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Posts Tagged ‘Louisiana’

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SHOT Show floor. By Lew Carpenter

I work in conservation because I love our lands, waters, fish and wildlife.

I am a sportsman.

When I think about the incredible opportunities I have in America to fish and hunt on public lands and waters, I feel strong, proud and grateful. But protecting what I – and tens of millions of other sportsmen and women around the country – value isn’t easy.

Yet it should be.

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SHOT Show panel. Photo by Kristyn Brady, TRCP

So when the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) asked me to be part of a panel reviewing the Trump administration’s first year of conservation at the 2018 SHOT Show last month, I gladly agreed to speak in front of representatives from across the shooting and hunting industry. After all, this industry relies on healthy habitat, clean water and vast public lands, and supports wildlife conservation through excise taxes and investment.

It’s a symbiotic relationship where a healthy environment drives economic gain, fueling opportunity, access and large and small businesses. These basic values and tenants emerged during the SHOT Show panel, including the current threats to sporting values and wildlife health that continue to grow at a pace that should concern all sportsmen and women. Read on for an overview of what the panel discussed, focused on public lands policies, the recent withdrawal of Clean Water Act protections to headwaters and wetlands, and restoring the Mississippi River Delta.

Public Land Access and Energy Development

Enacting policies to expand sportsman access to public lands is not just popular, it’s also critical to the future of hunting and fishing. A staggering amount of public land is landlocked, surrounded by private lands, and in many cases efforts to close easement access to these lands is ongoing. Great victories, such as the Sabinoso Wilderness effort by New Mexico Wildlife Federation (NMWF) and TRCP – working with both senators in New Mexico to garner funding and purchase private land – allowed a donation to the federal government for access to that pristine wilderness.

With hundreds of NMWF members signing a petition telling Secretary Zinke to open up this wilderness, this was a landmark example of what happens when sportsmen and women fight for their access, and was a huge victory years in the making.

Discussion turned to energy development and dominance on public lands, where energy development and mining can coexist with healthy habitat and quality hunting and angling. But this balance does not happen by chance.

Responsible energy and extraction development requires both careful planning and a commitment from decision makers to get it right from the start. It is, therefore, critical that our public land management agencies – the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service – have the right policies and procedures in place to facilitate both energy development and the conservation of healthy fish and wildlife populations.

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Waterfowl hunting on public land. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Withdrawal of Clean Water Act Protections

Moving on to water issues, we touched on the EPA’s decision to withdraw Clean Water Act protections for headwaters and wetlands impacting fish, waterfowl and businesses that rely on quality places to hunt and fish.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Environmental Protection Agency have begun the process of rescinding the 2015 provision that clarified protections for headwater streams and wetlands under the Clean Water Act, despite broad public support for the rule and its benefits for fish and wildlife habitat. This is the first step in a two-step process to replace the rule, set into motion by an executive order in February 2017.

The repeal and replacement plan is likely to roll back Clean Water Act protections for a majority of the nation’s streams and wetlands, including the headwater streams that are so important for fish and game, plus millions of acres of seasonal wetlands that store flood waters and provide essential habitat for more than half of North American migratory waterfowl. Areas like the Prairie Potholes and Louisiana wetlands are at tremendous risk.

As the panel came to the end of its time, Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt took the podium. His prepared words of admonishment were designed to minimize any panel criticism of the administration, which was disappointing in its anticipation of our healthy, but brief dialogue.

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Deer hunting the Piceance Basin north of Rifle, Colorado. Photo by Henry Byerly

I spoke to the Deputy Secretary afterward about the place he grew up — Rifle, Colorado – and the collapse of the deer herds north of there in a place once called the “Deer Factory.” Fifteen thousand new oil and gas wells are proposed for that area in the coming years – an example he disregarded. However we shifted back to the Gulf Coast wetlands and the need for his administration to ensure that the coordination of sediment diversion project-permitting in Louisiana happens efficiently, which was something he expressed interest in supporting.

