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May 3, 2024


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April 24, 2024

Dingell, Westerman, and Newberg Receive TRCP’s Conservation Awards

Gala event co-hosted by Outdoor Afro’s Rue Mapp and MeatEater’s Ryan “Cal” Callaghan brings together D.C. luminaries, outdoor industry leaders, and TRCP supporters

At its 16th annual Capital Conservation Awards Dinner, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership proudly celebrated the conservation achievements of Representative Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), Representative Bruce Westerman (R-AR), and Fresh Tracks host Randy Newberg. 

The gala event was co-hosted by Rue Mapp, CEO and founder of Outdoor Afro, and Ryan “Cal” Callaghan, director of conservation at MeatEater —at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.

“We are thrilled this year to be presenting our 2024 awards to Congresswoman Debbie Dingell, Congressman Bruce Westerman, and hunter, public land advocate, and host of Fresh Tracks, Randy Newberg,” said Becky Humphries, TRCP interim president and CEO. “Representatives Dingell and Westerman have been instrumental in clinching legislative victories for habitat, access, and conservation funding that will impact hunting and fishing opportunities for years to come. Our event is also a fitting way to celebrate a deeply appreciated champion in conservation, Randy Newberg, who has been part of this community for many years.”

Michigan Congresswoman Debbie Dingell has been a champion for conservation from the first day she set foot in D.C. Over nearly a decade in Congress, she has fought for game changing investments in fish and wildlife conservation and expanded access for hunters and anglers, including through her leadership on the Voluntary Public Access Improvement Act and the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act. Both bills are rooted in broad support from the hunting and fishing community and ensure that future generations enjoy the same opportunity that we do.  

Photo by www.jonflemingphotography.com

As Chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Arkansas Congressman Bruce Westerman has been a leading voice on improving forest health, protecting, and expanding access, and bolstering fish and wildlife habitat conservation. His bipartisan EXPLORE and LAKES Acts would remove barriers to access and modernize outdoor infrastructure, while the America’s Wildlife Habitat Conservation Act delivers several long-standing hunting and fishing community priorities like a fix to the Cottonwood court decision and would create additional pathways for proactive, voluntary conservation.

Photo by www.jonflemingphotography.com

Randy Newberg, host of the Fresh Tracks and On Your Own Adventures hunting television shows, the long-standing Hunt Talk web forum, and the Hunt Talk Podcast is a true champion of conservation and a steadfast advocate for the hunting community. As a true champion of conservation and a steadfast advocate for the hunting community, his unwavering dedication and humble passion make him a true advocate for the everyday hunter. 

Photo by www.jonflemingphotography.com

The 16th Annual Capital Conservation Awards Dinner was made possible with the support of the following generous sponsors:

The TRCP is your resource for all things conservation. In our weekly Roosevelt Report, you’ll receive the latest news on emerging habitat threats, legislation and proposals on the move, public land access solutions we’re spearheading, and opportunities for hunters and anglers to take action. Sign up now.


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April 22, 2024

Blue Catfish in the Chesapeake are Gobbling Up Everything in It

This aquatic invasive species eats the striped bass, menhaden, and blue crabs so vital for the Bay’s health, recreational fishing, and economy

Great tasting: check. Will pull the rod from your hand: check. High chance of success: check.

It probably sounds like I’m talking about peak-season Gulf redfish or Long Island striped bass, but believe it or not, I’m talking about blue catfish – an incredibly resilient invasive species that is taking over the Chesapeake Bay’s waterways and harming important fisheries as it gobbles its way through them.

While native to middle America’s Mississippi and Ohio River watersheds, blue catfish are considered an aquatic invasive species in the Chesapeake Bay. Like other AIS threats around the country, their presence negatively impacts recreational fisheries, ecosystems, and economies. When TRCP and its partners convened an AIS commission two years ago, we had harmful species just like this in mind.

Photo Credit: Rocky Rice

As the largest species of catfish in North America, blue cats can exceed 100 pounds thanks to a voracious appetite, unmatched adaptability, and a willingness to live just about anywhere and eat just about anything. So what are they doing in the Bay, and what can be done to blunt their impacts?

Unforeseen Consequences

In the mid-1970s, the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries were overfished and highly polluted. In response, fisheries managers in Virginia decided they needed to stock a different type of fish – a hearty specimen that could handle the poor conditions, offer anglers a good fight, and provide nice table fare. They settled on blue catfish. An added benefit they saw to this freshwater species was that it wouldn’t be able to spread beyond the targeted rivers.

