Proposed Nevada Wildlife Crossings Account Heads to the Governor’s Desk
AB112 a bright spot for bi-partisan cooperation
As the 2023 Nevada state legislative session reaches its statutory end date of June 5th, AB112 continues its meteoric ascension with unanimous votes in both the State Assembly and Senate. The bill has advanced through four committees without a single dissenting vote or comment.
The bill, supported by a broad coalition of conservation and sporting organizations, was introduced by the Joint Interim Standing Committee on Natural Resources and championed by Assemblyman Howard Watts of the 15th district. The law creates a Wildlife Crossings Account within the State’s General Fund, replete with a $5 million appropriation to be used as match money to leverage federal funding for construction of wildlife friendly infrastructure, specifically safe highway crossings for migrating big game and other wildlife. The fund will be administered collaboratively by the Nevada Department of Transportation and the Nevada Department of Wildlife.
“I would like to thank Assemblyman Watts for leading on this bill,” said Carl Erquiaga, TRCP Nevada field representative. “It has been gratifying to witness the bi-partisan cooperation throughout the process.”
Federal funding is now available as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, passed by Congress in 2021. The bill directs the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration to implement a five year pilot program to distribute a total of $350 million through a competitive grant process to projects that reduce the number of wildlife-vehicle collisions and improve wildlife connectivity for daily and seasonal movements.
“I’m grateful to my colleagues for unanimously supporting the creation of a Wildlife Crossings Account for Nevada,” said Assemblyman Howard Watts. “This policy, combined with a $5 million appropriation, will help secure tens of millions of dollars in federal funding that improves roadway safety, reconnects wildlife habitat, and puts people to work.”
Nevada has long been a leader in the construction of highway crossings in areas where migrating mule deer face major highways, such as I-80 and Highway 93 in northeast Nevada. In the time since these crossings have been built, vehicle-wildlife collisions have decreased dramatically. The new Wildlife Crossings Account would ensure safe crossings in other high-priority migration corridors around Nevada and can also be leveraged by the state to compete for federal funds.
The bill now heads to the desk of Governor Lombardo for his signature.
Eight Things We Wish All Hunters and Anglers Knew About Climate Change
Answers to the most frequently asked questions we hear from decision-makers, business leaders, social media users, and TRCP members.
As TRCP’s director of climate solutions, I field a lot of questions about climate change. From those who are deep in the weeds to those who are deeply skeptical, there is rampant confusion and misinformation across the spectrum.
TRCP’s core values include transparency and being rooted in science, so speaking openly and clearly about climate change is critical to our mission. But it’s also essential to the future of hunting and fishing. You, our members, are key to the success of nature-based solutions, which will benefit the fish and wildlife we love to pursue while enhancing the ability of our soils, waters, and landscapes to slow climate change.
Here we’ve gathered the most common questions we get—at events, in meetings, and online—about this important but divisive issue and laid out our very best answers.
People used to talk much more about global warming, but now you only hear about climate change. Are they the same thing?
Global warming is the overall warming of our atmospheric temperature. Climate change refers to the long-term changes to our temperature and weather patterns—our climate. The term better describes what we’re experiencing on a daily basis. Yes, the average temperature of Earth’s air and seas is rising due to global warming, and because of this, sea levels are rising, season timing is shifting, droughts are longer and more expansive, migration patterns are changing, weather is less predictable, and fish and wildlife populations are declining. These impacts taken together are climate change.
Don’t temperatures naturally fluctuate? What about the Ice Age?
Of course, global temperatures have changed in the past. These fluctuations are well documented in geological records—ocean sediment, ice cores, sedimentary rocks, tree rings, and coral reefs—and occurred very slowly over thousands or millions of years. Recent evidence shows that, unlike the incremental shift in temperatures over millennia, the current global average surface temperature has risen by 2 degrees Fahrenheit or 1.1 degrees Celsius in just the past 150 years. This is roughly 10 times faster than the ice-age recovery warming on average.
More alarmingly, the rate of temperature change has more than doubled since 1981. We know this isn’t just a changing climate as we’ve seen in the past, but human-driven climate change.
Weather has always been variable, so how do we know that climate change is influencing weather events?
Weather describes the conditions that we experience day-to-day. The weather and temperatures we experience locally fluctuate over short periods and have usually been predictable based on seasons. Climate describes the patterns and trends that we observe over a longer period. However, weather and climate are interdependent—as our global climate changes, we’ll continue to experience increasingly variable weather locally. Our new normal is already punctuated by more heatwaves, drought,catastrophic wildfires, and frequent thousand-year storms.
If forest fires are naturally occurring, how does climate change cause them too?
Climate change increases the likelihood and severity of forest fires by creating conditions that make them more likely to start and spread quickly, including drier soils and vegetation,invasive plant species that are more fire-prone, and the increased frequency and severity of lightning strikes and extreme weather events.
