Local Coalition Cheers the Reintroduction of the Ruby Mountains Protection Act
Citing the outstanding hunting and fishing opportunities, a coalition of influential hunting, fishing, and wildlife conservation groups calls for Congress to safeguard public land recreational opportunities in Nevada
A coalition of 15 hunting, fishing, and wildlife conservation organizations today applauded the reintroduction of the Ruby Mountains Protection Act in the U.S. Senate.
Introduced by Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), the proposed legislation would permanently withdraw 450,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service-managed public lands in northern Nevada’s Ruby and East Humboldt Mountains, as well as 40,000 acres in the adjacent Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge, from future oil and gas leasing.
The Sportsmen for the Rubies coalition hopes to raise awareness, both around the state and in Washington, D.C., of the potential threats posed by speculative leasing and energy development in the area. The coalition is part of a growing movement seeking permanent protections for the Ruby Mountains, while advocating for responsible energy development in the right places. The coalition has worked alongside Tribal governments and numerous other local interests to advance these protections.
“Hunters and anglers thank Senator Cortez Masto for her continued leadership to protect the outstanding recreational opportunities found in the Ruby Mountains,” said Carl Erquiaga, Nevada field representative with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “These public lands are critical to one of Nevada’s most important big-game migration corridors, utilized by the state’s largest mule deer herd, and home to many other iconic fish and wildlife species, including the Lahontan cutthroat trout.”
Known as the “Swiss Alps of Nevada,” the Rubies stretch for nearly 100 miles in Elko County, with ten peaks towering over 10,000 feet. These rugged, glacier-carved mountains and their cold, clear streams serve as a stronghold of native cutthroat trout and wildlife habitat, while also providing an abundance of world-class opportunities for hunters, anglers, and other outdoor recreators.
“We are glad to see the Rubies once again on a path that will secure this landscape for future generations of Nevadans and all Americans,” said Pam Harrington, Nevada field coordinator with Trout Unlimited. “The fishing opportunities that abound around the Rubies and the Ruby Marshes are unrivaled. Senator Cortez Masto deserves the appreciation of sportsmen and sportswomen for her work on this issue and we hope for swift passage in the Senate as the bill moves forward toward becoming law.”
Despite the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service determinations that the Ruby Mountains have low energy resource values, speculators have in recent years expressed interest in opening the area to drilling. Additionally, in 2019 and 2020, hundreds of acres were nominated for oil and gas leasing around the Ruby Marshes. Habitat fragmentation and degradation could occur as a result of such development, having consequences for fish and wildlife. Hunters and anglers have pointed to this sustained threat as cause for urgent action by lawmakers to safeguard the Rubies.
The Ruby Mountains Protection Act was originally introduced last Congress by Senator Cortez Masto and co-sponsored by Senator Jacky Rosen (D-Nev).
Learn more and take action at SportsmenfortheRubies.com.
Photo: Beau Rogers via Flickr
A Pivotal Decision Point Impacting Striped Bass
Fisheries commission considers weakening striper management
Fishermen up and down the Atlantic coast must pay attention if they care about striped bass. This species has its fair share of problems stemming especially from a reduced food supply and overfishing. Those challenges are not going away.
The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, a regulatory body comprised of representatives from 15 coastal states, is considering adopting a new plan to guide striped bass management. The Commission is looking at 10 main management topics, but most important is its consideration of biological reference points, the goalposts used to evaluate the status of the striped bass population and indicate when management action is needed.
Unfortunately, instead of doing what is necessary to rebuild striped bass, some regulators have suggested redefining what recovery looks like, effectively making their jobs easier at the expense of the striped bass population and long-term angling opportunities.
The current baseline for striped bass recovery is set off population numbers from 1995, the year that scientists and regulators declared striped bass recovered from decades of overfishing. That led to solid fishing and relatively healthy stocks during the late 90s and early 2000s. But, for the last decade, the warning signs of a declining stock have been apparent. Too much harvest, poor reproduction, and little recruitment meant poor fishing.
The Commission has been slow to act, avoiding not-so-hard decisions for much harder decisions down the road.
A 2018 stock assessment confirmed striped bass were officially overfished, so the Commission finally reduced the number of fish being kept by both commercial harvesters and recreational anglers in 2020. New regulations included required use of circle hooks to reduce release mortality and a slot limit aimed at protecting larger fish, which lay the most eggs, as is necessary to repopulate the species. At the same time, the Commission changed the way it manages menhaden, the food source for striped bass, and then reduced the industrial menhaden harvest by 10 percent.
Normally, stock assessments would show if these changes were making a difference. But 2020 was hardly normal. Due to COVID-19, stock assessments did not happen. We do not know the impacts of the reduction in striper limits. The one piece of information we did get in 2020 was not good. The Maryland Young of the Year Study shows that 2019 and 2020 were terrible spawning years, and the juvenile population is low.
The TRCP and its conservation allies, including the American Sportfishing Association and the Coastal Conservation Association, agree that it doesn’t make sense to change the baseline for recovery. We don’t have enough recent data to make a science-based change to how we measure population health. And what little data we do have indicates that weakening the biological reference points could be detrimental to the striped bass population and recreational fishing economy.
The Commission is collecting public comments on the changes to biological reference points and several other provisions that directly relate to striped bass management. Our recommendations for each topic are listed here. These other issues matter little, though, if regulators are going to move the goalposts for recovery.
