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Ian Nakayama

December 16, 2022

Essential Water Resources Legislation Heads to the Finish Line

Senate sends Water Resources Development Act with Everglades and Western water provisions to the president’s desk

The Senate has passed the Water Resources Development Act of 2022 (H.R. 7776) as part of the annual National Defense Authorization Act in an 83-11 vote, advancing natural infrastructure solutions, Everglades restoration, and Mississippi River conservation priorities. This bill now awaits the president’s signature.

“We’re pleased to see this investment in watershed restoration and healthy fish and wildlife habitat cross the finish line, particularly with provisions that advance natural infrastructure approaches, which represent a win-win for hunting and fishing and American communities,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

The TRCP advocated for numerous provisions that were included in the final bipartisan 2022 WRDA. These include:

  • Requiring the Corps to evaluate the benefits of using natural infrastructure approaches, such as restoring source watersheds, to enhance the resilience of Western water supplies and infrastructure
  • Clarifying the federal cost-share for ecosystem restoration in the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet
  • Lowering the local cost burdens for the Mississippi River Interbasin Project and the Lower Mississippi River Comprehensive Study
  • Requiring the Corps to provide an update on completion of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan projects, Lake Okeechobee, and the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration plan
  • Establishing a National Low-Head Dam Inventory to provide valuable information that will guide fish passage rehabilitation and improve angler and boater safety

The Water Resources Development Act authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to carry out flood control, improve waterways, and conduct ecosystem restoration work. The TRCP advocates 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.
Learn more about natural infrastructure and what TRCP is doing to advance these solutions.

Photo by Robert Shea via flickr

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Essential Water Resources Legislation Heads to the Finish Line

Senate sends Water Resources Development Act with Everglades and Western water provisions to the president’s desk

The Senate has passed the Water Resources Development Act of 2022 (H.R. 7776) as part of the annual National Defense Authorization Act in an 83-11 vote, advancing natural infrastructure solutions, Everglades restoration, and Mississippi River conservation priorities. This bill now awaits the president’s signature.

“We’re pleased to see this investment in watershed restoration and healthy fish and wildlife habitat cross the finish line, particularly with provisions that advance natural infrastructure approaches, which represent a win-win for hunting and fishing and American communities,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.

The TRCP advocated for numerous provisions that were included in the final bipartisan 2022 WRDA. These include:

  • Requiring the Corps to evaluate the benefits of using natural infrastructure approaches, such as restoring source watersheds, to enhance the resilience of Western water supplies and infrastructure
  • Clarifying the federal cost-share for ecosystem restoration in the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet
  • Lowering the local cost burdens for the Mississippi River Interbasin Project and the Lower Mississippi River Comprehensive Study
  • Requiring the Corps to provide an update on completion of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan projects, Lake Okeechobee, and the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration plan
  • Establishing a National Low-Head Dam Inventory to provide valuable information that will guide fish passage rehabilitation and improve angler and boater safety

The Water Resources Development Act authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to carry out flood control, improve waterways, and conduct ecosystem restoration work. The TRCP advocates 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.
Learn more about natural infrastructure and what TRCP is doing to advance these solutions.

Photo by Robert Shea via flickr

Jaclyn Higgins

December 7, 2022

VMRC Rejects Governor’s Proposal to Limit Menhaden Fishing in Chesapeake Bay

VMRC declines to exercise authority by setting any limits on harvest of critical forage fish species

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission disappointed recreational fishing and resource conservation advocates throughout the Chesapeake Bay region yesterday by siding with Canadian-owned industrial menhaden harvester Omega Protein over the concerns of tens of thousands of Virginia anglers and residents.

Hundreds of Virginians attended the Dec. 6 VMRC meeting to comment on a proposal by the Youngkin Administration that would have established one-mile buffers from Bay shorelines and a half-mile buffer on either side of the Bay Bridge Tunnel, where purse seining would be prohibited. Menhaden purse-seine fishing would have also been closed during peak recreational periods around Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day.

However, instead of approving the proposals, which had been reached through months of stakeholder engagement and compromises, the VMRC approved a watered-down resolution crafted by Omega Protein, with no other opinions sought. It aims to create a Memorandum of Understanding with the Commonwealth of Virginia to explore the possibility of protecting shorelines and limiting user conflicts.

