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Conservation Update: The Gulf Gets a Win, But the Losses for Sportsmen Keep Coming

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July 09, 2012

Conservation Update: The Gulf Gets a Win, But the Losses for Sportsmen Keep Coming

By Hal Herring

There’s good news, and there’s bad news that leads to good news. First, the good news:

Sportsman’s groups from Ducks Unlimited to the Louisiana Wildlife Federation and everywhere in between were celebrating the passage of the RESTORE Act last week. Land Tawney of the National Wildlife Federation said, “The RESTORE Act is the culmination of years of work from hunters and anglers all across the nation, all working to restore the Gulf.”

If the Act had not passed, the estimated $5-$20 billion in fines being collected from British Petroleum and other companies for their role in the oil spill would have gone to the U.S. Treasury, and been placed in a fund to clean up and mitigate future spills. It’s a staggering amount of money, and it is needed, right now, to begin the work to restore a coast that, even before being bathed in oil in 2010, with fisheries shut down for months and still-being-calculated damage to shellfish, water quality and pelagic fisheries, was washing away so fast that it is known to be the world’s fastest disappearing landmass.

“The RESTORE Act will provide desperately needed funding for restoration of the Gulf Coast wetlands,” said Ducks Unlimited’s Bart James. “”Positioned at the terminus of the Mississippi and Central Flyways, these wetlands represent the single most important wintering area for waterfowl in North America.”

What is at stake here has been reported on here at F&S many times before.

Louisiana has long been known as Sportsmen’s Paradise, and the name remains apt. But what is less well known is that the marshes that are washing away so fast, and the coast that was damaged by the spill, are also the economic powerhouse of not just a region but our whole nation. Forty percent of American seafood comes from Louisiana. Ten million waterfowl migrate here to winter. The sportsman’s economy alone is estimated at $70 billion (which will come as no surprise to anyone who fishes and hunts or spends a lot of time here -- the redfish and speckled trout fishing attract anglers from all over the world, the offshore yellowfin tuna and mahi-mahi fishing is awesome, the oysters and blue crabs are an economy all their own).

As I wrote here in September of 2011 about the embattled Port of New Orleans: “Goods (including over half of all our grain exports) from 14,500 miles of navigable inland waterways are barged through this port, which handles 6,000 vessels, 50,000 barges, and 62 million short tons of cargo every year. The massive energy infrastructure of Port Fourchon pumps $5 billion worth of royalties into the federal treasury and is the support base for 75 percent of all oil and gas development in the Gulf...Port Fourchon is the host for the Louisiana Offshore Oil Port (LOOP), and handled an estimated $63.4 million worth of oil and gas in 2006. Every year, with every storm, the open Gulf of Mexico comes closer and closer to these critical blocks of our economy.”

RESTORE had the support of Democrats and Republicans alike. But as a reporter who has covered this story for more than a few years now, I can tell you that it was the hard work and relentless advocacy of sportsmen that actually made it happen. Hunters and anglers (and commercial fishermen and watermen) are the ones who know the land and waters best, and know what is really happening. To everyone who worked so hard on this, congratulations is in order. And to those who thought that there was no way that this could ever pass, remember the immortal words of Henry IV after his triumph at the Battle of Arques, September of 1589: “Hang yourself, brave Crillon. We fought at Arques, and you were not there!”

But please do not hang yourself. There are plenty of other battles, if you missed this one. The U.S. House of Representatives is doing its best to address the tremendous budget deficit by strangling programs that conflict with some of the members’ ideology, whether or not those programs are important to reducing the deficit, or not. The House budget will cut the Bureau of Land Management budget by $39.6 million, cut the EPA budget by 17 percent and perhaps most sadly, reduce the highly effective Land and Water Conservation fund by 80 percent.

I could go on, ad nauseum, and I will, for a second: the North American Wetlands Conservation Act will be cut by $13 million (here’s DU’s concise report on NAWCA and what it has accomplished). In case there was any doubt about the actual motivation of many of these cuts, the House Budget bill also includes a rider that prohibits using any funds to clarify whether a wetland or tributary creek is protected under the Clean Water Act.

