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Randall Williams

July 18, 2022

Sportspersons Commend Colo. BLM for Prioritizing Big Game Seasonal Habitats

Updating land management plans will result in better-informed decisions and conservation of high-priority big game habitats on Colorado public lands

Sportspersons applauded today’s announcement that the Colorado Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will formally and consistently incorporate big game seasonal habitat and migration corridor conservation into its land management plans. To do so, the agency has initiated an important land management plan amendment process. The BLM states that the primary purpose of the effort is to evaluate “alternative management approaches for the BLM planning decisions to maintain, conserve, and protect big game corridors and other important big game habitat areas on BLM-managed public lands and minerals in Colorado.”

“Robust elk, mule deer, pronghorn, and bighorn sheep populations are important not only because they provide Colorado’s sportspersons with world-class hunting opportunities, they are core to our state’s identity and absolutely critical for our tourism industry,” said Liz Rose, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s Colorado field representative. “We appreciate the leadership demonstrated by the Colorado BLM, and we hope this planning effort takes a habitat-centric view that focuses on the conservation and enhancement of these habitats, including habitat restoration and improvement and managing development pressures like high-density recreation and renewable and conventional energy development.”

The continued health of migratory big game populations depends upon their ability to move between suitable habitats seasonally, year after year. Of the 8.3 million acres of BLM-managed public land in Colorado, 3.4 million acres constitute high-priority seasonal and migratory habitats for big game animals such as elk, mule deer, pronghorn, and bighorn sheep. These herds help support Colorado’s $5 billion-dollar hunting, fishing, and wildlife-watching economy, and conserving the habitats on which they depend also directly supports a broad range of other wildlife species that benefit from intact landscapes.

The majority of Colorado BLM’s existing Resource Management Plans are outdated, some of them decades old. These Resource Management Plans do not adequately reflect recent science demonstrating the dependence of migratory big game animals on various landscapes and habitats throughout the year and the need to be able to move freely between those seasonal habitats. By amending those land-use plans that overlap with high-priority big game habitats, the agency will increase consistency in management and decision-making in areas where it matters most for ensuring that elk, deer, pronghorn, and bighorn sheep herds continue to thrive in Colorado.

Conservationists are optimistic that this process will create valuable opportunities for investments in habitat restoration on BLM-managed public land, in turn bolstering private-land conservation efforts across Colorado.

“Conserving and connecting big game animals’ high-priority seasonal and migratory habitats helps build more climate-resilient ecosystems that wildlife will utilize as conditions on the ground continue to change,” said Rose. “By updating its plans and ensuring that management decisions are based on the best and latest science, the BLM will ensure a brighter future for Colorado’s wildlife, residents, and visitors.”

The BLM “seeks information related to all high-density activities and public land uses that may cause disturbance to important big game habitat and will consider that information as appropriate in determining if additional land use planning decisions are appropriate to incorporate into the scope of the alternatives for this planning effort.”

The deadline for comments from the public is September 2, 2022. The TRCP will be working closely with other partners representing hunters, anglers, and other wildlife conservationists as well as local officials, private landowners, and agency staff to provide the BLM with science-based guidance that will benefit Colorado’s big game animals, sportspersons, and those who reside in and around high-priority big game habitats.

 

Photo: Bill Sincavage (@jakeysforkphoto)

One Response to “Sportspersons Commend Colo. BLM for Prioritizing Big Game Seasonal Habitats”

  1. A focus on wildlife corridors and wildlife crossings are so important to preserve and protect species ability to move across their necessary habitat. They have been cut off in certain places and that is changing as more efforts are made to connect and keep these areas connected. It is encouraging to see so many sportsmen and women and sporting organizations across America become involved in this important work!

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Kristyn Brady

July 14, 2022

New Commission Will Work to Control Aquatic Invasive Species

Commissioners include representatives from YETI®, Yamaha Marine, BoatU.S., B.A.S.S., the American Sportfishing Association, National Marine Manufacturing Association, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, and Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies

Members of the $689-billion outdoor recreation industry have established a blue-ribbon commission to stop and reverse the spread of aquatic invasive species in the U.S. The commission will convene leading biologists, environmentalists, policymakers, and resource managers to assess existing mitigation efforts and identify more effective eradication solutions. Findings from the analysis will be presented to Congress and the administration in 2023, with a goal of passing comprehensive legislation to better manage and eliminate aquatic invasive species.

