Welcome to the latest installment of the Wednesday Wake-Up Call, a roundup of the most pressing conservation issues important to anglers. Working with our friends at Trout Unlimited, Backcountry Hunters & Anglers, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, The Everglades Foundation, Captains for Clean Water, VoteWater.org, and Conservation Hawks (among others), we’ll make sure you’ve got the information you need to understand the issues and form solid opinions.
1. Montana FWP Commits to Tackling the Trout Population Crash in Southwest Montana
Two weeks ago, we posted about the trout-population problems plaguing the Big Hole watershed. A coalition of lodge owners, outfitters, guides, shop owners, and conservation leaders sent an urgent letter to Gov. Greg Gianforte asking him to act quickly to address the issues. Unfortunately, the governor never responded to the letter, but last week, the director of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) committed the full resources of the department in response to a historic population crash in some of southwest Montana’s most iconic trout fisheries.
New FWP Director Dustin Temple said, “I just want to assure the commission, assure the public, this is all hands on deck.” As part of this effort, commissioners approved new regulations to limit angling during brown-trout spawning season and lowered the number of fish anglers can keep in some stretches of the Big Hole, Beaverhead, and Ruby rivers.
- A river still in peril: Trout numbers in the Big Hole hit historic lows, on helenair.com
- Trout Decline: FWP Proposes New Regulations, Invests in Research and Monitoring, at fwp.mt.gov
- The Big Hole’s crisis – too little, too late, and way too bad, on dailymontanan.com
2. Blue-Green Algae Blooming Around South Florida
Blue-green algae is an annual occurrence in South Florida, but conditions seem ripe for a repeat of the disastrous 2018 blooms, after Hurricane Ian stirred up the bottom of Lake Okeechobee, releasing excess nitrogen and phosphorous deposited over decades. If the lake reaches a certain level, this toxic lake water is then released into the Calloosahatchee River, sending the algae to the waters around Fort Myers and Sanibel Island.
This week, the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation issued a strong recommendation to the Army Corps of Engineers, which controls the flow of lake water:
Entering into the rainy season, Lake Okeechobee is at a concerningly high level and has already started to develop worrisome cyanobacterial blooms. This sets up a potential scenario where the Caloosahatchee will experience damaging high lake-discharge events in addition to watershed runoff, resulting not only in increased nutrient loading and decreased salinity, but the transportation of harmful algae” into the Caloosahatchee River.
We strongly encourage the Corps to utilize all options to reduce rising lake levels in an effort to prevent damaging high releases to the Caloosahatchee estuary and to confirm the absence of cyanobacteria … before releases resume.
The entire Everglades restoration effort seeks to send this toxic water southward, to be cleaned naturally, instead of being directed to the coasts via the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers. (Watch the video at the top of the page to learn why Everglades restoration is important to all of South Florida.)
- Blue-green algae bloom in Fort Myers Shores, on winknews.com
- Eikenberg to Senate Committee: “Don’t Stop Now!” on evergladesfoundation.org
- Blue-green algae bloom spotted in South Florida, local businesses brace for potential impact, on cbs12.com
- Toxic algae bloom at Pahokee Marina prompts health alert (video)
3. Other Important Stories
● Colorado Supreme Court Strikes Down Long-Running Stream Access Case
On June 5, the Colorado Supreme Court tossed out a case that could have broadened the public’s access to the Centennial State’s streams and rivers. With its unanimous decision in a case known as Hill v. Warsewa, the court ruled against an angler who sued after he was threatened, harassed, and ultimately denied access to a favorite fishing hole on a popular river. The ruling will maintain the stream access status quo in Colorado—where anglers have no legally-protected right to wade fish on any stretch of water that runs through private property.
● 16 Montana Kids Are Suing the State Over Climate Change
A Montana judge will hear arguments in a first-of-its-kind lawsuit on Monday that will decide whether the state’s contribution to climate change violates its Constitution, which explicitly guarantees a right to a “clean and healthful environment.”
In Held v. Montana, which was brought forward by 16 Montana youth as young as five, plaintiffs argue that state legislators have put the interests of the state’s fossil fuel industry over their climate future. Legal experts say that if plaintiffs win, the case could be used to bolster climate change efforts in other states.
● The US Supreme Court has gutted federal protection for wetlands — now what?
[T}he US Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency . . . has eviscerated federal protection of wetlands under the Clean Water Act, the principal federal law responsible for the improvement of the country’s water quality over the past 50 years. Before it, for example, oil and debris in the Cuyahoga River in Ohio frequently caught fire.
The court’s decision is dire, but state and local governments still have the power to defend wetlands. There has never been a more important time for scientists and the public to champion state and local wetland protection, wherever they live.