House Passes Water Legislation with Far Reaching Habitat Benefits
The two-year bill will help agencies and communities use more natural solutions to infrastructure challenges like erosion and flooding
The U.S. House of Representatives has passed its Water Resources Development Act—a two-year bill that authorizes water conservation and enhancement projects—with provisions to help address dangerous algal blooms, combat invasive species, fund Everglades restoration, and smooth the way for more natural infrastructure projects across the country.
“Beyond authorizing important conservation initiatives and renewing investments made in recent years, this water resources package helps us prepare for a future where the answers to some of our biggest challenges—like sea-level rise, coastal land loss, and extreme weather fueled by climate change—also pull double duty to improve fish and wildlife habitat,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “House lawmakers have proven that they not only value fish and wildlife resources, but they also see the clear economic advantages of investing in nature-based solutions that provide multiple benefits.”
Unlike traditional “gray” infrastructure, natural or nature-based infrastructure solutions mitigate threats—including floods, erosion, sea-level rise, and land loss—but also benefit fish and wildlife. For example, wetland restoration projects reduce the risk of dangerous flooding in our communities but also boost waterfowl habitat, improve water quality for fish, and provide sportsmen and women with places to hunt and fish.
The Act also includes essential authorities, approvals, and clarifications necessary to continue the restoration of habitat and water quality in the Everglades through the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and other restoration programs. Continued progress in these efforts will be essential to restoring clean, healthy water flows into the Everglades, which would revitalize fish and wildlife resources and the outdoor recreation economy in one of the world’s top fishing and hunting destinations.
Sportsmen and Women Call for a Robust Conservation Reserve Program
Hunters and anglers thank Chairman Peterson for supporting private lands conservation
Hunters and anglers are reiterating their support for increasing the number of acres enrolled in a national conservation program.
This call to action comes on the heels of the effort by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) to increase the Conservation Reserve Program acreage to 50 million acres.
“On behalf of the millions of sportsmen and women who depend on the conservation reserve program to hunt and fish, we support the Chairman’s commitment to ensuring its future,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “CRP is essential to restoring wildlife habitat, preventing erosion, and improving water quality. That’s why we need a robust enrollment effort to ensure landowners can take advantage of this important program.”
Currently at a three-decade low of 20.7 million acres enrolled in CRP, the administration of the program is at a crossroads. Just two years ago, Congress increased the program’s acreage cap from 24 to 27 million acres in order to grow landowner interest. In the time since, significant changes to rental rate formulas and incentive reductions have diminished the interest of landowners to utilize the program.
“The Conservation Reserve Program is essential for supporting wildlife, healthy habitats, and the hunters and outdoor enthusiasts who count on both to sustain our wildlife heritage. With discussions around 2023 Farm Bill starting, it’s clear that a failure to fully enroll Conservation Reserve Program acreage would only compound the issues facing America’s wildlife,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “We and our peer sporting and conservation organizations are committed to working with incoming House Agriculture Chairman David Scott, Ranking Member Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson, Senators Debbie Stabenow and John Boozman on the Senate Agriculture Committee, and the Biden-Harris Administration to ensure this crucial program meets the needs of landowners and wildlife for decades to come.”
“Given the incoming Administration’s focus on climate change, the deep-rooted grasslands created through CRP is another example of the environmental stacking opportunity the program delivers,” said Howard Vincent, president and CEO of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. “CRP, which is part of the working lands ecological and economic safety net, helps sequester carbon in soil, improve water quality and soil health, while strengthening rural economies and creating habitat for the wildlife we cherish.”
For more information about the benefits of the CRP, head to CRPWorks.org.
The groups voicing their support for the Conservation Reserve Program are the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, Delta Waterfowl, National Wildlife Federation, Pheasants Forever-Quail Forever, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, and the Wildlife Management Institute.
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!
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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.