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Archive for April, 2013

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Mark Fisher works the wall at the Big Hole on the South Platte River in Colorado. Photo by Lew Carpenter

The number of anglers who had to cancel a fishing trip or stop fishing a particular location last year because they lost access to a favorite fishing spot overall has not changed compared to last year. 17 percent of recreational fisherman surveyed by AnglerSurvey.com reported issues with access as opposed to 20 percent a year earlier. Despite this minor improvement, roughly one in five anglers is still being affected each year by not being able to use a favorite fishing location.

Likewise, because more anglers fish freshwater than saltwater, as well as the fact that there is more private land surrounding lakes and streams, 71 percent of reported access problems involved freshwater anglers and 24 percent involved saltwater in 2012.

Despite these challenges, 22 percent of affected anglers said they actually fished more last year than the previous year, just in a different location, and at least 32 percent reported fishing at least as much. Still, 39 percent reported fishing less frequently due to their lost access and seven percent didn’t fish at all.

“Despite the efforts and resourcefulness of some anglers to find new fishing areas after losing access to others, it is clear that such challenges are causing us to lose anglers each year,” says Rob Southwick, president of Southwick Associates, which designs and conducts the surveys at HunterSurvey.com, ShooterSurvey.com and AnglerSurvey.com. “Whether it is due to fishery closures, closed ramps or land previously used to access a lake or stream changing hands and becoming closed to the public access remains a persistent issue. Fisheries managers, anglers and industry need to continue working together to resolve these problems.”

To help continually improve, protect and advance angling and other outdoor recreation, all sportsmen and sportswomen are encouraged to participate in the surveys at HunterSurvey.com, ShooterSurvey.com and/or AnglerSurvey.com. Each month, participants who complete the survey are entered into a drawing for one of five $100 gift certificates to the sporting goods retailer of their choice.

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The Western Governors’ Association delivered a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Thomas J. Vilsack today (April 16, 2013) requesting increased attention on environmentally stressed national forest land and inclusion of the private sector in efforts to reduce epidemics such as pine beetle infestations and wildfires. The letter:

Dear Secretary Vilsack,

We have been concerned for some time that federal forest lands throughout the West are experiencing serious environmental stresses that affect the health and vitality of these ecosystems. They are overgrown; they exhibit all the symptoms of an unhealthy ecosystem; and they demand urgent attention. Now is the time for the U.S. Forest Service to accelerate its efforts to promote sound forest management policies that maintain ecological balance.

As you know, millions of acres in states throughout the West have fallen victim to bark beetles and other insect and disease plights. These epidemics, an overgrowth of vegetation, and the persistent drought have increased the number and complexity of wildfires, leading to exponentially higher suppression costs. The workload and costs to restore these forests and reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfires is staggering and necessitates an immediate commitment of financial and other resources. Western Governors have passed numerous policies acknowledging the extent and severity of our forest health crisis. We have met with you and your staff on many occasions and shared our concerns, yet we remain dissatisfied with the pace of response.

It is our understanding that in 2010 only about 30 percent of the total U.S. Forest Service budget was allocated to manage our national forests. In the mid-1980s, that number was closer to 70 percent. Most of the agency’s budget is spent on fire suppression, administrative support, research, and other programs. The current approach to resource allocation results in fewer funds available to manage the more than 193 million acres of national forests for forest health and fuels reduction. To that end, we request a specific accounting of the areas in which these funds have been spent. We further request that the U.S. Forest Service work to put the private sector to work on vegetative management activities on National Forest lands throughout the West.

We support the goals of the U.S. Forest Service’s Restoration Strategy, which will increase restoration acres while utilizing the wood produced by these efforts. Achieving the goals of this strategy will require developing and implementing new, more efficient ways of doing business and forest products industries are an integral part of this effort. We request that the U.S. Forest Service provide state-by-state specifics on how many additional acres it plans to treat through the Restoration Strategy over the next five years, including how much biomass, board feet, and other forest health and restoration projects are envisioned. We would also like to work with you to convene a forest industry task group to identify ways that the timber industry can assist with forest management. Private sector forest professionals are a cost-effective tool that the U.S. Forest Service can utilize to handle this immense workload. They stand ready and willing to do so.

