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Archive for April, 2015

I’m writing this on the 5th anniversary of the BP Gulf oil spill. And my concern for the health of Gulf wetlands is as strong today as it was before the spill.

Photo by Lew Carpenter

James Hall with giant jack. Photo by Lew Carpenter

I’ve been fishing out of Venice, Louisiana for the past 15 years – before Hurricane Katrina and before the BP oil spill. Even back then we knew there was a problem.

Sportsmen should be concerned at the rapid decline of the Mississippi River Delta wetlands ecosystem. It feeds both the waterfowl that we hunt and the fish we chase. There is no place like it for the American sportsman and we need all the help we can get to restore its habitat values.

As the anniversary of the BP spill highlights this incredible area, the damage done by the carelessness of BP and the massive conservation funding that will come from holding BP accountable, it’s important to note that other tools are available to us to restore the Gulf.

In the coming weeks the Sportsmen’s Act of 2015 will be moving through Congress. Within this great piece of legislature resides two habitat conservation items – the North American Wetlands Conservation Act Reauthorization (NAWCA) and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Reauthorization (NFWF).

· North American Wetlands Conservation Act Reauthorization – Reauthorizes NAWCA through 2019, providing matching grants to organizations, state/local governments, and private landowners for the acquisition, restoration and enhancement of wetlands critical to migratory birds. The program generates three additional dollars for every federal dollar and reduces the annual authorization level from $75 to $50 million.

· National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Reauthorization – Reauthorizes NFWF though 2019, directing conservation dollars to pressing environmental needs with matching private funds. NFWF supports conservation projects across the country and administers the Gulf Environmental Fund established to remedy harm from the Deepwater Horizon (BP) oil spill.

· NAWCA has helped protect or restore 25.6 million acres of wetlands during the last two decades while NFWF has leveraged nearly $576 million in federal funds into $2 billion worth of conservation projects.

Vanishing Paradise and the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) welcome the passage of a bipartisan legislative package in the Senate that would expand and enhance hunting, angling and other outdoor recreation on our public lands and help secure conservation funding for years to come. Sportsmen and women spend about $90 billion a year on hunting and fishing. The total for all outdoor recreation is about $646 billion. A significant portion is committed by law to wildlife restoration and habitat enhancement activities.

How critical is the restoration of Gulf wetlands? A new report by the National Wildlife Federation, Five Years and Counting: Gulf Wildlife in the Aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon Disaster, exposes the risks to wildlife in the Gulf, including many species sportsmen hold dear:

· Exposure to oil has been shown to cause abnormal development in many species of fish, including mahi mahi, Gulf killifish and bluefin and yellowfin tuna.

Matt Vincent with mahi mahi

Matt Vincent with mahi mahi

· Spotted seatrout, also known as speckled trout, spawned less frequently in 2011 in both Louisiana and Mississippi than in previous years.

· 2010 and 2011 had the lowest numbers of juvenile red snapper seen in the eastern Gulf fishery since 1994.

A federal judge will soon decide the case against BP and the other companies for violations of the Clean Water Act. A law passed in 2012 known as the RESTORE Act will send this money back to the five Gulf states. A National Wildlife Federation report released in December 2014 describes 47 projects that would restore wetlands, rebuild oyster reefs, protect landscapes and re-create a more natural balance between fresh and salt water—activities that would enhance the health of the Gulf of Mexico.

What Can You Do?

Support the Sportsmen’s Act of 2015 through letters and calls to your congressmen. Read the NWF reports and educate yourself on the health of the Gulf and the activities in your state to use Restore Act funds, NFWF and NAWCA for restoration. Regularly check vanishingparadise.org for information and opportunities to act.

It’s difficult to express the high value of Gulf wetlands to sportsmen. But it’s imperative that we do so. No stronger voice connects to wildlife and habitat than the sportsmen who spend countless hours plying the marshes for redfish or working blinds for ducks and geese. No stronger voices exist than the ones coming from endless days in the resource with family and friends. Protect it now, enjoy it now and rebuild it for future generations.

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Max Trujillo of Las Vegas, New Mexico

Max Trujillo of Las Vegas, New Mexico

Max Trujillo, the New Mexico Wildlife Federation’s northern New Mexico sportsmen organizer, has been elected to the board of directors of National Wildlife Federation. Max grew up in Las Vegas, NM, and has been hunting and fishing his entire life. As a board member of the national organization, he will have the opportunity to help shape the policies and direction of the National Wildlife Federation. “I’d like to start making the organization more action-oriented,” he said. “We need to get sportsmen involved in meaningful conservation work, whether it’s at the government level or on the ground to protect habitat and public lands.”

