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Archive for February, 2012

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More than 650 outdoors companies and organizations sign on to letters calling for Gulf restoration

Washington, D.C., February 16, 2012—A group of more than 650 hunting, fishing and outdoor sporting businesses and organizations are sending two sign-on letters to Congress today with a clear message—restore the Mississippi River Delta and the Gulf Coast, a vast complex of wildlife habitat that has faced high rates of landloss and suffered further degradation after the unprecedented 2010 oil spill. The letter comes at a critical time for Gulf restoration, as news reports indicate that BP is attempting this month to pay $20-$25 billion to settle with the Justice Department on all charges related to the spill.

The letters’ release was announced today, as outdoor equipment CEO’s and other representatives from the outdoor communities convened in the nation’s capital to urge members of Congress to move forward on the RESTORE Gulf Coast Act, a bipartisan piece of legislation that ensures that fines from last year’s oil spill are used to help restore the Gulf ecosystem.

The first letter was authored by Vanishing Paradise, a project of National Wildlife Federation (NWF) to unite sportsmen and women to restore Louisiana’s waterfowl and fishing habitats by reconnecting the Mississippi River with its wetlands. The letter asks Congress to secure significant investments for coastal restoration over the next five years, establish a new, dedicated funding stream for delta restoration and create a comprehensive restoration plan overseen by federal and state representatives with authority to implement the plan.

“In the spirit of Ding Darling, more than 650 hunting and fishing organizations and businesses from across the country are speaking out for the restoration of the Mississippi River Delta,” said Land Tawney, NWF’s senior manager for sportsmen leadership. “This collaboration ranges from local rod and gun clubs and mom and pop bait shops, to household names of national fishing and hunting manufacturers and sporting conservation organizations. We at Vanishing Paradise are truly humbled by the outpouring of nationwide support. Now it is time for Congress to take action and make the Gulf whole.”

“The delta has suffered years of damage and is being lost at an alarming rate—a football field of land disappears every hour,” Tawney continued. “The oil spill added insult to injury for this area and the entire Gulf region. Now is the time for Congress to pass the RESTORE Act, to ensure that oil spill fines reach the Gulf, where the latest round of damage was done.”

The second letter was signed by a group of 30 national conservation and outdoors organizations calling on Congress to move on the RESTORE Act, to move proactively toward using the Clean Water Act penalties assessed against BP and other companies toward comprehensive environmental and economic restoration of the Gulf.

A bipartisan poll this spring showed that 83 percent of voters nationwide support—and 69 percent strongly support—dedicating the Gulf oil spill penalties to restoring the Mississippi River Delta and Gulf Coast. The poll also showed that an overwhelming majority of conservative voters favor this proposal, including 76 percent of Republicans, and 78 percent of voters who agree with the Tea Party movement.

Nearly 500 miles—almost half—of the coastline in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida that was contaminated by the Gulf oil spill remain oiled one year later, according to the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration.

“Sportsmen around the Gulf and all those who call the region home want to see specific steps taken to restore the area’s natural resources,” said Geoff Mullins, senior director at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation partnership and Mobile, AL native. “It is a quality of life issue in numerous respects—from the recreational opportunities these resources offer to the significant dollars and jobs they bring to the local economies.”

“Restoring the Gulf and the Mississippi River Delta is an important issue for all sportsmen,” said Mike Iaconelli, 2003 Bassmasters Classic champion. “Those of us who hunt or fish need to step up and show we care about this issue. The disappearing Mississippi River Delta is not a problem we can’t fix, and Congress has a chance to do what’s right for the Gulf Coast. Now is the time for them to take action.”

“Recreational fishing contributes $41 billion dollars in economic output in the Gulf Coast region annually and supports more than 300,000 jobs. This economic engine will sputter if critical fisheries habitat is not better conserved and managed in the Gulf,” said Gordon Robertson, vice president of the American Sportfishing Association. “We urge Congress to act now to provide a much needed investment in business recovery and fisheries resources for the region.”

“Generations of Louisiana hunters and fishermen have enjoyed the rare bounty that Louisiana has offered from its rich estuary,” said Capt. Ryan Lambert, owner of Cajun Fishing Adventures, a fishing and waterfowl hunting lodge and guide service located near the mouth of the Mississippi River near Venice, Louisiana. “Every old timer has stories to tell of great times spent outdoors back in the day. Those great times are at the brink of being no more. Coastal erosion and saltwater intrusion have attacked our great state for 100 years, costing us 1883 square miles of precious wetlands thus far. Saltwater has intruded inland up to 80 miles killing even more freshwater marshes. If you want to pass on our great way of life to your grandchildren, the time to get involved is now.”

