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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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Photo by Lew Carpenter

Reports from Burns, Oregon indicate that some community members condemn the violent tactics of the Bundy family and the militants but support their goals of turning American public lands over to private owners.

Without question, some in the West—including some citizens in Burns—share the view that the U.S. government’s ownership and management of the region’s public lands are to blame for economic challenges. Yet public opinion research indicates that this view is actually not shared widely in the region.

A large majority of Westerners see public lands as an asset to their state’s economy, not an economic drag. This perspective is confirmed by economic research that shows that areas with more protected public lands

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Photo by Lew Carpenter

have grown at a faster rate than other areas in the West.

Here are five key facts to know about Westerners’ opinions about federal land management agencies, and more information about what has actually caused economic challenges in the rural West:

1) A majority of Westerners approve of the job federal land management agencies are doing.

majority of Western voters approve of the job that the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Park Service are each doing. Despite heavy criticism that the Bundy family and militants are directing at the BLM, only 23 percent of Western voters disapprove of the agency’s work.

2) Westerners support keeping public lands public.

Public opinion research conducted by a bipartisan team of pollsters determined that a majority of voters in the American West do not support

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Photo by Lew Carpenter

a transfer of national public lands to state management, and instead believe that these places belong to all Americans.

3) Public lands are an asset, not a drain on local economies.

91% of Western voters believe public lands are an essential part of their state’s economy. They provide a variety of economic benefits such grazing, oil drilling, recreation, and benefits that are not as easily monetizable (like option value). Economic research has shown that Western counties with more protected national public lands have added jobs more than four times faster than counties with fewer protected lands.

4) Many factors are to blame for the very real difficulties faced by the rural West.

Some resource-based economies are struggling because of myriad factors including globalization, the transition to a cleaner energy, and a Western economy increasingly based on knowledge and service industries. Some areas in the West are struggling. While public lands and land managers can be a convenient scapegoat, there’s no data to support the blame.

5) Giving our American lands to the states or private interests is not a panacea for these problems.

The additional burden of managing millions of acres of public lands could break state budgets because the massive costs of fighting wildfires and cleaning up polluting mines would be transferred to state taxpayers. Grazing fees that ranchers pay would triple or quadruple at a minimum. A better option is to engage in collaborative efforts to manage public lands have worked, such as those that have taken place at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.

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

Robust fisheries have a positive impact on conservation and the economy

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

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

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

Among the findings are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The full report is available via RAE and ASA.

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

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

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

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The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) is the legislation that Congress uses to determine policy for the U.S Army Corps of Engineers and to decide which water projects will get built.

Getting this bill right is critical for maintaining the health of our nation’s rivers, streams, wetlands and coastlines—and the people, jobs, and wildlife that depend on these resources. Unfortunately, the current WRDA is moving at a speed that precludes public discussion of its provisions. The bill was introduced just 3 weeks ago on a Friday evening, marked up the following Wednesday, and now seems likely to end up before the entire Senate on Wednesday.20130409-074910.jpg

Unfortunately, this version of WRDA contains two provisions (sections 2033 and 2032) that strike at the heart of our nation’s environmental review process. They will obstruct not only reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act, but also under the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and other landmark environmental laws.

These two sections must be removed from the final bill before passage. If passed into law as it is, this bill:

• Will limit scientific analysis and drive bad decisions Environmental review documents are often hundreds of pages long and full of dense scientific language: the accelerated deadlines in this bill will not give members of the public or agencies such as the USFWS or the EPA time to read one of these reviews—let alone to consult experts and perform the analyses necessary to draft informed public comments. Among many other problems, these provisions direct the Corps to fine agencies like the Fish and Wildlife Service up to $20,000 a week for missing the arbitrary and accelerated deadlines and will let the Corps send even technical disagreements to the President. To try to avoid these fines and higher level reviews, agencies — already facing restricted budgets — will rush to complete reviews without all the information or performing independent analyses, increasing the likelihood that unnecessarily destructive projects will be approved. Good science takes time, and this legislation simply does not give experts enough time to make informed decisions.

• Will not speed up project construction The review process is not the main cause of delays in federal water projects. Delays are driven by funding constraints, the Corps’ $60–80 billion project backlog, and the Corps’ insistence on planning highly destructive and controversial projects when less damaging approaches are available. These streamlining provisions are being driven by ideology, and will not a make a practicable difference in speeding up construction.

• Will move water planning backwards The bill will allow the corps to continue planning unnecessarily costly and destructive projects instead of using low impact solutions — for example, reconnecting streams with floodplains— which are frequently the most cost-effective way to solve water planning challenges.

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