Monthly Archives: February 2015

Attack on WOTUS continues

 

By Ferd Hoefner

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

 

In the latest congressional attack on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulation of the Waters of the United States (WOTUS), the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works and the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure held a two-part joint hearing on the Impacts of the Proposed Waters of the United States Rule on State and Local Governments on February 4, 2015. This hearing comes three months after the closing of the EPAs twice-extended comment period on the WOTUS proposed rule, which garnered over 900,000 comments, and six months after the House attempted to stop the rule-making process all together.

The first part of the hearing lasted nearly four hours, and was clearly focused on demonstrating the perceived failures of the proposed rule by relentlessly asking about puddles, ditches, snow cover, and other waters that have dominated the WOTUS media discussion. Touting maps from different government agencies unrelated to the proposed rule, the hearing was more about photo opportunities and discrediting the EPA than a fair effort to work towards informed policy-making. Perhaps contrary to the intent, these efforts illustrated the importance of the rule’s attempts to address the ambiguities resulting from Supreme Court decisions regarding the Clean Water Act (CWA).

Chaired by Representative Bill Shuster (R-PA) and Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), the hearing started off with opening statements emphasizing the negative impact WOTUS would have on small businesses while characterizing the rule as another illegal, overreaching regulation giving the EPA endless jurisdiction.

The first witnesses were EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy. Administrator McCarthy’s testimony laid out her goals for the hearing, namely responding to stakeholders, clarifying any misconceptions, and demonstrating the consistency of the scientific decision-making process.

EPA has repeatedly stated that the proposed rule retains existing exemptions for agriculture, and would reduce the overall extent of EPA’s jurisdiction. From Gina McCarthy’s testimony:

“The final rule will not change, in any way, existing CWA exemptions from permitting for discharges of dredged and/or fill material into waters of the U.S. associated with agriculture, ranching, and forestry activities, including the exemptions for:

Normal farming, silviculture, and ranching practices, which include plowing, seeding, cultivating, minor drainage, and harvesting for production of food, fiber, and forest products;

Upland soil and water conservation practices;

Agricultural stormwater discharges;

Return flows from irrigated agriculture;

Construction and maintenance of farm or stock ponds or irrigation ditches;

Maintenance of drainage ditches; and

Construction or maintenance of farm, forest, and temporary mining roads, where constructed and maintained in accordance with best management practices.

I want to emphasize that farmers, ranchers, and foresters who are conducting the activities covered by the exemptions (activities such as plowing, tilling, planting, harvesting, building and maintaining roads, ponds and ditches, and many other activities in waters on their lands), can continue these practices after the new rule without the need for approval from the Federal government. Additionally, we expect to clarify for the first time in regulation that groundwater, including groundwater in subsurface tile drains, is not subject to the CWA. The proposed rule reduces jurisdiction over ditches, and maintains the existing exclusions for prior converted cropland and waste treatment systems, including treatment ponds and lagoons.”

Despite this clarity presented within the first thirty minutes, the debate continued with Administrator McCarthy attempting to dispel myths for the next three hours. Some of the key issues raised are presented below, including EPA’s responses:

This rule exceeds authority Congress gave to the EPA through the CWA:

“We cannot expand jurisdiction of the CWA, we’re simply trying to provide a clarity of what that is with this rule making”

“This proposed rule speaks to what characteristics water bodies need to have in order to be jurisdictional. We are not expanding the jurisdiction of the CWA. We are not eliminating any exemptions or exclusions from the CWA in this proposal. We are in fact narrowing the jurisdiction of the CWA consistent with sound science and the law.”

Ditches are going to be under federal control:

“In this rule we actually reduce the CWA relative to ditches by making it clear that there are a variety of other ditches that should be excluded from jurisdiction. And, we do our best to explain those from erosional features.”

Isolated puddles, isolated ponds not connected to other waters, artificial irrigated areas, reflecting and summer pools, and water filled depressions from construction are going to be regulated:

“They continue to be exempt.”

The rule will expand jurisdiction for ill-defined ephemeral streams (brief, rain-caused streams) encompassing nearly all waters in any states that are not flat:

“Ephemeral streams are often found to be jurisdictional today and so the intent of this rule was to provide much more certainty on the basis of the science so that we could be clearer about what streams are important to protect and what weren’t.”

