TRCP Annual Report 2021
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The Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee recently voted unanimously to advance the Water Resources Development Act of 2022, important two-year legislation that authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to carry out flood control, improve waterways, and conduct ecosystem restoration work. Past WRDA bills have also addressed water infrastructure policy and financing.
Why WRDA Matters
The TRCP has long advocated for conservation priorities in the biennial WRDA process because it presents several opportunities to support federal investments in ecosystem restoration and natural infrastructure approaches that benefit fish and wildlife habitat.
Hunters and anglers may not know that the Corps is the primary federal manager of the nation’s water resources and plays a critical role in planning, designing, and implementing water resource projects, while protecting communities from floods and other natural hazards. The Corps’ mission area also includes ecosystem restoration, and it is a driving force behind the implementation of many largescale projects that benefit sportsmen and sportswomen, particularly in the Everglades and Mississippi River Delta.
More recent WRDAs have expanded the Corps’ focus to include implementing natural infrastructure approaches—where healthy habitat can help solve infrastructure challenges, such as restoring floodplains and coastal wetlands to reduce the vulnerability of critical infrastructure and communities to natural disasters. Wetland and riparian restoration projects provide numerous public benefits while boosting the habitat that supports sportfish, waterfowl, and other species.
So, hunters and anglers should take note as WRDA moves through Congress this year. A strong WRDA ensures that the Corps has the authorization to carry out restoration and prioritize natural infrastructure across the country.
What to Watch for in WRDA ‘22
Thanks in large part to the TRCP and our partners’ advocacy efforts, the Senate version of the Water Resources Development Act of 2022 includes several important victories for hunters and anglers as it heads for a floor vote. The bill clarifies the federal cost-share for ecosystem restoration in the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, lowers the local cost burdens for the Mississippi River Interbasin Project and the Lower Mississippi River Comprehensive Study, and would expedite a western Everglades ecosystem restoration study.
Importantly, the legislation also calls for the Corps to conduct a study evaluating the benefits of utilizing natural infrastructure approaches, such as restoring source watersheds to enhance the resilience of Western water supplies, critical water storage, and delivery infrastructure to drought and wildfire. Across the West, drought and fire are reducing the quantity of water available to fish, wildlife, agricultural producers, and residents, and degrading the quality of water as post-fire debris flows downstream.
Emerging evidence indicates that nature-based solutions, such as restoring wetland systems upstream of critical water infrastructure, can help to mitigate these impacts, but additional research and demonstration will be helpful in encouraging greater utilization of nature-based approaches. If WRDA passes with this provision, the Corps would utilize information gained from the study to further integrate nature-based approaches into Western water management in ways that benefit people and the environment.
This year’s WRDA is still only partway through the legislative process, and the TRCP will continue to look for additional opportunities to expand the use of natural infrastructure in the USACE’s work. For example, there could be a reduced cost-share on natural infrastructure projects to ensure that disadvantaged communities can access them. A holistic accounting of the benefits of natural infrastructure would enable these projects to be more competitive with (and ultimately considered over) traditional gray infrastructure.
Top photo by Bob Wick / BLM Colorado via Flickr.
After years of angler support for better striped bass management solutions, the Striped Bass Management Board of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission voted last week to overhaul its management plan to better rebuild populations of striped bass—our nation’s largest marine recreational fishery.
This is the first substantive regulatory change to the Atlantic striped bass fishery in almost 20 years, and anglers got a lot of what we asked for in the management plan update, known as Amendment 7. The vote comes along at an auspicious time for some East Coast anglers, as striper season opens in the Chesapeake Bay and industrial menhaden fishing is ongoing in the region, removing valuable forage for bass and other predators.
With passage of the options included in Amendment 7, the Board did not choose to extend the amount of time the commission would have to respond when management triggers—including more striper deaths annually, fewer large egg-laying females, and fewer juvenile fish—are tripped. Improvements include the implementation of a rebuilding framework to quickly respond to stock assessment results and new state-level education campaigns on safe handling and release of striped bass to address recreational release mortality. Meanwhile, state-specific conservation equivalency plans will have much more stringent standards and will not be allowed if the striped bass stock is being overfished.
The TRCP has been vocal since the beginning of this process to ensure that anglers have a say with fishery managers. Last year, we were able to prevent the weakening of the striped bass biomass reference points in the amendment, which would have undermined standards set in place through the recently embraced ecological management of Atlantic menhaden. While not all of our recommendations were passed within Amendment 7, we are happy with the overall management plan, and we feel that the Board will now be able to address both conservation and angler needs into the future.
