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Years of work by sportsmen and others in Doña Ana County came to fruition in late May when President Obama created Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument. The designation protects hunting and other traditional uses such as camping, hiking and grazing. The new monument covers nearly 500,000 acres in three sections. The BLM will continue to manage the monument.

“This is a great day,” said John Cornell (at right in image), president of Doña Ana County Associated Sportsmen and the southern New Mexico organizer for New Mexico Wildlife Federation. “Sportsmen, many of whom own local businesses, have been reaching out to community leaders and elected officials to make permanent protection of these important lands a reality for a decade. We have all been committed because of what these lands and wildlife mean to us and will one day mean to our kids’ outdoor opportunity and potential livelihood.”

Lifelong Las Cruces hunter Jim Bates (above left) added, “To many, this national monument effort has mainly been about protecting the iconic view Las Cruces residents and visitors enjoy on a daily basis. But for hunters and outdoorsmen like me, much more was at stake. We knew how much we stood to lose if the Potrillos, Robledos or Sierra de Las Uvas were covered in wind turbines or big box stores.”

It is the second monument designated in New Mexico in 14 months. Rio Grande del Norte National Monument protects about 230,000 acres of BLM. New Mexico Wildlife Federation worked with elected officials, agencies and other organizations to ensure that hunting, fishing and other traditional uses will continue in both monuments.

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The West is filled with iconic landscapes, most of them public. With rod in hand, shotgun or rifle shouldered, most of us have experienced the bounty public lands provide. And from our earliest days in the field when any body of water or forest held unseen potential, to our current, often thoughtfully planned excursions, public lands have always been there to provide opportunity.

A new report by the National Wildlife Federation highlights the value of public lands for hunters and anglers.

A new report by the National Wildlife Federation highlights the value of public lands for hunters and anglers.

For many, the true American dream is pursuing North America’s trophy big game on the West’s vast open spaces. It’s the epitome of DIY – a complete hunting or fishing trip in the West – and also a testament to our sporting nature. It’s all there: the planning, the practice, the pursuit, the stalk, the shot and the harvest.

This sporting heritage is hard to quantify on a personal level. The value of days spent afield alone or with great friends and family, transcends material possessions. The value of public lands, however, can be quantified. The National Wildlife Federation’s (NWF) new report, Valuing Our Western Public Lands: Safeguarding Our Economy and Way of Life, illustrates the value and scope of our western lands and sends a clear message that these lands define the American landscape and our national identity.

The bulk of the vast open spaces are in the West, where they have generated jobs and revenue from commodity production, tourism and recreation, including hunting and fishing. As the western economy changes from one dominated by natural resource production to one distinguished by knowledge- and service-based industries, conserving public lands becomes increasingly important as a magnet for businesses and employees seeking a high quality of life.

The NWF report can be found at: http://www.ourpubliclands.org/sites/default/files/files/NWF_PublicLands.pdf

This fat brown trout was caught on public lands on the South Platte, which the author has fished since childhood. Photo by Matt Vincent

This fat brown trout was caught on public lands on the South Platte, which the author has fished since childhood. Photo by Matt Vincent

Several recent studies and surveys within the report found that:

• Many communities near public lands managed for conservation and recreation report higher levels of economic, population and income growth and higher property values.

• The outdoor recreation industry, including fishing and hunting, contributes nearly $650 billion to the U.S. economy and supports more than 6 million jobs. Western public lands provide recreation for people from across the country and world.

• Americans invest nearly $39 billion annually in natural resource conservation, resulting in more than $93 billion in direct economic benefits.

• Extractive, commodity-based industries generate needed materials and energy and provide jobs and revenue, but have been cyclical and have become a smaller part of the overall economy.

“Public Lands are not just where I recreate; they are also where I get my food,” said Armond Acri, a retired chemical engineer who hunts big game and waterfowl. ” I hunt on National Forest, BLM lands, State and Federal Wildlife Refuges, and State Lands.  Each year I hunt grouse, ducks, geese, deer, elk and perhaps antelope.  In a few special years I have had the privilege to hunt bison and bighorn sheep.  Public Land helps me feed both my body and my soul.  I cannot put a price on Public Land, but I know it is one of my most valued possessions.  That is why I fight to preserve the Public Lands we all own.”