States were not consulted:

“I’ve been working very closely with the states for many years and it’s in fact the states as well as stakeholders that told us we need to go back and take a look at the science and make this on much more sure footing in terms on what the science today tells us about what waters are essential for protection.”

“I think one of the reasons to go to rule making which was a judgment this Administration made was to listen to the people that said that this was important enough and the transparency and the certainty of the rule of making process is what we need… We put a proposal out specifically to generate comments… to learn from that.” 

We are disappointed that Congress continues to attempt to derail the public rule-making process. NSAC submitted comments on the proposed rule asking for greater clarity regarding a variety of terms used in the rule, and also suggesting outreach programs to help farmers understand the rule’s jurisdiction, among other suggestions to improve the rule. EPA must consider these comments along with 900,000 in writing the final rule, which is expected in the spring.

Check out EPA’s WOTUS page for more information.

Celebrating the Stamp and the Migratory Bird Treaty –

 

From Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp

 

Next year marks the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty, or at least the initiation of the treaty. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the treaty with Great Britain (on behalf of Canada) for the protection of the “many species of birds which in their annual migration traverse certain parts of the United States and Canada.” After the passage of the Lacey Act of 1900, this treaty became the most important federal action taken to save birds in North America. Officially called the “Convention for the Protection of Migratory Birds,” it was signed on August 16, 1916.

 

But there are actually three Migratory Bird Treaty centennials before us. And the initial signing of 1916 is just the first of these centennials.

 

The convention still had to be ratified by Congress. That occurred with passage in 1918 and the President’s signature on July 3, 1918. This is why the law itself is always called the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (MBTA). It expressly addressed both the protection of migratory birds and their habitats. It prohibited the over-harvest of waterfowl and established the basis for modern hunting seasons and bag limits. And, among other things, it clearly provided that “the taking of nests or eggs of migratory game or insectivorous or nongame birds shall be prohibited, except for scientific or propagating purposes…”

 

Then, there was a third crucial event, when the Act was challenged constitutionally and upheld on April 19, 1920, by the Supreme Court in the seminal Missouri v. Holland, in which Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. eloquently expressed the opinion of the majority (see excerpt below and to the right).

 

Of course, the coverage of the Treaty was later expanded to include Mexico, Japan, and the Soviet Union.

 

This amounted to the essential precondition for what we know today as the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation [Duck] Stamp, with the Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 1929 serving as the functional bridge between the MBTA and the creation of the stamp in 1934.

 

The Migratory Bird Conservation Act of 1929 authorized the acquisition of lands for the express purpose of conserving migratory birds, and it established a Migratory Bird Conservation Commission. The MBCC was virtually toothless, however, without a functioning funding mechanism for bird habitat acquisition, something finally provided in 1934 with the passage of the legislation creating the Federal Duck Stamp.

 

Today, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service is preparing for the 2016 centennial. Some plans can already be seen on their webpage dedicated to the celebration.

 

Of course, there should be a role for the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation [Duck] Stamp in this action. And the Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp has just the activity to draw attention to the link between the triple centennials and the stamp of today.

 

The current art rules for the stamp’s artwork clearly stipulate that the eligible waterfowl species – with five species considered each year – be depicted as alive and as the “dominant feature in the design.” And that’s the way it should be! The three centennials, however, present the possibility of some added creativity, especially insofar as the MBTA covers all migratory birds.

 

Our suggestion is to include a “secondary” non-waterfowl migratory bird on the Duck Stamp, an effort to correspond with the Service’s recognition of the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty. Presented correctly, this could be a new and creative challenge for the regular and reoccurring artists. There is also the serious potential of attracting new and aspiring artists to the art competition. And it should also be an important way to appeal to a broader audience.  Remember: it’s not just ducks! With the increase in the price of the stamp to $25, it will be crucial to devise new ways to make the stamp more appealing, especially for those who are not required to buy one. In any case, it’s amazing how a slight adjustment in the stamp art could stress the vital message – the stamp proceeds go to essential habitats and benefit multiple species!

 

In our last Wingtips we included a number of ideas to increase stamp appreciation. Among these concepts were drawing attention to the art by further engaging the art community, collectors, and portions of the general public interested in wildlife and art, and also linking stamp promotion with a recognition of historical and conservation events. (These two general concepts were explained in arguments #3 and #4 in that last issue of Wingtips.)

 

The two suggestions can actually be combined through the inclusion of the secondary bird species to the artwork.

