Pennsylvania legislature takes aim at the outdoors; Game Commission, Fish and Boat Commission fight proposed merger

The Pennsylvania Legislature is threatening to merge the Pennsylvania Game Commission with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and take away their power to list or de-list threatened and endangered species. Sportsmen don’t like it when hunting and fishing turns political, and these hot-button topics are as political as it gets. Heck, hunters and anglers don’t even like the PGC and PFBC getting overly restrictive with their favorite pastimes. But now, sportsmen across the commonwealth need to be aware of a few dates in March and make their voices heard by the appropriate state representatives and senators in their areas. At stake are the future of Pennsylvania’s wildlife and habitat.
House Bill 1576, the Endangered Species Coordination Act, which would remove the ability of both the game commission and fish and boat to add or subtract wildlife from the state’s threatened and endangered species lists, could come up for a vote on the House floor as early as March 10. On March 19, game commission officials will go in front of the House Game and Fisheries Committee to discuss a number of pieces of legislation on deer management.And, on March 19, the legislative Budget and Finance Committee will hold a 10 a.m. meeting on the potential merger of PGC and PFBC into one agency, a move that would strip autonomy from each agency and seriously affect how funds will be allocated for certain programs.
Read more of this article: http://tinyurl.com/nwmkyjn
Read the bill’s text: http://tinyurl.com/oqk3fb9

Water Conservation: Florida Washed Out

With its many lakes, rivers, springs and wetlands, one would think Florida must be overflowing with freshwater — plenty for drinking, irrigation and enterprise. However, a coalition of three large regional water-management districts calculates that continuation of today’s practices will result in Central Florida running out of fresh water in 21 years.
TheLedger.com, 2/20/14
Read more at http://tinyurl.com/kkrdo8s

 

Curbing Agricultural Runoff that Pollutes the Gulf of Mexico

From the Wall Street Journal, February 19, 2014
+ + + + + +
NEW MADISON, Ohio— Kevin Hollinger planted radishes and oats last fall in his corn and soybean fields, but he isn’t planning to harvest them. Instead, he is letting the crops die over the winter to improve the soil and keep fertilizer and other nutrients from running into nearby waterways. “I could hardly go to town without someone asking: ‘What’s that in your field?’ ” said Mr. Hollinger, a fourth-generation farmer. Helping to foot the bill for his experiment is a pilot program set to launch fully next month. Farmers in the Ohio River basin are being paid to make changes—from what they plant to how they handle manure—in an effort to minimize runoff that can cause hypoxia, or low oxygen levels, in waterways.
Nutrient runoff plays a role, nearly 1,000 miles downstream from Mr. Hollinger’s farm, in the formation of the so-called dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico—an area where fish and other aquatic life can’t survive and which is considered one of the nation’s biggest water-pollution problems. Shrinking the dead zone—which was most recently the size of Connecticut—has challenged regulators. Nutrients that flow down in the Mississippi River and end up in the Gulf come from hundreds of thousands of sources across more than a dozen states.

Read the whole article at http://tinyurl.com/k43j2k8

Lesser Prairie Chicken (LPC) Resource Center

We love the LPC everyday, especially on Valentine’s Day! Lesser prairie chickens (LPC) once ranged all across the Southern Great Plains. Historically this area of the United States boasted both lesser and greater prairie chickens along with teeming herds of bison and pronghorn antelope, huge black-tailed prairie dog towns and mule deer in the wooded draws and canyons.

Lesser prairie chickens could be found in much of western Texas, western Oklahoma and Kansas, eastern New Mexico and southeast Colorado. This regional landscape, however, has seen many changes over the last 150 years, leading to an estimated 92% decline in this little grouse’s population. These losses are a direct result of the declining quality of habitat due to human activities such as conversion of native prairie to tilled agriculture, oil and gas exploration, urban development and suppression of naturally occurring fire.

READ MORE at http://lesserprairiechicken.com/

Great Lakes Mississippi River Interbasin Study published; public hearings scheduled

The GLMRIS Report presents the results of a multi-year study regarding the range of options and technologies available to prevent aquatic nuisance species (ANS) movement between the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins through aquatic connections. Through a structured study process, USACE identified thirteen ANS of Concern established in one basin that posed a high or medium risk of adverse impacts by transfer and establishment in the opposite basin. USACE analyzed and evaluated available controls to address these ANS, and formulated alternatives specifically for the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS) with the goal of preventing ANS transfer between the two basins.

The report contains eight alternatives, each with concept-level design and cost information, and evaluates the potential of these alternatives to control the transfer of a variety of ANS. The options concentrate on the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS) and include a wide spectrum of alternatives ranging from the continuation of current activities to the complete separation of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River basins. The GLMRIS Report also includes an analysis of potential impacts to uses and users of the CAWS, and corresponding mitigation requirements for adverse impacts to functions such as flood-risk management, natural resources, water quality, and navigation.

READ MORE: http://glmris.anl.gov/glmris-report/
DOWNLOAD Summary Report pdf at
http://glmris.anl.gov/documents/docs/glmrisreport/GLMRISSummaryReport.pdf

Tennessee Stream Mitigation Program: Under Fire From Left and Right


Critics say ‘wholesale auction’ of Tennessee’s stream quality afoot

By Tom Humphrey

Sunday, February 19, 2012

NASHVILLE — A decade-old, multi-million dollar program for restoring degraded Tennessee streams has come under attack in the state Legislature even as Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration moves to give it new legal status.

