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The Ruby Mountains Protection Act, reintroduced by Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV) in March of this year, passed out of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources Wednesday morning with bi-partisan support. If passed into law, the act (S.706) would permanently withdraw over 450,000 acres in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest’s Ruby Mountain Ranger District and the Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge from oil and gas exploration.
The Ruby Mountains Protection Act has been introduced twice before by Senator Cortez Masto in response to interest to lease 54,000 acres for oil and gas exploration in the heart of the iconic Ruby Mountains. This area is home to one of Nevada’s largest mule deer herds, endangered Lahontan cutthroat trout, and a host of other wildlife including elk, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats.
“Growing up at the base of the Ruby Mountains, I took for granted the invaluable habitat in my backyard,” said Bryce Pollock, policy co-chair for the Nevada Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers. “This legislation will ensure the Rubies remain free of roads and development, which is a major win for the sportsmen and women in our state.”
The Rubies are recognized around the world as a premier big game hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation destination. They are also the source of one of the most important mule deer migration corridors in the state. The 40,000 acre Ruby Lake Refuge, added to the legislation in 2021, is a major stopover for migrating waterfowl on the Pacific flyway, breeding grounds for waterfowl and shorebirds, and the lake itself is the setting for an untold number of recreation days spent fishing for trout and bass.
“We are thankful this legislation is again moving through Congress and thank Senator Cortez Masto for continuing to fight for the wishes of the people of Nevada,” said Jay Lingenfelter, chairman of the Fallon Chapter of Nevada Bighorns Unlimited. “The Rubies are a very special place and should be permanently safeguarded.”
The bill will now move to the Senate floor for consideration. In the House, the Ruby Mountain Protection Act is a part of Congressman Mark Amodei’s (R-NV) larger conservation and land management legislation (H.R. 3173).
Yesterday, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership was honored by the invitation to testify before the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure on water management issues including drought and water conservation.
The TRCP is dedicated to ensuring the places Americans love to hunt and fish are conserved and the species upon which we depend as hunters and anglers are managed at sustainable levels. Therefore, water conservation and federal and state authorities related to water quantity and quality are core to our mission.
Chief Conservation Officer, Christy Plumer, touched on the growing water management challenges, particularly in the West, and the opportunity for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee to advance nature-based solutions. As Congress heads toward consideration of the Water Resources Development Act of 2024, we are encouraging the Committee to invest in existing drought resilience programs including the Sustainable Rivers Program, Continuing Authority Program, and drought-specific WRDA 2022 provisions; strengthen technical assistance through the Silver Jackets Program and other community-based efforts; enhance cross-boundary partnerships; update the Corps’ benefit cost analysis to advance natural and nature-based infrastructure; and invest in recreational infrastructure through the LAKES Act (S. 1358). Click here to read Plumer’s written testimony.
We stand ready to work with the Subcommittee and full Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Congress, and the Corps to advance these fish and wildlife focused solutions.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has finalized two vital mitigation policies to conserve critical fish and wildlife resources, while still allowing for necessary development projects to occur in sensitive habitats. The two policies, a Service-wide Mitigation Policy and an Endangered Species Act Compensatory Mitigation Policy, provide guidance to agency staff for how to best mitigate losses to species and their habitats from proposed development projects.
The USFWS’ new policies recommend application of the mitigation hierarchy to ensure “no net loss” of resources. The ESA Compensatory Mitigation Policy provides additional guidance on how to replace loss of species and their habitats under the Endangered Species Act. These principles, referred to as the mitigation hierarchy, are fundamental to conservation and set expectations that proposed projects should first avoid impacts to species and their habitat within practical means.
If impacts are unavoidable, projects must then minimize remaining effects through project modifications. As a final step if the project ultimately impacts the species or sensitive habitat, the project proponent should compensate for that loss by replacing similar resource values elsewhere.