 

This could start with the contest to be held in the fall of 2016, the first centennial year. There is plenty of time to prepare – announcements, rules, artist preparation, and essential promotion.

 

Of course, the eligible waterfowl would be the prime and dominant feature in the artwork, but with this approach another non-waterfowl migratory bird in the image would be required. Any non-waterfowl species covered under the Migratory Bird Treaty and the related Act could be portrayed. It is assumed that that species should be appropriate, showing the right habitat (e.g., wetland, riparian, bottomland, or grassland), seasonal presence, and corresponding plumage.

 

For the 2016 art contest, we already know the eligible waterfowl species: Brant, Northern Shoveler, Canada Goose, Red-breasted Merganser, and Steller’s Eider.

 

Just consider some of the artistic possibilities showing a secondary species (e.g., shorebird, songbird, long-legged wader, or raptor) along with the dominant waterfowl:

Brant – Wintering Brant along the shore with non-breeding-plumaged Ruddy Turnstone (shorebird) in the background.

Northern Shoveler – An incubating female Northern Shoveler on a nest with a Yellow-headed Blackbird (songbird) on nearby reeds/cattails.

Canada Goose – A pair of these geese in a large pond with Great Egret (long-legged wader) on the far shoreline.

Red-breasted Merganser – Pair of Red-breasted Mergansers in a boreal pond, with Merlin (raptor) in the far-off bare trees.

Steller’s Eider – A pair of these eiders in tundra habitat, along with a male Pectoral Sandpiper (shorebird) displaying off to the side.

Moreover, almost any of the dominant species could be joined by a favorite raptor (e.g., Northern Harrier, Bald Eagle, or Peregrine Falcon) or a familiar long-legged wader (e.g., Great Blue Heron or Green Heron) in the background. And how about another hunted migratory non-waterfowl (Sandhill Crane or Wilson’s Snipe)? Now, wouldn’t that be grand!

 

Any new art requirement would have to be clearly stipulated in the rules.

 

Special art requirements or restrictions have been established before. You may remember the Black Scoter in the 2001 contest (for the 2002-2003 stamp). That year’s contest was actually restricted to artwork showing Black Scoter, a waterfowl that had yet to be chosen for a stamp.

 

But why isn’t this proposed non-waterfowl bird in the art simply an option for the artist in the coming year or years? Actually, it already is! (The rules allow for stamp designs that include “habitat scenes” and “conservation.. uses of the stamp.”) However, the artists want to know, exactly, what the judges will be told, what their precise instructions for judging will be. An “option” does not do that!

 

If the artists know that all of them have to consider and display a secondary species covered under the Migratory Bird Treaty, only then is the art competition run on a level playing field.

 

Ideally, these rules would extend to the 2019-2020 stamp, that is, through three contests – 2016, 2017, and 2018. (Remember, the MBTA was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1920.) If stakeholders are displeased, the rule change could be dropped after the 2018 contest. If the concept is embraced during those years, it could even be continued.

 

The good news is that this suggested change for inclusion of a secondary species does not require any change whatsoever in the Federal Law, just minor changes in the Contest Rules. And this has been done before.

 

Readers of Wingtips can review our detailed proposal, with very simple rule changes we have placed on our website. We have already presented these ideas to the USFWS for their consideration. And we welcome your comments which we could post or circulate as the discussion grows.

 

Did You Know

 

1) Only once has an image of a dog appeared as part of the Federal Duck Stamp. But there are many occasions when dogs have appeared on state stamps, perhaps dozens of them, and from 22 states.

2) The last time that stamp sales topped two million was the 1980-1981 stamp, when 2,045,114 stamps were sold across the country.

3) Before the 1958 revisions of the law (effective 1 July 1960), land acquisition was only one of several programs financed at least in part with stamp dollars. Previously, about 20 percent of these funds were used to acquire refuge lands and approximately 50 percent had been used to develop and maintain migratory bird refuges after acquisition.

4)  The highest number of stamps sold in California was in the 1952-1952 year when there were 214,456 stamps sold in the Golden State.

5) The first national Jr. Duck Stamp contest began with 8 states participating in 1993: Arkansas, California, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, South Dakota, and Vermont.

6) Bob Hines (1912-1994) created the original rules for a Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest and managed the competition for over three decades.

