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Entries in conservation (202)


Powerful Opposition Kills Public Access Reform In Louisiana

A bill that would have restored anglers’ rights to access public waters in Louisiana was voted down in the state legislature this week by a vote of 37-59.

Proponents of House Bill 391, including B.A.S.S., the Louisiana B.A.S.S. Nation and the Louisiana Sportsmen’s Coalition (LaSC), were disappointed but not surprised at the loss, said Gene Gilliland, national conservation director for B.A.S.S.

“Everyone knew going in that this was likely to be a contentious issue and that it might take several years to find a good fix,” he explained. “When the vote came to the full House of Representatives, wealthy landowners and energy companies with deep pockets and armies of lobbyists persuaded legislators from many parts of Louisiana that are not even affected by this issue to vote against the bill.”

Gilliland said the bill’s author, Rep. Kevin Pearson (R., Slidell), told him his bill was perhaps the most talked about piece of legislation in this session, and although it was voted down, it raised awareness of the problem statewide.

HB 391 would have restricted the ability of private landowners to prohibit boater access to navigable waters flowing over or through their lands. Almost alone among the 50 states, Louisiana permits private property owners in tidewater areas to bar public access to those waters and to do so without posting them against trespassing.

“Almost everywhere else, the law says that, ‘If you can float it, you can boat it,’” Gilliland pointed out.

“Louisiana is one of the only states in the nation where you can be traveling by boat on public, navigable waterways, and suddenly with no warning find that you are not,” according to the LaSC. “As a result, families out for a day of fun have been subjected to armed challenges from guards hired by big landowners and told to leave the unmarked, seemingly open water.”

Because of the inconsistencies in access, B.A.S.S. announced last year that it would no longer conduct professional bass tournaments in Louisiana’s tidal regions, including the Louisiana Delta, which has hosted four Bassmaster Classics, and others where public access is being increasingly restricted. In the upcoming Bassmaster Elite at the Sabine River out of Orange, Texas, competitors have been told they cannot fish in Louisiana waters.

Gilliland said Pearson made it clear that B.A.S.S.’s decision to stay away from Louisiana until this issue is resolved played a major role in raising awareness among the public and his fellow legislators.

“Although the bill is dead for this year, Rep. Pearson is fully committed to making a run at this issue again next year,” Gilliland said. “We hope that prior to next year’s session there will be meetings of all the concerned stakeholders, including B.A.S.S. and the Louisiana B.A.S.S. Nation.

“We want to build a consensus on how public access to the waters of Louisiana can be preserved for recreation and commerce, while respecting landowners’ rights.”

The LaSC said in a statement this week that it is encouraged by the fact that 37 state representatives voted for the reform despite “powerful opposition” and little time to prepare for a legislative push.
It added, “This was always going to be a multi-year fight, and we are optimistic that the progress made in this year’s legislative session has moved up the expected timeline.”


New Award By Maryland DNR Recognizes Bass Conservation Efforts By Tournament Directors

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources announces a new award to help promote black bass conservation.

The Director’s Black Bass Conservation Award will recognize bass fishing tournament directors who exemplify conservation with special recognition from the department and eligibility to receive fishing supplies.

The purpose of the award is to spread knowledge of black bass conservation and watercraft safety, in an effort preserve the sport for years to come.

The award also recognizes organizers who include youth anglers in their sportfishing tournaments.

“This award aims to educate, promote and recognize the importance of black bass conservation,” said biologist Joseph Love, who developed the new recognition program. “The best practices we are highlighting will improve the survival rate of fish released, and help assure the sport’s popularity in Maryland, now and well into the future.”

In order to qualify for the award, tournament directors should adhere to the department’s award criteria and submit an application by May 1. Applicants will be notified of their standing by June 1, with awards, plaques and supplies distributed by Aug. 1.


What We Learned From The LMBV Scare

Bass infected with LMBV look normal, until the virus turns lethal.

Remember Largemouth Bass Virus (LMBV)? If you’ve been a bass angler for more than five years, you certainly do.

Starting in 1995 and for about a decade, it killed fish, especially larger bass, and damaged local economies dependent on recreational fishing. It prompted concern --- and even fear --- among millions that we might be seeing the demise of North America’s No. 1 sport fish.

But that isn’t what happened. Instead, we discovered that the virus wasn’t going to have catastrophic consequences, although it likely would remain an enduring element in ecosystems, causing sporadic fish kills.