Intact habitat and unspoiled backcountry are essential to maintaining fish and wildlife habitat. Proposals to dispose or devalue

Energy development on public lands can eliminate wildlife's ability to migrate from summer to winter habitat as well as adjust to the growing effects of climate change.

Energy development on public lands can eliminate wildlife’s ability to migrate from summer to winter habitat as well as adjust to the growing effects of climate change.

the land threaten a crucial part of our economy. These proposals threaten the fundamental value of ensuring that lands belonging to all Americans stay open to everyone, now and in the future.

Through the NWF report a picture of the changing West emerges. Studies show that many communities near public lands managed for conservation and recreation report higher employment, growth and income levels and higher property values. The service industries, which include health, finance and legal jobs, have diversified the economy and sustain communities when commodity-based industries experience downturns.

Industries traditionally associated with the West – logging, mining, oil and gas drilling – are still important and provide needed materials, but are often cyclical and have become a smaller part of the overall economy.

Former WON staffer Rich Holland is Fishing and Hunting Content Director for SmartEtailing.com, which offers web hosting and online commerce tools to 15,000 independent retailers affiliated with Big Rock Sports. His business, and countless others, lie at the heart of the public lands economy. But again, the value runs deeper than business.

“In the 1940s, my father was in his early teens when his family moved to Los Angeles from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,” said Holland. “He and his brother immediately discovered the great fishing and hunting available on public lands. That love of the outdoors was passed along to me and I still fish and hunt in many of the same places he frequented as a young man.

“On the other hand, quite a few of his favorite spots have been lost to encroaching development and government designations that prohibit the traditional activities of sportsmen,” he added. “Many of the retailers we work with are located adjacent to public lands, and not just in the West but along the Great Lakes, the Eastern Seaboard and the vast watershed of the Gulf Coast. These businesses rely on continued access to public lands for families who wish to fish and hunt.”

By conserving the cherished lands that drive economic growth, the American people and our national economy will be healthier

Pronghorn on western public lands need large landscapes for their long migration corridors to thrive. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Pronghorn on western public lands need large landscapes for their long migration corridors to thrive. Photo by Lew Carpenter

and more sustainable for generations to come.

So what does it all mean in today’s world? The report was created to bring the importance of public lands into the national dialogue. Several Western legislatures and members of Congress have shown they are out of touch with the public’s support for keeping public lands in public hands.

The last two congressional sessions, lawmakers introduced dozens of bills seeking to diminish protection of public land, require the federal government to sell millions of acres of the land or turn the land over to the states. State legislators and congressional members behind proposals to dispose of public lands claim that westerners believe federal management of the lands constrains natural resource development, thus depriving states of the economic benefits. In fact, the measures contradict the majority of western public opinion and threaten the region’s economy, which benefits from the diverse businesses attracted and supported by conserving public lands.

The next generation of anglers and hunters are relying on today’s sportsmen to conserve fish and wildlife habitat so they have the same opportunities to recreate on public lands. Photo by Lew Carpenter

The next generation of anglers and hunters are relying on today’s sportsmen to conserve fish and wildlife habitat so they have the same opportunities to recreate on public lands. Photo by Lew Carpenter

As a sportsman from the West I have fished from Alaska to the Gulf Coast, Baja to Idaho – and many places in between – almost exclusively on public lands. Certainly there is a place for the magnificent private-land opportunities in North America – but for the common man, nothing beats the landscapes his forefathers created, paid for with his tax dollars, equipment purchases and license fees, and which is waiting with open arms for him to conserve for his children and the generations to follow.

If you care about this American heritage, your access to public lands and wildlife, and your ability to share this with your children and grandchildren, then you need to inform yourself about the positions your elected officials are taking on public lands issues. Moreover, you need to communicate your positions to your elected officials. This is the essence of representative democracy and it is more important than ever in a time when big money is exerting enormous influence.

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Jake Haefeli with his first mule deer ever. It was taken in the White River area. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Seven prominent groups unite to advocate for backcountry lands
as BLM finalizes management plan administering 1.5 million acres

WASHINGTON – Seven prominent hunting and fishing organizations are speaking out in support of the responsible management of some of the most valuable fish and wildlife habitat in the Rocky Mountain West.

