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The South Platte at Elevenmile Canyon, Colorado. Photo by Rich Holland

The South Platte at Elevenmile Canyon, Colorado. Photo by Rich Holland

Former Interior Secretary Salazar, NWF CEO and affiliates say keep public lands public

Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar joined Collin O’Mara, the National Wildlife Federation’s CEO and president, and business and conservation leaders Thursday to speak out for conserving America’s public lands and against attempts to sell or get rid of the lands that sustain fish and wildlife populations as well as hunting, fishing and the country’s multi-billion-dollar outdoor recreation industry.

The National Wildlife Federation’s 49 state affiliates have unanimously approved a resolution that calls for keeping public lands in public hands and opposes large-scale exchanges, sales or giveaways of federally managed lands. This week, 41 of the state affiliates sent a letter to the Republican National Committee asking that it rescind a resolution adopted this year that urges Congress to turn over public lands to the Western states that want them.

The affiliates noted that public lands help grow America’s economy by supporting an outdoor recreation industry that generates $646 billion in economic benefit annually and supports 6.1 million jobs. The organizations stressed that wise stewardship of the lands that belong to all Americans is a long tradition that cuts across political and social lines.

Shadow Mountain Lake, Colorado. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Shadow Mountain Lake, Colorado. Photo by Lew Carpenter

“Despite the economic importance of federal lands to wildlife and people, they remain under constant threat. In recent years, several state legislative proposals have called on the federal government to transfer ownership of public lands to the states, which in turn would pass them off to private interests in many instances,” the organizations wrote.

The Interior Department’s latest annual economic report shows the agency’s programs and activities generated $360 billion in benefits and supported more than 2 million jobs nationwide in fiscal 2013. Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar started preparing the reports in 2009 to highlight the department’s contributions to the U.S. economy.

“The nation’s public lands are the birthright and priceless heritage of all Americans. Our policymakers and elected leaders should be working to preserve and enhance these multiple use economic engines,” said Salazar, who served as Interior secretary from 2009 to 2013.

The National Wildlife Federation is on the front lines of conserving fish and wildlife and the places where they live, and in large part those places are public lands, O’Mara said.

“The National Wildlife Federation, our 49 state affiliates, and four million members and supporters strongly support keeping our public lands in public hands. As a diverse federation of hunters, anglers, hikers, wildlife watchers, and nature lovers, we are united in our passion for protecting public lands, which provide amazing outdoor experiences for all Americans, landscapes for deer, elk, pronghorn, and bison herds to migrate, forests for grizzlies, bighorn sheep and lynx, and critical habitat for more than 700 species of birds, 220 species of mammals, 1,000 species of fish and 250 reptile and amphibian species. For more than a century, protecting land for the benefit all outdoor enthusiasts and wildlife has been an essential element of the American experience—and we must pass on this legacy to future generations,” O’Mara said.

The wildlife federations have worked through the years to conserve the public lands necessary for fish and wildlife and hunting and fishing and will continue to do, said David Chadwick, Montana Wildlife Federation executive director.

“Every few decades this idea of selling off public land pops up, and public opinion always beats it back. Meanwhile, the challenges facing our national forests and other public lands have continued to grow,” Chadwick added. “We need our elected officials to quit wasting time on these speculative, ideological proposals and instead take action on the common-sense, collaborative efforts under way all over the country to improve land management.”

Hanging Lake, Colorado. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Hanging Lake, Colorado. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Surveys and polls show overwhelming support for public lands among voters in the West, the target of many of the drives to dispose of public land. That support extends beyond the region to other parts of the country where hunters, anglers and other wildlife enthusiasts enjoy the backcountry, rivers and forests, said Tim Gestwicki, the North Carolina Wildlife Federation CEO.

“Sportsmen and women and wildlife watchers in the Southeast value our public lands, from the Appalachians to the coast. We also value the Western lands and their abundant wildlife, big open spaces and great hunting and fishing. We stand with our fellow sportsmen and women in defending public lands and protecting the special places that offer some of the best of what this country is about,” Gestwicki said.

“Sportsmen are on the front line in this effort to prevent the transfer of federal public lands. These are the very lands where we hunt and fish, and where we pass on those traditions to our kids. The idea that somehow our federal public lands are dispensable is an affront to all hunters and anglers, and we are determined to protect these lands for ourselves and for future generations,” said Garrett VeneKlasen, executive director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation.

