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Monthly Archives: June 2015

Guest Commentary: New rule safeguards Clean Water Act

 

By Kent Peppler and David Nickum

The Denver Post Opinion

 

For nearly 15 years, 10,000 miles of streams and thousands of acres of wetlands in Colorado have been at greater risk of being polluted or destroyed due to confusion over what bodies of water are protected under the Clean Water Act. That all changed last week thanks to a new rule from the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that restores protections to the vital waters that provide habitat for fish and wildlife and safe drinking water to two out of three Coloradans.

 

The rule is a clarification of Clean Water Act jurisdiction. It gives Colorado’s farmers and ranchers a clear understanding of the rules that protect the water we rely on for the production of healthful food while maintaining all of the existing Clean Water Act exemptions for normal farming activities, and in some cases, strengthening them. The rule also gives Colorado sportsmen certainty that the wetlands and headwater streams that form the backbone of our state’s $3 billion outdoor recreation economy will be safeguarded.

 

Contrary to what opponents have claimed, the rule does not expand the Clean Water Act. The rule does not protect any new types of waters or regulate ditches. It does not apply to groundwater, nor does it create any new permitting requirements for agriculture, or address land use or private property rights.

 

In crafting the long-overdue final rule, the agencies reviewed comments from more than 1 million Americans. Advocates on all sides had called for the clarification the rule provides, prompting the EPA and Army Corps to hold more than 400 meetings with stakeholders. The final rule is a clear victory not only for farmers, ranchers and sportsmen, but for all Coloradans. Unfortunately, it may not last long.

 

Before the clean water rule was even finalized, some members of Congress began to engage in last ditch efforts to block the anticipated rule, and restart the multi-year rulemaking process. Now that the rule has been written, these attacks have intensified. Inflammatory rhetoric about an administrative “power grab” are driving attempts to pass legislation in both the House and Senate that would force the agencies to go back to the drawing board and rewrite the rule. Not only would these efforts unnecessarily delay a process that has been well vetted from top to bottom, it would also have serious, damaging impacts on our water supply, our local farmers, sportsmen and our state’s economy.

 

As Congress considers this unnecessary delay, Colorado’s senators have a critical role to play. Sen. Michael Bennet has supported these efforts to protect clean water in the past, while Sen. Cory Gardner has been in opposition. We urge them both to do what’s in the best interest for their constituents and oppose efforts to derail the clean water rule.

 

There is a misconception that all farmers oppose the clean water rule. In fact, farmers, ranchers and sportsmen have stood side by side for decades in the fight for clean water, and were present during the many public meetings and listening sessions the agencies held as they were forming the final rule. As we face down 11th-hour efforts to block the rule, we urge support for the clean water rule across the Continental Divide, from headwater trout streams to farm fields, to sustain our Colorado way of life for us and future generations of farmers, hunters and anglers.

 

Kent Peppler is president of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. David Nickum is executive director of Colorado Trout Unlimited.

 

Glassing the Hill: June 22-26

 

The TRCP’s scouting report on sportsmen’s issues in Congress

 

By Kristyn Brady

Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership

 

Photo courtesy of Library of Congress.

Congress may look like it’s getting an early start on spending bills, but we’re pretty sure they’re going nowhere for a while. This week, the House will vote on its appropriations bill for the Department of Interior and EPA. The spending plan would shortchange key conservation programs and target the Obama administration’s environmental and climate change programs. The bill allocates a total of $30.17 billion for the Department of the Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, and U.S. Forest Service. These disappointing numbers are $246 million below fiscal year 2015 funding levels and represent historically low funding for conservation.

 

Add to that some damaging policy riders—which would delay the listing of the greater sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act and undermine the recently released clean water rule that clarifies Clean Water Act protections for headwater streams and wetlands—and you’ve got some serious political posturing. As many expected, the GOP-crafted appropriations bill also targets the EPA in a number of these riders and seeks to reduce EPA staff.

 

There is language prohibiting the Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management from ordering new closures of public lands to hunting and recreational shooting.