The commission will meet for the first time next week at ICAST.

Aquatic invasive species are spreading at levels that are unsustainable for the waterways where they have been introduced, posing a growing threat to aquatic ecosystems, local economies, and outdoor recreation opportunities across the country. Currently, the cost to control and eradicate these invasives in the U.S. amounts to more than $100 billion each year. For decades, a patchwork of federal and state initiatives has failed to address this crisis.

“Aquatic invasive species pose a national threat to both habitat and fishing and boating access, but it is possible to put more effective policies and mitigation efforts in place,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We’ve shown time and time again that when our community convenes around a common threat, listens to the science, and makes thoughtful recommendations, we can successfully shift conservation policy. The TRCP is proud to participate in the commission’s work and future advocacy to see recommendations through.”

“In central and southern states, invasive silver carp frustrate anglers and state and federal resource managers,” says Ben Speciale, president of the U.S. Marine Business Unit at Yamaha. “But silver carp represent just a fraction of the invasive species problem in our nation. For every region, state, coast, and body of water, there is a similar pressing issue. We need a different, national approach to solving the aquatic invasive species problem. Yamaha supports this effort, because we believe the commission’s recommendations to Congress and the administration will help combat the AIS situation and help to allocate the resources needed to meet this challenge.”

“BoatU.S. has long worked to educate boaters on the impacts of invasive species and how boaters can better protect our waterways,” says Chris Edmonston, president of the BoatU.S. Foundation. “We look forward to working with industry and government agencies to come up with commonsense solutions that protect and enhance America’s waters.”

“The Aquatic Invasive Species Commission, spearhead by some of the biggest names in outdoor recreation and conservation, will be at the forefront of working alongside the administration and Congress to stop and reverse the spread of aquatic invasive species, which threaten recreational boating and fishing access, local economies, and aquatic ecosystems,” says Frank Hugelmeyer, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association. “As the nation’s original conservationists, our industry looks forward to the commission’s findings and implementing more effective practices to eradicate AIS.”

“As the number and scale of aquatic invasive species grows, it’s clear that continuing with status quo isn’t going to solve the problem,” says Mike Leonard, vice president of government affairs for the American Sportfishing Association. “On behalf of the recreational fishing industry, which depends on healthy aquatic ecosystems, ASA is excited to be a part of the Aquatic Invasive Species Commission. While faced with a daunting task, I’m confident the experts that comprise the commission will help put us on a path toward better response, control, and eradication of aquatic invasive species.”

 

Members of the Blue-Ribbon Aquatic Invasive Species Commission:

John Arway, Retired State Director
Elizabeth Brown, North American Invasive Species Management Association
Jason Christie, Pro Angler
George Cooper, Forbes-Tate
Clay Crabtree, National Marine Manufacturing Association
Devin Demario, Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies
Jake Dree, YETI
Chris Edmonston, BoatU.S.
Marc Gaden, Great Lakes Fishery Commission
Gene Gilliland, B.A.S.S.
Heather Hennessey, Yamaha
Alanna Keating, BoatU.S.
Mike Leonard, American Sportfishing Association
Chris Macaluso, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
Mark Menendez, Pro Angler
Ish Monroe, Pro Angler
Steve Moyer, Trout Unlimited
John O’Keefe, Yamaha
Martin Peters, Yamaha
Stephen Phillips, Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission
Christy Plumer, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership
Ann Rogers Harrison, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Jennifer Silberman, YETI
Mathew Van Daele, Sun’aq Tribe
Nick Wiley, Ducks Unlimited
Drue Winters, American Fisheries Society
Dennis Zabaglo, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency

 

Top photo by Todd Davis/U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Alexandra Kozak

July 11, 2022

PA Legislature Passes Budget with Important Conservation Investments

Resolution calls for establishing a new Growing Greener program and Clean Streams Fund

On Friday, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed into law a budget that prioritizes conservation by investing over $696 million in clean water, habitat restoration, and outdoor recreation access.

“Pennsylvania’s hunters and anglers should be proud to live and recreate in a state with not only incredible natural resources and public access, but also a legacy of strong state conservation funding initiatives to ensure these amenities will be enjoyed by future generations,” said Alexandra Kozak, Pennsylvania field manager for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We appreciate the leadership of lawmakers who know the importance of conservation to our state and thank the governor for signing this budget into law without delay.”

