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Experts have spent years or, in some cases, decades monitoring trout populations and water quality in these streams—now their time has come
Right now, hunters and anglers in the Keystone State have a rare opportunity to help strengthen protections on more than 45 miles of exceptional coldwater trout streams in the middle Lehigh River basin.
Through February 12, 2021, this list of waterways is being considered by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for additional conservation safeguards under the commonwealth’s Water Quality Standards, Clean Streams Law, and the federal Clean Water Act.
In short, this public comment period is one of the final steps toward bestowing the highest possible protections on our best waters.
Our polling shows that 92 percent of sportsmen and women in Pennsylvania support maintaining or strengthening clean water standards. You probably feel the same way if you’ve ever taken action to support upgrading PA streams to wild trout or Class A wild trout status. The TRCP provides local sportsmen and women the opportunity to engage in this process at the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission four times a year.
But this is different. Taking action today actually doubles down on those advocacy efforts and pushes exceptional trout waters into two even more elite categories.
Properly designating qualified waters as High Quality (HQ) or Exceptional Value (EV) recognizes the significance of protecting and maintaining clean water where it already exists. This is not only the correct conservation ethic, it is also a more cost effective way to maintain water quality than attempting to restore these streams after they have been degraded.
Waterways can be recommended for upgraded status by the DEP, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC), or the public, but an arduous assessment by the DEP then follows. In fact, the evaluation and designation of High Quality and Exceptional Value streams often represents years, if not decades, of work and detailed water surveys.
Documenting the presence of wild trout is often a first step, but there are other qualifiers for HQ and EV status that are determined through macroinvertebrate sampling and water chemistry testing. Many waters being considered right now are already recognized as wild trout waters and several are recognized as Class A wild trout waters by PFBC. This means that not only do these waters sustain naturally reproducing populations of trout, but several of them are among the best in the state.
This effort to conserve the best of the best is particularly important to our state’s $26.9-billion outdoor recreation economy right now. Last year, the PFBC saw fishing license sales jump by 20 percent, and boat registrations spiked by an impressive 36 percent. As 2021 begins, license purchases are outpacing even last year’s sales, further highlighting the importance of conserving our most productive waters.
These streams have waited long enough. Now is the time to help them across the finish line.
Take a minute and sign our action alert to let the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection know that sportsmen and sportswomen believe in protecting these waters for generations to come.
Top photo by Derek Eberly.
TRCP focuses on putting Americans back to work using climate solutions
The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s president and CEO, Whit Fosburgh, issued the following statement in response to President Biden’s Executive Order on climate change:
“From the wetlands that make coastal communities more resilient to the forests and grasslands that sequester carbon, our nation’s lands and waters are engines ready to be turned on to address the impacts of climate change. We appreciate the president’s commitment to using the best available science to conserve our outdoor places for future generations. As this administration implements these directives, we urge them to engage people who live in the communities most affected by these policies, including hunters and anglers. The outdoor recreation economy is a powerful job creator and can play a key role in putting Americans back to work while mitigating the impacts of our changing climate.”
The TRCP is leading a coalition of 40 other hunting, fishing, and conservation nonprofits to advance land- and water-based solutions to climate change. The coalition released the Sportsmen & Sportswomen Climate Statement in July 2020.
How lawmakers can make history for conservation in 2021 and 2022
The 116th Congress was truly historic in its conservation achievements, with passage of the John Dingell Conservation Act, the Great American Outdoors Act, and the America’s Conservation Enhancement Act. It ended with a bang, as well, with a strong Water Resources Development Act that included natural infrastructure policies for which TRCP had long advocated.
But, as more Americans have turned to the outdoors and our fish and wildlife resources, there is more for the 117th Congress to get done. As we saw throughout 2019 and 2020, nothing sparks bipartisanship quite like conservation, and TRCP looks forward to working with our Democratic and Republican allies to assemble the next coalitions for conservation policy success.
Here is our shortlist for the habitat, access, and funding priorities they should take up first.
The Civilian Conservation Corps was a keystone of the New Deal response to the Great Depression, and it put significant numbers of unemployed Americans back to work building a legacy of trails, parkways, lodges, and tree-plantings that are still plainly visible across the country. Seventy years later, in response to the Great Recession of 2008, Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), funding all manner of infrastructure and natural resource restoration projects meant to get people back to work.
As we stand at another economic threshold, with 10 million Americans still out of work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress should once again craft economic recovery legislation that invests in conservation programs with a track record of creating jobs and restoring our natural resources.
Visit our Conservation Works for America webpage to learn more about how investments in conservation can create jobs, rebuild our economy, and improve the health of our communities.
In the last decade or more, it has become clear that American hunters and anglers are among the first to witness the impacts of a changing climate. Altered migrations, delayed rut seasons, and invasive species are just a few of the challenges sportsmen and women face as we plan time afield.
Now, leaders in Washington seem poised to act on climate, and with such a unique stake in the outcome, hunters and anglers must be at the table.
While there will certainly be much talk about pricing carbon, electric vehicles, and grid modernization, truly comprehensive climate legislation must include dramatically expanded roles for our nation’s water- and land-based systems that, conservative estimates indicate, could sequester at least 20 percent of our carbon targets. This means investing in grassland conservation, coastal and wetland restoration initiatives, and active forest health projects—exactly the kind of climate projects that benefit rural America and enhance the adaptability of our fish and wildlife resources.
