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Kristyn Brady

January 19, 2022

House Committee Advances the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act

Learn why this important conservation funding bill—one of our top ten priorities for the year—has strong bipartisan support in Congress

As conservation’s share of the federal budget has been cut roughly in half over the past 30 years, it has become increasingly important to invest those dollars in efforts that get the best return, with layered benefits for fish, wildlife, outdoor recreation, our economy, and the safety of our communities. Consequently, history has shown that conservation is more successful and less costly when the focus is on preventing species and habitat decline versus restoring far-gone populations or replacing lost habitat.

This is why pushing for passage of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act is one of the TRCP’s top ten legislative priorities this year. The bill would amend the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act to provide an additional $1.4 billion per year—$1.3 billion for state agencies and $97.5 million for tribes—in dedicated funding to restore habitat, recover wildlife populations, and rebuild the infrastructure for both our natural systems and outdoor recreation opportunities.

This new funding would go toward implementing state wildlife action plans, which identify at-risk species that would benefit most from “an ounce of prevention,” as the saying goes. And the legislation has strong bipartisan support in both chambers, with 32 co-sponsors in the Senate—evenly divided between parties and led by Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)—and 145 co-sponsors in the House—led by Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) and Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.)

Today, the House Natural Resources Committee debated and voted to advance the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (H.R. 2773), bringing us one step closer to securing a solution that has been championed by the hunting and fishing community since 2016.

It’s easy to see why. RAWA would not only supplement much-needed conservation investments across the country, but it would also create as many as 33,500 jobs annually and generate an estimated $3.36 billion in economic activity on the ground.

RAWA has had momentum before, but the timing couldn’t be better for lawmakers who are up for re-election to bring a big win home for fish, wildlife, and habitat in a way that benefits not only sportsmen and sportswomen but Americans from all walks of life. The legislation would save taxpayers money and many habitat projects could improve natural infrastructure that prevents damage from extreme weather and other emergencies, like catastrophic wildfire.

We applaud members of the House Natural Resources Committee for this first step today and urge lawmakers on both sides of Capitol Hill to take up and pass the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act without delay. It would be a defining victory for wildlife, habitat, outdoor recreation, and our economy.

Click here to learn more about the major sources of conservation funding in the U.S.

 

Top photo by Tom Koerner / USFWS via Flickr.

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January 13, 2022

TRCP’s Top 10 Conservation Priorities for 2022

The legislative and policy solutions we’re pursuing to improve habitat and your hunting and fishing opportunities

Following a 2021 that was a rollercoaster in so many ways, the year ahead provides hunters, anglers, and the conservation community with significant opportunity. Lawmakers deep in re-election cycles know that habitat, access, and conservation funding issues are things that most Americans can agree on and are eager to bring home legislative wins to their voters.

Working alongside our partners, here’s what we want to get done this year.

Infrastructure Implementation

Passed in late 2021, the $1.2-trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act provides significant federal investment in programs benefiting fish and wildlife on public and private lands, including a first-of-its-kind five-year wildlife crossings grant program. The TRCP will closely follow the implementation of this and other programs to ensure that dollars are both benefiting fish and wildlife and enhancing outdoor recreation opportunities.

 

Building Climate Resilience

Efforts to address our changing climate continue to become less polarizing in Congress. There is significant interest among lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in prioritizing carbon sequestration and nature-based solutions that mitigate the impacts of extreme weather events on vulnerable rural communities. Whether in the proposed Build Back Better package, other potential climate legislation, or the 2023 Farm Bill, the conservation community will have an active voice in the discussion.

 

Passage of the Chronic Wasting Disease Research and Management Act

Led by Representatives Kind of Wisconsin and Thompson of Pennsylvania, this comprehensive legislation would provide state wildlife and agriculture agencies with much needed resources for CWD management and suppression. The bill would also create a CWD research grant program to study the spread of the disease and direct the USDA to collect public feedback on ways to improve oversight of the captive deer industry. The legislation was overwhelmingly approved by the House of Representatives in late 2021 and awaits introduction in the Senate.

 

Protection of Bristol Bay in Statute

In late 2021, the Biden Administration once again halted the proposed Pebble Mine in southwest Alaska. While this was welcome news, more work is needed to federally protect the world’s most prolific sockeye salmon fishery in statute. The TRCP is working with lawmakers and state and national partners in developing legislation to do just that.

 

Passage of the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act

RAWA would provide state wildlife agencies with nearly $1.4 billion annually to implement state wildlife action plans, allowing for more proactive conservation of wildlife and associated habitat to avoid potential endangered species listings. Introduced by Representative Dingell of Michigan and Senator Heinrich of New Mexico, the legislation has bipartisan support in both chambers and would be a generational investment in wildlife conservation.

