Daily Archives: August 1, 2015

Sportsmen’s coalition defends federal fracking rule

 

SFRED: Time to modernize 30-year-old rule to protect fish, wildlife, water

As a new federal fracking rule continues to come under fire, a national sportsmen’s coalition is defending it as a commonsense update of 30-year-old regulations aimed at safeguarding fish, wildlife, water and other valuable resources on our public lands.

The Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development coalition reacted Wednesday to criticisms aired during a hearing of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. The updated regulations for national public lands, released by the Bureau of Land Management in March, are intended to complement state regulations to ensure that fracking fluids and wastewater are handled safely; well casings are strong enough to stand the high-pressure fluids; and that companies disclose what chemicals they’re injecting underground.

“As the technology has advanced, where and how fracking occurs has changed dramatically in just the last 10 years while rules to safeguard our water and wildlife have not been updated for more than three decades. The BLM’s new rule is a reasonable upgrade to ensure there’s a minimum standard for national public lands that are managed for a number of uses, including hunting, fishing and recreation,” said Kate Zimmerman, the National Wildlife Federation’s public lands policy director.

Corey Fisher, the energy team lead for Trout Unlimited, noted that a recent Environment Protection Agency study of existing data on fracking revealed gaps in information, including the frequency of on-site spills, but did point out potential vulnerabilities to water sources such as inadequate well casings and spills of fracking wastewater.

“The BLM’s new fracking rule includes important changes to protect water quality, such as robust well-casing standards and the requirement that wastewater be stored in tanks rather than pits, which are more vulnerable to leaks and spills,” Fisher said. “These changes help address potential impacts to water resources on public lands. The EPA study makes clear the science hasn’t kept pace with the scale and scope of hydraulic fracturing. More study is needed, additional monitoring is necessary, and documented impacts necessitate a cautious approach and risk management that emphasizes avoiding impacts altogether.”

The BLM has said that where rules are at least as strong as the federal regulations, states can request a variance and companies can carry on as they have. The rule also applies to tribal lands. However, the fracking rule is on hold as a federal judge considers a challenge to the rule by the states of Colorado, Wyoming, North Dakota, Utah and trade associations.

“The SFRED coalition appreciates that some of the biggest oil- and gas-producing states have taken steps to strengthen their rules and that many companies are responsible operators. However, it takes just one bad operator to seriously damage an aquifer or foul waterways that are vital to wildlife and communities,” said Ed Arnett senior scientist for the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “The federal fracking rule is a crucial safeguard in states without their own rules—about half the 32 states with drilling on public lands, according to the BLM. It is important that we have a minimum national standard for lands that are managed for multiple purposes and are, in fact, owned by all Americans.”

Sportsmen for Responsible Energy Development is a coalition of more than 1500 businesses, organizations and individuals dedicated to conserving irreplaceable habitats so future generations can hunt and fish on public lands. The coalition is led by Trout Unlimited, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and the National Wildlife Federation.

 

Outlook promising for duck hunters this season

 

According the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) 2015 Trends in Duck Breeding Populations survey, overall duck numbers remain strong as we enter the 2015-2016 hunting seasons. The USFWS stated that total populations were estimated at 49.5 million breeding ducks in the traditional survey area, which is 43 percent above the 1955-2014 long-term average and the highest count on record. Last year’s estimate was 49.2 million birds.

 

According to the report, current species estimates are as follows:

Blue-winged teal: 8.5 million, 73 percent above the long-term average.

Green-winged teal: 4.1 million, 98 percent above the long-term average.

Northern shoveler: 4.4 million, 75 percent above the long-term average.

Northern pintail: 3.0 million, 24 percent below the long-term average.

Mallard: 11.6 million, 51 percent above the long-term average.

Gadwall: 3.8 million, 100 percent above the long-term average.

American wigeon: 3.0 million, 17 percent above the long-term average.

Redhead: 1.2 million, 71 percent above the long-term average.

Canvasback: 0.76 million, 30 percent above the long-term average.

Scaup: 4.4 million, 13 percent below the long-term average.

 

Waterfowl hunting seasons in Kansas will begin with the teal season in the Low Plains Zones Sept. 12-27, followed by the High Plains Zone Sept. 19-27, 2015. Regular duck and goose seasons will be approved by the Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission at the public hearing portion of its August 20 meeting, which will be held at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center, 592 NE K-156 Highway, Great Bend. The public hearing will begin at 6:30 p.m.

 

Waterfowl hunters are required to possess a Kansas HIP permit, state waterfowl permit, federal waterfowl stamp, and Kansas hunting license, unless exempt.

 

For more information on Kansas waterfowl seasons, visit www.ksoutdoors.com.

 

To view a complete version of the data, and get a species-by-species breakdown, visit www.fws.gov/birds/news/150702trend.php, or www.ducks.org/DuckNumbers.

USDA announces conservation incentives for working grass, range and pasture lands

 

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that beginning Sept. 1, farmers and ranchers can apply for financial assistance to help conserve working grasslands, rangeland and pastureland while maintaining the areas as livestock grazing lands.

