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February 15, 2024

Final NOI Buffers LA menhaden-Feb2024-1600 pix

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Louisiana Issues Regulations to Protect Nearshore Habitat from Menhaden Industry

In the most significant Gulf menhaden conservation outcome to date, the state’s Wildlife and Fisheries Commission approves half-mile coastwide buffer prohibiting pogy boats from netting, increases fish spill penalties

(BATON ROUGE, La.)— Louisiana’s coastline, gamefish, and recreational angling opportunities will now receive greater protections from the industrial menhaden fishery, after the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission approved a revised Notice of Intent (NOI) at a Special Commission Meeting today in Baton Rouge.

The NOI expands the current ¼-mile no-fishing buffer zone, which prevents industrial menhaden harvest near the coast, to ½-mile coastwide, with a broader 1-mile buffer added off Holly Beach. It also establishes more stringent penalties and reporting requirements for future fish spills.

The commission initially decided to take action last October, suggesting a 1-mile buffer after 18 separate fish spills, accounting for over 2.5 million wasted menhaden and at least several hundred dead, breeding-sized redfish, occurred in 2023 alone. Most notably, three spills in early September fouled popular beaches and exacerbated user conflicts with recreational anglers and boaters, and again raised public concerns over the damage being caused to shallow waters by the menhaden industry.  The industry firmly opposed the initial NOI.

Following a public comment period and a public hearing at the Feb. 1 meeting, the commission voted to again ask representatives from the menhaden industry and recreational fishing advocacy and conservation organizations to reach a compromise. The compromise modified the NOI to ½ mile, while retaining new penalties and reporting requirements for future net spills from the original NOI. The commission also voted to allow the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to implement the new regulations immediately, ahead of the menhaden season’s start on April 15.

“We were asked by the Commission and Governor Landry to get in a room with the industry and work on a compromise, so that’s what we did. As with any compromise, there is some give and take,” said Coastal Conservation Association Louisiana Chairman Charlie Caplinger.  “That said, these new regulations on the industry are a very positive step forward for Louisiana’s coastal zone that will provide much-needed protections for our fragile shorelines and the fish and wildlife that live there. CCA and our coalition partners would like to thank Governor Landry, the Commission, and the new leaders at Wildlife and Fisheries for helping to facilitate this agreement.”

Gulf menhaden, also known as pogies, are a critical food source for iconic Louisiana sportfish like redfish and speckled trout. Approximately 1 billion pounds of pogies are harvested by the industrial Gulf of Mexico menhaden fishery each year, mainly from Louisiana waters. To date, pogy boats have been allowed to fish closer than 500 yards from Louisiana’s shorelines, where the boats often make contact with the water bottom while stirring up sediment with their massive purse seine nets, affecting feeding and spawning for a host of sportfish, birds, and dolphins.

A coalition of recreational fishing, wildlife and habitat conservation, and boating organizations has been working for five years to expand public awareness about the impacts of the Gulf’s industrial menhaden fishery and advocate for some basic conservation measures, such as the ones included in the NOI.

“Conserving and protecting Louisiana’s vast but diminishing coastal fisheries and critical barrier islands, beaches and marshes has been the goal of our coalition for the last five years,” said Chris Macaluso, director of the Center for Marine Fisheries for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We have consistently worked with the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries staff, concerned anglers, charter captains, conservationists, lawmakers at every level, and the menhaden industry to enact meaningful regulations that can help accomplish that goal while recognizing the importance of commercial fisheries to Louisiana’s economy and culture. The Commission deserves a lot of credit for recognizing the validity of our coalition’s concerns and taking a big step forward in protecting Louisiana’s coast.”

In 2021, Representative Joe Orgeron (R-54) first introduced a bill in the Louisiana Legislature which proposed a nearly identical buffer to this NOI (HB 535). Due to industry opposition, the bill ultimately did not pass, but it did jumpstart a dialogue between the public, legislators, and other decision-makers about the impacts of intensive purse seine netting activity along Louisiana’s fragile coastline, and the impacts of bycatch on economically important species for other user groups, particularly redfish and speckled trout.