By improving forest management through the use of the private sector, we also help support our declining forest industry and suffering rural economies. Our forest industries are already faced with low margins and limited markets; if we lose these industries, any restoration efforts will suffer a significant blow. As Governors, we support the type of proactive forest management that leads to healthy rural communities, improved forest conditions and increased utilization of wood products as outlined in the U.S. Forest Service Restoration Strategy. In addition, we are committed to successful implementation of the Western Regional Action Plan – National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy. We support efforts to fully utilize existing mechanisms and provide additional authorities to the U.S. Forest Service, including Stewardship End-Result Contracting, grants, agreements, local labor force, opportunities to increase biomass utilization, and Good Neighbor policies.

With continued uncertainty due to sequestration and the potential for further federal budget cuts, we recognize the financial challenges involved in such an endeavor, but believe that engaging the forest products industry as a partner can help alleviate some of these challenges. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Gary R. Herbert, Governor, State of Utah, Chairman, WGA

John Hickenlooper, State of Colorado, Vice-Chairman, WGA

To arrange interviews and learn additional information, contact Joe Rassenfoss, Communications Director of the Western Governors’ Association, at 720-897-4555.

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Fish and wildlife conservation, implementation of leasing reforms top list of sportsmen’s priorities for Sally Jewell

A national sportsmen’s coalition looks forward to working with Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on continuing the important job of restoring balance to public-lands management and implementing oil and gas leasing reforms started by her predecessor.

Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development congratulated Jewell on her confirmation by the U.S. Senate Wednesday and urged her to provide strong leadership to conserve clean air and water, fish and wildlife habitat and preserve the public-lands legacy that has helped shape the nation’s economy and identity.

“SFRED and millions of sportsmen believe in responsible development of energy resources on our multiple use public lands. We are not, however, willing to sacrifice fish and wildlife habitat, populations, water resources, and recreational opportunities to poorly planned development,’’ the CEOs and presidents of the coalition’s three lead partners wrote in an April 10 letter to Jewell.

The letter lists the coalition’s top six priorities and was signed by Larry Schweiger of the National Wildlife Federation, Whit Fosburgh of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, and Chris Wood of Trout Unlimited.

Topping the list of sportsmen’s priorities is implementation of the oil and gas leasing reforms announced in 2010 to sustain fish and wildlife and the hunting, fishing and recreation so important to the economy. Chief among the reforms hunters and anglers are eager to see realized is the master leasing plan concept, a key tool for federal land managers in places where mineral resources and key fish and wildlife resources overlap.

Other priorities in the SFRED letter are:
Renewable energy development – “Smart from the start’’ policies will avoid and minimize conflicts with fish, wildlife and sportsmen.

Oil shale – Companies must show they can produce a usable fuel in environmentally and economically sound ways before commercial leases on public lands are approved.

Hydraulic fracturing – Interior should require disclosure of the chemicals used in “fracking’’ and set robust standards for well integrity.

Categorical exclusions – The rulemaking must be completed on the appropriate use of expedited environmental reviews. In the past, they have been used to advance oil and gas projects that had significant environmental impacts.

Mitigation – Interior should continue its support of conservation groups’ efforts to develop and integrate landscape-scale considerations to avoid and minimize the effects of energy development on public lands.

As Interior secretary, Jewell will oversee vast federal holdings totaling about one-fifth of the nation’s land mass. These include vital watersheds, crucial wildlife habitat and places where millions of Americans hunt, fish and recreate.

“The American people love their public lands. Fiscal Year 2010 saw more than 58 million visitors to lands administered by the Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM), with a resulting benefit of $7.4 billion dollars to the economy,’’ the SFRED CEOs wrote to Jewell. “We stand ready to help DOI ensure sustainable, responsible energy development that maintains or enhances fish and wildlife habitat and quality recreational opportunities for all Americans.”

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.

