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July 20, 2020

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July 17, 2020

TRCP Leads on Fisheries Management, Coastal Restoration, and Fishing Access at ICAST Online

Watch four conservation seminars from the virtual sportfishing trade show

Adapting quickly to the new digital format of this year’s trade shows, the TRCP was able to showcase its leadership on marine fisheries conservation issues and coastal restoration this week by bringing together expert voices, business leaders, and the media for the fifth consecutive year at ICAST.

One additional benefit of hosting these discussions online is that anyone can take part, which seems appropriate considering one of the major themes that emerged: Anglers can and do make a difference when they get involved in conservation.

This point was stressed by all five expert panelists in Thursday’s presentation, “Building a Better Model for Menhaden Management,” which focused on the recent successes for the important forage fish in Chesapeake Bay. Outspoken recreational fishermen were critical to clinching many of these wins, including holding Omega Protein accountable for willfully ignoring the harvest cap in the Bay and transferring menhaden management authority away from the political body of the legislature, said Matt Strickler, Virginia’s Secretary of Natural Resources.

The goal of the more scientifically guided Marine Resources Commission and its new menhaden advisory committee is to make management decisions more transparent, said Mike Leonard, vice president of government affairs for the American Sportfishing Association who was recently appointed to join the committee. They will have the authority to set the new cap in the Bay and reduce it to account for Omega’s overages in 2019. “I think you’ll see a much more open and robust dialogue on how the fishery should be regulated compared to the state legislature, where you’d just have to wait to see what they came out with. Recreational fishing and conservation groups can have a greater seat at the table,” said Leonard.

The panelists also seemed to agree that there’s little reason for the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission not to vote for a more holistic management model for menhaden at their upcoming meeting. Taking into account the value of these fish—not only to the marine food web, and striped bass in particular, but also to water quality in the Bay—makes sense, said David Sikorsky, executive director of CCA Maryland. And shifting to this model allows us to gather better data on whether there is a localized depletion of menhaden in the Bay, said Chris Moore, a scientist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Watch the full presentation below to see how panelists answered questions about a possible ban on purse seines, whether we can expect an increase in fish populations soon after this management shift, and how this model could be applied in the Gulf of Mexico and with other embattled forage fish, like shad and herring.

TRCP’s other panel takes us from an issue where sportsmen and women have helped achieve success to an urgent need for hunters and anglers to engage: As elected officials craft legislation to boost the economy and put Americans back to work, we have a unique opportunity to prioritize habitat restoration and natural infrastructure projects that create jobs.

An infusion of government funding would provide certainty to the businesses and workers who design and build projects, manufacture and sell equipment, plant native vegetation and trees, and contribute to Gulf Coast restoration in other ways, said Scott Kirkpatrick of the Coast Builders Coalition. A lot of this work has thankfully been able to continue during the pandemic, he added, with engineers able to work from home, some construction workers being deemed essential personnel, and outdoor job sites being safer than others.

TRCP’s Chief Policy Officer Steve Kline went on to outline the various legislative efforts already in motion to carve out funding for shovel-ready projects and jobs at every level of the economic spectrum, from heavy machinery operators to entry-level biologists. His list includes the Water Resources Development Act, a five-year Highway Bill, and the Great American Outdoors Act as well as yet-to-be-introduced economic recovery bills.

And Congressman Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) appeared via pre-recorded video to share his view that investing in habitat restoration and natural infrastructure has benefits for the economy but also for mitigating the impacts of climate change.

Watch the full presentation below for answers to audience questions about the prospect of maintaining Everglades restoration funding and addressing invasive species like Asian carp during this economic downturn.

These panel discussions were made possible with the support of TRCP’s sponsors: NOAA Fisheries, the American Sportfishing Association, Bass Pro Shops, Costa, Peak Design, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and Power Pole.

TRCP experts were also featured in two additional conservation seminars hosted by ICAST architects at the American Sportfishing Association.

On Monday, President and CEO Whit Fosburgh argued that the devil is in the details when it comes to executing the idea of protecting 30 percent of lands and waters by 2030, which has been proposed by the United Nations and some state and national decision-makers. “I like big, audacious conservation goals, but a slogan should not be driving policy,” he said, even if on its face “30 by 30” sounds great.

Watch the 22-minute video below to see Fosburgh caution against protecting certain waters without consulting the people who live and breathe conservation every day—sportsmen and women.

Also earlier this week, TRCP’s Chris Macaluso weighed in on the progress made since the 2018 passage of the Modern Fish Act. He addressed how close we might be to seeing federal fisheries managers change decades-old allocations in the video below.

 

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July 15, 2020

150+ Hunting and Fishing Companies Ask Congress to Pass the MAPLand Act

Retailers, outfitters, media companies, and gear manufacturers from across the country call on Congress to modernize public land mapping for outdoor recreation

Today, more than 150 hunting- and fishing-related businesses are asking lawmakers to support a bill that would direct federal agencies to standardize, digitize, and disseminate information regarding recreational access and allowable activities on millions of acres of federal public lands throughout the United States.

