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Louisiana lawmakers recently passed Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 46, which urges the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission to prohibit the harvest of any redfish over 27 inches in length, to conserve the spawning stock of this iconic species.
Though it doesn’t force the Commission to make any changes to creel or slot limits for redfish, the resolution is a significant first step toward increasing the redfish spawning stock. The TRCP and its partners will continue promoting the adoption of this recommendation as an official regulation at the Commission level.
It’s become clear, based on public opinion and now the opinion of legislators in the state, that something needs to be done to address declining redfish populations in Louisiana.
Recreational fishing in the “Sportsman’s Paradise” is a $2.5-billion industry that supports thousands of businesses and nearly 18,000 jobs. Fishing is a fundamental part of Louisiana’s culture and brings over 1.2 million anglers from around the world to the state each year. This wouldn’t be possible without science-based regulations that ensure abundant food sources and healthy habitats to support sportfish populations.
Survival rates for juvenile redfish, also known as red drum, to achieve spawning age have been declining for more than a decade in Louisiana. The percent of mature red drum able to successfully spawn also has declined to 20 percent–or 10 percent lower than the state-mandated rate. Numerous factors have contributed to the decline; primarily, the loss of more than 2,000 square miles of coastal marshes in the last century. However, there is no doubt that recreational harvest and pressure from commercial fisheries, on both forage fish and via direct mortality of redfish as bycatch, also play significant roles.
While redfish are not considered overfished, they are currently undergoing overfishing, meaning the mortality rate is too high to maintain a healthy stock size. Recreational anglers, fishery managers, and political leaders must remain dedicated to protecting spawning-size redfish–generally fish 27 inches or longer–by returning them to the water. Efforts to limit bycatch and restore marsh habitat also are necessary to ultimately increase the overall population.
Although anglers are committed to being part of the solution for redfish conservation, more is needed to ensure healthy populations. Each year, foreign-owned industrial boats remove nearly 1 billion pounds of menhaden, forage fish also known as pogies, from Louisiana waters. Pogies are a critical food source for healthy redfish. Tens of thousands of reds are also killed annually while being trapped in the massive seine nets.
Gamefish like redfish and other popular sportfish need large populations of pogies to thrive. Louisiana is the only coastal state in the Gulf or the Atlantic that has no catch limit on pogies or has few to no restricted areas where industrial purse seining is prohibited.
Additional state regulations, including science-based catch limits, are needed to ensure sportfish populations have ample food available and to protect shallow-water beaches and spawning areas from the impacts of large-scale industrial pogie harvest. The TRCP and its partners remain committed to both redfish and pogie conservation, so that marine ecosystems in Louisiana—and along the entire Gulf Coast–can thrive for generations to come.
If you’re a Louisiana resident, send a message to your state legislators, thanking them for supporting Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 46, and encouraging them to support further sportfish conservation efforts.
Photo credit: Rob Shane
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:
WSPP and WCF projects would:
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.
$161 million will be allocated over 21 projects in 11 states
On Wednesday, May 31, the Bureau of Land Management announced a $161 million investment in ecosystem restoration and resilience work on our nation’s public lands. These funds are allocated from the Inflation Reduction Act as part of the administration’s Investing in America agenda. The BLM will focus work on 21 different landscapes across 11 western states.
“The Bureau of Land Management’s significant financial commitment will benefit local communities across the West, while boosting fish and wildlife habitat and our sporting traditions,” said Joel Webster, VP of western conservation with the TRCP. “The BLM has needed these resources for a long time, and TRCP is excited to see these dollars hit the ground in the form of beneficial management projects.”
This huge win for public land conservation has TRCP field staff from Alaska to Colorado eager to see habitat improvements in their respective states. Below are our top projects.
The Birch Creek and Fortymile Wild and Scenic Rivers are renowned for their remote yet relatively accessible DIY opportunities to hunt caribou and moose, fish for Arctic grayling, and explore big, wild country. Very few places allow for multi-day float trips on primitive sections of river, while also being accessible by road. The BLM’s $5 million investment here will improve water quality and aquatic habitat in these diverse watersheds, which in turn will support subsistence and recreational fisheries.
“The TRCP applauds the BLM’s commitment to restore these prized public lands and waters in Eastern Interior Alaska, which offer extraordinary recreational, cultural and historic values,” said Jen Leahy, TRCP’s Alaska program manager. “By improving water quality and aquatic habitat, and ensuring safe access for year-round recreation, future generations will be able to enjoy these diverse watersheds and fisheries that fuel Alaska’s powerhouse recreation economy.”
