Volunteers cutting back grey birch saplings that crowd out climate resilient tree species. Photo by Avalonia Land Conservancy
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Organization thanks Senators Lummis and Padilla for keeping migration conservation bipartisan
On November 14, TRCP’s director of the center for public lands, Madeleine West, appeared before the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water, and Wildlife to encourage lawmakers to make strategic investments in migration corridor research and conservation.
“TRCP thanks Senators Padilla and Lummis for their time and attention to the bipartisan issue of wildlife migration corridor conservation,” said West. “This commitment is also evident every day in Wyoming where Governor Gordon has prioritized the conservation of migration corridors for some of our nation’s most impressive big game herds.”
Senator Alex Padilla (D, Cali.) is chairman of the subcommittee and Senator Cynthia Lummis (R, Wyo.) is the ranking member.
TRCP has worked with elected officials and state, Tribal, and federal agencies to support partnerships, policies, and funding that advance the research and conservation of big game migration corridors and crucial seasonal habitats.
“Wyoming is a haven for big game species: bison, elk, moose, pronghorn, mule deer and many others whose habitats vary by season,” said Senator Lummis in her opening statement. “Wildlife migration corridors allow these big game species to move between seasonal ranges, of which there are many in Wyoming. In many cases, a herd’s migration route will encompass a mix of federal, state, Tribal, and private property, which makes their management a challenge that must be addressed with a collaborative spirit.”
Since the inception of Department of the Interior Secretarial Order 3362—Improving Habitat Quality in Western Big-Game Winter Range and Migration Corridors— in 2018, federal funds have helped support infrastructure and habitat projects across the West. This example of federal dollars helping state agencies has been expanded by the Biden administration to more directly include Tribal governments and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which incentivizes voluntary big game corridor conservation on private lands in Wyoming.
“Wyoming is a leader in conserving migration corridors for some of our nation’s most impressive wildlife herds, and their leadership will be critical for future conservation success,” added West.
While this bipartisan support and invaluable on-the-ground work has been a bright-spot in conservation, West cautioned that the discretionary nature of existing federal programs and funding sources established through Secretarial Order 3362 generates uncertainty about the future of wildlife corridor conservation work. West specifically requested help from Congress to provide:
• Clear Congressional direction for federal agency programs that support the research, mapping, and conservation of wildlife corridors.
• Dedicated and consistent funding for research, mapping, and conservation programs.
• Increased coordination between federal, state, and Tribal agencies, as well as private landowners and hunting, fishing, and conservation organizations.
Click here to read more about West’s testimony.
Photo credit: Josh Metten
Anglers are campaigning to update the designations of some Pennsylvania waterways to reflect the exceptional status of their wild trout populations and water quality
Four times each year, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission proposes streams to be added to the Class A Wild Trout and Wild Trout lists. Right now, there are 12 Wild Trout streams that represent the best of our best waters. Among those eligible for protection during this comment period include Mud Run in Carbon County. Despite its name, this beautiful stream flowing through Hickory Run State Park offers not just an idyllic setting, but the cool, clear, shaded waters necessary for healthy trout and recreational fishing.
Pennsylvania sportsmen and sportswomen have a chance to influence this process and seal the deal for our best trout streams—here’s why you should take action today.
With 86,000 miles of streams and about 4,000 inland lakes, Pennsylvania is home to some of the best publicly accessible fishing that the East Coast has to offer, including phenomenal trout and bass fishing. With opportunities like these, it’s no wonder that 1.2 million Pennsylvanians fished their local waterways in 2020, helping contribute to the state’s $58-billion outdoor recreation economy.
Since 2010, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission has worked with sportsmen and local universities to distinguish our best waters through the Unassessed Waters Program. Based on the UWP’s evaluation, stream sections that meet a set of criteria are eligible for certain protections. For example, streams that have abundant populations of wild rainbow, brown, and brook trout can be eligible for Wild Trout Stream or Class A Stream designations. Protecting these streams ensures that the outdoor recreation industry continues to thrive and that future generations can enjoy the same (or better) fishing opportunities.