 

Here are the highlights of the House spending bill:

  • The Environmental Protection Agencyreceived $7.4 billion, a 9% funding decrease
    • $69 million cut to regulatory programs.
  • Payments in Lieu of Taxes program is fully funded at $452 million
  • Bureau of Land Management (BLM) received $1.1 billion, a $30 million increase from FY15
  • The National Park Servicereceived $2.7 billion, a $53 million increase over FY15
    • $52 million was provided to address the frequently-discussed maintenance backlog
  • The U.S. Forest Servicereceived $1.4 billion, an $8 million decrease in funding from FY15 levels
    • $3.6 billion provided to DOI and USFS to combat wildfires
    • $92 million for the Flame Wildfire Suppression Reserve Fund
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) received $1.4 billion, an $8 million decrease from FY15 funding levels
  • North American Wetland Conservation Fund (NAWCA) received $35 million
  • State and Tribal Wildlife Grants received $59.195 million

 

The grass isn’t any greener for other agencies. On Thursday, the House Appropriations Committee will mark up its fiscal year 2016 spending bill for the Agriculture Department and Food and Drug Administration. The $20 billion spending package features significant cuts to key conservation programs:

  • Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)
    • Enrollment cut by 23%
    • Reduction from 10 to 7.74 million acres.
    • Or a 5-year cut of $200 million
  • Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP)
    • $300 million cut
  • Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP)
    • $35 million cut
  • Conservation Operations (i.e. on-the-ground technical assistance and program delivery)
    • $13.5 million cut

 

The spending plan also features a controversial policy rider that would delay implementation of conservation compliance, a program that requires farmers receiving federal crop insurance to implement conservation practices aimed at improving soil and water quality. The rider would not preclude the U.S. Department of Agriculture from employing compliance, as needed, but would allow the agency to continue to provide subsidies for a year without requiring conservation compliance across the board.

 

More information on the bill can be found here.

 

Range Schools focus on planning beyond this year

 

“When you are trying to get through the current grazing season, planning for your forage needs this coming winter, and balancing a dozen jobs that need to be done now - it is hard to think about what you should be considering for next year, two years out, or even in 10 years, said Tim Christian, state coordinator for the Kansas Grazing Lands Coalition (KGLC). “The 2015 KGLC Range Schools will provide a 3-day period when you can begin that thought process.”

 

The Mid-/Shortgrass Range School runs from August 4-6 at Camp Lakeside, Lake Scott, and the Tallgrass Range School is set for August 18-20 at Camp Wood YMCA, Elmdale with the theme Sustaining Rangelands by Leaving A Legacy, Christian said. The 2015 registration fee is $350 per person and covers course materials, on-site lodging and meals, and other related costs.  Ranchers, landowners, and students may qualify for a $175 scholarship if they meet eligibility and request one using KGLC’s scholarship form. Agency staffs may qualify for $125 in scholarships. The form and more information on the Schools is available at www.kglc.org under 2015 Range Schools found in the navigation bar. Scholarship applications must be submitted by July 24 for the Mid-/Shortgrass School and August 7 for the Tallgrass School.

 

Scholarship financial support comes from many of our KGLC partnering individuals, organizations and agencies. Current sponsors include USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Kansas State University Research and Extension; US Fish and Wildlife Service Kansas Partners Program; Kansas Section of the Society for Range Management; The Nature Conservancy; William F. Bradley, Jr.; Trust; Richard and Pat Schroder; and Feed-Lot Magazine.

 

KGLC organized in 1991 as a non-profit educational organization and its vision is to regenerate Kansas grazing lands. This is achieved through the management, economics, ecology, production, and technical assistance programs provided by voluntary methods to reach landowners, ranchers, and others making decisions on grazing lands.

 

For more information on the 2015 KGLC Range Schools, contact Tim Christian, state coordinator, at 620-242-6440, email to tdchristian@cox.net. You may also go to the web at www.kglc.org.

$17.5 million available for restoration of wetlands

 

On Monday, June 22, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the availability of $17.5 million for wetland restoration partnerships with state and local governments, Indian tribes, and non-profit organizations in fiscal year 2015. Proposals must be submitted to NRCS state offices by July 31, 2015.

Projects will be funded through the Wetlands Reserve Enhancement Program (WREP), which is a component of the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP).

 

 

Through WREP, NRCS and partner entities run multi-year projects to protect, restore, and enhance wetlands and wildlife habitat. WREP partners are required to contribute financial and in-kind matches for assistance. These partners work directly with eligible landowners interested in enrolling their agricultural land into conservation wetland easements.

Two types of funding are available for producers and partners. First, financial assistance (FA) is available for the restoration or management of existing wetland easements, as well as for the enrollment of new land under a permanent easement or a 30-year easement (or through a 30-year contract on acreage owned by Indian Tribes). For FA proposals, partners must provide in-kind and/or cash contributions of at least 25 percent of the easement, restoration, or management costs.

Second, technical assistance (TA) funds are available to partners to expedite closing, restoration or management design or planning, or monitoring of existing wetland easements. For TA proposals, partners are required to provide a match of at least 50 percent cash and/or in-kind services. Proposals may include both FA and TA funding.

