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2019, by all accounts, was an outstanding year for conservation and TRCP’s efforts to guarantee all Americans quality places to hunt and fish
The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership today released its annual report showcasing organizational accomplishments from 2019 in an interactive digital graphic.
Highlighted achievements include working with partners to permanently reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund, passing legislation to support hunter recruitment, and securing investments in chronic wasting disease research and wildlife-friendly highway crossings. Overall, TRCP points to 2019 as being an amazing year for conservation and its organizational efforts.
“Hunting, fishing, and conservation have never been partisan issues,” says Rod Nelson, TRCP board chair, in an opening letter to supporters. “But today, a profound appreciation for the outdoors provides common ground for policymakers across the political spectrum to tackle some of our top priorities.”
“There are still many challenges, such as efforts to legitimize the overfishing of menhaden, roll back the Clean Water Act, or mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay and Minnesota’s Boundary Waters,” says Whit Fosburgh, TRCP’s president and CEO. “But our united front, and that of sportsmen and women across the country, is proving to be a formidable force for good.”
Top photo by USFWS.
New poll shows strong support for additional wildlife crossings and new conservation measures for seasonal habitats
As snowpack melts across the West and we begin to see the signs of spring, herds of elk, mule deer, and antelope are on the move. After a long winter, these animals need to seek out the best-available food sources and will travel long-established migratory routes to reach their summer ranges.
These seasonal patterns of movement are critical to the health of big game herds, but roads and development have fragmented these seasonal habitats and the routes animals need to use them. Highways in particular not only pose a barrier to migrating herds, as GPS collar data has shown; collisions between wildlife and vehicles pose a significant safety risk to drivers and passengers on our roads.
But sportsmen and women should be encouraged by a new report out of Oregon, which demonstrated overwhelming support for two critical issues facing the West’s big game animals: migration corridor conservation and highway crossings for wildlife.
According to the poll, conducted by the research firm GBAO Strategies for The Pew Charitable Trusts, registered voters in Oregon were overwhelmingly in favor of migration corridor conservation and stronger funding for the wildlife bridges and underpasses that allow big game animals to cross busy roadways.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the numbers highlighted in the report:
The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) estimates that there are more than 7,000 wildlife-vehicle collisions in the state. Including medical bills, emergency responder resources, and losses in productivity, the agency suggests these accidents cost more than $44 million in 2018.
These findings are in keeping with a previous Pew poll in Nevada that showed a similarly overwhelming level of support for migration route conservation and wildlife crossings.
In 2019, the Oregon Legislature also showed support for wildlife crossings when Governor Brown signed into law the Wildlife Corridor and Safe Road Crossing Act. The bill directs the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) to work together to develop an action plan that will provide guidance to state agencies to designate and protect known migration corridors. Additionally, the action plan will include a list of priority hot spots on roadways where ODOT will adopt a program to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions. Sportsmen and women were strong advocates for this legislation and continue to work with the state agencies on writing this plan.
It’s encouraging to know that the vast majority of Oregonians and other Westerners agree that funding these projects is a commonsense investment in the safety of our roadways. The TRCP will continue to work with partners, state agencies, and the federal delegation to ensure that Oregon is successful in installing more crossings across the state for the benefit of wildlife and hunters alike.
Photo: Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife via Flickr
Queen Bess Island lies just a short boat ride from Grand Isle, Louisiana’s only inhabited barrier island and one of the Gulf of Mexico’s top recreational fishing destinations. Locals call it “Bird Island” because it’s home to the largest nesting colony of brown pelicans in the state as well as thousands of gulls, herons, and other coastal birds. It’s also a great place to catch speckled trout, sheepshead, redfish, and other popular recreational targets.
A decade ago, Queen Bess Island was one of the first places oiled by the Deepwater Horizon spill, fouling nesting areas and coating birds in thick, tarry crude. In the decade since, most of the island sank into Barataria Bay and was battered by storms, further reducing nesting areas and fishery production. However, an investment of $19 million in oil spill penalties has brought the island back using sand dredged from the Mississippi River and rock breakwaters to protect it from erosion, allowing pelicans to thrive and the fishermen to find speckled trout along its shore for decades to come.
Why post-COVID economic recovery efforts should include investments in our public lands, fish and wildlife habitat, and outdoor recreation infrastructure
While the coronavirus pandemic has significantly affected the health of Americans and stressed entire segments of the economy, the efforts of our lawmakers to negotiate and pass multiple emergency supplemental funding bills deserves recognition. These steps have improved COVID-19 response and helped to protect America’s small businesses and workers.