Via advertisements in nine Colorado newspapers, the sportsmen’s groups are urging the Bureau of Land Management to conserve backcountry lands that comprise some of northwest Colorado’s most outstanding public lands hunting and angling. The agency currently is finalizing the White River Resource Management Plan, which will administer 1.5 million acres of federal lands.

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, Bull Moose Sportsmen’s Alliance, Colorado Wildlife Federation, National Wildlife Federation, Trout Unlimited and Western Native Trout Initiative are reaching out together to the BLM.

“Please respect the values of sportsmen by balancing energy development with the protection of our backcountry sporting opportunities and abundant fish and wildlife populations in the White River Resource Management Plan,” the groups state.

The areas in question encompass valuable fish and wildlife habitat. Known as the nation’s “mule deer factory,” northwest Colorado also is home to the largest migratory elk herd in North America and irreplaceable native trout fisheries.

Sporting groups in partnership with local sportsmen and businesses dependent on hunting and angling are requesting that the BLM implement a special land-management classification in an effort to conserve the unique wildlife, recreation, and economic values of the region. Called “backcountry conservation areas,” this management category would conserve specific intact and undeveloped public lands that produce robust game populations and provide high quality hunting and fishing opportunities.

The White River Resource Management Plan Amendment under consideration will guide the BLM’s management of the region’s landscape for the foreseeable future. The White River area offers world-class hunting and angling opportunities as well as abundant mineral resources. An estimated 13,000 wells will be drilled in the area in the next 20 years. Sportsmen are requesting a balanced, conservation-minded approach to this development.

Many sportsmen also support the creation of a master leasing plan in the White River area, which would guide development using a landscape-level management approach.

The sportsmen’s ads will be featured in the Rio Blanco Herald Times on Thursday and in the Denver Post and Craig, Steamboat Springs, Glenwood Springs, Boulder, Loveland, Longmont and Canon City papers on Saturday.

Sportsmen speak directly to the need for responsive backcountry management in northwestern Colorado:

“Sportsmen across the state are depending on the BLM to safeguard our backcountry hunting and fishing grounds and the high quality habitat found on the Western Slope,” said Nick Payne, TRCP Colorado field representative. “To that end, the BLM should implement ‘backcountry conservation areas’ to help maintain the area’s world class public land hunting opportunities.”

“Hunting is a way of life in western Colorado, a tradition that my family has cherished for generations,” said Gabe Lucero, owner of Red Rock Archery in Grand Junction. “As an owner of an archery shop, I also depend on northwest Colorado’s quality hunting to pay the bills year after year. The BLM must ensure that sportsmen still have the opportunity for quality public land hunting indefinitely.”

“The deer, elk and pronghorn herds in northwest Colorado provide hunters a variety of hunting experiences,” said John Ellenberger, a retired wildlife biologist with the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife. “Some areas provide the opportunity for a backcountry hunting experience while others provide the opportunity to bag trophy-size animals. In rare instances, some areas supporting these herds provide the opportunity to do both. As both a hunter and a retired wildlife biologist for the Division of Wildlife, I am intimately familiar with these herds and their habitats. I hope the BLM recognizes what needs to be done to preserve these herds for future generations of Coloradoans.”

“Sportsmen understand the need for quality, undeveloped backcountry habitat, just as we understand the need for responsible energy development. There’s no good reason why we can’t have both,” said Tim Brass with the Colorado chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers.

“In northwest Colorado, native cutthroat populations are under pressure, and safeguarding riparian zones and drainages from development is critical for native trout survival and restoration,” said Robin Knox, coordinator for the Western Native Trout Initiative.

“Retreating to the hunting grounds of the Western Slope’s backcountry is a cherished autumn ritual for many of us in Colorado. Conserving these areas is essential to ensuring this tradition will be enjoyed by the next generation,” said Gaspar Perricone, director of the Bull Moose Sportsmen’s Alliance. “Balancing the energy needs of our state with the unique wildlife value of the region is an attainable goal, and the BLM’s resource management plan should reflect the values of each.”

“The White River Basin offers some of the finest sporting opportunities in our country so sportsmen know we need to do our part to ensure that it stays that way,” said Aaron Kindle, Colorado field coordinator for Trout Unlimited’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project.

“This region epitomizes the image hunters and anglers conjure when dreaming of trophy big game and wild trout, and we encourage the BLM to keep the dream alive for future generations by protecting our access and opportunity,” said John Gale, regional representative for the National Wildlife Federation. “Backcountry conservation areas would help safeguard both.”

