Much-celebrated funding began flowing to restoration projects in recent years, but has it made a difference? In this video, the co-founder and program director of Captains for Clean Water shares what progress has been made and how far we still have to go to rehab fish habitat in the Everglades
Hunters and Anglers Celebrate After Army Corps Denies Permit for Pebble Mine
The Army Corps of Engineers today officially denied a permit for the proposed Pebble Mine near Bristol Bay, Alaska, handing sportsmen and women a big win in the region.
The Army Corps said in a statement the mine’s plan “does not comply with Clean Water Act guidelines” and said the “project is contrary to the public interest.”
“We thank the Corps for doing the right thing: blocking a mine that would cause irreversible damage to the Bristol Bay watershed and one of the world’s greatest salmon fisheries,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Now we need to look for permanent solutions that protect this area and the outdoor recreation economy in perpetuity.”
TRCP and the American Sportfishing Association launched a TV ad on Fox News in August urging the president to oppose the Pebble Mine and protect the thousands of jobs that rely on this world-renowned salmon fishery. This follows up on more than two decades of work trying to stop the mine by a diverse coalition of conservationists, anglers, hunters, local businesses, and Alaska-Native tribes.
Four Lame Duck Deals That Hunters and Anglers Need
And why we’re pushing lawmakers to wrap up these conservation priorities by the end of the 116th Congress
The stakes always feel high when you get close to the end of the hunting season and you haven’t filled the freezer yet. But here at the TRCP, there’s no nail-biter quite like watching the congressional calendar run out, especially during a lame duck session.
Between the election and the end of the current congress, before some new members arrive on Capitol Hill—and some leave for good—we have just a handful of weeks to get conservation priorities over the finish line. This includes bills that have made it through almost every step of the legislative process, from introduction and sponsorship to negotiation, committee votes, and perhaps even floor action.
We’re hard at work pushing lawmakers to finalize legislation with major benefits for hunters and anglers, because we’ll be back at square one again on these priorities and others come January. Here’s what we need Congress to get done.
Strike a Spending Deal with Investments in Wildlife Health and Public Lands
The two chambers with the power of the pursestrings have until December 11 to hammer out a deal for appropriating fiscal year 2021 funding. Reminder: Ideally lawmakers pass spending bills one by one for each section of the government, but with the deadline looming, this is likely to be done in one big legislative package. That omnibus must direct the $900 million that the Great American Outdoors Act made available for habitat and public access through the Land and Water Conservation Fund—even though the current administration has failed to supply a list of priority projects.
We also want to see a spending deal contain the Senate’s proposed investments in state-side chronic wasting disease recovery. The Senate agriculture appropriations bill leaves out problematic language in the House version of the bill that would allow agencies to spend these funds on other diseases affecting mostly captive deer, watering down the possible impact for wild herds.
Finally, the TRCP would love to see language detrimental to sage grouse conservation efforts removed from this spending bill. It has become seemingly uncontroversial as previous bills have been passed carrying the provision, which prevents any funding in the bill from being spent to list the greater sage grouse as an endangered species. It’s time to lose this idea—not necessarily because sage grouse should be listed, but because it sets a precedent of legislating wildlife management instead of listening to the science.
OK Water Projects with Habitat Benefits
Congress needs to pass a Water Resources Development Act, a two-year bill that authorizes water conservation and enhancement projects, many with benefits for fish and wildlife. We believe the biggest benefits to habitat, and therefore sportsmen and women, would be facilitated by the House version of the bill, which has several provisions that could significantly help communities implement nature-based solutions for infrastructure challenges. Two great examples of this would be restoring wetlands to better filter floodwaters or reversing coastal erosion by diverting river sediment so it builds up land.
Pass the MAPLand Act to Improve Public Land Access
Including the Modernizing Access to our Public Land (MAPLand) Act in an end-of-year legislative package would help busy Americans discover new outdoor recreation opportunities and give everyone the confidence to enjoy the outdoors. The need for better information is what the MAPLand Act is designed to address, by providing funding and guidance to our land management agencies so they can digitize their paper maps and access information records.
