Preserving Pennsylvania Streams: The Klondike Property
This video is the third 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
If you want to see the downstream effects of conserving important headwaters, look no further than the former Klondike Property in Gouldsboro, Pa.—the origin of the Lehigh River, which is one of the largest tributaries to the Delaware. By preserving just 500 acres, including 200 acres of wetlands, conservationists have successfully protected the source of drinking water for 180,000 Pennsylvanians. These acres are also open to the public for hunting and fishing, which boosts the local outdoor recreation economy.
It’s a good lesson about what’s possible with dedicated conservation funding and many willing partners.
The Klondike Property was acquired in 2018 by Wildlands Conservancy and was transferred to the Pennsylvania Game Commission to expand State Game Lands 312, which was also gifted by Wildlands Conservancy and partners in 1991. The incredible opportunity to secure this area for future generations was made possible with $1 million from the Keystone Recreation, Park & Conservation Fund and matching contributions from local stakeholders, private donors, and sportsmen’s groups. This included Hokendauqua Trout Unlimited, three chapters of the National Wild Turkey Federation, the Northampton County Federation of Sportsmen, and the Lehigh Valley Chapter of the Ruffed Grouse Society.
A diverse partnership was key, but the match alone wouldn’t have covered the cost. “Without having the state funding it’s very difficult to do the projects that we do to make sure that nature is accessible to all,” says Chris Kocher, president of Wildlands Conservancy.
As locals Holly Sheisley and Nate Fronk share in our latest video, the Klondike acquisition provided the perfect opportunity for Holly to harvest her first goose—a milestone in their relationship and the start to a shared pursuit they will hopefully enjoy for years to come.
“I’ve been hunting for almost ten years now,” says Fronk, chair of the Pennsylvania Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. “It’s so cool getting to share with Holly what means so much to me.” Sheisley agrees: “Being with your best friend, those stories that you share, there’s nothing like it.”
“Conserving [these lands] and making sure they’re open to the public is the best way to make sure we have hunting and fishing into the future,” says Fronk. Having dedicated state conservation funding like the Keystone Recreation, Park & Conservation Fund is making this possible across Pennsylvania.
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.
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.
This video is the first 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. These videos are 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. These 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.
Brodhead Creek has drawn anglers to its banks for generations. Many of our country’s earliest hunting and fishing clubs, including the famous Henryville House, were started nearby and have played host to some of our country’s great conservationists and leaders—from Theodore Roosevelt to Theodore Gordon and Grover Cleveland to Gifford Pinchot. To this day, the Brodhead remains steeped in American flyfishing history and is regarded by many as an important landmark of the tradition in the United States.
However, we continue to have great fishing on the Brodhead because sportsmen and women who came before us recognized the damage caused by timber, tanning, and turpentine trades, which left many Pocono waters barren of trout, and worked diligently to restore the forests and headwater habitat of the creek. That same conservationist ethic is alive and well in Pennsylvania today, as hunters and anglers continue to work with watershed groups and land trusts to restore these waters to their former glory.
In 2014, working alongside local municipalities, the Pocono Heritage Land Trust and Brodhead Watershed Association were able to secure the purchase of 40 acres of land and approximately a half-mile of Brodhead Creek. State conservation dollars provided by the Keystone Fund were matched and amplified by local funding sources to conserve this valuable habitat and establish new fishing access. Projects like this help to protect trout waters of the highest quality and most exceptional value to anglers and fish throughout the Poconos and Delaware River watershed.
Today, the ForEvergreen Preserve provides public access to one of American flyfishing’s most historically influential waters, while the Brodhead Creek Heritage Center located on the property provides education on the conservation legacy of hunters and anglers. In filming this video, a celebration of the Brodhead and what conservation funding can accomplish, we had the honor to join Eric Gusztaw from Western Pocono Trout Unlimited and Louise Troutman from the Pocono Heritage Land Trust. Watch to learn why the Keystone Fund is so important to hunters, anglers, and conservationists in this unique watershed.
*Correction: Eric Gusztaw is from Brodhead Creek TU, not Western Pocono TU as credited in the video.
Six Ways Congress Can Create Jobs and Safeguard Habitat
Conservation works for hunters, anglers, and the American economy
After COVID hit the United States, people flocked to mountains, rivers, lakes, and trails to escape the four walls of our homes and clear our heads. These outdoor places provided respite and improved the wellbeing of millions of Americans.
Unfortunately, it’s our economy that needs a breath of fresh air now. Following the economic downturn of the past year, Congress should make bold investments to create jobs, rebuild our economy, and improve the health of our communities.