Proposals must be submitted by partners to the appropriate State Conservationists and directors who will conduct an initial evaluation based on the following criteria:

  • 35 percent of the ranking points will be assigned based on an evaluation of the partner contribution, including in-kind contributions. To evaluate the partner contribution, NRCS will ask:
    • To what extent does the proposal significantly leverage non-federal financial and technical resources?
    • Does the proposal clearly describe outreach efforts to promote participation of beginning farmers or ranchers, socially disadvantaged farmers or ranchers, and Indian tribes?
    • Does the proposal provide assurances of landowner participation, and has the applicant completed preliminary assessments of landowner interest within the proposed project area?
    • Does the proposal ensure the availability of the resources to be contributed to WREP projects, including all matching funds?
  • 15 percent percent of the ranking points will be assigned based on an evaluation of the partner’s capacity to facilitate the project and assess the outcomes. To evaluate the partner contribution, NRCS will ask:
    • Does the proposal demonstrate a history of working cooperatively with landowners either through successful completion of past projects or initiatives with landowners?
    • Does the proposal provide evidence that the restoration and enhancement activities will be completed within 2 years of closing the easement?
    • Does the proposal include a monitoring plan, and if so, what level of monitoring will be used?
  • The remaining 50 percent of the ranking points will be assigned based on an evaluation of the likely outcomes of the project. NRCS will ask:
    • Does the proposal specifically address helping participants meet local, state, and/or federal regulatory requirements?
    • Does the proposal have a high potential to improve habitat for migratory birds and other wetland-dependent wildlife?
    • Does the proposal identify direct benefits to wetland-dependent federal- or state-listed threatened and endangered species?
    • Does the proposal utilize innovative restoration methods and practices in a targeted fashion to facilitate maximizing the potential habitat benefits of the easement sites?
    • Does the proposal target landscapes that are likely to result in the enrollment of multi-functional wetland ecosystems and diverse wetland types?

You can download a partnership agreement template to see what an WREP agreement will look like.

In addition to general WREP funding, a portion of the $17.5 million will be available through the Mississippi River Basin Initiative. To download the MRBI proposal evaluation sheet, click here.

Fishing’s Future announces Catch-Photo-Release contest for youth anglers

 

Non-profit fishing outreach organization to launch contest on Father’s Day, June 21st

By Shane Wilson

 

Non-profit organization Fishing’s Future has nearly 60 chapters in more than 15 states with the primary mission of getting kids and adults outdoors. In 2014 alone, Fishing’s Future chapters worked with over 100,000 participants – all by unpaid chapter organizers and volunteers. This year the organization anticipates reaching 250,000 youth anglers and parents.

“Positive people bring positive change and that’s what Fishing’s Future is all about,” says founder Shane Wilson. “All across America, families are turning to electronic devices to communicate. Family communication, as it once was, is decreasing and the human connection is slowly being replaced with digital neutrality. Our goal is to get kids and parents back on the water, forging bonds and creating memories that will last a lifetime!”

Along these lines, Fishing’s Future is proud to announce the launch of national Catch-Photo-Release contest for youth anglers on Father’s Day, June 21st, 2015. http://fishingsfuture.org/ The contest is not species-specific and is free for any youth ages 16 and under across the nation.

Contest requirements are simple. All a young angler has to do is catch a fish, photograph it, release it, and write a 200 word (or under) reflection on their angling experience, then submit the photo and mini-essay via the Fishing’s Future Facebook page between Sunday, June 21st, and contest end, August 31st, 2015. http://facebook.com/fishingsfuture

All entries will be reviewed and winners chosen by Fishing’s Future chapter volunteers. Winners will be notified via e-mail and publicized via Facebook.

Grand prize winner will receive a week-long, vacation at beautiful Schlitterbahn Waterpark & Resort on South Padre Island, Texas, for a family of four, airfare courtesy of South Padre island Convention and Visitors Bureau. Grand prize package will also include Black Dragon Pirate Ship cruise, a guided shark fishing excursion and much more! Airfare, hotel and activity expenses covered; food & drink not included.

http://www.schlitterbahn.com/south-padre-island/resort & http://www.sopadre.com/

Second place winner will receive a 2015 Tracker Grizzly 1448 MVX Jon boat and trailer courtesy of the Tracker Marine Group! http://www.trackerboats.com/boat/?boat=3669

Third place winner will receive a Humminbird Helix SI GPS and Old Town Vapor 12 kayak with paddle and PFD. http://www.humminbird.com/Products/HELIX-5-SONAR-GPS/ and http://www.oldtowncanoe.com/kayaks/vapor_angler_family/

And each week four random winners will be drawn to receive rod/reel and tackle prize packages courtesy of Fishing’s Future sponsors Pure Fishing and Plano. http://purefishing.com/ & http://www.planomolding.com/

For more information, please visit http://fishingsfuture.org/

Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission approves teal seasons

 

At the evening Public Hearing portion of its June 18 meeting in Hays, the Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission approved the early teal season and Fort Riley deer season dates for 2015.

Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism staff recommended early teal season dates, using frameworks provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Most blue-winged teal migrate through Kansas in August and September before regular waterfowl seasons are open, so the USFWS allows states to establish a September season. The trigger for allowing the season and its length is the May Breeding Population Index (BPI), which is the number of blue-winged teal surveyed on the Prairie Pothole Region in May. If the BPI is 3.3 million bluewings, the USFWS allows a 9-day season. If the BPI exceeds 4.7 million, a 16-day season is allowed. Based on last year’s BPI of 8.5 million blue-winged teal and spring habitat conditions on the Prairie Pothole Region, staff expect the frameworks to allow a 16-day season.

 

 

The Commission approved the staff recommendation of an Early Teal Season in the Low Plains Zones taking place Sept. 12-27, 2015. Because the Migratory Bird Treaty Act limits the number of days for hunting of any one species to 107, the teal season in the High Plains Zone cannot be 16 days long. USFWS frameworks allow 97 days for the regular duck season, and two days for a youth season. That leaves only 8 days for an early teal season. To remain within the frameworks, staff recommended a 9-day Early Teal Season for the High Plains Zone taking place Sept. 19-27, 2015. (The regular High Plains Zone duck season will include 96 days to stay within the 107 maximum number of days.)

In other Public Hearing business, the Commission heard and approved recommendations for the deer seasons on the Fort Riley Military Reservation. To accommodate the changing training mission, Fort Riley personnel have requested additional archery hunting days and additional days for youth and persons with disabilities. The 12-day firearm deer season on the fort will be split into three segments.

The Commission approved the following dates for deer hunting on Fort Riley. In addition to the regular archery season, persons with required authorization can hunt with archery equipment Sep. 1-13, 2015 and Jan. 11-31, 2016. In addition to the regular season for youth and hunters with disabilities, those designated persons may hunt Oct. 9-12, 2015 on Fort Riley. There will be no Pre-rut Whitetail Antlerless-only Season on the Fort. The deer firearm season on Fort Riley will be Nov. 27-29, Dec. 19-23, and Dec. 26-29, 2015.

The next Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission public meeting will be conducted Thursday, August 20, at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center, 592 NE K-156 Highway, Great Bend. The afternoon session will begin at 1 p.m. and recess at 5p.m. The evening Public Hearing session will begin at 6:30 p.m.

 

Elk and Either-Species/Either-Sex deer permit applications due July 10

 

The application deadline for the limited number of 2015 Unit 2A (Ft. Riley) resident-only elk and resident-only either-species/either-sex firearm deer permits are quickly approaching. Hunters have until 11:59 p.m. on July 10, 2015 to apply for these draws, or purchase a preference point. A hunter who does not wish to hunt this year may purchase a preference point that will count toward a firearm either-species/either-sex deer permit in a future drawing or a bonus point for either-sex elk. Unsuccessful applicants automatically receive preference or bonus points.

 

Draw applications for either of these species can be made by visiting www.ksoutdoors.com and clicking “Hunting,” then “Applications and Fees,” or by calling (620) 672-5911.

 

Mule Deer by http://jenniferajarrett.blogspot.com/2012/03/deer.html

Mule Deer by http://jenniferajarrett.blogspot.com/2012/03/deer.html

 

2015 RESIDENT EITHER-SPECIES/EITHER-SEX DEER PERMITS

Firearm Either-species/Either-sex Deer permit (white-tailed or mule deer buck, doe or fawn)

General Resident: $37.50

Landowner/Tenant: $22.50

Resident Youth (15 and younger): $17.50

Preference Point: $6.50

 

 

2015 RESIDENT ELK PERMITS

Elk - Firearms (Any Elk)

General Resident: $252.50

Landowner/Tenant: $127.50

Resident Youth (15 and younger): $127.50

Elk (antlerless)

General resident: $102.50

Landowner/Tenant: $52.50

Resident Youth (15 and younger): $52.50

 

The fee to apply for an elk permit or purchase a bonus point is $7.69.

Heightened enforcement of BUI laws to take place June 26-28

 

The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) will be participating in the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators “Operation Dry Water” (ODW) event, June 26-28. ODW is a nationally-coordinated effort to reduce the number of accidents and deaths related to boating under the influence (BUI). During this three-day period, KDWPT officers will be conducting increased patrols, breathalyzer tests, and checkpoints, as well as providing boater education and outreach.

