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June 9, 2023

Conservation Groups Applaud Bipartisan Bill to Invest in America’s Forests and Watersheds 

The Headwaters Protection Act would enhance partnerships that provide clean water, benefit fish and wildlife habitat. 

On Wednesday, Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) introduced the Headwaters Protection Act in an effort to invest in America’s forests and watersheds by expanding support for two U.S. Forest Service Programs created in the 2018 Farm Bill: The Water Source Protection Program (WSPP) and the Watershed Condition Framework (WCF).  

If passed, the bill would support critical public-private partnerships working to ensure our National Forests provide clean water to downstream communities, benefit agricultural water users, and protect fish and wildlife habitat important to hunters and anglers. 

“Source watersheds – the forests, meadows, and streams that supply water to cities and farms – is an integral part of the nation’s water system infrastructure,” said Alex Funk, director of water resources and senior counsel of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “The Headwaters Protection Act will support critical public-private partnerships that will increase the pace and scale of restoration and conservation efforts that maximize the water reliability and quality benefits of healthy source watersheds, which in turn helps support adaptation to drought and wildfire, while benefiting fish and wildlife habitat.” 

Other Senators supporting the bill include Senators Feinstein (D-Calif.), Risch (R-Idaho), Lujan (D-N.M.), Kelly (D-Ariz.), Hickenlooper (D-Colo.), and Heinrich (D-N.M.). 

Conservation organizations across the country, including the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership,  American Fly Fishing Trade Association, American Sportfishing Association, American Water Works Association, Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, Conservation Northwest, Family Farm Alliance, National American Grouse Partners, National Deer Association, National Wildlife Federation, Rural Voices for Conservation Coalition, Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities, The Nature Conservancy, Trout Unlimited, Watershed Research and Training Center, and Western Landowners Alliance have all been advocating for this effort. 

The Headwaters Protection Act would:  

  • Reauthorize the Water Source Protection Program (WSPP) and increase the authorization of appropriations for the program from $10 million per year to $30 million per year.  
  • Broaden the range of water users, including historically disadvantaged communities, who could participate in and benefit from the WSPP. 
  • Reduce financial barriers for water users to participate in the WSPP. 
  • Prioritize WSPP projects that benefit drinking water quality and improve resilience to wildfire and climate change. 
  • Make a technical change to the Watershed Condition Framework (WCF) that ensures healthy watersheds do not become degraded and authorizes $30 million in new appropriations per year.  

WSPP and WCF projects would: 

  • Conserve freshwater resources within National Forest System Lands, which supply drinking water to one in five Americans and contain much of our country’s best remaining cold-water habitat for salmon, steelhead, and trout. 
  • Complement and strengthen the Forest Service’s Wildfire Crisis Strategy by encouraging partnerships with water users to reduce threats to water supplies and infrastructure from wildfire and climate change. 

Additional Statements of Support 

“The Nature Conservancy in Colorado strongly supports Senators Bennet, Crapo, Feinstein, Risch, Heinrich, Lujan, Kelly, and Hickenlooper’s Headwaters Protection Act. Healthy forested watersheds provide the natural infrastructure that supplies clean water for people and communities, agriculture, hydropower, and fish and wildlife.  Many of these forested watersheds are on both public and private lands, and many are in unhealthy condition, at risk of high-severity wildfire, and in need of ecologically based restoration.  The Headwaters Protection Act reauthorizes and improves the Water Source Protection Program, a tool that can bring investments from non-federal partners to support forest health, restoration, and watershed protection projects.  This bill is a smart investment in our future,” said Carlos Fernandez, Colorado state director for The Nature Conservancy. 

“A healthy river system performs three basic functions. It catches, stores, and slowly releases water over time. Floods, fire, and drought can wreak havoc to healthy river systems. The Headwaters Protection Act would provide a pathway for collaborative stewardship so we can restore healthy rivers that provide cold, clean water for both downstream communities and trout and salmon alike. We thank Senator Bennet for his leadership and look forward to working with our partners to make this program a success on the ground,” said Chris Wood, president and CEO of Trout Unlimited. 

One Response to “Conservation Groups Applaud Bipartisan Bill to Invest in America’s Forests and Watersheds ”

  1. michael gondell

    Great legislation given recent guting of Clean Water Act by SCOTUS. Glad to see groups like Trout Unlimited, Nature Conservancy and TRCP supporting this legislation

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June 5, 2023

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.

Photo credit: Kent Miller

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May 26, 2023

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 in the 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. 

May 19, 2023

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).

May 16, 2023

New Federal Mitigation Policies Will Reduce Habitat and Species Loss

Finalized guidance from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service set an expectation that proposed development projects should minimize impacts to fish and wildlife wherever possible

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

HOW YOU CAN HELP

CHEERS TO CONSERVATION

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.

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