fbpx

by:

posted in:

February 23, 2024

Emily F Headshot

Do you have any thoughts on this post?

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Comments must be under 1000 characters.

by:

posted in:

February 22, 2024

New Bipartisan Legislation Would Keep Public Lands in Public Hands

TRCP, partners, and hunters & anglers applaud bill introduction

Hunters and anglers have been working to prevent the sale of important public lands for years, and the recently introduced Public Lands in Public Hands Act would maintain valuable hunting and fishing access for sportsmen and women. This bipartisan legislation, introduced by Representatives Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) and Gabe Vasquez (D-N.M.) would require congressional approval for the sale and transfer of public lands to non-federal entities in most instances. The biggest impact of the bill would be to prevent the Bureau of Land Management from selling important access parcels as part of its land disposal process.   

What is the BLM Land Disposal Process?

The BLM is the nation’s largest landowner. The agency administers 245 million acres of federal public land primarily in 11 western states and Alaska. Currently, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act—federal law governing the management of BLM lands—directs the agency to identify lands for potential disposal, including sale, and the agency has been completing land use plans with land disposal lists for the past 45 years. While a comprehensive list of lands available for potential disposal does not appear to exist, estimates put the total at around 3.3 million acres.

When the BLM identifies lands for potential disposal, existing statute does not require the BLM to prioritize retention of parcels with public access. TRCP has analyzed several land use plans and identified numerous accessible and important public land parcels tagged by the BLM for potential sale across the West. The sale of such parcels could result in lost honey holes for hunters and anglers, and we agree that additional scrutiny is needed.

The law governing how the BLM completes land disposals was passed in 1976 and predates the advent of handheld GPS units that are now utilized by millions of outdoor recreationists to navigate property boundaries with confidence. It’s easy to see how small parcels in the past may have been viewed as low value for public access because they were difficult to locate and use. But in today’s world where private-land access is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain, small, isolated parcels of BLM land have become some of the most important for recreational access.

Miles City Field Office RMP. More than 5,000 acres of BLM land with open access from a public road identified by the agency to be potentially available for “all disposal methods, including sale.” This area of Montana is very popular for deer, antelope, and upland bird hunting and public access is limited. The Public Lands in Public Hands Act would elevate congressional scrutiny of the sale of such accessible parcels.  

A Practical Safeguard

To keep these important parcels in public ownership, the Public Lands in Public Hands Act would require congressional approval for the sale of land-accessible parcels 300 acres or larger and water-accessible parcels five acres or larger. Presently, such parcels can be sold without consent from Congress. Some people believe that the BLM should lose their authority to sell any land, and while it is easy to reach that conclusion at first glance, there are several things to consider:

  • First, in 2018, Congress reauthorized a program called the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act that established an account to collect proceeds from the sale of small public land parcels and to use those funds to acquire new public lands, including for the purpose of expanding public access. There are many small BLM parcels scattered around the West that provide very little public benefit. Many of them are landlocked and inaccessible. Selling parcels with low recreation value and using the proceeds to acquire new public lands with higher recreation value is good policy, and it’s good for public access. The Public Lands in Public Hands Act would maintain the BLM’s ability to implement this important land consolidation program.
  • Second, with 16.43 million acres of landlocked public land in 22 western states, it is unrealistic to think that the federal government is going to buy its way out of the access problem. Yes, we need to find ways to acquire access to the largest and most important landlocked parcels, but land exchanges and utilization of the Federal Land Transaction Facilitation Act also need to be a part of the solution. The Public Lands in Public Hands Act would keep these tools in the box.
  • Finally, there are circumstances when small BLM land transfers to local communities make sense for the construction of a school or fire department. The bill’s acreage floor of 300 acres maintains existing opportunity for communities to work with the BLM on specific local development needs when other options do not exist.

TRCP is excited about the Public Lands in Public Hands Act because of the added certainty it would provide to ensure that your favorite hunting or fishing spot would not be sold and closed to public access. We appreciate the leadership of Representatives Zinke and Vasquez in introducing this legislation, and we look forward to working with them to see the bill passed into law.

Learn more about TRCP’s work to expand public hunting and fishing access HERE.

by:

posted in:

February 16, 2024

TRCP’s Ian Nakayama Elected to National Fish Habitat Partnership Board

Nakayama will serve a 3-year term representing marine recreational anglers on a diverse board of stakeholders focused on conserving fish habitat across all 50 states.

