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  • April 19, 2013

    New National Ocean Policy Gets Two Thumbs Sideways

    By Bob Marshall

    After years of often-bitter debate, The White House released its final version of the new National Ocean Policy this week. Sportsmen’s groups cheered. And jeered. The cup was half empty and full at the same time.

    George Cooper, a board member of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and a consultant who has worked closely with the American Sportfishing Association on this issue, spoke on behalf of the ASA:

    “What a lot of us see in this document is as follow-through on commitments Deerin [Deerin Babb-Brott, Director of the National Ocean Council] made to us early on in the process to be more responsive to our community’s interests,” Cooper said. “We didn’t want to be lumped in with the commercial interests, we wanted to be recognized for our contributions through the excise taxes we pay for fisheries management, and we wanted recognition of the proper priority of public access and use of a public resources.

  • April 10, 2013

    Super-Sized Crabs and Oysters with Herpes

    By Bob Marshall

    When you spend most days scanning the wire (ok, the Internet; I’m old-school) ferreting out the latest events on the important conservation issues of the day, you come across some remarkable stories. Most make you cry. Some make you laugh.

    And then there are those that make you laugh while you cry.

    Which brings me to these two headlines from last weekend that created a serious panic among those of us in Cajun country:

    Oysters With Herpes: One More Effect Of Climate Change


    Crabs, Supersized By Carbon Pollution, May Upset Chesapeake’s Balance

  • April 3, 2013

    A Perfect Storm of Wildlife Habitat Loss—and How to Stop It

    By Hal Herring

    Bob Marshall recently described on this blog how the biofuels mandate from the Bush administration has had an unpleasant result: the explosive conversion of native grasslands (our gamebird and waterfowl habitat) to corn crops, with their high uses of water and the fertilizers that run off and pollute watersheds for hundreds of miles downstream. As Marshall pointed out, what we are doing to our native grasslands is almost exactly what the Malaysians, Brazilians and Indonesians are doing to their native forests.
    The biofuels mandate is a perfect example of unintended consequences. But there’s another engine driving this destruction of our wetlands and wildlife, too. This engine dates back to the 1996 Farm Bill, when Congress de-coupled what is known as “conservation compliance” - basic protections for wetlands and highly erodible lands- via our government supported crop insurance programs.  At that time, it did not seem too important. Farmers in the U.S. relied more on direct subsidy payments - which came with an extensive set of mandates for conservation compliance - than they did the federally supported crop insurance plans.

  • March 28, 2013

    EPA: More Than Half of U.S. Streams and Rivers Are Sick

    By Bob Marshall

    It’s official: America’s streams and rivers are in serious trouble.

    This isn’t from a green group; it’s from the Environmental Protection Agency, which this week released its first comprehensive survey looking at the health of thousands of streams across the nation. The 2008-2009 National Rivers and Stream Assessment  found that more than half of those systems – 55-percent – are “in poor conditions for aquatic life.”

    That, of course, includes fish.

    “The health of our nation’s rivers, lakes, bays and coastal waters depends on the vast network of streams where they begin, and this new science shows that America’s streams and rivers are under significant pressure,” said Nancy Stoner, the EPA’s Acting Assistant Administrator for Water. “We must continue to invest in protecting and restoring our nation’s streams and rivers as they are vital sources of our drinking water, provide many recreational opportunities, and play a critical role in the economy.”

  • March 22, 2013

    Native Grasslands Can Be Saved by 'Protect Our Prairies Act'

    By Bob Marshall

    There’s new hope that native grasslands—arguably the most threatened wildlife habitat in the nation – can be saved.  But the House of Representatives will have to follow the bipartisan lead of a couple of prairie state representatives to get that done for sportsmen.
    The Protect Our Prairies Act recently introduced by Tom Walz (D-MN) and Kristi Noem (R-SD) would help protect the nation’s remaining native sod and grasslands by reducing federal crop insurance subsidies for the first four years those acres are farmed.
    This is a new version of the “Sod Saver” concept that has been around for some time, with the aim of preventing native grasslands from being plowed for two important reasons: This habitat is critical for a wide range of upland birds, migratory waterfowl and numerous other species; and they are far less productive for crops than other lands.

  • March 13, 2013

    Biofuel Growth Is Decimating Wildlife Habitat in Corn Belt

    By Bob Marshall

    Some sportsmen wonder why they should care about what goes on in Washington. After all, outdoors sports are about recreation, not politics. Why should they care what Congress is debating and doing?
    One of the best answers to that question was given in a recent report in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, one of the nation’s most prestigious journals of scholarly research. The title of the report is as jarring to hunters as it is to academicians: “Recent land use change in the Western Corn Belt threatens grasslands and wetlands. ”

  • March 5, 2013

    Groups to President Obama: “White House Has Failed” Its Duty to Protect Wetlands

    By Bob Marshall

    Sportsmen conservation groups concerned about 20 million acres of the nation’s most important wetlands—and thousands of miles of threatened trout streams—have a message for President Obama: It’s time to walk the talk.

    This involves the longest running run-around conservationists may ever have gotten. It involves two presidents and at least four congresses.

    The story began in 2006 when the Supreme Court ruled that Congress never intended for the Clean Water Act to protect isolated and temporary wetlands. The ruling stunned fish and wildlife advocates because those types of wetlands are among the most critical for a wide range of wildlife especially waterfowl, as well as protecting streamsides that are essential to healthy trout populations.

    The fix was obvious: Congress need only pass a law saying that it specifically wanted those wetlands included in the CWA.

  • February 27, 2013

    Ducks Unlimited Asks Members to Tweet for the Farm Bill

    By Bob Marshall

    Ducks Unlimited is orchestrating a “social media blitz” today to let Congress understand how much sportsmen want a new Farm Bill passed--because the conservation measures in that bill are the platform that have supported some of the most effective waterfowl and wildlife conservation programs ever. The last Congress dropped the ball in the contentious last-minute negotiations over appropriations, and the new bill that been hammered out for more than a year was never passed.
    DU is asking its members and all sportsmen to Tweet about the bill as often as possible Wednesday, always adding #2013FarmBill, and share its Farm Bill story on its Facebook page.

  • February 26, 2013

    New Data Reveals Sea Level Is Rising Fastest in Louisiana

    By Bob Marshall

    The future of Gulf of Mexico fisheries got a grim forecast this week when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported the stunning finding that its latest data indicated southeast Louisiana would be inundated with more than four feet of sea level rise by the end of the century – the highest level “on the planet.” The average elevation of that landscape is about three feet.
    That area encompasses the great estuary of the Mississippi River, which is responsible for much of the fisheries production in the Gulf. If its marshes are flooded, production will plummet. Of course, the threat to many cities is also dire.

  • February 22, 2013

    The Chinese Swim Challenge and the American Clean Water Act

    By Hal Herring

    The Chinese people are getting fed up with a government that seems perfectly content to let them be poisoned in return for larger short-term profits. Take a look at this story from USA Today and try to imagine living under these conditions:
    Swim for a half-hour in a river in east China's Cangnan county and win $48,000.

    Sound like easy money? Take a look at the river.

    Chinese angry about their toxic and trash-choked rivers have made online offers of cash rewards to the chiefs of their local government's environmental protection bureaus to take a swim in the waterways they are in charge of protecting.