Marnee Banks

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posted in: Highlights

January 29, 2020

Fishing & Boating Groups Back Virginia Legislation to Improve Menhaden Management

Eight major recreational fishing and boating groups are asking the Virginia General Assembly to advance legislation that transfers management authority of Atlantic menhaden, a key food source for striped bass and other recreational fish, to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission.

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, American Sportfishing Association, BoatU.S., Center for Sportfishing Policy, Coastal Conservation Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Marine Retailers Association of the Americas, and National Marine Manufacturers Association are banding together in support of House Bill 1448 and Senate Bill 791, which shifts management authority to the Commission. Currently menhaden are the only finfish in Virginia not under the Commission’s purview.

The legislation would bring Virginia back into compliance with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) after the Commonwealth was found in violation of ASMFC’s fishery management plan for failing to enforce the Chesapeake Bay harvest cap.  This finding was the result of industrial fishing giant Omega Protein exceeding the cap by approximately 30 percent last year.  The groups are raising concerns because when the menhaden population declines, it impacts striped bass, cobia, bluefish, and summer flounder.

“These valuable recreational fisheries are major contributors to America’s economy and support many fishing-dependent businesses within Virginia and across our industry,” the groups wrote.  “In Virginia alone, the annual value of striped bass has declined from $240 million to $120 million in the past decade while associated jobs have declined from 3,950 to 1,830 in the same time period.”

The groups called on the General Assembly to pass the legislation, saying it’s important because it gives full time fisheries managers the authority to manage menhaden.

“Your support will demonstrate clear leadership to the thousands of Bay anglers and the hundreds of businesses they support and bring the Commonwealth of Virginia back into compliance,” the groups added.

Over 50 local businesses, including charter boat operators have also thrown their support behind the legislation.

The coalition’s letter of support can be found HERE.

7 Responses to “Fishing & Boating Groups Back Virginia Legislation to Improve Menhaden Management”

  1. BOB MAGUIRE

    Having spent much time on (in) the Delmarva area AND having grown up on the South Shore of Long Island, I have been fishing the Atlantic and its many bays for a good portion of my life. If Omega Protein continues to overfish the Menhaden population, many species of fish that are dependent on this resource for food will have their numbers even further reduced. Since Omega is based out of Virginia, THAT State should be in charge of monitoring the Mossbunker harvest in order to make sure that the population can sustain itself over the long term. Proper (sustainable) regulation of this vital food source will have a positive impact not only on the Delmarva area but also New Jersey, New York, and virtually the entire Northeast sport (and commercial!) fishing industries.
    Respectfully submitted, Bob

  2. Pierrepont

    Time to take fight to the gulf. TRCP can use this fight to build brand recognition and help rebuild CCA as an important ally to rebuild fisheries for our entire community. Pick up the fight!

  3. John Peters

    I fish L.I. Sound and for about the past four years we have seen pods of bunker, but no stripers or blues under them. My feelings which is shared by many other fishermen is that the stripers and blues are being over harvested, both commercially and by sport fishermen as well as an influx of people who have no regard for our fishing regulations. The protection of forage species cannot be over emphasized .

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Randall Williams

January 28, 2020

TRCP Welcomes Five New Board Members

Experts in conservation, finance, and government relations join leadership team

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is onboarding five new Board Members in 2020 to help guarantee all Americans quality places to hunt and fish.

Jo Ann Barefoot, Glenn Hughes, Becky Humphries, Marti Powers and Nick Wiley round out TRCP’s 26-member leadership team.

“We are honored to have these remarkable individuals give of their time, expertise, and resources in order to advance the vision of Theodore Roosevelt,” said Rod Nelson, Board Chair. “With these additions to the Board, and our talented staff, TRCP is well-positioned to grow and advance conservation policy across the nation.”

Jo Ann Barefoot is the founder and CEO of the Alliance for Innovative Regulation, a nonprofit focused on modernizing the financial regulatory systems. Barefoot is an avid fly fisher, author, podcast host, entrepreneur, and angel investor. She was the first female Deputy Comptroller of the Currency.

Glenn Hughes is the president of the American Sportfishing Association, the world’s largest sportfishing trade association. Hughes is the former vice president/group publisher of Bonnier Marine Group, where he led numerous fishing and boating brands. Glenn also serves on the boards of the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, the Center for Sportfishing Policy, the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, and is a member of the Sport Fishing and Boating Partnership Council.

Becky Humphries is the CEO of the National Wild Turkey Federation, former director of conservation programs at Ducks Unlimited, and former director of Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Using her education in wildlife management, Humphries led the National Fish and Wildlife Health Initiative. She lives in Michigan and South Carolina and is a professional member of the Boone and Crockett Club.