“They thought because they are river fish they wouldn’t tolerate the saltwater conditions in the Bay,” said Dr. Noah Bressman, assistant professor in the Department of Biology at Salisbury University. “But they were wrong.”

Managers initially released blue catfish into the James and Rappahannock rivers, but they have since spread widely throughout most of the upper Bay. Today, blue catfish can be found in every major tidal river in Maryland, and in some locations make up as much as 70 percent of the total biomass.

Photo Credit: Noah Bressman

“As an apex predator, invasive blue catfish continue to impact the ecological balance of the Chesapeake Bay by competing with native species for important forage species like menhaden and herring,” said Dave Sikorski, executive director of Coastal Conservation Association Maryland.   

Not a Picky Eater

Dr. Bressman is a top expert on invasive blue catfish, researching such areas as their primary diet, feeding behavior, and ecology in the Bay. His lab uses boat-based electrofishing with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to catch hundreds of thousands of blue catfish for research. What they’ve learned is that these generalistic, opportunistic omnivores—much like coyotes or cockroaches—will eat anything.

Bressman’s research has turned up a 47-pound catfish with a whole adult wood duck in its stomach, and a 30-inch catfish with a 19-inch striped bass inside. Blue catfish eat many millions of blue crabs per year, and readily gorge on white perch, menhaden, striped bass (also known in Maryland as rockfish), even turtles and muskrats and their own young. On the Eastern Shore, they also target other important forage fish species – alewives and blueback herring. Tissue sampling evidence even suggests they are eating the eggs of striped bass, herring, and other fish, and as top predators they also compete with sportfish for the same prey.

Photo Credit: AKZOphoto

“People think of catfish as slow-moving bottom feeders,” Bressman said. “But these are active predators. They eat anything and everything they can get their mouth around.”

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Eat ‘Em

Ask anyone, and they will tell you this problem is not going to go away. Bressman said that blue catfish are the most abundant fish, by biomass, in the rivers around the Bay. The problem has gotten so bad in the last couple decades that it’s actually generated a growing commercial fishery.

“What started as me targeting striped bass and hard crabs, and only fishing for blue catfish in between, has now gotten reversed,” said Rocky Rice, owner and operator of Piccowaxen Creek Seafood.

Rice has been commercially targeting blue catfish in the Potomac River for the last 12 years. He started fishing for these invasives merely to generate income in slow seasons, but now blue catfish are the main focus of his operation. Using primarily longlines and hoop pots, he targets fish in the best eating range of about 3 to 10 pounds.

Photo Credit: Chesapeake Bay Program

And Rice is not alone. In 2022, commercial harvesters on the Potomac reported more than 3.1 million pounds of blue catfish landed, according to the Potomac River Fisheries Commission. This number far exceeds those for all other finfish species, except menhaden, harvested in the brackish river. By comparison, striped bass was the next highest fish species commercially landed at 428,000 pounds. And that’s just in the Potomac.

Unlike striped bass, whose numbers have been trending lower for years, blue catfish populations are practically impossible to eradicate, or even stunt. Rice says it’s one reason he targets this invasive.

“Granted I’m a fisherman and I need to make money,” Rice said. “But if I can minimize negative impacts on our native species also it’s a win-win.”

Dr. Bressman says just to keep the blue catfish population stable, fishermen must remove 15- to 30-million pounds of catfish from the Chesapeake Bay each year, and much more to reduce it. He asserts that without active human intervention, catfish could likely become the dominant predator in brackish portions of the Bay.

Photo Credit: Rocky Rice
Fun to Catch

So the best solution to keeping blue catfish populations in check, and to help protect native species, is one that offers real rewards: Go fishing. Blue cats are known for growing big, fighting hard, and tasting far better than most people expect. They’re also fairly simple to coax a bite from, and in Maryland there’s no catch limit.

If you’ve got a rod and reel, and willingness to target a different sort of fish, Rice says you can fish virtually anywhere in the brackish and fresh portions of the upper Bay. Dr. Bressman can back this up. In a previous tournament targeting blue cats, he fished from shore to pass the time while he waited for boats to come back in for weigh-ins. He had to stop one hour into the eight-hour tournament, and still almost won the shore fishing category with a half-dozen fish.

