Conservation Update: Limits on Roads—and Fish?

_by Bob Marshall
_
Sportsmen Cheer Roadless Rule Victory

Looks like backcountry hunters and anglers--not to mention elk herds and trout populations--won't have to contend with logging trucks and four-wheelers in the near future.

That's the near-term impact of the decision last week by the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals that reinstated the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule as the law governing 49 million acres of inventoried roadless areas located on the nation's national forests and grasslands.

The ruling overturned a 2008 lower district court's decision enjoining the rule and should resolve uncertainty about federal management of roadless areas across America.

The Roadless Rule is a multiple-use management regulation that limits road building and timber harvest on undeveloped public lands managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture outside of Idaho. The decision was cheered by sportsmen and wildlife officials, as well as the tens of thousands of jobs related to hunting, fishing and other backcountry recreation.

Sportsmen's groups have been leading the fight to protect this legislation considered so important to protecting habitat sheltering key populations of major fish and wildlife populations.
**
Marine Anglers Worried About 2012**

Saltwater anglers are becoming increasingly nervous as 2012 nears--and it's not because they think Armageddon or the Rapture is right around the corner. It's because Jan. 1, 2012 is the deadline the 2006 Magnuson Act set for the mandatory establishment of "annual catch limits" (ACLs) for almost every fish in the sea. But while the National Marine Fisheries Service was able to get research done on the roughly 120 species receiving heavy commercial and recreational fishing, it didn't have the money--or time--to cover the other 380-plus species and "species groups," some of which live in the same waters as those heavily fished species.

So in a few months the agency could begin setting ACLs for these species based on thin or non-existent data. And while it's right to protect everything out there, this move could end up unintentionally closing fishing for popular species that are in no trouble. That's because in order to protect an overfished species entire areas can be closed to all fishing.

"That means beginning in 2012--just a few months--you could see fishing for snapper or grouper or tuna or who-knows-what-else closed because arbitrary deadlines based on not one iota of science have been set for hundreds of these others species," said Jeff Angers, executive director of the Center for Coastal Conservation, a marine sports fishing lobby.

"We could see fishing banned for species that are in no trouble, because the law requires these ACLs deadlines for species people seldom see, seldom even catch."

The fishing industry's solution is The Fisheries Science Improvement Act (H.R. 2304), introduced by Rep. Rob Whitman, R-Va.

The bill would amend Magnuson to allow NOAA to call for ACLs only on stocks for which they have recent stock assessments; allows the agency the regional fisheries councils to designate which species are fished heavily enough to require full-blown stock assessments, and allow those that see so little pressure to be managed with less intensive and expensive monitoring, and extend the deadline for those fish requiring ACLs to 2014.