Let the Super Committee Hear from You

Sportsmen who care about the future of their traditions have an important job over the next week: Let the congressional Super Committee on the budget know that more cuts in conservation programs will only increase the deficit, not lower it.

The Super Committee is the bi-partisan group charged with outlining $1.2 trillion in budget cuts over the next decade by Nov. 23rd. Failure to agree would trigger automatic cuts of the same amount, most of which would come out of defense and domestic spending. Congress already has cut conservation spending by 30 percent earlier this year, putting vital fish and wildlife programs on the edge of collapse.

Conservation groups fear the Super Committee is considering even more damage–but they worry those automatic cuts could be just as severe. The frustrating thing is that, as mentioned in many previous posts here, conservation spending actually turns a profit for the nation’s treasury. So it’s time for sportsmen to contact their congressional delegations and tell them “Hands off of conservation funding.” You can find out who your reps are, and how to [contact them here.

It’s Official: Elk Back in the Smoky Mountains Region

In what must rank as one of the most remarkable conservation success stories in recent times, it has taken the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the National Park Service just 10 years to heal a 250-year-old wound in the Smoky Mountains, and return a viable elk herd to that historic habitat.

Last week, the two organizations announced “the ‘experimental’ status of the park’s restored elk herd has been officially lifted, clearing the way for permanent management of elk in and around the park.” Elk had been prosperous residents of the Appalachian Mountains for thousands of years when Europeans arrived in the 1700s. But it took just 150 years of unregulated hunting and habitat destruction to extirpate the eastern elk from the region.

The NPS reports “the last elk in North Carolina was believed to have been killed in the late 1700s. In Tennessee, the last elk was killed in the mid-1800s.” The RMEF has been the largest financier of the park’s 10-year elk restoration project, putting more than $800,000 into the effort.

The Tiny Menhaden Critical to Sportfishermen

While it remains popular in some quarters to sneer at the term “ecosystem management,” East Coast anglers were reminded of its importance again recently when conservation groups rallied to support tighter new commercial catch limits on the tiny menhaden.

Most anglers know menhaden (aka “pogies”) as little more than an important live bait for inshore species like speckled trout, redfish and stripers, and ideal chum for offshore titans like tuna. But menhaden have long been one of the most important commercial species in the Gulf and southeast Atlantic where purse seine operations haul in millions of tons of the silver dollar-sized fish for its oil.

Menhaden also occupy a critical niche in the estuarine ecosystem, and their overharvest was threatening to ripple through a long list of species.

So when the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) decided to tighten the rules, conservation groups applauded in unison. This is another lesson for anglers to look at the big picture, not just the fish they are casting for.