America’s national parks, monuments and rugged landscapes are not only a draw for people in this country, but across the world, said Peter Metcalf, CEO and president of Black Diamond, Inc., a leading manufacturer of outdoor sports equipment and clothing.

“No other country in the world has the public land infrastructure that we have. There’s such a richness of landscape and wildlife. Our public lands and outdoor recreation and lifestyles are coveted by people around the world and are a draw for communities and employers competing for new businesses and workers,” Metcalf said. “Black Diamond’s brand is synonymous with these iconic landscapes that capture the imagination of people all over the world. In addition they are a source of inspiration for our designers, engineers and marketing people.”

Additional Resources: `Valuing our Public Lands: Safeguarding our Economy and Way of Life,’

National Wildlife Federation affiliates’ resolution on transfer of public lands.

NWF affiliates’ letter on transfer, sale of public lands.

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The National Wildlife Federation’s Sportsmen Initiative invites you to attend the 2014 Nebraska Fishing Trip. Your event fees will support NWF’s work with hunters and anglers to conserve fish and wildlife habitat and protect our sporting heritage.

Brian Bashore, NWF Board Director and professional walleye guide (thewalleyeguides.com) heads up this great event.

Brian Bashore, NWF Board Director and professional walleye guide (thewalleyeguides.com) heads up this great event.

Experience:
Fishing – 2 full days of Nebraska’s finest walleye and trout fishing
Golfing – on what might be the world’s most undisturbed golf course
Learn about NWF’s sportsmen programs and the Nebraska Wildlife Federation
Meet NWF’s new CEO/President, Collin O’Mara          

What:   2014 Nebraska Fishing Trip

Where: The Prairie Club

When:  October 16 – October 19th

Time: Thursday, the 16th, starting at 5 pm Happy Hour. Sunday, check out

Please see the flyer and the response card for more information on how to register to attend. See you in the Sandhills!

http://www.nwf.org/Sportsmen/Events.aspx

 

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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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Updated federal fracking rule: An opportunity for transparency, stewardship and responsible energy development on our public lands

 

WASHINGTONAs the Interior Department prepares to release new federal fracking regulations, a sportsmen’s coalition is urging officials to make sure the rules will adequately protect air and water quality, fish and wildlife.

 

The update to oil and gas drilling methods on federal and tribal lands is the first in about 30 years, Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development noted Tuesday. Meanwhile, the process of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” has significantly changed, opening previously inaccessible land to development.

 

“The reality is the technology and methods have changed since the original rule was put in place. Today, millions of gallons of fluids and chemicals are injected underground at high pressure,’’ said Brad Powell, energy director for Trout Unlimited’s Sportsmen’s Conservation Project. “We know there are a lot of good companies doing the right thing. But it’s critical to have safeguards in place. We can’t run the risk of contaminating groundwater or surface water and endangering people, fish and wildlife.”

 

The National Wildlife Federation, Trout Unlimited and the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership are the lead partners in the SFRED coalition. SFRED supports requiring companies to disclose the chemicals in fracking fluids both before and after drilling so that appropriate steps can be taken to safeguard natural resources.

 

Hunters and anglers urge the Interior Department to retain provisions in an earlier draft of the rules that address well-casing integrity and fracking fluid waste. The fluids must be properly contained and water quality must be monitored, coalition members said.

 

The U.S. House Natural Resources Committee plans a hearing Wednesday on the federal fracking rule. Hunters and anglers encourage committee members to implement federal oil and gas regulations that match the industry’s 21st century technology.

 

SFRED members also stressed that the Bureau of Land Management must not abdicate its responsibility for managing federal lands to the states as some in Congress have suggested.

 

“A responsible Federal policy is needed to set a baseline that all States must meet on Federal lands,’’ SFRED said in written testimony submitted to the Natural Resources Committee.

 

“The committee’s hearing notice calls a new federal rule a recipe for ‘waste, duplication and delay,’ and we respectfully disagree,’’ said Lew Carpenter, the National Wildlife Federation’s regional representative. “Lawmakers need to remember that the public lands they’re discussing belong to all Americans who cherish them for the fishing, hunting and recreation they provide.’’

 

SFRED understands that energy is vital to our economy and way of life and that decreasing our reliance on foreign sources is important.

 

“At the same time, federal lands are a public trust, managed for multiple uses. Economies across the West rely on the tourism and recreation public lands sustain,’’ said Ed Arnett,  director of energy programs for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “These public lands provide a lifestyle that draws people and businesses to the area. They’re a priceless legacy and a treasure we hope to leave to future generations.’’

 

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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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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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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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