Critics of the Tennessee Stream Mitigation Program, which is overseen by a non-profit foundation, characterized it as a “wholesale auction” of the state’s waterways to developers who can pay a fee for their pollution while leaving devastated downstream landowners in a lurch.

Testimony in a hearing before the House Conservation committee also raised questions about whether the non-profit Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation faces appropriate financial accountability under the present setup, which was put in place by a 2002 “memorandum of understanding” between state and federal agencies.

“You show me a non-profit, and I’ll show you bloated salaries and padded expense accounts,” said Rep. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains.

The essence of the 2002 memorandum would be put into state law for the first time under HB2349, introduced by the Haslam administration while a legal battle is underway over a West Tennessee development in which $947,000 was paid as a mitigation fee by a developer and a downstream private airport was devastated by flooding, according to the airport operators.

“What we have here is the Tea Party and the Sierra Club on the same side against a governor’s bill,” observed state Rep. Mike Kernell, D-Memphis, at one point during lengthy arguments.

Joey Woodard, director of the program, said in an interview that the committee was given “misinformation” about an effort that has restored thousands of miles of damaged streams in 23 completed projects with three more currently underway.

“I’m not sure whether it was just a gross misunderstanding or intentional misrepresentation,” Woodard said of the testimony before the committee. “They want you to believe it’s a slush fund. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

State law now authorizes mitigation in general, though Department of Environment and Conservation attorney Alan Leiserson told the committee the actual program “has been run without specific authorization” in state law.

The idea is that, when damage to a stream or wetland is unavoidable by a development deemed to warrant a state-issued permit, the developer can pay an “in lieu fee” to cover the environmental damage. The fee can run from $50 to $200 per foot of damaged stream.

Elizabeth Murphy, a Nashville attorney representing Wolf River Airport in the pending litigation that challenges legality of the mitigation program, told the committee the present system is effectively selling the state’s water quality “outside any regulatory function” of the state.

Read more

Mag: RS Dam Removals Restoring Life to Once Drowned Rivers

Wildlife in North Carolina recently published an article on a subject dear to the Swamp Merchant’s heart. Lynette Batt of American Rivers has written a wonderful piece on the benefits, history, and challenges of dam removal in the Old North State. RS’ removal of the Carbonton and Lowell dams figure prominently in the article. We were particularly gratified to see crack river ecologist and RS contractor Tim Savidge, of the Catena Group, quoted regarding the terrific ecological results from the two projects. Both of our removals have resulted in the recolonization of formerly stagnant, deep water impoundments with federally endangered river species. The staggering ability of these rivers to renew themselves (with a little help from RS) is a story that cannot be told too many times:

Savidge notes that “the removal of the Carbonton Dam has resulted in recolonization of the former impoundment by a number of rare freshwater mussel species such as the yellow lampmussel, Savannah lilliput and notched rainbow.” He reports another major success for a federally endangered species, the Tar River spiny mussel, which was found in August 2010 in the former impoundment of the Lowell Dam on the Little River. That makes it the second endangered species found in any stream restoration site in North Carolina.
— Quoted in “Removing Dams, Restoring Rivers”

Removing Dams Restoring Rivers-Feb 2011- FINAL

Ecosystem Marketplace: Mitigation Bankers Say Army Corps Not Following the Rule

From Hannah Kett and Ecosystem Marketplace

According to law, if you damage a wetland in the US, you must restore a comparable piece of property in the same watershed. A 2008 regulatory rule says wetland credits from a mitigation bank should be your first option. Mitigation banks, however, say this isn’t happening, and they want the Army Corps of Engineers to tell them why. The Corps says it’s just trying to be flexible – and promises more transparency in the future.

29 September 2010 | In April, 2008, wetland scientist Rich Mogensen read “The Rule” and speculated that the number of wetland mitigation banks in the United States could triple from 500 then to 1500 right about now as a result of its issuance (read more here).

Officially titled the Compensatory Mitigation Rule for Losses of Aquatic Resources, the Rule was jointly issued by the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) (with a push from Congress), and it declared that anyone who damages a US wetland should look first to mitigation bankers to compensate for the damage before exploring other alternatives.

National Mitigation Banking Association letter to Army Corps of Engineers regarding the implementation Fede… </objec Read more

Raleigh News and Observer: Plan for Little River dam sets up a fight

Raleigh News & Observer: Plan for Little River dam sets up a Fight

N&O: Residents argue that removing Milburnie Dam would ruin scenery

Page A-1
Thu, Apr 22, 2010 05:36 AM
In Fight Over Dam Sides Ask: What’s Natural?

RALEIGH For more than a century, Milburnie Dam has stood 16 feet high in the middle of Raleigh, a stone wall that interrupts the Neuse River like an aquatic comma. Above it, motorboats troll through deep water; below, fishermen wade around a pounding waterfall.

Now a Raleigh firm that does environmental work wants to tear out the privately owned dam and let the Neuse flow freely, removing the only man-made obstacle between Falls Lake and Pamlico Sound. Doing so, they say, would bring shad and other fish further upriver and improve the water quality by speeding up a slowed-down Neuse.

In Fight Over Dam Sides Ask: What’s Natural?
Read more