Marnee Banks

February 5, 2020

U.S. House Passes Bill to Continue Historic Chesapeake Bay Restoration

Support for this legislation is a critical step forward for hunters and anglers in America’s largest estuary

The U.S. House of Representatives today passed legislation that preserves the economic and recreational value of the Chesapeake Bay.

The bipartisan Chesapeake Bay Program Reauthorization Act (H.R. 1620) fully funds the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program by authorizing $455 million over the next five years. This program hasn’t been formally authorized since 2005, so this legislation will provide much-needed certainty to state, federal, and nonprofit partners working to restore the water quality of the Bay and its tributaries.

“The Chesapeake Bay is the iconic home to incredible fisheries, migrating waterfowl, and powerful economic opportunity, and some of the best hunting and fishing around,” said Steve Kline, chief policy officer of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Sportsmen and women want to thank Congresswoman Elaine Luria and the cosponsors of this legislation for their work ensuring that Bay watershed states can keep working together to brighten the future of the Chesapeake.”

The Chesapeake Bay Program Reauthorization Act is also part of the America’s Conservation Enhancement Act (ACE Act) which was passed by the Senate unanimously in January.  In addition to the Bay provisions, the ACE Act includes a host of fish and wildlife conservation priorities and House floor passage of the ACE Act represents the clearest way for these key legislative efforts to get to the President’s desk. We urge the House to pass the ACE Act, which also:

  • Reauthorizes the North American Wetlands Conservation Act at $60 million 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.

6 Responses to “U.S. House Passes Bill to Continue Historic Chesapeake Bay Restoration”

  1. Wayne C Turner

    I have fished, crabbed, clammed, waterfowl hunted and deer hunted waters and shores of the Chesapeake Bay for over 70 years (I am almost 78). In that time I have seen the Bay deteriorate dramatically but recently I have seen progress. Sea grass is trying to come back, Striper populations have risen but now are faltering again due, I believe, to excessive Menhaden harvests. Come folks, we can do this and we have proven that our efforts are rewarded. Agricultural run off from poultry and crop farming remain a large problem. My kids and grand-kids demand that we continue to work. The end product would be worth it.

  2. Gloria Picchetti

    I have not interest in hunting or fishing but I do get this newsletter because some hunters and fishers have interests in common with me. So I assumed when I signed up for the email it was about areas of our country more western and northern. So now it turns out we have a victory at the Chesapeake Bay. I have signed petitions for years to preserve this area. I am delighted we can work together to keep our environment lovely. I hope i wasn’t foolish in the trust I made.

  3. Hugh Carola

    ATTENTION TRCP MEMBERS IN KENTUCKY: Call, write and e-mail Senator McConnell and urge him – in no uncertain terms – to post ALL House-passed conservation bills for votes. They will go NOWHERE unless the Senate debates & VOTES – and McConnell holds the keys. I also urge all members who identify as Republicans to do the same – and contact your own Senators as well, especially if they’re GOP. Things like lean water, productive habitats, public access are among the most nonpartisan issues there are. If ANYTHING can get Red & Blue working together for AMERICA, those are the ones. We must stop the WOTUS change, stripping of Nat’l Monument protections, Pebble Mine, ANWR drilling and the like. Time’s a-wastin’!

  4. Living in Fort Howard, Maryland where Back River, the Patapsco River, and Chesapeake Bay all come together need special attention from years of Sparrows Point industrial pollution and now with the new developers Trade Point Atlantic. Chesapeake Bay storm water runoff variances are being issued from Baltimore County Environmental Protection and Sustainability in lieu cash payments. And Maryland Department of Natural Resources Fish Advisories, from the legacy pollution (PCBs), are still in effect. $455 million after 15 years of no funding is a start, but we here on the Bay need far more federal resources. Thanks for the post TRCP!!

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Guest Blogger Jon Andrew

January 31, 2020

Sea Grass is the Key

An effort by the Angler Action Foundation and the state of Florida to restore essential fish habitat in southwest Florida will pay dividends for the health of its coast and the Everglades

Every coastal angler worth his or her salt is familiar with the importance of sea grass beds. Sea grass meadows are great places to target species like speckled sea trout from spring through fall. Up to 70% of the species desired by anglers, including tarpon, grouper, redfish, and many more, spend some part of their life cycle in this habitat.