Tackle shops and fishing guides are among the businesses that make up an important part of the robust outdoor recreation industry in Pennsylvania. And giving special consideration to the best wild trout streams supports these small businesses. “When I worked in the local fly shop, the Class A list provided a great reference to point people in the right direction to find trout water,” says Matthew Marran, a flyfishing guide and former fly shop worker in the Delaware River Basin. “As a guide, I depend on Class A waters to put clients on wild trout with consistency and confidence. And I’m seeing more and more people ask when booking to fish exclusively for wild trout.”
In these cases, what’s in a name really matters: Wild Trout and Class A streams qualify for additional protections from Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection, including the limitation of activities around these streams that would degrade water quality. The Wild Trout Stream title designates a water as a Coldwater Fishery and protects surrounding wetlands from development. Similarly, streams that qualify for the Class A designation get additional recognition as high-quality waters, which restricts in-stream discharges and guards against habitat degradation.
These designations from the PFBC are critical to helping the state manage and protect fish populations, especially as demands on Pennsylvania’s water resources continue to increase. When you consider that roughly 40 percent of streams across the state are NOT suitable for fishing, swimming, and/or drinking water, according to the DEP, it makes sense to safeguard the exceptional waterways that already meet top standards and support outdoor recreation that drives our economy.
Fortunately, sportsmen and sportswomen understand the importance of this process. A TRCP survey found that 92 percent of Pennsylvania sportsmen and women support designating streams when they meet the right criteria.
Pennsylvania’s hunters and anglers have an important opportunity to conserve more critical streams. If we don’t speak up, these exceptional waterways could easily be degraded and eventually lost to pollution.
Take action now and tell the PA Fish and Boat Commission that you value these protections for clean water and fish habitat.
This blog was originally posted in November 2019 and has been updated for each quarterly public comment period. The current comment period ends on December 18, 2023. Photos by Derek Eberly.
In eastern Oregon, the Burns Paiute Tribe is leading an effort to make roads safer for drivers and deer
Most hunters in Oregon know the Malheur River and surrounding canyons offer great mule deer and chukar hunting. Most are also aware that US Highway 20 cuts right through the heart of prime deer winter range and has become a well-known hotspot for wildlife-vehicle collisions. Oregon Department of Transportation data shows that every year 3-5% of Oregon’s total recorded deer-vehicle collisions occur in the Malheur River Canyon as wildlife attempts to cross the highway to access seasonal and daily needs. The result is accidents that pose a major threat to human safety, ecosystem connectivity, and wildlife conservation. This level of mortality, particularly occurring in early winter and spring, has significant implications for the sustainability of deer populations that use the area for winter range and fawning grounds.
Thankfully, the Burns Paiute Tribe is leading a multi-year comprehensive effort with TRCP, local landowners, elected officials, and other partners to reduce the habitat fragmentation and deer mortality caused by Highway 20. Healthy populations of mule deer are important to the Tribe, which manages a Wildlife Mitigation Site that is bisected by the highway. In 2020, the Burns Paiute Tribe published a blog in collaboration with TRCP that detailed the problem the highway poses to mule deer and the ongoing research to study the movements of mule deer in the canyon and their patterns on and across the highway.
Since 2020, the Tribe and partners have had several successes to advance connectivity in the canyon and the coalition.
New Funding Means Good Work Ahead
The Oregon State Legislature, led by Representative Ken Helm (D, House District 27), passed bills allocating $7 million (2021) and $5 million (2023) for wildlife crossing projects in Oregon. A portion of these funds have been set aside for funding future wildlife crossings design and construction in the canyon.
In 2021, the Burns Paiute Tribe contracted a consulting firm to complete the “Highway 20 Wildlife Connectivity Feasibility Study” to better understand critical issues and the variety of challenges related to wildlife connectivity documented along this corridor. In June 2022, the Tribe hosted a community forum in Juntura, with support from Oregon Solutions, to gauge public perceptions about the issues and to determine if the local community members were interested and ready to collaborate. At a Wildlife Passage Summit in Burns in September 2022, presentations were shared with a broader range of stakeholders and relevant agencies about the current research, data, and information collected to date.
Additionally, in 2023, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, in cooperation with the Tribe, used Pittman-Robertson funds and commissioned another report by well-known wildlife crossing expert Dr. Marcel Huijser with the Western Transportation Institute. The report details potential future mitigation measures that would reduce collisions while maintaining permeability for wildlife.