Aspects of two bills supported by the hunting, fishing, and conservation community were incorporated into the final budget resolution. As originally proposed in S.B. 525, a portion of PA’s $320 million in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 will be used to establish a Growing Greener III program that enhances fish and wildlife habitat and creates better hunting and fishing opportunities with an additional $156 million to increase state park and outdoor recreation infrastructure. Further, $220 million will go to improving water quality, specifically focused on “non-point” sources of pollution, such as agricultural runoff and acid mine drainage, as originally proposed in S.B. 832 this session.

“CBF applauds the legislature and the governor for including in this budget much-needed funding to support farm conservation projects and the boots on the ground working hard to reduce pollution,” said Bill Chain, interim director and senior agriculture program manager in Pennsylvania for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

“The TRCP is grateful to state legislators for this commitment to supporting fish and wildlife populations, growing our state’s $58-billion outdoor recreation economy, and funding clean water solutions that will benefit habitat and communities from western Pennsylvania to the Chesapeake Bay,” continued Kozak. “We look forward to working with our partners and other stakeholders to see that these investments make a big difference in the field and on the water where they are needed most.”

Since December 2021, the TRCP has urged PA sportsmen and sportswomen to contact lawmakers in support of reinvesting American Rescue Plan funds in conservation through Growing Greener and a new Clean Streams Fund. Learn more here.

June 30, 2022

Three Ways Congress Can Respond to Drought Through Habitat Enhancement

As hotter, drier conditions challenge water resources in the West, lawmakers have opportunities to invest in resilience 

As Congress marches toward a hotly contested 2022 midterm election, with the potential for a new political landscape in 2023, much of the American West is experiencing a historic multi-year drought. Lawmakers have taken notice, and recent hearings in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources and Agriculture committees have highlighted the serious drought-related challenges to fish and wildlife habitat. While D.C. remains gridlocked on a host of issues, Congress also has some immediate opportunities to deliver on water and conservation policies that invest in habitat, access, forest health, and drought resilience.

Here’s what the TRCP and our partner groups are prioritizing on Capitol Hill in the next six months.

Investments in Agricultural Conservation and Forest Management

The House-passed Build Back Better reconciliation package, which included $27.1 billion for climate-smart agricultural practices and an additional $27.1 billion for forest management and watershed restoration, has been on the back burner since last year. Over the past month, some reports suggest Senate Democrats may consider a slimmed down version of the package.

Even a skinny version of the original proposal, should it include funding for conservation and forestry, would provide a significant boost to the existing suite of farm bill conservation programs that are perennially oversubscribed and build on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s investments in forest management and habitat restoration. The TRCP is pushing for investments that would improve habitat and resilience to drought and wildfire at a landscape level. These efforts are not only climate-smart but would also pay dividends by avoiding the cost of species recovery and disaster response down the road.

Advancing Water Conservation and Drought Resilience Legislation in Committee

Over the past several weeks, Congress has held multiple hearings on short- and long-term solutions to addressing drought in Western watersheds. At one of those hearings, on June 14, Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Touton made a groundbreaking announcement: To mitigate the impacts of drought on the Colorado River Basin, states must develop a plan by mid-August to conserve 2 to 4 million acre-feet of water on an annual basis—or collectively more Colorado River water than what is currently allocated for the entire state of Arizona.

The scale of this challenge is immense and will require that Congress support immediate investments to assist states, Tribes, and other water users in reducing overall demand, while prioritizing multi-purpose conservation approaches that benefit the fish and wildlife habitat that is important to hunters and anglers. TRCP, for its part, is working with key members of the House and Senate as they consider advancing a package of Western water measures with a particular focus on legislation that can help achieve this scale of water conservation, prioritizes long-term resilience, and restores riparian areas and wetlands that provide natural water storage and fish and wildlife habitat.

Sending the Water Resources Development Act to the President’s Desk

The Water Resources Development Act, which authorizes and advances U.S. Army Corps of Engineers water projects, is typically considered and passed by Congress every two years. The TRCP and many of our partner organizations keep an eye on this legislation, because it has real implications for fish and wildlife habitat and aquatic ecosystem restoration. The House of Representatives passed its version of the 2022 WRDA bill earlier this year and, while the full Senate has yet to consider WRDA, the Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee unanimously approved its version of WRDA in early May.