Marti Powers is the external relations country manager at Shell Oil Company and also serves as the external relations general manager for Shell’s Upstream Unconventionals business. Powers has almost 30 years of public, government relations, and communications experience with a background in media, crisis and issues management. She previously worked for BP and Exxon Mobil.

Nick Wiley is the chief operating officer at Ducks Unlimited, where he provides leadership in support of DU’s continental wetlands and waterfowl conservation mission. Wiley previously served as the Executive Director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. He is a certified wildlife biologist and a past president for the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

A full roster of TRCP’s Board is available HERE.

Marnee Banks

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posted in: Highlights

January 23, 2020

Conservation Groups Call on U.S. House to Pass ACE Act

The bipartisan legislation will address growing challenges to species and habitat health

More than 50 conservation groups are banding together and calling on the U.S. House of Representatives to pass bipartisan legislation that invests in wetlands, fisheries, chronic wasting disease research, and the Chesapeake Bay.

In early January, the Senate passed the America’s Conservation Enhancement Act or ACE Act (H.R. 925), and now a coalition of hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation groups are asking the House to follow suit.

“Passage of the America’s Conservation Enhancement Act will not only have wide-ranging ecological benefits but will facilitate outdoor recreation on behalf of millions of Americans, strengthening conservation funding streams for years to come,” said the groups.

The coalition is asking the House to take up the legislation as passed by the Senate and make no changes.

The ACE Act:

  • Reauthorizes the North American Wetlands Conservation Act at $60M annually through Fiscal Year 2025. The Act has improved over 30 million acres of wetlands, making it one of the nation’s most effective voluntary conservation programs.
  • Establishes a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service-led task force to address the spread of chronic wasting disease.
  • Codifies the National Fish Habitat Partnership. Since 2006, the Partnership has overseen over 840 projects to benefit fish habitat and populations.
  • Reauthorizes the Chesapeake Bay Program at $90M through Fiscal Year 2025.

The coalition’s letter to the House is available HERE.

Marnee Banks

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Sportsmen and Women: Rolling Back Clean Water Act Will Harm Habitat

EPA undermines protections for wetlands and streams

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency today announced a final decision to redefine which waters are eligible for Clean Water Act protections, leaving important habitat for fish and waterfowl vulnerable to pollution and significant harm.

Speaking at the National Association of Home Builders conference, Administrator Andrew Wheeler said he would be rolling back the 2015 Clean Water rule.

“This announcement flies in the face of all the hunters and fishermen who have contacted the EPA saying they oppose this decision,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “These rollbacks undermine the intent of the Clean Water Act, which has a proven track record of protecting America’s waters and supporting healthy habitat.”

The new rule will leave roughly half of the nation’s wetlands and almost one out of five of its stream miles without federal protection from pollution. In drier western states, as many of 90 percent of stream miles will not be protected from being polluted.

Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972, creating a federal regulatory floor for pollution control across the country, as well as a partnership with states to address the many threats to our nation’s waters. This was important because states had not had the financial or political resources necessary to ensure clean water. Now the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers are asserting that for all of the streams and wetlands they will no longer protect, states could step in, if they want, even as the agencies acknowledge that many states won’t have the resources to do so.

In a national poll, 93 percent of hunters and anglers say they believe the Clean Water Act has benefited the country. Additionally, 80 percent of sportsmen and women said Clean Water Act protections should apply to headwater streams and wetlands. Additionally, 92 percent believe that we should strengthen or maintain current clean water standards, not relax them.

Andrew Wilkins

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posted in: Highlights

January 17, 2020

Breaking Down the Budget

Here’s how Congress will fund conservation in 2020

Every year, Congress must decide how federal funds will be divided among virtually every agency and program, from defense to medical research, federal highways, and conservation. This process of appropriations reflects which issues are most important—or have the broadest appeal—in our country. 

At the end of 2019, the passage of H.R. 1865 showed that conservation remains a bipartisan priority for lawmakers.  With generally strong numbers across the board, this spending bill for Fiscal Year 2020 reinvests our tax dollars into programs, research, and federal agencies that are essential to hunters’ and anglers’ enjoyment of America’s natural resources.  

You’re probably not going to want to read H.R. 1865, which weighs in at over 1,700 pages, but here are a few highlights that sportsmen and women should celebrate. 

