Derek Eberly

April 2, 2021

Preserving Pennsylvania Streams: Monocacy Creek

This video is the second in a series detailing conservation projects powered by Pennsylvania’s Keystone Recreation, Park & Conservation Fund that benefit hunters and anglers. Since 1993, the Keystone Fund has continued to provide state-level matching dollars for a variety of conservation projects, including land acquisition, river conservation, and trail work. This series is the result of a collaboration between the TRCP and Trout Unlimited where the goal is simply to celebrate conservation success stories that make us all proud to be able to hunt and fish in Pennsylvania. The videos highlight just a few of the projects powered by this critical source of conservation funding. For more information on the Keystone Fund, you can visit: https://keystonefund.org.

Warmer weather and blooming forsythia and cherry blossoms are more than just the harbingers of spring in Pennsylvania. For anglers, these are the signals that soon the air above our best trout streams will be filled with mayflies, and the waters below will be teeming with hungry, rising trout.

Spring means the beginning of another trout season. For many, the smells, sounds, and sights of spring conjure memories of past adventures with friends and family, while simultaneously calling us back to the water.

In the Lehigh Valley, you don’t have to look very far to find quality wild trout habitat. That’s good news for anglers living in one of the most densely populated areas in the state. The Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton area is blessed with some of Pennsylvania’s best limestone spring creeks—famously challenging, yet productive trout streams. Among these well-known “limestoners” is Monocacy Creek, which flows south through the heart of Bethlehem and eventually into the Lehigh River, a quality wild trout river in its own right.

The presence of wild trout in this urban gem is no accident: It is the result of decades of stewardship. Like many urban wild trout streams in Pennsylvania, the Monocacy has seen its fair share of challenges. In 1989, a nearby chemical spill killed more than 30,000 fish, many of them wild brown trout. Since then, the area has experienced a boom in development, resulting in challenges with polluted stormwater runoff and degraded streambank habitat.

Enter the Monocacy Chapter of Trout Unlimited and Monocacy Watershed Association. Members of these conservation organizations have worked hand in hand with Bethlehem municipal departments and other conservation organizations to preserve coldwater trout habitat along the creek through various projects funded by the Keystone Recreation, Park, and Conservation Fund and the state’s Environmental Stewardship Fund.

Many of these projects not only restore or improve habitat—they also help to mitigate the impacts of flooding and provide better access to anglers from the surrounding communities and beyond. (For a local perspective on the popularity of Monocacy Creek, check out this blog from angler Michael Evanko.)

Spring in Pennsylvania means another trout season full of making memories and forging connections outdoors. It’s also a good time to take a moment and recognize the tools, projects, and programs that gave us the places we love to fish.

Unfortunately, our work is not done. April showers may bring May flowers, but they are a reminder of the stormwater runoff challenges and need for streambank stabilization made possible by state-funded conservation. Spring is also traditionally the beginning of the state budget season, when funding in the Keystone Fund and Environmental Stewardship Fund has perennially come under threat.

Take a look at what these funds mean to local angler Jose DeJesus, a member of Monocacy TU and Monocacy Watershed Association. Listen as he shares his story of chasing trout over a lifetime on the Monocacy.

2 Responses to “Preserving Pennsylvania Streams: Monocacy Creek”

  1. Tyler Okeefe

    PFBC Stop stocking over class a trout water! The lower end of the creek is gaining more and more sediment from each flood. Saw multiple wild trout on stringers over the weekend which was incredibly concerning. It’s a great fishery near home but being so urban it’s getting more of a feel like a put and take fishery. We need to protect the valley limestoners

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Randall Williams

March 30, 2021

New Report Highlights Even Steeper Decline of Greater Sage Grouse Populations

Conservationists call for renewed commitment to habitat restoration and other key priorities

Today, the U.S. Geological Survey released a report that raises serious questions about the future of the greater sage grouse and its ecosystem.