(Washington, DC) – The National Fish Habitat Partnership held their inaugural Board meeting of 2024 on February 6, with the primary focus being to appoint new members to the Board, filling seats that had expired or were vacant. Ian Nakayama of Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) was elected to a three-year term on Board, representing marine recreational anglers. Also newly elected were John O’Keefe of Yamaha Motor Corporation, representing corporate industry; Peter Micciche, mayor, Kenai Peninsula Borough, Alaska, representing local government involved in fish habitat restoration; and Chris Horton of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, also representing marine recreational anglers.  

Nakayama has served as the government relations manager at TRCP since June of 2021 and has focused on advancing the Forage Fish Conservation Act, increasing adoption of natural infrastructure, increasing funding for Everglades restoration, and increasing funding for the National Wildlife Refuge System. A native Virginian, Nakayama graduated from the University of Virginia in 2019 and worked in legislative offices from 2019 until 2021.  

“In the face of declining fish populations and fish species diversity, protecting and restoring fish habitat is more important now than ever,” said Ian Nakayama, government relations manager at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “I’m honored to join the Board and I look forward to contributing to the advancement of these crucial fish habitat conservation projects.” 

“The National Fish Habitat Partnership appreciates the continued strong and enduring interest from the conservation community to want to serve on the Board,” said Robert Boyles, Chair of the National Fish Habitat Board. “We had a very strong group of candidates vying for membership on the Board, which I think will strengthen the Board with diverse expertise for the future. I would like to thank all the departing Board members for their contributions to the National Fish Habitat Partnership and for being an integral part of the team.” 

Since its inception in 2006, the National Fish Habitat Partnership has been a driving force behind the successful implementation of 1,300 projects aimed at safeguarding, restoring, and enhancing fish habitat across all 50 states.  This collaborative effort is committed to the conservation of fish habitat on a national scale, effectively leveraging federal, state, tribal, and private funding resources.  By strategically focusing on priority conservation projects through 20 regionally based Fish Habitat Partnerships, the NFHP has been able to achieve remarkable results in bolstering fish populations.  The recognition of the NFHP by Congress in 2020 through its inclusion in the America’s Conservation Enhancement (ACE) Act serves as a testament to the organization’s invaluable contributions.  

To find out more about the NFHP and its endeavors, please visit fishhabitat.org.   

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.  

by:

posted in:

February 15, 2024

What is the Conservation Reserve Program?

Since its introduction in the 1985 Farm Bill, the Conservation Reserve Program has been one of the nation’s most important conservation programs. But what is the CRP and how does it benefit hunters and anglers?

In this short video, we demystify a crucial Farm Bill conservation program, the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), and shed light on its benefits to hunters and anglers.

Introduced in the 1985 Farm Bill, the Conservation Reserve Program incentivizes landowners to put a portion of their land into conservation cover, particularly on acres that would be more productive as wildlife habitat than they are for crops.

Many of the species we love to pursue find habitat in farm country thanks to the CRP. Without the CRP, pheasant numbers would plummet, the northern plains states would lose much of their duck breeding habitat, sage grouse in the West would be at even greater risk, and brook trout would decline in Eastern headwaters. Put simply, without the CRP, 40 million sportsmen and women would lose hunting and fishing opportunities across rural America.

The Farm Bill is the largest piece of conservation legislation that will come before the 118th Congress.  You can help ensure that habitat and wildlife remain central to sensible farm policy in the United States here

Learn more about Farm Bill Conservation Programs here

by:

posted in:

Louisiana Issues Regulations to Protect Nearshore Habitat from Menhaden Industry

In the most significant Gulf menhaden conservation outcome to date, the state’s Wildlife and Fisheries Commission approves half-mile coastwide buffer prohibiting pogy boats from netting, increases fish spill penalties

(BATON ROUGE, La.)— Louisiana’s coastline, gamefish, and recreational angling opportunities will now receive greater protections from the industrial menhaden fishery, after the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission approved a revised Notice of Intent (NOI) at a Special Commission Meeting today in Baton Rouge.

The NOI expands the current ¼-mile no-fishing buffer zone, which prevents industrial menhaden harvest near the coast, to ½-mile coastwide, with a broader 1-mile buffer added off Holly Beach. It also establishes more stringent penalties and reporting requirements for future fish spills.

The commission initially decided to take action last October, suggesting a 1-mile buffer after 18 separate fish spills, accounting for over 2.5 million wasted menhaden and at least several hundred dead, breeding-sized redfish, occurred in 2023 alone. Most notably, three spills in early September fouled popular beaches and exacerbated user conflicts with recreational anglers and boaters, and again raised public concerns over the damage being caused to shallow waters by the menhaden industry.  The industry firmly opposed the initial NOI.

