Middle River Dispatches is a gumbo of posts about fly-fishing, conservation, politics and days afield.

A Conservation Nightmare

We were warned

When Bob Marshal wrote, This will be the year that will test the commitment of the outdoors community, he gave us fair and early warning of the assault on conservation that was coming.

The conservation battles sportsmen fought to protect fish and wildlife habitat in the past may seem like speed bumps to the wall being raised in Washington this year.

Hal Herring took up the battle cry when he wrote Are There Any Politicians Who Really Understand Sportsmen’s Concerns?

What is disturbing is that we seem to have lost any conservative political leaders who understand sportsmen’s concerns, or, in the same vein, who recognize that there can be value in undisturbed land, or waters, or that intact ecosystems, with their healthy game and fish populations, also hold economic value in producing clean water, clean air, grazing, wildlife, flood or invasive weed control, all those elements that may not always add to the bottom line of corporate profit, but are the actual bottom line of life on this planet.

Not long after that Kirk Deeter added his voice in Should Conservation Be a Political Issue?

In my humble opinion, conservation shouldn’t be a political issue. It should be a cultural issue. And in that regard, I think those doing the real heavy lifting to protect wild places for fishing and hunting aren’t so much “green” as they are “camo.”

U.S. House takes an axe to conservation

Yesterday Deeter sounded the alarm loud and strong in his reaction to the US House of Representatives passage of HR1, Proposed Conservation Funding Cuts Could Devastate Fly Fishing Resources.

HR1 is a bill in Congress right now that would slash funding for a number of important conservation programs that impact fly fishing from coast to coast. I don’t care what your political persuasion is…if you’re a fly fisher, this should concern you, because any threat to habitat is a threat to opportunity. And in many cases, once a resource is gone, it’s gone.

He joins calls to action from Ducks Unlimited and Trout Unlimited!

Are you getting the message yet? If not, then you are not paying attention!

In 30 years of working with our federal government I have never seen anything as disheartening as this. The recent actions taken by the U.S. House of Representatives repesents a collosal lack of judgemt and a complete disregard for our nations outdoor sporting and outdoor recreation community.

TU helps us understand some of the damage wrought by HR 1:

The bill contains numerous harmful legislative riders, including:

• Stopping the Army Corps of Engineers and EPA from conducting a rulemaking to restore Clean Water Act protection for some wetlands and streams which were curtailed by two harmful and confusing Supreme Court decisions, Rapanos (2006) and SWANCC (2001).

• Removing funding for the Klamath River Dam Removal and Sedimentation Study, a necessary step toward eventually removing four dams and reopening 350 miles of salmon habitat.

• Removing the EPA’s authority under the Clean Water Act to veto Army Corps authorized permits for the disposal of dredge and fill material and to designate as off limits certain areas for disposal of dredge and fill material.

• Preventing the use of federal funds to implement certain Chesapeake Bay pollution reduction programs, which help to restore coldwater habitat in the headwater areas of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

• Blocking the U.S. Forest Service’s Travel Management Plans, which were developed to prevent uncontrolled off-road vehicle use from damaging fish and wildlife habitat.

• De-funding the San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement Act, a law enacted last year with strong bipartisan support, which represents a broad coalition of restoration partners.

• Discontinuing rulemaking processes designed to protect streams from mountaintop removal mining.

“Conservation is most effective when it is collaborative and science-based,” said Moyer. “The riders in HR 1 put a halt to the scientific processes being used by federal agencies to develop effective protections for rivers and streams, and stymie collaborative efforts in places like California’s Klamath River basin and San Joaquin watershed.”

The bill also cuts funding for vital conservation programs:

• Eliminates funding for the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund, a highly successful, landscape scale, partnership-driven effort;

• Cuts the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which enables conservation of habitats through purchase of fee title or easements from willing sellers around the nation, by $393 million from FY 2010 levels. Potentially hundreds of acres of land could fail to be conserved if this funding cut became law;

• Cuts the National Fish Habitat program, one of the best landscape scale fisheries habitat conservation programs in the federal government, by 28%;

• Drastically cuts funding for Great Lakes restoration;

• Eliminates funding for the State Fish and Wildlife Grants program, a bedrock partnership between state fish and wildlife agencies and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service;

• Cuts important Farm Bill conservation programs. Permanently cuts the Wetland Reserve Program by almost 50,000 acres and cuts the Environmental Quality Assurance Program by more than $350 million from authorized levels.

“Hunters and angler conservationists are willing to shoulder our share of the burden for reducing federal discretionary spending, but a disproportionate burden should not be saddled on programs of critical value to sportsmen,” said Moyer. “We call on the U.S. Senate to draft a new version of this bill that is worthy of support of the sportsmen of the nation.”

Time to take action


When I wrote this post I intended it to be the foundation for posting a comment to Deeter’s post.

When I started to comment I got a bit wound up. Here is what I wrote:

It is this simple: conservation equals opportunity equals economic activity. HR1 is not governing, it is fiscal terrorism.

The lack of consultation with the leaders of the hunting and fishing community, the callous disregard of basic economics, the attacks on policy all make this a clear assault on America’s traditions of hunting and fishing.