Learn more about backcountry conservation areas and how they can sustain fish and wildlife habitat valued by sportsmen.

View the sportsmen’s advertisement here.

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Eric Cosby of Top Brass (foreground) and his brother Artie display a double hook-up on bull reds at the mouth of the Mississippi River during Marsh Mdness 2012. Photo by Lew Carpenter.

 

May 21, 2013 (Washington, DC) – This morning, Chris Horton, Midwest States Director for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF), testified before the Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs of the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill.

The hearing focused on data collection issues in relation to the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA). As the primary statute governing fishing activities in federal waters, the MSA expires on October 1, 2013. Several provisions in the last reauthorization of the MSA in 2006 are beyond the capabilities of the National Marine Fisheries Service to adequately implement. The result has been a confusing series of non-science-based restrictions on America’s recreational anglers that have greatly eroded trust in the federal management system and significantly reduced recreational fishing opportunities.

The focal point of Horton’s testimony before the subcommittee was twofold: recreational saltwater anglers are an important and significant component of our nation’s marine fisheries, and that commercial and recreational fisheries are fundamentally different activities, with dissimilar harvest data collection systems and thus require different management approaches. “As important as the data collection issue is, a concurrent review of the fishery quota allocations will need to be a part of the discussion for some fisheries in light of significant social, economic and environmental changes that have occurred with our nation’s fisheries resources,” Horton stated.

The last reauthorization of the MSA, for all intents and purposes, used the same management strategy for both recreational and commercial fisheries – primarily poundage-based hard quotas with accountability measures. “Instead of trying to force a management system designed for commercial fisheries onto recreational fisheries, NOAA should be tasked with developing a rational recreational fishery management system that uses the data available to us now,” Horton stated.

“It is not possible to contact every recreational angler and count every fish they catch, which is necessary to be successful under the current strategy. We would be better served to take a page from inland fish and wildlife management agencies who have effectively managed fisheries based on mortality rates and population indices and not on biomass,” Horton continued.

Horton works on various sportsmen’s related issues, including recreational saltwater angling and was recently appointed to NOAA’s Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee’s Recreational Fisheries Working Group. For more information, contact Cole Henry at cole@sportsmenslink.org.

Since 1989 the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) has maintained a singleness of purpose that has guided the organization to become the most respected and trusted sportsmen’s organization in the political arena. CSF’s mission is to work with Congress, governors, and state legislatures to protect and advance hunting, recreational fishing and shooting and trapping. The unique and collective force of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC), the Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus (GSC) and the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC), working closely with CSF, and with the support of major hunting, recreational fishing and shooting, and trapping organizations, serves as an unprecedented network of pro-sportsmen elected officials that advance the agenda of America’s hunters and anglers.

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Tim Kizer of Arkansas fishes a segment of the Louisiana wetlands where sediment from the Mississippi River is being diverted to rebuild the marsh, creating sustainable redfish habitat. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Robust fisheries have a positive impact on conservation and the economy

Washington, D.C. – May 6, 2013 – Restoring and expanding coastal and estuarine habitat leads to increases in fish populations, which have a positive impact on the communities and the industries that depend on thriving and sustainable fisheries.

A report released today by Restore America’s Estuaries (RAE) and the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and co-authored with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – More Habitat Means More Fish – makes a powerful case that investing in our nation’s coastlines and estuaries leads to healthy habitat and strong fisheries, which has a positive impact on the businesses and industries, both recreational and commercial, that need healthy fisheries to survive and thrive.

The full report, More Habitat Means More Fish, is available for downloading in PDF format via the RAE and ASA websites.

Among the findings are:

Over 75 percent of our nation’s commercial fish catch and 80-90 percent of the recreational fish catch depend on key estuary habitat at some point in their lifecycle.

Fish populations can respond quickly to habitat improvement and the impact will last over an extended period of time. Rebounds in fish populations can occur within months and persist for years.

In San Francisco Bay, restored salt marshes have improved 41 fish species including steelhead trout, Pacific herring, green sturgeon and Chinook salmon.

Since 2000, in Massachusetts and New York, herring, shad and sturgeon have doubled and tripled in population due to habitat restoration projects. Just two years after a single culvert was repaired connecting Bride Brook to Long Island Sound, the herring population more than tripled from 75,000 to 287,000.

An oyster reef restoration project in Alabama increased populations of several economically-important species, including blue crab, red drum, spotted seatrout, and flounder.

“Investing in coastal and estuarine habitat restoration is essential not only for the long-term future of our fisheries but also because it helps support economies and communities through the recreational and commercial fishing industries,” said Jeff Benoit, president and CEO of Restore America’s Estuaries. “In order to have fish, we have to have healthy habitat. If we want more fish, we need more healthy habitat.”

American Sportfishing Association President and CEO Mike Nussman noted, “As an industry, we are keenly aware of the impact that sportfishing has on our nation’s habitat restoration efforts. In many ways, America’s anglers are the nation’s most powerful force for conserving our nation’s fisheries and waters, investing more than $1 billion dollars each year in fisheries management and conservation through taxes on fishing equipment and state fishing license sales.”

The report notes that strategic habitat restoration is required, particularly in an era of shrinking budgets. “The big challenges that fisheries face are increasingly habitat challenges. Without healthy habitat, we cannot sustain the fisheries that will feed Americans now and into the future,” said Eric C. Schwaab, assistant administrator for NOAA Fisheries.

The full report is available via RAE and ASA.

### Founded in 1995, Restore America’s Estuaries is a national alliance of 11 regional, coastal conservation organizations with more than 250,000 volunteer-members dedicated to preserving our nation’s estuaries.

The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) is the sportfishing industry’s trade association committed to representing the interests of the entire sportfishing community. We give the industry a unified voice, speaking out on behalf of sportfishing and boating industries, state and federal natural resource agencies, conservation organizations, angler advocacy groups and outdoor journalists when emerging laws and policies could significantly affect sportfishing business or sportfishing itself. ASA invests in long-term ventures to ensure the industry will remain strong and prosperous, as well as safeguard and promote the enduring social, economic and conservation values of sportfishing in America. ASA also gives America’s 60 million anglers a voice in policy decisions that affect their ability to sustainably fish on our nation’s waterways through KeepAmericaFishing™, our angler advocacy campaign. America’s anglers generate over $48 billion in retail sales with a $115 billion impact on the nation’s economy creating employment for more than 828,000 people.

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From left: Gabe Galster, Tim Kizer and Joe DiMarco in the Louisiana wetlands with a batch of fresh-run reds. Photo by Lew Carpenter

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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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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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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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DENVER – The discovery of a spill near a natural gas plant and a creek that flows into the Colorado River “should be a wake-up call’’ for state regulators to finish what was started five years ago – establishing safe setbacks from waterways.

Colorado River 56 miles from Parachute at James M Robb State Park. Photo Courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Colorado River 56 miles from Parachute at James M Robb State Park. Photo Courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

 

The Colorado Wildlife Federation and National Wildlife Federation noted that riparian buffers for oil and gas wells and infrastructure were one of the issues left on the table when the state overhauled its oil and gas rules in 2008.

 

“We’re all waiting for more details of the spill near Parachute and results from the investigation,  but  whatever the precise facts, this should be a wake-up call for the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission,’’ NWF attorney Michael Saul said Tuesday.

 

State and federal agencies are investigating and helping in the cleanup of a leak of thousands of gallons of hydrocarbons in a pipeline right of way adjacent to a gas-processing plant owned by Williams north of Parachute in western Colorado. The underground leak is about 60 feet from the edge of Parachute Creek, which flows into the Colorado River.

 

“This is one more strong argument for keeping oil and gas wells and related infrastructure a safe distance from waterways,’’ said Suzanne O’Neill, executive director of the Colorado Wildlife Federation. “Regulators pledged to form a stakeholders’ group to develop standards for riparian setbacks a while ago. We’re still waiting.’’

 

Saul and O’Neill said better monitoring of surface and groundwater quality is crucial to protect Colorado drinking waters and fish and wildlife habitat.

 

“This might have been detected sooner with better monitoring. We don’t know how long this has being going on,’’ Saul added.

Last year, a spill from an oil well site reached creeks that eventually flow into the North Platte River in Colorado’s North Park area. News of the spill prompted hunting and angling groups to renew a push for buffers around waterways.

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The National Wildlife Federation is America’s conservation organization inspiring Americans to protect wildlife for our children’s future.

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