“State wildlife agencies have the most to lose if hunting participation continues to decline, because many of them depend entirely on Pittman-Robertson dollars, but that’s why it’s so critical that these agencies market to and educate prospective sportsmen and women,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “This critical update to the original law—which was written at a time when more than half the country hunted or had access to someone who could likely show them how—would help ensure the future of our traditions and turn the tide on a looming conservation funding crisis in America.”
“We’re thrilled to see momentum behind a new investment in conservation that recognizes the real need to get ahead of habitat challenges—rather than scramble to revive a species on the brink,” says Fosburgh. “Together, these two pieces of legislation represent a forward-thinking approach to conservation that should be applauded, and we hope to see bipartisan support on the House floor very soon.”
Five Ways to Do More than #OptOutside This Black Friday
This year, REI challenges everyone who loves the outdoors to opt to act in service of public lands and habitat
In 2015, our friends at REI laid down the original challenge: They would pay their workforce to stay home on Black Friday, and meanwhile they urged ALL Americans to spend time outdoors instead of shopping. Since then, #OptOutside has become a movement embraced by hikers and hunters alike.
But this year, the company admits that it isn’t enough.
It’s easy to choose to spend our time on America’s public lands and waters instead of in malls this holiday weekend. But—as REI’s president and CEO Eric Artz writes in the most recent Co-op Journal—outdoorsmen and women of all stripes must opt to act as well. Our natural resources face new and enduring challenges, and it will take all of our voices in harmony to push back on bad conservation policies and habitat setbacks that could take decades to undo.
Fortunately, this is pretty much the business that we’re in here at the TRCP—giving you opportunities to take action on the issues that are most critical RIGHT NOW.
And, not to brag, but we never waste your time with misdirection or scare tactics. If you’re hearing from us, it’s because critical or damaging legislation is on the move and you have a chance to make a difference. We translate the wonky policy language that some decision-makers are hoping will confuse you, and we provide hunters and anglers with the tools to make your voices heard in a few clicks or less.
If you’re willing to do more than simply enjoy the outdoors this Black Friday, here are five things you can do to safeguard all the ways we #OptOutside.
Enhance the Power of One of Our Best Public Lands Programs
Make the Trip “Over the River and Through the Woods” a Little Safer
In many parts of the country, you’re highly likely to encounter deer or other critters crossing the road on your way to grandma’s house this week. This risk of collision is no good for drivers or wildlife, and Congress has a chance to make a dedicated effort to keep animals off busy roadways—something that Western states say they’d prioritize if they had dedicated funding. Take action to ask lawmakers for a Highway Bill that sets aside funding for wildlife-friendly overpasses, underpasses, culverts, and other crossing structures that benefit wildlife and motorists.
House Passes Legislation to Fund Waterfowl Habitat Restoration
An overwhelmingly bipartisan vote advances the North American Wetlands Conservation Extension Act
The House has passed the North American Wetlands Conservation Extension Act (H.R. 925), which would reauthorize a highly successful habitat conservation program benefiting migratory birds and other wildlife at up to $60 million annually through 2024.
Since its inception in 1989, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act has granted more than $1.73 billion and leveraged $3.57 billion in matching funds from local and state partners to complete nearly 3,000 projects on 30 million acres of habitat across all 50 states.
“As many Americans head out to duck blinds or volunteer to band or survey birds this season, it’s great to see the House prioritize a collaborative and popular conservation program to benefit wetlands across the country,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “This move to invest in our waterfowl habitat is also timely because wetlands loss will likely accelerate under the EPA’s rollback of Clean Water Act protections for wetlands and headwater streams. We hope to see NAWCA move through the Senate soon so on-the-ground conservation can continue.”
Three Ways You Can Help Improve Fishing Opportunities Today
For many of us, winter is closing in and our days on the water are numbered—make the most of the off-season by taking action for fish and clean water
While I’m hiking to my favorite trout stream or trailering to the neighborhood boat ramp, I’m almost always focused on the day ahead—imagining the line pinched between my index finger and thumb, the breathless anticipation of watching a fish trail my rig, and the heart-stopping joy that takes over after a successful hook-set.
The future is full of possibilities on the morning of a fishing trip. It’s easy to lose sight of the challenges facing the broader future of fishing in America, and how much influence we have as anglers.
With some seasons winding down and winter closing in, take the energy you’d normally put into planning your next camping trip or day on the water and put it toward securing the future of our fishing opportunities.
Here are three things you can do to help America’s fisheries right now.
Tell Congress to Fund Fish Habitat Improvements
There are many threats facing many of our fish habitats, including polluted runoff, coastline degradation, invasive species, aging infrastructure that blocks fish passages, and water mismanagement in places like the Everglades. Often, habitat restoration is too big a job for any one agency—whether state or federal—to address. The National Fish Habitat Partnership was created to tackle these issues with a boots-on-the-ground approach.
One of the country’s most successful conservation programs, this partnership has almost 900 completed programs under its belt and is made up of 20 distinct groups that work across America to bring together state, federal, tribal, and private resources. This approach has enabled partners to boost existing fish populations, improve vast swaths of habitat, and restore rivers to their historic flows.
