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Alexandra Kozak

December 1, 2021

Two State Bills That PA Hunters and Anglers Should Support to Advance Conservation

The pandemic-fueled renaissance in hunting, fishing, and boating participation can only continue if the state invests in habitat and outdoor recreation access

Pennsylvania’s 1.5 million acres of state game land, 86,000 miles of rivers and streams, and almost 2.5 million acres of state parks and forests have a lot to offer hunters, anglers, and public land users of all kinds. These natural treasures support our economy, create healthy communities, and provide recreation for our families.

To ensure this continued vitality, Governor Wolf and the General Assembly must provide adequate funding for a Growing Greener III program and a Clean Streams Fund using funding already granted to the state as part of national economic recovery efforts.

Here are two state bills that you can support to advance conservation in the Keystone State and what’s at stake where you hunt and fish.

S.B. 525 – Strengthening the Growing Greener Program

Since its creation in 1999, the Growing Greener program has funded hundreds of parks and trail projects and has a long track record of proven success in conserving the state’s fish and wildlife habitat. Right now, new state legislation is being debated that would establish a framework, build on Pennsylvania’s conservation legacy and boosting the outdoor recreation economy by providing the necessary authority for administrative agencies in the Commonwealth to fund vital conservation projects identified since the last time Growing Greener was fully authorized. Approximately $500 million would come from the dollars given to the state from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

Pre-pandemic numbers showed that the outdoor recreation industry helps to drive Pennsylvania’s economy. This was even more true as residents committed to social distancing and other forms of indoor entertainment were closed due to COVID-19.

State fishing license sales have increased by 20 percent, with boat registrations up 40 percent. One-time spikes in participation are impressive enough, but it is extremely important that we continue to support this growing sector of our state’s economy. And this can’t be done without dedicated investments.

Growing Greener III would provide the funding needed to give our economy this boost while conserving natural resources that will increase our quality of life for years to come.

S.B. 832 – Establishing a Clean Streams Fund

A separate state bill would help to safeguard and restore Pennsylvania streams and rivers, while stimulating economic growth in our communities. Our great state is blessed with tens of thousands of miles of unmatched waters, but we are not without water quality challenges.

First, as use of our natural resources increases, so does the need to safeguard fish and wildlife habitat. Many state parks and forests saw 100- to 200-percent bumps in visitation, but parks with large water features saw as much as a 400-percent increase in foot traffic since the pandemic began.

At the same time, almost one-third of Pennsylvania’s surface water does not meet state water quality standards for either fish or humans, putting our health at risk and diminishing our economy. By investing $250 million of Pennsylvania’s share of American Rescue Plan funds, Senate Bill 832 would establish a new fund dedicated solely to water quality—specifically focused on “non-point” sources of pollution, such as agricultural runoff and acid mine drainage, that are spread throughout our state.

The bill—along with its House companion, H.B. 1901—would also create the Agricultural Conservation Assistance Program to help farmers implement conservation practices that keep valuable topsoil in place and reduce potentially harmful material from reaching local waterways. This would have impacts from the Keystone State all the way to the Chesapeake Bay.

This legislation would go a long way toward helping us protect Pennsylvania’s water resources and expand access to outdoor recreation, while shoring up the health of vital industries like tourism and agriculture.

Take Action Now

If you value our state’s coldwater fisheries, big game and bird habitat, and widespread public access to outdoor recreation that supports local jobs, do NOT wait. Act now and urge decision-makers to support S.B. 525 and S.B. 832 today.

 

Top photo courtesy of the Pennsylvania Game Commission via Flickr.

2 Responses to “Two State Bills That PA Hunters and Anglers Should Support to Advance Conservation”

  1. Brett Schultz

    I support this, but I will NOT support any NEW ATV or motored vehicle trails of any kind. These pollute, ruin hunts, ruin scenic enjoyment, and disrupt wildlife. Drivers also vandalize cabins and go off trail, further ruining the woods. This bill does not talk about ATV use, but let me just point this out.

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Three Important Forest Health Bills We’re Watching

This legislation could boost habitat, climate resilience, and rural economies—here’s what you need to know

With the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law in November, a significant commitment was made to our nation’s land, water, and wildlife.

The bill’s $8-billion investment in our forests, in particular, will support federal, state, Tribal, and private forest restoration efforts, while making these landscapes more resilient to wildfire, drought, pests, and diseases—the spread of which is now fueled by climate change.

New data confirm that climate-driven events are a part of our daily lives and threaten our hunting and fishing opportunities, but there are solutions all around us in the land, coasts, and trees that also support fish and wildlife. In fact, U.S. forests and forest products currently capture and store nearly 15 percent of our annual carbon emissions.

With the right policies, our nation’s forests can do even more. Here are three forestry bills we’re following closely that you should know about.

America’s Revegetation and Carbon Sequestration Act

America’s Revegetation and Carbon Sequestration Act would establish a national revegetation program to weave together fragmented landscapes and improve habitat connectivity. The legislation would prioritize ecological- and landscape-appropriate revegetation, incentivize forest management for enhanced carbon sequestration, and support targeted research to better connect between forest and rangeland planning and carbon storage. Additional provisions would create improvements in the entire forestry pipeline, from nursery inventory and capacity to market creation for low-value forest products.