 

Although the House and Senate versions are slightly different, both include a provision developed by TRCP staff that directs the Corps to study the benefits of natural infrastructure for enhancing the resilience of the agency’s reservoir operations to drought and wildfire, while benefiting fish and wildlife. Once the Senate acts on WRDA, it will be important for both sides to resolve their differences and send a final bill to the president’s desk, so that important ecosystem restoration projects continue or, in the case of the new natural infrastructure study, get underway.

Guest Author Mike Avery

June 27, 2022

Limits on Industrial Menhaden Fishing in Virginia Would Boost Economy

Youngkin should end reduction fishing for menhaden in the Chesapeake Bay to support coastal communities, enhance recreational fishing, and create jobs

[This opinion piece was originally published in the The Virginian-Pilot and Daily Press.]

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin is working hard to improve Virginia’s economy. By establishing an Amazon fulfillment center in Augusta County, which will create 500 new jobs, and a Walgreens micro-fulfillment center in Hanover County, which will create 249 new jobs, it’s clear that Youngkin is pro-business.

As a Republican governor focused on building up the commonwealth, the Chesapeake Bay is most likely high on Youngkin’s list of priorities.

The bay has been a breadbasket in our region for hundreds of years, producing vital food and resources, as well as supporting thriving coastal ecosystems. Now it’s time to focus economic growth on the Northern Neck, by revitalizing industries that have fallen to the wayside in favor of industrialized fishing, which has been pillaging our bay for decades.

In Reedville, within Northumberland County, internationally owned Omega Protein operates a largescale “reduction” fishing operation for Atlantic menhaden. Each year, more than 100 million pounds of Atlantic menhaden are being removed from bay waters and “reduced” to fish meal and oil for pet food and salmon feed. However, Atlantic menhaden play a vital role in coastal ecosystems by serving as the base of the food chain, supporting the diets of striped bass, bluefish, humpback whales, and osprey, to name a few.

Between 2009 and 2016, the value of the striped bass fishery, once the most economically valuable recreational fishery in Virginia, dropped by more than 50 percent from $382 million to $166 million. The decline in the striped bass population, which uses the Chesapeake Bay as its primary nursery grounds, can be traced back to the menhaden reduction fishery.

According to the latest ecosystem modeling, the health of the striped bass population is directly tied to menhaden fishing in the Atlantic. As menhaden reduction fishing increases, relative striped bass biomass decreases. In other words, because striped bass are so dependent on Atlantic menhaden, reduction fishing is estimated to contribute to about a 30-percent decline in the striped bass population coastwide.

Saltwater recreational fishing in Virginia is enjoyed by 600,000 anglers annually, contributing $465 million to the commonwealth’s economy and supporting more than 6,500 jobs. The opportunities created by these fisheries are the lifeblood of our coastal communities, as more than 90 percent of the sportfishing and boating industry is made up of small businesses.

Virginia’s menhaden resources belong to all citizens of the commonwealth and not to one company whose profits are funneled back to an international corporation and its other international subsidiaries. By allowing this company to take the resource from our bay at a lower cost, Virginia in effect is subsidizing this operation. And since the menhaden fishing season only runs eight months out of the year, it’s up to Omega’s employees to find a new job to cover that gap or apply for unemployment during the off-season.

It’s time that Youngkin becomes the first Virginia governor to boost our Northern Neck economy, just as he did in Augusta and Hanover counties, by ending menhaden reduction fishing in the Chesapeake Bay, and by establishing good-paying jobs for Virginia citizens.

The detrimental impact of menhaden reduction fishing on the marine environment is so pronounced that it is outlawed in every state along the East Coast except Virginia. Let’s get with the times and produce some real economic change in the commonwealth by prioritizing the livelihoods of our hardworking citizens rather than prioritizing the bank accounts of foreign companies.

Please join the Virginia Saltwater Sportfishing Association and other organizations by signing our petition to Gov. Youngkin to move the industrial harvest of menhaden out of the Chesapeake Bay by taking action right here.

Mike Avery, of Hampton, is the chairman of the Virginia Saltwater Sportfishing Association. Top photo by Steve Droter/Chesapeake Bay Program.

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