“All sportsmen in Louisiana need to get behind the restore act,” Lambert continued. “Please take the time to call your Senators for support of the RESTORE ACT. Better yet please get everyone you know outside of the state to call their legislatures. The Mississippi River built Louisiana and it is the only thing that can save our wetlands.”

“The Mississippi River Delta provides one of the most significant wintering habitats for waterfowl in North American and plays a starring role in our country’s rich waterfowl tradition,” said Mike Galloway, vice president of sales and marketing at Hard Core Brands International. “Hunting and fishing are also vital revenue streams for the nation’s economy. By passing the RESTORE Act and investing oil spill fines into restoring coastal wetlands, Congress is also investing in our national economy.”

“The comprehensive effects of the oil spill remain to be seen,” Tawney concluded. “Oil seeped into
marshes and wetlands that support many species of fish, waterfowl and other wildlife. We need Congress to act now to ensure that the penalties from the oil spill go toward making the delta and the Gulf region whole again, by restoring one of the most significant wintering areas for waterfowl in North America and an area that provides us with commercial and recreational fishing opportunities unlike any other.”

For more information, please visit http://www.vanishingparadise.org.

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BLM’s failure to implement master leasing plans in prime fish and wildlife habitat represents a flawed approach to public lands energy development, say sportsmen

DENVER – The Bureau of Land Management has considered the list of Colorado candidates for leasing reforms that take a landscape-scale look at conservation of public lands, and the result is no good news for fish, wildlife and sportsmen.

Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development said Thursday that the BLM’s decision not to approve a master leasing plan for South Park, a premier fish and wildlife haven in central Colorado, is the latest case of the agency’s failure to follow through on the promised reforms a year after identifying sites that merit MLPs. None has been approved in Colorado and little progress has been made in other Western states.

South Park, prized by sportsmen for its world-class fisheries and pronghorn, mule deer and elk herds, is a prime candidate for an MLP, which would identify important conservation values and potential cumulative impacts early in the energy development process, SFRED said.

The sportsmen’s coalition is led by Trout Unlimited, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and the National Wildlife Federation.

“Despite the economic slump, oil and gas development continues to grow in Colorado. Yet the BLM is not utilizing one of its best management tools to secure certainty for industry by focusing on long-term, comprehensive planning that also protects fish, wildlife, habitat and water quality,” said John Gale, NWF’s regional representative. “The BLM has failed to keep an important part of its promise to balance our energy needs with the hunting, fishing and recreation on public lands that boost rural economies and sustain our Western heritage.”

The BLM describes a master leasing plan as a way “to restore needed balance to the development process by improving protections for land, water and wildlife” and to address potential conflicts.

An MLP would provide a crucial step between the more general, overarching resource management plan and approvals for specific leases and drilling permits, when there’s limited opportunity for analysis of the potential, cumulative impacts, said Suzanne O’Neill, executive director of the Colorado Wildlife Federation, which formally proposed South Park for an MLP.

“The BLM’s rejection on Tuesday of an MLP for South Park is an opportunity lost,” O’Neill added. “The BLM’s explanation was that it would be jumping the gun because South Park hasn’t seen that much oil and gas activity. But that’s precisely the right time to act, before the great tracts of unfragmented habitat are carved up and the South Platte and its tributaries are threatened.”

About 450 people and businesses, many of them from the South Park area, signed a petition asking the BLM to approve an MLP to conserve one of the “last wild places” while allowing energy development.

In Colorado’s North Park, a site proposed by the BLM itself for a master leasing plan, agency officials deemed the proposal too late because the area already is “substantially leased.”

“So, it would appear that we are too late for North Park and too early for South Park,” SFRED wrote in a Feb. 1 letter to BLM Director Bob Abbey.

The lack of final guidance for the development of MLPs has created confusion within the agency and among the public about where and when the plans should be used, according to SFRED.

North Park contains the headwaters of the North Platte River and is home to moose, elk, bear, pronghorn, mule deer and the greater sage-grouse, which is a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act. Both North Park and South Park already have oil and gas wells and sit atop the oil-rich Niobrara formation, seen as possibly the nation’s next big play.

“If not North Park and South Park, where are they going to do MLPs?” asked Trout Unlimited’s Bob Meulengracht, who lives in Colorado. “The BLM is in the process of writing new resource management plans, yet they’re pooh-poohing the idea of master leasing plans.’’

