Do you have any thoughts on this post?
Georgia farmer Hal Avery has had 104 acres of his land enrolled in the Farm Bill’s Conservation Reserve Program since 2015, when he began restoring longleaf pine forest and its native understory of warm-season grasses to benefit wildlife and soil and water quality.
Longleaf pine forests are some of the most diverse ecosystems in North America and serve as critical habitat for bobwhite quail, wild turkeys, whitetail deer, and hundreds of other species. They are also naturally resilient to drought, extreme weather, and wildfire, while capable of storing carbon to combat climate change.
Private landowners like Hal have an important role to play in restoration efforts that boost habitat connectivity and climate change defenses one acre at a time. Watch the video to hear his story.
Top photo by Justin Meissen via flickr
On April 25, Colorado Parks and Wildlife director Dan Prenzlow was placed on administrative leave following remarks he gave at the 9th annual Colorado Parks and Wildlife Partners in the Outdoors conference in Vail. Specifically, Prenzlow recognized conference organizer Alease “Aloe” Lee, a Black woman and the CPW statewide partnership coordinator, noting that she was standing “at the back of the bus” in the room of more than 500 people.
Whether Prenzlow’s remarks were part of a pattern or merely insensitive, Governor Polis did the right thing in suspending him and launching an investigation amid charges of longstanding racism in the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.
The irony is that the remarks came at a conference designed to welcome new and diverse voices to Colorado’s outdoors. The issue of equity and inclusion in the outdoors is finally being taken seriously across the country, including in federal and state government. Colorado deserves credit for being toward the front of this effort, as evidenced by the Vail conference’s goal: “to cultivate common ground, explore best practices of partnering, and design collaborative solutions with diverse voices and stakeholders to conserve Colorado’s outdoor heritage.”
But the Vail event also shows what a slow and often difficult process this will be across the country. While we are working to help break down centuries of overt and subtle racism, many of the leaders in the conservation community are older, male, and white. I am one of those people. It is, unfortunately, not surprising that phrases like “back of the bus” are repeated without thinking about the root of the phrase and its impacts on people who were, before the civil rights movement, made to sit at the back of the bus.
The process before us will be one of intensive learning and introspection, and one that requires patience and humility. Undoubtedly, there will be more insensitive comments at public forums. We must learn what we can from these incidents, including what happened in Colorado, and take more steps toward getting it right.
What we can’t do is stop having these conversations. Some states will say that hosting a conference like Colorado’s is simply a recipe for disaster as it will expose fissures and potentially get someone fired. Such an attitude will not move conservation, or the country, in the direction we need to go.
There are things we can all do to make the journey forward go more smoothly. Training on diversity, equity, and inclusion must remain a priority for state natural resource agency leadership and staff, who regularly interact with the hunting and fishing community—and are, in fact, a critical part of the R3 work required to grow outdoor recreation’s reach. And there should be little tolerance for those who, despite such training, continue to make insensitive or racist remarks.
As we continue to embark on this journey, I ask our Black, Brown, Indigenous and other communities, who have been subjected to centuries of discrimination, to engage with us and help us do better. But ultimately, it’s the current, predominately white leadership that must embrace change. And when people show up in good faith to learn, there should be a safe space to question long-held beliefs and assumptions and understand how phrases and words impact different groups of people.
We need to get this right. TRCP’s mission is to guarantee ALL Americans quality places to hunt and fish, and we need to make sure that the conservation community reflects all the diverse voices of our great nation. That doesn’t mean that the process will be easy or quick, but it’s the right thing to do.
Top photo by Rimlight Media.
The Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee recently voted unanimously to advance the Water Resources Development Act of 2022, important two-year legislation that authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to carry out flood control, improve waterways, and conduct ecosystem restoration work. Past WRDA bills have also addressed water infrastructure policy and financing.
Why WRDA Matters
The TRCP has long advocated for conservation priorities in the biennial WRDA process because it presents several opportunities to support federal investments in ecosystem restoration and natural infrastructure approaches that benefit fish and wildlife habitat.
Hunters and anglers may not know that the Corps is the primary federal manager of the nation’s water resources and plays a critical role in planning, designing, and implementing water resource projects, while protecting communities from floods and other natural hazards. The Corps’ mission area also includes ecosystem restoration, and it is a driving force behind the implementation of many largescale projects that benefit sportsmen and sportswomen, particularly in the Everglades and Mississippi River Delta.
More recent WRDAs have expanded the Corps’ focus to include implementing natural infrastructure approaches—where healthy habitat can help solve infrastructure challenges, such as restoring floodplains and coastal wetlands to reduce the vulnerability of critical infrastructure and communities to natural disasters. Wetland and riparian restoration projects provide numerous public benefits while boosting the habitat that supports sportfish, waterfowl, and other species.
