For Immediate Release
June 13, 2018
Contact: Steve Moyer, firstname.lastname@example.org, (571) 274-0593
Laura Ziemer, email@example.com, (406) 599-2606
Corey Fisher, firstname.lastname@example.org, (406) 546-2979
Trout Unlimited lauds conservation elements in Senate Farm Bill
(Washington, D.C.)Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow led the way in developing a very promising, bipartisan Farm Bill which was approved by the Committee today. The Farm Bill must be reauthorized by Sept. 30, so it is time for the Committee and the Senate to move forward to get the job done. The Roberts/Stabenow bill makes changes to expand, strengthen, and improve the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), an innovative approach to conservation first authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill. These new improvements will allow partners and producers to expand the reach and effectiveness of conservation projects, by cutting red-tape and increasing flexibility to attract new partners and encourage innovation in 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 preserves current levels of funding for the Farm Bills conservation programsa significant plus for fish and wildlife, given pressure from some lawmakers to cut conservation funding to provide funds in other areas.
The RCPP program has become a real workhorse for TU habitat conservation work across the nation, and the Committee-approved bill will strengthen the program in several other ways:
- Eliminates the burdensome requirement that projects must operate through existing USDA conservation programs and abide by their corresponding rules and regulations, which often do not provide enough flexibility to accommodate the unique watershed needs and focus of RCPP projects. Instead, the bill requires USDA to operate RCPP as its own program with project partners defining the combination of conservation activities that will be most effective in addressing local natural resource concerns, which will increase flexibility and ease of administration.
- Fosters new and innovative approaches to conservation by authorizing a pilot grant program that allows partners, such as TU, to directly operate conservation projects. For example, conservation activities involving multiple producers at a watershed scale or projects that utilize innovative financing methods like pay-for-performance, may be eligible for funding under the pilot grant option.
- Makes the program work better for producers by allowing them to access financial assistance through a new, streamlined contract that is tailored specifically to the conservation activities targeted by the project. It also requires USDA to set specific timelines for approving contracts and awarding funding to producers so that they will have certainty in how and when financial assistance will be made available to implement conservation activities on their operations to meet the project objectives.
- Encourages more diverse partnerships by simplifying the project application process, providing additional flexibility in partner matching contributions, and allocating funding to partners for project outreach and development activities.
- Increases focus on conservation outcomes–such as improved water quality, drought resilience, and fish habitatby requiring partners to report on the environmental, social, and economic outcomes of projects.
Trout Unlimited has partnered with producers from New Hampshire and West Virginia in the east, Iowa and Wisconsin in the Midwest, Idaho, 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 Laura Ziemer, senior water policy adviser for Trout Unlimited. Provisions in the bill will encourage more partnerships with agricultural producers that benefit ranch and farm operations, promote healthy watersheds, and make water supplies more secure for irrigation and streams nationwide.
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, added Ziemer. Its encouraging that the Senate bill reflects the importance of continuing and expanding these partnerships that invest in water security in the West.
Other provisions of the Committee-approved bill are targeted at increasing the pace and scale of restoration on our National Forests and protecting Americas public lands. 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. Also, Congress recently approved extensive and widely-supported fire funding and forest management reforms in the 2018 Omnibus Appropriations bill.
Our forestry tool box is pretty well stocked, but the committee-approved bill helps by adding some new, purpose-driven, narrowly-targeted tools, said Corey Fisher, public land policy director for Trout Unlimited. We need more stakeholder involvement and partnership building to gain broad support for critical forest management decisions, and the Senate bill does a good job of enhancing collaborative management of our public lands.
The forestry title builds on Americas public land heritage in several ways:
- Proposals from both sides of the aisle to expand the National Wilderness Preservation System in Tennessee and Virginia.
- Reauthorization and increased funding for the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program.
- Bi-partisan measures that will help to restore sage grouse and mule deer habitat.
- Water protection and restoration provisions that will increase watershed health.
- Ensuring that streamlined environmental reviews to combat insect and disease include sideboards that are science-based and provide for meaningful public involvement.
- Prioritizing funding for forest restoration in the wildland urban interface where projects will do the most good to mitigate the risk of uncharacteristic wildfire.
The bill achieved strong support in the committee, which should enable it to receive prompt action by the full Senate in coming weeks, noted Moyer. We commend the savvy leadership of Senators Roberts and Stabenow in shepherding the bill through the Committee, and we thank Committee members for their support of the bill.
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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.