Take that, you water drinkers, fishermen, swimmers and boaters! You will be prohibited from even finding out if the most effective water law on earth protects your local waters. Sound like a good solution? Think that will make a big difference in reducing the federal deficit?

The House added more bills relevant to energy production on public lands that should be of concern to anyone who hunts or fishes the American West, too. Energy development being exempted from most laws meant to protect wildlife, fisheries, hunting, grazing, etc. on public lands is apparently not enough for some lawmakers. The new bills require, among other things, that public land managers are required to lease land for energy development without regard to the other values present there, and they must do so in a fixed amount of time, whether or not the risks to other resources such as hunting and fishing have been evaluated. It’s a package carefully designed to be extreme, and the shouting match has begun already.

U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., ranking member of the Natural Resources Committee, described the legislation as a sham. "Republicans passed a bill that would cede nearly all of America's public lands to oil companies within just a few short years, but wouldn't even allow a debate on wind, solar, and a real 'all of the above' energy strategy," he said in a statement.

There is a path illuminated for sportsmen by all the fire and glare from the success of the RESTORE Act and the toxic plume of terrible bills billowing forth from the House of Representatives. One light on that path is a new study on the economic effects of outdoor recreation by the Outdoor Industry Association finds that “generating $646 billion in direct consumer spending every year, supporting 6.1 million direct jobs, and producing $80 billion in federal, state and local tax revenue every year, outdoor recreation is an industry on par with other important sectors of the American economy.”

On par, but too often ignored by lawmakers bent on serving other, more entrenched interests. So what does a hunting, fishing, conservationist do to make sure we keep what we have, in a nation growing inexorably more populated, where fewer and fewer citizens know what is out there at stake, or what is out there to cherish? First, we know that we cannot always vote for the best environmental candidate. He or she may have other ideas and influences that are too repulsive to us. But what we can do is demand that every candidate and every elected official understand and acknowledge our fierce dedication to protecting the natural resources of our nation. Our elected officials owe their jobs and their allegiance to we the people. We do not elect them to trash our public lands, or sell them off, or allow one of their big campaign contributors to ruin our rivers. And we cannot allow them to believe that they can.

Americans have become too silent. For decades, we have had federal environmental laws that protected our interests. Those laws protected us so well that we forgot they even existed, and we let people tell us we didn’t need them anymore. Now we are losing them. A new way forward is being born. And it involves getting up out of that Barca-Lounger and making some good old fashioned noise. Join sportsman’s groups like the ones that fought for RESTORE and NAWCA and the Land and Water Conservation Fund. Write letters. Demand accountability from elected representatives for their votes and for their statements. Follow the news, as much as you can stand it. You’ll find stories like this one, where Texas pecan growers are developing a lawsuit against coal-fired power plants for allegedly destroying a generations-old and very profitable family pecan business (1700 tons of sulfur dioxide spewed into the air annually does tend to have an effect). It worked for pecan growers around Albany, Georgia, in the 1970s. Lawsuits for environmental assault are a very Ron Paul-style libertarian tactic for obtaining justice, but maybe it’s a tactic whose time has come again.

But most of all, go fishing, go hunting, go camping and stay an extra day or three. Buy that youth shotgun for your sons and daughters and pass it down the line like a pair of jeans that never wears out. Take your friends and invite your enemies. Make sure you introduce somebody new to the outdoors this summer. Stand in the water in your river and say, “this is my birthright and the birthright of my children. Nobody, but nobody, is going to take this away from us!"

Comments (13)

Top Rated
All Comments
from coachsjike wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

yeah what a shocker! i thought the politicians were in the best interest to protect conservation and sportsmen's rights.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from CL3 wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

"Americans have become too silent. For decades, we have had federal environmental laws that protected our interests. Those laws protected us so well that we forgot they even existed, and we let people tell us we didn’t even need them anymore. Now we are losing them."

