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

Our Public Lands (Part 2): Elections Matter

The reelection of President Obama combined with Democrats gaining seats in the both houses of Congress and a clear repudiation of the extreme views of the GOP provide those of us who treasure our public lands an important opportunity.

The community of sportsmen, outdoor enthusiasts and public land advocates have a chance to press for those things that will secure a legacy for public lands and to defeat the agenda of the remaining right wing zealots who may see the election as a reason to double down on their assault on public lands.

The opportunity lies in showing Congress that public lands are essential to our quality of life, a critical economic contributor and that the American people value them.

Carpe’ing the old Diem

To Carpe this particular Diem public land advocates must present a united front around a common agenda. With that agenda in hand they need to present a clear and compelling message that without our public lands a important part of the U.S. economy is placed in jeopardy and the American public will lose critical recreation, health and environmental infrastructure.

The good news is a lot of groundwork has been done. Coalitions, trade associations and non-governmental organizations have been tirelessly at work gathering and sharing economic and public opinion information, creating messages that give meaning to that data and identifying congressional champions to help transform that information into legislative action.

In addition, the Obama administration has shown its support for public lands. The America’s Great Outdoors initiative is a strategic conservation and recreation agenda and provides important information about public land success and the views of the American people.

Can these groups, with somewhat different agendas, find time to sit down and craft a common and more importantly an achievable agenda? Can they agree that the opportunity to achieve durable public policy is fleeting and that if we don’t speak with one voice then our chances of success is diminished? That remains to be seen.

Now is the time for the leaders of the coalitions, trade associations and NGOs to reach out to each other and commit to a common agenda, sharing resources and working together. If that happens then durable public lands policy can be achieved.

Stay tuned! In coming posts I will write about what the agenda might include and who the champions might be.

Recapping the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture Annual Partnership Meeting

Orvis News Conservation Blog

My friend Phil Monahan shot me an email asking if I would write a recap of The Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture Annual Partnership Meeting for the OrvisNews Conservation blog. It was a great opportunity to help tell the EBTJV story so naturally I jumped at the chance.
[Read more…]

Headed to IFTD

Dispatches is going mobile to Denver bright and early tomorrow.  First the AFFTA board meeting on Wednesday, then the IFTD Show Thurs thru Saturday.

If you want to stay up to date on the show, “like” the IFTD Facebook page and follow IFTD on Twitter.

I will also try and log in a few posts from the show as well.

Stay tuned!

Smith Creek watershed honored

On a recent, beautiful June afternoon local farmers, federal, state and local officials, conservation organizations and area residents gathered for an announcement by the United States Department of Agriculture naming the 67,000-acre Smith Creek watershed as Virginia’s Chesapeake Showcase Watershed.

The announcement was made on Gary and Ellen Lohr’s Valley Pike Farm overlooking the Valley in Broadway as part of the implementation of the Obama administration’s “Strategy for Protecting and Restoring the Chesapeake Bay Watershed” released last May.

Ann Mills, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, made the announcement.

“Making these announcements from a local farm is more than a symbolic gesture,” Mills said. “Nearly 75 percent of the land in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed is in private farms and forests. The showcase watersheds strengthen USDA’s commitment to funding priority conservation practices in places that will do the most good for water quality in the Bay and its tributaries.”

In May 2009, President Obama signed The Chesapeake Bay Protection and Restoration Executive Order declaring the Chesapeake Bay a national treasure and requiring a coordinated strategy for restoration and protection.

The executive order directed federal agencies to “define environmental goals for the Chesapeake Bay and describe milestones for making progress toward attainment of these goals.” The strategy focuses on achieving four essential priorities for a healthy Chesapeake ecosystem — restore clean water, recover habitat, sustain fish and wildlife and conserve land and increase public access.

One of the goals in the strategy that caught my attention and led to my attending the announcement on the Lohr’s farm was to, “Sustain healthy populations of fish and wildlife, which contribute to a resilient ecosystem and vibrant economy”.

One of the outcomes for that goal was “restoring naturally reproducing brook trout populations in headwater streams … by 2025.” Because of my involvement with the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture I was thrilled to see brook trout recovery efforts as a key outcome for Cheasapeake Bay Watershed efforts.

Eighteen months ago I wrote about the efforts of the EBTJV and the National Fish Habitat Action Plan, noted the work at Smith Creek and what it means to the Valley. At the time I wrote “Working cooperatively with ten diverse partners, the project is helping restore riparian habitat at the headwaters of Smith Creek. This project connects to Mountain Run in the George Washington National Forest as well, providing additional spawning habitat for those Brook Trout.”

Smith Creek also gained national attention in 2007 as one the first of the NFHAP “10 Waters to Watch”.

Now Smith Creek will be getting additional attention and funding and can serve as a model for other efforts across the state and country. Of course having Smith Creek as a Showcase Watershed adds additional incentive for implementing the National Fish Habitat Action Plan.