Restoring the Mississippi River Delta

It’s easy to understand getting behind restoring the Mississippi River Delta. A football field of wetlands continues to disappear every hour along the coast of Louisiana, and with those wetlands goes vital fish and waterfowl habitat.

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6.5-pound flounder in the Bird Claw of Louisiana’s wetlands. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Later that week Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA) and other state and federal agencies to collaborate on permitting for the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion under the guidance of Trump Executive Order 13807. Located in Plaquemines Parish, the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion is a Louisiana Coastal Master Plan project that would direct sediment, freshwater and nutrients from the Mississippi River into nearby wetlands to build and maintain land in Louisiana’s Barataria Basin.

The Vanishing Paradise campaign was pleased to see this firm commitment to adhering to the two-year timeline for project permitting in an environmentally and legally responsible manner.

Looking Ahead

We can’t continue to simply hope our politicians on both sides of the aisle protect our public lands, waterways and wildlife. We have to hold them all accountable every day, or the opportunities that drive our sporting legacy, heritage and businesses will disappear.

At every turn, our fundamental values are being challenged – in some cases on a grand scale, and others by a thousand small cuts. Access and opportunity rely on robust public lands that allow wildlife and people to move freely. They rely on clean water, clean air and healthy soil. We shouldn’t have to continually fight for these basic tenants, but instead spend our energy addressing other critical challenges impacting our wildlife.

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“It is one of the most diverse fisheries in the world and it offers anglers of all abilities a place to have one of the most memorable fishing experiences of their lives,” Jesse Simpkins, director of marketing, St.Croix Fishing.

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Fished without a blade, these Z-Man Swimmin’ Trout with Trout Eye jigheads fish well in dirtier water and have excellent action played on the drop and off the bottom. Photo by Shane Clevenger

Targeting redfish in the Mississippi River Delta is one of life’s great joys. Anglers lucky enough to spend time here are greeted with thousands of square miles of prime habitat for chasing this dynamic species. Its big shoulders, voracious appetite and tasty flesh make the redfish (Red Drum) one of the world’s great game fish. Those that hunt reds soon find the pursuit and harvest make for an addiction rarely forgotten.

I’m fortunate enough of spend plenty of time in the marsh and, following 16 years of incredible success due to the help of great friends and industry colleagues, some solid techniques have emerged.

This past October, one week before Hurricane Nate crashed through the Delta, I hit the water with anglers both new and old to the area. High winds put us off the mouth of the Mississippi at Southwest Pass, where we normally target massive schools of big reds. The Roseau cane offered relief from the wind and epic, action-packed results.

“When red fishing in Venice, Louisiana, one of my favorite marshland vegetations to target are the Roseau cane,” said Shane Clevenger of Z-Man Fishing Products. “Bait fish will hide in this cane to evade predators such as redfish, largemouth, sheepshead and flounder. Similar to the Spartina grass I’m accustomed to in Charleston, SC, the redfish will actually get up in the cane chasing shrimp and other small bait. This can make sightfishing for them a blast as long as you know not only what to look for but how to present your bait.”

Clevenger explains that small baitfish will make tighter wakes while redfish will make a more substantial “V” wake while swimming, also known as a “push.” He likes to look for these pushes along the edges of the Roseau cane and cast his Z-Man ChatterBait 5- to 6-feet in front of the tip of the “V” “As soon as your bladed jig hits the water start burning it back to the boat,” he said. “The sound and flash of the ChatterBait will drive the reds out and away from the cane so when they hit you can fight them in open water with less chance of breaking them off. Unlike the spookier reds we’re used to seeing in Charleston, these South Louisiana Delta reds can be re-targeted if they miss the bait the first time. Just like when fishing for largemouth, recast near where they first hit the bait and more times than not you’ll find yourself in a skinny-water fight!”