So how can you get involved? The Commission is holding virtual hearings in all coastal states starting March 8. It’s critical for the public to weigh in on how they would like the fishery to be managed going forward.
Image courtesy of J.B.Pribanic
TRCP Expands its Team to Strengthen Conservation, Access, and Habitat
The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership adds six new staff members
The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is proud to announce the hiring of six new staff members in its Washington D.C. and Denver offices to advance its mission of guaranteeing all Americans quality places to hunt and fish.
“By investing in top talent, the TRCP will bolster our vision of uniting and amplifying our partners’ voices to advance America’s legacy of conservation, habitat, and access,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “We welcome all of these individuals to the team and thank our board and donors for making it possible to expand our reach and capacity. Together, these new team members will expand our outreach to Hispanic and other underserved communities, strengthen our work on climate and public lands policies, amplify conservation messages to a digital audience, and maintain the highest standards for transparency and financial accountability.”
Jon Holst, Colorado Field Representative
Jon brings to the TRCP 27 years of experience working on wildlife conservation and federal public land policy issues in both the public and private sector. As Colorado Field Representative, Jon will be implementing public education and advocacy campaigns in the state of Colorado to conserve big-game migration corridors; stop the sale or transfer of federal public lands; and support federal and state programs that enhance access, funding, and habitat conservation.
Lise Robinson, Director of Finance
Lise brings 19 years of experience in nonprofit finance, accounting, administrative, and operations management to the TRCP. As Finance Director, she will be responsible for overseeing the entire organization’s accounting and finance functions. In this critical role, she will be responsible for ensuring transparency and accuracy in all financial reporting, while also maintaining the organization’s top charity ratings.
Jared Romero, Director of Strategic Partnerships
Jared’s background in conservation ranges from boots on the ground as a wildland firefighter to a researcher studying ecological toxicology, and an educator and administrator. As TRCP’s Director of Strategic Partnerships, Jared will build relationships to expand hunting and fishing opportunities for underserved communities. He will also work cooperatively with regional and national organizations that serve people of color to advance our shared conservation goals.
Tara Schultz, Digital Coordinator
Tara’s background in digital communications makes her a great fit to help TRCP advance our numerous conservation campaigns in a digital world. As Digital Coordinator, Tara will be responsible for maintaining TRCP’s social media channels, website, and digital communications.
Tiffany Turner, Director of Climate Solutions
Tiffany brings more than 15 years of experience in environmental health and sustainability to the TRCP as Director of Climate Solutions. In this role, Tiffany will be responsible for ensuring that the voices of America’s hunters and anglers, and the needs of fish and wildlife, are a meaningful part of the climate policy discussion. She will also develop and implement comprehensive advocacy and communications strategies, including building diverse coalitions, to advance land- and water-based climate policies.
Mandy Zalmanek, Development and Operations Associate
Mandy’s background in donor engagement, event planning, and operational administration will support the TRCP as we grow our fundraising and operational capacity. As Development and Operations Associate, Mandy will support all departments to ensure they are achieving their strategic goals.
Montanans Care About Wildlife Migration
New poll shows strong support for wildlife crossings and continued collaboration between stakeholders on this key conservation priority
In Montana, state and federal agencies as well as conservation organizations and landowner groups have been working to identify opportunities for collaboration between landowners, sportsmen and women, scientists, agency officials, and other stakeholders to conserve important habitat and migration routes.
A new survey of 500 registered voters in the Treasure State—commissioned by the Pew Charitable Trusts and conducted by the research firms FM3 and New Bridge Strategy—shows that broad sections of the public strongly support this important work.
The survey found that 88% of Montana respondents favor the adoption of strategies and actions that conserve wildlife migration routes, while 86% also agree with improving coordination between federal land management agencies and local stakeholders to prioritize conservation of migration routes on public lands.
The report also highlighted robust support in Montana for specific actions to ensure the continued functionality of migration routes.
- 87% endorse providing incentives to private landowners, such as ranchers, who voluntarily agree to conserve migration routes on their land as wildlife habitat.
- 88% support construction of wildlife crossing structures—such as over- or underpasses—to help animals cross major highways where they intersect with known migration routes.
- 75% approve a requirement that construction of new housing developments and associated roads and infrastructure avoid wildlife migration routes.
Furthermore, the survey showed that an overwhelming majority of Montanans place a high value on their state’s wildlife resources: 88% of respondents see wildlife as important to their quality of life in Montana, while 83% see wildlife as important to Montana’s economy.
Thankfully, Montana has a strong tradition of landowners, conservation groups, and state and federal agencies coming together to achieve shared priorities, particularly when it comes to conserving and improving fish and wildlife habitat. In 2020, various stakeholders worked with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks to develop a strategy for conserving habitat essential to wildlife migration and movement.
For sportsmen and women, it is encouraging to know that a majority of Montanans share concern about one of the most significant threats to its mule deer, elk, and antelope herds. This widespread support should be motivation for state officials, private landowners, and conservation professionals to continue to find common ground and address cooperatively the challenges faced by various stakeholders.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
CONSERVATION WORKS FOR AMERICA
As our nation rebounds from the COVID pandemic, policymakers are considering significant investments in infrastructure. Hunters and anglers see this as an opportunity to create conservation jobs, restore habitat, and boost fish and wildlife populations.Learn More