“For over three years, efforts have been made with little progress to get some common-sense regulations and policies put into place for the Gulf of Mexico reduction menhaden industry,” said Representative Joe Orgeron (R-54). “It now appears that these actions by the commission going forward will provide both increased scientific gathering on Louisiana’s largest fishery segment, as well as a better balance between the involved stakeholders for the upcoming 2024 season.”

“We commend the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission for this important step forward to increase the menhaden harvest buffer zone, as well as address the conservation and user conflict benefits that will come with it,” said Richard Fischer, CEO for the Louisiana Charter Boat Association, the nonprofit trade association that represents the best interests of Louisiana charter captains. “We also thank Governor Jeff Landry for exhibiting strong leadership by overseeing the brokering of this agreement, as well as Representative Joe Orgeron for being such a strong and vocal buffer zone champion in the Louisiana Legislature.”

The NOI will now go through a 30-day oversight period, where the joint Legislative Oversight Committees may choose to review it and make alternative recommendations. If they take no action, the NOI will be formalized as a final rule ahead of the 2024 menhaden fishing season.

Gulf Menhaden Coalition members include the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA), CCA Louisiana, CCA Mississippi, CCA Alabama, CCA Texas, CCA Florida, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Louisiana Charterboat Association, American Sportfishing Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association, Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, International Gamefish Association, Angler Action Foundation, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Audubon Delta, Guy Harvey Foundation, Marine Retailers Association of the Americas, Mississippi Wildlife Federation, and Wildlife Mississippi. 

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

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Sporting Groups Cheer Senate Introduction of MAPOceans Act 

New legislation will increase accessibility of saltwater recreational fishing rules and marine waters navigation information

Today, fishing and recreation groups joined the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership in celebrating the announced introduction of the Modernizing Access to Our Public Oceans Act. The MAPOceans Act will direct the standardization, consolidation, and digitization of boating and recreational fishing information for federally managed marine waters and federal fisheries administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This bill will enhance and expand recreation opportunities by investing in modern technology commonly found in smartphone applications to provide anglers, boaters, and other users with the information they need to safely and legally enjoy offshore waters and federal saltwater fisheries.

The bipartisan legislation was introduced by U.S. Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Angus King (I-Maine).  

“America’s saltwater anglers must navigate a gauntlet of complex regulations when they boat and fish offshore, and the MAPOceans Act will help ensure that people no longer miss a day on the water because federal agency rules are too hard to find and understand,” said Becky Humphries, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “TRCP thanks Senator Cruz and Senator King for their leadership to introduce and advance this important public access legislation.”  

The MAPOceans Act builds on the success of the MAPLand Act, passed in 2022, and recently introduced MAPWaters Act, by directing NOAA to digitize navigation and recreational use rules for marine waters and federal fisheries, and to make those resources readily available to the public. The hundreds of thousands of offshore ocean miles and numerous saltwater fish species regulated by NOAA present enormous recreational opportunities where restrictions are difficult to access and constantly changing. MAPOceans directs the federal agency to compile those rules in digital form so they can be integrated into GPS units and smartphone applications that are popular with boaters and anglers, making that information available to the public in real time. 

“Navigating the complex web of fishing regulations, anchoring limitations, and restricted areas can be challenging for America’s anglers and boaters,” said Mike Leonard, vice president of government affairs at the American Sportfishing Association. “The MAPOceans Act would help Americans access marine waters with more confidence, ensuring that recreational information is easily accessible through marine electronics, mapping apps, and online platforms. On behalf of the recreational fishing industry, we thank Senator Cruz and Senator King for their leadership of this important legislation.”

