Welcome to the latest installment of the Wednesday Wake-Up Call, a weekly 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, Bullsugar.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.
If you know of an important issue–whether it’s national or local–that anglers should be paying attention to, comment below, and we’ll check it out!
1. TU and TRCP Rally to Protect the Tongass National Forest
Yesterday, the U.S. Forest Service announced that it will release its draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) for the Alaska Roadless Rule this week, with a preferred alternative to repeal long-standing protections for more than 9 million acres of Southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. The DEIS release will trigger a 60-day comment period, where the public can weigh in on the agency’s proposal. Repealing the rule would make currently-protected lands available for expanded clear-cut logging of old-growth forest and construction of logging roads. You can learn a lot more about the issues and the fight at the American Salmon Forest website.
“For years, sportsmen and women have been calling for a lasting solution for Alaska roadless areas that would conserve valuable fish and wildlife habitat and provide certainty for local communities that depend on the balanced use of these public resources,” says Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Yet because of direct intervention from the White House, we are facing conservation setbacks within the Tongass that will affect more than half of the world’s largest temperate rainforest.”
Removing the Tongass from the national Roadless Rule would mean that more than half the forest would be open to industrial-scale, clear-cut logging of old-growth timber and new road construction. These activities are very harmful to salmon, trout, steelhead, and wildlife. As such, removing the Rule would harm the growing fishing, hunting and tourism industries of Southeast Alaska.
2. Choosing Sides in the Battle Over the “Waters of the U.S.” Rule
In September, the Trump administration repealed the 2015 “Waters of the U.S.” Rule–which had defined the scope of federal regulatory jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act–sparking an outcry from conservation and sportsmen’s groups around the country. A recent article in Outdoor Life by John Haughey does a good job of breaking down the opposing camps in what will surely be loads of litigation to come. The fate of clean water for fishing and hunting–as well as drinking–may hang in the balance.
3. What Does It Mean that TU is Suing the EPA?
Last week, we highlighted the announcement that Trout Unlimited–not normally a litigious organization–was taking the unusual step of suing the Environmental Protection Agency over its decision to withdraw the Proposed Determination on Pebble Mine. The main points of the suit are technical, but they boil down to this: That the EPA decision violates government rules and ignores certain provisions of the Clean Water Act. Here’s the relevant paragraph from the TU press release:
Trout Unlimited’s lawsuit alleges the EPA ignored science and the potential impacts of developing the mine when it withdrew the Bristol Bay Proposed Determination, and in doing so violated the Administrative Procedures Act and Clean Water Act. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cannot issue a permit to Pebble if the EPA’s decision on the Bristol Bay Proposed Determination is overturned.