So, hunters and anglers should take note as WRDA moves through Congress this year. A strong WRDA ensures that the Corps has the authorization to carry out restoration and prioritize natural infrastructure across the country.
What to Watch for in WRDA ‘22
Thanks in large part to the TRCP and our partners’ advocacy efforts, the Senate version of the Water Resources Development Act of 2022 includes several important victories for hunters and anglers as it heads for a floor vote. The bill clarifies the federal cost-share for ecosystem restoration in the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, lowers the local cost burdens for the Mississippi River Interbasin Project and the Lower Mississippi River Comprehensive Study, and would expedite a western Everglades ecosystem restoration study.
Importantly, the legislation also calls for the Corps to conduct a study evaluating the benefits of utilizing natural infrastructure approaches, such as restoring source watersheds to enhance the resilience of Western water supplies, critical water storage, and delivery infrastructure to drought and wildfire. Across the West, drought and fire are reducing the quantity of water available to fish, wildlife, agricultural producers, and residents, and degrading the quality of water as post-fire debris flows downstream.
Emerging evidence indicates that nature-based solutions, such as restoring wetland systems upstream of critical water infrastructure, can help to mitigate these impacts, but additional research and demonstration will be helpful in encouraging greater utilization of nature-based approaches. If WRDA passes with this provision, the Corps would utilize information gained from the study to further integrate nature-based approaches into Western water management in ways that benefit people and the environment.
This year’s WRDA is still only partway through the legislative process, and the TRCP will continue to look for additional opportunities to expand the use of natural infrastructure in the USACE’s work. For example, there could be a reduced cost-share on natural infrastructure projects to ensure that disadvantaged communities can access them. A holistic accounting of the benefits of natural infrastructure would enable these projects to be more competitive with (and ultimately considered over) traditional gray infrastructure.
Top photo by Bob Wick / BLM Colorado via Flickr.
After years of angler support for better striped bass management solutions, the Striped Bass Management Board of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission voted last week to overhaul its management plan to better rebuild populations of striped bass—our nation’s largest marine recreational fishery.
This is the first substantive regulatory change to the Atlantic striped bass fishery in almost 20 years, and anglers got a lot of what we asked for in the management plan update, known as Amendment 7. The vote comes along at an auspicious time for some East Coast anglers, as striper season opens in the Chesapeake Bay and industrial menhaden fishing is ongoing in the region, removing valuable forage for bass and other predators.
With passage of the options included in Amendment 7, the Board did not choose to extend the amount of time the commission would have to respond when management triggers—including more striper deaths annually, fewer large egg-laying females, and fewer juvenile fish—are tripped. Improvements include the implementation of a rebuilding framework to quickly respond to stock assessment results and new state-level education campaigns on safe handling and release of striped bass to address recreational release mortality. Meanwhile, state-specific conservation equivalency plans will have much more stringent standards and will not be allowed if the striped bass stock is being overfished.
The TRCP has been vocal since the beginning of this process to ensure that anglers have a say with fishery managers. Last year, we were able to prevent the weakening of the striped bass biomass reference points in the amendment, which would have undermined standards set in place through the recently embraced ecological management of Atlantic menhaden. While not all of our recommendations were passed within Amendment 7, we are happy with the overall management plan, and we feel that the Board will now be able to address both conservation and angler needs into the future.
Be sure to check back here in October, when the most updated striped bass stock assessment will be published. This new data will tell anglers and managers whether striped bass are still experiencing overfishing, and it may or may not trip the management triggers set forth by Amendment 7.
Of course, we hope to see that our catch reductions in the last few years have helped the stock to rebuild, but we will have to wait until the fall to find out.
In the meantime, as we enjoy the season, it’s critical to remember that every one of us can do our part for striped bass. Know the rules, minimize your handling of fish—especially those above the slot limit—and get them back in the water as safely and quickly as possible. Amendment 7 lays the groundwork for the recovery of this important species, but anglers are a critical part of the work ahead.
Top photo by L’eau Bleue via Flickr.
Theodore Roosevelt’s experiences hunting and fishing certainly fueled his passion for conservation, but it seems that a passion for coffee may have powered his mornings. In fact, Roosevelt’s son once said that his father’s coffee cup was “more in the nature of a bathtub.” TRCP has partnered with Afuera Coffee Co. to bring together his two loves: a strong morning brew and a dedication to conservation. With your purchase, you’ll not only enjoy waking up to the rich aroma of this bolder roast—you’ll be supporting the important work of preserving hunting and fishing opportunities for all.Learn More