We’re particularly interested in the abandoned mine land revegetation pilot program created in the bill, which offers a unique opportunity to rehabilitate regional landscapes and economies by creating new jobs. The program would provide financial assistance to establish native trees, shrubs, or grasses on federal, state, Tribal, and privately mined lands. These lands are often overrun with non-native, invasive vegetation and shrubs that have little benefit to wildlife and fail to add capacity in terms of carbon storage.

Expert forestry witnesses recently testified in support of the act during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources hearing. The bill will need a committee markup before moving to the floor for passage.

National Prescribed Fire Act

We believe the science-backed approach of active forest management—including prescribed fire, paired with mechanical treatments—is crucial to reduce the risks of catastrophic wildfire and restore ecosystems. Forest systems that are not actively managed are at greater risk for not only wildfire but also pests and disease.

But forest management is needed at a greater pace and scale than agencies can handle right now. The National Prescribed Fire Act would provide dedicated funding for prescribed fire projects and establish a workforce-development program and prescribed fire training center to help agency staff get equipped. The bill also recognizes the science and wisdom of long-standing practices by indigenous communities to yield balanced, diverse landscapes and improved native wildlife habitat.

Expert forestry witnesses recently testified in support of the act during a Senate Energy and Natural Resources hearing. The bill will need a committee markup before moving to the floor for passage.

Rural Forest Markets Act

Introduced earlier this year in both chambers, the Rural Forest Markets Act recognizes our farmers and foresters as important land stewards by providing them with loan guarantees and incentivizing climate-smart practices. Access to funding will remove barriers for rural farmers and foresters to participate in carbon markets, providing new income sources and related forestry jobs. The sustainable forest management that this bill promotes will give a boost to the timber market while providing habitat and climate solutions. The next step for this bill is a hearing and mark-up in either the Senate or House agriculture committees.

 

To be the first to hear about opportunities to support legislation that improves habitat while strengthening our country’s climate resilience, sign up for our emails.

 

Top photo courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service.

November 19, 2021

House Passes Reconciliation Package That Would Benefit Fish, Wildlife, and Habitat Connectivity

The Build Back Better Act would secure funding for top conservation priorities, including habitat improvements across public and private land

Washington, D.C. — This morning, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Build Back Better Act (H.R. 5376) in a 220-213 vote, advancing conservation provisions that would have an impact on hunting and fishing opportunities across the country. The $1.75-trillion budget reconciliation package now heads to the Senate for further debate.

“These transformational investments in public and private land, climate resilience, and habitat connectivity would provide direct benefits not only to at-risk landscapes but also to our economy—with specific impacts on outdoor recreation businesses and family farms, ranches, and forests,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Americans can and should debate the merits of congressional spending, but the return on investment from conservation has been proven time and again. And this bill recognizes the critical role of private landowners in addressing climate change through practices that also benefit fish and wildlife and water quality. We look forward to working with both chambers to ensure that fish and wildlife benefit from once-in-a-generation investments in our natural resources, rural economies, and climate resilience.”

Here are the areas where sportsmen and sportswomen would benefit from this important legislation, should it be passed into law.

Public Lands

Build Back Better would provide $10 million for mapping, restoring, and conserving wildlife corridors. Improving these seasonal habitats would directly benefit big game species, while boosting biodiversity and resilience in degraded ecosystems. There is also $100 million for the protection and restoration of grassland habitats to be distributed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through grants, contracts, and cooperative agreements.

Private Lands

In its current form, the bill would provide more than $27 billion for Farm Bill conservation programs—effectively doubling the conservation title of the Farm Bill and making the biggest investment in private lands conservation since the Dust Bowl. Authorized through Fiscal Year 2026, the bill greatly increases the capacity of USDA technical service providers to work alongside landowners to conserve habitat and improve soil health and water quality.

Climate

If passed, the bill would be the largest climate-related spending bill in U.S. history. It includes $12 billion to launch a Civilian Climate Corps and an additional $30 billion for projects that the Corps would undertake related to wildfire resiliency and restoration. The bill would also provide $9.5 billion for coastal and Great Lakes restoration and resilience. These funds will be used for the conservation, restoration, and protection of coastal and marine habitats and resources, including fisheries, to enable coastal communities to prepare for extreme storms and other changing climate conditions.

The over $25 billion the package would invest in forestry programs further underscores the importance of natural climate change solutions and aligns with many of TRCP’s priorities. These include funding for better forest management, wildfire prevention and restoration, legacy roads and trails, and state and private forestry conservation.

Marine Fisheries

Beyond conserving migration corridors, the bill would further prioritize habitat connectivity by investing $400 million in the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund, which helps to restore Pacific salmon and steelhead habitat necessary for their seasonal migration. And an additional $200 million would go toward data collection, management, and ecosystem-based assessments in support of federal marine fisheries. Finally, $250 million would help to repair, replace, and upgrade federal hatchery infrastructure.

 

The TRCP has tracked the budget reconciliation process since this summer and urged American hunters and anglers to push for the inclusion of many of these conservation provisions. Combined with the impact of conservation investments from the recently passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, final passage of the Build Back Better Act would set us on a course to make once-in-a-generation improvements to habitat and hunting and fishing opportunities.

 

Top photo courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service

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.”

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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