Report findings showed an overall 80-percent decline in sage grouse populations in the western United States since 1965, with an average annual rate of loss estimated at 3 percent, a full percentage point higher than in previously available data prepared for the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

“The fact that sage grouse populations are trending even further in the wrong direction should be taken very seriously by hunters, conservationists, wildlife managers, and all citizens of the American West,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “There is no question that this deeper range-wide loss of birds is indicative of the continued loss and degradation of habitat, and stakeholders at every level need to regroup fast to determine a path forward that creates lasting conservation impacts for these iconic game birds.”

In a separate report released on March 9, the USGS found that sagebrush habitat is being lost at an alarming rate due to mining and energy development, conversion to cropland, invasive grasses, and altered wildfire cycles. Since 2000, more than 20 percent of priority sage grouse habitat within the Great Basin alone has burned.

“Sagebrush ecosystems are experiencing declines that were unimaginable just 20 years ago due to cheatgrass invasion, fire, and other human disturbances,” said Ted Koch, executive director of the North American Grouse Partnership. “We know what it takes to stem the loss, now all we need is to regain the partnerships and the collective will to do it.”

Conservation efforts also will undoubtedly need to go beyond the current management plans to address rapidly changing and degrading habitats in the West.

“Restoring degraded habitat is now more important than ever for reversing trends in habitat loss in the sagebrush ecosystem,” said Joel Pedersen, president and CEO for the Mule Deer Foundation. “The Mule Deer Foundation will continue to ensure that funding for habitat restoration and enhancement is a top priority across the West and that projects get implemented on the ground to benefit sage grouse, mule deer, and other species.”

Conservation on private lands has played a vital role in sagebrush recovery since the inception of the Natural Resource Conservation Service’s Sage Grouse Initiative in 2010. Continuing to engage landowners and incentivize conservation in sagebrush country will be critical into the future.

“Private landowner conservation efforts were critical to the success of getting the 2015 not-warranted decision for sage grouse,” said Howard Vincent, President and CEO of Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever. “We need continued investments in the Sage Grouse Initiative and other private land incentive programs to ensure the long-term health of the sagebrush ecosystem and its occupants, including people that live and work there.”

While deeply concerned, the hunting and fishing community believes that with adequate funding, cooperation, and conservation plan implementation – coupled with massive investments in restoration – that a future listing of sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act can be avoided. But time is running out.

“These new study findings are sounding an alarm that cannot be ignored,” said Dr. Steve Williams, president of the Wildlife Management Institute and former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Clearly the threats to sage grouse and their habitat are not being adequately addressed in a manner that sustains the species over the long-term. There’s still time to assess the situation and reverse these trends, but it is getting more difficult for the Fish and Wildlife Service to defend and maintain their 2015 not-warranted finding for sage grouse.”

 

Image courtesy of Jennifer Hall/USFWS.

Vista Outdoor: Follow Outdoor Industry Model for Climate Leadership, Progress

This is a guest blog from Fred Ferguson, Vice President of Public Affairs and Communications for Anoka-based outdoor gear maker Vista Outdoor Inc.

The solutions for a stronger, more resilient climate are a uniting force. Conservation, stewardship, and efficiencies are ideals that each political party can and should support. But for far too long, the national debate on climate has been coopted by preconceived notions of yesteryear and driven by the ideological extremes of both sides.

Policymakers in Washington, D.C. must come together to chart a new and better path. Relitigating old debates or rehashing the same outdated climate playbook will not cut it.

Americans have migrated back to nature in record numbers during the pandemic. Moving forward these families, enthusiasts and voters look for more from policymakers on climate. They expect elected leadership to unite and work for common solutions on this pressing issue.

The hunting and outdoor recreation industries have led the way in creating some of the nation’s most effective environmental laws, from the establishment of national forests and wildlife refuges to the Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act. Leaders today should embrace these new outdoor trends and again turn to the outdoor industry as a model for advancing climate solutions.

Organizations like the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and Outdoor Industry Association are leading coalitions who believe that bipartisan climate solutions are governmental, business and societal imperatives. We are proud members of each organization and are supporting these industry-wide initiatives.

Outdoor recreation organizations and companies are uniquely positioned in that we sit in the crossroads of different industries, consumer groups and political interests. Yet despite our wide-ranging consumer interests, we agree that the climate is changing and that we can do something about it.