This newly digitized public information would include:  

• Status information on which waterways are open or closed to entry or watercraft, low-elevation aircraft, or diving.  

• The areas of waterways with restrictions on motorized propulsion, horsepower, or gasoline fuel.  

• Types of watercraft that are restricted on each area of a waterway, including the permissibility of motorboats, non-motorized watercraft, personal watercraft, airboats, amphibious aircraft, and oceangoing ships. 

• The location and geographic boundaries of fishing restrictions on recreational and commercial fishing, including full or partial closures, no-take zones, and fishing restrictions within or surrounding marine protected areas.  

• Fishing regulations concerning specific types of equipment or bait, such as restrictions on the use of circle hooks, descending devices, and trolling.  

“Access for anglers isn’t just about where you can launch your boat,” said Chris Horton, senior director of fisheries policy for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. “With our complicated system of federal fisheries management, and with our network of marine protected areas, it can be especially challenging to know which waters are open for fishing and what type of gear you can use. We very much appreciate Senator Ted Cruz and Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus Vice-Chair Senator Angus King for introducing MAPOceans that will remove barriers and uncertainty for America’s saltwater anglers.” 

“Expanding access to the information anglers and boaters need to safely get out on the water will help fuel America’s $1.1 trillion outdoor recreation economy,” said Jessica Wahl Turner, president of Outdoor Recreation Roundtable. “The Outdoor Recreation Roundtable appreciates Senators Cruz and King for introducing the MAPOceans Act and for finding innovative ways to allow more Americans to enjoy the outdoors.” 

“Accurate charts are one of the basic safety tools for all boaters,” said David B. Kennedy, manager of government affairs for BoatUS. “The over half-a-million BoatUS members applaud the MAPOceans Act as a major step forward in getting the information collected by federal agencies into boater chart plotters, mobile devices, and even good old paper charts.” 

 “When enjoying time on the water, ensuring compliance with complex federal navigation and fisheries regulations is essential to protecting critical habitat and ensuring the conservation of various sport-fish populations,” said Chad Tokowicz, government relations manager for the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas. “The MAPOceans Act will make it easier for recreational boaters and anglers to seamlessly navigate our federal waterways and comply with fisheries regulations, ultimately creating a more positive boating experience for all Americans. We thank Senator Cruz and Senator King for increasing access for recreational boaters and anglers while simultaneously ensuring compliance with important federal regulations.” 

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February 9, 2024

Wyoming’s 2023 Public Land Access Survey Results

Hunter & Angler Insights to Public Land Access in the Cowboy State

Wyoming boasts renowned expanses of public land, however, some of this public land remains difficult to access or is completely inaccessible. The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership recently explored Wyoming’s public land access debate by conducting an access survey of resident sportsmen and women. Our goal was not only to identify the current sentiments surrounding public land access, but also to foster a deeper connection with Wyoming’s outdoor enthusiasts.

The survey was distributed to Wyoming residents in-person at six public land access listening sessions hosted throughout the state, as well as digitally through social media and TRCP membership emails in November and December of 2023.  

Results

At the campaign’s conclusion in December 2023, a total of 960 Wyoming residents completed the survey. The survey results highlighted a desire among Wyoming’s outdoor enthusiasts to enhance public land access. In fact, 73% of respondents, including both public and private land users, believe there should be more public access in the places where they currently hunt, fish, or recreate.  

Other findings include:

  • 76% of respondents support voluntary land acquisitions by federal land management agencies from private landowners.
  • 88% of respondents support state purchases of small parcels of land from willing private landowners to unlock access to larger parcels of inaccessible public land.
  • 82% of respondents support acquisition of voluntary access easements across private land by federal land management agencies to create new public roads that open access to inaccessible public lands.
  • 85% support state legislation that clarifies and facilitates public access to corner locked public lands while respecting private property rights.
  • 91% of respondents support voluntary agreements between state agencies and private landowners that expand public access to inaccessible public land and private land such as access easements, walk-in areas, and Hunter Management Areas.
  • 92% of respondents support consistent and thorough mapping software to show public access available to state and federal land through existing state-held access easements.