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Modern iterations of the spinnerbait include this highly effective Z-Man Chatterbait which provides action and sound to attract reds. Photo by Shane Clevenger

When the tide is high and you’re finding the fish to be a little more lethargic, often a larger profile bait is a overkill. This is an ideal time to downsize your tackle and throw a 3-inch grub. “This is where I’d go with a Z-Man 3.5-inch Swimmin’ Trout Trick pegged to a 3/16th oz Trout Eye jighead,” Clevenger said. “Fried Chicken seemed to be a deadly color for us with a generously flaked, muted tan body and chartreuse tail. The contrast of the tail with the body and the oversized 3D eye on the jighead make it easy for reds to pick this bait out in the dingy water. As a bonus, as long as you don’t break it off, you can fish this one bait all day due to the durability of Z-Man’s ElaZtech.”

“Remember, we’re not fishing this bait as aggressive as the ChatterBait,” he continued. “With this smaller profile paddle tail, the key is casting as close to the edge where the water meets the cane and letting the bait sink. The tail on this bait has some of the best action of any paddle tail bait out there so while this bait sinks the tail is doing all the work for you. Once the bait rests on the bottom the buoyant ElaZtech material, common in all Z-Man soft plastics, will cause the tail to float up and undulate in the current. This perfectly mimics a shrimp or small minnow foraging in the mud and is irresistible to hungry predators. After letting it sit for a few seconds, give a small pop of the rod tip to hop the bait up a couple feet and let it sink once again. Nine times out of ten the fish will hit the bait on the fall.”

Pro Angler Brian Latimer agrees with those techniques and fished the shallowest canes he could find in the Redfish pass and Spanish pass area, yielding prolific days (see his video “Redfish Booty” here [https://youtu.be/ZC-vEghSs-A] for live action)

“The key when blind casting was anywhere current was restricted by either a cane point or small guts leading to backwater ponds,” Latimer said. “I exclusively used a green pumpkin Z-man original chatterbait tipped with a purple demon Z-man minnowz. I tied my bait directly to Seaguar 50-pound flipping braid. I also sight fished a few reds using the same set up but letting the bait rest on the bottom.”

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Tried-and-true spinner bait with a dark body and Colorado blade are tough to resist for active and curious reds. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Great modern baits aren’t the only road to success, and old tried-and-true spinnerbaits with a black body or other dark patterns and chartreuse tail have brought plenty of fish to the boat, as well as targeted Rat-L-Trap crank baits.

As for fishing rods, I prefer a 7-foot bait cast model rated around 15- to 20-pounds that is both sensitive for pitching close to the cane and also powerful for taming those bruiser reds. I’ve been using a St. Croix rod like that for decades and currently the St. Croix Legend Tournament stick is perfect. As the saying goes, if I could only have one rod in the marsh…this is the one.

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A powerful, sensitive 7-foot bait casting rod like St. Croix’s Legend Tournament stick is perfect for flipping, long casts and conquering shouldery reds.

Pair that rod with a low profile or round bait cast reel, which all the reel manufacturers are making (think bass-fishing reels), loaded with today’s great mono or fluorocarbon lines from makers like Seaguar and you’ve got a perfect setup. Some folks feel if you’re casting crank baits it’s better to have some braided line (pulls from the cane easier….sometimes) so the treble hooks don’t nick through the mono during windy casts, but I have tended to simply pay attention to my line when using crank baits and cutting off nicked sections when I find them.

I’m hard pressed to find a better place for wide-open fishing action like we have in the Louisiana marshes. It’s a place I journey to at least once a year. It’s also a place that needs to be both protected and restored. The loss of these wetlands on a daily basis is staggering. But I feel fortunate that great folks in the fishing and hunting community are paying attention and working hard to help reverse the loss of this world-class fishery and waterfowl habitat (11 million ducks and geese winter here, too).

Our group of anglers, entering 20 years of annual fishing together in these wetlands, is led by Eric Cosby of Top Brass tackle. Cosby has been an incredible advocate for wetlands conservation, allowing a conservation voice at the event, and by his personal commitment to wetlands restoration as an Advisory Council member for Vanishing Paradise and a veteran visitor to Washington D.C. to directly advocate to lawmakers. He creates a great nexus between conservation and the fishing industry, and Vanishing Paradise is grateful to be a part of a classic event that brings outdoor writers and industry folks together to experience this awesome fishery.