Now, here’s the rest of the story, the part that you don’t know about:

Widespread access and angling restrictions almost certainly would have been imposed in many states across the country had B.A.S.S. not stepped in to stem the panic in 2000.

That’s when Conservation Director Bruce Shupp initiated a series of annual workshops on LMBV. At these professionally facilitated events, state, federal, and university scientists and fisheries biologists shared evolving news and research regarding the virus. That invaluable information then was provided to fisheries agencies across the country.

“The situation easily could have gotten out of control,” remembers Shupp. “Overreactions were a real possibility, and that would have included stopping tournaments (which came close to happening in at least one state).”

But because of this cooperative process, anglers and resource managers more quickly learned about both the severity and the limitations of the virus, as well as how it could be spread and what seemed to trigger it from a dormant virus into a killer disease.

“This was the boldest and best thing that we ever did,” Shupp adds. “We let the states know what was going on so that they wouldn’t overreact, and we helped get this thing under control until it dissipated.

“This was a great example of how to deal publically with a major resource issue.”

Shupp is not alone in his assessment of the workshops.

“This was one of the best collaborative processes ever,” says Dave Terre, chief of management and research for Inland Fisheries at Texas Parks and Wildlife.

In fact, Terre and three others who attended those events later wrote a paper entitled, “Dealing with largemouth Bass Virus: Benefits of Multi-sector Collaboration.”

“Possibly the greatest benefit was the capability to quickly as­semble all available information, provide instantaneous peer re­view, and develop and disseminate consistent, scientifically valid outreach tools (e.g., fact sheets, news releases),” they wrote. “Based on declining public concern and fewer sensationalized media releases, these tools apparently were effective. The reality that LMBV was not just a local problem and was being addressed by a regional team also probably helped modulate public concerns.”

This prime example of what can be accomplished through cooperation stands in stark contrast to those who prefer conflict and lawsuits as their tactics for achieving a goal. That’s because making a political statement and/or imposing an ideology often is more important to these groups that protecting and/or improving the resource.

Those who want to ban lead fishing tackle profess to care about loons and other waterfowl. Really, they want to stop you from fishing. Why else would they continue to push for the bans when no evidence exists that lead tackle substantially harms wildlife?

Those who want to destroy Florida’s Rodman Reservoir insist that they care about nature and want to restore habitat for fish and wildlife. In reality, Rodman is as rich and diverse as any natural system, besides being a world-class fishery. Its detractors just want it out because it’s “manmade.”

Those in the Northwest who continue to bash bass because of the demise of salmon and trout --- when dams and habitat loss have done the damage --- will not accept the reality of altered ecosystems.

“There are some who are dead set against sensible management of any exotic species, no matter how useful they are in providing recreation, funding for conservation agencies, or recruiting young anglers,” says Jim Martin, director of the Berkley Conservation Institute.

“This issue of management of exotics is a place where sensible conversation about the bigger picture has usually led to a sensible compromise for good management of recreation and native species as well.”

Is cooperation and compromise always better than conflict and confrontation? I’m not saying that. In fact, I believe compromise on access issues can be catastrophic for the future of recreational fishing.

But when you really care about the well being of a resource, the best way to deal with problems related to it is cooperatively. Those who don’t come to the table are more concerned with imposition of their ideology than they are with doing what’s best for the resource.


Working Dogs For Conservation

I stumbled onto a great organization today: Working Dogs for Conservation.

Much of the work is based on the fact that dogs have an incredibly powerful sense of smell, better than scientists can replicate with technology. You can find out more about that in my book, Pippa's Journey: Tail-Wagging Tales of Rescue Dogs.

WD4C does doubly good work by adopting shelter dogs, which otherwise might be euthanized or die after spending their lives in confinement.

The dogs are used to find and collect data on endangered plants and animals worldwide. They also help to reduce poaching in Africa, among other missions.

Please check WD4C out and considering supporting it.



Do Your Part To Protect Fish And Wildlife: Recycle That Monofilament Line

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has one of the best programs for encouraging anglers to recycle their used fishing lines. In addition to a map of bin locations across the state, its Monofilament Recovery and Recycling Program provides instructions for anglers--- no matter in what state they live--- on building both outdoor bins and personal mini bins from tennis ball containers.

Please do your part to keep discarded fishing line from maiming and/or killing fish and widllife. It's up to the responsible majority to counter the actions of the irresponsible few. And you'll feel better for doing it. If you belong to a fishing club, make line and trash pickup a regular part of your organization's activities. Also, consider installing recycled line bins at piers and ramps.

Here's what discarded line can do: