TRCP Urges Congressional Action with Chronic Wasting Disease

Chronic wasting disease has now been found in more than half the states in our country and wildlife managers are tasked with responding to the epidemic with limited resources. TRCP Photo

by Kristyn Brady

In his third appearance before Congress this year, the TRCP’s president and CEO again pressed lawmakers to invest in surveillance and testing for the deer disease that has sent state wildlife agencies scrambling to respond

In a hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) President and CEO Whit Fosburgh continued to push lawmakers on the need for more meaningful federal action in the fight against chronic wasting disease (CWD). The always-fatal disease has spread rapidly among wild deer, elk, and moose populations in recent years and creates increasing uncertainty for hunters who represent a critical source of conservation funding in America.

The committee convened to discuss creating a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service chronic wasting disease task force, but Fosburgh argued that this does not go far enough.

“Coordinating and expediting the federal response to CWD is important—and the task force proposed by this committee could help do this—but the single most important thing Congress can do to stop the spread of CWD is to give the states the resources they need to track and fight the disease in the wild,” Fosburgh testified. “Congress provided strong and consistent federal funding to assist the state wildlife agencies in responding to CWD through 2011, but when this funding ran out, states were forced to cut back on other programs to respond to the disease. Some simply stopped looking for it.”

Fosburgh pointed to the 2020 House Agriculture Appropriations bill, which would reestablish federal funding for CWD by providing $15 million to state wildlife agencies for surveillance and testing. That bill is currently in conference with the Senate, which provides just $2.5 million for wild deer in its bill.

“If members of this committee care about stopping CWD, I urge you to reach out to your colleagues on the Appropriations Committee and ask them to support the House level of $15 million in the Agriculture Appropriations bill,” he said. “Chronic wasting disease is a symptom of a systematic failure to invest in conservation. That is why America’s hunters and anglers so fervently hope that this Committee will help address the CWD crisis.”

Watch a video of the full hearing here.

The TRCP has asked sportsmen and women to call on lawmakers for these investments in the nationwide CWD response. Learn more here.

This hearing marks the fifth time this year that the TRCP has represented the interests of American sportsmen and women by delivering official testimony before Congress. View details on our previous testimony related to improving access to public landsthe five priority pieces of legislation that would `invest in fish and wildlife habitathow to create drought solutions while enhancing conditions for fish in the Colorado River Basin, and how House lawmakers can step up in the fight against CWD.

Here’s one more thing you can do this hunting season: Tell Congress to support more federal funding for CWD research and testing.

Hunting and Fishing Groups File Final Comments Opposing Clean Water Rollback

Photo by Project Healing Waters via Flickr

  • 14 national groups and 70 local affiliate chapters oppose the proposed weakening of clean water standards that would threaten fish and wildlife habitat
Photo by Project Healing Waters via Flickr

By Kristyn Brady

Today (April 15, 2019), dozens of national, regional, and local hunting and fishing groups submitted final comments on the EPA’s proposed rollback of Clean Water Act protections for 50 percent of wetlands and 18 percent of stream miles in the U.S. Their comments underscore the potential economic consequences for rural communities and outdoor recreation businesses and the species that stand to lose habitat if clean water standards are weakened.

Photo by Project Healing Waters via Flickr

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership has also mobilized more than 3,500 individual sportsmen and women to submit comments opposing the rollback during the brief comment period.

“At every step of the EPA’s rule replacement process on what waters qualify for Clean Water Act protections, hunters and anglers have been clear about their support for safeguards on headwaters and wetlands,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “The science supports protecting these habitats as interconnected to larger water systems, the economics of defending outdoor recreation opportunities and businesses makes sense, and Americans will continue to stand up for clean water to power their outdoor pursuits.”

The groups write that the proposed rule represents a “wholesale gutting of the Clean Water Act’s 47 years of protection for our nation’s waters,” with habitat that supports trout, salmon, pintails, mallards, teal, and snow geese in the crosshairs.

Read the detailed comments here. Fourteen national groups and 70 state and local affiliate chapters signed in support.

Photo by Project Healing Waters via flickr.

 

Fishing Groups Formally Object to “Sustainable” Stamp on Menhaden Fishery – TRCP asks for Action

  • Mining the base of the food chain is neither sustainable nor economically justifiable

By Kristyn Brady

There are rising concerns about volume of harvest and unregulated bycatch. Stephan Lowy photo

Today, three recreational fishing groups filed a formal objection against the Marine Stewardship Council’s recommendation that Omega Protein should receive a certification of sustainability for its U.S. Atlantic menhaden purse-seining operations. The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, American Sportfishing Association, and Coastal Conservation Association signed onto the objection, filed with MSC’s leaders in the United Kingdom.

The industrial harvest of this important forage fish by a single foreign-owned company, Cooke Inc.’s Omega Protein, has a negative impact on striped bass and other sportfish that rely on menhaden for food. Earlier this month, MSC—a private international organization, not a government entity—signaled that it would likely put its stamp of approval on Omega’s menhaden reduction fishing operation, in which the oily baitfish is harvested and reduced into meal, pet food, and other products.

MSC reached this conclusion in spite of the fact that menhaden stocks are less than half of what they would be without industrial harvest, which currently suppresses the striped bass stocks on the East Coast by about 30 percent. Striped bass are the single most valuable marine recreational fishery in the country.

“This certification would put a blue ribbon on the practice of robbing sportfish of their forage base, even as striped bass numbers decline in the Atlantic,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the TRCP. His organization collaborated with a legal team to object to MSC’s findings and rallied individual anglers to sign an open letter opposing the certification. “We felt it was important to put pressure on MSC, in every venue possible, not to do this. It is irresponsible to call Omega’s operation sustainable when it affects striped bass numbers and the recreational fishing economy.”

MSC’s published assessment indicates that the certification of sustainability would be granted on the condition that Omega reach certain milestones over four years—not because the operation can be considered sustainable now. Sportfishing groups objected to the rationale behind two of these conditions and the MSC’s overall method of assessing the stock’s status.

“The MSC certification undermines ten years of work by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission to establish ecosystem reference points for Atlantic menhaden, a process expected to be concluded in the next year,” says Mike Leonard, vice president of government affairs for the American Sportfishing Association. “For sportfishing businesses on the East Coast, the stakes are very high going into the striped bass season. Menhaden are an important food source for striped bass, and the latest striped bass stock assessment shows a continued decline in spawning stock biomass. This is the worst possible time for MSC to make a misstep like this.”

“In Maryland, anglers are concerned with the health and future outlook for many different recreational fisheries in the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic coast, and menhaden are a major piece of the ecological foundation and balance in the region,” says David Sikorski, executive director of CCA Maryland. “This is why we anxiously await management options to be unveiled after nearly 20 years of conversation on how to manage these important fish for their role in the ecosystem. It would be negligent for MSC to hand out its certification just as the game is about to change.”