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Today, one of America’s leading wildlife conservation groups released a report outlining 47 projects that would improve the health of the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of the 2010 oil spillDSCN2879

“We can’t undo the oil spill, but we can take concrete steps to make the Gulf of Mexico a better place for fish and wildlife,” said Steve Bender, director of National Wildlife Federation’s Vanishing Paradise campaign. “This type of comprehensive habitat restoration will measurably boost populations of fish and waterfowl.”

Restoring the Gulf of Mexico for People and Wildlife: Recommended Projects and Priorities takes a broad look at restoration efforts that would benefit all five Gulf Coast states—Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. The recommendations emphasize restoring the areas where rivers flow into the Gulf of Mexico, such as the Mississippi River Delta. These places are important nurseries for marine life and provide wintering habitat for waterfowl.

Money for restoration projects could come from the billions that BP and the other companies responsible for the 2010 spill will pay in fines and penalties. Much of this money will ultimately be distributed to the Gulf states for restoration.

“Over the past hundred years, we’ve made major changes to the way our rivers flow into the Gulf of Mexico,” added Bender. “The results have not been pretty for fish and wildlife. Restoring degraded coastal habitats will help numerous species of fish and these habitats are also critical for the millions of waterfowl that winter or stopover on the Gulf Coast.”

The report’s 47 proposals can be grouped into these five general categories:

1. Restoring Wetlands: Wetlands play a critical role in the Gulf ecosystem—creating habitat for fish and wildlife, filtering pollutants, stabilizing shorelines and providing protection from storms. Over the past eight decades, the Gulf Coast has lost an area of wetlands larger than the state of state of Delaware, largely in the area of Louisiana known as the Mississippi River Delta.

2. Restoring Sediment: The Mississippi River is hemmed in by man-made levees; the river sediment that once nourished the delta’s wetlands is now propelled deep into the Gulf. If all of the 19 recommended projects in Louisiana were built, together they would sustain, restore and rebuild as many as 300 square miles of wetlands that would otherwise be lost by 2060.

3. Restoring the Balance between Fresh and Saltwater: Estuaries are created where fresh water from rivers mixes with saltwater from the Gulf. In most of the Gulf’s estuaries the natural balance of fresh and salt water has been dramatically altered. The report recommends fixes for many of the Gulf’s major estuaries, including the Everglades and Apalachicola Bay in Florida as well as five systems in Texas.

4. Restoring Oyster Reefs: An adult oyster can filter as much as 50 gallons of water per day, and oyster reefs provide important habitat for many economically important species of fish, such as redfish, shrimp, and blue crabs. Oyster reefs also create physical structures that can protect coastal communities from storms. Restoring oyster reefs is a key element in several of the recommended projects in the report, for example in Mississippi’s Biloxi Bay and Bay St. Louis.

5. Protecting Critical Landscapes: In a few select places, the report recommends purchasing key parcels of coastal lands to protect them in perpetuity. For example, the report recommends adding lands to Alabama’s Grand Bay and Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuges.

The report is aimed at informing a series of decisions that will be ultimately made for funds flowing from the Gulf oil disaster, including those to be made by Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council. The federal-state council is tasked with implementing a comprehensive restoration plan to include a list of projects prioritized for their impact on the Gulf ecosystem. The council recently released a list of projects and programs proposed for funding with oil spill penalty money.

“America’s hunters and anglers want to enjoy a restored Gulf of Mexico,” said Bender. “We owe it to future generations to make sure the oil spill dollars are spent on projects that will really make a difference.”

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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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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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“We look forward to working with the Council as it continues to develop a comprehensive plan that will successfully restore the Gulf and the dynamic hunting and fishing industry this incredible ecosystem supports.”

New Orleans, LA (January 31, 2013)—The Gulf Ecosystem Restoration Council released a “path forward” document this week broadly outlining how RESTORE Act funds can be used to restore the Gulf Coast.

