Port Clinton coastal restoration project
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Today a coalition of ten organizations collectively called on Congress to consider conservation priorities as policymakers draft economic recovery legislation.
The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, National Audubon Society, Environmental Defense Fund, National Wildlife Federation, Ducks Unlimited, National Marine Manufacturers Association, American Sportfishing Association, Pheasants Forever, and others joined forces in identifying a list of shared legislative priorities with House and Senate leadership. The goals of the coalition include building resilient communities that can withstand the impacts of a changing climate, restoring and preserving outdoor spaces, investing in nature-based solutions, and sustainably managing water resources.
“The value of investing in our most common goods—our land and water—cannot be overstated,” wrote the coalition. “Beyond the clear ecological value, investment in the outdoors provides jobs, energizes local economies, improves the resilience of our communities, and holds a lasting public benefit for generations.”
The groups highlighted nine main areas of focus:
“Following the economic downturn of the past year, we are calling for bold investments in conservation that put people back to work and strengthen the habitat, fish, and wildlife we value,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Hunters and anglers are joining this diverse coalition to ensure that Congress considers our land and water as part of the solution to the many challenges that we face. The policy proposals that we have put forward will create more resilient communities, combat climate change, and strengthen our outdoor industries.”
“From restoring the Colorado River watershed, to shoring up our beaches and wetlands on the coast, investing in conservation not only protects our communities from future droughts or floods, it also provides job opportunities as well as critical habitat for birds and other wildlife,” said Sarah Greenberger, senior vice president of conservation policy at the National Audubon Society.
“Our coastal communities are at greater risk than ever from more intense storms and sea level rise,” said Steve Cochran, associate vice president of Coastal Resilience at the Environmental Defense Fund. “By investing in shovel-worthy programs, Congress can restore and enhance the coastal ecosystems that help protect communities, while also creating jobs and reducing the costs of future disasters.”
“Investing in 21st century infrastructure that benefits every community is a critical step toward addressing the historic crises facing our nation — the pandemic, mass unemployment, racial injustice, and climate change,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “What better way to create millions of well-paying jobs than working together to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure, restore our lands and water, deploy cleaner sources of energy, bolster community and natural resilience, and reduce pollution, especially in frontline communities? We look forward to working with Congress to pass an infrastructure package that meets this moment by investing in our communities and our natural resources.”
“The challenges facing the 117th Congress are as numerous as they are immense,” said Adam Putnam, CEO of Ducks Unlimited. “But these challenges also provide a tremendous opportunity to invest in our land and water like never before. Following a difficult year, there’s no question smart investments in conservation can help get our economy back on its feet and our people back to work. At the same time, America’s renewed interest in the outdoors calls for a greater investment in the spaces that connect kids to nature, create memories for families, support millions of jobs and pump billions of dollars into the communities that surround our parks, refuges and magnificent wild places.”
“As we look to rebuild our country and economy, investing in resilient outdoor recreation infrastructure and sound conservation programs will help achieve both objectives, while protecting our nation’s cherished pastimes for generations to come,” said Frank Hugelmeyer, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association. “We call on all members of Congress to support and include these vital initiatives as they continue to develop their economic relief and infrastructure measures.”
“The significant increase in fishing and other forms of outdoor recreation during the COVID-19 pandemic illustrates how much Americans deeply value the outdoors, and how important it is for our public lands and waters to be conserved and maintained,” said Glenn Hughes, president of the American Sportfishing Association. “We must invest in the outdoors not only for the physical and mental health benefits, but also to further expand the job opportunities in this booming sector of the economy that is responsible for 2.1% of the GDP.”
“The year 2020 revealed some important lessons for Americans moving forward, including the value of outdoor recreation, the need for more public lands, and the endless benefits to ecosystems throughout the United States when we invest in private lands conservation,” stated Howard Vincent, president and CEO of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. “Congressional leaders have the means to make significant impacts in the year ahead for America’s natural resources. Science-based conservation solutions to build resilient communities and combat climate change should be considered as policymakers draft economic recovery legislation, and ‘The Habitat Organization’ stands ready to assist with this important endeavor.”
The letter to Congressional leadership can be read HERE.
Sportsmen and women can take action in support of #ConservationWorksforAmerica priorities HERE.