During the winter months, many deer cross the highway regularly. However, some mule deer will winter further south, and these animals may only cross US Hwy 20 twice per year, once during spring migration and once during fall migration. The location data from 10 individual mule deer were used in the report to calculate the diameter of the winter home ranges (Figure 2). Based on the diameter of the home range of mule deer that winter along both sides of the highway, a suitable crossing structure would be needed every 1.04 miles to allow 50% of the mule deer to access at least one suitable structure.
The report also indicates the design specifications for wildlife fences, crossing structures, wildlife jump-outs, measures at fence-ends and access roads, and a spatially explicit configuration of the mitigation measures. It also recommends that to achieve a substantial (>80%) reduction in collisions with mule deer, the entire road section should be fenced and additional designated wildlife crossing structures are needed.
The combination of funds raised to date, research completed, and the level of community involvement in this effort is encouraging progress, and the TRCP is committed to continue our work with the Tribe and agency partners to see these crossing structures through to completion as soon as possible.
Moving forward, the Tribe, TRCP, and partners look forward to engaging in the 2024 stakeholder engagement process with Oregon Solutions. For over 20 years, Oregon Solutions has helped communities across the state implement hundreds of projects by facilitating an impartial forum that fosters public-private-civic partnerships to address community-based problems and projects that support economic, environmental, and local objectives.
Ultimately this process will develop functional solutions that improve wildlife and habitat connectivity through the development of safe wildlife crossings in the Malheur River Canyon. Those involved in the project are excited to have the support and expertise of the facilitators at Oregon Solutions to craft a locally driven solution to this fixable, and expensive, barrier to migration.
Learn more about the migration and conservation work being done in the Pacific Northwest here.
Photo credit: Nigel Hoult
What’s at stake and how you can urge the Bureau of Land Management to prevent the risky Ambler Road project
The Brooks Range of Alaska is the pinnacle of wild country. This largely unbroken chain of mountains buckle into foothills thick with willow and blueberry, as cold creeks fill wetlands and large rivers braid their way through the valleys.
Here, massive sheefish — otherwise known as “the tarpon of the north” — inhale streamers and jerk baits. Tundra swans glide over oxbows, 50-plus-inch Yukon moose wade in the marshes, Dall sheep survey from the shale slopes, and the largest caribou herd in Alaska migrates over the vast landscape to spend their winters in the south.
This is a dream destination for many hunters and anglers. Alaskans and visitors from across the globe revere this wild country for the world-class hunting and fishing it provides, as well as the adventure it promises. But a risky project could permanently alter the bucket-list experiences you can currently enjoy in the Brooks Range. Here are the details and how you can get involved.
Where Risks Outweigh Potential Rewards
In 2020, the U.S. Department of the Interior granted federal permits for a road to connect the Dalton Highway in north-central Alaska to four undeveloped mineral deposits. The proposed Ambler Industrial Road, a 211-mile corridor, would scrape itself across the southern foothills of the Brooks Range to bring foreign-owned mining companies within reach of what could become at least four open pit mines. The economic feasibility of these mineral deposits is still in question.
Due to the vast number of streams, rivers, and wetlands along the proposed corridor, the massive undertaking would require breaking up free-flowing waters with nearly 3,000 culverts and 29 bridges. Industrial vehicles would make an estimated 168 trips per day along the private corridor, diminishing the wilderness character of the area and the quality of hunting and fishing opportunities.
While our nation needs minerals to support our economy and way of life, the risks to habitat, clean water, and this wild landscape far outweigh any potential rewards from the Ambler Road project.
This is why the TRCP has partnered with Hunters and Anglers for the Brooks Range, a coalition of hunters, anglers, conservation organizations, hunt-fish businesses, and Alaskan guides, outfitters, and transporters to make sure our unique voice is heard on this issue. Time and time again throughout the conservation history of this country, the hunt-fish community has proven that we are stronger when we work together.
Now we undertake the challenge to conserve the most wild and remote hunting and fishing grounds in North America.
What You Can Do
The TRCP and Hunters and Anglers for the Brooks Range are urging the Bureau of Land Management to maintain the unique values of this iconic landscape by denying the right-of-way for the proposed Ambler Road. You can lend your support by taking action during a public comment period that ends on December 22, 2023.
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