Well said. In the meantime, our politicians continue to divide & distract us with non-issues while they get the most money for themselves and their cronies. Pay to play.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dcast wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Ed Markey, Is a joke! We could have used the money that is being taken from us on the monstrosity of the healthcare bill to pay for far more conservation, that he hails. He is not a hunter or fishermans friend along with his cohort Henry "The Taxman" Waxman, they are the definition of extreme enviromentalism. As you state above about electing someone above "On par, but too often ignored by lawmakers bent on serving other, more entrenched interests. So what does a hunting, fishing, conservationist do to make sure we keep what we have, in a nation growing inexorably more populated, where fewer and fewer citizens know what is out there at stake, or what is out there to cherish? First, we know that we cannot always vote for the best environmental candidate. He or she may have other ideas and influences that are too repulsive to us." Many are pro enviroment but anti gun, hunting, fishing. We could use the libertarian approach of this which I would consider myself, and abided by the constitution and also leave the States in charge of their lands and not the Federal Government, but instead people would rather the safety of laws. I don't know if Ben Franklin really wrote this but it is quite telling “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Most people think of this statement for gun rights but I see it as an all of the above. We have the ability as a nation to do what is right, but instead we leave it to 535 people to tell 300,000,000,000 what to do and your talking about the powerful corporations and evil oil companies? You missed the ones selling your rights which is the United States Government, the 535!!

-2 Good Comment? | | Report
from tritonrider wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Agreed Markey and his friends are a disaster. Do any of you have puddles on your property that frogs live in sometimes, even if they are dry for the vast majority of the year? Then if you were in Mass. and a member of any town, or State version of a "conservation committee" sees it, or has it reported to them it becomes a "vernal pool" and it now a certified wetland and you are screwed. Get a neighbor who is pissed off at you saying they see frogs or other amphibians on your property and you are screwed. Being a carpenter I've run into SO many people that basically had the value of their property destroyed due to this it's ridiculous. These are average people who are living in long established homes and farms. new rules and they are screwed. Next to no appeal once they declare this and you may only find out about it when the notice, or cease and desist notice arrives on your new patio, pool or deck.

-2 Good Comment? | | Report
from Todd Tanner wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Amen, brother. Amen. Hell of a piece. It's good to see you back up on the pulpit.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from hal herring wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

D and triton, please read the story linked in the post:

It's not about Ed Markey. It's about the bill. I may despise a man in every way, but that does not mean that every single thing he utters is wrong. If some goofball walks in all wet and tells me its raining outside, I'll at least look out the window and check.

I have followed the property rights violations and overreach in Massachusetts concerning the "vernal pools." I don't approve of it. But that does not mean I'm opposed to all protection of waters and wetlands, everywhere. It's not either-or. It's not us against them, although there are lots of people who want us all to believe that.

+6 Good Comment? | | Report
from tritonrider wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Hal on that I agree with you, but like just about everything else today there seems to be no middle ground. The Vernal pools are just a drop in the bucket here. You've got a tiny group of activists and professors running roughshod over everyone.
My family has farmed here for a century or so starting about twenty years ago or so we were no longer allowed to maintain farm ditches my great grandfather had dug that had been continuously maintained since. I can point you to several other farms of this type that are now gone because they were no longer allowed to control beaver and lost dozens of acres over time since most of the old colonial farms are along small rivers and streams here. Now for the first time since colonial times they are flooded out.
The point is that there are major abuses on both sides and they aren't interested in talking to each other. Markey is one of the worst of the bunch.
Personally I don't know anyone that cares about the land and it's health more than the few surviving family farms out here.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from labrador12 wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Its not 1970 anymore. Bald eagles are now common in places where they were extinct because of the improvement in water quality. We do need to get real cost benifit studies done. Multiple use is a positive force. Not all public land is a park or a pristine area. Development doesn't mean devastation no matter what the Defenders of Wildlife, or the WWF says. We can have a very good envirnoment with a very good economy.

-3 Good Comment? | | Report
from rock rat wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Tell it Hal, don't be shy to get louder.