7)

Stamp funds not only go to refuges. Since 1958, the funds also go to acquire smaller wetland and grassland habitats (the Small Wetlands Acquisition Program – SWAP) within the Prairie Pothole Region of the upper Midwest and northern Great Plains. In this way, over 3.6 million acres of wetland and grassland habitat have been added to Refuge System.  These units are commonly referred to as Waterfowl Production Areas or WPAs.

 

From the Supreme Court – 1920

 

On April 19, 1920 the Supreme Court ruled, in an opinion by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., that the Migratory Bird Treaty of 1916 and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 were, indeed, constitutional. As constitutional doctrine, the importance of this case has rested on its broad reading of the treaty power as against the claim of a state. But this case of Missouri v. Holland, 252 U.S. 416 (1920), is also significant in conservation law, as can be seen in the following passage from the opinion by Holmes:

 

To put the claim of the State upon title is to lean against a slender reed. Wild birds are not in the possession of anyone; and possession is the beginning of ownership. The whole foundation of the states’ rights is the presence within their jurisdiction of birds that yesterday had not arrived, tomorrow may be in another state and in a week a thousand miles away.

 

Elsewhere in the decision, Justice Holmes added:

 

We see nothing in the Constitution that compels the Government to sit by while a food supply is cut off and the protectors of our forests and our crops are destroyed. It is not sufficient to rely upon the States. The reliance is vain, and were it otherwise, the question is whether the United States is forbidden to act. We are of the opinion that the treaty and the statute must be upheld.

 

Kansas NRCS Announces National Initiatives for 2015

Eric B. Banks, State Conservationist with U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) announces five national initiatives being offered in Kansas through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP): Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative, National Water Quality Initiative, On-Farm Energy Initiative, Organic Initiative, and Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative. While NRCS accepts applications for EQIP on a continuous basis, NRCS has set a deadline of March 20, to apply for 2015 initiatives funding.

 

Initiatives Overview

 

Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative: NRCS will assist producers in 36 counties to implement conservation practices specifically targeted to improve the lesser prairie-chicken (LPC) habitat while promoting the overall health of grazing lands and the long-term sustainability of Kansas ranching. Expired or expiring Conservation Reserve Program fields in permanent cover that may benefit LPC habitat may also be eligible for funding. This initiative will be offered in

Barber, Clark, Comanche, Edwards, Ellis, Finney, Ford, Gove, Graham, Grant, Gray, Greeley, Hamilton, Haskell, Hodgeman, Kearny, Kiowa, Lane, Logan, Meade, Morton, Ness, Pawnee, Pratt, Rush, Scott, Seward, Sheridan, Sherman, Stafford, Stanton, Stevens, Thomas, Trego, Wallace, and Wichita counties.

 

National Water Quality Initiative: NRCS will assist producers with addressing high-priority water resource concerns in three watersheds. These include:  Big Creek Watershed in Ellis county; Emma Creek Watershed in Harvey, Marion, and McPherson counties; and Grasshopper Creek Watershed in Atchison, Brown, and Jackson counties.

 

On-Farm Energy Initiative: Producers work with an NRCS-approved Technical Service Provider (TSP) to develop Agricultural Energy Management Plans or farm energy audits that assess energy consumption on an agricultural operation. NRCS may also provide assistance to implement various recommended improvements identified in the energy audit through the use of conservation practices offered through this initiative.

 

Organic Initiative: NRCS will assist producers with installation of conservation practices on agricultural operations related to organic production. Producers currently certified as organic, transitioning to organic, or producers who are exempt based on the National Organic Program will have access to a broad set of conservation practices to assist in treating their resource concerns while fulfilling many of the requirements in an organic system plan.

 

Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative: NRCS helps producers implement high tunnels that extend growing seasons for high value crops in an environmentally safe manner. High tunnel benefits include better plant and soil quality and fewer nutrients and pesticides in the environment.

 

Eligibility EQIP offers financial and technical assistance to eligible participants to install or implement structural and management practices on eligible agricultural land. Conservation practices must be implemented to NRCS standards and specifications. In Kansas, socially disadvantaged, limited resource, and beginning farmers and ranchers will receive a higher payment rate for eligible conservation practices applied.