It is estimated that healthy sea grass beds contribute more than $20 billion a year to the Florida economy by providing habitat for commercial and sport fisheries, reducing erosion and impacts of storm events, while also sequestering carbon at a rate of 1,200 lbs/year. By any measure, healthy sea grass meadows play an critical ecological and economic role in Florida and around the world. No surprise then, that the significant loss of sea grass beds in coastal Florida has been a serious concern for many.

The Caloosahatchee Estuary on Florida’s southwest coast has suffered from poor water quality.  In addition, increased salinity levels followed by rapid fluctuations in salinity over sustained periods resulted in the loss of up to 1,200 acres of sea grass beds.  Major losses occurred some 15 years ago from which the sea grass has been unable to recover on its own.

An ambitious project began in 2018 under the direction of the Angler Action Foundation. AAF’s mission is to improve angler access, fisheries science, and marine habitat through collaborative research, education, and conservation programs. Funding for the first phase of the work was provided by Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection, and the leadership of State Senator Kathleen Passidomo and State Representative Heather Fitzenhagen were key to seeing the project receive the necessary support.

Restoration specialists at Sea and Shoreline based in Ruskin, Florida, have led the effort and a third-party ecological assessment of the project is being managed by Johnson Engineering in Fort Meyers and Florida Gulf Coast University.

In late 2018, approximately 20 acres of tape grass and widgeon grass were planted in areas that had been decimated by excessive freshwater releases from Lake Okeechobee. Widgeon grass was selected for its ability to pioneer new habitat and tolerate a wide range of salinity.  Tape grass, also known as eelgrass or wild celery, is more tolerant of freshwater than other grasses. Planting these two species will provide some insurance that sea grass beds will establish themselves and remain intact under widely varying salinity levels.

Sea grass plantings were protected by wire-mesh exclosures to protect them form turtles and manatees, thus allowing the plants to take root. Initial surveys indicate very high survival rate, with up to 95% of the plantings thriving and producing seeds and rhizomes that will disperse and hopefully establish themselves in adjacent areas, resulting in a self sustaining sea grass meadow.

Future plans are to expand the footprint of the planted areas and continue to monitor the project’s progress. It is hoped the same methods can be used in other parts of Florida such as the Indian River Lagoon, which has also suffered devastating losses of sea grass habitat.

All in all, the Caloosahatchee planting project promises to reverse one of the more serious threats to Florida’s coastal health and is a key part of restoring the Everglades. Anglers should be encouraged that returning sea grass meadows will ensure that sea trout, tarpon, and redfish populations remain strong for future generations of sportsmen and women.

 

All photos courtesy of Sea and Shoreline

Marnee Banks

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.

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.

Marnee Banks

January 17, 2020

Sportsmen for the Rubies Supports Bill to Curb Speculative Oil and Gas Leasing

Nevada sportsmen today voiced support for legislation that ensures responsible energy development on public land.

The End Speculative Oil and Gas Leasing Act of 2020 S.3202) introduced by Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), would require the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to not lease lands that have little or no potential for the development of oil and gas reserves. The legislation would apply to all federal lands across the West, specifically to lands that are considered low or no potential for oil and gas development.

Sen. Cortez Masto is also sponsoring a separate bill, the Ruby Mountain Protection Act (S.258), which would prevent speculative leasing in one of Nevada’s most revered hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation areas.

“In 2019 over a million acres of land in Nevada were offered for lease, yet less than seven percent of that acreage even received a bid,” said Carl Erquiaga, the Nevada Field Representative for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Agencies are currently spending taxpayer dollars offering low potential parcels for sale that nobody wants to buy, and these precious resources could be better spent managing the lands and resources that we all own. We want to thank the Senator for her work on this important legislation.”

90 percent of lands managed by BLM are available for oil and gas leasing, even in places with no or little potential for development.

Sen. Cortez Masto’s bill doesn’t change the BLMs mission or mandate, but it would require that the agency have current and up to date plans for oil and gas development before allowing leasing. Importantly, the bill would not impact the availability of medium and high potential lands for leasing or affect existing oil and gas operations.

“This is a common-sense bill,” said Pam Harrington, a field staffer for Trout Unlimited based in Crescent Valley, NV. “Requiring upfront planning before making leasing decisions that will impact generations of Nevadans is the right thing to do and we appreciate Sen Cortez Masto working on this issue.”

Sportsmen for the Rubies is made up of 14 Nevada hunting and fishing groups who are focused on safeguarding the Ruby Mountains from inappropriate oil and gas development.

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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