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Ian Nakayama

November 5, 2021

Bipartisan Infrastructure Package Secures Major Conservation Investments

Representatives make the most of this opportunity to fund wildlife crossings, public land access, and natural infrastructure solutions that benefit habitat and American communities

The House of Representatives passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (H.R. 3684) in a 228-206 vote tonight, advancing crucial conservation priorities for all Americans. The bill was passed by the Senate in August and now awaits the president’s signature.

“Making this commitment to our nation’s land, water, and wildlife signals that lawmakers understand the relationship between infrastructure and natural resources,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “The provisions within this comprehensive package are not only worth the investment as we think about the future—many are long overdue. We look forward to President Biden signing and enacting this legislation that makes a strong commitment to conservation.”

Numerous provisions in the $1.2-trillion bipartisan deal are top TRCP priorities, including:

  • $350 million for a first-of-its-kind grant program to construct wildlife-friendly roadway crossings and reconnect fragmented migration corridors.
  • $250 million for the Legacy Roads and Trails Remediation Program to improve access to Forest Service public lands and safeguard fish and wildlife habitat from harmful runoff and pollutants caused by roads in disrepair.
  • Reauthorization of the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, which pays for fisheries conservation, access improvements, and education for anglers and boaters.
  • $1.4 billion for natural infrastructure solutions through the Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient, and Cost-Saving Transportation (PROTECT) Grant Program.
  • $14.65 billion for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund Program, which supports estuary restoration and stormwater management projects.
  • $400 million for WaterSMART grants, with $100 million set aside for natural infrastructure solutions that enhance resilience to drought and wildfires, facilitate water conservation, create new habitat, and improve water quality.
  • Significant investments in programs aimed at enhancing the resiliency of Western watersheds to climate change and drought, including $300 million to implement the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plans, $3.2 billion to modernize aging agricultural infrastructure and generate benefits for fish and wildlife, and $50 million to support ongoing Endangered Species recovery efforts that sustain habitat for native fish.

“The bipartisan infrastructure bill passed by the House tonight has not had the most straightforward path to completion, but the conservation provisions included in this package are a clear victory for American hunters and anglers, and they should be recognized and widely celebrated,” says Steve Kline, TRCP’s chief policy officer. “The impact of these investments will be felt by more than just migratory big game, waterfowl, and sportfish: Improving access, habitat, and water quality while lowering the risks of wildfire, drought, and storm damage will keep communities safer, boost our economy, and expand our hunting and fishing opportunities.”

8 Responses to “Bipartisan Infrastructure Package Secures Major Conservation Investments”

  1. Curt Nizzoli

    At what cost?!?! All these benefits to wildlife conservation could have/SHOULD have been in a separate bill. Just because they threw us a bone does NOT mean we should accept all the wasteful spending that we, our kids and our grandkids are going to be paying for for decades!! This is a very minimal “win”. However, this is a tremendous loss to our incomes, our retirements, our estates, our family’s wealth, and our future.

    Glad the current board at TRCP are showing their true colors so that we know how easily they will cave, and then call out and yell, “Victory!”…..

    • Scott Hed

      Curt, that may be more true with regard to the still-being-negotiated spending bill. This infrastructure bill isn’t loaded down with lots of controversial stuff. I presume you think improving roads, bridges, airports and ports, broadband internet, water and energy systems is worth spending federal dollars on. The bill that President Biden signed – and about which this article is written – came out of the Senate with 69 votes including Minority Leader McConnell and 18 other Republicans. It just passed the House with support from Republicans. So this is truly a bipartisan piece of legislation that managed to pass a very divided Congress – and with some solid conservation measures included. This is a win and should be celebrated as such.