Sportsmen have to speak up because no one else will. Enviros are too busy hugging bunny rabbits to notice the developers and extractors trying to sneak in the back way. I can't think of a decent piece of environmental legislation in 30 years. The CBD, Defenders and their ilk are so busy pissing people off no one cares when polluters win a couple, trouble is they are after a lot more than beaver dams.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dcast wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Hal, I read and understood your article and do agree with it and your comment. My point is/was we have regulations in place that protect the enviroment and we have people fighting to keep those laws in place, but we also have many more doing the same but would also like to see the hunting and fishing heritage erased from existance. Not to mention the assinine type laws that give conservation a bad name as Tritonrider mention. Until we find a way to deal with the common ground (conservation) we all agree on we will continue to argue over it and demonize one anothers views. Some see the government as the arbiters of how conservation should be funded and taking tax money to do so, while others see the conservation groups and the outdoor enthusaists the true answer to conservation. How many conservation groups are there in the US? How much money do they bring in? How much money do they spend to turn a nickle into a quarter to the detriment of the US? We have the money to take care of our land, we have the laws in place, and we have the people willing to do the hard work to get things done, without using tax money to get that job done. We have tens of millions hunters, fishing, outdoors, enviromental enthusaists that are willing to pay per state for their licenses, fees, etc... without needing the federal government using tax dollars to fund these programs. The problem isn't so much the money as it is where that money comes from and that is where the devil is found in the details.

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from hal herring wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Thank you, Dcast. Good points- when it comes to soemthing as vitally important as protecting natural resources, I'm an all-of-the-above believer. But I agree with you that the private sector is the greatest opportunity for making real progress. We have all gotten way to cozy wiith th eidea that governemnt can do for us what we should do ourselves. There is a role for government here - we all know that- but the more of the work we can do, the better.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from hal herring wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Sorry for typos- I'm on the road.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from wisc14 wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

good stuff as always from hal.

outdoorsmen need to start getting more involved and informed

+3 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment

from hal herring wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

D and triton, please read the story linked in the post:

It's not about Ed Markey. It's about the bill. I may despise a man in every way, but that does not mean that every single thing he utters is wrong. If some goofball walks in all wet and tells me its raining outside, I'll at least look out the window and check.

I have followed the property rights violations and overreach in Massachusetts concerning the "vernal pools." I don't approve of it. But that does not mean I'm opposed to all protection of waters and wetlands, everywhere. It's not either-or. It's not us against them, although there are lots of people who want us all to believe that.

+6 Good Comment? | | Report
from Todd Tanner wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Amen, brother. Amen. Hell of a piece. It's good to see you back up on the pulpit.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from rock rat wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Tell it Hal, don't be shy to get louder.

Sportsmen have to speak up because no one else will. Enviros are too busy hugging bunny rabbits to notice the developers and extractors trying to sneak in the back way. I can't think of a decent piece of environmental legislation in 30 years. The CBD, Defenders and their ilk are so busy pissing people off no one cares when polluters win a couple, trouble is they are after a lot more than beaver dams.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from hal herring wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Thank you, Dcast. Good points- when it comes to soemthing as vitally important as protecting natural resources, I'm an all-of-the-above believer. But I agree with you that the private sector is the greatest opportunity for making real progress. We have all gotten way to cozy wiith th eidea that governemnt can do for us what we should do ourselves. There is a role for government here - we all know that- but the more of the work we can do, the better.

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from wisc14 wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

good stuff as always from hal.

outdoorsmen need to start getting more involved and informed

+3 Good Comment? | | Report
from CL3 wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

"Americans have become too silent. For decades, we have had federal environmental laws that protected our interests. Those laws protected us so well that we forgot they even existed, and we let people tell us we didn’t even need them anymore. Now we are losing them."

Well said. In the meantime, our politicians continue to divide & distract us with non-issues while they get the most money for themselves and their cronies. Pay to play.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from tritonrider wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Hal on that I agree with you, but like just about everything else today there seems to be no middle ground. The Vernal pools are just a drop in the bucket here. You've got a tiny group of activists and professors running roughshod over everyone.
My family has farmed here for a century or so starting about twenty years ago or so we were no longer allowed to maintain farm ditches my great grandfather had dug that had been continuously maintained since. I can point you to several other farms of this type that are now gone because they were no longer allowed to control beaver and lost dozens of acres over time since most of the old colonial farms are along small rivers and streams here. Now for the first time since colonial times they are flooded out.
The point is that there are major abuses on both sides and they aren't interested in talking to each other. Markey is one of the worst of the bunch.
Personally I don't know anyone that cares about the land and it's health more than the few surviving family farms out here.