 

Information Available For more information about EQIP, or other programs offered by NRCS, please contact your local USDA Service Center or go to the Web site www.ks.nrcs.usda.gov. For more on the 2014 Farm Bill, visit www.nrcs.usda.gov/FarmBill. Follow us on Twitter @NRCS_Kansas. USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

 

Range Safety Officer Course at Tuttle Creek State Park

The all-day course will be conducted at Fancy Creek Range

 

The Friends of Fancy Creek Range invite anyone interested in becoming a certified range safety officer to attend their Feb. 21 course at Fancy Creek Range in Tuttle Creek State Park. The course will be held from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. and costs $125 per person. Participants must be 21 or older to attend and do not need to bring their own equipment or ammunition; all supplies will be provided.

Range safety officers are individuals trained to supervise range operations, as well as organize and conduct safe shooting activities. Classes typically cover a range safety officer’s roles and responsibilities, standard operating procedures, range rules and inspection, equipment troubleshooting, emergency protocol, and more.

For more information on the role of safety range officers, and to register for this course, contact Kerry Moore at (785) 485-5527.

6 things you can do this winter to help you shoot a big buck next fall

If you are sitting on the couch in front of a basketball game instead of spending a few hours improving your hunting property, your chances of success during the upcoming hunting season are not going to be as good as they could be. Winter is often seen as downtime by hunters, but there are a few simple improvements you can make to your hunting property during the cold months that will pay dividends in the fall.

 

  1. Logging and hinge cutting

One of the best ways to hold deer on your property is to improve food and bedding cover areas. One of the best ways to improve both is to remove undesirable trees to let more sunlight to the forest floor and increase the amount of edible plants. Taking a few trees out can really help make the area more attractive to deer.

 

Hinge cutting is done by cutting a tree at an angle about shoulder height, about three-fourths of the way through. Just cut until the tree starts to fall and let it fall. The fallen tree will provide cover and browse for the deer during the winter. It also provides thermal cover, security cover for bedding, and allows more sunlight to the forest floor.

 

  1. Food plot fertilizer

Winter is the time to put lime and some other fertilizers on your food plots. Lime can be applied right on top of snow. Have your soil sampled so you know what fertilizer you need. Have the pH checked also so you know if your ground is too acidic.

 

In the late winter right before the snow goes off you can apply clover seed. Clover seed is very small and will germinate well when spring rains and snowmelt come. This is called “frost seeding” and it allows the seeds to hit the ground and be ready once the temperatures are warm enough for germination.

 

  1. Cutting and maintaining trails

Winter is a good time to clean up the trails you use to approach your stands and food plots. Clear logs and debris from the trails and mow them if snow conditions permit. Sneaking to your stand sites can be made much easier by having a smooth clean place to walk without making too much noise or movements.

 

If you do not have good entry trails to your stands along food plots, make them in the winter. Make them with a curve right before the plot so you can approach the field secretly. If you make a trail that goes straight to the plot and there are deer already in the plot when you approach or leave, they can see you coming. Put a bend in the trail to avoid that.

 

  1. Improving deer beds

One of the best ways to keep neighbors from shooting the bucks you have been letting grow is to provide attractive bedding cover and improve actual bedding sites. A lot has been written about improving bedding cover, but not so much is known about actually creating specific deer beds.

 

Bucks like to lie with their back against some sort of structure, just like a big old bass likes a brushpile to hide out in. They do not like to lie down on rough ground like rocks or sticks. You can encourage deer to lie in the beds you make by creating the perfect deer beds. Clean the sticks and rough objects out and make small C-shaped piles of limbs. You will be amazed at how fast the deer will begin using them.

 

  1. Trim shooting lanes

The human scent left by trimming branches and saplings to create shooting lanes around your stands can really put deer on edge when done too close to the season or during the season. Doing it in the winter allows you to trim these out without affecting deer movement during hunting season.

 

Take a pole saw and brush nippers and go to work. Don’t overtrim, of course, just make sure you have a clear shot in any direction you anticipate needing one. This can be accomplished by working in pairs, especially if your stands are in the trees. Have one person get up in the stand and point out the limbs that need trimming.

 

  1. Predator control

Studies have consistently shown that the more coyotes you have on your property, the lower fawn recruitment is going to be. If you are seeing coyotes on your game cameras, or if you are seeing a significant number of mature does with only one fawn or no fawns, you probably have a predation problem. Time to take action.

 

Coyote calling is fun and effective. It’s a great way to thin out the population and get some exercise and fresh air during the winter. Trapping and snaring coyotes is the most effective way to curb their numbers. If you don’t have the interest in catching them yourself, find a local trapper you can trust and give him a key to the gate. Most trappers will control coyotes if you also allow them to take other animals, such as raccoon and foxes. It’s well worth the trouble to maintain a good relationship with a trapper.