Through the survey and listening sessions, TRCP heard that collaboration will be necessary for solving public land access issues facing Wyoming. Collaboration between state and federal land management agencies can help minimize mapping discrepancies and fill the gap in digital access information. In addition, collaboration between public land recreators and private landowners resonated with many attendees, as surveyed landowners are willing to work with hunters and anglers on access issues. Wyoming’s private landowners understand how important their role is for healthy wildlife populations by providing habitat and refuge, but they also support sound wildlife management practices like hunting and fishing. They desire responsible management of resources and respect for their land and personal property. Finding common ground is an important step in taking care of the public land we all love. It’s the Wyoming way.

What’s Next

The TRCP looks to elected leaders to keep Wyoming sportspeople in mind this coming legislative session. Hardworking Wyoming residents value public land, open spaces, and robust wildlife herds. We urge lawmakers to represent Wyoming values by protecting current access to public land and looking for opportunities to increase ease of public access that is beneficial to all stakeholders.

In the meantime, conservation organizations including the TRCP will take steps to help hunters and anglers advocate for increased public land access by keeping constituents informed of relevant news, offering ways for the public to get involved, and advocating on behalf of public land hunters and anglers. Read more about TRCP’s work to expand public access HERE.

For an in-depth look at the survey findings, be sure to check out our PDF companion. This comprehensive resource offers a detailed breakdown of Wyoming’s public land access sentiments and provides insights into the perspectives of hunters and anglers within the state.

Photo credit: Josh Metten

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New Legislation Would Cement the Future of Crucial Conservation Programs 

Lawmakers have introduced a bill to boost funding and provide vital enhancements to conservation programs benefiting fish and wildlife. 

Today, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership celebrated the introduction of America’s Conservation Enhancement Reauthorization Act of 2024. The legislation would increase authorized funding levels and provide critical improvements to a wide range of conservation programs benefitting fish and wildlife such as the National Fish Habitat Partnership Program, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), the Chronic Wasting Disease Task Force, and the Chesapeake Bay Program.   

The bipartisan legislation was introduced by Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) 

“The reauthorization of the ACE Act will benefit fish and wildlife while enhancing outdoor recreation opportunities for millions of hunters and anglers,” said Becky Humphries, CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, “We applaud Senator Carper and Senator Capito for their leadership on America’s Conservation Enhancement Reauthorization Act of 2024 and we look forward to building on the success of these crucial conservation programs.” 

The ACE Act was originally signed into law in 2020 with strong bipartisan support and it cemented long-term funding for programs that improve fish habitat, restore wetlands, boost research into chronic wasting disease, invest in clean water solutions, and prevent bycatch fatalities of important gamefish species. This reauthorization of ACE builds on that legacy and makes critical improvements to programs that benefit fish, wildlife, and our sporting traditions. 

Along with reauthorization of many important programs, the ACE Reauthorization Act of 2024 would: 

  • Increase annual funding for the National Fish Habitat Partnership Program from $7.2 million to $10 million. 
  • Better integrate fish habitat work through U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management. 
  • Increase the number of eligible conservation projects by easing local cost-share requirements.  
  • Provide dedicated funding for the National Fish Habitat Assessment.  
  • Increase annual funding for the North American Wetlands Conservation Act from $60 million to $65 million.  

The ACE Reauthorization Act of 2024 is supported by Ducks Unlimited, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, the National Wildlife Federation, American Sportfishing Association, the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies, and Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. 

TRCP works to maintain and strengthen the future of hunting and fishing by uniting and amplifying our partners’ voices in conserving and restoring wildlife populations and their habitat as challenges continue to evolve.  

Learn more about TRCP’s commitment to healthy habitat and clean water here.

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.

Learn More

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