The vast sagebrush-steppe of southeast Oregon is a stronghold for greater sage-grouse, pronghorn, mule deer, and other iconic wildlife. By planting sagebrush, treating invasive vegetation, promoting native plants, and cutting fuel breaks, this key habitat will be strengthened and restored. The project will provide $5 million towards the restoration of 3.7 million acres of BLM sagebrush landscapes.
“We’re excited to see the BLM include the region between the Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge and the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge as one of the 21 nationally recognized projects,” said Michael O’Casey, TRCP’s deputy director for the Pacific Northwest. “The TRCP has been working for several years to conserve a pronghorn migration corridor on these BLM lands, and we’re thrilled to see restoration dollars here on the ground.”
The Montana Mountains in northwest Nevada will see $6 million invested into aquatic restoration and conservation. The perennial springs in the high desert oasis are critical to this ecosystem that hosts antelope, mule deer, greater sage-grouse, pygmy rabbit, and other species endemic to sagebrush country.
“The Montana Mountains support Lahontan cutthroat trout in several small streams on the east side of the range, and on top is some of the most intact greater sage-grouse habitat in this part of the state,” said Carl Erquiaga, TRCP’s Nevada field representative. “However, this mountain range is not without its threats. Wildfire has altered large portions of the mountain, allowing invasive cheatgrass to expand. Additionally, mining interests vie for important lithium deposits that exist across much of the area which is part of the McDermitt Caldera. These funds could not have come at a better time for restoration work.”
The San Luis Valley is a sacred area to a number of Tribes, and the wetlands are invaluable habitat for birds, fish, and mammals. Through a $6.1 million investment, the BLM looks to restore habitat, improve hunting and fishing opportunities, and bolster fire and drought resistance. The work here will conserve cultural and historic spaces, expand public use, and help manage natural resources at the headwaters of the Rio Grande.
“The $6.1 million dedicated to the San Luis Valley Restoration Landscape is a historic investment in restoring wildlife habitat and fisheries, improving hunting and fishing opportunities, and building resilience to drought and wildfire,” said Alex Funk, TRCP Director of Water Resources. “TRCP is excited to begin the work of supporting local partners, including Ducks Unlimited, in utilizing these funds to increase the pace and scale of wetland ecosystems, while improving hunting and fishing access in the headwaters of the Rio Grande.”
A land of intersections, the headwaters of the Missouri River and the mountain ranges that steeple southwestern Montana create a wildlife habitat confluence where westslope cutthroat, Arctic grayling, mule deer, elk, and greater sage-grouse have maintained solid footing. Multi-generational ranches interspersed with public land knit a quilt of agriculture and outdoor recreation. These precious pillars of wildlife and cultural value will receive a $9.98 million investment to bolster their longevity.
“We are pleased to see the BLM invest in restoration efforts in the Missouri Headwaters Landscape,” said Scott Laird, TRCP’s Montana field representative. “There have been significant changes to this landscape and its habitats with new threats and pressures on the horizon. This area supports exceptional big game migration routes, critical sagebrush steppe habitat, and world class cold-water fisheries. Sportsmen and women should be encouraged with the prioritization of restoration for these BLM lands.”
While most anglers will be familiar with the Colorado River cutthroat, this native fish shares Muddy Creek with lesser-known species like the bluehead and flannelmouth suckers and roundtail chub. All these cold-water fish, along with the winter range and migratory corridors to the east of the creek, stand to benefit from the $10 million in fuels reduction, stream and wetland enhancement, and erosion control set to hit the ground here in the headwaters of the Colorado River basin.
“The BLM’s investment in the Muddy Creek Area is a win-win for Wyomingites. Habitat improvements will increase forage conditions for livestock grazers and big game populations, a critical step for recovering populations of pronghorn and mule deer that were devastated by the past winter,” said the TRCP’s Wyoming field manager, Josh Metten. “Local communities stand to benefit from jobs created by these boots on the ground projects, which also include wildfire mitigation and stream health improvements for native Colorado Cutthroat trout.”
The Upper Salmon River is a critical cold-water refuge for salmon, steelhead, and bull trout. Here in these headwaters, the BLM manages over 3,000 miles of streams and river corridors that are also home to elk, mule deer, and greater sage-grouse. Working with local communities and Tribal partners, the BLM plans to invest $9.1 million to replace culverts, reduce fuels, address conifer encroachment, increase diversity of native grasses and forbs, and improve water quality that will benefit wildlife and local communities alike.
“BLM’s commitment of nearly $27 million to restore three landscapes across Idaho will benefit fish and wildlife,” said Rob Thornberry, TRCP’s Idaho field representative. “It will also benefit hunters and anglers and local economies in the areas where BLM lands will be actively restored. Everyone should see wins from this investment.”