The MOU did not propose any regulations to try to limit Omega’s extensive fish kills and net spills that fouled Chesapeake Bay shorelines throughout last summer, it simply outlined a potential agreement for the foreign-owned, industrial harvester and state regulators to consider conservation measures and short-term fishing closures in the future.

The motion passed 5 to 4 despite objections from Eastern-Shore-based commissioners who insisted the MOU would not address the concerns of conservation-minded stakeholders.

“We are disappointed with this outcome and moving forward, we are going to continue to fight to fix the problems in the Bay caused by the menhaden reduction fishery,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We recognized that the proposed closures did not address all the damage industrial reduction fishing is causing to fisheries and habitat in the Chesapeake. Still, anglers and concerned conservationists believed it was a step in the right direction. What passed the VMRC, however, gets us no closer to conserving and protecting the Bay.”

“Considering Omega Protein has a history of blatantly violating actual regulations, such as the Chesapeake Bay cap in 2019, it is extremely difficult to believe how a memorandum of understanding is going to accomplish anything,” says Mike Leonard, vice president of government affairs for the American Sportfishing Association. “While the proposed regulation was not a panacea, it surely would have had a better chance of limiting net spills and user conflicts than this do-nothing memorandum of understanding.”

“Given everything that has occurred with net spills, contaminated beaches, and 12,000 pounds of dead red drum, why would the governor’s commission appointees vote against the administration’s proposal?” says Steve Atkinson, president of the Virginia Saltwater Sportfishing Association. “This is a stunning example of poor governance.”

“Our members are deeply frustrated by the VMRC’s decision to reject the Youngkin Administration’s commonsense proposal to address the decades-long user conflicts and wasteful net spills in the Chesapeake,” says Rob Allen, chairman of CCA Virginia. “This is a failure of the public trust and is an important reminder of why all anglers and conservation-minded Virginians must continue to focus on working together to demand a better future for our Bay fisheries.”

“It is very disheartening that the VMRC voted against the Youngkin Administration’s own plan, which the Virginia angling community strongly supported,” says Captain Mike Ostrander, president of the Virginia Anglers Club, one the Commonwealth’s oldest sportfishing organizations. “Instead, we got a weak gentleman’s agreement that’s not legally enforceable. The region’s anglers, boaters, and coastal communities deserve much better.”

More than 10,000 anglers and conservationists from Virginia and up and down the East Coast have signed a petition asking Governor Youngkin to protect the Chesapeake Bay from the negative impacts of industrial menhaden fishing. The petition was delivered to Youngkin and the VMRC in mid-October.

Learn more about the recreational fishing community’s push for better management of menhaden in the Chesapeake Bay, Atlantic Ocean, and Gulf of Mexico.

 

Photo by Gaelin Rosenwaks. Follow her on Instagram @gaelingoexplore.

Kristyn Brady

December 2, 2022

15 Conservation Wins We’re Proud of in 2022

Our organizational and legislative successes made possible by your support

In the TRCP’s 20th year of providing a vital service to the hunting and fishing community, we’re proud to say that we haven’t lost any steam. Conservation remains an issue that creates common ground in an otherwise polarized and contentious Washington, D.C.—but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to advance policies and legislation that will benefit fish, wildlife, and America’s sportsmen and sportswomen. With a few weeks still remaining to clinch conservation victories (like these), here are our top achievements to date in 2022.

Legislative Victories

The TRCP-led MAPLand Act was signed into law to enhance recreational access on public lands by investing in modern mapping technology. Learn more about the benefits of MAPLand.

As a part of the largest climate-related investment in U.S. history, Congress doubled funding for Farm Bill conservation programs over the next four years—a $20-billion increase—while providing $4 billion to mitigate drought in the West and funding the restoration of forests, watersheds, and coasts. Here’s what you need to know about the legislation and what it will do for hunters and anglers.

The House and Senate passed the 2022 Water Resources Development Act, which includes a first-of-its-kind study, conceived of by TRCP, to evaluate natural infrastructure project effectiveness. We’re tracking the conferenced version of the bill, which could pass in an end-of-year spending package as early as next week. Here’s our full wishlist for WRDA.

With overwhelming bipartisan support, the House passed comprehensive chronic wasting disease legislation that would fund disease management and research. The Senate could vote to send this bill to the president’s desk under unanimous consent any day now. Read more about the need for more resources to manage CWD at the state level.

Big game migration routes across 8.3 million acres of public lands in Colorado will be conserved, with TRCP and partners supporting state funding for wildlife crossings in Wyoming, New Mexico, and Oregon. Take action here to support migration corridor conservation and here to support wildlife crossing projects in your state.