“When applied appropriately, these policies allow development projects to succeed by reducing conflicts with fish and wildlife resources in a clear and consistent way,” says Madeleine West, director of the center for public lands at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “The TRCP welcomes these policies and encourages the Service to appropriately apply the mitigation hierarchy to ensure that development projects in sensitive habitats do so without causing an overall loss to fish and wildlife resources.”
Photo credit: Edgar Figueiredo
After years of advocating for stronger funding of fish and wildlife habitat improvements, it’s an exciting time for sportsmen and sportswomen—these dollars are beginning to hit the ground and have an impact where we hunt and fish.
In 2021 and 2022, our community played a critical role in ensuring that once-in-a-generation investments in our nation’s infrastructure and climate response also create more quality places to enjoy the outdoors. We pushed for projects that have layered benefits, including stronger fish and wildlife populations, better habitat connectivity, more climate resilience, and safeguards for communities that face increasingly intense flooding, drought, and wildfire.
Now, federal agencies are rolling out their plans to address top-priority projects using these and other funds. Here are six major investments that hunters and anglers should know about.
Most recently, the deputy secretary of the Interior announced a plan detailing how $4 million in grants and $9.2 million in matching funds will power 13 projects that conserve key migration paths and other habitat important to pronghorns, elk, and mule deer across nine states. According to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, which administers the grants, these projects will create new easements, improve 890 miles of fencing to encourage animal movement, improve management of 900,000+ acres of rangeland, treat 13,000 acres for invasive plants, and restore more than 200,000 acres of public, private, and tribal lands.
Earlier this month, the administration announced that $36 million would go to nearly 100 projects that improve water quality, roads, trails, bridges, and fish habitat on national forests and grasslands nationwide. The Forest Service’s Legacy Roads and Trails Program will distribute funds for habitat and access improvements in 51 national forests across 25 states. More detail on the specific projects can be found here.
Beyond investments driven by recent infrastructure and climate legislation, funds have also been released for longstanding conservation programs that are well known with hunters. In April, the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission approved more than $146 million to help conserve or restore 242,000 acres of wetlands and uplands. This includes $50.9 million in North American Wetlands Conservation Act grants that will be matched by more than $73.4 million in partner funds. (Good to know: NAWCA has had a proven impact on waterfowl populations since 1989 and serves as the model for the new North American Grasslands Conservation Act, which would empower private landowners to improve native prairies and sagebrush habitat.) Another $21.7 million from the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund—drawn primarily from the sale of Duck Stamps—will conserve and expand five national wildlife refuges across four states, enhancing public hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation access.
In April, the Department of the Interior unveiled a $35-million investment for fish passage projects in 22 states that will address outdated or obsolete dams, culverts, levees, and other barriers fragmenting rivers and streams. It is one piece of a $3-billion commitment to improving aquatic habitat connectivity using funds authorized by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act. In a statement, the department described the locally led, collaborative development of each of the nearly 40 projects, nine of which will be implemented by Tribes. Atlantic salmon, American shad, Pacific salmon and steelhead, and other fish species will benefit.
Interior also announced in March that it will invest $23 million in landscape-scale conservation and restoration in the Prairie Pothole Region as part of its plan for $120 million in new conservation funding authorized by legislation in 2022. This investment will prevent habitat loss in an area that supports more than half of North America’s waterfowl. DOI’s plan also includes $20 million for projects in the Lower Mississippi River Valley and $10 million for habitat restoration in the Upper Mississippi and Illinois River. Taken together, these three pots of funding signal a significant investment in the health of the river and the Central and Mississippi flyways. We covered this in more detail here.
The administration announced in mid-February that $850 million from last year’s Inflation Reduction Act will be distributed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help fund oversubscribed private land conservation programs at the Natural Resources Conservation Service. These dollars will benefit fish, wildlife, habitat connectivity, and hunting and fishing opportunities in rural America by supporting a diverse range of voluntary activities that also boost climate resilience, such as planting filter strips and grassed waterways, improving grazing management, and restoring wetlands. We covered this in more detail here.
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