What does climate change even look like? What impacts will the next generations witness?
We know climate change is affecting our opportunities to hunt and fish right now. Depending on where you are, drought and reduced rain and snowfall has lowered the water level in rivers, lakes, and streams. Many rivers in the West are now regularly closed to fishing as water temperatures reach a point where fish are in distress. Those same high-water temperatures are causing fish populations to decline, inviting toxic algal blooms, and forcing fish to migrate to cooler areas. Land-based migration is also changing with rising temperatures, increasingly frequent natural disasters, and variable weather patterns, often causing wildlife to move out of traditional ranges and display unexpected behavior, like early wakeup or bugling late into the season.
These impacts will only intensify for the next generation of hunters and anglers.
Humans have made mistakes when it comes to shaping our lands and waters in the past. Shouldn’t we just leave nature alone to right itself?
It’s important to recognize that nature is impacted by us, both positively and negatively, whether intentionally or not. Centuries of our giving to and taking from the land have already altered the landscape and the process of undisturbed nature. As a threat multiplier, climate change is bringing more frequent and intense weather events and exacerbating existing declines in fish and wildlife populations, leaving our lands and waters less resilient to future changes and impacts. Human action is necessary—there is no turning back.
Will taking climate action reduce my ability to hunt and fish?
Hunters and anglers are longstanding conservationists, who take responsibility for maintaining and restoring habitats for the good of all. Our work to support wildlife and their habitat is crucial to maintaining the future of hunting and fishing as climate change impacts continue to evolve. And many of the solutions we already want and need to maintain our ability to hunt and fish can actually help to slow climate change. Learn how this is possible here.
With a global challenge as immense and existential as climate change, how can hunters and anglers hope to have any impact?
TRCP Statement on Supreme Court Weakening Clean Water Act Protections
The Supreme Court’s ruling in Sackett v EPA will be bad for the environment and for hunting and fishing.
We are disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision in Sackett v EPA to limit the scope of the Clean Water Act to wetlands that “adjoin” a water body by a “continuous surface connection.” As every hunter and angler knows, wetlands are incredibly important whether they are connected by surface flow to a stream or not.In places like those in the Prairie Pothole Region (known as America’s duck factory) or inthe headwaters of most trout and salmon streams, they provide nesting and rearing habitat for waterfowl and fish. They replenish groundwater sources and reduce flooding and clean the water that goes downstream. In the West, wet meadows provide important refuge areas during fire and reliable water and forage for wildlife during the dry summer and fall months.
The court’s ruling will be bad for the environment and for hunting and fishing. It is past time for Congress to specifically address the issue by defining the scope of the Clean Water Act in a way that protects the environment, provides certainty for landowners and industry, and sustains our sports.
Pennsylvania Must Help Reduce Chesapeake Bay Pollution
Following settlement, the state and EPA both can be held accountable if pollution reduction goals are not met and enforced
Last month, the EPA agreed to a lawsuit filed in 2020 by Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, and the District of Columbia that stated Pennsylvania must reduce its disproportionate impact in polluting the Chesapeake Bay. The litigation asserts that the EPA has failed to hold the state accountable for meeting pollution reduction goals, and the settlement now allows a means to hold EPA officials responsible if the state’s pollution requirements are not enforced.
Although great strides have been made in reducing pollution in recent years, one-quarter of Pennsylvania’s rivers and streams still suffer from contamination. The Susquehanna River, which is the largest source of fresh water to the Chesapeake Bay, is also the largest source of nitrogen pollution to the Bay. Agricultural runoff, acid mine drainage, and suburban stormwater remain the leading sources of Pennsylvania pollution to the Bay. The negative impacts are not just felt in Bay waters, but also in the surrounding states.
A 2010 settlement required Pennsylvania and other states in the watershed to each implement a pollution reduction plan by 2025, known as the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint. But Pennsylvania hasn’t made enough progress on its piece of the plan.
Last month’s agreement established by the EPA, which must now go through a mandatory 30-day public comment period prior to implementation, lays out specific oversight actions such as necessitating an annual public report on Pennsylvania’s progress. EPA officials can be held accountable if the state again fails to enforce pollution requirements. The agreement also highlights the need for further grant funding opportunities to make the necessary changes to meet reduction goals in the state.
Pennsylvania contains more farmland than the other Bay watershed states. Farms can be a significant source of pollution due to the runoff of sediment and excess nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorous found in fertilizers, that the state has thus far been unable to address. The Commonwealth’s most recent state budget created a new funding source known as 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 funding stream could prove to be crucial to ensuring Pennsylvania reaches its goals in the agreement set forth by the EPA.
The Ruby Mountains Protection Act Passes Energy and Natural Resources Committee with Bipartisan Support
This Nevada gem for big game, waterfowl, and endangered cutthroat trout seeks permanent protection
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).
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.