Our natural resources can once again bring our nation together, if Congress seizes the opportunity to invest in them. As policymakers search for ways to stimulate the economy, they need look no further than our lands and waters. That’s why hunters and anglers are joining a diverse coalition of conservationists and outdoor enthusiasts to ensure that Congress considers fish and wildlife habitat as part of the solution to the many challenges we face.
The six policy proposals that we have put forward will put Americans back to work, combat climate change, and enhance our outdoor recreation opportunities. Here’s what Congress should do to let conservation work for America.
Strengthen America’s coastlines and restore iconic ecosystems.
Our coastal wetlands, marshes, river systems, and floodplains serve an outsized role in minimizing the impacts of extreme weather events. Restoring these landscapes will not only ensure the functionality of important coastal ecosystems for years to come, it will also enhance natural flood buffers, protect critical infrastructure and communities, improve water quality, and support economic growth.
In the Gulf of Mexico, wildlife tourism alone supports $19 billion in annual spending and supports over half a million jobs, but the region is also incredibly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The Mississippi River Delta has lost more than 2,000 square miles of land since the 1930s and continues to lose the equivalent of a football field worth of wetlands every 100 minutes.
Congress should support the conservation and restoration of these systems by funding publicly vetted coastal or watershed restoration plans. Congress should also create a new program to fund coastal restoration and fisheries management initiatives, like those that were supported by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
Prioritize wetlands restoration.
The North American Wetlands Conservation Act has proven to be our nation’s most effective program for protecting, restoring, and enhancing wetlands and waterfowl habitat. Since 1990, the program has provided flood control, protected water quality, improved ecosystem function, and secured recreational access on more than 30 million acres of wetlands. The partnership model established in this legislation generates roughly 7,500 jobs and supports over $200 million in salaries annually. We strongly encourage Congress to fully fund this program.
Invest in our nation’s private lands.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture administers a suite of voluntary conservation programs that provide value to rural America beyond their well-known ecological benefits. Incentives offered through the Conservation Reserve Program, Regional Conservation Partnership Program, Environmental Quality Incentives Program, and the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program optimize farm and forestry operations, improve fish and wildlife habitat, and add value at a time when the agricultural economy needs it most.
These initiatives help agricultural producers, hunters, and anglers but require significant investment to ensure they remain effective in protecting soil, water, wildlife, and landowners’ bottom lines. We urge Congress to double its investment and significantly grow enrollment in Farm Bill conservation programs, so we can address natural resource challenges—like habitat loss and climate change—and provide landowners with the technical and financial assistance they need.
Use habitat to improve the resilience of transportation infrastructure.
With over 4 million miles of public roads in the U.S., the scope of repairs needed to support our aging transportation infrastructure seems daunting. We encourage Congress to pass a highway bill that creates a new competitive grant program aimed at enhancing the resilience of these critical transportation systems. This kind of dedicated funding is necessary to prioritize the use and restoration of natural infrastructure—natural systems, like wetlands and dunes, that can mitigate threats to our roadways, like flooding from powerful storm surge.
Incorporating natural infrastructure approaches and relocating vulnerable assets out of flood-prone areas can increase the resilience of our communities. These projects would provide quality jobs and pay dividends to local taxpayers.
Invest in pre-disaster mitigation.
When communities experience major disasters, their resources are drained as they rebuild. That’s why we need an infusion of cash to not only help them pick up the pieces, but also to prepare for future catastrophic weather events.
Administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Building Resilient Infrastructure in Communities Program provides communities with matching funds to identify existing infrastructure vulnerabilities and develop innovative, nature-based solutions that lessen the impacts of future disasters to life and property. These pre-disaster mitigation grant projects reduce risk and increase habitat for the fish and wildlife we love to pursue. We encourage Congress to set aside 15 percent of funds for nature-based approaches to reducing disaster risk.
Invest in sustainable water systems.
From water quality issues in the East to water quantity issues in the West, we need thoughtful approaches to watershed management that are based in local needs. These solutions are not one size fits all, but several key initiatives can prop up our most valuable resource—the water that powers our lives and outdoor recreation opportunities.
The Clean Water State Revolving Fund is a proven tool to help communities overcome challenges to water quality and infrastructure. Since its inception, the Fund has provided communities, many of them disadvantaged, with over $110 billion in financing for estuary protection, wastewater control, and water treatment.