20120218-123704.jpgLeaders of the Vanishing Paradise campaign, a nationwide sportsman’s effort to restore the Louisiana Wildlife Federation, say they are looking forward to working with the council as it further refines its plans to restore the fish and wildlife habitats of the Gulf of Mexico.

“Every single dollar we spend conserving habitat, restoring water quality, protecting coastal and marine resources, and enhancing community resiliency will come back to us many times over—positively affecting the nation’s economy now and for generations to come,” said Land Tawney, NWF’s senior manager for sportsmen leadership. “We look forward to working with the Council as it continues to develop a comprehensive plan that will successfully restore the Gulf and the dynamic hunting and fishing industry this incredible ecosystem supports.”

“Louisiana loses an area of marsh the size of a football field every hour,” DU Director of Public Policy and co-lead of Vanishing Paradise Barton James said. “The Council’s plan is another milestone in large-scale coastal restoration policy.”

“Louisiana’s coast hosts world class fishing and hunting and is an integral part of the health of the state’s and nation’s economy,” said Louisiana Wildlife Federation Coastal Outreach Coordinator Chris Macaluso. “Unfortunately the oil spill in 2010 heaped more damage on top of nearly a century of habitat loss in Louisiana that threatens coastal communities, economies and deep-rooted cultural ties to hunting and fishing. We need to build vital habitat restoration projects, some of which have been discussed and designed for decades. Importantly, the path forward also acknowledges the need to break down the bureaucratic impediments that have stalled large-scale coastal restoration efforts in our state.”

Background
The Gulf Ecosystem Restoration Council is charged with developing a comprehensive plan to restore the Gulf environment and the Council directly oversees expenditure of 30 percent of RESTORE Act funds for the ecological restoration projects specified in that comprehensive plan.

This “Path Forward” is the beginning of a process that will culminate in a plan scheduled to be completed and released in July 2013.

The Gulf states and federal agencies have already agreed to the strategy and restoration goals developed by the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force. These provide the basis for the large-scale restoration plan that is needed to make good on national promises to the Gulf region.

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Next week the shooting, hunting and outdoors industry again will engage in one of the largest trade shows I’ve ever experienced. The SHOT Show is the once-a-year gathering place for manufacturers, wholesalers, retailers, publishers and wildlife conservation organizations. It’s where a passion for firearms, ammunition and outdoors equipment, plus the industry’s unified support for the Second Amendment, are on display.

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Author Lew Carpenter at SHOT Show 2012 Media Day with a Smith and Wesson M&P 15 in .300.

This is the 35th annual SHOT Show. The first SHOT Show was in 1979 in St. Louis, Missouri, and more than 60,000 professionals in the shooting, hunting and outdoors industry attended SHOT Show in 2012. In addition more than 2,000 members of the outdoor and mainstream media, including international media, cover the show.

It’s an incredible event, and one where today’s important issues will be discussed with, no doubt, a wide spectrum of opinions. Top-tier issues that affect this industry will certainly include universal background checks for gun buyers, modern sporting rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

In 2012, modern sporting rifles (like the one seen in the picture above) accelerated in popularity. This year’s show will be no different, with an abundance of peripheral accessories to compliment these popular rifles. As hunters and shooting enthusiasts we all have a responsibility to engage in honest, open discussion about the safety of our communities and family members. SHOT Show is an important gathering place where people of integrity will have these discussions.

Other issues of concern to sportsmen will also be on tap. Primarily, conservation.

Personally, I have been engaged for the past four years in the Vanishing Paradise campaign – a movement to restore the Louisiana wetlands. And, as many of you understand, the Mississippi River Delta supports incredible fishing and is the winter home for 70-percent of the waterfowl in the Central and Mississippi flyways.

Vanishing Paradise team members Andy McDaniels and Land Tawney wait for waterfowl in the Louisiana wetlands.