Idaho lawmaker takes the lead on recovery effort
Sportsmen and women should rally behind Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) who earlier this week laid out a bold, thoughtful, and highly vetted plan to solve the Northwest’s most intractable conservation problem: the impending extinction of salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River Basin.
Last Sunday, the 11-term representative from Idaho’s Second Congressional District, proposed a $33-billion infrastructure investment plan that would bypass four dams on the Lower Snake River to aid in the recovery of salmon and steelhead runs, which have dwindled over the past three decades despite the government spending $17 billion on recovery efforts. The plan would also reform the region’s power network and help the Northwest’s commodity producers embrace new ways to ship their crops to the Pacific Rim and the world.
The need is critical. Runs of salmon and steelhead are at historic lows, driven to the precipice by hostile ocean conditions, climate change, and barriers that obstruct their migration to upstream spawning habitat.
Simpson’s plan is an audacious one, for sure. It would set aside:
It also accounts for less vocal interests, like marina owners, river guides, and boat owners who could be hurt by the loss of slack water.
While it is ambitious in scope, Simpson’s plan is rooted in collaboration and extensive communications. Simpson and his team have held more than 300 meetings in the past three years, hearing the opinions of grain growers, shippers, state officials, anglers, irrigators, sportsmen, and leaders of all the communities impacted by his proposal.
“Working together as a delegation and with the governors, stakeholders, and conservationists, we can create a Northwest solution that ends the salmon wars and puts the Northwest and our energy systems on a certain, secure, and viable path for decades and restores Idaho’s salmon,” Simpson said.
As climate change intensifies and partisan divides deepen, Simpson has returned to the roots of great conservation: a collaborative solution that comes from the realities on the ground. It is based in pragmatic care for all stakeholders and a commitment to consensus and the economic impacts of the region.
It is the kind of process that hunters and anglers should support. Thank you, Rep. Simpson for showing the way.
Top photo: BLM (Bob Wick) via Flickr
Hunters and anglers call for prioritization of projects that increase public access to recreational opportunities
The Department of Interior announced today that it will be reducing restrictions on the availability of Land and Water Conservation Fund investments, ensuring that these dollars are used for the best possible opportunities to enhance public land access and habitat.
The LWCF was plussed up last August after the Great American Outdoors Act became law, marking one of the greatest bipartisan conservation achievements in decades. The bill guarantees full funding for the program at $900 million each year. Today’s announcement overturns Secretarial Order 3388, which deprioritized Bureau of Land Management lands for consideration for LWCF projects and gave county commissioners veto authority over private landowners’ decisions to sell their land.
“We are pleased the Department is doing away with rules that could have crippled getting these critical dollars to the ground,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Sportsmen and sportswomen want to ensure that the LWCF is working to increase public access to outdoor recreation opportunities and conserve important habitats. This is going to require investments in agency capacity, prioritization of areas with recreational value, and coordination between federal, state, and private partners. We appreciate that hunters and anglers are being heard in this process.”
In addition to prioritizing the conservation of habitat and access through federal lands, the Land and Water Conservation Fund provides matching grants to state and tribal governments for the development of fishing areas, hunting access, hiking and biking trails, city parks, and urban green spaces.
“Whether you live in New York City or Cody, Wyoming, the COVID pandemic has shown us that access to the outdoors is critical for our health and wellbeing,” said Christy Plumer, chief conservation officer of the TRCP. “The LWCF opens doors for people to experience our natural resources, while also investing in local economies and creating jobs.”
The Great American Outdoors Act requires the federal land management agencies to set aside a minimum of $27 million annually for recreational access projects. The TRCP has partnered with onX to release five reports detailing 16 million acres of inaccessible public land in 22 states.
“Proper implementation of the Land and Water Conservation Fund can make a lasting difference on these landscapes,” said Joel Webster, senior director of TRCP’s western programs. “Looking forward, if states can put these investments toward conserving fish and wildlife habitat and increasing public access, it will benefit generations of hunters and anglers to come.”
New coalition of sportsmen and women seeks to keep a landscape from being ‘”loved to death”
Oregon’s Owyhee Country is a paradise for those fond of adventure and solitude with a rod or rifle in hand. But what was once enjoyed mostly by locals is now in danger of being “loved to death” as the Pacific Northwest population booms and Instagram influencers crave never ending ‘likes’ through adventure. Additional pressures such as a climate change, invasive annual grasses, and renewable energy pressures are mounting, which is why I’m representing the TRCP within a coalition of seven conservation groups proposing solutions that safeguard fish and wildlife habitat and the unique hunting and fishing opportunities the region is known for. Here’s what we stand to lose if hunters and anglers are not at the table when it comes to conserving the Owyhee.
