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Posts Tagged ‘Vanishing Paradise’

Recreation infrastructure often is supported by LWCF funding, providing access to hunters and anglers. Photo by Lew Carpenter

Boat ramps, bathrooms, public open space, picnic tables, recreation infrastructure – simple things we often forget about until we can’t use them (due to pandemics or lack of maintenance). The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) often is a little-known financial backbone for communities that support hunters, anglers and outdoor recreation users in their wild pursuits.

LWCF generates new jobs, creates new opportunities for recreation and provides fuel for state and local economies. For more than five decades it has helped create and maintain parks, hiking and biking trails, ballfields, waterfront access, hunting and fishing access and so much more in nearly every county in the United States.

Since inception in 1965 LWCF has pumped $219,100,000 into Louisiana’s vast recreation and wildlife infrastructure.

When Congress created the Land and Water Conservation Fund in 1965, it devised a funding mechanism that would use offshore oil revenues instead of taxpayer money. The fund is entitled to receive $900 million a year, but only twice in its history has it received the full amount since Congress usually diverts funding to non-conservation projects. The permanent full funding bill currently coursing through Congress will finally remedy that situation so the Land and Water Conservation Fund will be able to reach its full potential.

Recently permanently authorized, but not fully funded – I know, it makes no sense – LWCF is in the crosshairs of current federal legislation. And, there are many reasons why you should care.

Since its inception in 1964, the LWCF program has established many of our nation’s most coveted public lands that generate billions of dollars for state and local economies. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, outdoor recreation supports $778 billion in annual consumer spending and 5.2 million jobs across the country. While LWCF enjoys broad support for these clear economic benefits, the program relies on a standing account of the United States Treasury which is subject to constant diversions from its intended purpose.

Permanent authorization of LWCF in 2019 was an important step in addressing these issues, but it did not ensure that all of the funds identified for LWCF are used for their intended purpose. This underfunding has created a backlog of conservation and recreation access needs in every state across the country. Therefore, Congress must pass legislation now to provide full and dedicated funding for LWCF at the authorized level of $900 million.

Bassmaster Magazine Editor James Hall lands a nice keeper redfish in the marsh

Lowering your boat to the river or marsh by rope without a launch sucks. So does erosion at epic scale making access difficult at best. We need public infrastructure now more than ever. We need to keep people hunting, fishing, recreating and we need to support communities that support our sport!

Recreation infrastructure development provides jobs, too, in places that will badly need them in the coming years. So now, when Congress is rightly focused on how to stimulate the economy, many leaders are realizing that one of the solutions is right in front of them. 

Across the country there are scores of shovel-ready projects just waiting for LWCF funding. These projects will provide jobs in construction, restoration and conservation. That in turn will provide additional opportunities for American families to get outside to hunt, hike, bike, camp, fish and pursue many other outdoor recreation passions. According to the Trust for Public Land, every dollar invested in LWCF returns at least $4 in economic benefits. For an investment of $900 million, that’s a $3.6 billion return.

While often unknown, LWCF funding supports access and habitat improvement to areas like Delta NWR in the bird’s foot of the Mississippi River Delta. Photo by Lew Carpenter

LWCF has helped support some of Louisiana’s most beloved public places. The list of major projects funded by LWCF in Louisiana includes:

Federal Public Land Investment ($143,000,000):

Atchafalaya NWR

Bayou Cocodrie NWR

Bayou Sauvage NWR

Big Branch Marsh NWR

Black Bayou NWR

Bogue Chitto NWR

Cane River Creole NHP

Cat Island NWR

Delta NWR

Grand Cote NWR

Isle Dernieres

Jean Lafitte NHP

Kistachie NF

Lake Ophelia NWR

Louisiana Black Bear NWR

Red River NWR

Southeast LA NWRs Tensas River NWR

Upper Ouachita NWR

Forest Legacy Program ($340,000)

Habitat Conservation, Sec. 6 ($500,000)

American Battlefield Protection Program ($450,000)

State Program, Total State Grants ($74,900,000)

Total: $219,100,000

To get a detailed look at LWCF investment in Louisiana since the 60s, see here: http://projects.invw.org/data/lwcf/grants-la.html

Now is the time to recommit this investment in conservation and restoration to begin the economic healing from the pandemic. Providing full and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund will produce jobs for the unemployed, provide new parks and hiking trails for our health and well-being, and stimulate our local economies with new recreation opportunities for generations to come.

Anglers rely on recreation infrastructure to access Louisiana’s vast waterways. Here, Eric Cosby yanks a fine redfish from Louisiana waters.
Photo by Lew Carpenter

So when that big bruiser of a redfish crushes your lure, the sea trout stack up in your cooler, the call from offshore gifts you with a cow yellowfin tuna, or taking that brace of blue winged teal – after thanking the hunting and fishing gods, tip your hat to a quiet American program that supports communities in their ability to support you. It matters.