  2. Zach Smith

    celebrating the fact that the government has spent Trillions more then it has and had made us weaker as a result, no thank you.
    I love public land, but has anyone thought far enough down the road to see a day the government is forced to sell off our lands to pay off its endless debt ? They did us no favors in Washington,

  3. Lyn McCormick

    Where is all this “conservation” taking place exactly ? We in NW Colorado are being run roughshod over by “green” renewable Wyoming wind farm energy transmission lines taking electricity to Las Vegas & So. CA. Theses projects are a Warren Buffet / Phillip Anschutz pork boondoggle. They bisect to major watersheds, the Yampa & Little Snake Rivers, several WSA’s, a major big game migration route, the only priority Sage Grouse habitat in Colorado, a migratory bird flyway & waterfowl resting byway at theBrowns ParkNational Wildlife Refuge. I contacted TRCP for assistance to compel the State of Colorado to intervene but no such luck.

  4. Bill Blount

    The infrastructure bill was long overdue. Biden deserves credit whereas his predecessors over the last 20 years did nothing. The federal land will never be sold off to pay debt down. It’s been tried over and over and does not gain any traction..read your history. It baffles me why people don’t understand that funding for our lands and infrastructure is critical to the long term health of this country. Tax breaks for rich people are not.

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Reminder: What the Pending Infrastructure Vote Means for Hunters and Anglers

Why we’re watching Congress so closely for this deal to come together

We’d forgive you for losing track of what is at stake for fish and wildlife as House members continue to extend debate and negotiations on two critically important legislative packages: the budget reconciliation bill known as Build Back Better and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Both would be defining victories for this Congress and the administration. And both contain some very big wins for conservation.

A House vote on reconciliation will only push this process to the next step, which is Senate consideration. This is important, since the legislation could clinch once-in-a-generation investments in climate resilience and private land conservation. We hope to have more to share on that as things progress.

But there are numerous conservation provisions in the $1.2-trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal that are top TRCP priorities. And because the legislation passed out of the Senate in August, these would be headed to the president’s desk if the House can agree on final passage. Here’s what we’re rooting for as we watch this process closely:

  • $350 million for a first-of-its-kind grant program to construct wildlife-friendly roadway crossings and reconnect fragmented migration corridors.
  • $250 million for the Legacy Roads and Trails Remediation Program to improve access to Forest Service public lands and safeguard fish and wildlife habitat from harmful runoff and pollutants caused by roads in disrepair.
  • Reauthorization of the Sport Fish Restoration and Boating Trust Fund, which pays for fisheries conservation, access improvements, and education for anglers and boaters.
  • $1.4 billion for natural infrastructure solutions through the Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient, and Cost-Saving Transportation (PROTECT) Grant Program.
  • $14.65 billion for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund Program, which supports estuary restoration and stormwater management projects.
  • $400 million for WaterSMART grants, with $100 million set aside for natural infrastructure solutions that enhance resilience to drought and wildfires, facilitate water conservation, create new habitat, and improve water quality.
  • Significant investments in programs aimed to enhance the resiliency of Western watersheds to climate change and drought, including $300 million to implement the Colorado River Drought Contingency Plans, $3.2 billion to modernize aging agricultural infrastructure and generate benefits for fish and wildlife, and $50 million to support ongoing Endangered Species recovery efforts that sustain habitat for native fish.

Stay tuned to the TRCP blog and social media channels (@theTRCP) for the absolute latest.

Photo of the Capitol by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

November 4, 2021

Hunters and Anglers in Colorado Will Help Shape the Future of the West’s Water

Locally led water resource plans are being crafted that will help guide the management of water so it supports the needs of fish, wildlife, outdoor recreation, agriculture, and communities

Iconic Western watersheds are at a crossroads. The American West remains in the midst of a “megadrought,” which is contributing to catastrophic wildfires, impacting agricultural operations, and even affecting iconic Western wildlife and our hunting and fishing opportunities.

The Colorado River’s average annual flows have declined by 20 percent since 2000. More than half of that decline has been attributed to warming temperatures, which threaten fish and wildlife species that depend on there being not only enough water in the river but also cool enough water for them to survive.

The trickle-down effect on water-based recreation, such as fishing and boating, is easy to see. This summer, Colorado’s Yampa River was closed to fishing and recreation for more than three months due to low flows and high temperatures. Lower flows are also a concern to communities that depend on the Colorado River for drinking water in seven U.S. states—Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, California, and Nevada—and Mexico. Importantly, the watershed is home to 33 percent of the U.S. Latino population and 30 Native America tribes.