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THREE PARKS, LOTS OF ACTIVITIES

Cheyenne Mountain State Park Earth Day Weekend Events – Saturday, April 20

You don’t have to go far to get away in Cheyenne Mountain State Park. Just minutes from downtown Colorado Springs, Cheyenne Mountain State Park has an amazing diversity with prairie-to-peak ecosystems and 20 miles of hiking and biking trails throughout the 1,680 acres to explore.

Earth Day is Monday, April 22, but the staff and volunteers at the park have arranged some “pre-Earth Day” events.

Highway 115 Cleanup Project, 8 to 11 a.m., Saturday, April 20 at the Visitor Center parking lot.
Join park volunteers for a cleanup project along State Highway 115 from the park entrance to Pine Oaks Road. Minimum age is 10 years. All children must be accompanied by an adult. Bring gloves, water, hat, and sturdy shoes. Reservations required. Call 719-576-2016. Parks pass is not required.

Un-natural Trail Hike, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Saturday, April 20 at the Visitor Center.
On this naturalist-guided hike, test your powers of observation by looking for things that dont belong in the natural environment. Then, see if you can guess how long it takes for trash items like orange peels, cardboard, plastic bags, and Styrofoam to breakdown after they are discarded. Reservations required. Call 719-576-2016. Parks pass is required.

Junior Ranger Program – Wildlife Encounters, 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, April 20 at Camper Services.
Program for 7-12 year-olds and parents to learn how park rangers educate visitors about rattlesnakes, bears, and mountain lions. After training, junior rangers will test their knowledge by participating in a simulated wildlife encounter. Pick up a training booklet beforehand at the visitor center or receive one at class time. Junior rangers will receive a badge and patch depending on levels completed. Reservations required. Call 719-576-2016. Parks pass is required.

Cheyenne Mountain State Park is located at 410 JL Ranch Heights, 80926. To reach the park, travel south on Colorado Highway 115 and turn west directly across from Gate one at Fort Carson. Programs are free, unless otherwise noted, but all vehicles entering the park must have a $7 daily or a $70 annual State Parks pass. For more information, call 719-576-2016.

Earth Day Festival in Salida – Saturday, April 20

Brown's Canyon on the Arkansas River near Salida. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Brown’s Canyon on the Arkansas River near Salida. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Earth Day is just around the corner and on the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area, the Greater Arkansas River Nature Association and Salida Recreation are hosting an Earth Day Party 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., April 20 at Riverside Park in downtown Salida.

There will be fun and entertainment for all ages. From 10 a.m. to noon, there will be exhibits and crafts including a geology touch table, animal skins and tracks, face painting, eco games, live alpacas, fire mitigation, tree health, Stay the Trail, a demonstration about water and much more.

At noon, the Pueblo Raptor Centers Diana Miller and her fascinating feathered friends will be at the Scout Hut to educate people about the lives, habits and little known facts of birds of prey.

From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., electronic recycling will be available for a minimal cost to get rid of all those old computers, TV’s and other stuff that have been cluttering your home.

To close the days events, the Salida Circus will start a parade through downtown Salida at 3 p.m. and will perform at Riverside Park at 4 p.m.

Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy a family day of celebration in honor of nature, the Arkansas River Valley and our planet Earth. For more information, contact Rose Bayless at AHRA at 719-539-728; Maggie Murdoch at Salida Recreation at 719-539-5703; or Amanda Harper at GARNA at 719-539-5106.

Earth Day Celebrations at Mueller State Park Sunday, April 21

DIVIDE, Colo. – The staff and volunteers at Mueller State Park will celebrate Earth Day on Sunday, April 21 with guided hikes, children’s activities and chance to learn about volcanoes.

Join volunteer naturalist Nancy Remmler at 10 a.m. in the Visitor Center Parking Lot for an Earth Day hike! Get out and enjoy the mountain-fresh air at Mueller. Enjoy a nice hike for adults and children alike; families welcome. The participants will determine the length and difficulty of the hike.

At 10 a.m., join volunteer naturalist Bob Hickey in the Visitor Center Auditorium for an engaging and eye-opening talk about volcanic rock and the role volcanoes played in the formation of the earth. There will be specimens and examples of the volcanic rocks in the region. There will be plenty of opportunity for discussion and Q & A and participants are encouraged to bring in their favorite rocks to show Bob.

