The Farm Bill is one of the most cost-effective and successful conservation programs in our nation's history. And it's a critical tool for Trout Unlimited and other conservation groups working to protect our rivers and streams and, by extension, fishing and hunting opportunities on both private and public land.
Across the nation, TU is partnering with ranchers and farmers to upgrade irrigation systems, adopt stream-friendly management practices, and enhance both habitat and agricultural operations. This is exciting work. We're making a huge difference on the ground, restoring streams and opening up hundreds of miles of habitat for fish and game, and of course, for anglers and hunters. Much of this work would not be possible without Farm Bill conservation programs, which leverage resources and bring people together to get things done. With the help of these win-win programs:
- Utah rancher Dave Bess replaced the old irrigation system on his land with new efficient sprinklers, cutting his water use in half while boosting healthy stream flows for native cutthroat trout in the Little Bear River. As a result, big, migrating Bonneville cutthroat trout are now able to access spawning habitat, and anglers are able to chase these big fish in waters on public land.
- TU worked with farmers in the Driftless Area of Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota on riparian planting projects that keep sediment and nutrients out of streams in order to improve water quality and fisheries in downstream rivers in the upper Mississippi basin. This has resulted in new and improved fishing opportunity throughout the region.
- Project partners restored a section of Beaver Creek, a tributary to Chesapeake Bay, reducing erosion and setting the stage for the reintroduction of native brook trout. This makes the prospect of fishing for native brookies in waters where they belong very real.
Repeat these stories hundreds of times—across millions of acres and thousands of streams and watersheds—and you get some idea of the impact of Farm Bill conservation programs.
In 2012, these great conservation advances are in danger of being scuttled and rolled back. The Farm Bill is up for reauthorization this year, and its hard-working conservation programs are under a very real threat of severe funding cuts.
We're all for the Farm Bill contributing its share of cuts to help with our nation's budget deficit. Trout Unlimited supports a recently passed Senate Agriculture Committee Farm Bill that already trimmed 10 percent from the conservation programs. That's a tough cut, but it's fair, and not crippling. Furthermore, the Senate Agriculture Committee Bill would make the conservation programs even more cost-effective by ensuring that they produce fisheries habitat benefits on a broader watershed and landscape level scale.
But some lawmakers would approach this task with a chainsaw. They need to keep this in mind: For decades, these smart, targeted investments have helped our farmers and ranchers improve their operations and stay competitive while safeguarding our nation's soil, water and fish and game habitat. In these tough times, they create jobs and boost local businesses and economies.