 

Get off the couch and spend some time on your hunting property this winter. You will definitely see the difference come next hunting season.

 

By Bernie Barringer

The OutdoorHub

Senate Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus members introduce Sportsmen’s Act

On February 5, leaders and Members of the Senate Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) introduced the Sportsmen’s Act of 2015 as a comprehensive sportsmen’s package of legislation aimed to benefit America’s sportsmen’s community.

Introduced by CSC Members Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM), with original cosponsors, CSC Co-Chairs Senator Jim Risch (R-ID) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), and CSC Vice-Chairs Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE) and Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), this package of legislation starts out with strong bipartisan support in the 114th Congress.

The bill includes 14 provisions, several similar to those within the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2014 from the 113th Congress. Among other provisions, the bill makes the existing exemption from EPA regulation for lead shot permanent, and adds lead tackle to the exempted products, leaving regulatory authority to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state fish and wildlife agencies; Requires federal land managers to consider how management plans affect opportunities to engage in hunting, fishing and recreational shooting; enables states to allocate a greater proportion of federal funding to create and maintain shooting ranges on federal and non-federal lands; and directs 1.5 percent of the Land and Water Conservation Fund to enhancing public recreational access for hunting, angling, and recreational shooting, otherwise known as Making Public Lands Public (MPLP).

“The Bipartisan Sportsman’s Act is not only an access bill, but also a way to promote economic growth in our country. Sportsmen and women across the country spend billions of dollars each year on outdoor activities. In Alaska alone there are more than 125,000 individuals who engage in hunting each year. This economic activity not only helps local communities but aids conservation efforts as well,” said Sen. Murkowski. “This commonsense, bipartisan legislation supports conservation efforts while also improving access to recreational hunting and fishing on federal lands.”

“The number one issue for sportsmen and women across the country is access. This widely supported, bipartisan bill will open more areas to hunting and fishing and grow America’s thriving outdoor recreation economy. Hunters and anglers alone spend more than $465 million per year in New Mexico, and outdoor recreation as a whole is directly responsible for 68,000 jobs in our state,” said Sen. Heinrich. “As an avid hunter myself, I remain deeply committed to preserving our outdoor heritage and treasured public lands for future generations to enjoy.”

On Wednesday, February 4, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) hosted the annual “Welcome to Congress” reception on Capitol Hill, welcoming new and returning Members of the CSC, and giving the CSC and sportsmen’s community an opportunity to discuss the introduction of the Sportsmen’s Act. “Getting a sportsmen’s package passed in this Congress is vital to the future of the nation’s hunting and angling opportunities. We have great bipartisan CSC support so far, but need to get as many Members of Congress involved as possible,” said CSF President Jeff Crane.

“Whether sportsmen and sportswomen go hunting or fishing to put food on the table, or for sport, or to pass down a tradition to their family, or for game management purposes, there is something in the Sportsmen’s Act of 2015 for all of them,” said Sen. Risch. “With more than 39 million sportsmen and sportswomen of all ages in the United States, this legislation will ensure all can continue to access their favorite hunting or fishing spot. As Co-Chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, I cannot put into words how important sporting issues are to so many Americans and their families. Hunting and fishing give us a great reason to be in the great outdoors, a great reason to hand down traditions, and a great reason to support this legislation.”

“As Co-Chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus and as an avid sportsman, it makes me so proud that we can come together as Democrats and Republicans to preserve America’s beloved outdoor traditions,” Sen. Manchin said. “I’ve worked hard on these priorities ever since being the inaugural Co-Chairman of the Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus, and I am continuing that work here in the Senate. Outdoor recreation is vital to sustaining our economy, preserving our family traditions, and maintaining our way of life. This comprehensive package will boost opportunities for hunters, anglers, outdoor enthusiasts, and conservationists alike; improve access to federal lands; and strengthen the overall outdoor recreation industry. I truly believe that the American people should be able to enjoy the great outdoors, and this bill expands people’s ability to do just that.”