At 11 a.m., volunteer naturalist Rose Banzhaf will host a children’s Earth Day arts and crafts fair. The art and crafts fair is perfect for the whole family; picture frame projects will be made and stories will be read. Afterwards, volunteer naturalist Carole Larkey will lead the children on a guided hike around the nature trail! Bring your Earth Day spirit, craft hands, and sturdy shoes for hiking! Families interested in attending the children’s program should RSVP by April 19 if interested in attending as the celebration is limited to 35 children participants. You may sign up at the Visitor Center, or call Chelsea Murray at 719-687-2366 ext.107 or email chelsea.murray@state.co.us.

At 1 p.m., Bob Hickey will give an encore presentation of his volcanic rocks presentation.

Earth Day programs at Mueller State Park are free, but you must have a $7 daily parks pass or a $70 annual pass on your vehicle to enter the park. Mueller State Park is located 4-miles south of Divide on Highway 67. For weather updates or for more information, call 719-687-2366.

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The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) is the legislation that Congress uses to determine policy for the U.S Army Corps of Engineers and to decide which water projects will get built.

Getting this bill right is critical for maintaining the health of our nation’s rivers, streams, wetlands and coastlines—and the people, jobs, and wildlife that depend on these resources. Unfortunately, the current WRDA is moving at a speed that precludes public discussion of its provisions. The bill was introduced just 3 weeks ago on a Friday evening, marked up the following Wednesday, and now seems likely to end up before the entire Senate on Wednesday.20130409-074910.jpg

Unfortunately, this version of WRDA contains two provisions (sections 2033 and 2032) that strike at the heart of our nation’s environmental review process. They will obstruct not only reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act, but also under the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and other landmark environmental laws.

These two sections must be removed from the final bill before passage. If passed into law as it is, this bill:

• Will limit scientific analysis and drive bad decisions Environmental review documents are often hundreds of pages long and full of dense scientific language: the accelerated deadlines in this bill will not give members of the public or agencies such as the USFWS or the EPA time to read one of these reviews—let alone to consult experts and perform the analyses necessary to draft informed public comments. Among many other problems, these provisions direct the Corps to fine agencies like the Fish and Wildlife Service up to $20,000 a week for missing the arbitrary and accelerated deadlines and will let the Corps send even technical disagreements to the President. To try to avoid these fines and higher level reviews, agencies — already facing restricted budgets — will rush to complete reviews without all the information or performing independent analyses, increasing the likelihood that unnecessarily destructive projects will be approved. Good science takes time, and this legislation simply does not give experts enough time to make informed decisions.

• Will not speed up project construction The review process is not the main cause of delays in federal water projects. Delays are driven by funding constraints, the Corps’ $60–80 billion project backlog, and the Corps’ insistence on planning highly destructive and controversial projects when less damaging approaches are available. These streamlining provisions are being driven by ideology, and will not a make a practicable difference in speeding up construction.

• Will move water planning backwards The bill will allow the corps to continue planning unnecessarily costly and destructive projects instead of using low impact solutions — for example, reconnecting streams with floodplains— which are frequently the most cost-effective way to solve water planning challenges.

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As efforts to restore the Mississippi River Delta roll forward, sportsmen from across the nation continue to lend a hand – offering voice and influence to rebuild this special place. The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) along with other important partners has been at the forefront of these efforts – nationally and regionally – for decades.

With the creation of the Vanishing Paradise campaign in 2009, NWF began to nationalize efforts to restore the delta by educating hunters and anglers about the issue, as well as engaging and mobilizing them to action.

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The Vanishing Paradise Advisory Council and staff at Ryan Lambert’s Cajun Fishing Adventures lodge in Buras, Louisiana. Front, from left: Land Tawney, Eric Cosby, Teeg Stouffer and David Dellucci. Row 2, from left: Ben Weber, Ryan Lambert, Andy McDaniels, Gabe Galster, Tim Kizer, Hal Herring and Jared Mott. Rear, from left: Noel Vick and Lew Carpenter.