The NFHAP can build upon the successes of Smith Creek and the two other Showcase Watersheds, the 23,000-acre Upper Chester River Watershed in Maryland and the 34,000-acre Conewago Creek Watershed in Pennsylvania and leverage those models into additional aquatic habitat conservation across the country.

Now is the time for Federal agencies with responsibility managing aquatic habitat to increase their efforts to implement the National Fish Habitat Action Plan. Coordination among those agencies will promote stewardship and improve the health of our Nation’s aquatic habitat.

Perhaps it is time for an Executive Order to implement the NFHAP.

If the administration leads the way then maybe Congress will get the message and pass the National Fish Habitat Conservation Act.

It should come as no surprise and serve as a point of pride that conservation efforts here in the Valley get national recognition. There is a long and treasured tradition of stewardship and respect for the land and the natural resource bounty it provides.

That tradition and the connection to the land were never more evident than on the Lohr’s farm last week.

You can read more of my columns at the News Virginian.com.

Fishers for Fish Habitat Tour and Forum in Australia

I was in Australia for the past couple of weeks. During the first week my wife and I had a chance to visit some of New South Wales; the South Coast, Snowy Mountains, Lake Jindabyne, Kosciusko National Park, Cooma and Cowra. We tried to stay away from the large urban areas and see as much of the more rural parts as we could.

The second week, we had the pleasure of spending 5 days with Craig Copeland and Charlotte Jenkins of Industry and Investment New South Wales. They took my wife and I on a tour of some of the fish habitat projects they have been working on. It was a great opportunity to see how our Australian colleagues are dealing with the challenges of dwindling fish habitat. We went to sites in the Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Central West, Hunter Valley and wound up at Lake Macquarie for the forum.

I also had a chance to be part of a panel discussion with some notable Australian recreational fishing pros and give a presentation on fish habitat activity in the U.S., especially the National Fish Habitat Action Plan and the Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture.

F4F recreational fishers panel

i sound smarter with a beer in front of me....

I even managed to get a little press coverage of my visit:  US expert says conservation is give and take.

It was a wonderful opportunity to see Australia both on our own and with some liked minded conservationists and to trade ideas and stories about two things I really enjoy, fishing and conservation.

Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation’s 20th Anniversary

Last week I was back in Washington and had the chance to join in celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. There were two events, a lunch and then the annual banquet and auction that night. In 1997 and 1998 I served as the president of the foundation and it was a special treat to help mark this important milestone.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation was started in 1989. The foundation created a link between the sportsmen’s community and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus. The Caucus had been started earlier that year by a small group of liked-minded legislators who wanted to protect and promote the outdoor traditions of hunting, trapping and fishing in the U.S. Congress.

“This year’s banquet is sort of the culmination of a year-long celebration of our 20th Anniversary,” said CSF President Jeff Crane. “We were able to recognize and thank everyone who has contributed to the 20-year success of the organization including current and former Caucus members and all those who have contributed to our cause.”

The lunch was a small gathering of past members of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus and Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. Many of the past board members and the five of us who had run the foundation all were there. It was a great chance for all of us to swap hunting, fishing and legislative stories.

The two original co-chairs of the caucus, Congressmen Dick Schulze and Lindsay Thomas both made it back for the lunch and banquet. Schulze has served on the foundation’s board of directors and Thomas currently sits of the board.

“This was a very special event and I am honored to have been invited back to witness the tremendous growth of this caucus and foundation since we founded it in 1989,” said Schultze.

“It was wonderful to be able to visit with and recognize publicly my founding Caucus leadership colleagues,” said Thomas.

Today there are 200 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and 52 Senators in the caucus, making it one of the largest in Congress. Twenty-one of the original caucus members are still in Congress.

The Valley’s own representative Bob Goodlatte is a member and has been since he was elected to Congress. There are five additional members from the Virginia congressional delegation — unfortunately neither of our senators is a member of the caucus.

I enjoyed my time at the foundation and have been especially excited to see them take the success of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus model and expand on it in the states.

In 2004, the foundation replicated its model of raising awareness of sportsmen’s issues by creating the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses. There are 38 states with bi-partisan caucuses, including Virginia.

The Virginia Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus was formed in 2004. It is currently co-chaired by the Valley’s own Senator Emmet Hanger and gubernatorial candidate Senator R. Creigh Deeds.

According to the Caucus’ Web site, “The caucus has been very successful since its inception, working towards the passage of the ‘No Net Loss’ legislation in 2007 and the creation Virginia’s Migratory Waterfowl Conservation Stamp (Duck Stamp) program in 2005.”

The latest development in expanding the caucus model has been the formation of a bipartisan caucus of governors. The Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus was launched at the National Governor’s Association Annual Meeting in this summer. The goal is to increase communication and information exchange between states to promote and protect hunting and fishing.

America’s nearly 40 million hunters and anglers contribute more than $70 billion annually to the U.S. economy. The economic contribution that hunting and fishing makes in Virginia is significant. Sportsmen contribute over a billion dollars and account for more than 20,000 jobs each year.

Having a voice in our nation’s capital is great, having one in the state capitol is even better.

You can read more of my columns at the News Virginian.com.