Meulengracht challenged the BLM’s reasoning that at roughly 50 percent, too much of North Park is already leased to preclude preparation of an MLP.

“What makes 50 percent substantial?” Meulengracht asked. “North Park has been called the Serengeti of Colorado, and that characterization is absolutely appropriate. It has some of the best hunting and fishing around. It’s a special place, one worth conserving.”

Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development is a coalition of more than 500 businesses, organizations and individuals dedicated to conserving irreplaceable habitats so future generations can hunt and fish on public lands. The coalition is led by Trout Unlimited, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and the National Wildlife Federation.

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DENVER – Colorado Parks and Wildlife is teaming up with the Colorado Department of Education to gather public feedback on a draft Environmental Education Plan. The plan is part of a package of initiatives called for in House Bill 10-1131. Those initiatives are aimed at improving young people’s knowledge of the environment and increasing their opportunities to get outdoors.

“Environmental education is an important first step in maintaining Colorado’s legacy as a beautiful place to live and recreate,” said Tabbi Kinion, who coordinates educator outreach for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “We hope hunters, anglers, wildlife watchers, outdoor enthusiasts, landowners and businesses will get involved by participating in the series of meetings planned around the state.”

The draft plan will be explained and comments accepted from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the following dates and locations:

Monday, Feb. 13, Poudre Learning Center (8313 West F St) Greeley
Wednesday, Feb. 15, Durango Public Library (1900 E. 3rd Ave) Durango
Thursday, Feb. 16, Colorado Parks and Wildlife Hunter Education Bldg. (6060 Broadway) Denver
Wednesday, Feb. 22, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (711 Independent Ave) Grand Junction
Wednesday, Feb. 22, Rawlings Public Library (100 E. Abriendo Ave) Pueblo

Anyone who cannot attend one of the meetings can review the draft and comment online through the Colorado Department of Education website at http://www.cde.state.co.us/otl/environmentaleducationplanhtm.

For more information about Division of Wildlife go to: http://wildlife.state.co.us.

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Coyote Gulch

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Here’s the release from the U.S. House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee:

The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water and Power held an oversight hearing today on “Water for Our Future and Job Creation: Examining Regulatory and Bureaucratic Barriers to New Surface Storage Infrastructure.” The hearing highlighted the regulatory burdens that hinder vital water storage improvement projects that help create jobs, increase agriculture production, generate hydropower and grow the economy and common sense ways to overcome those hurdles.
Cumbersome environmental regulations have delayed critical water storage projects for years while urban growth, environmental litigation and age strain current water storage infrastructure. Rural communities, ranches and family farms across the country are dependent on a dependable water supply, which is directly linked to storage capacity. Current and new dams and reservoirs provides affordable emission-free electricity to millions of Americans, supports the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands hard-working families and protects America’s…

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Sportsmen underscore need for transparency, balanced natural resources management
on public lands as new energy regulations are weighed

DENVER – The Bureau of Land Management’s proposed rules on public disclosure of the contents of hydraulic fracturing fluids, as well as the handling of wastewater and the integrity of well casings, represent a step forward in ensuring responsible energy development on public lands, a sportsmen’s coalition said Monday.

Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development has called on the BLM to make sure resources such as water, fish and wildlife are conserved when oil and gas are developed on public lands. The draft rule on hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is a prudent response to concerns about the potential impacts of drilling and the handling of drilling fluids on the lands that are crucial to the West’s water supplies, fish and wildlife, said Brad Powell, energy director for Trout Unlimited’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project. TU is a member of the SFRED coalition.

The proposed federal rule would require public disclosure of the chemicals in fracking fluids before and during drilling. Companies stating that the fracking mixtures are proprietary would have to explain why the information should be kept from the public.

The proposal also addresses testing to ensure the integrity of well casings, pipes placed down a borehole and held in place by cement to keep the oil and gas from mingling with anything else.
The document includes rules for safely storing and disposing of waste from recovered fluids.

Some states, including Wyoming and Colorado, have approved regulations requiring disclosure of fracking fluids’ contents as increased drilling has raised concerns about the chemicals used.

“Complete and timely public disclosure is an important step toward ensuring that public health, water quality, fish and wildlife are protected from contamination by hydraulic fracturing,” said Michael Saul, attorney with the National Wildlife Federation, also an SFRED member. “BLM is moving in the right direction by mandating disclosure of all chemicals and by codifying the prohibition on unlined storage pits.”