Sure our elected officials need to address the nation’s fiscal challenges. The hunting and fishing community has demonstrated a willingness to share the burden. But putting an axe to conservation programs goes far beyond the federal government.

Those conservation programs are what create the opportunity the fuels the funding, paid for by hunters and anglers in license fees and excise taxes, that make it possible for your readers to enjoy hunting and fishing.

The lack of understanding by our elected officials and others of how conservation funding supports the user-pays, user-benefits programs like the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program is appalling.

Think there is a problem with access to hunting and fishing now? If this keeps up only the rich land owners are going be hunting and fishing in this country. And those who did not voice there objection will only have themselves to blame.

Now more then ever hunters, anglers and anyone who enjoys the great outdoors need to tell their elected officials to stop this assault on conservation and the outdoor recreation economy.

As Deeter so eloquently put it,

Call their bluff. Ask them to get real. And tell them that our sacred fishing and hunting places matter.

So take action using these links from Ducks Unlimited and Trout Unlimited!.

If you don’t and we lose habitat, opportunity and our outdoor reaction businesses then you only have yourself to blame.


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  1. If everyone doesn’t tighten their belts there won’t be anything/anyone to protect what we have right now. Let’s get our fiscal house in order and then get back to fighting for what is necessary. And I’m curious, why does government always have to be involved? What can’t coalitions of sporting groups band together and manage this?

  2. Mark, Thanks for taking the time to comment, I really appreciate it. Let me see if I can address your three questions.
    No one in the hunting and fishing community mentioned in my post, including me is arguing we shouldn’t tighten our belts. What we arguing is the lack of consultation with the community and consideration for the economic activity provide by outdoor recreation. These are not balanced, share and share alike cuts. These are zeroing out or fatally reducing funding for important programs.

    As far as why does government have to be involved? How do you decided which programs merit government involvement and which ones don’t? Pretty tough to get agreement from a majority of people on that. Conservation programs benefit a lot of people a lot of way. They pay for themselves in economic activity in rural communities. National Parks, Forests, Grasslands, Refuges are all examples of government entities that I am not sure I would entrust to the private sector. What criteria would you suggest be applied?

    Finally coalitions of sporting groups have and will continue to band together. They have and will continue to do magnificent work on tight budgets. The hunting, angling and boating industry voluntarily taxed itself for public conservation good. However without support and funding for national conservation programs that benefit more than just hunters and anglers those efforts will be wasted. The challenges far outstrip the resources of those groups. The challenges are national in scope and with national benefits.

    Wether we agree or disagree I do appreciate your taking the time to comment!

  3. I can’t think of a single thing that the “private sector” cannot do better than the Government, other than spend unnecessary money on unnecessary programs – and I’m not talking specifically about “sportsman issues” either.
    I have to agree with Mark when he said ” if everyone doesn’t tighten their belts their won’t be anything/anyone to protect what we have right now.”
    While I understand the outcry by “conservation” groups over the cuts, I also understand that the concerns of groups like TU and Ducks Unlimited are absolutely confined within their own narrow field of expertise. TU, DU, and other conservation groups – IMHO – couldn’t care less that the country’s debt is skyrocketing – their only concerns are trout and ducks and the habitat that support them. Let’s be real about this – if America does not curb it’s tax and spend, free money printing, deeper-into-debt ways – there will be NO money for programs like this. You can argue that the federal government was never meant to even fund things like this ( and you’d have a valid point) but if we don’t get our debt in check, arguing whether or not they should be doing it is useless because even if it was decided that they should do it – there would be no way to pay for it. IMHO and with much respect I think that sportsmen need to get their heads out of the sand and look at the (much) bigger picture of what is happening in America today. Hunting and Fishing are important….but our Liberty, our debt, and our children’s future are MORE important.


  4. Tom Sadler says:

    Owl, Thanks and I hear ya man. But I am not sure I am ready for the private sector handling all aspects of national defense for instance. I proudly served almost 15 year in the USNavy reserve. I put my life on the line for the Liberty of the American people not a corporation.
    I am a free enterprise capitalist of the first rank. But I have seen corruption and misdeeds in the system that cost us all.
    As replied to Mark and posted over on the OBN Forum it is a matter of priorities.

    The fact is the hunt/fish community is willing to tighten the belt. I have put evidence of that on the OBN Forum. I also notice that our elected officials have not taken a pay cut. So what is good for this goose is good for that gander.

    I believe that conservation creates recreational opportunity which equals economic activity. The report, Hunting and Fishing: Bright Stars of the American Economy, bears that out. Choking off economic activity won’t get our country out of debt.

    We do need to address the national financial crisis. And the conservation community needs to share in that solution but the Congress that is trying to address this is ignoring a number of options and taking a disproportion share out of things I love.

    I want to leave a county that has clean water, clean air, free citizens and a bright future for our children as much as you. But hunting and fishing and outdoor recreation didn’t cause this crisis alone and killing the programs won’t solve it. I think there has to be a better way.

    Thanks for caring enough to comment and engage in the conversation. Let’s find a solution we are both happy with.

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