Empowering State Wildlife Agencies to Invest in the Future of Hunting

H.R. 1865 included more than just monetary investments in conservation – The appropriations package also included the Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act, which  gives state wildlife agencies the ability to use tax dollars they receive through firearm, ammunition, and archery equipment sales to recruit, retain, and reactivate hunters. This flexibility is critical to preserve and grow hunting in the United States and, in turn, to uphold and strengthen the North American Model of Conservation. TRCP and our partners have long advocated for this change, and its permanent passage is a landmark conservation achievement for this Congress. 

Support for Clean Water and Place-Based Conservation

Congress also made substantial investments in water quality and the recovery of aquatic ecosystems. WaterSMART, which stands for Sustain and Manage America’s Resources for Tomorrow, is a critical initiative by the Bureau of Reclamation to ensure that Western states have access to safe, reliable, and well-managed water supplies. At the insistence of TRCP and our partners, Congress boosted funding for WaterSmart to $55 million – a $20 million increase – which will support projects that conserve water, increase efficiency, prevent further decline and accelerate the recovery of species, and address climate-related impacts of the water supply essential to maintaining healthy communities and ecosystems. Additionally, in response to the increased threat of water shortages, Western watersheds received further relief by way of $20 million allocated specifically for drought response. 

EPA Geographic Programs, which are used to protect and restore some of America’s most iconic waterways and ecosystems, also saw an increase in funding bringing them to a total of $85 million, including a $12 million increase for the Chesapeake Bay Program. Funding for this program comes at a crucial time: last year the health of the Bay continued its slow decline, alarming ecologists, sportsmen and women, and communities whose economy relies upon the health of the waterway. 

Strengthening Public Lands Funding

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), one of the most celebrated federal conservation programs, received a substantial plus-up in funding through H.R. 1865 to a sum of $495 million. While this certainly counts as a big win for FY20, looking ahead the larger aim should be to remove LWCF from the back-and-forth of the appropriations process entirely. Now that Congress has authorized the program permanently, it needs mandatory funding to ensure its continued status as one of the United States’ signature conservation measures. 

In addition to LWCF, the National Wildlife Refuge System was funded at $502 million, just $1 million shy of its high-water mark set in FY10. Among other benefits, the bump in support includes additional resources for the upkeep of refuge facilities and equipment, invasive species control, and increased law enforcement efforts across the refuge system. 

CWD Funding: A Step in the Right Direction 

In the 116th Congress, sportsmen and women have turned up the pressure on lawmakers around another critical issue: addressing the spread of chronic wasting disease in wild deer, elk, and moose populations. But while hunters successfully pushed Congress to reinstate funding to support CWD research and testing after a multi-year lapse, the amount appropriated, just $5 million, falls far short of what is needed to effectively monitor and combat this disease across the 26 states where it has been detected.  

Despite this missed opportunity for a more robust response to CWD, the FY20 appropriations bill did include new funds for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to monitor the spread of the disease and study the effectiveness of testing methods. Appropriators also allocated funds for a study on the transmission of CWD and testing methods for the disease that will be conducted by the National Academies of Science in partnership with the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the U.S. Geological Survey.  

The Cycle Continues: FY21

While Congress made many strong investments in conservation in the FY20 bill there is, as always, room to grow going forward.  

Though appropriators funded the National Wildlife Refuge System at a near-historically high level, the conservation community encourages Congress to make an even more robust investment in the system in the FY21 budget. Without a larger investment, federal wildlife officers will remain spread thin, certain facilities and roadways will remain in a state of disrepair or closure, and Americans will have reduced access to and enjoyment of the refuge system. TRCP, as a member of the Cooperative Alliance for Refuge Enhancement (CARE), requested $586 million to fully support these initiatives, meaning there’s room for this funding line to be improved upon in the next appropriations bill. 

In addition to improving baseline funding levels to combat CWD in the next appropriations bill, Congress should pass the Chronic Wasting Disease Management Act, introduced in the House by Congressman Ron Kind (D-Wis.) and Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), and in the Senate by Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.). This bill would establish a comprehensive, multi-state and tribal grant program to provide funding to agencies and communities on the frontline of this wildlife health crisis by allocating $35 million annually to state and tribal fish and wildlife agencies, along with an additional $10 million to support research grants to study and develop improved management practices to help curb the disease. 

Lastly, it remains imperative that Congress continues to at least maintain funding levels for conservation programs across the board. Responsibly managing and safeguarding our land, water, and wildlife is an ongoing project – not just a one-off purchase or investment – and future generations are relying upon us to make it a priority.  

TRCP and our partners are already working with lawmakers to set the stage for another strong budget in the next fiscal year.  

Join us now to be a part of this important work. 

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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