Vanishing Paradise team members Andy McDaniels and Land Tawney wait for waterfowl in the Louisiana wetlands.

Due to efforts by Vanishing Paradise and other conservation organizations, The RESTORE Act last July passed through Congress with strong support from the sportsman’s community, and we can expect that most of the money (80-percent) from any Clean Water Act fines will be sent back to the states affected by the spill.

Unfortunately, the oil spill isn’t over—and America’s hunters and anglers know it.

Every week it seems that scientists discover a previously unknown consequence of the spill. For example, scientists recently announced  that species like mahi mahi—if even briefly exposed to small amounts of oil while still in their eggs—grow up unable to swim as fast as unexposed fish.

It is not surprising that in one recent poll, 81% of hunters and anglers said they thought BP should pay the maximum penalty for their role in the spill.

Last month, the Department of Justice hammered out a plea agreement where BP agreed to pay $4.5 billion to settle the criminal claims against it. Importantly, the company also acknowledged negligence in the deaths of 11 rig workers.

But this criminal settlement doesn’t mean it is all over—far from it.

The Justice Department is still pursuing civil claims against BP under our nation’s environmental laws. If found guilty of gross negligence at trial—and Justice seems to think it has a strong case—BP would face fines in the range of 20 billion under the Clean Water Act alone.

The company also faces billions of dollars in assessments under the Oil Pollution Act. This law requires the company to pay the costs of restoring the Gulf back to the condition it was in at the time of the disaster. To give you a sense of the potential scale, if BP paid the same amount per gallon as Exxon did in the Valdez case, we’d be looking at roughly $30 billion dollars for restoration.

These may seem like large numbers, but it will take an investment on this scale to make the Gulf whole again. It is the Department of Justice’s job to see that BP is held fully accountable. And it is our job, as hunters and anglers, to keep the heat on the Justice Department to make sure it happens.

Please speak up and demand that BP own up to its carelessness in the Gulf and that the Justice Department hold the company fully accountable. America’s hunting and fishing legacy depends on it.

Out West

SHOT Show is also an important place to discuss areas out West where I, like many of you, hunt mule deer, elk, pronghorn and other great species. If you have an interest in supporting and saving our great western hunting legacy, OPL_Sigplease see the Our Public Lands website. Ourpubliclands.org is a place for hunters, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts to get information about the public lands where they enjoy their favorite activities. The public lands issues on the website focus on:

FRIENDS OF COLORADOOUTDOORS.NET

Finally, SHOT Show is a place to reconnect with old friends. And although there are too many to list here, I’m going to take a moment to highlight two great partners who have helped with the Vanishing Paradise campaign and whose senior leadership have been friends of mine for decades.

RealTree Camo has developed the industry’s most realistic pattern ever. Last week the company unveiled its new camo pattern, Realtree Xtra, also available in Realtree Xtra Green.Image

The breakthrough in camo pattern realism comes from a combination of design and printing technology that delivers three distinct fields within one camo pattern: a foreground, mid-ground, and background.

“New Realtree Xtra and Xtra Green truly live up to their names, giving hunters extra effectiveness in the field,” said Realtree Designer and President Bill Jordan. “All throughout the development process, we focused on creating incredible depth, visual confusion and 3D effects in the pattern mid-grounds and backgrounds while still retaining total sharpness and detail in the foreground elements. The result is as close to nature as we’ve ever gotten.”The Realtree Xtra and Realtree Xtra Green camo designs feature 12 warm, natural colors-one with more green. The new designs provide all-season utility for hunters and outdoorspeople. Its subtle shadows, highlights, and textures blend with more terrain and lighting conditions than any other camo pattern available and make Realtree Xtra the most versatile camo on the market.

And our friends at Plano Molding have completely remodeled the Plano website. The new and improved version showcases all Plano products and is much easier to navigate. It also features videos and articles by members of photoPlano’s pro staff and highlights products that they personally endorse. Head on over to www.planomolding.com and have a look around.

Hope to see you all at SHOT Show 2013 and safe travels to the City of Sin!

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