Like the rest of America’s infrastructure, Western water delivery systems are aging and struggling to adequately keep pace with the needs of growing communities and economies. The WaterSMART Drought Response and Cooperative Watershed Management programs help develop local watershed management programs to address this challenge. WaterSMART grants help to improve water delivery, efficiency, and reliability and reduce conflicts over water-use in the West.
Congress should support and increase investments in these water initiatives to put Americans back to work—and back out on our kayaks and driftboats.
How You Can Help
The TRCP will continue to offer sportsmen and women a chance to engage in our #ConservationWorksforAmerica campaign in 2021. Take action now and urge decision-makers to put people back to work through conservation.
Long before the election, as part of a comprehensive process of preparing decisionmakers in both the Trump and Biden camps, the TRCP team identified the top-tier issues that could be addressed in the first 100 days in office. Here’s our list of the ten most imminent habitat needs and impactful conservation measures that the Biden Administration should influence before April 30, 2021.
Put Americans Back to Work Through Conservation
Conservation funding spans a wide range of federal departments and agencies and touches upon nearly every aspect of our daily lives. Yet, conservation’s portion of the pie has been cut in half in the past 40 years—from 2 percent of the total federal budget in the 1970s to less than one percent today. This decline in federal funding has had significant impacts on our nation’s public lands and on federal agencies’ ability to protect and improve habitat.
The recent enactment of the Great American Outdoors Act will provide an important infusion of federal funding to address deferred maintenance backlogs, as well as land acquisition and public access priorities. This dedicated funding comes at a critical time, as visitation to our nation’s public lands, particularly during COVID, continues to increase at a dramatic scale. But more can be done.
The Administration must support Congressional efforts to increase conservation funding in the Farm Bill, improve the resilience of transportation infrastructure, invest in pre-disaster mitigation and sustainable water systems, and strengthen coastlines and habitat. These investments can help our nation recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic, while also spurring conservation.
Building on that, the president’s fiscal year 2022 budget is slated for delivery to Congress in early February, and it should provide strong investments in conservation. Beyond the first 100 days, a new budget deal will need to be negotiated with Congress—which holds the power of the pursestrings, no matter what the president’s budget request may include—to secure these investments and create conservation jobs.
Use Habitat Improvements to Address Climate Change
Hunters and anglers are on the front lines of climate change, observing changes in fish and wildlife migration patterns, altered breeding seasons, shifts in home ranges, loss of habitat from sea-level rise, and even loss of trail and road access due to extreme weather events such as flooding and storm surges.
We need to focus on harnessing the power of natural systems—in other words, habitat—to remove and sequester carbon from the atmosphere and protect communities faced with severe storms and other impacts of a changing climate. This would not only advance our country’s climate resilience but also improve air quality, soil health, and water quality. In the balance, sportsmen and women would gain stronger, more adaptable fish and wildlife populations and support for our vibrant outdoor recreation economy.
Invest in a Coordinated Response to Chronic Wasting Disease
This administration should take definitive steps to stem the spread of chronic wasting disease, which threatens the very future of deer and deer hunting, by investing both in state surveillance and testing efforts and in federal research on the disease.
Further, to ensure that the captive cervid industry is holding up its end of the bargain, we’d also like to see a third-party scientific review of the Herd Certification Program—a voluntary program at the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service for keeping captive deer herds at “low-risk” of contracting and spreading CWD. Until this review is complete, and its recommendations are implemented, the administration should place a moratorium on the interstate movement of live deer.
Max Out Conservation Reserve Program Acres
With just 21.9 million acres enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program—the lowest enrollment since 1987—the incoming administration must restore the health of this popular Farm Bill program and its benefits to wildlife and landowners. Under the Trump Administration, the Farm Service Agency changed how CRP 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.
In the 2018 Farm Bill, Congress raised the total CRP acreage cap from 24 million to 27 million acres, in part to accommodate growing landowner interest. In the first 100 days of Biden’s term, the administration needs to hold an emergency General Signup for the Conservation Reserve Program that offers incentive and cost-share payments at historic levels and restores soil productivity as an adjusting factor in rental rate determinations. The U.S. Department of Agriculture should also develop a public timeline for CRP signups to provide certainty as landowners make decisions regarding use of their lands.
Restore Roadless Area Protections in the Tongass National Forest
The Tongass National Forest is America’s largest national forest, encompassing nearly 90 percent of the southeastern panhandle of Alaska. By lifting roadless area safeguards in the Tongass, the Forest Service under the Trump Administration has threatened 9.2 million acres of undeveloped forest, potentially undermining the region’s world-class fisheries and vital habitat for Sitka blacktail deer, bears, moose, and Roosevelt elk.
