Volunteers in Missoula helped to create a parking area and develop a new fishing access point at the confluence of blue-ribbon trout stream Rock Creek and the Clark Fork River, an area that Five Valleys Land Trust recently acquired for permanent protection.
In the second year of this project to create more hunting opportunities for returning veterans, volunteers joined the Wounded Warriors in Action Foundation at Camp Hackett to improve trail access for hunters with limited mobility.
Conservationists fighting to protect fish and wildlife habitat usually are up against the same opponent: Business development.
In the Midwest, that can mean agriculture. In the Northeast, it’s often sprawling business parks.
But down on the Gulf Coast, where protecting wetlands is critical for fisheries, the other side is typically represented by oil and gas drillers or waterfront residential developments that turn marshes into finger canals with boat docks.
Volunteers with the Mule Deer Foundation in Prescott, Arizona, removed barbed wire fencing, which endangers mule deer and pronghorn young, and replaced it with wildlife-friendly smooth wire along three miles of fenceline.
Volunteers in northern California helped local Bureau of Land Management staffers plant 1,000 bitterbrush seedlings donated by the Mule Deer Foundation, after a devastating wildfire burned through 315,000 acres of the state's best deer habitat.
Volunteers with Trout Unlimited, the Beaver Creek Watershed Association, and Project Healing Waters pitched in to protect a recently discovered population of wild brown trout by installing two footbridges over the creek and planting trees to stabilize and shade the streambanks.
We’ve written a good bit on this blog about the loss of land in southern Louisiana due to the levees and other flood-control structures on the Mississippi River. We’ve covered some of the overwhelming problems with nitrate pollution coming from the corn boom in the Midwest, made worse by the draining of wetlands and channelizing of creeks that control the floods and filter the waters (and produce our ducks and fisheries). We’ve touched a little bit on how these combinations produce the hypoxic region of the Gulf of Mexico known as the Dead Zone (a lifeless saltwater desert as big as New Jersey this year, and growing with every new spring flood of pollutants from the heartland) that is killing our commercial and sport fisheries.
The House of Representatives stunned sportsmen’s conservation groups last week when it suddenly and unexpectedly killed its version of the Farm Bill, putting the nation’s largest and most effective conservation programs on a three-month death watch.
Earlier, conservation groups had hailed the Senate passage of a Farm Bill and voiced hope a House version would be clearing that chamber in a matter of weeks, based on optimism from the GOP leadership. But those hopes melted quickly with the passage of two amendments supported by more conservative members. The first would have undone traditional price supports for milk producers; the second would have deepened already steep cuts in food stamps.
Those measures eroded Democratic support, and when the vote was called, the bill failed 195-234.
The Senate has done its job for fish, wildlife and sportsmen—now it’s time for the House to step up.
Monday the Senate passed a new Farm Bill that includes two key provisions considered critical by conservation groups:
– Sod Saver, which safeguards the nation’s dwindling base of native grasslands from agricultural development. – Making landowner compliance to conservation programs a prerequisite for taxpayer-funded crop insurance subsidies.
“The Senate has produced a bill that makes constructive changes to conservation programs, and it ensures that the shift to crop insurance premium support as the primary component of the farm safety net carries with it protection for wetlands, highly erodible lands and native prairie,” said Steve Kline, TRCP director of government relations.
There is nothing like a good anti-federal-government advertising campaign to rally support for, well, almost anything. In this time of Internal Revenue Service scandals and accusations that the Environmental Protection Agency has charged so-called “conservative” groups for Freedom of Information Act requests that they handed over to environmental groups for free, the time was ripe for a smart advertising professional to tap in to the zeitgeist and try, yet again, to sell a highly skeptical American public on the Pebble Project—a huge gold and copper mine proposed by two foreign mining corporations to be built on public lands in the headwaters of Bristol Bay, Alaska.
On June 4, Northern Dynasty Minerals, Limited, a Vancouver, Canada-based corporation that owns 50 percent of the Pebble Project, ran an ad in the Washington Post and on various political websites that demands an end to what it calls EPA’s “black box bias” against the mine. The ad also claims that the EPA is manipulating public opinion and denying science in response to the results of the EPA’s 14 month-long comprehensive Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment (BBWA). The EPA's assessment shows that the Pebble Project does indeed threaten the greatest salmon fishery on earth (a $500 million industry annually) and the estimated 14,000 jobs that depend upon it, and will industrialize one of America’s wildest and most pristine expanses of public land, which would forever changing the culture and economy of the 7,500 people, mostly Native Americans, who now call it home.