Photo Credit: Noah Bressman

CCA Maryland, along with partners like Yamaha Rightwaters, is working to raise awareness with recreational anglers to help get them into the game. To target the threat of aquatic invasive fish species in the state, they offer fishing tournaments and other events to help engage anglers. A good example is the Great Chesapeake Invasives Count, which launched April 1 and runs through March 31, 2025.

“To combat this looming issue, and empower anglers to do their part, CCA Maryland is proud to partner with Fish & Hunt Maryland, Maryland DNR, Maryland’s Best Seafood, and others to promote the opportunities for fishing that invasive catfish present, and support data collection efforts to help guide future management actions,” said Sikorski.   

Even Better to Eat

“These aren’t your muddy-bottom catfish,” Bressman said. “They eat things we like to eat and that makes them taste better than other catfish.”

Bressman, Sikorski, and Rice all say they love dining on firm, flaky blue catfish filets, which taste quite similar to those of striped bass – largely because both species are active predators that compete for the same prey. The culinary value of this fish is catching on. Maryland’s Best, a state-run program that connects consumers with locally sourced agricultural products, offers a listing of 16 grocery stores and 24 restaurants that sell wild-caught Chesapeake blue catfish, to help support the state’s watermen and fight this invasive.

“It makes no sense for someone to buy a catfish that comes from overseas, because we have a better quality product right here,” Rice said. “We have to eat our way through this problem.”

Photo Credit: Stephen McFadden

Rice says he personally likes to deep fry the white, flaky filets, but has broiled and blackened them too. He’s even had blue catfish pot pie. He said their versatility and palatability is probably why chefs like these fish so much.

“I’ve fed it to a lot of my friends who’d said they didn’t like catfish,” he said, “and now that they’ve had it it’s one of their favorite foods.”

Do Your Part

If you do head out looking for blue catfish in the Bay area, be sure to share the photos and filets with family and friends – especially via online imagery – to help drum up interest. And whether or not you target these fish, if you ever catch one, be sure to not throw it back into the water alive (an exception being some parts of Virginia, where you need to be aware of a daily 20-fish creel limit and allowance for only one catfish over 32 inches).

If you don’t want to catch or cook blue catfish, you can always support Bay-area businesses that offer locally sourced blue catfish filets. The bottom line is that dealing with blue catfish is an all-hands-on-deck situation, so the conservation community needs a lot of people working to tackle it in different ways.

“We need a cultural shift,” Bressman says. “The more catfish you eat, the more striped bass and blue crabs will be in the Bay.”

Learn about TRCP’s AIS Report here.

The TRCP is your no-B.S. resource for all things conservation. In our weekly Roosevelt Report, you’ll receive the latest news on emerging habitat threats, legislation and proposals on the move, public land access solutions we’re spearheading, and opportunities for hunters and anglers to take action. Sign up now.


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In the Arena: Edgar Diaz

TRCP’s “In the Arena” series highlights the individual voices of hunters and anglers who, as Theodore Roosevelt so famously said, strive valiantly in the worthy cause of conservation.

Edgar Diaz

Hometown: Austin, Texas
Occupation: Founder of Sight Line Provisions.
Conservation credentials: Championing conservation efforts on-the-ground and through his company.

Edgar Diaz’s lifelong connection to the outdoors, shaped by childhood adventures in Baja and Southern California, led him to found Sight Line Provisions—a brand deeply committed to conservation. With a blend of personal passion and professional dedication, Edgar advocates for responsible stewardship of our wild spaces, inspiring others to join him in protecting the outdoors for years to come. 

Here is his story.

From my earliest memories, the outdoors has been my sanctuary. Those family vacations to the beaches of Baja and the mountains of Southern California are etched in my mind like the lines my father used to make on our old powder blue tent marking each destination we visited as a family. Camping on bluffs in Ensenada and by the Kern River, I found solace and excitement in nature, especially when paired with my father’s love for fishing.

Edgar has always been called by the ocean and mountains where he developed his love of fishing, mountain biking, and birding. His connection to the outdoors started with these activities.

Today, if I could pick any place to hunt or fish, it would undoubtedly be Baja California. The allure of chasing California quail in the morning, followed by the exhilaration of pursuing roosterfish, fills my dreams. I recall a particularly memorable fishing trip where I stumbled upon a California quail —and it was a perfect blend of my passions. I know this trip would be an epic cast and blast.

