The Sportsmen's Act of 2012 was offered by Sens. Jon Tester (Montana) and John Thune (South Dakota), proposing improved public access, sustainable habitat for fish and wildlife and increased funding for natural resource conservation. The collection of bills is being presented as an amendment to the 2012 Farm Bill.
"These bills are important and diverse in the support they provide natural resource conservation," said Paul Schmidt, Ducks Unlimited's chief conservation officer. "Some of the most important programs for waterfowl, including reauthorization of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, the Migratory Bird Habitat Investment and Enhancement Act and the Permanent Electronic Duck Stamp Act, are part of this package."
The Sportsmen's Act of 2012 is overwhelmingly composed of bipartisan bills.(www.ducks.org)
“The TRCP expresses gratitude to Senators Tester and Thune for their efforts to work across the political divide and propose this sensible yet comprehensive package of bills,” said TRCP President and CEO Whit Fosburgh. “This legislation will directly benefit millions of American sportsmen and the nation’s vibrant outdoor recreation economy.”
The Sportsmen’s Act of 2012 has 19 separate provisions, including:
· Reauthorization of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act,
· The Making Public Lands Public Access Act,
· The Target Practice and Marksmanship Training Support Act,
· The Permanent Electronic Duck Stamp Act,
· The Billfish Conservation Act, and
· Reauthorization of the Partners for Fish and Wildlife program.
The bill integrates components of a recent House of Representatives bill, the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act of 2012 (H.R. 4089), which was largely embraced by members of the sportsmen’s community.(www.trcp.org)
The Mississippi River Delta is where the muddy waters of America’s longest river connect with the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. It is one of this nation’s most important ecosystems for fish and wildlife—and one of its most endangered. The delta’s wetlands, cypress forests and barrier islands were formed over thousands of years by the shifting course of the Mississippi River and its annual floods.
For North America’s ducks and geese, the wetlands of the Mississippi River Delta are second in importance only to the Prairie Pothole region of the upper Midwest. Every winter, the Mississippi delta hosts around seventy percent of the ducks and geese that use the Central and Mississippi flyways—as many as 10 million waterfowl in any given year.
Over the past eighty years, the Mississippi River Delta has lost an area of wetlands almost as large as the state of Delaware.
Many factors have led to the delta’s collapse, but none as much as the series of levees that were built following the Great Flood of 1927. The lower section of the river was straight-jacketed behind earthen dams as part of a national program to prevent flooding on the Mississippi River from Missouri to the Gulf. These levees protect low-lying communities from seasonal flooding, but they deny the delta’s wetlands the freshwater, sediments and nutrients they need.
Additionally, a vast network of shipping canals such as the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, the Houma Navigational Canal, the Calcasieu Ship Channel and the Freshwater Bayou and hundreds of smaller oil and gas navigation route were carved into the wetlands. These canals allow saltwater to penetrate deep into the wetlands, killing marsh vegetation, eroding the banks and disrupting the balance important for species at the heart of the Gulf’s food web—such as shrimp, blue crabs and oysters.
A football field of wetlands vanishes into open water almost every hour. If we don’t act soon, the delta as we know it will be gone forever.
The BP oil spill sent more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico last year and polluted more than a thousand miles of coastline. It was the largest accidental spill of oil into marine waters in our History and the Mississippi River Delta and its wetlands were hit particularly hard.
It will be a long time before we fully understand the impact of the spill, but there are signs that the oil is still having an effect on the Gulf. The penalties collected from BP and the other companies responsible for the oil spill should be dedicated to restoring the Gulf—but they won’t unless Congress steps up.
We as waterfowl hunters have always been at the forefront of conservation, especially as it relates to our wetlands. The United States Senate passed an amendment to the Transportation Bill that would dedicate 80% of the fines that will be assessed to BP and the other parties to gulf restoration.
This “RESTORE Act” will go a long way in addressing the impacts of the spill. The Bill is now in the United States House of Representatives where it is currently being debated. We as waterfowl hunters have a chance to really make a difference if we act now. Call your Congressmen and ask them to support the RESTORE Act, every voice counts if we want to protect our hunting heritage for the generations to come. Call for your kids and grandkids, I did. For more information, you can go to Vanishingparadise.org.
The only constant in hunting is that no two seasons will be exactly the same! The 2011-2012 season was certainly no exception with Mother Nature throwing curveball after curveball. Leading up to the season we saw everything from areas of drought and crops needing a timely drink, to areas along the Missouri River experiencing record flooding. By and large, we were extremely fortunate at Habitat Flats and despite the hot temps and dry (for the first in five years) summer, our crops and moist soil habitats received a couple crucial rains which allowed them to flourish.
Our early pushes of ducks we call 'calendar ducks', they come at the same time of year based on the hours of light in the day. When the early ducks came this year, they came in big numbers and the hunting was excellent! Overall, duck season was unseasonably warm and after the calendar ducks came we never saw the large mid-late season pushes we are accustomed to. Luckily through our extensive habitat management practices in the offseason and pressure management practices during the season, we were able to maintain excellent hunting from the beginning to the last day of the season and put together our best duck season ever!
With the ending of duck season on December 27th, the New Year was ushered in with near record high temperatures and a January Canada Goose season filled with it's share of struggles. The warm temps had what Canadas were here, spread out and not in near the numbers we normally have. Not once were snow covers put on the blinds or did open water become a hard thing for the birds to find. We were forced to do a lot of bouncing around, hunting one small group of birds and moving on to the next. All in all, we had some good hunts but really had to work for them!
The Spring '12 snow goose season was yet again very much different than years past. The warmest January on record had the adult birds, who comprise the better part of the front half of the migration, good start. From there the migration seemed to string out with new birds showing up every couple days and birds leaving almost daily. With birds not sticking around our area and staging like normal, it made patterning them difficult at times. We had to trust in the good traffic lines we hunted and get on good feeds when the opportunities presented themselves.
It's hard to believe it is already pretty much over as it seems like just yesterday was the beginning of February and we were just getting started again! I guess the old adage that time flies by when you are having fun still rings true. We had a lot of good hunts with new guests and old friends. The memories made in the field and in the lodge are irreplaceable and will fuel the drive in the offseason while gearing up for next Fall. We were able to get some great stuff on video throughout the Spring season, including another great episode of RNT-V!
The ending of snow goose season is bittersweet in that another waterfowl season has come to an end. However, with the emding of one chapter is the beginning of another....habitat management! Habitat management makes the offseason ALMOST as fun as hunting season. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing the fruits of our labor and elbow grease in the offseason pay off and watching the thousands of waterfowl that come every Fall enjoying the table we have set for them. Sticking with that old adage, this offseason will fly by and it will be opening day before we know it!
National Wildlife Week always brings back fond memories of spending time in the outdoors hunting and fishing with my grandfather. For me, fishing and hunting is more about the time we spend with our friends and family, and less about the game or fish we might harvest. My grandfather told me when I was very young that conservation was important and that it has a significant role in what makes us who we are. He used to say, “Conservation is the wise use of what God has given us.” Some of the most important lessons I have learned were with my granddad walking behind bird dogs in the central plains, in the duck blind, or fishing the numerous farm ponds of my home state, Oklahoma. I learned a lot about patience, respect and integrity.
I grew up in a much different Oklahoma in the eighties than my grandfather did during the depression. The Oklahoma of the nineteen thirties was in pretty bad shape; the dust bowl and improper game management had taken its toll on wildlife throughout the state. My ...Read the rest of entry »