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Better Water Quality Not Yet Evident From Conservation Practices

No consistently detectable reductions in nutrient pollution are being found in bass fisheries and other waters across the country, despite conservation practices.

That’s the conclusion of a recent U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) study that analyzed 133 large agricultural watersheds associated with conservation tillage and the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Researchers discovered no significant improvements in water quality from common practices designed to reduce soil runoff and nutrient loss.

"When you look at it on a large watershed scale, we clearly are not seeing the effects of conservation practices yet," said Lori Sprague, the lead author of the report, which was recently published in the Journal of Environmental Quality.

One possible explanation is that improvements in water quality could lag significantly behind implementation of conservation practices.

"Current nutrient conditions in streams may still be reflecting agricultural practices that were in place prior to the implementation of the conservation practices,” she said.

If improvements do lag the implementation of conservation practices, nutrient levels may be reduced in years beyond the scope of the study. Consequently, the agency plans to continue to monitor watersheds to see if that's the case, Sprague added.

Meanwhile, the Farm Service Agency, which administers the CRP program for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, insists that practices do reduce sediment, nitrogen, and phosphorus runoff.

“At the surface, we know we’ve succeeded,” said spokesman Kent Politsch.

"We can extrapolate that eventually the evidence will show up at the (stream level). It does take time for that evidence to show up."

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)


Florida Youth License to Aid Conservation Education, Funding

Florida is trying a new strategy to acquaint youth with conservation at a younger age, while increasing revenue for fisheries and wildlife management, both at the state and federal level.

“You’re never too young to start contributing to our great state’s hunting and fishing heritage and protecting our wild habitats and resources,” said Richard Corbett, a member of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). “And this new ability to purchase a license creates a wonderful opportunity to do just that.”

As with most states, Florida allows those under age 16 to fish and hunt without a license. But now, a youngster can buy freshwater, saltwater, and hunting licenses for $17 each. And no matter how young he is when he makes the purchase, those licenses will remain valid until he reaches his 17th birthday.

Additionally, he can buy a $100 Gold Sportsman’s license, which authorizes the holder to take game and freshwater or saltwater fish and provides deer, management area, archery season, muzzleloading season, crossbow season, turkey, waterfowl, snook, and spiny lobster (crawfish) permit privileges.

According to FWC, the agency will receive $7 in matching federal funds for every year that passes until the youth turns age 17. Anglers and hunters provide that money with excise taxes paid on tackle, firearms, and other equipment through Fish and Wildlife Restoration programs.

The new hunting and fishing youth licenses can be purchased at all outlets that sell traditional licenses, including county tax collectors offices. They also can be bought online at

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)


Backlash to Attempted Firearms Ban Forces Cancellation of Outdoor Show

An attempt to ban modern sporting rifles from the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show Feb. 2-10 in Harrisburg, Pa., prompted such massive backlash that the event was cancelled.

In a press release, Smith & Wesson CEO James Bedney said, “We support the Second Amendment and the rights of our law-abiding customers to purchase (sporting rifles) and all legal firearms.

“Therefore, we are unable to support any organization or event that prohibits legal firearms, or otherwise restricts a citizen’s lawful and constitutional rights.”

Ruger, Mossberg, Cabela’s, and the National Rifle Association joined Smith & Wesson in withdrawing from the event.

Learn more here.

And check out this official statement regarding the cancellation.


Thirty Invaders Bite the Dust in Python Challenge

Thirty Burmese pythons have been killed so far in the Florida Everglades as part of the Python Challenge that began Jan. 12.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says that eradicating pythons is not the goal of program, which ends Feb. 10. Rather, wildlife officials hope to raise awareness about the snake’s threat to native wildlife and the fragile Everglades ecosystem. Also, they believe that the hunt will help them collect valuable information about the exotic predator’s habits so that it might be better controlled.

By the way, plug "pythons on the loose" and "alligators on the loose" into a Google search if you want to get an idea of the problem that we have in this country with irresponsible pet owners and an under-regulated exotic pet industry. They're also the ones that introduced some of our troublesome aquatic plants, including Eurasian watermilfoil. Likely, they are responsible for snakeheads as well.


Low Water the 'New Normal' for Great Lakes?

Leader-Telegram photo.

Anglers and recreational boaters were warned in late fall of dangerously reduced water levels in Lakes Michigan, Huron, and Superior, with a likelihood of all three falling to record lows in early 2013.

Michigan and Huron were 11 inches lower than the year before and 2 feet, 4 inches lower than their long-term averages for October. Superior was at its 1925 record-low average for that month.

Mostly, the decline is blamed on a mild winter with little snow followed by a hot summer with little rain, according to Keith Kompoltowicz, a hydrologist for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“We are seeing much lower water levels than we had last year, and that is the case all over the Great Lakes,” he said.

But more and more, attention is turning to what man has been done to alter the water levels and what might be done in the way of mitigation. For example, reversing the Chicago River in 1900 so it flowed out of Lake Michigan instead of into it resulted in a loss of about 2.1 billion gallons a day, which has dropped the long-term average for both Michigan and Huron by two inches.

Key focus, though, is on the St. Clair River, which has been heavily dredged, allowing more water to flow out of Huron and into Erie and, from there, eventually into the Atlantic Ocean. Scientists generally believe this alteration has resulted in a drop of the long-term average for Huron and Michigan by about 16 inches. But a recent joint study by the U.S. and Canada suggests that erosion in the St. Clair might have reduced the long-term average for those two lakes by an additional 3 to 5 inches.

That has prompted a coalition of mayors from 90 cities around the Great Lakes to ask the International Joint Commission, which advises on boundary water issues, to further investigate engineering options to raise lake levels in order “to compensate for human activities, notably dredging in the St. Clair River . . .”

Another group, Save Our Shoreline, wants a mechanism to control water flow in the St. Clair.

“Given the history of consistent water level reductions since 1855, the unmitigated and unplanned increase in conveyance in the St. Clair River since 1962, and the uncertainties presented by climate change, we believe it would be irresponsible not to begin the process toward a regulatory structure now,” it said.

Water levels on the Great Lakes typically fluctuate by inches seasonally and by as much as several feet over a period of years. But, until now, anglers, marina operators, and lakefront property owners felt secure in believing that water levels wouldn’t drop below the 1964 record lows.

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)