The hunting and outdoor industries have testified before Congress on the need for individuals, businesses and governments to work together to address climate and its changes. Moving ahead, we look forward to working with President Biden and his team, including Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. Her leadership in bringing together this coalition is needed and will serve our country well.

My company, Vista Outdoor, recently endorsed the Conservationists for Climate Solutions Policy Statement (Climate Statement). The Climate Statement is a first-of-its-kind framework that offers a comprehensive climate plan based in proven, bipartisan land and water management strategies. The Climate Statement outlines detailed solutions for policymakers in the areas of Agriculture, Forests, Rangelands, and Grasslands, Oceans, Rivers, Lakes, and Streams, Wetlands, Coastal Resilience and Adaptation.

The Climate Statement is endorsed by 41 outdoor associations. These associations, much like Vista Outdoor, cover the full range of outdoor interests, from the Trust for Public Land to the National Deer Alliance and Pheasants Forever. The geographic and political diversity of their membership demonstrates the power of pragmatic solutions and outlines a path forward for bipartisanship in Congress.

The Climate Statement is also good policy. Improved management of land, water and our natural resources can support national carbon sequestration and emissions reduction targets. These natural sequestration improvements are significant. A recent study found that the United States could mitigate 20% of its carbon emissions through natural solutions, which is equivalent to removing emissions from all cars and trucks on U.S. roads today.

Congress must take note of these bipartisan and expansive coalitions. Interest in the outdoors is surging and it’s imperative that our elected leaders respond and look to the outdoors as the path forward.

 

Fred Ferguson serves as Vice President of Public Affairs and Communications for Vista Outdoor Inc. (NYSE: VSTO) and its 34 consumer brands. In this capacity, Ferguson supports the investor relations portfolio and directly manages corporate communications, government relations and Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) reporting. Ferguson’s duties support corporate strategy and objectives while also bolstering brand-level planning and execution. Ferguson began with Vista Outdoor Inc. in 2017 following a career in the United States House of Representatives where he served as Chief of Staff to a senior Member of Congress.

Melinda Kassen

March 18, 2021

Filling the Gap Left by Harmful Clean Water Rollback

Colorado will attempt to safeguard its 10,000 miles of streams left unprotected by the Clean Water Act

Over the last two decades, federal water policy has swung like a pendulum as courts and the White House try to interpret, expand, or shrink protections for streams, wetlands, and rivers. Hunters and anglers know that clean water is the foundation of our outdoor activities. Unfortunately, we are continuously defending bedrock conservation laws to preserve habitat for fish and wildlife.

Take, for example, the Navigable Waters Protection (NWP) Rule, which was issued by the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers last year. It removes Clean Water Act protections from more than 18 percent of the nation’s streams and as much as 50 percent of remaining wetlands. This has serious consequences for fish and wildlife but, despite vocal opposition, the rule went into effect everywhere but Colorado—until now.

(If you want to read more on why Colorado was an outlier, here is an in-depth legal blog that explains it.)

Last month, the U.S. Court of Appeals issued an order allowing the implementation of the Navigable Waters Protection Rule to proceed in Colorado. This is troubling in many ways as you’ll see in the maps below.

Based on a recent peer-reviewed model, Trout Unlimited estimates that 25 percent of the state’s stream miles would be stripped of protections against the dumping of dredged and fill materials. This includes 10,510 miles of precipitation-dependent streams, which supply public drinking water to Colorado residents. These waters also support world-class hunting, fishing, hiking, and camping opportunities.

Map of Colorado

The Nature Conservancy did a similar analysis of wetlands and found that 22 percent would be unprotected as a result of the Rule going into effect.

E&E News reports that more than 70 percent of U.S. waterways reviewed under the NWP Rule could be permanently damaged, according to Army Corps of Engineers data.

Stripped of federal protections under the new rule, these streams and wetlands in the Centennial State are at risk of being polluted and damaged by the construction of roads, bridges, shopping malls, housing developments, dams, and water diversions. That’s why the state water quality protection agency has begun an effort to find a solution.

