence Hearing: 7 PM – 9PM
    Location: ANB Hall
  • TENAKEE SPRINGS
    Public Meeting: 10 AM – 11:30 AM
    Subsistence Hearing: 12 PM – 2 PM
    Location: Community Center
Wednesday, November 6, 2019
  • CRAIG
    Public Meeting: 5 PM – 6:30 PM
    Subsistence Hearing: 7 PM – 9 PM
    Location: Craig Tribal Association Hall, 1330 Craig-Klawock Highway
  • ANCHORAGE
    Public Meeting: 6 PM – 8 PM
    Location: University of Alaska, Gorsuch Commons, Room #106, 3211 Providence Dr.
  • WRANGELL
    Public Meeting: 5 PM – 6:30 PM
    Subsistence Hearing: 7 PM – 9 PM
    Location: Nolan Center, 296 Campbell Dr.
Thursday, November 7, 2019
  • GUSTAVUS
    Public Meeting: 5 PM – 6:30 PM
    Subsistence Hearing: 7 PM – 9 PM
    Location: Gustavus School Commons   
  • PETERSBURG
    Public Meeting: 5 PM – 6:30 PM
    Subsistence Hearing: 7 PM – 9 PM
    Location: Petersburg Borough, Assembly Chambers
Friday, November 8, 2019
  • KAKE
    Public Meeting: 5 PM – 6:30 PM
    Subsistence Hearing: 7 PM – 9 PM
    Location: Senior Center, 251 Totem Way
Tuesday, November 12, 2019
  • HYDABURG
    Public Meeting: 9 AM – 10:30 AM
    Subsistence Hearing: 11 AM – 1 PM
    Location: City Hall
  • ANGOON
    Public Meeting: 10 AM – 11:30 AM
    Subsistence Hearing: 12 PM – 2 PM
    Location: Angoon Community Association
  • SITKA
    Public Meeting: 5 PM – 6:30 PM
    Subsistence Hearing: 7 PM – 9 PM
    Location: Centennial Hall, King Salmon Room, 330 Harbor Dr.
  • KASAAN
    Public Meeting: 5 PM – 6:30 PM
    Subsistence Hearing: 7 PM – 9 PM
    Location: Totem Trail Café
Wednesday, November 13, 2019
  • THORNE BAY
    Public Meeting: 5 PM – 6:30 PM
    Subsistence Hearing: 7 PM – 9 PM
    Location: Thorne Bay Ranger District, 1312 Federal Way
Thursday, November 14, 2019
  • POINT BAKER
    Public Meeting: 10 AM – 11:30 AM
    Subsistence Hearing: 11:30 AM–1:30 PM
    Location: Point Baker Community Building
  • HOONAH
    Public Meeting: 5 PM – 6:30 PM
    Subsistence Hearing: 7 PM – 9 PM
    Location: Hoonah Ranger District, 420 Airport Road
  • WASHINGTON, D.C.
    Public Meeting: 1:30 PM – 3:30 PM
    Location: Holiday Inn Washington Capitol, Congressional II Rm, 550 C St. SW

We’ve also made it easy for you to comment via email. Take action using our simple tool.


Photo by Frances Biles via USFS Alaska Region flickr.

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Five Public Lands Bills to Have on Your Radar

This Congress continues to show an appetite for boosting outdoor recreation opportunities on lands open to all Americans

After a historic win for public lands across the U.S. in March—we’re talking, of course, about the milestone package of legislation that permanently reauthorized the Land and Water Conservation Fund and made many other improvements that benefit hunters and anglers—conservation and access advocates aren’t resting on their laurels. And Congress continues to show an appetite for passing commonsense legislation that boosts access, habitat, or funding for fish and wildlife resources, even with an incredible amount of to-dos lined up to distract them.

Here are five bills on the move that you should know about.

