Wildlife Management Institute

WMI Outdoor News Bulletin Conservation Briefs
Conservation Briefs PDF Print E-mail

Conservation Briefs is a compilation of short news stories of interest to Outdoor News Bulletin readers. The stories will cover a number of issues that have developed in the past month or provide updates on issues that were featured in previous ONB editions. Each story will include links to online resources for more details on each topic.

This month:

Congress Approves FY2014 Spending Bill

The omnibus spending bill for the current fiscal yar, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014 (H.R. 3547), overwhelmingly passed the U.S. House of Representatives on January 15 and the Senate on January 16 and now is awaiting signature by President Obama. The final bill is about $28 billion above spending levels for fiscal year 2013, avoiding many of the deep cuts that had been proposed by the House. It is the first time since 2010 that the federal government has been funded by an appropriations bill rather than a continuing resolution that maintained the spending levels from the year before. The Department of the Interior and Environment agencies received approximately $30 billion, a nearly $6 billion increase from what the House proposed in its spending bill. The Land and Water Conservation Fund was funded at slightly more than $300 million, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act received $34.1 million, the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants Program received almost $58.7 million, and the National Wildlife Refuge system was increased by 4 percent to $472 million. Overall funding for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was set at $1.4 billion, the Forest Service was funded at $5.5 billion including $3.9 billion for both the Department of the Interior and Forest Service for wildfire fighting and prevention. In addition, the Bureau of Land Management was funded at $1.1 billion and received $15 million dedicated towards conservation of the greater sage grouse. Conservation organizations expressed their support for the spending agreement as an important step towards getting back to fiscal responsibility by the government.

“A lack of budgetary certainty can be extremely damaging to federal agencies’ effectiveness and efficiency,” said Steve Williams, president of the Wildlife Management Institute. “Getting back to a more predictable budget and appropriations cycle recommits agencies to mission-critical conservation activities that benefit all Americans.”

Forest Service Releases Video About White Nose Syndrome

The USDA Forest Service has developed a video highlighting the challenges bats are facing as White Nose Syndrome spreads. “Battle for Bats: Surviving White Nose Syndrome” is a 13-minute video that describes the important ecological role bats play and the efforts being made by many state and federal agencies to conserve them. White Nose Syndrome (WNS) is a disease that affects hibernating bats that has caused extensive mortality in eastern North America. The disease is caused by a fungus that appears on the muzzle and other body parts of the bats. The animals exhibit uncharacteristic behavior during the winter including flying in winter months and clustering near the entrances of hibernacula. WNS has killed more than 5.7 million bats in eastern North America and in some hibernacula, 90 to 100 percent of bats have died. The new video is part of a collaborative effort by the many agencies and non-profit organizations that are working together to better understand and reduce the spread of the disease.

NRCS Report Shows Conservation Reduces Runoff in Chesapeake Bay Watershed

In December, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) released a report that documents how the voluntary conservation efforts of farmers in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed have substantially reduced the amount of nitrogen, sediment and phosphorus leaving cultivated croplands. According to NRCS, the average edge-of-field sediment losses in the watershed decreased by more than 15 million tons per year since 2006, a drop of 8 percent. The amount of nitrogen entering into nearby waterways was reduced by 48.6 million pounds per year, a 6 percent reduction, and phosphorus was reduced by 7.1 million pounds, a 5 percent reduction.

“This report demonstrates that voluntary conservation practices made possible through the Farm Bill can have a substantial impact on limiting nutrient and sediment runoff from farms in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and across the nation,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. 
“These conservation efforts help to clean our soil and water, boost outdoor recreation that adds more that $640 billion to our economy, and ensure that agriculture has the tools to remain productive in the years to come. The good work of Chesapeake Bay landowners has generated substantial progress in a short period of time, but more needs to be done – which is why it is critical that Congress act now to pass a Farm Bill that provides the full array of programs and incentives to build on these efforts.”

The report is conducted through NRCS’ Conservation Effects Assessment Project. A report on the Mississippi River Basin was released in fall of 2013.

DOI Secretary Denies Road through Izembek National Wildlife Refuge

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced in late December that she supported the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) decision to block the construction of a road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. The decision culminates a nearly four-year analysis on a proposed land exchange with the State of Alaska in order to build an access road through the Refuge between the communities of King Cove and Cold Bay. The environmental impact assessment conducted by the FWS assessed the potential impact the road would have on the refuge’s ecology and federally-designated wilderness area. 315,000 acres within the Refuge were given wilderness status by Congress in 1980 due to the internationally significant eelgrass beds in the Izembek and Kinzarof lagoons as well as adjacent wetland and upland habitats that are essential to shorebirds, waterfowl, grizzly bear, caribou and salmon. The proposed road would have permanently bisected the isthmus where most of the wilderness acres are located.

“We’ve undertaken a robust and transparent public process to review the matter from all sides, and I have personally visited the Refuge and met with the King Cove and Cold Bay communities to gain a better understanding of their concerns,” said Jewell. “After careful consideration, I support the Service’s conclusion that building a road through the Refuge would cause irreversible damage not only to the Refuge itself, but to the wildlife that depend on it. Izembek is an extraordinary place – internationally recognized as vital to a rich diversity of species – and we owe it to future generations to think about long-term solutions that do not insert a road through the middle of this Refuge and designated wilderness. I understand the need for reliable methods of medical transport from King Cove, but I have concluded that other methods of transport remain that could be improved to meet community needs.”