Interior Secretary Jewell calls for “course correction” in conservation and major investment in “fo
By JIM MATTHEWS
Sally Jewell, the U.S. Secretary of Interior, called for a major “course correction” in resource conservation and major investment in what she called “the forever business.”
Jewell used the phrase “forever business” several times in a speech at the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday this past week. She outlined her vision of conservation’s future in this country for the next 100 years, using the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service as a springboard to talk about degraded National Parks (a $12 billion maintenance backlog), a youth that is “more disconnected from nature than ever before,” and the successes of the Endangered Species Act in a wide-ranging speech as her tenure as the head of the nation’s resource agencies draws to an end.
“If we stay on [the current] trajectory, 100 years from now national parks will be like postage stamps of nature on a map, isolated islands of conservation with run-down facilities that crowds of Americans visit like zoos to catch a glimpse of our nation's remaining wildlife and undeveloped patches of land," said Jewell.
Even today, she said that if you took a map of the West and dropped a pin on it, the furthest it could be from some form of human development was 3 1/2-miles.
One of the few members of the Obama Administration with business background, Jewell said that outdoor recreation is “overlooked an undervalued,” pointing out to a study that showed it was a $646 billion industry that employed over six million people in 2012, putting it on par with the motor vehicle and pharmaceutical industries -- combined. National Parks alone generated $32 billion for the economy, a 10-to-one return on the parks’ $3 billion budget.
Yet for decades, the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other resources agencies have seen funding and staffing decline and public lands degrade.
Jewell called for a three-point plan for the future to restore and enhance the protection of the nation’s natural resources and habitat:
Increase Public Involvement: She said we need to issue “an open invitation” to visit public lands, reaching out to young people, and finding a way to “make parks cool,” even if it means using technology to do that. She suggested there should be an app for that. Jewell cited a recent survey showing visitors of national parks were mostly “old and largely white.”
Think Big: “It’s not enough to protect a few isolated places,” said Jewell. “Intact ecosystems are fundamental to the health of our nation.” She used the success of the federal, state, and private effort to keep the sage grouse off the endangered species list as an example how conservation needs to be a cooperative effort that involves everyone and spans entire ecosystems.
Increase Funding: Jewell pointed out how it was simply bad business for the nation to continue to strangle natural resource agency budgets, especially when outdoor recreation generates so much money for the economy, putting it “on an equal footing with every other economic sector.”
To begin to address this shortfall, Jewell said that this year Congress approved full funding of $900 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (derived from a portion of the revenue on offshore oil and gas leases), with $95 million allocated back to the states (with just over $8 million for California). This is only the second time in the past 50 years full-funding has been allocated. Since its creation in 1965, the funding from the LWCA that has gone back to the states has funding more than 43,000 projects to create close-to-home parks and expand outdoor recreation facilities. Nationally, the bulk of the money is used to purchase, expand, and protect national parks, forests, and national wildlife refuges.
Jewell also said they were asking Congress to approve legislation that would remove fire-fighting costs from the U.S. Forest Service and other public land agencies’ budgets. She said fires were like other natural disasters and should be funded by Congress, not out of the agency budgets. That would save these agencies hundreds of millions of dollars each year, money that could and should be spent on resources and management, including fire prevention.
She also spoke about how important it was to keep federal lands federal, not turning them over to the states or selling them off to private land owners. Jewell said public lands belong to every single citizen, not just those of one state or one county or one person.
“We have a responsibility to inspire a new generation of outdoor stewards to keep public lands public,” said Jewell.
[Jewell’s speech is available on-line at https://www.doi.gov/pressreleases/secretary-jewell-offers-vision-next-100-years-conservation-america.]
Sierra trout opener next weekend
By JIM MATTHEWS
While the crowds are nothing like they were 25 years ago, the trout season opener throughout the Sierra Nevada is still one of the biggest events on the California fishing calendar. The last Saturday in April marks the opening day of fishing season on the higher elevations waters of the state, with the Eastern Sierra Nevada getting the bulk of anglers from Southern California.
While many flock to Lake Crowley, campgrounds, motels, and lake-side cabins from Bridgeport to Lone Pine along the Highway 395 corridor will be full of fishermen anxious to fish waters untouched since November last year.
So the news:
The warm weather over the past week has assured that almost every road-side water in the region will be ice-free or nearly so, even at the highest elevations, and most of the campgrounds at 8,000 feet or below will probably be open.
DFW trout plants will actually increase 20 percent for the Eastern Sierra for 2016 over 2015, according to Jim Erdman, who heads up the hatcheries in the region. That amounts to a total of 586,000 pounds. Crowley received 25,000 pounds of subcatchable rainbows (four to six fish per pound), and those fish should all have grown up into one-pound class fish.
Desert Springs hatchery will be planted 24,400 pounds of trout for Mono County’s Fishing Enhancement Program (1,600 pounds for the opener), and another 22,000 pounds for Mammoth Lake area waters this season. Inyo County has also budgeted for 14,000 pounds of Desert Springs trout to be planted adjacent to county campgrounds in the Owens Valley just before holiday weekends this year. Resort operators at Gull and Convict Lakes have ponied up to plant 4,000 pounds of Desert Spring fish at each of those two waters.
Western Outdoor News, a weekly sportsman’s newspaper for California, is hosting the inaugural 395 Big Fish Sierra Opener Derby, a two-day event opening weekend that will feature a $10,000 Gregor boat and Mercury motor combo for the biggest trout caught by an entrant. There will be four weigh stations from Bishop to Bridgeport. Prizes will be awarded for the five biggest trout. Entry fee is $20 per person (or $40 per family up to four people). The entry fee includes a year subscription to the digital edition of the newspaper. For more information, call 949-366-0248.
DON’T JUMP THE GUN: The Department of Fish and Wildlife publishes its trout plant information each week (at https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FishPlants/), but plants the last two weeks have had waters listed that were not open to fishing yet. The DFW was listing waters that were getting pre-trout opener (April 30) plants, but the information caused some problems.
Some anglers though the waters were open and fished illegally. Other anglers made long drives only to find gates locked. In the plants published here, there was an effort made to alert anglers which waters were still closed and which were open.
HUNTING LICENSES ON SALE: California 2016-17 hunting licenses are now on sale at vendors and on-line. Hunters may also apply for big game hunting tags. The deadline to apply is June 2. Proposed seasons, tag drawing application instructions, and drawing statistics can be found in the “2016 California Big Game Hunting Digest.” The booklet is available online, at license agents and has been mailed to 2015 Big Game Drawing applicants and tag holders
SPORTS CHALET STORES CLOSING: Sports Chalet announced this past weekend that it would be closing all 47 of its stores after losing $10 million in 2015. The sports chain had been in business for 57 years and had 1,200 employees.
CONTROLLED BURN IN ANGELES OAKS: The San Bernardino National Forest staff will be conducting a controlled, 12-acre burn in the Angeles Oaks area of the forest. The project could begin as early as Tuesday (April 26) this coming week. Smoke and flames will be visible to residents and motorists along State Route 38 and may be visible from other mountain communities and highways.
[Jim Matthews is a syndicated Southern California-based outdoor reporter and columnist. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 909-887-3444.]