+2 Good Comment? | | Report
from coachsjike wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

yeah what a shocker! i thought the politicians were in the best interest to protect conservation and sportsmen's rights.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from hal herring wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Sorry for typos- I'm on the road.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dcast wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Hal, I read and understood your article and do agree with it and your comment. My point is/was we have regulations in place that protect the enviroment and we have people fighting to keep those laws in place, but we also have many more doing the same but would also like to see the hunting and fishing heritage erased from existance. Not to mention the assinine type laws that give conservation a bad name as Tritonrider mention. Until we find a way to deal with the common ground (conservation) we all agree on we will continue to argue over it and demonize one anothers views. Some see the government as the arbiters of how conservation should be funded and taking tax money to do so, while others see the conservation groups and the outdoor enthusaists the true answer to conservation. How many conservation groups are there in the US? How much money do they bring in? How much money do they spend to turn a nickle into a quarter to the detriment of the US? We have the money to take care of our land, we have the laws in place, and we have the people willing to do the hard work to get things done, without using tax money to get that job done. We have tens of millions hunters, fishing, outdoors, enviromental enthusaists that are willing to pay per state for their licenses, fees, etc... without needing the federal government using tax dollars to fund these programs. The problem isn't so much the money as it is where that money comes from and that is where the devil is found in the details.

-1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Dcast wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Ed Markey, Is a joke! We could have used the money that is being taken from us on the monstrosity of the healthcare bill to pay for far more conservation, that he hails. He is not a hunter or fishermans friend along with his cohort Henry "The Taxman" Waxman, they are the definition of extreme enviromentalism. As you state above about electing someone above "On par, but too often ignored by lawmakers bent on serving other, more entrenched interests. So what does a hunting, fishing, conservationist do to make sure we keep what we have, in a nation growing inexorably more populated, where fewer and fewer citizens know what is out there at stake, or what is out there to cherish? First, we know that we cannot always vote for the best environmental candidate. He or she may have other ideas and influences that are too repulsive to us." Many are pro enviroment but anti gun, hunting, fishing. We could use the libertarian approach of this which I would consider myself, and abided by the constitution and also leave the States in charge of their lands and not the Federal Government, but instead people would rather the safety of laws. I don't know if Ben Franklin really wrote this but it is quite telling “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Most people think of this statement for gun rights but I see it as an all of the above. We have the ability as a nation to do what is right, but instead we leave it to 535 people to tell 300,000,000,000 what to do and your talking about the powerful corporations and evil oil companies? You missed the ones selling your rights which is the United States Government, the 535!!

-2 Good Comment? | | Report
from tritonrider wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Agreed Markey and his friends are a disaster. Do any of you have puddles on your property that frogs live in sometimes, even if they are dry for the vast majority of the year? Then if you were in Mass. and a member of any town, or State version of a "conservation committee" sees it, or has it reported to them it becomes a "vernal pool" and it now a certified wetland and you are screwed. Get a neighbor who is pissed off at you saying they see frogs or other amphibians on your property and you are screwed. Being a carpenter I've run into SO many people that basically had the value of their property destroyed due to this it's ridiculous. These are average people who are living in long established homes and farms. new rules and they are screwed. Next to no appeal once they declare this and you may only find out about it when the notice, or cease and desist notice arrives on your new patio, pool or deck.

-2 Good Comment? | | Report
from labrador12 wrote 1 year 40 weeks ago

Its not 1970 anymore. Bald eagles are now common in places where they were extinct because of the improvement in water quality. We do need to get real cost benifit studies done. Multiple use is a positive force. Not all public land is a park or a pristine area. Development doesn't mean devastation no matter what the Defenders of Wildlife, or the WWF says. We can have a very good envirnoment with a very good economy.

-3 Good Comment? | | Report

Post a Comment