 

 

“Studies have found that people become impaired faster when boating as opposed to driving due to additional factors such as heat, dehydration, wind and wave action,” said KDWPT assistant director of law enforcement, Major Dan Hesket. “Our goal is to promote awareness of the hazards relating to boat operations while intoxicated and to prevent any accidents, injuries, or deaths due to operating while impaired.”

 

Hesket encourages anyone who suspects a boater to be intoxicated to dial 911 and provide the operator with the location, the suspect boat’s registration numbers, and a complete description of the operator and passengers.

 

Boaters whose blood alcohol content (BAC) level exceeds the state limit of .08 percent can expect to be arrested for BUI and face other serious penalties including fines, jail time and loss of boating or even driving privileges.

 

According to Hesket, the KDWPT Law Enforcement Division averages approximately 11 special enforcement efforts over the ODW weekend, resulting in four to eight BUI arrests each year.

For more information, visit www.operationdrywater.org.

Black Bear spotted in Cherokee County

 

The report of a black bear sighting in Cherokee County last weekend was verified by Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) biologists with photographs and tracks. A black bear was videoed on Saturday, June 20 and photographed on Sunday, June 21 in locations about 16 miles apart. Tracks in soft soil were also identified.

According to KDWPT furbearer biologist Matt Peek, it is uncertain whether this was one or two separate bears, but both the video and photos appeared to show a young animal.

 

 

“It’s common for yearling black bears to disperse into new areas seeking their own home range,” Peek said. “Missouri biologists have reported seeing a lot of this lately.”

These transient bears probably account for the handful of black bear reports in Kansas in recent years. Most reports occur in far southwest Kansas, where multiple dispersal-aged bears have been documented since 2000.

Cherokee County is the farthest southeast county in Kansas, nearest Missouri, Oklahoma, and Arkansas where viable black bear populations exist, making it the most likely spot for bears to enter Kansas. While no permanent population of black bears has been verified in Kansas, they occurred in the eastern third of the state prior to settlement.

Black bears are usually nonaggressive. However, they are large, powerful, wild animals and should be given respect and space. Human/bear conflicts in other states usually occur when a bear locates food near a house. Care should be taken to not allow any bear access to pet food, birdseed or grain. There is no hunting season on black bears in Kansas, and they may not be shot for mere presence. Do not attempt to approach a bear, even from a distance.

For more information on rare wildlife sightings in Kansas, visit www.ksoutdoors.com/Wildlife-Habitats/Wildlife-Sightings.

So what kind of creature is a Ringtail? A cat? A raccoon? Or something else entirely?

 

By eNature

 

There’s an intriguing mammal that most folks have never heard of living in parts of the United States — the Ringtail.

 

Ringtail, photographed in Arizona, showing the source of its name © Robert Body

 

The Ringtail is a small ground-dwelling mammal found in the arid regions of the Western US and is known by a number of common names including Ring-tailed Cat, Civet Cat or Miner’s Cat.

The name confusion is easy to understand as the Ringtail looks like a cross between a house cat and a raccoon and displays some of the characteristics that make both species appealing to humans.

 

A Distinctive Look

Averaging a weight of about three pounds, ringtails are nocturnal creatures with large eyes and upright ears that are optimized for activity after dark.

 

Ringtail face, note distinctive eyes and ears © Robert Body

 

An adult’s tail is about a foot long, with seven to nine black rings, and generally the same length as the animal’s body. While primarily used for balance the tail can also serve as a distraction for potential predators which focus on and grab its tail rather than the body, giving the Ringtail a greater chance of escaping

 

So Is The Ringtail A Feline?
It turns out, that despite all the cat references in the colloquial names given to it, the Ringtail is actually a member of the raccoon family. Its cousins found in the US are the Common Raccoon and the White-nosed Coati.

 

Range of Ringtail

 

It’s an active creature and can leap like a squirrel and use its sharp claws to climb walls like a spider. These acrobatic skills help the animal hunt. But since it emerges from its den only at night, few humans ever see the Ringtail at work. And perhaps that’s just as well.

 

A Messy Eater
Here’s why: First, the Ringtail ambushes its prey (anything from a toad to a rabbit is fair game). Then, using its forepaws, it pins the animal down and, like a furry Count Dracula, administers a deadly bite to the neck. The meal proper then commences, usually with the Ringtail devouring its victim’s head.

 

It’s not a pretty sight for the queasy observer. But as many of our commenters point out, while nature is almost always amazing to observe, it’s not always pretty.

 

Have you ever encountered a Ringtail? Or another messy eater?

 

We always enjoy hearing our readers’ stories.