Covering conservation news recently has been like working the obituary beat at a newspaper: You spend your days reporting about good things passing away. And while that's not much fun to write about, I know some readers are tempted to quit and seek grief counseling.
That's why it's important to revisit the news from recent weeks. Not only was there a string of victories for conservationists, but sportsmen's groups played pivotal roles in many of them.
• The RESTORE Act passed a major hurdle in the Senate. If blessed by the House and signed by President Obama, this means 80 percent of Clean Water Act fines resulting from the Deepwater Horizon disaster will be spent on restoring the Gulf Coast that event damaged.
This is a huge victory for the Mississippi River delta, the engine that drives much of the Gulf ecosystem, yet has been near collapsing due to the impacts of levees for shipping and development and tens of thousands of miles of canal dredged for oil and gas development.
Sportsmen groups and the outdoors industry lobbied hard for this passage -- and got 72 votes in a Senate that typically offers fewer than 52 votes for anything.
• The Obama Administration found a way to fund an additional 1 million acres for upland and wetland habitat, reversing an earlier decisions that would have gutted programs like the Wetland Reserve and Grasslands Reserve -- and sportsmen played a major role in that.
This project would have reversed the hard-won conservation efforts attempting to return that delta system -- long-battered by dredging and draining, yet still so important to fish and wildlife -- to its former glory.
You may have already read about some of this news, but the fact that reliable sources confirmed sportsmen's groups played pivotal roles in these victories is new in itself. It proves congressional contacts from individuals make a difference.
1.) ZEBRA & QUAGGA MUSSELS WANTED DEAD for devastating the food chain, reducing fish populations, destroying spawning habitat, encrusting boats and docks, and wreaking havoc on equipment and on fishing.
2.) ASIAN CARP WANTED DEAD for taking over rivers and streams, replacing sport fish populations, impeding navigation and causing injury -- even possible death -- to boaters on the waters.
3.) CANADA THISTLE WANTED DEAD for choking out native prairie grasses and plants, providing no food value, driving deer, wild turkeys and other wildlife out of traditional habitat.
4.) HYDRILLA WANTED DEAD for limiting access for boating, fishing and waterfowl hunting, dense beds destroying sport fish spawning grounds, out competing native plants and, once mature, degrading fishing.
5.) BUCKTHORN WANTED DEAD for killing hardwood forests, eliminating native producing trees important to deer and turkey, choking woodland travel corridors and decreasing overall productive habitat.
6.) ROCK SNOT - DIDYMO WANTED DEAD for smothering food sources for trout and salmon, covering spawning habitat and insect life with ooze, wreaking havoc on fishing and access to fishable waters.
7.) EMERALD ASH BORER WANTED DEAD for destroying 100 million ash trees, creating loss of habitat and fire zones imperiling wildlife, humans and property. At stake are 7.5 billion trees.
8.) WHIRLING DISEASE WANTED DEAD for killing trout and salmon. When an infected fish's death occurs, millions of parasitic spores release back into the water, which are virtually indestructible, surviving for up to 30 years to kill again.
9.) FERAL HOGS WANTED DEAD for wanton destruction of habitat, consumption of acorns and denying essential food from deer, wild turkey and quail, eating eggs of ground nesting birds, killing fawns and maliciously uprooting riparian areas.
10.) PURPLE LOOSESTRIFE WANTED DEAD for eliminating productive fish and wildlife habitat to the tune of 500,000 acres of wetlands annually, offering no food value, reducing waterfowl nesting and fish nursery areas.
Grants Available for Community-based Habitat Restoration Projects**
Sportsmen who see a conservation project in need of funding should check out a generous program for the FishAmerica Foundation that offers grants up to $75,000 for marine and anadromous sport fish habitat restoration projects along the coasts and Great Lakes.
Working with the Naitonal Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the project targets community-based, non-profit organizations such as sportsmen's and conservation groups.
The Appplication deadline is April 30th. Complete details are available at www.FishAmerica.org.