Conservation Roundup: Prairies, Pavement and Pipelines

Dakota Grasslands Conservation Area approved

In the sea of conservation defeats this year comes this island of great news: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe last week signed the OK for development of the Dakota Grassland Conservation Area, an addition to existing conservation easement programs that could greatly expand protections for the nation's rapidly diminishing base of prairie habitat for waterfowl and upland birds.

The plan allows federal agencies to purchase perpetual easements on 1.7 million acres of grassland and 240,000 acres of wetlands in the Prairie Pothole Region of the Dakotas. Funding for the project, expected to cost about $500 million over 25 years, includes a $50 million pledge from Ducks Unlimited and withdrawals from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which consists of offshore mineral royalty payments. That last source could be a problem, of course, since the budget-hawks are attempting to cut that allocation.

Some agricultural use, such as grazing and haying, would be allowed. However, wildlife managers say the need to protect what is considered the most productive waterfowl nesting habitat on North America is imperative.

Anti-hunting/fishing bill needs to be stopped

Anyone who ever hunted or fished in wild or roadless areas knows what would happen if those acres were opened to timber roads, oil and gas drilling, and resort development. But that's just what key members of the House are attempting to do with the Wilderness and Roadless Area Release Act, H.R. 1581, which would open much of the remaining pristine hunting and fishing acres in 37 states.

That's why the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership is urging sportsmen - especially those in the West - to contact their reps and tell them not to vote for what could easily be called an anti-hunting/fishing bill.

As this letter explains, H.R. 1581 would undo a six-year process of public involvement in settling the long-simmering debate over roadless areas.

Don't delay.

Last chance for Gateway West comments

Sportsmen out West still have a chance to let the feds know how they feel about the proposed route of that 1,100-mile power line that will cross some prime outdoors sports country. Over the next four weeks the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will be holding a series of public meetings in towns along the route in Idaho, Wyoming, and Nevada concerning the environment impact statement (EIS) that will evaluate the potential impacts of constructing the Gateway South 500-kilovolt (kV) alternating current (AC) transmission line project. The schedule can be found here.

The line, which will also cross portions of Colorado and Utah, will have a lasting impact on the landscape, so check out the EIS.

Those unable to make the meeting can post a comment at www.gatewaywesteis.com/?submit-a-comment.