Following a public comment period and a public hearing at the Feb. 1 meeting, the commission voted to again ask representatives from the menhaden industry and recreational fishing advocacy and conservation organizations to reach a compromise. The compromise modified the NOI to ½ mile, while retaining new penalties and reporting requirements for future net spills from the original NOI. The commission also voted to allow the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to implement the new regulations immediately, ahead of the menhaden season’s start on April 15.

“We were asked by the Commission and Governor Landry to get in a room with the industry and work on a compromise, so that’s what we did. As with any compromise, there is some give and take,” said Coastal Conservation Association Louisiana Chairman Charlie Caplinger.  “That said, these new regulations on the industry are a very positive step forward for Louisiana’s coastal zone that will provide much-needed protections for our fragile shorelines and the fish and wildlife that live there. CCA and our coalition partners would like to thank Governor Landry, the Commission, and the new leaders at Wildlife and Fisheries for helping to facilitate this agreement.”

Gulf menhaden, also known as pogies, are a critical food source for iconic Louisiana sportfish like redfish and speckled trout. Approximately 1 billion pounds of pogies are harvested by the industrial Gulf of Mexico menhaden fishery each year, mainly from Louisiana waters. To date, pogy boats have been allowed to fish closer than 500 yards from Louisiana’s shorelines, where the boats often make contact with the water bottom while stirring up sediment with their massive purse seine nets, affecting feeding and spawning for a host of sportfish, birds, and dolphins.

A coalition of recreational fishing, wildlife and habitat conservation, and boating organizations has been working for five years to expand public awareness about the impacts of the Gulf’s industrial menhaden fishery and advocate for some basic conservation measures, such as the ones included in the NOI.

“Conserving and protecting Louisiana’s vast but diminishing coastal fisheries and critical barrier islands, beaches and marshes has been the goal of our coalition for the last five years,” said Chris Macaluso, director of the Center for Marine Fisheries for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We have consistently worked with the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries staff, concerned anglers, charter captains, conservationists, lawmakers at every level, and the menhaden industry to enact meaningful regulations that can help accomplish that goal while recognizing the importance of commercial fisheries to Louisiana’s economy and culture. The Commission deserves a lot of credit for recognizing the validity of our coalition’s concerns and taking a big step forward in protecting Louisiana’s coast.”

In 2021, Representative Joe Orgeron (R-54) first introduced a bill in the Louisiana Legislature which proposed a nearly identical buffer to this NOI (HB 535). Due to industry opposition, the bill ultimately did not pass, but it did jumpstart a dialogue between the public, legislators, and other decision-makers about the impacts of intensive purse seine netting activity along Louisiana’s fragile coastline, and the impacts of bycatch on economically important species for other user groups, particularly redfish and speckled trout.

“For over three years, efforts have been made with little progress to get some common-sense regulations and policies put into place for the Gulf of Mexico reduction menhaden industry,” said Representative Joe Orgeron (R-54). “It now appears that these actions by the commission going forward will provide both increased scientific gathering on Louisiana’s largest fishery segment, as well as a better balance between the involved stakeholders for the upcoming 2024 season.”

“We commend the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission for this important step forward to increase the menhaden harvest buffer zone, as well as address the conservation and user conflict benefits that will come with it,” said Richard Fischer, CEO for the Louisiana Charter Boat Association, the nonprofit trade association that represents the best interests of Louisiana charter captains. “We also thank Governor Jeff Landry for exhibiting strong leadership by overseeing the brokering of this agreement, as well as Representative Joe Orgeron for being such a strong and vocal buffer zone champion in the Louisiana Legislature.”

The NOI will now go through a 30-day oversight period, where the joint Legislative Oversight Committees may choose to review it and make alternative recommendations. If they take no action, the NOI will be formalized as a final rule ahead of the 2024 menhaden fishing season.

Gulf Menhaden Coalition members include the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA), CCA Louisiana, CCA Mississippi, CCA Alabama, CCA Texas, CCA Florida, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Louisiana Charterboat Association, American Sportfishing Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association, Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, International Gamefish Association, Angler Action Foundation, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Audubon Delta, Guy Harvey Foundation, Marine Retailers Association of the Americas, Mississippi Wildlife Federation, and Wildlife Mississippi. 

Learn more here about the recreational fishing community’s push for better management of forage fish in the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic Ocean, and Chesapeake Bay.

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

You have Successfully Subscribed!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

You have Successfully Subscribed!

You have Successfully Subscribed!