The House CSC leadership is also currently working on a similar legislative sportsmen’s package that they are likely to introduce in the upcoming weeks.
From The Outdoor Wire

 

NWF applauds bipartisan sportsmen’s legislation introduction

Senate package expands access to public lands, boosts conservation funding

 

By Bentley Johnson

 

The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) welcomes the introduction of a bipartisan legislative package in the Senate that would expand and enhance hunting, angling and other outdoor recreation on our public lands and help secure conservation funding for years to come.

The Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015 introduced February 5 by Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Martin Heinrich, D-New Mexico, includes many positive wildlife conservation and public access elements. Hunters and anglers know that access and opportunity are as crucial to the future of hunting and fishing as committed funding programs for fish and wildlife.

“We thank Sens. Murkowski and Heinrich for their bipartisan commitment to fish and wildlife conservation and the outdoor traditions we will pass on to future generations. This is a strong start, and we encourage Senate and House colleagues to work together to strengthen its conservation provisions and advance the bill to the President’s desk,” said Collin O’Mara, NWF’s president and CEO.

O’Mara noted that sportsmen and women spend about $90 billion a year on hunting and fishing. The total for all outdoor recreation is about $646 billion.  A significant portion is committed by law to wildlife restoration and habitat enhancement activities.

“Investing in conservation is a win for wildlife, hunters, anglers, and the economy,” O’Mara said.

He said NWF acknowledges the following provisions in particular:

Reauthorization of the Federal Land Transaction and Facilitation Act, which, among other things, allows public agencies to work with willing landowners to acquire private land surrounded by public land while creating jobs, revenue and enhanced wildlife habitat.

Reauthorization of North American Wetlands Conservation Act and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, both of which leverage public and private funding for fish and wildlife habitat, wetlands, migratory birds and conservation projects. NAWCA has helped protect or restore 25.6 million acres of wetlands during the last two decades while NFWF has leveraged nearly $576 million in federal funds into $2 billion worth of conservation projects.

Provisions to identify and provide hunting and fishing access and opportunities to inaccessible public lands.

 

KWF Editor’s note: There are some aspects of the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015 that includes many items that are not in the sportsmen’s best interest. Rep. Dan Benishek (R-MI) has reintroduced his “Recreational Fishing and Hunting Heritage and Opportunities Act” (HR 528). As with his bill from the last Congress (which did not pass), this legislation would gut protections for every Wilderness in the nation. Unfortunately, this is probably just the beginning of Congressional attacks on Wilderness.

USFWS investigates Bald Eagle shooting

 

Reward for Information

 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement, and the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, are investigating the shooting of a bald eagle in Marion County, Kansas, near the Marion Reservoir Dam.

The bald eagle was found dead on Thursday, February 4th, below the base of the dam, on the east side of the outlet.  Examination of the eagle found evidence of a gunshot wound.

Bald eagles are protected by state and federal law including the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.  The shooting of any eagle is considered a violation of those acts, and is a serious offense.

Anyone with information regarding the shooting of this eagle is asked to contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement at (785) 232-5149. The Service will pay for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible.  Anyone contributing that information to authorities can remain anonymous. Information can also be reported to the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism’s Operation Game Thief hotline at 1-877-426-3843.

About 50,000 pairs of bald eagles occupied the lower 48 states in pre-colonial times, but that number was reduced to 400 pairs by the 1960s. Biologists blamed a loss of habitat, shooting, trapping and the heavy use of pesticides such as DDT. After DDT was outlawed, bald eagles began making a comeback in the late 1980s and in June of 2007, it was removed from the federal list of endangered and threatened species.  This majestic bird, our national symbol, continues to need our help to survive, and your assistance is appreciated.

For more information on the bald eagle, please visit www.fws.gov

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information, visit www.fws.gov, or connect with us through any of these social media channels: Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube.

 

Powder Creek Shooting Park in Lenexa Announces Kevin Danciak to Take Reins as General Manager

Kevin Danciak has been named General Manager of Powder Creek Shooting Park in Lenexa, Kansas, while Jason Spengel was promoted to Assistant Manager. Danciak is a National Sporting Clays Association certified instructor and has led operations of other shooting venues. Kevin is also a decorated Navy Veteran with a law enforcement background. His immediate plans are to increase the number of corporate hospitality events, leveraging Powder Creek’s unique facilities such as the Tri-Star Pavilion and C-Z USA sponsored 5-Stand range. He will seek to increase community participation in the trap, skeet and sporting clay leagues and especially boost youth involvement via the nationally popular Scholastic Clay Target Program.

