Why Hunters and Anglers Are Stepping Up for Alaska’s Brooks Range
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.
Fishery Managers Eye Changing 2024 Striped Bass Management Measures
After recent stock projections were worse than expected, the ASMFC Striped Bass Management Board is seeking angler input as it gauges the adjustments necessary to meet the rebuilding timeline for the striped bass stock.
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission is considering adjusting management measures for the recreational and commercial Atlantic striped bass fishery, in order to rebuild the stock to its biomass target by 2029. As part of the process, recreational anglers will continue to have a chance to let managers know they care about the future of striped bass.
In May 2023, the ASMFC Atlantic Striped Bass Management Board initiated the development of a Draft Addendum II to Amendment 7 – a 2022 overhaul to the Atlantic striped bass management plan – after revised stock rebuilding projections showed that the chance of rebuilding the striper stock by 2029 has dropped from 97% to 15%, due to increased fishing mortality rates during the 2022 season. The draft addendum additionally proposes options for the Board to respond to stock assessment updates more quickly, if future projections indicate that the stock is not expected to be rebuilt by 2029.
Unfortunately, catch reductions in recent years have proven insufficient to rebuild the striped bass stock, and the fishery remains in decline. The Board already took emergency action this season to implement a 31” maximum fish size restriction to protect spawning-size adults. Based on the revised stock projections, the potential management options laid out in the draft addendum are aimed to build upon that action.
Current stock projections indicate that a 14.5% reduction in total striped bass removals in 2024 is necessary to prevent further decline. This reduction could be accomplished through a variety of management actions, including via different combinations of bag and size limit options for the ocean and Chesapeake Bay recreational fisheries, and various commercial quota reduction options. The TRCP and its partners have been collaborating and closely monitoring the situation to keep anglers informed on the various management options that remain on the table. Click here to read an informational document which details our partnership’s preferred options and gives additional context to each section of the draft addendum.
What Anglers Can Do
As the 2029 deadline to rebuild the coastwide stock approaches, it’s critical to remember that every one of us can do our part for striped bass. Throughout this process, it is imperative to let your voice be heard, to let managers know that you and the entire recreational community care about the future of striped bass – as well as menhaden and other forage fish species they depend on – and recognize that near-term sacrifice is necessary to ensure a robust striped bass fishery, for the coming years and our next generation.
We strongly encourage recreational anglers to provide input on striped bass management by attending state public hearings, either in-person or virtually, or by providing emailed or written comments. The ASMFC Draft Addendum II to Amendment 7 document can be found here, and the public hearing schedule can be found here. Each management action taken now, informed by angler input, lays the groundwork for the recovery of this important species.
Just as important as making your voice heard are the actions you take on the water, to support the conservation of striped bass. Know the rules, and minimize your handling of fish – especially those above the slot limit – to get them back in the water as safely and quickly as possible.
The next striped bass stock assessment is scheduled to be published in fall 2024, and will include fishing data through the 2023 season. This information will tell anglers and managers whether striped bass have been responding positively to past management actions, and whether any new measures are needed to reduce fishing mortality.
Photo Credit: Nils Rinaldi
What is the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program?
If you’ve used a state walk-in access program to hunt or fish on private land, you’ve experienced what the Voluntary Public Access program can do. But what is VPA-HIP and how does it benefit hunters and anglers?
We know it can be challenging to break through the acronyms to understand why the reauthorization and improvement of Farm Bill conservation programs is a top priority.
In this short video, we demystify a crucial Farm Bill conservation program, the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP) and shed light on its benefits to hunters and anglers.
Championed by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership’s founder, Jim Range, VPA-HIP is the only federal tool aimed at increasing hunting and fishing access on private lands, yet it is probably the least well-known of Farm Bill conservation programs. Watch the short video below to learn more about VPA-HIP and how this crucial program benefits hunters and anglers.
The next few months will be critical for the Farm Bill and the conservation programs we cherish as hunters and anglers. In the face of gridlock, conservation is, and should be, a shared priority regardless of party affiliation or ideology. Click here to learn what’s next for the Farm Bill.
Proposed State Land Auction Threatens Habitat & Hunting Opportunities Near Grand Teton National Park
TRCP asks for a better solution to raise money for public education while conserving big game habitat
Nestled between Grand Teton National Park and the Bridger Teton National Forest lies a single section of state-owned land. Besides the incredible views and proximity to the National Park, the “Kelly Parcel” is a gateway to the scenic Gros Ventre River drainage and along the path migrating elk take to the National Elk Refuge. A mix of aspens, conifers, and sage intertwine with native grasses, providing habitat for numerous native species of wildlife.
However, the future of this land is at risk. To meet its fiduciary duty to generate revenue for education, the Wyoming Office of State Lands and Investments has proposed to dispose of the Kelly Parcel via public auction, which could lead to development and permanent loss of invaluable habitat if it ends up in the wrong hands.
The OSLI exists to manage state-owned land for the primary purpose of generating funds for the Wyoming public school system. To do so, state land is leased for uses like grazing, mineral extraction, or recreation. Leases on the Kelly Parcel currently exist, but due to its appraised value at $62 million, disposing of the land would increase annual profits for the state through interest dividends.
According to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the Kelly Parcel is valuable habitat for 87 “Species of Great Conservation Need” including moose, bald eagles, and bighorn sheep. In addition, it is a key piece in multiple species’ migration corridors including elk, deer, and the world-famous “Path of the Pronghorn.” During spring and fall migrations, more than 1,000 elk pass through the parcel at one time.
The Kelly Parcel also provides valuable hunting opportunities for elk and bison, along with river access to the Gros Ventre River. This piece likely offers the most recreational opportunity out of all state land parcels in Teton County. Keeping this parcel accessible to the public and conserved for its irreplaceable habitat values should be at the forefront of anybody’s mind who enjoys wildlife, recreation, and the outdoors in Teton County.
We understand the critical importance of raising funds for public education via state lands and believe the state can meet its fiduciary duty while also conserving the Kelly Parcel. The privatization and development of the parcel would benefit a few with extraordinary wealth at the detriment to Wyomingites who come to the area to visit, hunt, view wildlife, and experience this iconic landscape. Instead, we ask the Office of State Lands and Investments to work with a diverse coalition of Wyoming citizens to find a solution that benefits our school children while ensuring they have a future to experience the wildlife who depend on this parcel.
If you care about open spaces, wildlife, and the future of the Kelly Parcel, please consider attending one of three public hearings listed below, or submit written comments using our easy tool here.
Thursday, November 16, 5:30pm
Thyra Thomson State Office Building
Round House Room
444 W. Collins Drive
Casper, WY 82601
Tuesday, November 21, 5:00pm
Laramie County Library, Cottonwood Room
2200 Pioneer Avenue
Cheyenne, WY 82001
Tuesday, November 28, 5:30pm
Wyoming Game and Fish Department Cody Field Office
Cody Field Office Public Meeting Room
2 Tilden Trail
Cody, WY 82414
Photo credit: Josh Metten
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