“Sportsmen are pleased that our federal decision makers recognize the need to increase transparency during all phases of energy planning and development,” said Tom Franklin, senior director of science and policy for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, an SFRED member. “We will continue to work closely with the administration, Congress, industry and our conservation partners to assure that public lands energy projects employ a science-based approach that sustains our nation’s fish and wildlife resources and outdoors opportunities.”

Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development is a coalition of more than 500 businesses, organizations and individuals dedicated to conserving irreplaceable habitats so future generations can hunt and fish on public lands. The coalition is led by Trout Unlimited, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and the National Wildlife Federation.

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NEW SURVEY FINDS VOTERS IN KEY WESTERN STATES BELIEVE U.S. DOES NOT HAVE TO CHOOSE BETWEEN ENVIRONMENT & ECONOMY; SUPPORT PROTECTIONS FOR AIR, WATER, AND PARKS

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO – The results from the 2012 Colorado College State of the Rockies Conservation in the West poll find that western voters across the political spectrum – from Tea Party supporters to those who identify with the Occupy Wall Street movement and voters in- between – view parks and public lands as essential to their state’s economy, and support upholding and strengthening protections for clean air, clean water, natural areas and wildlife.

The survey, completed in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming by Lori Weigel of Public Opinion Strategies (a Republican firm) and Dave Metz of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (a Democratic firm), found that swing voters across the west – who will be key to deciding the outcome of a number of U.S. Senate and governors’ races, and possibly the presidential race – nearly unanimously agree that public lands such as national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife areas are “an essential part” of the economies of these states. Four in five western voters view having a strong economy and protecting land and water as compatible.

Two-thirds of Western voters say America’s energy policy should prioritize expanding use of clean renewable energy and reducing our need for more coal, oil and gas. Even in states like Wyoming and Montana, which are more often associated with fossil fuels, voters view renewable energy as a local job creator.

Survey results are a sharp contrast to the energy and environmental debates currently happening in Washington, and in many state capitals. “Western voters consistently believe that conservation helps create and protect jobs for their states,” said Dave Metz. “In fact, by a 17 point margin, voters are more likely to say that environmental regulations have a positive impact on jobs in their state rather than a negative one.”

Seven in 10 Western voters support implementation of the Clean Air Act, and updating clean air standards. They see regulations designed to protect land, air, water and wildlife as having positive impact on public safety (70 percent), the natural beauty of their state (79 percent) and their quality of life (72 percent).

The survey also found strong approval ratings for most governors in the region, and an electorate divided in hotly-contested U.S. Senate races in Montana and New Mexico. Key swing voters in these contests often express pro-conservation views.

“What we read in the press and what politicians say about an ever-sharpening trade-off between environment and jobs in a deep recession do not square with views of many western voters,” said Colorado College economist and State of the Rockies Project faculty director Walt Hecox, PhD. “Instead, those stubborn westerners continue to defy stereotypes, by arguing that a livable environment and well-managed public lands can be — in fact must be — compatible with a strong economy.”

The survey results echo the sentiments of more than 100 economists, including three Nobel Laureates and Dr. Hecox, who recently sent a letter to President Obama urging him to create and invest in new federal protected lands such as national parks, wilderness and monuments. Studies have shown that together with investment in education and access to markets, protected public lands are significant contributors to economic growth.

Similarly, western voters voiced support for continued funding of conservation, indicating that even with tight state budgets, they want to maintain investments in parks, water, and wildlife protection. When specific local issues were tested with voters in some states – such as increasing the state’s renewable energy standard in Montana, establishing national monument protections for the Arkansas River canyon in Colorado, and updating energy standards for new homes in Utah – voters want to actually strengthen protections.

While there are geographic and partisan distinctions on a number of key issues, such as energy development on public lands, the data show that the broad conservation values uniting westerners are much more prevalent than the occasional issues that divide them.

“The depth and breadth of the connection between westerners and the land is truly remarkable – – when people are telling us that public lands are essential to their economy, and that they support continued investments in conservation, even in these difficult economic times,” said Lori Weigel. “Westerners are telling us that we’ve got to find a way to protect clean air, clean water, and parks in their states.”

The 2012 Colorado College Conservation in the West survey is a bipartisan poll conducted by Republican pollster Lori Weigel of Public Opinion Strategies and Democratic pollster Dave Metz of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates. The poll surveyed 2,400 registered voters in six western states (AZ, CO, NM, UT, WY, MT) January 2 through 5 & 7, 2012, and yields a margin of error of + 2.0 percent nationwide and +4.9 statewide.

The full survey and individual state surveys are available on the Colorado College website.

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