If successful, MAPLand would ensure that you can easily find online, among other things, the 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 or limited to certain kinds of watercraft. The MAPLand Act would also require that our public land agencies digitize records of easements or rights-of-way across private lands, making it possible for the public to understand where public access has been formally secured.
Finally, the TRCP is supporting final passage of the COASTAL Act, which would amend legislation from 2006 to dedicate more offshore energy production revenue from the Gulf to support coastal restoration and resiliency. Specifically, we want to see the $500-million cap lifted for shared revenues and ensure that Gulf states receive 50 percent of these funds. This would make the offshore revenue sharing program consistent with the onshore revenue sharing program, and the additional funding would facilitate critical investments in resilient infrastructure projects and habitat improvements in vulnerable communities threatened by sea-level rise, coastal erosion, and flooding.
You can support our work at every level of the organization by making a donation to the TRCP. From now until December 31, your dollar goes further for conservation thanks to a generous match by our friends at SITKA Gear. There’s no better time to give!
CRP Provides New Administration an Opportunity to Invest in Conservation
Four ways the Biden Administration should boost Conservation Reserve Program enrollment
With just 21.9 million acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program—the lowest enrollment since 1987—hunting and fishing groups are calling on the incoming administration to restore the health of this popular Farm Bill program and its benefits to wildlife and landowners.
“There’s a chance to once again make the CRP a success story for pheasants, quail, big game, waterfowl, and pollinators, rather than a story of wasted potential for our lands, waters, and rural communities,” says Andrew Earl, director of private lands conservation at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Besides the habitat benefits, the economic support this program can provide to farmers, ranchers, and forest owners couldn’t be more critical right now, but program managers need to rethink recent changes to make CRP an attractive option.”
Since the 2018 Farm Bill raised the total CRP acreage cap from 24 million to 27 million acres, in part to accommodate growing landowner interest, the Farm Service Agency has changed how rental rates are calculated, reduced incentives, eliminated management cost-shares, and failed to roll out forest conservation practices. This has led landowners to look elsewhere when evaluating how best to manage their lands, leaving millions of potential CRP acres on the table.
“Congress sent a clear message in the 2018 Farm Bill that USDA should boost enrollment of CRP acres, but instead we saw the 13th straight year of declining CRP acreage,” says Duane Hovorka, agriculture program director at the Izaak Walton League of America. “The soil, water, and wildlife benefits of the program are too valuable to put at risk by shortchanging farmers on CRP payments.”
A coalition of hunting, fishing, landowner, and conservation organizations suggests that the Biden-Harris Administration could boost enrollment in the CRP by:
Immediately restoring soil productivity as an adjusting factor in rental-rate calculations
Increasing practicing incentives that were greatly reduced in recent years
Once again providing a cost-share for the mid-contract management of practices
Accelerating the delayed rollout of forest management incentives
These recommendations are supported by the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, Delta Waterfowl, Ducks Unlimited, Izaak Walton League of America, National Bobwhite Conservation Initiative, National Deer Association, National Wildlife Federation, North American Grouse Partnership, Pheasants Forever, Quail Forever, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, and Western Landowners Alliance.
“The Conservation Reserve Program is one of the largest private-lands conservation programs in the United States and a cornerstone to American agriculture and wildlife conservation,” says Sara Parker Pauley, director of the Missouri Department of Conservation and president of the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. “With CRP enrollment at its lowest point in decades, the Association urges the U.S. Department of Agriculture to boost incentives and increase enrollment in this crucial program.”
Over the last 35 years, the Conservation Reserve Program has proven to be among our nation’s most valuable tools in providing landowners the assistance necessary to conserve marginal or ecologically sensitive acreage on their lands. Beyond benefits to soil and water quality, the program has helped to keep vulnerable species off the endangered species list and support hunter spending in rural communities across the country.
“Despite an increase in Conservation Reserve Program acreage in the 2018 Farm Bill, enrollment has plummeted and is now 3.1 million acres under the enrollment cap — with millions more acres set to expire,” says Aviva Glaser, director of agriculture policy at the National Wildlife Federation. “The Conservation Reserve Program is essential for recovering wildlife species, improving water quality, strengthening soil health, and supporting farmers, ranchers, and foresters. We need bold action to drive enrollment up.”