 

Passage of the Modernizing Access to Public Land Act

The MAPLand Act, championed by Senator Risch of Idaho and Representative Moore of Utah, would require that maps and easement records held by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are digitized and publicized for the benefit of all Americans. Doing so would bring recordkeeping into the 21st century and provide hunters and anglers with much greater certainty in planning outings on our public lands.

 

Introduction of the North American Grasslands Conservation Act

In the last half-century, the intense conversion of grasslands has precipitated a steep decline in associated bird populations. The TRCP and several partners have worked for the past year on developing an innovative grant program for grass and rangeland conservation that works with ranchers and landowners to improve ecosystem health and ensure that their acreage remains productive and healthy habitat for years to come. Our groups have worked closely with Senator Wyden in developing the legislation and are looking forward to bringing the bill before the House and Senate.

 

Improving the State of Gulf Menhaden

Largescale industrial menhaden fishing in the Gulf accounts for more than one billion pounds of this forage fish harvested each year, making it Louisiana’s largest fishery. Pogie boats often operate near shore, netting thousands of other fish species, including red drum and speckled trout. Anglers have fought to restrict these operations in the surf zone but continue to face opposition from menhaden processors citing economic impacts. In 2022, the TRCP will continue to work with partners and scientists who study the bycatch of such operations and pursue legislation to further reduce the impact of the industrial menhaden fishery on sportfish in the Gulf, with a particular focus on protecting beaches and other shallow-water habitat.

 

Using the Power of Habitat to Boost Water Resources

Western watersheds, such as the Colorado River and Rio Grande, face increasing pressure from wildfire and drought. Natural infrastructure approaches—such as the protection and restoration of headwater wetlands and riparian areas—have been shown to effectively reduce natural hazard risks while benefiting water users and watersheds. In 2022, TRCP is working to prioritize the implementation of natural infrastructure and nature-based solutions to address Western water challenges in various federal and state policy initiatives, with a focus on the 2023 Farm Bill and this year’s Water Resources Development Act. We’ll also be pushing for the latter legislation to improve Everglades restoration funding and build on the successful construction of projects to help restore natural waterflows.

 

Conserving Migration Corridors

Beyond the wildlife crossing pilot program included in recently passed legislation, additional solutions are needed to conserve big game migration corridors across the country. The TRCP and partner groups are continuing to work with state and federal land managers to increase investments in research and corridor mapping, improve interagency coordination, and conserve corridors on public land.

 

For more information, and to take action in support of these critical conservation priorities in the year ahead, visit the TRCP Action Center.

Kristyn Brady

December 8, 2021

House Passes Legislation to Boost CWD Management and Research

Swift passage of this bipartisan bill reflects the critical need for more resources to study and stop the spread of chronic wasting disease

In a 393-33 vote this evening, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Chronic Wasting Disease Management and Research Act, which would expand the federal government’s role in the fight to control a fatal wildlife disease that threatens the future of deer hunting in America. The bill was introduced by Representatives Ron Kind (D-Wis.) and Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.) in October 2021 and was quickly passed out of committee.

“This swift bipartisan passage of the Chronic Wasting Disease Research and Management Act reflects the incredible need for resources to study and stop the spread of the disease on behalf of our wild deer herds and hunting opportunities,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “This legislation has the federal government stepping up its responsibility for addressing CWD, giving state agency staff more support, focusing the scope of much-needed research, and educating the full spectrum of stakeholders—from hunters to the captive cervid industry—so that we are all accountable for advancing CWD solutions.”

The legislation calls for an annual $70-million investment through fiscal year 2028 on an even split of CWD management and research priorities. It also includes authorization for federal, state, and Tribal agencies to develop educational materials to inform the public on CWD and directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture to review its Herd Certification Program, which accredits captive operations as “low-risk” for CWD contamination but has proven inadequate to stem the spread of the disease.

$35 million per year for research would focus on:
  • Methods to effectively detect CWD in live and harvested deer and the surrounding environment
  • Best practices for reducing CWD occurrence through sustainable harvest of deer and other cervids
  • Factors contributing to spread of the disease locally, such as animal movement and scavenging
$35 million per year for management, including surveillance and testing, would prioritize:
  • Areas with the highest incidence of CWD
  • Areas responding to new outbreaks of CWD
  • Areas without CWD that show the greatest risk of CWD emerging
  • Jurisdictions demonstrating the greatest financial commitment to managing, monitoring, surveying, and researching CWD
  • Efforts to develop comprehensive policies and programs focused on CWD management

As a next step, the TRCP and its partners are working with lawmakers to secure the introduction of a companion bill in the Senate.

Learn more about chronic wasting disease and what’s at stake for hunters here.

 

Feature image courtesy of the National Deer Association

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.

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.

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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