Be sure to check back here in October, when the most updated striped bass stock assessment will be published. This new data will tell anglers and managers whether striped bass are still experiencing overfishing, and it may or may not trip the management triggers set forth by Amendment 7.
Of course, we hope to see that our catch reductions in the last few years have helped the stock to rebuild, but we will have to wait until the fall to find out.
In the meantime, as we enjoy the season, it’s critical to remember that every one of us can do our part for striped bass. Know the rules, minimize your handling of fish—especially those above the slot limit—and get them back in the water as safely and quickly as possible. Amendment 7 lays the groundwork for the recovery of this important species, but anglers are a critical part of the work ahead.
Top photo by L’eau Bleue via Flickr.
More than 50 recreational fishing businesses are standing up for Louisiana’s coastal habitats and outdoor recreation economy by supporting House Bill 1033. Introduced by Representatives Joe Orgeron, Bryan Fontenot, Scott McKnight, and Vincent Pierre, the legislation would create an annual catch limit on menhaden reduction fishing in Louisiana state waters and implement reporting requirements for the first time.
The Louisiana House of Representatives voted to advance the bill (75-22) on April 27—it moves to the Senate in the coming days and weeks.
The TRCP and its partners are leading an effort to harness the voices of local, national, and even global interests that weigh out the two foreign-owned companies that object to careful monitoring and regulation of their industrial menhaden fishing operations. To date, more than 50 companies have signed on to a letter urging the Louisiana Legislature and Governor John Bel Edwards to enact HB 1033.
These businesses understand that commonsense regulations will help to keep enough menhaden in the water to serve as forage for important game fish like speckled trout, redfish, and mackerel. It will also support Louisiana’s $1.15-billion recreational fishing economy and 17,000 jobs.
These companies are dedicated to the conservation of Louisiana’s world-renowned fish and wildlife habitats, as well as the protection of our coastal economy and culture. To join them, email Chris Macaluso, TRCP’s director of marine fisheries.
Individual anglers can take action right here. HB 1033 will be heard in the Senate Natural Resources Committee within the next few weeks—don’t delay! Let your senator know that you support this commonsense pogie legislation.
Top photo by Louisiana Sea Grant via Flickr.
Washington, D.C. — At its 14th annual Capital Conservation Awards Dinner, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership was proud to celebrate the conservation achievements of Senator Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Representative Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), and Ben Speciale, president of Yamaha’s U.S. marine business unit and a tireless advocate for fisheries management.
“Tonight, we proudly honor three leaders whose commitment to conservation has had real and lasting on-the-ground results for hunters, anglers, and all Americans,” said Whit Fosburgh, TRCP president and CEO. “We also reflect on the legacy of TRCP’s late co-founder Jim Range, who believed in the strength of the hunting and fishing community to advance conservation policy solutions. Recent legislative victories for habitat, access, and conservation funding are strong evidence of the efforts of individual sportsmen and sportswomen as well as champions in Congress and outdoor recreation business.”
The event was hosted at the National Building Museum by MeatEater’s Steven Rinella, a TRCP Board member. He presented the awards and announced the winners of a spring turkey hunt in Michigan, where Rinella and MeatEater podcast co-host Janis Putelis will serve as hunting guides. The dinner also featured a silent auction and raffle in support of TRCP’s mission to guarantee all Americans quality places to hunt and fish.
As a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Sen. Daines championed the Great American Outdoors Act and the Flathead Water Compact, and he has been a leading voice for legislation to improve public land access, address the threat of chronic wasting disease, and clean up abandoned hardrock mines.
Rep. McCollum is vice chair of the Interior and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee and has led efforts to permanently protect the Boundary Waters, combat chronic wasting disease, ensure full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and restore the Mississippi River.
Ben Speciale has been a leader in the fight to improve management of marine recreational fishing, conserve the ocean’s forage base, and tackle the threats posed to our fisheries by aquatic invasive species.
“As TRCP enters its 20th year, we believe more than ever that conservation has the power to unite both sides of the political divide and safeguard the natural resources that are part of our American identity,” said Fosburgh. “We’re grateful to be able to gather in celebration of these ideals and the individuals who make a tangible difference for hunting and fishing.”
Photos by Jessica Yurinko.
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