Congratulations Max!!

Centennial SNR masthead

In other news:

  • Legislative session largely successful for sportsmen
  • Bighorns and Barbary in the Sacramentos?
  • U.S. Senate voices support for public land transfer 

Governor controls fate of fishing, floating rights

Sportsmen came within one vote of defeating efforts to privatize certain waters in New Mexico. Now the decision rests with Gov. Susana Martinez. Senate Bill 226 ignores the state Constitution and a 1945 state Supreme Court decision that said all waters are open to fishing and wading, provided a person doesn’t trespass to reach the stream or get out of the stream onto private property. SB 226 also would allow an innocent angler to be charged with trespass for wading up an unmarked stream onto private property. Gov. Martinez has until April 10 to sign or veto the bill. Please take a moment now and ask her to veto SB 226 to protect your right to fish and float New Mexico rivers. Call her office at (505) 476-2200 or click here to write her.

Otherwise, the Legislature was generally a success for hunters and anglers. New Mexico sportsmen and women spoke up time and again during the session and helped influence numerous bills that affect hunting and fishing in our state. Speaking with one voice we helped:

  • Kill three separate pieces of legislation seeking to “study” the transfer of national public lands to the state;
  • Defeat yet another attempt to ban trapping;
  • Stop a bill to give landowners twice as many elk tags;
  • Pass a larger budget for the Department of Game and Fish that will provide better service to New Mexico hunters and anglers;
  • Established a Forest and Watershed Health Board to promote and fund watershed and forest restoration initiatives;
  • Turned back an effort to classify cougars as a varmint, with no state management;
  • Protect watersheds for Rio Grande cutthroat trout.

Look for a complete wrap-up of the legislative session in the next Outdoor Reporter, which comes out in mid-April.

Public lands in jeopardy – from Congress

Even though we dodged the public lands transfer bullet once again in New Mexico, the anti-public lands forces are hard at work. The U.S. Senate last week passed a budget resolution that calls for cutting federal spending in coming years. There is some good news in it, including an amendment that changes the way the nation pays for catastrophic forest fires, which now eat up almost half the U.S. Forest Service budget.

But the Senate also passed an amendment calling on Congress to sell or transfer to the states any federal land that isn’t a national park, preserve or monument. The measure passed 51-49. Both New Mexico senators voted against it, and the amendment is more advisory than anything. But it clearly shows that we could lose vast amounts of BLM and Forest Service land in a heartbeat.

The vote was not just a poke at hunters and anglers. It was also a renewed call to arms. It is crucial for us to speak up and protect our national public lands, or else explain to our children and grandchildren why we let our incredible public land legacy slip away. Take a moment now and thank Sen. Martin Heinrichand Sen. Tom Udall for standing up once again for our public lands.

Undoubtedly, New Mexico supporters of the public lands selloff (including various state legislators, county commissioners, our State Land Commissioner and perhaps even our governor) will be invigorated by the results of the Senate resolution. It will be imperative over the coming year that the New Mexico sportsmen’s community turn up the heat and engage as individuals with all their government officials and tell them how much we oppose this initiative. We are already planning a bigger and broader sportsmen’s rally at the Capitol during the 2016 legislative session that includes a sportsmen’s lobbying day. If you want to get involved on a community level, please contact NMWF (nmwildlife@nmwildlife.org). We’re happy to help orchestrate sportsmen’s meetings in your area.

Bighorns, carcass tags in new  Commission Report

Bighorn sheep in the Sacramento Mountains, White Sands Missile Range oryx hunts and a fresh look at print-your-own carcass tags – it’s all in our latest Game Commission Report. Click here to read the news from the Commission meeting last week in Alamogordo.

News from NMWF

Getting the Outdoor Reporter delivered to your mailbox and the Game Commission Report are just two of the benefits of joining the New Mexico Wildlife Federation. If you’re reading this now, you know the value of what we do on behalf of New Mexico hunters and anglers. Please help us continue that work and become a dues-paying member! The cost is just $25 a year – less than a box of shells – but it helps support our many efforts to protect YOUR hunting and fishing opportunity. Other benefits of membership include a vote for the board of directors and one free ticket in every raffle we conduct. Join today and you’ll get a ticket for the Benelli Nova 12-gauge we’re giving away on April 11 (see details below.) To join now, go to www.nmwildlife.org or call us at (505) 299-5404.

