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February 13, 2024

Atlantic menhaden pair-Credit Brian Gratwicke

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February 9, 2024

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.

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February 7, 2024

Lawmakers Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Extend Great Lakes Protections 

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act would extend and increase funding levels aimed at safeguarding, restoring, and protecting the Great Lakes ecosystem and the commercial and recreational fishery it supports. 

Yesterday, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Congressman David Joyce (R-OH) introduced the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act in the Senate and House respectively. The bill would reauthorize the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) through fiscal year 2031 at $500 million annually.   

Since its inception in 2010, the GLRI has served as a catalyst for federal action and coordination to protect and restore the Great Lakes ecosystem. This has included a five-fold increase in the successful cleanup of areas with extreme degradation, keeping over 2 million pounds of phosphorus runoff out of the Great Lakes, and protecting nearly half a million acres of habitat crucial to fish and wildlife. To accomplish this, the Initiative leverages investments, capacity, and collaboration across The Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of the Interior, Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of State, Coast Guard, and Department of Transportation to safeguard, maintain, and restore the Great Lakes ecosystem.  

“We applaud Senator Stabenow and Congressman Joyce for their leadership on the bipartisan Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act,” said Becky Humphries, CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, “This important legislation will serve to foster, and fund continued federal agency collaboration aimed at safeguarding, restoring, and protecting the Great Lakes ecosystem and the nearly $7 billion commercial and recreational fishery it supports.” 

With over 10,000 miles of coastline and 30,000 islands, the Great Lakes are a vital source of drinking water, transportation, and recreational activities for the 30 million people residing in the Great Lakes basin. As the largest collection of freshwater lakes on earth, they hold an astounding 95 percent of the United States’ surface fresh water.

The Great Lakes are also an economic powerhouse, supporting over 1.5 million jobs and contributing $62 billion in wages, with nearly $18 billion generated annually through fishing, hunting, and wildlife watching. However, years of environmental degradation have put this invaluable resource at risk, necessitating immediate action to preserve it for future generations. The extension and increased funding dedicated to The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative will help ensure that crucial efforts to protect our water can continue and that new and emerging threats can be confronted by increased agency collaboration. 

Notably, the GLRI will be critical in preventing the spread of invasive carp and combating harmful algal blooms in the Great Lakes which imminently threaten its nearly $18 billion fishing, hunting, and wildlife watching industries. 

Click here to read more about Aquatic Invasive Species Solutions

In the Senate, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act is cosponsored by Senators Vance (R-Ohio), Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Young (R-In.), Duckworth (D-Ill.), Brown (D-Ohio), Baldwin (D-Wis.), Durbin (D-Ill.), Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Smith (D-Minn.), Peters (D-Mich.), Fetterman (D-Pa.), Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Casey (D-P.). 

In the House, the bill is cosponsored by Representatives Huizenga (R-Mich.), Dingell (D-Mich.), Kaptur (D-Ohio), Moore (D-Wis.), Bergman (R-Mich.), Moolenaar (R-Mich.), Tenney (R-N.Y.), Steil (R-Wis.), Stevens (D-Mich.), James (R-Mich.), Miller (R-Ohio), Schneider (D-Ill.), Slotkin (D-Mich.), McClain (R-Mich.), Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), Morelle (D-N.Y.), and Quigley (D-Ill.). 

The GLRI Act is supported by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, the American Sportfishing Association, the National Wildlife Federation, Great Lakes Fishery Commission, Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, Great Lakes Commission, Alliance for the Great Lakes, League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club, National Parks Conservation Association, The Nature Conservancy, The National Audubon Society, Great Lakes Port Association, Environmental Law & Policy Center, Great Lakes Business Network, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Michigan League of Conservation Voters, Clean Wisconsin, Save the Dunes, and the Ohio Environmental Council 

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

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January 31, 2024

Conservation Community Responds After Menhaden Study Bill Again Stalled by Virginia Lawmakers

For second year in a row, legislators delay passage of bill that would support three-year study to determine the ecology, fishery impacts, and economic importance of the Atlantic menhaden population in Virginia waters

(RICHMOND, Va.) — Delegates in the Virginia General Assembly’s Studies Subcommittee voted on Monday to push House Bill 19 into the 2025 legislative session, effectively stalling its passage for the second year in a row. HB 19 would have directed the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, in collaboration with the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, to study the ecology, fishery impacts, and economic importance of the Atlantic menhaden population in Commonwealth waters. The results would allow the VMRC to make better-informed decisions about menhaden management in Chesapeake Bay.

Conservation and recreational sportfishing organizations have expressed disappointment with this latest legislative setback, in the face of increasing anecdotal and scientific evidence of localized depletion of menhaden in the Chesapeake.

“It is disappointing that this important bill to support better science and data collection is stalling again, despite the public support from Chesapeake-area anglers, scientists and conservationists,” said Chris Macaluso, director of the Center for Marine Fisheries for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “To manage the Chesapeake Bay effectively, there is a need for robust data about the specific, concentrated impacts of this industrial-scale harvest of a critical forage species to Bay fisheries and habitats. It is also critical to better fisheries management to understand the impacts of the thousands of red drum, striped bass, and other sport and game fish that are trapped annually in commercial nets.”