Conservation has become more than just a cause; it’s a way of life for me. As the founder of Sight Line Provisions, I’ve woven conservation into the fabric of our brand. Preserving our natural resources isn’t just a duty; it’s essential for our enjoyment of the outdoors. Here in Central Texas, I’ve personally witnessed the impact of conservation efforts, especially through organizations like Guadalupe Trout Unlimited, which has transformed our local fishery into a gem for our community.

Yet, despite the progress, challenges loom large, none more pressing than water conservation. Here in the Texas Hill Country, water is a precious resource, one that’s often wasted, diverted, or even stolen. It’s a battle we must fight together as a community, safeguarding our natural treasures for future generations.

For me, being involved in conservation isn’t just about reducing my footprint—it’s about leaving a legacy. It’s about ensuring that the wild places I love remain for those who come after me. Through Sight Line Provisions, I strive to support the very organizations and efforts that protect the landscapes and waters that have shaped me.

Sight Line Provisions partners with organizations like Captains for Clean Water, Trout Unlimited, The Mayfly Project, and the F-Y-S-H Project to raise funds and awareness for issues important to the sporting community.

But conservation isn’t just about protecting nature; it’s about preserving a way of life. It’s about passing on the tradition to the next generation of hunters and anglers. In a world where progress threatens to overshadow the simple joys of the outdoors, it’s our responsibility to ensure that future generations have the same opportunities to connect with nature that we’ve had. It’s about staying informed, acting responsibly, and most importantly, getting that younger generation into the great outdoors. After all, they are the stewards of tomorrow, and it’s up to us to equip them with the knowledge and passion necessary to protect our wild spaces for generations to come.

Do you know someone “In the Arena” who should be featured here? Email us at info@trcp.org

The TRCP is your no-B.S. resource for all things conservation. In our weekly Roosevelt Report, you’ll receive the latest news on emerging habitat threats, legislation and proposals on the move, public land access solutions we’re spearheading, and opportunities for hunters and anglers to take action. Sign up now.


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April 19, 2024

BLM Announces Big Wins for Wildlife, Hunters, and Anglers on 13 Million Acres of Public Lands in Northern Alaska

The Central Yukon Resource Management Plan includes measures to safeguard important habitat and world-class recreation opportunities

Today, after more than a decade of engagement with local residents, Alaska Native Tribes, hunters and anglers, and conservation and development interests, the Bureau of Land Management released a revised resource management plan for 13.3 million acres of BLM-managed public lands in northern Alaska.

The Central Yukon planning area features some of the most valued big game species in Alaska—including Dall sheep, moose, and caribou—and 25 species of fish. The area is perhaps best recognized for the Dalton Highway Corridor, also known as the Haul Road. This unique recreation destination allows for some of the most remote—yet road accessible—hike-in and float trips in Alaska. BLM-managed lands within the 56-million-acre planning area provide important habitat connectivity between several conservation units that are prized by hunters and anglers, including five national wildlife refuges.

“The BLM’s revised Central Yukon plan is great news for Alaskans and visiting hunters and anglers who know and treasure these wild public lands, and for everyone who dreams of an iconic Haul Road hunting or fishing trip,” said Jen Leahy, Alaska senior program manager for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “The hunting and fishing community has been involved in this plan revision for many years. We thank the BLM for adopting several habitat-focused measures in the final plan, which, as a whole, appropriately balances conservation and development interests.”

The plan contains measures that avoid or minimize impacts to fish, wildlife, and important habitats; outlines steps to prepare for the growing recreational demand along the Dalton Corridor that is expected to increase over the next two decades; and maintains existing conservation safeguards that were already in place to uphold the quality hunting, fishing, and other recreational opportunities of the region. To manage for continued hunting and fishing opportunities in the Dalton Corridor, the BLM is proposing to adopt a Backcountry Conservation Area, a land use allocation focused on habitat conservation and wildlife dependent recreation that allows for other traditional uses to continue. The plan additionally includes provisions to conserve habitat for caribou and Dall sheep. 

Following a 60-day review period, the BLM will issue an approved RMP and Record of Decision. Once final, the RMP will guide landscape-level management and the various uses allowed on BLM lands in this region for the next 20 or more years.



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.

$4 from each bag is donated to the TRCP, to help continue their efforts of safeguarding critical habitats, productive hunting grounds, and favorite fishing holes for future generations.

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