In the first 100 days, the Biden Administration should halt any pending projects that could undermine the habitat value of roadless areas and take immediate steps to restore roadless area safeguards for the Tongass.
These fish and wildlife resources not only serve as an important food source for thousands of local families—including many from indigenous communities—they provide outstanding opportunities for recreational hunting and fishing that fuels Southeast Alaska’s vibrant tourism industry. Today, the region’s recreation and fishing industries account for more than 25 percent of all local employment. Given the opportunity to influence forest management practices and budgets, the administration should also prioritize sustainable forest uses—including restoration and recreation projects—that have the greatest potential to support the region’s long-term economic growth.
Ensure That Savings from the “Fire Fix” Go Toward Forest Health
In 2018, Congress passed a spending bill that finally helped us shift away from a dysfunctional model of funding wildfire suppression and recovery, in which the U.S. Forest Service was forced to dip into conservation accounts during catastrophic fire seasons after running out of appropriated funds. This practice was crippling the ability of agencies to manage forests effectively and actually reduce the risk of future megafires.
But, to date, the Trump Administration and Congress have not used the fire funding fix as intended. While federal agencies can now access emergency funding when they run out of fire suppression dollars, the fix was also designed to provide substantial new resources—more than $400 million for the Forest Service in 2020—that agencies could use for forest restoration and other activities. This funding was not made available in the 2020 budget.
In the first 100 days, the Biden Administration should ensure that these vital funds are invested in the health of our forests.
Rebuild the Bedrock Conservation Law That Protects Our Streams and Wetlands
The Clean Water Act has been one of the country’s most successful conservation tools since its passage in 1972. Sadly, in the last 20 years, uncertainty about the scope of the Clean Water Act—drawn from confusing Supreme Court decisions and several Trump Administration rules weakening the Act—has accelerated wetlands loss and threatened our most vulnerable trout streams.
The Biden Administration needs to move quickly to reverse this damage, while allowing for robust public comment. They should conduct public listening sessions and work to reach agreement on a durable definition of which waters and wetlands are protected under the Clean Water Act. Sportsmen and women can then engage—and show up in force, as we have in the past—to support the conservation of our headwater streams and wetlands.
Commit to Modernizing Fisheries Management
The TRCP and its sportfishing partners have been working for the last eight years to advance fisheries policy and law that recognizes the conservation, cultural, and economic importance of saltwater angling. The recently passed bipartisan Modern Fish Act finally recognizes the fundamental difference between commercial and recreational fishing and prescribes changes in fisheries management to improve data collection and conservation strategies.
The Biden Administration should renew this commitment in its management of the federal agencies that oversee fisheries management. It is vital that the incoming administration recognize the need for NOAA Fisheries to move away from its history of focusing solely on commercial fishing and continue to develop relationships and policies that recognize the management needs and economic importance of recreational fishing. It is also vital that NOAA Fisheries examine how it applies policies and laws related to coastal habitat restoration as states seek to restore wetlands, barrier islands, and reefs that have been damaged by development, subsidence, and sea-level rise.
Restore Strong Conservation Plans for Greater Sage Grouse
These plans were revised and ultimately weakened under the Trump Administration, which stripped out safeguards for certain sagebrush habitats and created more potential for development and mineral extraction within sage grouse habitat. A court injunction prevents these 2019 plans from being used, but in the meantime habitat continues to be lost and long-term grouse population trends remain in decline.
TRCP strongly recommends that the Biden Administration renew and expand efforts on all fronts on sage grouse conservation and management, including by restoring the strength of conservation plans that convinced the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service not to list the bird.
Reverse Mining Decision in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters
Minnesota’s one-million-acre Boundary Water Canoe Area is the most visited Wilderness Area in the country, a playground of fish, wildlife, and water adventure that supports a thriving recreation economy. In 2012, a mining company bought old leases and asked the Forest Service to renew them so they could open a massive copper mine five miles upstream of the Wilderness. The Forest Service completed an environmental analysis and in 2016 denied the lease renewal, because it was just too risky. The Forest Service also temporarily withdrew the land for mining and began a study of mining effects on the landscape.
But in 2018, the Trump Administration reinstated the leases, rushed through a cursory review to justify undoing the mineral withdrawal, and refused to publicize any part of the abandoned study. The Biden Administration should act quickly to develop and implement a strategy for reversing these decisions and protect the Boundary Waters permanently.
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.