Click Here to Support Permanently Funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund >>

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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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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) today released its report on 2017 Trends in Duck Breeding Populations, based on surveys conducted in May and early June by FWS and the Canadian Wildlife Service. Overall duck numbers in the survey area remain high. Total populations were estimated at 47.3 million breeding ducks in the traditional survey area, which is similar to last year’s estimate of 48.4 million and is 34 percent above the 1955-2016 long-term average. The projected mallard fall flight index is 12.9 million birds, similar to the 2016 estimate of 13.5 million.

The main determining factor for duck breeding success is wetland and upland habitat conditions in the key breeding landscapes of the Prairies and the Boreal Forest. Conditions observed across the U.S. and Canadian survey areas during the 2017 breeding population survey were generally similar to last year with a few exceptions. The total pond estimate for the United States and Canada combined was 6.1 million, which is 22% above the 2016 estimate of 5.0 million and 17% above the long-term average of 5.2 million.

“The surveys indicate that wetland conditions and populations of most frequently harvested ducks remain above the long-term average, and for most species, populations were at or above those from last year,” said DU Chief Scientist Tom Moorman. “This is great news for waterfowlers who can now turn their attention to preparing habitat, tuning up dogs and relentlessly watching the weather forecasts for the onset of fall and winter weather that will push the birds on their annual southward migration.

“DU remains concerned about northern pintails and scaup in particular, as the survey information continues to indicate these two species remain below their long-term average populations. Both species have struggled to regain desired populations. We will continue to work with our many conservation partners to understand what drives populations of these two species. If science points to habitat limitations as contributing factors, we’ll rely on the science to develop conservation solutions to help restore populations of these birds.

“Hunters may notice in the report that mallards declined 11%, or about 1.3 million birds, from 2016.  The bulk of that appears to be related to drier conditions in the Canadian parklands region, where the surveys detected about 0.6 million fewer mallards. Overall, mallard populations remain in great shape, and FWS estimates the mallard fall flight will be similar to last year.

“Hunters should always remember that habitat and populations are going to vary over time, so we must keep focused on habitat conservation efforts over the long term. Ultimately, we need to maintain landscapes so that when precipitation and other conditions are right, the ducks will respond, produce more ducks and provide us all with a nice return on our conservation investments.”

Although most migratory game bird populations remain abundant, when and where birds will be encountered depends on many factors. Food availability, habitat and weather conditions, and other factors all influence local bird abundance, distribution, behavior and, ultimately, hunter success.

The spring surveys provide the scientific basis for many management programs across the continent, including hunting regulations. Individual states set their hunting seasons within a federal framework of season length, bag limits and dates. Hunters should check the rules in their states for final dates and bag limits.

Species estimates are:

Mallards: 10.5 million, 11% lower than 2016 and 34% above LTA

Gadwall: 4.2 million, 13% above 2016 and 111% above LTA

American wigeon: 2.8 million, 19% below 2016 and 6% above LTA

Green-winged teal: 3.6 million, 16% below 2016 and 70% above LTA

Blue-winged teal: 7.9 million, 18% above 2016 and 57% above LTA

Northern shovelers: 4.4 million, 10% above 2016 and 69% above LTA

Northern pintails: 2.9 million, 10% above 2016 and 27% below LTA

Redheads: 1.1 million, 13% below 2016 and 55% above LTA

Canvasbacks: 0.7 million, similar to 2016 and 25% above LTA

Scaup: 4.4 million, 12% below 2016 and 13% below LTA

Black ducks (Eastern Survey Area): 0.5 million, similar to 2016 and 12% below LTA

*Long-term average

View all the data and get a species-by-species breakdown at www.ducks.org/DuckNumbers.

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Washington, D.C. – May 1, 2015 –Leaders in the recreational fishing and boating community yesterday highlighted the

Lew Carpenter with 6.5-pound flounder. Access and habitat rely on re authorization of Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

Lew Carpenter with 6.5-pound flounder. Access and habitat rely on re authorization of Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

progress in elevating the importance of saltwater recreational fishing in the nation’s primary law governing marine fisheries management. The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources yesterday approved a bill sponsored by Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), H.R. 1335, to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA), which addresses top priorities of the recreational fishing community.

These priorities were identified by the Commission on Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Management, also known as the Morris-Deal Commission after co-chairs Johnny Morris, founder and CEO of Bass Pro Shops, and Scott Deal, president of Maverick Boats. In 2014, the Morris-Deal Commission released “A Vision for Managing America’s Saltwater Recreational Fisheries,” which includes six key policy changes to produce the full range of saltwater recreational fishing’s social, economic and conservation benefits to the nation.

“The recreational fishing community owes a debt of gratitude to Chairman Rob Bishop and Congressman Don Young for incorporating meaningful changes to recreational fisheries management into the reauthorization of the nation’s marine fisheries law,” said Jeff Angers, president of the Center for Coastal Conservation. “The Morris-Deal Report set forth a vision for the future of saltwater recreational fishing, and this bill would help to achieve that vision.”