Photo Credit: Gregory “Slobirdr” Smith
The Central Yukon Resource Management Plan will guide future management of BLM lands in an area larger than Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Switzerland combined
Later this year, the Bureau of Land Management is slated to publish a revised management plan for 13.3 million acres in Alaska’s Interior and Arctic regions. This region, known as the Central Yukon planning area, is familiar to many hunters and anglers as the home of the Dalton Highway Corridor. This unique recreation destination allows for remote, yet road accessible, hike-in and float trips, and hosts some of the most iconic big game species in Alaska—including Dall sheep, moose, and caribou—and 25 species of fish.
The Central Yukon plan has important implications for our fish and wildlife resources as it will guide landscape-level management and balance the various uses allowed on BLM lands in this region for approximately the next 20 years. That’s why the TRCP has been advocating for the priorities of hunters and anglers in the Central Yukon throughout the BLM’s multi-year planning process.
A Plan in Need of Fixing
The draft plan, published in 2020, recommended that 98 percent of all BLM-managed lands in the planning area be opened to industrial resource extraction. This recommendation is unbalanced and would result in unacceptable consequences for the sporting community and subsistence harvesters. In response, the TRCP organized comments from more than 500 supporters who urged the agency to develop a more fish and wildlife friendly preferred alternative and offered specific recommendations for improving habitat in the planning area.
As the agency moves this plan closer to completion, our team continues to leverage every opportunity to ensure that the final plan adequately reflects the values of hunters and anglers.
Priority #1: Avoid or minimize the impacts to fish, wildlife, and important habitat
The final plan should align with the BLM’s goals and objectives for managing fish and wildlife in the planning area, which include but are not limited to:
Under the draft plan, wildlife could be affected by mining in 100 percent of the planning area—as opposed to 52 percent under the existing plan—since all lands would be open to locatable mineral entry. The agency’s own analysis acknowledges that the preferred alternative would adversely impact high-value fish habitat, increase the loss of important habitat for Dall sheep, and could result in caribou population declines. The final plan should strike a better balance between habitat conservation and responsible resource development.
Recommended action: Adopt Dall Habitat Areas, Dall Sheep Movement Corridors and Dall Sheep Study Area. Include additional conservation measures for sheep, such as restrictions on development activities within 0.5 miles of mineral licks.
Recommended action: Adopt Core Caribou Habitat Areas. Include additional safeguards for caribou, such as restrictions on OHV use and other surface-disturbing activities during calving periods.
Recommended action: Adopt Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs) and Research Natural Areas (RNAs) as proposed in Alternative B. Of the 31 ACECs under consideration, six are proposed to protect Dall sheep habitat and four are proposed offer additional safeguards to caribou.
Priority #2: Plan for Growing Recreational Demand
The revisions to the Central Yukon RMP should also support public access for hunting, fishing, and other forms of recreation. The planning area provides outstanding recreation opportunities for Alaskans and non-residents throughout the year, including sightseeing, fishing, hunting, river trips, day hikes, wildlife viewing, bird watching, and photography. Recreational demand is expected to increase along the Dalton Highway through the life of the plan.
By adopting the proposed Dalton Corridor Backcountry Conservation Area, the BLM could conserve big game habitat, provide world-class backcountry recreation experiences, and allow for traditional uses of these lands to continue.
Recommended action: Adopt the proposed Dalton Corridor Backcountry Conservation Area. This tool would specifically provide for high-quality hunting and other recreation opportunities in the outer Dalton Highway Corridor.
Priority #3: Maintain existing conservation safeguards
Finally, we recommend that the RMP retain long-standing public land orders to ensure that some lands remain withdrawn from mineral entry.
Approximately 7.4 million acres in the Central Yukon planning area—including the Dalton Highway Corridor—have been withdrawn from mineral entry since the public land orders were issued in the 1970s. Revoking the PLOs would negatively impact subsistence access for rural community residents in the planning area. Unique recreational hunting opportunities—such as the 5-mile bowhunting-only corridor along the Dalton Highway—could also be threatened if these lands are conveyed.
Recommended action: Maintain the Dalton Highway Corridor (PLO 5150) in its entirety.
Recommended action: Maintain all ANCSA d-1 withdrawals.
Create a Conservation Success Story
Alaskan hunters and anglers, local businesses, wildlife managers, and other recreationists who enjoy these places are counting on the BLM to manage our public lands in a way that protects our investment in Alaska’s fish and wildlife, outdoor resources, and sporting heritage. Working together, we can ensure that the Central Yukon RMP revisions create the best management plan for the habitat and quality hunting and fishing areas that makes this vast region of Alaska a world-class destination.
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