This effort has focused on providing support for those who are struggling—and rightly so. The legislation even incentivizes those with the means to contribute to first-response efforts, care groups, and nonprofits like the TRCP.
But when the time comes to turn our attention to economic recovery and putting Americans back to work, we believe that Congress should make key investments in conservation. Here is what we’d prioritize and why.
Think: Improvements to access roads, boat ramps, campgrounds, visitor facilities, and other deferred maintenance projects that have been sorely underfunded on our public lands.
The benefits of investing in this recreation infrastructure are clear and compelling. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, outdoor recreation’s annual economic impact is $778 billion each year. While 40 million Americans hunt and fish each year, it is likely that millions more have enjoyed the benefits of the outdoors over the past several weeks and will continue to do so in the months ahead. It has become evident that American wellbeing is inextricably linked to our commitment to conserving and improving our great outdoors. Investing in the restoration of our nation’s natural resources helps get people back to work.
These investments attract new businesses, recruit and retain employees, and improve quality of life by supporting rural economies, connecting urban populations with our natural treasures, and helping people build healthy lives. In the bargain, we get cleaner air and water, improved fish and wildlife habitat, and better experiences afield.
Congressional leaders should keep this in mind.
Given that the current highway bill expires in September 2020, the conservation community sees this as an opportunity to improve federal road systems, greenways, campgrounds, trails, marinas, and bike paths that connect our communities, improve safety, enhance quality of life, and drive forward recreation economies for rural and urban areas alike. The TRCP is especially supportive of language in the existing Senate bill that funds wildlife-friendly highway crossings at $250 million over five years.
Along with this influx of cash, however, it is critical that design and construction of our roads, highways, bridges, ports, and airports is better integrated into our communities and natural systems—beginning from the project inception phase. As the country recovers and gets back to work, we’ll need to look for every opportunity to reduce costs, address costly safety concerns, expedite project timelines, reduce environmental impacts, and respond to societal needs. Congress has a chance to lead on improved implementation of nature-based and natural infrastructure solutions—including fish and wildlife crossings and connectivity, stormwater reduction, and wetlands restoration—that are smart from the start.
Congress also needs to address the biennial authorization of the Water Resources Development Act, which traditionally garners widespread bipartisan support. Conservationists strongly encourage lawmakers to specifically include robust funding for studies and restoration projects in the Mississippi River watershed and programs that build drought resiliency, increase water efficiency, and infuse critical resources for our nation’s Western water delivery systems and agricultural sector.
Across the federal government, there are a suite of habitat restoration programs designed to benefit fish and wildlife and enhance the resiliency of our natural systems, including the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, the National Fish Habitat Partnership, and the Forest Service Legacy Roads and Trails Program. These on-the-ground restoration programs infuse important resources into local communities, generate construction jobs, leverage state, local, and private sector resources at ratios of 3:1 or greater, and provide countless environmental benefits for our local communities.
There are also high-priority projects across the country to reverse wildfire damage, remove invasive species, restore habitat and water quality, and empower outdoor recreation users to get involved in conservation and wildlife research.
These efforts could productively and rapidly utilize an influx of funding to achieve meaningful on-the-ground conservation work, and we strongly encourage funding for these programs to be included in the stimulus. But legislative language should ensure that funding for projects should be contingent on the completion of an appropriate level of environmental review, with a strong preference for projects that have already been subject to environmental analysis.
It’s important to note that lawmakers have taken these steps before. In what became a successful effort to get the economy moving again after the financial crisis of 2008, Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Among a host of other provisions, ARRA wisely included substantial investments in public lands, fish and wildlife habitat restoration, and water quality, sending critical funding to projects that had the dual benefit of getting people back to work and providing a multitude of clear public benefits.
Certainly, COVID-19 is the most serious threat our nation and our world has faced in many years, and Congress must continue to combat the virus and its impact on our healthcare system and vulnerable populations. But in the midst of this crisis, addressing our natural resources and outdoor recreation infrastructure is also of particular relevance, as so many Americans seek renewal and reconnection on public lands and waters. The current economic situation seems well-suited for committing to America’s outdoor resources and the jobs they can create.
This post was updated on July 22, 2020, when the House passed the Great American Outdoors Act, securing a top priority for creating shovel-ready jobs that we listed here previously.
Top photo of a fish-friendly culvert project by Washington State Department of Transportation via flickr.
In the last two years, policymakers have committed to significant investments in conservation, infrastructure, and reversing climate change. Hunters and anglers continue to be vocal about the opportunity to create conservation jobs, restore habitat, and boost fish and wildlife populations. Support solutions now.Learn More