Representing a vital sector of the $778-billion outdoor recreation economy, business owners from across the country sent a letter that calls on congressional leadership to pass the Modernizing Access to Our Public Land (MAPLand) Act. From gear manufacturers and media companies to guides, outfitters, and retailers, the letter signers emphasized that their livelihoods depend on sportsmen and women having access to outdoor recreation opportunities on public lands.

Introduced into the House (H.R.6169) and Senate (S.3427) earlier this year with bipartisan support, the MAPLand Act would direct federal land management agencies to consolidate, digitize, and make publicly available all recreational access information in a format that can be used with computer mapping programs and GPS applications.

These records include information about:

  • legal easements and rights-of-way across private land;
  • year-round or seasonal closures of roads and trails, as well as restrictions on vehicle-type;
  • boundaries of areas where special rules or prohibitions apply to hunting and shooting;
  • and areas of public waters that are closed to watercraft or have horsepower restrictions.

Currently, many of the easement records that identify legal means of access into lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are stored at the local or regional level in paper files. This makes it difficult for hunters, anglers, and even the agencies themselves to identify public access opportunities.

For example, of the 37,000 existing easements held by the U.S. Forest Service, the agency estimates that only 5,000 have been converted into digital files.

In addition to improving the public’s ability to access public lands, the bill would help land management agencies—in cooperation with private landowners—prioritize projects that acquire new public land access or improve existing access, including through the use of funding from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.

According to a 2018 report by the TRCP and onX, a digital-mapping company, more than 9.52 million acres of federally managed public lands in the West lack permanent legal public access because they are surrounded entirely by private lands. Digitizing easement records is a critical step toward addressing this challenge systematically.

Businesses across the country are counting on lawmakers to move quickly on this common-sense opportunity to strengthen America’s outdoor recreation opportunities. “We’re fortunate in this country to have hundreds of millions of aces of lands where anyone can go out and explore, and these places are important to our customers,” said Thaddeus Kaczmarek, Consumer Experience Leader with Sitka Gear. “The MAPLand Act is a common-sense proposal that would make a big difference for outdoor enthusiasts as well as the businesses that serve them.”

“From the Everglades to the North Cascades, we want to see more anglers getting out and enjoying the world-class experiences that our public lands and waters have to offer,” said Amanda Sabin, Senior Brand Manager with Costa. “Anything that can be done to simplify the challenge of figuring out where to go, and what you can do when you get there, is going to make it easier for people to join our community—and that is a huge driver of economic growth.”

“Our consumers are some of the most relentless hunters and outdoorsmen in the nation, and they rely on access to public lands throughout the year,” said Bruce Pettet, President and Chief Executive Officer of Leupold & Stevens, Inc. “The MAPLand Act would allow them to discover new outdoor opportunities, and help to introduce the next generation to the sporting traditions we all hold dear.”

“Public lands provide hunters and anglers with unrivaled outdoor experiences, and we’re excited to support the MAPLand Act because it will allow more Americans to take full advantage of these opportunities,” said Angie Timm, General Manager and Founder of Seek Outside. “This is a bill that will make a real difference for sportsmen and women all across the country.”

“Archery season is less than two months away, and my customers are already out scouting on our public lands in search of elk and deer,” said Gabe Lucero, owner of Red Rock Archery in Grand Junction, Colorado. “Better information about access opportunities is critical for sportsmen and women to spend more quality days in the field.”

Read the letter from 158 hunting and fishing businesses here.

Learn more about the MAPLand Act here.

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July 10, 2020

The MAPLand Act Would Make a Fully Funded LWCF Even More Powerful

Legislation that requires federal agencies to digitize their public land access data would help us spend Land and Water Conservation Fund dollars more efficiently

Hunters and anglers are celebrating the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act in the House—and with good reason. Once it is signed by the president, the bill becomes law with major benefits for public land users and habitat.

In addition to providing $1.9 billion annually from 2021 to 2025 for much-needed public land maintenance projects, the Great American Outdoors Act will also secure $900 million annually for the most powerful tool we have to improve public lands habitat and access: the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

In a time of political tension and turmoil, it’s impressive that hunters and anglers are accomplishing so much to benefit our outdoor recreation opportunities. It shows that our issues resonate across party lines and with a broad spectrum of Americans. What would make the LWCF victory even sweeter, however, would be the subsequent passage of the bipartisan Modernizing Access to our Public Land, or MAPLand, Act later this year.

Here is why this legislation effectively super-charges the impacts of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

More Than the Minimum for Access

Utilizing receipts from offshore oil and gas development, the Land and Water Conservation Fund is designed to support conservation and outdoor recreation. In 2019, the fund was permanently reauthorized with the passage of S.47—the John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act. A provision was included in that legislation requiring that three percent of the total, or a minimum of $15 million, be used each year to establish or improve access to public lands.

With passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, the public access provision increases to $27 million annually.

This access money is being made available because members of Congress realize that many public lands are landlocked and completely inaccessible or difficult to access. You may recall that over the last three years the TRCP has teamed up with onX to study and address this very problem. So far, we’ve found that 15.86 million acres of state and federal lands are landlocked across 13 Western states.

Landlocked public lands can be found in other regions of the U.S., as well. (More on that from us very soon!)

Having resources available through LWCF will be critical in addressing access challenges across the nation in the coming decades. Right now, there are commendable access projects being completed by land trusts and the federal agencies each year, however, these access dollars could be used even more strategically if everyone had a precise understanding of where public access routes exist and where they do not.

This is where the MAPLand Act comes in.

Photo by Raka Rahmadani.
Welcome to the Digital Age

Over the past century, federal land management agencies—including the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management—have actively acquired access easements and established public roads and trails across private lands to unlock inaccessible public lands. These easements or “rights of way” constitute a permanent access right that is controlled by these federal agencies.

However, many of the agencies’ access easement records are still held on paper files at local offices and cannot be integrated into digital mapping systems that allow hunters and anglers to see where public access has been secured.

The U.S. Forest Service alone has an estimated 37,000 recorded easements, but only 5,000 have been digitized and uploaded into its electronic database.

If federal land management agencies are going to make the most of the $27 million in annual access dollars they will receive through a fully funded Land and Water Conservation Fund, they must digitize their access easements. Otherwise, they will not be able to efficiently see where they hold access across private lands or effectively prioritize future access acquisitions.

Truly Creating Access for All

Fortunately, the MAPLand Act would fix this challenge by providing resources and direction so that federal land management agencies can digitize their access easements within a three-year period and make that information available to the public.

When completed, everyone will easily be able to see where permanent public access has already been secured and where it has not, informing future land acquisition projects. This will also help the recreating public to understand where they have a legal right to use a road or trail and where they need to secure permission from a private landowner.

In addition, the MAPLand Act would require that rules related to recreational access on our public lands and waters is standardized and made available digitally. This would mean that smartphone applications and digital mapping systems, like onX Hunt, could reliably point to seasonal allowances and restrictions for vehicle use on public roads and trails, boundaries of areas where hunting or recreational shooting is regulated or closed, and portions of rivers and lakes on federal land that are closed to entry, closed to watercraft, or have horsepower limitations for watercraft.

Now that Congress has passed the Great American Outdoors Act and permanently committed to the maximum funding LWCF was meant to have, sportsmen and women need one more thing: Swift passage of the MAPLand Act to ensure that available access dollars can be used as effectively as possible to help you access your public lands.

Take action today to get your lawmakers on board.

 

Top photo by John Fowler via flickr.

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July 9, 2020

Preliminary Data Shows How Much Outdoor Recreation Economy Has Been Affected by COVID-19

As part of any economic recovery effort, Congress must invest in conservation that puts Americans back to work

On our social media channels, we’ve shared plenty of news stories that highlight the enthusiastic use of public lands and even an uptick in fishing participation during this pandemic. But, of course, it’s not all good news.

The Outdoor Recreation Roundtable recently released results from a national survey of its members, and the findings make a compelling case for why lawmakers need to invest in conservation to put Americans back to work.

According to respondents from 20 national outdoor recreation trade associations representing businesses with nearly 2 million employees, 89 percent of businesses are experiencing difficulty with production and distribution. A troubling 79 percent of these businesses have laid off or furloughed a portion of their workforce. And 89 percent of these businesses are experiencing a decrease in sales.

And the outdoor sector isn’t the only one feeling the pinch. The leisure and hospitality industry has been hammered the hardest, with a loss of 7 million jobs between March and May. More than 2 million engineers and temporary workers in construction and professional services were sent home since COVID hit.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is posting monthly updates on these numbers, and even with new gains in June, these statistics are deeply concerning as businesses struggle to stay afloat and families grapple with how to pay their bills. That’s why we are calling on Congress to pass economic recovery legislation that invests in shovel-ready conservation projects and modern-day conservation jobs that put our economy back on track AND improve habitat for fish and wildlife.

These jobs will help to paint a brighter economic picture than what we are seeing today. Imagine people in hardhats building highway crossings for wildlife, engineers and technical experts designing resilient and efficient water systems for the Colorado River and Mississippi River Basins, loggers helping to actively manage our forests, and heavy equipment operators preparing the ground for wetland restoration.

When Congress pivots to drafting economic recovery legislation, we want to put Americans back to work restoring our wetlands and forests, improving our coasts and waterways, and rebuilding the crumbling pieces of our outdoor recreation infrastructure.

As hunters and anglers, we need these investments in conservation so we can continue to enjoy our outdoor activities. As Americans, we need these investments because we need to put our nation back to work.

Help us show that sportsmen and women are ready to help Congress take the next step. Take action and tell lawmakers that Conservation Works for America.

 

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.

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