Increasingly, hunters, anglers, and all forms of outdoor enthusiasts seek to plan their adventures using the latest in mobile technology. This revolution in how people interface with their public lands has highlighted how little data about those lands is available in a technologically relevant format. To this day, knowing where one can go and what one can do there sometimes requires paper maps and an awareness of arcane and ever-changing agency policies.
Seeking to address these challenges, in 2020 the TRCP worked with a diverse bipartisan mix of House and Senate legislators to introduce the Modernizing Access to our Public Lands (MAPLand) Act.
The bill, supported by a wide swath of hunting and fishing organizations, would provide the funding necessary over several years for our national land management agencies to digitize paper maps, access data, and recreational use regulations for modern-day public land use. We’d like to see the bill reintroduced and ultimately passed this Congress.
With less time spent commuting and fewer things competing for our limited time, folks have found more chances to head afield during the pandemic. Some states have indicated that hunting and fishing license sales have soared, and outdoor businesses have seen strong demand. But this uptick in outdoor enthusiasm means more pressure on access points and outdoor recreation infrastructure.
Unfortunately, the state wildlife agencies haven’t been able to keep up. Across the nation, state fish and wildlife agencies have seen furloughs, layoffs, hiring freezes, and a reduction in volunteer participation, all while usage of natural resources has been increasing, creating a tremendous capacity issue for our frontline fish and wildlife professionals. What’s more, we now enter into that time of year when state governors and legislatures will be considering state budgets, and fish and wildlife agencies may well be on the proverbial chopping block.
Congress should prioritize swift passage of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act as part of their comprehensive COVID response and get needed support to state and local governments. Many aspects of state governments have been stressed by this pandemic, and state fish and wildlife agencies are no exception. They shouldn’t be ignored as they perform an ever more essential role in keeping the American public safely enjoying our outdoors.
The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act creates a badly needed permanent and dedicated funding source for every state’s fish and wildlife agency. This has never been more relevant.
And while COVID-19 has had catastrophic effects on our nation and the world over the course of the last year, a wildlife disease crisis has continued to spread throughout the country. Chronic wasting disease, a 100-percent fatal disease that affects all species of North American deer, was recently identified in Ohio’s wild whitetail population and the wild elk population of Grand Teton National Park.
More than half the states in the country are now dealing with a disease which, if left unchecked, threatens the very future of wild deer, deer hunting, and our model of conservation funding—and all of this while perhaps more people than ever before seek to add venison to the family meal plan.
It is time indeed for Congress to act on comprehensive chronic wasting disease legislation, which would fund strong state response plans including better testing and surveillance, funding for better research, and improved management of the movement of live deer. There is arguably no more important issue facing wildlife conservation, and the issue deserves the attention of congressional leaders and the Biden Administration.
No matter how much of great import we got done in the last Congress, there is much more to do, including far more than we can include in this list. The role that conservation and natural resources play in our national economy, our health, and our quality of life have never been more clear. All of us at the TRCP look forward to getting to work on our agenda for the 117th Congress and the future of America’s hunters and anglers and fish and wildlife.
Our president and CEO looks to 2021 as a fresh start for partnership and dedication to science-based conservation
For nearly 20 years, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership has brought people together, built coalitions, and advanced conservation. We pride ourselves in working with policymakers of all political backgrounds. No matter who controls the White House or Congress, we roll up our sleeves and focus on what unites us—not what tears us apart.
That is why the violent events at the Capitol last week shook us to our core. We not only believe in the strength of our democracy and democratic institutions, but our staff members regularly walk those hallowed halls to carry the collective voice of sportsmen and women to decision makers. On a personal level, I worked in those halls for years and still marvel at America’s citadel of democracy that has endured for more than two centuries.
To do what we do, you have to believe in public service and the rule of law. Yet, the siege at the Capitol was the culmination of years of fact-free rhetoric aimed at inflaming passions and securing political advantage, not providing solutions.
In short, it was a disgrace and those who carried out and incited this terror should be held accountable.
At the end of the day, however, we will see the peaceful transition of power. And my hope is that we also see a return to partnership, where Americans can disagree about ideas, but not about the foundations of democracy, and where telling the truth is again seen as a virtue.
Even in the divisive atmosphere of the last few years, conservation has been an area where Democrats and Republicans worked together on behalf of the people. The successful passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, the Dingell Act, the ACE Act, and many more are prime examples.
This year brings with it many opportunities to enact conservation policy that further strengthens habitat and access. Whether by putting Americans back to work through conservation or advancing land and water-based solutions to climate change, we have our eyes on the issues that affect sportsmen and women.
Every time a new administration or new Congress is sworn in, we build relationships so we can tackle these pressing issues. Those relationships are built on trust and the understanding that we share a common goal: to guarantee all Americans quality places to hunt and fish.
The moderate middle is often a lonely place, where both sides turn up the heat and pressure you to be someone you are not. While it can be uncomfortable, it is where we find success. Our mission is based on science and facts and does not change with the political winds or fall pressure to the blue and red waves in an election. It stays true and focused, and it stays loyal to the institutions upon which this great nation was built.
TRCP has always sought to be a voice of partnership and cooperation in our efforts to advance conservation policy across the nation, because we believe that conservation unifies all Americans. In that same spirit, we look forward to continuing to work with lawmakers—Republican, Democrat, and Independent—who share these values.
Image courtesy of National Parks.
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