Stretching across 4.6 million acres of public lands in the BLM’s Vale District, this landscape is among the most remote and unpopulated in the lower 48 states and can test the skills of even the most seasoned outdoorsperson. It encompasses more than 1.2 million acres of Wilderness Study Areas, made up of a rugged and remote sagebrush sea, broken only by narrow lava rock canyons that wind down to the banks of its namesake river.
Far removed from the famed Douglas fir forests of Oregon’s west side, the outstanding hunting and fishing opportunities found in the Owyhee Country can sometimes be overlooked. These canyons provide vital habitat for mule deer, elk, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, and more than 200 other species of wildlife. Anglers catch native red-band trout in the beaver ponds of the West Little Owyhee, cast for 20-inch browns in the reach below the Owyhee dam, and introduce their kids to fishing on the abundant and easy–to–fool smallmouth bass found throughout the river basin. Hunters in the area enjoy some of the best units within the state for mule deer, bighorns, antelope, and chukar.
While its remote location has allowed the Owyhee Country to maintain its backcountry character, pressures from renewable energy, mining, oil and gas, and off-highway vehicles grow with each passing decade. The recent surge of outdoor recreation within the area from rafters, hunters, anglers, hot springs enthusiasts, and other recreation-seekers also presents difficult management challenges. The impacts of these increasing uses, combined with invasive annual grasses, wildfire, and climate change-fueled drought, all threaten the unique fish and wildlife habitat within the region. Both the health of the landscape and the rural economies of the nearby communities need more resources to address these issues.
Thankfully, Oregon’s congressional delegation is seeking pragmatic solutions after multiple requests from both the ranching and conservation communities. In 2019, Senator Ron Wyden spearheaded a series of stakeholder meetings to find common ground for a bill that would promote the long-term health of the landscape while providing for economic development and the continued traditional uses of public lands. The result was the introduction in November 2019 of S.2828, the Malheur Community Empowerment for the Owyhee Act (MCEOA). Notably, the bill would safeguard one million acres of undeveloped backcountry across Malheur County while releasing an equal amount of wilderness–quality lands back to multiple use. Additionally, it would provide for important funding to restore the health of degraded sagebrush habitats and infuse economic development money into many surrounding rural communities.
In order to ensure sportsmen and women have a strong voice in this decision-making process, the TRCP has partnered with the Oregon Hunters Association, Trout Unlimited, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Friends of the Owyhee, Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, Soul River Inc., and the Oregon Chapter of The Foundation for North American Wild Sheep to form, organize and engage a new coalition of hunting– and fishing–based conservation organizations called the “Owyhee Sportsmen.” Since August 2019, the coalition has worked closely with the Oregon congressional delegation—especially Senator Wyden’s office—to provide input and recommendations to the bill that would improve the conservation of the region’s fish and wildlife habitat. Our sportsmen and women’s coalition has strongly urged Senator Wyden, Senator Jeff Merkley, and Representative Cliff Bentz to work together to make a few changes and pass this bill, which we expect will see consideration from lawmakers this year.
The Sportsmen for the Owyhee campaign is currently working to educate the public, business owners, and decisionmakers on the need to protect Oregon’s Owyhee Canyons from development while highlighting the abundant opportunities the region provides for hunters, anglers, and outdoor recreators of all types.
Recently, I joined several other members of the coalition to work on a hunting and fishing film with Alpenglow Press Productions to showcase just a few of the great adventures one can find in the Owyhee Country. I have spent hundreds of nights under the darkest skies in the nation exploring this vast area over the years, but it is hard to beat some of the experiences we enjoyed during the filming of this project. The Coalition is excited to share the film with the public and to work with members across our organizations to show support for this unique and stunning landscape that needs our attention.
There are few large areas of land and water left in the U.S. where one can get truly lost, where skies at night are completely free of artificial light, and where sportsmen and women can chase such iconic game animals, upland birds, and trout. Oregon’s Owyhee Country is such a place, and we are committed to keeping it that way.
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