Vanishing Paradise has had many successes to date culminating in the securing of funds from the BP oil spill back to restoration in late June through the RESTORE Act. Now, NWF has formed a Vanishing Paradise Sportsmen’s Advisory Council (VPSAC) to enhance and expand its relationships with our nation’s sportsmen and women who have a passion to carry on our collective conservation legacy. Council members were asked to join the council because of their passion for passing on a conservation legacy, knowledge within the sportsmen community and capacity (in the form of volunteer time, relationships and expertise). Members include representatives from the hunting and fishing industry, conservation community and media who have a keen interest in the Mississippi River Delta.

“As a resident of Louisiana, some of my fondest childhood memories in the outdoors are of my trips to the Louisiana marshes duck hunting and red fishing with my dad and grandfather,” said VPSAC member David Dellucci, Baton Rouge native and former World Series professional outfielder. “I have personally seen the rapidly eroding coastline through the years, and as a father myself I want to make sure my child has the same opportunities enjoying our “Sportsman’s Paradise” that I had. I am proud to be with such a motivated group who is not interested in blaming the possible causes but determined to fix the problem.”

In addition to providing a diverse perspective to the Vanishing Paradise staff, the Advisory Council will focus its attention on a three-part mission of enhancing the organization’s political strength, strengthening its financial condition for the future and engaging the sporting community through public relations, media and personal contact.

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VPSAC members (from left) Gabe Galster and Tim Kizer along with fishing guide Joe Dimarco and what turned out to be a chaotic triple hook-up and even more chaotic choreographed netting. Photo by Lew Carpenter

In mid-March, the VPSAC held its first of many meetings, starting with a day in the marsh – a place held sacred to each member.

“Vanishing Paradise is championing a cause that I feel could be the greatest conservation project in my lifetime,” said Gabe Galster of Arkansas.  “Not only is the focus of this project dear to my heart, but there is a clear pathway to achieving success.  In the end, I want to be able to have a part in saving one of the most environmentally and culturally rich regions of our great country.  I want it here for my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren to enjoy much as I have over the last 20 years, but  without swift action we may reach a point of no return.  VP offers the platform from which this message can be spread and action initiated.”Council members and Vanishing Paradise staff connected with each other

Cajun Fishing Adventure’s guide Joe Dimarco (left) and VPSAC member from Arkansas, Gabe Galster working a canal near Quarantine Bay for redfish. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Cajun Fishing Adventure’s guide Joe Dimarco (left) and VPSAC member from Arkansas, Gabe Galster working a canal near Quarantine Bay for redfish. Photo by Lew Carpenter

– and the magnificent resource they are entrusted to restore – while fishing for bull redfish, a trophy species of the marsh that annually draws thousands of anglers to the region.

The group also got down to business on a strategy for moving forward with Vanishing Paradise’s overarching goal of reconnecting the Mississippi River to its wetlands.”

“We want to open up the Mississippi River to the marshlands by creating diversions in strategic locations in the levee and marsh canal system,” said Arkansas native and VPSAC chair Tim Kizer. “By doing so we will allow the river system to naturally distribute sediment that will rebuild critical wetlands that provide nutrient filtration, physical tidal buffers for hurricane protection and erosion control along the Louisiana Gulf Coast.”

The council, as a group and as individual sportsmen, agreed to the following three- to five-year milestone objectives:

  • Develop and implement an internal and external hunter/angler conservation communication strategy;
  • Advocate for responsible, strategic implementation of BP oil spill fine funds;
  • Secure an additional $5 billion for Mississippi River Delta restoration;
  • Secure sustainable funding for the Vanishing Paradise campaign;
  • Prioritize additional conservation issues and develop strategies to address them.

As with any large-scale habitat restoration project, these tasks won’t be easy. But with the passionate, motivated and diverse group of new VPSAC members, the path forward is in play, and a nation of hunters and anglers will both engage and benefit in the restoration of America’s world-class habitat for fish and wildlife.

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Vanishing Paradise campaign director Land Tawney with a 34-inch bull redfish. Photo by Noel Vick

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