 

The initiative is part of the voluntary Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), a federally funded program that for 30 years has assisted agricultural producers with the cost of restoring, enhancing and protecting certain grasses, shrubs and trees to improve water quality, prevent soil erosion and reduce loss of wildlife habitat. In return, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides participants with rental payments and cost-share assistance. CRP has helped farmers and ranchers prevent more than 8 billion tons of soil from eroding, reduce nitrogen and phosphorous runoff relative to cropland by 95 and 85 percent respectively, and even sequester 43 million tons of greenhouse gases annually, equal to taking 8 million cars off the road.

 

“A record 400 million acres and 600,000 producers and landowners are currently enrolled in USDA’s conservation programs. The Conservation Reserve Program has been one of the most successful conservation programs in the history of the country, and we are pleased to begin these grasslands incentives as we celebrate the program’s 30th year,” said Vilsack. “This is another great example of how agricultural production can work hand in hand with efforts to improve the environment and increase wildlife habitat.”

 

The CRP-Grasslands initiative will provide participants who establish long-term, resource-conserving covers with annual rental payments up to 75 percent of the grazing value of the land. Cost-share assistance also is available for up to 50 percent of the covers and other practices, such as cross fencing to support rotational grazing or improving pasture cover to benefit pollinators or other wildlife. Participants may still conduct common grazing practices, produce hay, mow, or harvest for seed production, conduct fire rehabilitation, and construct firebreaks and fences.

With the publication of the CRP regulation today, the Farm Service Agency will accept applications on an ongoing basis beginning Sept. 1, 2015, with those applications scored against published ranking criteria, and approved based on the competiveness of the offer. The ranking period will occur at least once per year and be announced at least 30 days prior to its start. The end of the first ranking period will be Nov. 20, 2015.

 

To learn more about participating in CRP-Grasslands or SAFE, visit www.fsa.usda.gov/crp or consult with the local Farm Service Agency county office.

USDA accepting more farmland for wildlife habitat in Kansas

 

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Kansas Farm Service Agency (FSA) Executive Director Adrian J. Polansky announced that an additional 55,000 acres of agricultural land in Kansas is eligible for funding for wildlife habitat restoration.

 

The initiative, known as State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement (SAFE), is part of the USDA Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), a federally-funded voluntary program that for 30 years has assisted agricultural producers with the cost of restoring, enhancing and protecting certain grasses, shrubs and trees to improve water quality, prevent soil erosion and reduce loss of wildlife habitat. In return, USDA provides participants with rental payments and cost-share assistance. CRP has helped farmers and ranchers prevent more than 8 billion tons of soil from eroding, reduce nitrogen and phosphorous runoff relative to cropland by 95 and 85 percent respectively, and even sequester 43 million tons of greenhouse gases annually, equal to taking 8 million cars off the road.

 

In total, up to 400,000 acres of additional agricultural land will be eligible for wildlife habitat restoration funding through this SAFE announcement. The additional acres are part of an earlier CRP wildlife habitat announcement made by Secretary Vilsack. Currently, more than 1 million acres, representing 98 projects, are enrolled in SAFE nationwide.
“This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Conservation Reserve Program, which has not only resulted in significant soil and water improvements, but also greater populations of waterfowl, gamebirds and other wildlife native to the rural countryside,” said Polansky. “Here in Kansas, an additional 55,000 acres in the Upland Game Bird and Lesser Prairie-Chicken SAFE projects are designed specifically to increase Ring Necked Pheasant, Northern Bobwhite Quail, Greater Prairie-Chicken and Lesser Prairie-Chicken habitats. Since establishment of the Upland Game Bird SAFE in 2008 and Lesser Prairie-Chicken SAFE in 2010, farmers and ranchers have enrolled 37,000 and 45,000 acres respectively, resulting in sustainable populations of prairie-chickens and upland game birds through one of the longest droughts in recent history. We hope to continue this progress by offering interested farmers and ranchers the opportunity to enroll another 15,000 acres in the Upland Game Bird SAFE project and 40,000 acres in the Lesser Prairie-Chicken SAFE project.”

 

Interested producers can offer land for enrollment in SAFE and other CRP initiatives by contacting their local FSA county office at http://offices.usda.gov. To learn more the 30th anniversary of CRP and to review 30 success stories throughout the year, visit www.fsa.usda.gov/CRPis30 or follow Twitter at #CRPis30. And for more information about FSA conservation programs, visit www.fsa.usda.gov/conservation.

 

The Conservation Reserve Program was reauthorized by 2014 Farm Bill, which builds on historic economic gains in rural America over the past six years, while achieving meaningful reform and billions of dollars in savings for taxpayers. Since enactment, USDA has made significant progress to implement each provision of this critical legislation, including providing disaster relief to farmers and ranchers; strengthening risk management tools; expanding access to rural credit; funding critical research; establishing innovative public-private conservation partnerships; developing new markets for rural-made products; and investing in infrastructure, housing and community facilities to help improve quality of life in rural America. For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.