Don’t miss your opportunity to win a new Benelli Nova, just in time for turkey season. We’re raffling off this 12-gauge pump at noon on April 11. Tickets are $5 each, or five for $20. Buy yours now online (click here) or by calling us at (505) 299-5404. And remember, it’s for a good cause!

After our Sportsmen’s Meetings in Albuquerque in January, we have decided to make them a monthly event. Please join us at 121 Cardenas Drive NE from 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, April 8. We’ll talk in depth about the recent State Game Commission meeting and other topics that you bring to the table. Call (505) 299-5404 for more information.

We recently received a note from Vermont saying that long-time NMWF supporter Paul Wales had passed away. Paul lived in New Mexico previously and believed that the New Mexico Wildlife Federation represented his interests well. At his request, his family and friends sent a generous contribution to New Mexico Wildlife Federation in his name. We send our condolences and our sincere thanks.

Hasta la vista, Michelle!

One reason New Mexico Wildlife Federation has been such as strong advocate for resident hunters and anglers is the work of our conservation director, Michelle Briscoe. Michelle, who has been with the organization since 2008, has dug into figures provided by the Department of Game and Fish and discovered amazing things, such as the fact that 70 percent of all antelope tags go to landowners and that nearly half of elk tags go into the EPLUS program. She has been a tireless champion of our wildlife, habitat and opportunity, but has decided to switch gears and take a new job. We will miss Michelle’s raucous laugh, her wit and incisive curiosity and her unique investigative skills, but we wish her the very best in her new endeavors.

To replace her, NMWF is now looking for both a conservation director and a development director/grants administratorClick here for more information.

The Mule Deer Foundation has given its annual Presidents Award to the New Mexico Department of Game and Fishfor the agency’s efforts to reverse mule deer declines through relocations and habitat management. In recent years the department has moved nearly 400 deer out of high-concentration areas such as Silver City to more suitable habitat. High survival rates have resulted from the Department’s improved translocation techniques. New Mexico has six MDF chapters that have been active in supporting mule deer programs, including donations for guzzlers and research. “Thanks to dedicated volunteers as well as state and federal wildlife programs, New Mexico wildlife and habitat have benefited from water tank installments, forest road repair, replanting of seedlings in burn areas, and trash and debris pickup,” said state MDF Chairwoman Colleen Richardson. “It is the responsibility of all sportsmen and women to contribute to the success of New Mexico’s wildlife, their habitats and its use for future generations, and the Mule Deer Foundation is really making a difference in our state!”

The New Mexico Fish On Film Fest was a great success, says festival founder and organizer Matt Pelletier. It provided New Mexico anglers an opportunity to present their own films. “Everyone enjoyed getting together and watching videos creaed by New Mexico anglers fishing our home waters,” Pelletier said. “And we raised $1,200 in the process for New Mexico Trout.” Planning has already started for next year’s event. Click here to see more about the festival, including links to the winning videos.

A new bow shop has opened in Albuquerque. Hit or Miss Archery Center, at 2801 Broadbent Parkway NE, Suite D, opened in February but held its grand opening on March 21. The center, owned by Neil and Julie Overbay, has a 40-yard range, three-D targets, a pro shop, lessons and retail sales. For more information including hours of operation, call (505) 200-9650.

New Mexico Conservation Calendar

Volunteers are needed on Friday, April 10, to help teach basic fishing skills at Albuquerque’s Tingley Ponds. The event is part of a youth education program conducted by RiverSource that will touch on water quality training and aquatic insects as well as fishing for stocked trout. For more information, contact Rich Schrader at (505) 660-7928.

Waterfowl hunters can learn more about this year’s migratory bird rules at public meetings in April and May. The Department of Game and Fish will provide information and take public comments from 7-8:30 p.m. on Monday, April 13, at the Game and Fish office in Las Cruces. Additional meetings are scheduled for May 6 in Farmington and May 14 in Albuquerque. Initial plans call for higher bag and possession limits for Estancia Valley sandhill craneslower bag limits and a shorter season for bandtailed pigeons, and changes in duck seasons. The Department is also considering some changes in the Bernardo Ponds. We’ll keep you posted asd more information becomes available.

Pass it on

Please share this newsletter with a friend and ask them to get involved by joining our Sportsman’s Alert network. Click here to sign up now. New Mexico sportsmen need to stay involved to ensure our hunting and fishing traditions continue. And please make a contribution to NMWF. With sportsmen like you, we can continue to make a differenceGo to www.nmwildlife.org to donate today.

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