In 2015, Powder Creek will host the Kansas Skeet Championship and 15 NSCA certified events. The Hodgden Powder Company sponsored Powder Creek Cowboys will hold the Kansas State Single Action Shooting Society’s match, “Prince of the Pistoleers”.

About Powder Creek:

Powder Creek was founded in 1949 as the Kansas Field and Gun Dog Association and was then known as “a place to run the dogs and shoot some guns.” Since those early days, Powder Creek has grown in membership and is the most complete shotgun shooting facility in the Kansas City Metropolitan area. See: www.powdercreek.com

 

Outdoor group says President’s budget invests in conservation

In a $3.99 trillion budget released February 3rd by the White House, sportsmen’s priorities are singled out for robust funding, drawing praise from the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and many of its partners.

Overall, the president’s budget for fiscal year 2016 commits strong funding levels to core sportsmen’s programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants Program. It also includes revenue from the passage of the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, a TRCP legislative priority that was recently reintroduced in the 114th Congress.

The president’s budget also would end the mandatory, sweeping spending caps harmful to a range of programs, including those crucial to conservation. When the existing budget expires at the end of FY 2015, these sequester cuts will return to the entire suite of conservation priorities unless Congress can reach agreement on a deal – by no means a foregone conclusion.

“In recent decades, sportsmen have criticized the gradual erosion of federal support in conservation, particularly to programs critical to hunting and angling,” said TRCP President and CEO Whit Fosburgh. “We are heartened by this administration’s recognition of the importance of these key measures by its release of a budget that, while not perfect, represents a positive investment in the business plan for outdoor recreation.”

While Congress is ultimately responsible, albeit with the president’s consent, for making spending decisions for the coming fiscal year, the White House budget establishes important benchmarks that will be used by members of the House and Senate in the deliberations to come. Line-item highlights of the White House budget follow:

North American Wetlands Conservation Act: Funding for NAWCA remains level at $34 million.

State and Tribal Wildlife Grants Program: This key program is funded at $70 million.

Land and Water Conservation Fund: The LWCF is fully funded at $900 million and includes the “Making Public Lands Public” public access provision.

WaterSMART: The Bureau of Reclamation program receives $58.05 million, $7.5 million above FY15 levels.

U.S. Forest Service: More than $30 million is earmarked to address the maintenance backlog on trails and roads in the national forest system.

The budget also earmarks $78 million for conservation and restoration of Western sage steppe landscapes, which support a vibrant outdoors-based economy as well as hundreds of species important to sportsmen.

“We are pleased that the administration has strongly invested in sage steppe landscape conservation,” said Miles Moretti, president and CEO of the Mule Deer Foundation. “This investment will benefit this critically important ecosystem, protecting more than 350 species of plants and animals and ensuring a strong outdoor recreation-based economy in the West.”

The administration’s inclusion of provisions related to the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act, which would revise the funding of wildfire management and suppression, likewise drew praise.

The Nature Conservancy strongly agrees with the need to find a budget fix that meets America’s growing need to fight wildfire disasters in a way that does not come at the expense of other critical programs,” said Kameran Onley, director of U.S. government relations for the Conservancy. “The frequent practice of ‘fire borrowing’ seriously impairs the ability of federal agencies to carry out some of the very programs that would reduce wildfire risk in the first place, among many other conservation programs. That practice needs to stop, so we greatly appreciate the support we’ve seen from the administration and bipartisan champions in Congress.”

Sportsmen also voiced support of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, a popular conservation program that sustains fish and wildlife habitat and expands public access

“Once again the Obama administration and Interior Department have demonstrated their enduring commitment to the LWCF with another strong budget proposal for FY 16,” said Steve Moyer, vice president of Trout Unlimited. “Trout Unlimited supports this proposal because the LWCF continues to be one of the nation’s very best tools for protecting and restoring trout and salmon habitats.”

Finally, sportsmen commended the budget’s funding of federal land management agencies.

“One of the justifications underpinning state-based efforts to sell or transfer ownership of federal lands is the supposed inability of the federal government to manage the lands it already owns,” said Land Tawney, executive director of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. “In part, this logic is erroneously derived from the fact that inadequate funds are currently allocated to key land management programs. The response to this problem, then, isn’t to sell off federal lands and close off millions of acres to public access and sportsmen but to properly commit to their management – a resolution that the president’s budget offers.”

 

From The Outdoor Wire