A new state permit program would allow the Colorado Water Quality Control Division to oversee activities that discharge materials into streams and wetlands, while putting safeguards in place to ensure these activities don’t jeopardize Colorado’s clean water. This program would rely mostly on the “general” permits that most construction projects routinely obtain. Only a small number of projects would need a more rigorous individual permit. The program’s purpose would be to keep the level of protection that has existed for the preceding 40+ years.  By addressing the regulatory gap that the NWP Rule creates, Colorado also can protect its waters against shifting policies in Washington, D.C.

The TRCP is actively participating in a stakeholder process in support of Colorado’s efforts. We also will support the Biden Administration’s efforts to rewrite the NWP Rule and return to a system where seasonal streams and wetlands get the Clean Water Act protections they deserve. Until this happens, hunters and anglers will be there defending our most valuable resource to ensure future generations have access to quality habitat and better days on the water.

[If you want to see a timeline of how clean water policy was developed, click HERE.]

 

Photo by BLM-Colorado

 

As Congress Pivots to Infrastructure, Gulf Restoration Should be Top of Mind

Conservation works for America and coastal communities

Tides are shifting in our nation’s capital. Now that COVID recovery legislation has cleared Congress, policymakers are shifting their attention to a massive infrastructure package. This is welcome news for folks in Louisiana, where 158,000 people are unemployed and looking for ways to get back to work.

Conservationists are also eyeing this moment. If Congress can put aside partisanship, we believe an infusion of cash into the Gulf can put people back to work, create habitat for fish and wildlife, increase coastal resiliency, combat climate change, and build more equitable communities.

There are three specific legislative opportunities that hunters and anglers should be talking to their elected leaders about:

Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC)

This pre-disaster mitigation program is administered by FEMA to provide resources to states, local communities, tribes, and territories with the goal of reducing risk from natural disasters. In 2020, there was $500 million available through this program to support communities as they prepare for future catastrophic events. We are asking Congress to set aside 15 percent of future BRIC funds for natural infrastructure projects, which will help create habitat and combat the impacts of climate change.

North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA)

This U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grant program invests in local projects to restore wetlands. Over the past two decades, these funds have supported over 3,000 projects impacting 30 million acres. One of these projects is located near Buras, Louisiana where Ducks Unlimited has partnered with local conservation leaders and used NAWCA funds to build wetlands in areas affected by numerous hurricanes over the last 15 years. The incredibly successful project has built more than 2,500 acres of wetland in areas that were open water less than a decade ago, improving fisheries and duck hunting and increasing community resiliency.

When wetlands are improved, communities experience better flood control, erosion prevention, and air quality, plus more sequestered carbon. We are asking Congress to fully fund this program so waterfowl and migratory birds can thrive and people can find work restoring this important habitat.

National Coastal Resilience Fund

This program is used to restore wetlands, marshes, river systems, dunes, beaches, barrier islands, floodplains, and oyster and coral reefs. Funded by Congress and private entities, it is administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to expand natural features in coastal communities. By fully funding this program, contractors and engineers can get back to work restoring these landscapes and creating habitat for fish and wildlife.

A New Day for the Delta

By prioritizing these items, our leaders can make a real impact in a state that has been hammered by COVID and natural disasters. In the last 12 months, construction employment has declined 13 percent in the Bayou State, opening the door for significant investment to help turn the page on a dark year. But, one area where jobs continue to expand is in coastal restoration work as penalties from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon continue to be directed toward construction of large-scale barrier islands, marsh restoration projects, and the engineering and design (and soon construction) of sediment diversions.

The Mississippi River Delta has lost over 2,000 square miles of land since the 1930s and continues to lose a football field of wetlands every 100 minutes. Investments in restoring this critical fish and wildlife habitat not only improve fishing and hunting opportunities across the Gulf and throughout the Mississippi River Basin, but also means high-paying jobs for coastal residents.

We believe with the right focus, we can improve the land, water, and fish and wildlife resources that sustain our communities.

 

To learn more about the Conservation Works for America campaign, click here.

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.

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