Coldwater fisheries and Trout Unlimited need your help….

Dear Minnesota Trout Unlimited members and supporters:

Coldwater fisheries and Trout Unlimited need your help over next couple days to prevent Congress from using HR 1 to block clean water and air protections, and gut conservation funding.

Many of you are busy with TU and conservation matters, preparing for (or going ) fishing, or dealing with our own challenges in the Minnesota Legislature, but Minnesota TU and TU national need your help NOW in dealing with HR 1 in Congress.

In February the House passed a short term funding bill, HR 1, which could wipe out years of progress that TU – its volunteers, staff and partners – have made on some of our toughest habitat challenges, and cut severely into federal resource agency funding programs on which we rely.  Minnesota TU leverages many of these federal pots of conservation funding on projects in Minnesota.   All of the harmful provisions remain in play this week as a major deal is being developed to keep the government running through the end of this fiscal year. The deal will be made in the next few days and before an April 8 deadline.

Bad Policy Provisions:

A funding bill should not contain policy provisions, but HR 1 recently contained, and may still contain, a number of very harmful policy items, including the following riders:

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

2)    Discontinuing rulemaking processes designed to protect streams from the impacts of mountaintop removal mining.

3)    Preventing the EPA from using the Clean Air Act as a tool for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the largest polluters.  Federal, state, and local conservation agencies are making great strides in protecting trout, salmon, and other wildlife from the effects of a warming climate, but if greenhouse gas pollution continues unabated the conservation challenges we face will be exacerbated.  The Clean Air Act has reduced other pollutants that threaten trout and salmon habitat, such as acid rain, at a much lower cost than initially expected, and it can be an effective tool for reducing greenhouse gas pollution.

4)    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.

5)    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.

6)    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.

7)    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.

8)    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.

9)    Blocking biological Opinions in California’s Central Valley.  Section 1475(a) of the CR will set back efforts in California’s Central Valley to find consensus solutions to the state’s Bay-Delta conflicts.  The health of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta is at a delicate balance, with fisheries and ecosystem functions in collapse.  The future of California’s vitally important agricultural industry and its water supply for over twenty million people is at risk.  Serious efforts are underway between agricultural and urban water users, conservationists, environmental groups, the federal and state governments, and others to once-and-for-all create a durable and comprehensive package to address these many problems.  Section 1475(a) will set back and potentially derail this important effort.

10) Stopping the Bureau of Land Management from implementing Secretarial Order 3310, which provides for local public input in the future of backcountry fish and game habitat on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands and restores the decision-making ability of local land managers.  Backcountry areas serve as the last refuge for imperiled species like native cutthroat trout, and provide for unparalleled outdoor recreation, healthy watersheds, and robust populations of fish and wildlife.  Secretarial Order 3310 affirms the value of backcountry areas, the importance of public participation, and the decision-making authority of local land managers.

Disproportionate Funding Cuts:

 

The bill also cuts funding for vital conservation programs.  Nobody disputes that spending must be reduced to cut our nation’s deficit, and sportsmen conservationists are willing to shoulder our share of the burden.  But a disproportionate level of cuts should not be saddled on programs of critical value to sportsmen.  HR 1 cuts discretionary non-military spending by roughly 13 percent, but reduces funding for key conservation programs by as much as 90 or 100%.  Following is a list of such reductions:

 

  • Eliminates funding for the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund.
  • 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, by $250M from FY 2010 levels.
  • 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 Incentives Program by more than $350 million from authorized levels.
  • Cuts the NOAA Operations, Research and Facilities budget by $454M from FY2010 levels, potentially affecting projects like the Penobscot River dam removal.
  • Cuts the Bureau of Reclamation’s Water and Related Resources program by $37.7M from FY2010 levels, which could affect the WaterSMART program’s efforts to improve water use planning and efficiency.
  • Cuts the BLM’s ecosystem assessments program by $4.5 million from FY2010 levels.
  • Cuts the Partners for Fish & Wildlife program, which helps groups like TU work with private landowners to restore habitat, by $6M from FY2010 levels.
  • Cuts the BLM’s wildlife and fisheries program by $1.5M from FY2010 levels.
  • Cuts the BLM’s Challenge Cost Share program by $9.5M from FY2010 levels.
  • Cuts the Forest Service Legacy Road and Trail Remediation program by $39.6M from FY2010 levels.

How you can help:

Trout Unlimited is not 100% sure what will end up in this next version of the continuing resolution, as it is still being written.  It is clear that many of the riders and funding cuts are still being hotly debated.  For this reason the attached sample letter and TU national’s alert say only, “I urge you to NOT include harmful provisions such as these in any new version of the Continuing Resolution funding bill, trim the unreasonable funding cuts to cooperative programs, and draft a bill that is worthy of support of America’s sportsmen conservationists.”

The basic message to your members of congress is let’s keep the bad stuff out of the new CR.  You should not say “this stuff is already in the bill”; rather say “this stuff needs to stay out of future continuing resolutions”.

Many of you responded to TU’s earlier action alert on the matter and on behalf of Minnesota TU I thank you for that.  If you can find another moment, please use the attached sample letter or updated action alert posted to the TU online action center to launch another letter to your representative and senators.

You can quickly find your federal legislators’ names and contact information.  To locate your representative try this link (there are others): http://www.house.gov/

To contact your senators follow this link:  http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm?State=MN

You can also take action using the TU link: [http://takeaction.tu.org/c.ntJSJ8MPIqE/b.6645643/k.B508/HR_1_Action_Alert/siteapps/advocacy/ActionItem.aspx.]

Thank you for your help protecting and restoring coldwater fisheries in the Minnesota, the Midwest and nationally!

John