“The fact that the industry was involved in designing the study, and then turned and lobbied against the bill, is yet another breach of public trust,” said Steve Atkinson, president of the Virginia Saltwater Sportfishing Association.

Menhaden have accounted for more than 60 percent of all commercial fish landings in Chesapeake Bay for over five decades. Yet sampling in the Bay has shown that the relative abundance of menhaden has decreased almost 16-fold in the last 40 years. While Atlantic menhaden are not classified as overfished coastwide – meaning up and down the Atlantic coast – localized depletion in the Bay from decades of industrial fishing could be a critical factor in the decreased availability of food for predators like striped bass, bluefish, redfish, cobia, and other sportfish, as well as ospreys, whales, and commercially important species.

“For decades we’ve known that menhaden are extremely important to the Chesapeake and Atlantic ecosystems, as well as invaluable forage for gamefish such as red drum and stripers,” said Capt. Chris Dollar, a Virginia fishing business owner and Chesapeake conservation advisor for the Coastal Conservation Association. “What’s been missing, however, is better science to get a handle on the health and abundance of the Bay’s local menhaden population. It’s no surprise that Omega Protein flip-flopped in their support of the study bill, but it’s extremely disheartening that a handful of elected officials agreed with them to again derail this vital research.”

“The MRAA is disappointed to see that this important legislation is once again delayed and that menhaden reduction fishing will continue in Virginia waters, without a comprehensive understanding of the potential economic and environmental impact,” said Chad Tokowicz, government relations manager for the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas. “Studies like this are integral to gaining a more in-depth understanding of the Virginia menhaden fishery and will provide much-needed data to inform important fisheries management decisions.”

The study was specifically proposed to examine:

  • The Chesapeake Bay menhaden population (seasonal abundance, movement rates, and predator consumption rates)
  • Commercial fishery impacts on the menhaden population (fishery effort patterns, localized depletion analyses, and recreational fishery effects)
  • Economic impacts of menhaden policy (socioeconomic tradeoffs in management, ecosystem services of the menhaden resource, and modelling conservation vs. removals)

In the 2023 legislative session, an introduced precursor bill, Senate Bill 1388, would have directed VIMS to begin the three-year study this year. However, it was heavily amended and instead directed VIMS to merely develop a study methodology with input from VMRC and fishery stakeholders. That methodology was published last October by VIMS, and advocates were hopeful it would finally lead to a bill authorizing and supporting the study.  

Atlantic menhaden, which studies indicate comprise as much as 30 percent of the diet of striped bass, are removed from Virginia waters by industrial fishing operations to be “reduced” to fish meal, oil, and products used in livestock and fish farming feeds. Omega Protein, owned by Canadian-based Cooke Seafood, removes more than 100 million pounds of menhaden from the Chesapeake Bay each year, in addition to nearly 240 million pounds of menhaden from Virginia state waters outside the Bay.

Stock assessments indicate the Atlantic striped bass stock has been declining for years, with particularly concerning low populations in the Chesapeake Bay estuary, the primary spawning ground for 70 to 90 percent of the striped bass stock. Population declines and the resulting reduction in catches have led to a 50 percent loss in the economic value that striped bass fishing generates in Virginia. In neighboring Maryland, fisheries managers reported the 2023 year class of striped bass was one of the lowest ever recorded.

Virginia continues to be the only East Coast state allowing reduction fishing of menhaden in its waters.

Click here to take action to demand that Virginia fund menhaden research.

Photo Credit: Chesapeake Bay Program

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TRCP to Engage Hunters, Anglers in Next Phase of Lolo National Forest Planning

Organization encourages the Forest Service to conserve big game and cold-water habitats

Today, the Lolo National Forest released its Proposed Action to revise the Lolo Forest Plan that when completed will guide land management decisions for two million acres of public lands overseen by the Lolo National Forest in western Montana.

“The Lolo offers vital habitat for elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep, and moose, and native fish like bull trout and Westslope cutthroat,” said Scott Laird, Montana field representative for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “But these lands are facing increased pressure from a growing human population and hotter, drier weather, and hunters and anglers need to speak up during the process.”

The Lolo National Forest provides important wildlife habitat for nationally significant big game populations, five major river systems, and recreational and commercial opportunities that support thousands of jobs in local communities.

Today’s announcement kicks off a 60-day formal comment period where the public can submit scoping comments that will be used to inform the draft forest plan, which is expected to be published at the end of 2024.

“Thousands of people recreate, hunt, fish, and work on the lands managed by the Lolo National Forest, all of whom have a vested interest in the outcome of this revision,” added Laird. “TRCP is committed to working with our supporters, partners, state and local governments, and other key stakeholders to see a successful planning outcome that conserves important big game and fisheries habitats and maintains special places for outdoor recreation.”

Read more about TRCP’s work in the Lolo 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.

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