Photo by Colorado Parks and Wildlife on Instagram.
The Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act

The CORE Act would safeguard approximately 400,000 acres of Colorado’s most rugged landscapes that define an outdoor way of life—particularly the sprawling Thompson Divide, where thousands of hunters pursue elk each year. Roughly half of the area is roadless and provides refuge for abundant fish and wildlife populations. The bill, which has benefited from the input and the support of a long list of diverse stakeholders, including sportsmen and women and business leaders, passed out of committee in July and succeeded in a 227-182 vote on the House floor this week.

Next step: The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee should move forward with a legislative hearing on the CORE Act in the near future.

Photo by flickr user Cowgirl Jules.
The Recreation Not Red-Tape Act

Across our nation’s public lands, hunters, anglers, guides, and outfitters find legal access difficult, but not always because of closed gates or lack of trails: A complicated and outmoded process for permitting outdoor recreation activities on public lands can keep kayaks in storage and guide vehicles stuck in park.

Supported by the TRCP and championed by partners like the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, the Outdoor Industry Association, and others, the Recreation Not Red-Tape Act seeks to improve access to public lands by modernizing the process of permitting for certain kinds of outdoor recreation—including by bringing that process online—and creating a system of National Recreation Areas. It would also help prioritize access improvements that benefit military veterans and emphasizes the need for adequate staffing of facilities on our public lands. Expert witnesses from the outdoor recreation industry testified in support of the RNR Act in both a House Small Business Committee hearing and a Senate Energy and Natural Resources hearing this week.

Next step: The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee can now move forward with passage. In the House, the legislation has been referred to multiple committees, and an agreement should be reached by leadership to move this important and bipartisan legislation forward to the floor.

Photo by Grand Canyon National Park via flickr.
The Grand Canyon Centennial Protection Act

Passed on the House floor this week with a bipartisan vote count, this bill would make permanent the 20-year mining withdrawals that were made administratively in 2012, aimed at protecting the lands around Grand Canyon National Park from uranium mining. In a place that has long been associated with Theodore Roosevelt and is one of the most iconic landscapes in all the world, uranium mining poses an unacceptable risk to the region’s air and water quality, fish and wildlife habitat, and critically important outdoor economy. H.R. 1373 has been a longtime priority of Arizona sportsmen and women.

Next step: The House passed the legislation this week by a vote of 236-185, and while there is not a Senate companion at this point, the legislation should be made a priority in that chamber, as well.

“The Grand Canyon fills me with awe. It is beyond comparison–beyond description; absolutely unparalleled throughout the wide world… Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is. Do nothing to mar its grandeur, sublimity and loveliness. You cannot improve on it.” – Theodore Roosevelt, 1903

The Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation Act

Similar to the Recreation Not Red-Tape Act, the SOAR Act is supported by businesses and nonprofits across the industry and would help ensure the continued growth of the $887-billion outdoor recreation economy by further improving and modernizing the recreational permitting process on public lands.

The legislation reauthorizes the permitting authority of the BLM and Forest Service, and it brings the Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Reclamation under the authority of the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, allowing those agencies to retain and reinvest permit fees. Importantly, the bill also allows agencies to issue a single permit when a trip crosses an agency boundary, a significant improvement over current policy which requires multiple permits for the same trip.

S.1665 was also included in this week’s Senate Energy and Natural Resources hearing, which featured testimony from leaders of the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, education and research initiatives, and the ski industry.

Next step: With hearings complete, it is time for both the House and Senate Committees to move this bill forward for floor votes.

Photo by flickr user mksfca.
The Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act of 2019

Another effort to balance demands on public lands from energy development, this House bill would protect areas around Chaco Canyon—a world heritage site known for its archaeological significance and cultural importance—from oil and gas development. The legislation would make permanent a current administrative deferral of oil and gas leasing instituted by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt earlier this year. It was passed in a bipartisan 245–174 vote on the House floor this week. Besides the buildings and sacred dwellings still standing from the 9th,  10th, and 11th centuries, Chaco Canyon is also home to pronghorn antelope and mule deer.

Next step: A Senate companion bill was introduced and debated in committee early this year. That will have to move to successful floor consideration in the Senate before these can be conferenced, likely as part of a bigger comprehensive public lands package.

 

Top photo by Tom Koerner/USFWS.

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.

Learn More

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