Why PA Officials Should Not Drain Conservation Funds to Balance the Budget
At a time when Pennsylvanians are depending on the outdoors for socially distanced recreation and peace of mind, state officials are considering legislation that threatens these resources
Pennsylvania’s 1.5 million acres of state game land, 86,000 miles of rivers and streams, and almost 2.5 million acres of state parks and forests have a lot to offer hunters, anglers, and public land users of all kinds. These places are critical to our wellbeing right now, but the state legislators entrusted with managing them are considering slashing or even zeroing out conservation funds dedicated to our natural resources.
An Enviable Source of Conservation Funding at Risk
Beyond the public lands and waters that make Pennsylvania special, we also enjoy the benefit of a conservation funding model many states would love to have. Special funds are specifically dedicated to the preservation and conservation of our natural resources, don’t require taxpayer dollars, and provide exponential benefits to our local economies.
Two of these programs—the Keystone Recreation, Park and Conservation Fund and the Environmental Stewardship Fund, also known as Growing Greener—have supported conservation projects across the state for 20 years using a portion of the realty transfer tax and a landfill tipping fee. The improvements to water quality, fish and wildlife habitat, and public land facilities increase opportunities for hunters and anglers, which helps to drive outdoor recreation and tourism spending.
But these special funds are under threat as elected officials attempt to bridge Pennsylvania’s revenue gap, estimated at up to $5 billion. We understand that these are difficult decisions for lawmakers, but spending state conservation funds elsewhere would have a lasting negative impact for three reasons:
The outdoor recreation industry helps to drive Pennsylvania’s economy. An economic analysis by the TRCP has found that the state’s outdoor recreation economy is worth $26.9 billion. For scale, that means hunting, fishing, biking, camping, and other activities generate $2.2 billion more than the state’s construction industry. This includes almost $17 billion in salaries and wages paid to employees and more than $300 million in federal, state, and local tax revenue.
And that was before the pandemic. With more people getting outdoors this year, state fishing license sales have increased 20 percent, boat registrations are up 40 percent, and hunting license sales have increased 5 percent. During this difficult economic time, it’s important that we continue to support this growing sector of Pennsylvania’s economy. Conserving lands and waters and improving access to quality hunting and fishing opportunities helps to power this industry—but we can’t do that without dedicated investments.
The Keystone Fund and ESF support more than just the local outdoor businesses that depend on quality places to hunt and fish. They create jobs with the conservation projects themselves, often with local businesses that are contracted to perform the work.
State conservation funding is a force multiplier. State conservation funds are often matched with federal and private-sector dollars and then boosted by volunteer labor to benefit a diverse range of communities throughout the commonwealth. The Keystone Fund and ESF are often matched four to one with other resources to multiply their conservation impacts. If funding for the Keystone Fund and the ESF are reallocated for other uses, Pennsylvanians will lose out not just on critical state funding, but also on the federal and private match.
We can’t afford to fall further behind. The PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources estimates that our state parks and forests are operating with a $1-billion maintenance backlog. Additionally, the commonwealth faces a $324-million gap in funding needed to meet our 2025 EPA water quality goals as a part of the Chesapeake Bay Program. For decades, the Keystone Fund and ESF have helped to close these gaps, putting local companies to work in the process.
Don’t Allow Conservation Investments to Get Cut
Conservation projects don’t happen overnight. They take years of planning and collaboration with stakeholders across the community. Landowners, county conservation districts, watershed associations, local municipalities, sportsmen’s groups, and state agencies all work together to make these projects a reality. Money that is currently being held in the Keystone Fund and the ESF accounts have already been committed to on-the-ground conservation, and taking money from these programs now will mean wasting these efforts and taking away funds that local businesses were counting on.
Because of the election and upcoming holiday season, we have a very brief window to make our voices heard with state representatives and senators who have the power to keep the Keystone Fund and ESF working for fish and wildlife habitat.
Do NOT wait. Take action now and tell decision-makers not to reallocate funding from these critical programs for other uses.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
CONSERVATION WORKS FOR AMERICA
As our nation rebounds from the COVID pandemic, policymakers are considering significant investments in infrastructure. Hunters and anglers see this as an opportunity to create conservation jobs, restore habitat, and boost fish and wildlife populations.