“The nation’s 11 million saltwater recreational anglers have a $70 billion economic impact annually and support 450,000 jobs,” said Mike Nussman, president and CEO of the American Sportfishing Association. “However, federal marine fisheries management has never sufficiently acknowledged the importance of recreational fishing to the nation. H.R. 1335 would enact many of the necessary changes to elevate saltwater recreational fishing to the level it deserves.”

The recommendations of the Morris-Deal Commission include:

– Establishing a national policy for recreational fishing
– Adopting a revised approach to saltwater recreational fisheries management
– Allocating marine fisheries for the greatest benefit to the nation
– Creating reasonable latitude in stock rebuilding timelines
– Codifying a process for cooperative management
Managing for the forage base

“Management that emphasizes conservation and abundance, and allows for consistent access to public resources for saltwater anglers, was at the heart of the recommendations made by the Morris-Deal Commission,” said Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Including those recommendations into legislation aimed at improving our nation’s fisheries management means Congress is recognizing the importance of angling to American culture and our economy.”

“The broad coalition of leading recreational fishing and boating organizations that has come together to support our community’s priorities should be pleased with this bill,” said Jim Donofrio, executive director of the Recreational Fishing Alliance. “RFA is proud to have participated as part of this coalition.”

One of the recommendations of the Morris-Deal Commission was addressed by an amendment offered by Congressman Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) that would prompt a review of quota allocations in fisheries in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico with both a commercial and recreational component. Despite the tremendous importance that allocation decisions have in maximizing the benefits that our fisheries provide to the nation, federal fisheries managers have not revisited allocations – most of which were determined decades ago – primarily because of a lack of clear guidance on how decisions should be made and because these decisions are inherently difficult.

“Congressman Duncan’s amendment is a significant achievement for ensuring that the benefits of our nation’s fisheries are maximized,” said Jeff Crane, president of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. “For far too long, allocations have been rusted shut, and we applaud Congressman Duncan for his leadership on this critically important issue.”

A separate amendment offered by Congressman Garret Graves (R-La.) that would transfer management Gulf of Mexico red snapper to the five Gulf states failed to be included. However, there was widespread agreement expressed by committee members that Gulf red snapper management is broken and in need of significant changes.

“Rep. Graves is a great leader for sportsmen and women in the Gulf Coast,” said Angers. “He understands the challenges of sound resource management and is working to get anglers back on the water.”

“We hope that as MSA moves forward there will be additional opportunities to enact the Gulf states’ plan,” said Patrick Murray, president of the Coastal Conservation Association. “MSA’s reauthorization surely has a long road ahead, but H.R. 1335 provides the recreational fishing community with a very solid first step.”

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

Photo by Lew Carpenter

James Hall with giant jack. Photo by Lew Carpenter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matt Vincent with mahi mahi

Matt Vincent with mahi mahi

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

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

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

What Can You Do?

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

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

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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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Group sends letter saying protecting wildlife and habitat will yield economic recovery for the Gulf

(New Orleans – May 22, 2013) Today, more than 350 hunting and fishing businesses and organizations sent a letter to the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, asking that the Council prioritize restoration of the Gulf ecosystem in order to also achieve economic restoration in the region.

The Restoration Council is a multi-state, multi-agency group that has been tasked with developing a comprehensive ecosystem restoration plan for the Gulf. The Council is currently developing the plan, with a draft due for public comment this spring.

Vanishing Paradise drafted the letter, which illustrated that hunting and fishing are major economic drivers in the Gulf and are supported by habitat restoration and wildlife conservation. In 2011, in the five Gulf states alone, nearly 8.5 million hunters and anglers spent $15.7 billion on their outdoor pursuits. This spending supports more than 255,000 jobs and generates $3.3 billion in federal, state and local taxes.

The letter to the Restoration Council united thousands of sportsmen and women in their commitment to protect wildlife and habitat.

“If the wild spaces of the Gulf region aren’t protected and restored, sportsmen and women will lose the return on their long-standing investment, and the region will lose its rich hunting and angling heritage,” the letter stated. “A restored and productive Gulf ecosystem is essential for both regional and national economic recovery and growth. Every dollar spent on ecosystem restoration helps the recovery of the Gulf’s natural resource-based economy.”

“The Gulf Coast is a national treasure that is near and dear to the hearts of sportsmen and women across the country,” Ben Weber, national sportsman’s coordinator for National Wildlife Federation said. “Millions of Americans enjoy the productive Gulf landscape for its fisheries and waterfowl hunting every year, but without substantial investments in projects that create, enhance or protect essential wildlife habitat, the world-class hunting and fishing opportunities that make the Gulf such a special place for the nation’s hunters and anglers will suffer, leading to the loss of billions of dollars in generated revenue for the Gulf states.”

For more information, please visit www.vanishingparadise.org.

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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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