Chesapeake bay striper guide charter, fishing rod
Photo by Steve Droter/Chesapeake Bay Program

Legislation passed the Louisiana House to cap the industrial menhaden fishery in the state and create buffers to protect sensitive habitats along the coast. Both of these efforts would move the Gulf menhaden fishery toward ecosystem management, which is now in place along the Atlantic coast. East Coast anglers are still pushing for more consideration of menhaden, however, with more than 10,000 sportsmen, sportswomen, and local residents calling for Virginia decision-makers to move industrial menhaden fishing out of the Chesapeake Bay, a key striped bass nursery. Add your name to the petition.

The Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers began to reconsider which waters and wetlands should be protected under the Clean Water Act, with formal feedback provided by the hunting and fishing community. Check out this brief history of the Clean Water Act for how we got here.

$1.5 billion was secured for Everglades restoration to bring back natural flows and improve fish and wildlife habitat. Get to know a key restoration project that will benefit South Florida’s wetlands and estuaries.

After the administration implemented multiple recommendations from TRCP and its partners, enrollment in the Conservation Reserve Program outpaced expiring contracts, resulting in a net increase of conserved acres. This legislation would boost the CRP even more.

Thought Leadership

So much of the work we do is educating lawmakers and the hunting and fishing public on conservation priorities. Through digital resources and reports this year, we shared:

Commitment to Transparency

Finally, TRCP again received top ratings by charity watchdog groups Charity Navigator, GuideStar, and the Better Business Bureau. We work hard to ensure that every dollar you give goes as far as possible for conservation, and this recognition of where we stack up against other charities is very important to us.

Given all that we’ve accomplished this year to guarantee Americans quality places to hunt and fish, we hope you’ll consider lending the TRCP your support during this season of giving. If you’re a first-time donor, SITKA Gear will match every dollar you give, and previous donors will get a match on any increase over their last gift. There’s no better time to get involved in conservation and make twice the impact.

Support Conservation Now

Guest Author Emily Baldauff

November 30, 2022

State Conservation Funding Program Is a Success Story in Pennsylvania

Get to know the Keystone Recreation, Park, and Conservation Fund that has improved key trout streams for future generations of anglers

It is written in our state constitution that Pennsylvanians have the right to clean air, pure water, and the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic, and aesthetic values of the environment. This overarching dedication to conserving our woods and waters is an attribute that many Pennsylvanians hold dear.

Over the last few decades, Trout Unlimited has worked to preserve and protect coldwater fisheries across the country, including here in Pennsylvania. This work couldn’t be done without the passionate efforts of volunteers and supporters and sufficiently funded federal and state conservation programs.

One such program is the Keystone Recreation, Park, and Conservation Fund, which was created in 1993 with near-unanimous support from the Pennsylvania General Assembly and an overwhelming referendum vote by the general public. Since the fund was established, it has provided state-level matching dollars for a variety of conservation projects, including land acquisitions, river conservation, and trail improvements.

Over the years, the Keystone Fund has helped to fund many projects that benefit anglers. This includes the creation of the Brodhead Creek Heritage Center at the ForEvergreen Nature Preserve, along the historical Brodhead Creek in Monroe County; fish habitat and streambed improvements on the Monocacy Creek in the Lehigh Valley; and land preservation and planning efforts to restore and protect Valley Creek in the Southeast corner of the state.

These projects, along with countless others, have been made possible by the strong combination of state dollars and local matching funds, which have increased opportunities and access for anglers, families, and outdoor recreation enthusiasts in an array of neighborhoods throughout the Commonwealth.

The Keystone Fund has helped TU to further its mission to “care for and recover rivers and streams” for future generations, but there is still much work to be done in ensuring Pennsylvanians will forever have access to over 86,000 miles of streams. Vital dedicated funding must continue to further restore and conserve those stream miles through the Keystone Fund and passionate local partners.

Emily Baldauff is Trout Unlimited’s Mid-Atlantic organizer and a native of northeastern Pennsylvania.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

CONSERVATION WORKS FOR AMERICA

In the last two years, policymakers have committed to significant investments in conservation, infrastructure, and reversing climate change. Hunters and anglers continue to be vocal about the opportunity to create conservation jobs, restore habitat, and boost fish and wildlife populations. Support solutions now.

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