Right now, we all have a chance to influence the future conservation of Western water resources as we look toward a hotter, drier future. If you are someone who depends on America’s “hardest working river” or just a curious TRCP blog reader, here’s what you need to know about the next steps and how to get involved.

The Future of Water in Colorado

The ongoing Colorado Water Plan Update offers an opportunity for hunters and anglers to have our voices heard on how communities will address water resource challenges for the next five years. The existing Colorado Water Plan outlines how to create more resilient, thriving watersheds that support robust agriculture, outdoor recreation opportunities, and vibrant communities. Now, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the state agency responsible for developing the Colorado Water Plan, is revising this plan to ensure that it is meeting current and future water needs based on changing circumstances in our state and across the West. Over the next few months, we will share a series of videos, action alerts, and other direct ways for you to engage in the Colorado Water Plan update process.

The full proposed update won’t be available to comment on until July 2022, but conversations are already underway that will influence this plan. In Colorado, water policy and management decisions are largely informed through a grassroots process. In order to facilitate conversations around managing water, Colorado established nine Basin Roundtables, composed of local volunteers who coordinate regional input on important water resource management issues.

The Basin Roundtables represent each of Colorado’s eight major watersheds and the Denver metro area, where the majority of Colorado’s population resides. The feedback they gather may include how to prioritize funding for water projects and maintain compliance with interstate water compacts. This will help update the nine Basin Implementation Plans (BIPs), which are locally driven documents identifying goals and actions to address regional water issues and priorities. BIPs also help to prioritize projects ranging from stream restoration to water infrastructure upgrades.

Weighing in on these grassroots-level plans will help to provide recreational and environmental benefits and build out the scaffolding for the broader Colorado Water Plan. For more information on roundtables and BIPs, check out Water for Colorado’s recent blog post.

Local Hunters and Anglers Can Take Action Now

While hunters and anglers across the country have a stake in the Colorado Water Plan and how it affects fish and wildlife across the region, it is vital that those of us who live and recreate right here in Colorado participate in this first locally led planning effort. Drafts of the updated Basin Implementation Plans are currently open to public comment through November 15.

We’ve made it easy for hunters and anglers to take action and help ensure that BIPs will sustain healthy river flows for fish and wildlife, encourage water conservation and efficiency, promote diversity and equity in the update process, and reflect other top priorities for sportsmen and sportswomen. Check out our simple advocacy tool to make your voice heard today.

This blog was collaboratively written by Jared Romero, TRCP director of strategic partnerships, and Alex Funk, TRCP director of water resources and senior counsel. Top photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via flickr.

Learn more about our work to conserve the Colorado River here.

Jaclyn Higgins

October 29, 2021

How the Forage Fish Conservation Act Will Benefit Anglers

New legislation will help ensure that the species at the base of the marine food chain are abundant enough to support sportfish

Forage fish like menhaden, river herring, and shad are the foundation of the marine food web. These fish serve as prey for popular sportfish, such as striped bass, speckled trout, and bluefin tuna, as well as iconic species like osprey, bottlenose dolphins, and humpback whales.

Shad and river herring, in particular, used to support some of the largest and most important commercial and recreational fisheries along the Atlantic coast, but habitat loss from dam construction and stock depletion from overfishing have decreased herring and shad landings by 96 percent since 1950. Meanwhile, billions of pounds of menhaden are commercially harvested by a single foreign-owned company to be “reduced” into livestock feed, fish oil, fish meal, fertilizer, and other products.

The TRCP has been engaged in the push for better forage fish management, because these species are essential to coastal ecosystems and economies.

The bipartisan Forage Fish Conservation Act, which was introduced in the House this week, aims to address current gaps in forage fish management by amending and building upon the successes of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which has been instrumental in addressing overfishing and maintaining stocks for anglers to enjoy over the past 50 years.

The new legislation would ensure that federal fisheries managers account for the needs of forage fish and the predator species that depend on them. It would establish management plans for river herring and shad in the Atlantic and address the needs of sportfish and other predator species in existing forage fish management plans. It would also require that managers assess the possible impacts of newly proposed commercial fishing for forage fish, including the effects on other fisheries, anglers, and the marine ecosystem. The bill would require that science-based recommendations are made on forage fish management and provide a national, science-based definition for forage fish, to help clarify future policymaking.