In Shelbyville, Illinois, for example, the Reservoir Fisheries Habitat Partnership has succeeded in activating a group of 100 volunteers and professional fisheries and reservoir managers to improve existing habitat, stabilize shorelines, and restore native aquatic vegetation.
Jeff Boxrucker, the partnership’s lead coordinator, praised the success of this project and its forward-thinking approach, but stressed the program’s need for additional funding. “We need to demonstrate the positive return on investment of restoration efforts to not only ensure continued funding but to show that we have moved the needle.” His group is not alone.
The National Fish Habitat Partnership program has no permanent funding, but a piece of legislation could change that. Known as the National Fish Habitat Conservation Through Partnerships Act, this bill would secure reliable funding for NFHP through 2023. Your comments could rally lawmakers to move this bill to a vote—show your support now.
Defend Headwater Streams and Wetlands
In September 2019, the Environmental Protection Agency finalized its plan to roll back clean water protections for 50 percent of America’s wetlands and 60 percent of our stream miles. This announcement was made despite the thousands of public comments made by sportsmen and women in opposition to the agencies rule and the 92 percent of hunters and anglers who would strengthen or maintain current safeguards for clean water—not relax them.
Clean, productive wetlands and headwater streams are important for everyone, but essential for hunters and anglers and the species we love to pursue. These ecosystems enhance water quality, control erosion, provide fish and wildlife habitat, and maintain ecosystem productivity—and all of this supports a robust outdoor recreation economy worth $887 billion.
Together we can make a difference and hold the EPA accountable for jeopardizing healthy habitat and strong fisheries. Join the TRCP’s fight for clean water today and support our efforts to keep the Clean Water Act working for wetlands and trout streams.
Support the Forage Fish that Keep Sportfishing Fun
Forage fish make up the base of the marine food chain and include species such as menhaden, herring, anchovies, and sardines. A critical food source for predator fish such as tuna and striped bass, these small fish are essential for a healthy ecosystem.
But commercial fishing pressures are sometimes at odds with the needs of our tiniest baitfish and the sportfish that rely on them for food. Fortunately, legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to promote more responsible management and conservation of critical forage fish. In the meantime, we need anglers to take action quickly to prevent further declines in one important Atlantic species.
Menhaden—also known as bunker or pogies—are the preferred forage of striped bass that are suffering on the East Coast, according to recent stock assessments. Menhaden also play a vitally important role as food for red drum, bluefish, tarpon, and summer flounder. But hundreds of metric tons of these fish are removed from the region’s waters every year to be turned into pet food, fish meal, and other products.
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission will soon implement an ecosystem-based management of menhaden, which will take into account the baitfish’s important role in the broader marine food web. They must also hold commercial fishing operations accountable for harvesting more menhaden than they should—this only robs struggling striped bass of their food source.
Sign our open letter and let the ASMFC know that you support healthy sportfish populations, strong marine ecosystems, and the menhaden fishery.
Senate Reintroduces Bill that Would Balance Renewable Energy with the Needs of Fish and Wildlife
This win-win legislation would provide funds to conservation projects, states, and counties
The Senate has reintroduced a bipartisan bill that would ensure smart-from-the-start development of renewable energy resources. The Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act would help build an efficient framework for development on public lands and direct royalty funds to fish and wildlife conservation projects in the communities hosting wind and solar development.
Royalties funneled into a newly established conservation fund could be used to restore fish and wildlife habitat affected by development and maintain access to hunting and fishing opportunities on public lands.
Representatives from three major sportsmen’s groups applauded this effort, noting that hunters and anglers are supportive of the development of renewable energy resources on public lands when it is done in the right places and in a manner that conserves fish and wildlife habitat.
“This bill would achieve a rare win-win scenario by thoughtfully balancing renewable energy development and habitat needs, while creating a consistent stream of revenue to fund essential fish and wildlife management projects,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We’re grateful for the support of Senate lawmakers who are prioritizing opportunities to enhance sportsmen’s access, clean water resources, and critical habitat for important game species through this common-sense approach.”
“Our energy future is reliant on the development of renewable energy–that’s not a political statement, it’s simple economics,” says Chris Wood, president and CEO of Trout Unlimited. “Solar and wind are now more cost-effective than ever before. But even renewable energy has an impact on public land and we must balance renewable development with the protection of fish and wildlife resources. This bill ensures smart development from the start, funding important conservation measures and giving back to the communities who shoulder these projects. TU has supported the concepts contained in this bill for nearly a decade, and we’re grateful to the House and the Senate continuing to pursue its passage.”
“Sportsmen and women are practical about the increasing demands of renewable energy development on our public lands, and we want to avoid impacts to wildlife habitat,” says John Gale, conservation director for Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. “PLREDA prioritizes development away from wildlife conflicts, proactively mitigates impacts from energy development and creates a royalty structure that will drive new revenue for impacted states and communities while also dedicating a separate conservation funding stream. We thank Sens. McSally and Heinrich for introducing this bipartisan legislation that promotes responsible energy development and safeguards critical fish and wildlife habitat for future generations.”
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.