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Randall Williams

November 19, 2021

Hunters and Anglers Welcome New Direction for the Tongass

USDA moving ahead with restoration of conservation safeguards in Southeast Alaska

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership celebrated the next step in the U.S. Forest Service’s plan to implement a proposed new management approach for 9.2 million acres of public land in the Tongass National Forest. As one of the final moves toward restoring conservation safeguards to undeveloped forest lands and watersheds in Southeast Alaska, the Forest Service is slated to launch a 60-day public comment period on Nov. 23.

Reinstating the Roadless Rule on the Tongass is one component of the Southeast Alaska Sustainability Strategy, unveiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture earlier this year, which prioritizes the region’s biggest economic engines, local values, and overwhelming public opinion. The restoration of these conservation safeguards was one of TRCP’s top ten priorities for the Biden Administration.

“Hunters and anglers are some of the most outspoken supporters of the Tongass National Forest because they understand the importance of these lands to Southeast Alaska’s economy, culture, and world-renowned fish and wildlife,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Last year’s rollback of conservation safeguards for these public lands flew in the face of overwhelming public opposition, and we appreciate the USDA’s willingness to reverse that decision while also prioritizing more sustainable forest management practices that will result in healthier habitats, improved recreational opportunities, and more resilient communities.”

Pairing the restoration of conservation safeguards with new, robust investments in the region’s economic development, the USDA’s July 2021 proposal was welcomed by local communities and various stakeholders as a balanced solution that promises a sustainable future for a region widely regarded as some of the richest fish and wildlife habitat in Alaska. Among other things, USDA’s new strategy will reverse of one of last year’s biggest conservation setbacks and ensure that the Tongass National Forest will remain an iconic hunting and fishing destination.

“Right now, hunters and anglers have an opportunity to ensure that public lands in Southeast Alaska are managed according to a durable, balanced, and community-focused framework,” said Jen Leahy, Alaska field representative for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “It is critical that members of the sporting community—as well as every American who understands the value of the Tongass—speak up in support of restoring conservation safeguards to Southeast Alaska’s remaining undeveloped fish and wildlife habitat.”

Click here to learn more about the impact of the Roadless Rule on habitat in the Tongass.

 

Photo: Ben Matthews

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Hunters and Anglers Welcome New Direction for the Tongass

USDA moving ahead with restoration of conservation safeguards in Southeast Alaska

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership celebrated the next step in the U.S. Forest Service’s plan to implement a proposed new management approach for 9.2 million acres of public land in the Tongass National Forest. As one of the final moves toward restoring conservation safeguards to undeveloped forest lands and watersheds in Southeast Alaska, the Forest Service is slated to launch a 60-day public comment period on Nov. 23.

Reinstating the Roadless Rule on the Tongass is one component of the Southeast Alaska Sustainability Strategy, unveiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture earlier this year, which prioritizes the region’s biggest economic engines, local values, and overwhelming public opinion. The restoration of these conservation safeguards was one of TRCP’s top ten priorities for the Biden Administration.

“Hunters and anglers are some of the most outspoken supporters of the Tongass National Forest because they understand the importance of these lands to Southeast Alaska’s economy, culture, and world-renowned fish and wildlife,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Last year’s rollback of conservation safeguards for these public lands flew in the face of overwhelming public opposition, and we appreciate the USDA’s willingness to reverse that decision while also prioritizing more sustainable forest management practices that will result in healthier habitats, improved recreational opportunities, and more resilient communities.”

Pairing the restoration of conservation safeguards with new, robust investments in the region’s economic development, the USDA’s July 2021 proposal was welcomed by local communities and various stakeholders as a balanced solution that promises a sustainable future for a region widely regarded as some of the richest fish and wildlife habitat in Alaska. Among other things, USDA’s new strategy will reverse of one of last year’s biggest conservation setbacks and ensure that the Tongass National Forest will remain an iconic hunting and fishing destination.

“Right now, hunters and anglers have an opportunity to ensure that public lands in Southeast Alaska are managed according to a durable, balanced, and community-focused framework,” said Jen Leahy, Alaska field representative for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “It is critical that members of the sporting community—as well as every American who understands the value of the Tongass—speak up in support of restoring conservation safeguards to Southeast Alaska’s remaining undeveloped fish and wildlife habitat.”

Click here to learn more about the impact of the Roadless Rule on habitat in the Tongass.

 

Photo: Ben Matthews

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.”

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.

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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