For Immediate Release
April 13, 2018
Contact: Steve Moyer, email@example.com, (571) 274-0593
Laura Ziemer, firstname.lastname@example.org, (406) 599-2606
Corey Fisher, email@example.com, (406) 546-2979
Trout Unlimited lauds conservation benefits in House Farm Bill
Washington, D.C.House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conoway yesterday introduced Republican-authored legislation for reauthorizing the Farm Bill, which expires Sept. 30. The bill reauthorizes many existing Farm Bill programs, such as the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), two programs critical to restoration and conservation of trout habitat.
Trout Unlimiteds mission is to protect, restore and conserve trout and salmon fisheries and the watersheds on which they depend. In service to the mission, Trout Unlimited has substantially expanded its partnership work with farmers and ranchers over the past 15 years. Farm Bill conservation programs are key to the success of that collaborative work, said Steve Moyer, vice president of government affairs for Trout Unlimited.
Trout Unlimited praised several features of the new bill. First and foremost, it adds hundreds of millions of dollars to EQIP and RCPP over existing levels of supporta significant plus for fish and wildlife, given pressure from some lawmakers to cut conservation funding to provide funds in other areas.
The bill strengthens Farm Bill conservation tools in several other ways:
- The bill makes EQIP funding accessible to western irrigation districts and associations for the first time, with whom TU often partners, to conduct irrigation infrastructure upgrade projects that can improve water delivery for farmers, while saving water and improving fish passage to enhance watershed health.
- The bill simplifies administration of the RCPP program, which will allow NRCS to spend more time on getting conservation dollars to producers and the ground and less time on navigating unnecessarily complex rules.
- The bill provides new, significant mandatory funds for, and helps revive, an old program the Small Watershed programwhich may be an increasingly flexible and valuable tool for larger-scale water infrastructure projects. It also expands the availability of the Small Watershed program for RCPP projects, increasing the tools to conserve watersheds and trout habitat.
- The bill authorizes the Secretary to waive the size limitation on producer participation in conservation programs to protect environmentally sensitive land of special significance. Additionally, the bill provides for longer agreements under the RCPP. These two provisions will make it easier to protect valuable fish habitat.
Trout Unlimited has partnered with producers from New Hampshire and West Virginia in the east, Iowa and Wisconsin in the Midwest, Colorado and Utah in the Rockies, and to the Klamath and Yakima Basins in Oregon and Washington, to improve agricultural operations and stream health, putting millions of Farm Bill dollars to the ground efficiently and with broad benefits, said Moyer. Provisions in the bill will encourage more partnerships with agricultural producers that benefit ranch and farm operations, promote healthy watersheds, and secure water supplies for irrigation and streams nationwide.
The bill provisions highlighted above will help western rivers and streams. The Western Governors Associations 2017 resolution on agriculture stated: Western Governors support changes to Conservation Title programs that remove existing contracting barriers for western producers, and make the Farm Bills conservation title programs more accessible and relevant to western producers and their associations. This bill takes important steps to implement that vision.
Partnerships with ranchers and farmers to improve large-scale irrigation systems not only make irrigation water supplies more secure, but they also conserve water and make rivers healthiera benefit to everyone downstream, said Laura Ziemer, senior water policy adviser for Trout Unlimited. Its encouraging that the House bill reflects the importance of continuing and expanding these partnerships that invest in water security in the West.
TU is concerned about some of the bills provisions relating to National Forest management. TU agrees with the bills sponsors about the need to increase the pace and scale of watershed restoration on our national forests, but we see no justification for extensive provisions in the bill that limit public involvement, reduce transparency and curtail informed decision-making. Under the 2014 Farm Bills insect and disease treatment program, over 70 million acres of national forests already have been made eligible for expedited environmental reviews and categorical exclusions. This is in addition to the extensive and widely-supported reforms that Congress just passed in the 2018 Omnibus Appropriations bill.
Our forestry tool box is full. We need a commitment to use the tools we already have more effectively. We need more stakeholder involvement in public land planningnot lessto gain broad support for critical forest management decisions, said Corey Fisher, senior policy director for TUs Sportsmens Conservation Project.
The bill faces an uncertain future in the House, noted Moyer. We hope that its authors will work to achieve substantial bipartisan support to help ensure its quick passage in the House.
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Trout Unlimited is the nations oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization dedicated to conserving, protecting and restoring North Americas trout and salmon and their watersheds. Follow TU on Facebook and Twitter, and follow our blog for all the latest information on trout and salmon conservation.