More abundant forage fish populations will boost sportfish and fishing opportunities. The implementation of the Forage Fish Conservation Act would sustain forage fish populations by improving management strategies, so that anglers can enjoy thriving coastal ecosystems and economies for generations to come.

Do Your Part

Ask your elected officials to support the Forage Fish Conservation Act and the future of forage fish management using our easy advocacy tool. Take action now!

Top photo courtesy of Woozy Fishing (@woozy_fishing)

Alex Funk

October 21, 2021

Five Impacts of Western Drought That Have Nothing to Do with Fish

When rivers and reservoirs drop, there are major consequences for anglers, but the ongoing megadrought could affect your hunting season, as well 

Drought is readily identified as a stressor on freshwater ecosystems—but how often do you think about the impacts of drought on hunting? The recent headlines about the ongoing megadrought that is affecting nearly 92 percent of the western United States probably call to mind the major consequences for fish and anglers, like voluntary fishing closures due to low flows and warm stream temperatures. But hunters must also contend with warmer and drier conditions that disrupt our seasons or deepen the decline of some game species.

Here are five ways that drought could affect your hunting opportunities.

Decreased Duck and Upland Bird Production

According to Field & Stream, widespread drought conditions in the Upper Midwest’s Prairie Pothole region are contributing to reproductive stress, low recruitment, and long-term population decline for waterfowl species. Fewer young ducks can mean fewer opportunities for hunters too, as more wary adults avoid even the best decoy spread in the marsh. In California, there isn’t enough water available for rice fields, which provide critical food and habitat for migratory birds along the Pacific Flyway. When birds pack in to what limited water sources are available, disease outbreaks and other impacts can occur. Drought conditions often trigger emergency haying and grazing rules that affect the quality of grassland cover, leading to fewer birds, as well. Finally, heat stress and limited cover and water may have long lasting effects on upland bird species, including poor nesting cover and high chick mortality.

Disrupted Migration Patterns

Dry conditions associated with drought are contributing to more frequent, longer wildfire seasons in the West, and data from the 2020 wildfire season shows that wildfire smoke appears to be disrupting the flight paths of migratory birds like geese. Birds are flying longer distances and taking more time to reach their final destinations. These longer flights can result in higher energy expenditure and may lead to increased mortality or lower productive rates.

Public Access Limitations

Habitat isn’t the only thing at risk when drought drives more intense wildfires: Our access could also be temporarily closed as public land agencies struggle to respond to fires and keep people safe. In August, the U.S. Forest Service closed California’s national forests—a total of 20 million acres of public land—to mitigate the potential for additional wildfires. Some state-managed public lands were also closed to keep emergency response routes clear and protect public safety. These closures coincided with the beginning of California’s popular deer hunting season.

Less Forage (and Water) for Big Game

Drought is contributing to a wide range of impacts to iconic Western big game species. According to the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, mule deer recruitment is declining due to reduced forage availability and increased heat stress. Drought can even make it harder for bucks to grow full-size antlers. In Arizona, the state’s wildlife agency has been forced to haul wildlife drinking water to a network of catchments, but at a significant financial cost to the agency. In Nevada, hunters recently raised more than $180,000 to support water hauling efforts that sustain the state’s revitalized bighorn sheep populations.

Fewer Hunting Permits

It stands to reason that if habitat and critters are in decline, our hunting opportunities will decrease, too. For example, Utah’s wildlife board approved 5,650 fewer general-season permits for the 2021 deer hunt. The decision was based on a recommendation from state wildlife biologists, who found that ongoing drought is contributing to reduced productivity of critical wildlife ranges, decreased animal survival, and lower statewide population levels of many big game species.

 

So, whether you hunt, fish, or support sportsmen and sportswomen from the sidelines, the ongoing drought and drier, hotter future we’re facing across the West should concern you. Click here to learn more about hunters and anglers who are experiencing the impacts of the Colorado River crisis right now.

Top photo courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

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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